Budgeting Your Strategic Themes to Help Teams Deliver Value 

stra·te·gic – strəˈtējik/ adjective
  1. relating to the identification of long-term or overall aims and interests and the means of achieving them.(Source: Google)

Taking a strategic approach to your annual spending is a sound and fiscally responsible thing to do. Portfolio level strategic themes allow you to set a vision for the value streams within your enterprise, and align the initiatives, features and completed work from the  teams to those themes.  The next logical step is to decide on the budget amounts you want to allocate to those themes.  In VersionOne you can allocate your budget by percentage, dollar amount or estimate points.

The key point is to have meaningful and easy to use metrics to help the teams deliver value to the end customer.  The three things that give your senior leadership team the information they need to track and keep the train moving in the right direction include:

  • Setting your portfolio level strategic themes and vision
  • Aligning your initiatives to your vision via the strategic themes, and
  • Tracking the budgetary goals to the actual completion


Here is an example pf a real-world scenario. Core Improvements is a strategic theme for the next year.

  • 30% is the Budget amount we want to allocate to Core Improvements
  • 29% is the Completed amount so far for this budget period for Core Improvements, a good indicator
  • 8% is the Estimate At Completion amount once all the planned work is done, not such a good indicator



The leadership team has the visibility they need to determine if their Core Improvement goals are being actively worked and ultimately satisfied.  The next step will be to help the product owners and directors add more initiatives and features that align to the Core Improvements strategy.

Key Benefits and Uses:

  • Increased line of sight transparency of the overall strategy and vision from the work item level to the portfolio item levels
  • Improved clarity and decision making for director levels and above
  • Better collaboration between senior leaders, program managers and product owners

For more information on Portfolio Budgeting, visit our community page.

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Scorecards and Other Executive Visibility Options in VersionOne

For executives, whose days are primarily consumed with business-focused activities, summary metrics about a given initiative, project, or feature are usually sufficient.  For them, there is more to running the business than building the software.  And with limited time, it is better to know at a glance what is running smoothly and what needs attention.

VersionOne Scorecards provide a single location to help executives identify what needs their attention.  There are six Scorecards available in both the Enterprise and Ultimate Editions of VersionOne: Project, Program, Portfolio Item, Iteration, TeamRoom, and Team.  Each Scorecard indicates the current status towards an on-time delivery by showing you the actual percent complete compared to the expected percent complete.

The pace of delivery is captured numerically in a productivity number that indicates the average number of backlog items delivered per week over the last four weeks.  Progress and pace are also trended on the Project Burn-up and Cumulative Flow diagrams.  These charts also provide perspective on how the total scope has changed over time and the flow of work through your process.

To get an understanding of remaining work, the Scorecards contain a pie cart and a count of un-estimated stories – a measure of risk in organizations using Estimate to determine scope and/or predict delivery.  There is also an indicator of the number of blocked items – things that are restricting the flow of other work through your process.  Finally, each Scorecard supports the ability to drill down into lower level information if needed.

Project Scorecard

The Project Scorecard is a great place to track a single Release or Program Increment.   In addition to high level metrics indicating progress, trends, remaining work, this Scorecard allows you to breakdown those metrics by Active Portfolio Items, Projects and Teams.









The Active Portfolio Items breakdown gives you visibility into the currently active features that will be delivered in the release or program increment.  This allows you to see the progress of key features regardless of the overall trend.

The Project breakdown provides visibility into child projects.  This is useful to organizations who breakdown large projects into smaller deliverables or organizations that use child nodes to represent teams.

The Team breakdown provides visibility into the relative load and overall progress of all VersionOne Teams contributing to the release or program increment.  This is useful for seeing how work is distributed across teams and understanding team progress.

Regardless of breakdown, clicking on the title will take you to another Scorecard focused on the selected item.  For example, maybe the overall numbers looks great for an on-time delivery; however from the Project Scorecard, you realize a key Portfolio Item is struggling.  Clicking on the title of that Portfolio Item will present a Scorecard focused on that Portfolio Item.  The information presented on that Scorecard can be used to start the conversation necessary to determine what action is required.

Program Scorecard

The Program Scorecard provides roll-up metrics for multiple disparate Projects in your VersionOne instance.  This Scorecard is an excellent place for summary level metrics when multiple products, or projects, combine into a single deliverable.  It is also valuable to individuals responsible for multiple projects.









The Project Breakdown on this Scorecard provides visibility into the individual projects that makeup the program.  Here you can see how each project is tracking towards delivery and can drill into struggling projects for more detail.  As with the Project Scorecard, the Active Portfolio Item breakdown provides visibility into the currently active features in the Program, and the Team breakdown provides insight into the load and progress of each delivery Team in the Program.

Portfolio Item Scorecard

Whether you are using Portfolio Items to represent features in a release or program increment, or using them to aggregate value being delivered into high-level business initiatives, or both, the Portfolio Item Scorecard provides key insight into the work being delivered for a single Portfolio Item.

From this Scorecard you gain visibility into the Projects and Teams impacted by the Portfolio Item as well as visibility into active child Portfolio Items.  All three are especially useful when using Portfolio Items to aggregate value delivered into your organization.

 TeamRoom, Iteration, and Team Scorecards

The other three scorecards, TeamRoom, Iteration, and Team, provide similar insight and visibility at more granular levels.

The TeamRoom Scorecard provides insight into work that is being delivered in the TeamRoom.  This is a focused Scorecard based on the project, program, schedule, and team configuration values for the TeamRooom.  Since a TeamRoom require a schedule, this Scorecard contains the planned vs. delivered Velocity for the last three iterations and a burndown of the remaining to do for the currently selected iteration in the TeamRoom.









The Iteration Scorecard provides insight into all work being delivered in a single iteration for all projects that share the schedule used to create that iteration.  This Scorecard also contains a burndown of the remaining to do for the iteration and the planned vs delivered Velocity for the last three iterations.

Finally, the Team Scorecard provides visibility into all active work for a specific VersionOne Team, providing insight into everything the team is being asked to deliver.  Having dedicated teams is key to having a successful organization.  If you do not have dedicated teams, the information on the Team Scorecard can be valuable in understanding why a team is struggling to meet commitments in one area.

Additional Executive Visibility Options Worth Investigating

In addition to Scorecards, both the Enterprise and Ultimate Edition of the core VersionOne product provide support for linear forecasting.  Ideally suited for an in-progress release or program increment, this report indicates future possible delivery dates based on historical trends.  With the Ultimate Edition of VersionOne, the Analtyics product supports both linear and Monte Carlo forecasting for Projects, Programs, and Portfolio Items.  While no forecasting method can accurately predict the future, forecasting does provide insight into future possibilities and enables conversation about how to respond.  For example, we are ahead of schedule, what else might we consider delivering, or (more likely) we are behind schedule, what can be altered or remove to make the delivery as successful as possible.

If you are using the VersionOne Ultimate Edition, you have access to Timelines for Portfolio Items and Projects in the core product.  In addition to a temporal view of Portfolio Items or Projects, these timelines also provide visibility into the amount of work being delivered by SWAG and Estimate.  This is valuable insight, to ensure that you are not over, or under, committing compared to historical deliveries.

Finally, if the overall flow of work through your organization is staring to slow, or is not what you would expect, a valuable place to start looking is impediments – what is keeping your teams from delivering at their maximum.  The Ultimate Edition includes Analytic Dashboard panels that provide visibility into issue trends by type.  Identifying and removing the larger issue types will not only increase throughput, it will also increase moral.


If you are an executive of an enterprise software development organization, it is critical that you are extremely efficient with your time and attention.  VersionOne provides software development executives with a single place to view the metrics that matter the most, so they can quickly determine which parts of the business are doing fine and which parts need your attention.

Learn more about Scorecards and other executive visibility options in VersionOne.




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Estimation Accuracy It’s Not Just a Report

Estimation Accuracy – Effort (Done and/or To Do) vs. Detail Estimate by Iteration

Have you ever wondered how accurate your sprint detailed planning estimates are, and if there may be room for improvement?  Would it be helpful if you had a way to have a meaningful conversation with your team about improving estimates to better predict if they can achieve their team sprint commitments?  Then the Estimation Accuracy report may be for you!

The Estimation Accuracy Report from VersionOne shows by member how accurate the detailed (planned) estimate was as compared to the actual hours spent on all the tasks, tests and stories in a sprint.  If you are tracking your team’s actual hours, then this report will be very helpful for improving your overall delivery.

Key Benefits and Uses:

  • Ensuring the team can deliver commitments to the customer
  • Identifying backlogs and roadblocks
  • Meaningful conversations in retrospectives, as well for team and individual reviews
  • Tuning your estimating and delivery process

Give it a try today.  Here is how it looks:

Estimation Accuracy

Posted in Agile Champion, Product Tips & Tricks, Project Manager, Reporting & Analytics, ScrumMaster, Sprint Planning & Tracking, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Backlog Item Roll-ups to the Portfolio Item

roll-up (noun) – denoting something that can be rolled up. “roll-up panels”

If backlog items are the the gears that make agile software delivery work, then portfolio items can be looked at as the gear box, holding the delivery work in just the right place to keep those gears working together.  One huge benefit of using portfolio items is the ability to roll-up information seamlessly to the correct levels within your enterprise.  Portfolio directors need one dashboard or scorecard to see the work of many teams, across projects to get a clear picture of their status and overall health.  Some of the fields that roll-up from the team work items include:

  • Blocking Issues
  • Estimate Points
  • Teams
  • Planned Hours
  • Done Hours
  • Remaining Hours

In addition to the roll-up, portfolio item “links” and “attachments” also cascade down from the portfolio item to the team level backlog items, allowing higher level documents to easily be shared across work items.  For example, any link at the feature portfolio item level will also be linked to the features’ user stories because that link cascades down to the work.


Key Benefits and Uses:

  • Transparency of  information from the work item level to the portfolio item levels
  • Improved decision making for director levels and above
  • Better collaboration between product owners and the teams
  • Blocker visibility and ability for leaders to help remove impediments sooner
  • Cascading links from the portfolio item to the work items
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Guardrails for Backlog Items-7 Things Every Story Needs

People ask us all the time – “What are the must use fields that every team should use?” While this is the ultimate “It Depends” answer, I have found that setting a few key guardrails for team across the enterprise will give you the best possible chance for decision making, accelerating delivery, and ensuring alignment from the boardroom to the TeamRoom™.

7 things for backlog items

Here are the seven things that can help your company’s product backlog become a strategic alignment machine.

  1. REAL RELEASES – Every backlog item must be linked to a project asset (e.g. release). Why not make the release meaningful, and consistent? It’s very easy to see when the Quick Status Check story will be delivered and when if the story is linked to the release named “11.30.15 – Release 1.0”. In my Scrum Master world, no story is committed to production without being tied in the Org Level hierarchy to a date-based release. Try to keep your project levels as lean a possible.
  2. PORTFOLIO ITEM – All backlog items should roll-up to an item in the company’s portfolio. That is the best way to provide the visibility and transparency that leaders need to help make better decisions and support the teams overall.
  3. SIZE – Point estimates provide a relative ranking of the size of your backlog and are one measure of the potential delivery of a sprint, release, or feature.
  4. TEAM – Align the work to the team; it’s the agile way. Assigning the work to a team is even more important than an owner. The team will take it from here.
  5. DEPENDENCIES – Establish the upstream and downstream dependencies to track and manage any potential problems, and to help notify other teams of things you might be putting in their way.
  6. BLOCKERS – Is the story in trouble? Blockers are the main way to truly know this. Be transparent and use blockers to do your dirty work.
  7. CONVERSATIONS – Document all conversations associated to that backlog item using meaningful and descriptive conversations.

When every team across your enterprise follows these seven rules, your portfolio, program and team level reporting has the consistency and predictably you need to improve decision making, accelerate delivery, and ensure alignment.

TeamRoom is a registered trademark of VersionOne Inc.

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Tracking Actual Effort and To-Do (Remaining) Hours

Are you tracking your to-do and effort hours the most efficient way in VersionOne? You don’t need to edit your tasks or stories to update these values. By using the Track capability, members can apply actual hours and remaining hours by using the pull-down menu on the task or test that they are working on. In addition, they can track their hours worked and the hours to do (remaining) hours for that task.

Key Benefits and Uses:

  • Quick way to track hours
  • Can apply hours for multiple people at the same time if more than one person is assigned to the task/test/story
  • Easy to report remaining “to do” hours
  • Available on the TeamRoom™ boards and in the tracking boards as well
  • Also works at the story level if you are tracking hours on stories

Tracking Time in Team Room


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Next Sprint Cut Line in the VersionOne TeamRoom Backlog Panel

What does that line in the backlog list in your VersionOne TeamRoom™ represent? It’s the next sprint cut line based on your team’s average velocity and the prioritized backlog for your team.  It’s also a great reason to make sure your backlog stories have estimates.  Check it out today.

Key Benefits:

  • Easy way to see upcoming sprint work
  • Uses the average velocity number to determine next sprint cut line
  • Helps team prioritize and plan the current and upcoming sprints

next sprint

Posted in Backlog Management, Product Owner, ScrumMaster, Sprint Planning & Tracking | Leave a comment

Backlog Item Count by Project

The VersionOne Backlog Item Count by Project analytics report is a great visual way to see backlog items closed, added and planned along with percent completed.  This one-stop Analytics Report has everything that a product owner, Scrum Master or team member could need to see how well they are managing flow and change for their projects.

Key Benefits and Uses:

  • Visual report of planned, added and closed backlog items and percent complete
  • Can use an offset, say three days into a project to lock down the planned backlog items
  • Helps track and manage changes
  • Available in the  PlanningRoom™ or Analytics dashboards
  • Also available by sprint in the Backlog Item Count by Sprint report

Posted in Product & Release Planning, Product Owner, Product Tips & Tricks, Reporting & Analytics, ScrumMaster | Leave a comment

How Much Ceremony Do We Need?

The agile world has a number of myths that tend to be perpetuated, often for private agendas. One of them is that agile means no documentation or formality in its approach. A counter to this are the conversations about professional behaviour as described in “The Clean Coder” from Robert Martin, or Uncle Bob as some know him. This kind of behaviour means that we recognise the nature of the work we do and the requirements for ceremony that is required for it – in short that we act as professionals.

Let’s look at this question of ceremony first by defining ceremony and understanding what it means. Ceremony has a number of aspects and we can turn up and turn down the level that we apply each of these aspects. As professionals, sometime we can’t make popular or easy decisions, but considered ones. Here are some example aspects, with a short discussion about options.


Now there is quite a lot to talk about here and some people will say that some of the extremes are not agile. But we are professional, so what is the right level and why? Take two examples.

  1. We are coding a web site for curry recipes and need to be able to provide a few basics such as search, create, update, read and delete services. OK it should look nice and be easy to use. There may be some security NFRs as well, but no personal data is maintained in the system.
  2. We are coding a system that monitors the status of various points in a nuclear power plant. If something is going wrong we shut the reactor down. It must never fail. If something unexpected happens shut down now, better safe than sorry. Demonstrate that this is so.

That seems pretty clear. So the first agreement is that we would use an agile approach in both cases. I say yes as disciplined agile is the best way to produce code to the level of quality needed. But consider the ceremony dial, where do we set it for each of these situations, and again why. Please bear in mind that we have a professional standard to maintain. This includes the need to deliver value for money, over-engineering is as bad as under-engineering.

So now let’s think about this from the point of view of the aspects that we have looked at. Do you agree with the following? Yes/No and Why/Why Not.Ceremony2

In some cases the level of ceremony is not optional. The regulatory requirement for a safety critical application would demand that certain things happen. Consider what would happen if the recipe site crashed, the worst case is that dinner will be late. What if the nuclear reactor safety system fails? Will the police be involved, lawyers? If it turned out to be software that you wrote, and you couldn’t prove that you met the required regulations what could happen? You might lose a client, or your liberty. And could you live with yourself for the consequences?

In all cases the level of ceremony should be decided upon and not defaulted because we cannot be bothered to think about it. In the extreme example it is hardly a surprise that we need to crank everything up to really loud, man. But what is the minimal level that we should agree to. Remember we have professional standards that we need to maintain. We follow Test Driven Development (TDD) because it is our natural tendency. Someone coming up behind us will need some clues as to how we created the application and how they can extend it.

Using a platform such as the VersionOne Enteprise Agile platform will put some of the aspects higher up the volume scale automatically. For example an audit trail will be in place as you work through epics, features stories, tasks and tests. So this may start at “7” and be taken high by including additional artifacts in the audit trail.

In all cases you may need to justify your decisions, in some cases to a court, which may be uncomfortable. Make sure that what-ever level you turn the knob to, that you can justify it as being an appropriate decision. And please stay out of jail!

About the Author

versionone-coaches-mike-carew-150x150Mike Carew
SAFe Program Consultant, Chartered Engineer, IC Agile Certified Professional

Mike Carew is focused on helping European organizations adopt the VersionOne platform on their agile journeys. Mike has been involved in every aspect of software business including support, development, operations, management and services. At HP he established the EMEA agile practice. Mike has coached teams and corporations from the FTSE 100, non-listed and government. He brings a pragmatic approach to coaching since he sees that there is no such thing as a one size fits all.

Posted in Agile Champion, Platform, Product Owner, Program Management, Program Manager, Project Manager, ScrumMaster, ScrumMaster, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

There’s an API for That… How to Get Lots of Information in a Few Moments

image002A few days ago, I was using my smartphone and wanted to get some more information about the weather besides just the basics of temperature and local conditions i.e. sunny, cloudy and such.  I was reminded of the contemporary colloquialism “There’s an APP for that” so I browsed in the online store and sure enough there were plenty of them offering such things as air speed, barometers, wind direction, moon phase, etc., etc.

After choosing one, I downloaded it and it was simple to setup providing a whole lot more information in a few moments.  And now, it’s available whenever I need it.  I’m surprised that I didn’t set this up years ago.

Along those same lines…image004

VersionOne has an API (Application Programming Interface), which can give lots of information in a few moments as well.  Yes, it is powerful so this might sound strange that it’s really easy to use.  I’ll say it this way…if you can type a URL, you can use the VersionOne API. This is done in the form of a query and returns a set of data for the answer. NO CODE needed.

Why would you want to use the API instead of reports?  Good question. 

Just like the regular regional weather forecast, there are many good standard reports ready to run inline embedded in VersionOne or in the general “reports” area.  Still, there are times when it helps to have a more detailed version of the weather by selecting options like air speed, barometers, wind direction, or moon phase.  In similar fashion, entering different parameters with the API can produce more targeted data than what is available in the report specification.  Using the API allows this to happen easily and quickly.

Example 1 – The Data API

image006The first place to start is with the Data API, which provides access to the production database.  Go to your favorite Browser and login to your instance of VersionOne.  Once signed in, queries can be run without having to put security credentials in again.  Also, keep in mind that the queries will be limited to the current role, project access, etc.  

Once logged in, copy the Base URL from the Browser address bar for the VersionOne instance.  Example:  https://www8.v1host.com/(your instance)

***Be aware that if you are typing a URL, it is case sensitive.

Open a new tab in the browser and paste the Base URL in…then add:
/rest-1.v1/Data/Epic and press the “Enter” key to run your query.


This will give you a list of ALL the epics in your instance with direct access to the production database.  They are listed as a group of assets in XML format with attribute information, etc.  The total attribute shows how many were found such as total=40 in the example.  The word epic is the parameter and can be substituted for any asset such as story, defect, task or test.   Remember this query returns ALL Epics so it may take a while to run and it could become a performance drag on the production database.  For this reason, the query should always be filtered for smaller and faster results.

Let’s add another parameter as a filter to the query to reduce the size of the answer.  In the set of information returned, there are attributes and relations.  One of the relations is scope, which is the project or planning level in VersionOne.  This can be used in the query to limit the result to only one project or planning level.   Add the following to the query in the address bar:  ?where=Scope.Name=’Your Project Name’ and make sure to change the parameter to your project name.

image010This is the “where” keyword which facilitates adding parameters to the query.  To add additional parameters, use a “;” between each one on the address bar.  Hit enter and watch the results.  Look at the total again…it should be lower and the query will run faster.

Example 2 – The Meta API

image012There are also many attributes in the epic itself, some of which may not have been seen before.  These attributes can be viewed as part of the Meta API.  For the next example, let’s look at the attributes of an epic a little bit closer.

Open a new tab in the browser and paste the same base URL from above in…then add: meta.v1/Epic?xsl=api.xsl and press the “enter” key to run your query.  The “xsl=api.xsl” portion helps to format the result making it easier to read.

image013The new view is showing the Metadata for the Epic including attributes and operations. This type of query gives a complete view of the data available for each type of asset.  Again, changing the “epic” keyword in the query to story, task, etc. will show their metadata.

The red asterisk indicates the “required” attributes, which must have data in them.  The rest of the attributes are optional but available for data input by the user or the system.

Example 3 – Selecting Attributes

There are also many attributes in the epic itself, some of which may not have been seen before.  For the next example, create another query with just a few attributes.

Go back to the tab in the browser with the address using the data API and add: &sel=Name,Scope.Name and press the “enter” key to run the query.


The updated view still only shows the epics in the scope of the where keyword but now just with the name and scope attributes selected.  Adding the “&” allows both the “where” and “sel” parameters in one query.


Just like in the real world when you need some more information and there is an App for it, you now know there is an API for querying information from VersionOne. There are many other things that can be done with the API and plenty of documentation for it located on the VersionOne Developer Library.

image018The main thing is to get started and see all the information waiting for you in just a few moments.  It just might turn your day from cloudy to sunny very quickly.


versionone-coaches-kelly-keyAbout the Author
Kelly Key
SAFe Agilist, PSM1, MOL, PSD

Kelly has more than 25 years of experience in the software industry and 19 years working with agile practices. As an agile program manager, ScrumMaster, agile coach, and VersionOne administrator, Kelly has helped create successful products in the desktop, dot com, and mobile space for the airline, hotel, rental car, rail and cruise industries. As a thought leader, he is always looking to refine processes with continuous improvement while stimulating innovation.


Posted in Agile Champion, Developer, Product Owner, Program Manager, Project Manager, Reporting & Analytics, ScrumMaster, ScrumMaster | Leave a comment