The Scrum approach to agile software development marks a dramatic departure from waterfall management. Scrum and other agile methods were inspired by its shortcomings. Scrum emphasizes collaboration, functioning software, team self management, and the flexibility to adapt to emerging business realities.

12th
DEC

Complexity and cost of change

Posted by admin under Agile and Scrum, Scrum Basics, Scrum Discussion

There are many variables to estimating the difficulty of a code changes. We could talk about things like the complexity of the code (Cyclomatic Complexity), the experience of the programmers, their familiarity with the topic and/or the specific module, the quality of documentation, etc. It ends up being a fairly subjective estimate. In Scrum teams, story sizes are estimated in relative terms in terms of story points.

The primary benefit to using a technique involving Relative Estimates is that you are asking the team to give you an estimate of difficulty relative to other work that has already been completed. This means that a team can easily give judgments like “This will be twice as hard as that” and come up with functional estimations for predictions without spending a great deal of time coming up with them. Estimates are just subjective guesses anyway, understanding that can be a valuable way to put more time into building something and less time into trying to guess how much time it will be to build it. Planning Poker, also called Scrum poker, is one technique for building relative estimates and for coming to consensus on the effort or relative size of the stories.

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3rd
NOV

Agile and PPM – Q&A

Posted by admin under Agile and Scrum, Agile Manifesto, Agile Principles, Scrum Basics, Scrum Discussion, Scrum Transitions

The webinar, “A Marriage Made in Heaven: Agile and Project Portfolio Management,” took place on October 27. I (David Parker) hosted, along with Russ King, Vice President, Product Development, Results Positive, Inc. and Caleb Brown, Systems Engineer at CollabNet. During this session, we explored the benefits of marrying Agile Project Management and PPM and we did a live demo showing this using HP’s PPM solution and CollabNet’s ScrumWorks Pro to demonstrate the powerful capabilities of managing a resource constrained project portfolio.

If you’re interested, you can watch the recording and download my slides. Here, I post some of the questions and our answers:

Q: How feasible is Agile on Projects & Programs?
A: Agile is typically thought of in the context of individual projects. Companies sometimes fail to scale that paradigm to a program level, where the program is a superset of multiple projects, each running its own lifecycle and release plan. The trick is to weave those separate lines of development (projects) into a coherent and seamless deliverable (program). The complexity comes in gathering meaningful metrics and planning releases that thread the elements together. This is exceedingly difficult to do manually. CollabNet’s ScrumWorks Pro is a tool that can make this manageable. It supports the planning of complex releases that weave in multiple development threads.

Q: Will this process will be feasible for maintenance related projects (Incident handling, less than 8 hours development works, etc.,)?
A: From the PPM perspective, an individual defect is not in and of itself a project and as such, would not be tracked. What might be tracked is a larger group of maintenance items in the form of an Epic. From an Agile perspective, a bug report or defect is just another piece of deliverable business value, like a User Story or any other Product Backlog Item. From a bug report, the product owner and team would create a Product Backlog Item (PBI), along with success criteria (definition of done). It is prioritized against all of the other Product Backlog Item by the product owner. Again, multiple bugs/defects are often grouped in an Epic.

Q: It seems the PPM is geared toward a waterfall process. It appears there is only visibility into the Development phase, but with agile, you could potentially address all phases within a single sprint. Is that just because of the way this implementation was set up or is it there isn’t a true marriage of the agile within PPM?
A: PPM in this scenario is focused on evaluating the ROI of different projects and deciding where to make investments. Agile is focused on execution of the projects that are chosen. That said, the scenario we propose makes the entire organization more Agile, in that the feedback loop is instantaneous. This allows those that are making the investment decisions to adapt and make course corrections that are indicated by that feedback loop. The integration gives all team members the ability to work in a more Agile fashion, and gives Stakeholders and Project managers the ability to benefit from the faster feedback and data generated by the team working this way.

Q: Can the tasks in Scrum WorksPro be connected to tasks, timelines in Source forge?
A: Not with Sourceforge. However this is possible with Collabnet Teamforge, the current commercial version of Sourceforge.

Q: Can you clarify what part of Agile PPM can be done in scrum works pro without need for HP PPM?
A: ScrumWorks Pro is focused on project execution and project management. As such ScrumWorks does a number of things not accomplished in HP PPM. These include PBI tracking and prioritization, Task management sprint planning, release planning, team velocity, forecasting, and many other functions related to the management of an Agile project.

Q: So are you proposing (in the demo) to combine a phase/waterfall planning and design phase, but then execute in an agile framework?
A: Combining HP PPM and ScrumWorks Pro adds to the agility of the entire organization. Feedback loops between the development team and the PMO are enhanced allowing the PMO to make course corrections required. I would not say that as a result the entire enterprise has become agile – only that they’ve become more agile. Generally, we do not see many organizations that practice a pure version of ANY methodology –be it Agile or otherwise. The reality is that organizations have a mix of methodologies, like Scrum, Kanban, Waterfall, hybrids, etc. Different teams in large organizations will often build software differently, so the challenge is to roll up the data from those disparate teams. Despite their differences, there are a number of common metrics you can track regardless of project type. These include actual cost versus budgeted cost, scope change, personnel/resource change, delivery dates, and others. Tools like ScrumWorks and HP PPM do a good job in tracking these kinds of numbers.

Q: Continuing from the first question, from a portfolio perspective, having “”open-ended”” project budgets within the Agile/SDLC process is not in the best interest of my customer. How does budget planning and Agile development work together while still having some control over costs?
A: Project prioritization and the associated budgeting/funding are is under the purview of the PPM tools. The agile project management tool tracks the amount of time individuals spend on the project. The integration between the HP PPM tool and the Agile Project Management tool, allows you to easily compare budgets against actuals.

Q: For the Forecast report in SWP, if new backlog items are added during the sprint, does that add to the top or bottom of the bar? Also, how does the Project Portfolio Management tool fit into the larger Enterprise Architecture discipline?
A: It depends on what report you are looking at. In the forecast report, added backlog item appears on the bottom of the report and impacts the forecasted delivery date.
Forecast report

The “Burn-Up” Report shows the relationship between work completed per iteration (sprint velocity) and project scope change. The forecast feature extrapolates the rate work gets done against the rate of scope change to provide an empirical release completion forecast for more accurate release planning.

Burn Up Report

Q: In agile, what are the differences between being adaptive to late changes in requirements within a sprint and scope change?
A: Scope change refers to any added or subtracted scope, typically measured in some form of relative effort unit like Story Points. As such, scope may be added as a team discovers more about an existing requirement. In other words, if the team finds out that a requirement is more complex than was originally envisioned, they may re-estimate the number of story points and this might add scope to a sprint. The opposite could also be true. Whether this occurs because of a discovery inside a sprint or outside of it doesn’t change the nature of how it is tracked or reported upon.

Q: When a committed backlog item could not be completed in a sprint, naturally it holds the top most priority in the following sprint. How does ScrumWorks helps in tracking this item from the beginning to end?
A: An unfinished PBI may or may not be a high enough priority in a future sprint. The determination is made by the product owners. In any event, any activity against that PBI is tracked. Tasks completed that relate to that PBI are tracked, as are those that were uncompleted.

Q: What certification do CollabNet-trained scrum masters receive?
A: Those who attend one of our Certified ScrumMaster or Certified Product Owner training are eligible to take the exam deliver by the Scrum Alliance. It should be noted that CollabNet is one of the leaders in ScrumMaster product Owner training. We have more Certified Scrum Trainers on staff than any other vendor, and we’ve trained more than 12,000 ScrumMasters.

Q: If an organization wants to be able to report a metric of time to resolution for individual PBIs, what settings are available in this integration to include/exclude a PBI from the current active lists so that a countdown starts appropriately?
A: Forecast reports in ScrumWorks can be filtered on any number of aspects, allowing a user to deliver estimates on individual tasks, Stories, Epics or Themes. By the way, you can try out ScrumWorks Pro either in a hosted environment or as a free download.

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25th
OCT

Estimating Earned Business Value on Agile Projects

Posted by admin under Agile and Scrum, Agile Manifesto, Agile Principles, Scrum Basics, Scrum Discussion, Scrum Transitions

A pattern I’ve noticed is that Scrum projects are typically managed informally, with the only measures used being various velocity metrics and burndown charts. This may be an issue. Many project managers and executives resist scrum because these only measure the speed of delivery, not the project’s cost or the business value it generates. One of the major differences between traditional and agile projects is that traditional projects focus on delivering software that satisfies requirements, while agile projects focus on maximizing ROI through continuous feedback and re-planning.

This is where Earned Business Value calculations come in. It fits well with Agile projects, since the focus of agile projects is on business value rather than conformance to requirements (outcomes over outputs). In many cases, EVM metrics are easier to calculate and understand in agile environments than in traditional ones. There are three key management measures – Cost Performance Index (CPI), Schedule Performance Index (SPI), and Earned Business Value (EBV) – that provide information to help manage an agile project from and ROI perspective.

There is a solid white paper on this topic at .

I’d also be very interested in your comments to this post.

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21st
NOV

Scrum Effort Estimation and Story Points

Posted by admin under Scrum Basics

Anxiety about estimation usually means the organization is not strong in the other Agile practices such as Test Driven Development (TDD). Scrum requires that the product be kept in a potentially shippable (e.g. properly tested/integrated) state every Sprint, that the Product Owner declares which work is top priority, and that work be split into thin vertical slices, typically customer-centric user stories no bigger than a few days each. If we’re doing the other Agile stuff right, we cannot miss release dates because the product is shippable every week or two. The only downside of getting estimates wrong is that we’ll ship on time while omitting the less important features — a less stressful way to live than what waterfall or pseudo-Agile teams are experiencing today.

In waterfall, managers determine a team member’s workload capacity in terms of time. Managers ask selected developers to estimate how long they anticipate certain tasks will take and then assign work based on that team member’s total available time. In waterfall, tests are done after coding by specific job titles rather than written in conjunction with the code. The downsides of waterfall are well known: work is always late, there are always quality problems, some people are always waiting for other people, and there’s always a last minute crunch to meet the deadline.

Scrum teams take a radically different approach. First of all, entire Scrum teams, rather than individuals, take on the work. The whole team is responsible for each Product Backlog Item. The whole team is responsible for a tested product. There’s no “my work” vs. “your work.” So we focus on collective effort per Product Backlog Item rather than individual effort per task. Second, Scrum teams prefer to compare items to each other, or estimate them in relative units rather than absolute time units. (Ultimately this produces better forecasts.) Thirdly, Scrum teams break customer-visible requirements into the smallest possible stories, reducing risk dramatically. When there’s too much work for 7 people, we organize into feature teams to eliminate dependencies.

What does the process of estimation look like? Scrum does not prescribe a single way for teams to estimate their work. The only estimate that’s defined by Scrum is whether a team will attempt a PBI this Sprint or not, as decided in the Sprint Planning Meeting. Common estimating methods include t-shirt sizes (S, M, L, and too big), powers of 2 (1, 2, 4, 8), the Fibonacci sequence (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, etc.), or simply small vs. needs-to-be-split (see #NoEstimates below).

In the Backlog Refinement Meeting, the team sits down with the Product Owner to discuss the stories toward the top of the Product Backlog. The Product Owner often wants effort estimates to help evaluate ROI, effectively prioritize items in the Product Backlog, and predict which items will be ready by a given release date. So the Product Owner wants an honest appraisal of how difficult work will be.

To gather a cross section of viewpoints despite the different personalities on a team, it is often useful for all team members to disclose their estimates simultaneously. Individuals show their cards at once, inspiring the term “planning poker.” Individuals will usually choose different cards. This should trigger discussion of the implementation approach, clarification of the requirement with the Product Owner, and splitting the requirement into smaller stories (some of which will be lower priority). Often several rounds are necessary to arrive at a single effort estimation that reflects the entire team’s sense of a story’s difficulty. The refinement and clarification are more important than the estimates themselves. According to the Agile Manifesto, business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.

#NoEstimates Controversy

In recent years, teams subscribing to the #NoEstimates philosophy have simply made all stories as small as possible. For #NoEstimates teams, the only estimate is whether a User Story is small. If it’s not small, they split it until it is small. Some of these teams still make forecasts by comparing completed stories over time to stories remaining in the release plan. The #NoEstimates approaches are gaining ground, but not universally accepted within the Agile movement.

Interfacing With Traditional Expectations

For techniques that may be more palatable to traditional managers, see Mike Cohn’s popular book Agile Estimating & Planning. Our own team used some of these approaches to make multi-month forecasts and release plans. They were still a bit off, but they were closer than anything I’d seen before. One thing that helped was doing everything possible to eliminate unnecessary unpredictability. Product development is ultimately about learning and creating, so some unpredictability is necessary. But unnecessary unpredictability can often be reduced by keeping the same team together, keeping the Sprint length the same, always building end-to-end integrated vertical slices, eliminating external dependencies, and using techniques like TDD to avoid surprise regression failures and interruptions. Bad code causes painfully unnecessary unpredictability in waterfall or Agile.

If you’re wondering how to make all this work with contracts, I’d urge you and your lawyers to read the Agile Contracts Primer.

About The Author

This article was rewritten by Michael James, an Agile coach based in Seattle (but often found in other cities). Follow MJ on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Examples

Need an example? Watch an example team conduct a Backlog Grooming Meeting, including relative estimation and example user stories. Planning poker is demonstrated at the 4 minute mark of this video:

 
To see how velocity is computed from story points, watch an example Sprint Review Meeting including velocity measurement.
 

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