Comprehensive Portfolio Management with VersionOne and CA PPM

The number of organizations that are adopting agile methodologies is increasing each year.  The State of Agile Survey, published annually by VersionOne, indicated that in 2013 the percentage of organizations practicing agile was 88%, an almost 10% increase over the 2011 report.  Yet, the project portfolios of most organizations are comprised of traditional, agile, and hybrid methodologies.  This mix of project management methodologies presents portfolio managers and executives with some unique challenges.

First, it can be difficult to get a true picture of the health of a portfolio’s component projects.  This can lead to misinformed decisions around investment, portfolio balance and optimization. It can also lead to an inability to quickly change direction (pivot) based on newly emerging market conditions—one of the primary reasons why organizations adopt agility in the first place.  Further, it requires project teams to use multiple applications to perform their jobs and track their work; this is wasteful and can be a contributing factor to team member disengagement.

A Better Way to Align Portfolio Strategy with Tactical Execution

On October 9, 2014 VersionOne and CA Technologies announced a strategic partnership to provide native integration between CA PPM and VersionOne.  The integration will provide transparency, visibility and cohesive reporting of both traditional and agile software development projects to help organizations better align strategy implementation with tactical execution.

The native PPM integration couples the power of CA PPM portfolio planning and resource management capabilities with the strength of the VersionOne® agile platform, designed and built specifically to support agile software development.  Customers will no longer be required to install a special connector between VersionOne and CA PPM to enable communication.  The integration was developed jointly, runs within CA PPM, and is included in CA PPM 14.1.  Let’s examine the key features of the integration and demonstrate how it can help your organization plan, manage and track both traditional and agile software projects from concept to completion in a single console.

CA PPM Projects to Strategic Initiatives in VersionOne

Once an initiative is approved for inclusion in the portfolio, a project is created in CA PPM.  After the project is created, navigate to the “Project Summary” page under the project properties in CA PPM.  There is a selection checkbox titled, “Link to VersionOne,” which will need to be selected.  This will trigger CA PPM to create an initiative-level Epic in VersionOne and to retrieve task and timesheet data from VersionOne for the CA PPM project (refer to the figure below).

Fig 1 - Project Creation

In this example, an Epic asset titled, “Web Based Trading” is created in the top-level of the VersionOne Project Tree.  Although the Epic is created in the top-level folder, it can be moved to any location within VersionOne.  The link between CA PPM and VersionOne will still be maintained.  The figure below shows the Epic that was created within VersionOne.

Fig 2 - V1 Initiative

The agile team(s) responsible for project delivery are now free to decompose the Epic into Child Epics and/or Child Backlog Items (User Stories).  Expanding the Web Based Trading Epic reveals that it has been decomposed into two Child Epics and eight Child Backlog Items.

Fig 3 - Epic Decomposition

The initiative-level Epic Child Items in VersionOne are synchronized with CA PPM.  As Child Backlog Items and Child Epics are created within VersionOne, their Planned Start and Planned Finish dates flow back into CA PPM so they can be used to drive portfolio-level decisions.

Fig 4 - CA PPM Status Reflection

Unified Timesheet Entry

Another big advantage of the CA PPM and VersionOne integration is that it allows timesheet data in CA PPM to be populated based on effort recorded by each team member in VersionOne.  This alleviates the waste associated with requiring each team member to record time in both CA PPM and VersionOne.  The figure below shows the how CA PPM timesheets are updated simply by team members recording time spent on completing work items in VersionOne.

Fig 5 - V1 Timesheet Entry

In this example, on November 5th, Danny Developer entered four hours worked on the backlog item: “A user would like to make trades in multiple currencies.” The figure below shows that the four hours entered by Danny in VersionOne have been added to his timesheet in CA PPM.

Fig 6 - CA PPM Timesheet Entry

By leveraging the power of CA PPM resource and portfolio management with the easy-to-use and scale agile project management capabilities of VersionOne, organizations are now able to more easily plan and manage their portfolios regardless of the agile project management methodology being used on individual projects.  This simplifies the complexities of portfolio management, enabling the organization to make quick decisions – in turn, they can outperform competitors and increase stakeholder/customer satisfaction.

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Posted in Product Tips & Tricks, Program Management, Program Manager, Project Manager, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Go Above and Beyond Post-its and Notecards: 5 Tricks (or Treats?)

halloweenVersionOne lets you go above and beyond manual post-its and notecards. Here are 5 tricks in VersionOne (or maybe they are really “treats”?) that you can use to quickly enter time tracking, assess the health of your sprint, and evaluate estimation accuracy:

1. Detail Estimate is the original estimate populated on sprint planning day. It is used on sprint planning day to determine total number of hours committed to by a team and compared to team capacity to see if the plan is realistic or needs adjustments. It is also used to evaluate estimation accuracy by comparing to the total effort completed.

Detail Estimate compared to Capacity and Total Done

Detail Estimate compared to Capacity and Total Done

2. Effort is the actual number of hours of work completed towards a task. It is used to assess total number of hours worked by a team in a given sprint to assess the teams pace (hopefully a pace that is reasonable to sustain). It is also used to evaluate estimation accuracy by comparing to the original Detail Estimate.

3. To Do is updated daily to reflect estimate of hours remaining to do. It is used to generate the burndown chart which is a quick visual to see if the team is tracking according to the ideal burndown rate and will complete the sprint as planned, early or if the sprint is at risk. It is also used to determine which tasks split to a new backlog item or stay with the original (0 To Do = original, >0 To Do = new backlog item).

Updating Effort and To Do hours

Updating Effort and To Do hours

Daily remaining hours to do compared to the ideal line.

Remaining hours to do compared to the ideal line.

4. Member Actuals Report shows total effort tracked by Project by member by day, week or month. This report is used to see who needs to enter time for which date.

Danny forgot to track effort.

Danny forgot to track effort.

5. Effort (w/ Date & Member) field allows an individual to track effort for a task and pick the appropriate date and owner. This field is useful when added to a grid for individuals who forgot to track effort on a daily basis and need to go back and enter time for days in the past. Note, in order to track effort toward a task, the backlog item needs to be open.

Danny entering effort for previous days.

Danny entering effort for previous days.

Posted in Developer, Product Tips & Tricks, Project Manager, QA Tester, ScrumMaster, Sprint Planning & Tracking | 1 Comment

When Waterfall and Agile Collide: CA PPM Integration Simplifies Scaling

Today with CA, we announced an exciting new native integration solution between CA PPM and VersionOne that enables tracking of agile and waterfall development projects in a single console. This solution integrates Clarity PPM and VersionOne agile project management to simplify scaling agile initiatives by providing visibility across all development initiatives.

This is important because as agile adoption continues to grow, there has been a natural tension between waterfall and agile initiatives — This solution allows the entire development organization and the business to work together, rather than be at odds with one another.

A trend toward agile

VersionOne’s State of Agile Survey shows a steady upward trend for organizations to practice agile. In 2013, 88% of organizations said they were practicing agile somewhere in their organization, up from 83% in 2012 and 80% in 2011. As this trend continues, so does tension – especially in larger organizations. For some of the 88% where agile exists, it has become the predominant view.

These organizations are working toward scaling agile — not just across the software development teams, but into the business itself. In many cases, agile exists but it is still the exception, not the rule. The PMO members who are trying to select, manage, and optimize project resource investments are facing new challenges synching with the agile teams responsible for delivering high-quality, working software.

From the perspective of the PMO, agile presents two big concerns: lack of up-front planning and loss of management control. Indeed, these concerns are reflected in the 2013 State of Agile Survey as the top-two concerns about adopting agile in general. From the agile perspective, a lack of up-front planning is a good thing. In PMBOK terms, agile relies on progressive elaboration to avoid the overhead involved in adjusting big plans overloaded with too much detail. As for management control, agile promotes the idea that embracing change should give management more control, not less. According to the 2013 State of Agile Survey, 86% of respondents realized improved project visibility as a result of adopting agile.

So why the gap between perception and reality?

It’s a matter of perspective. The PMO concerns are not specific to agile, nor even to a specific team’s adoption of agile. Any PMO experienced with many projects has seen the lack of up-front planning and management control as common causes for project failure. Seasoned PMOs know project success doesn’t come from adopting an ideal process, but is rooted in:

  • Strong project leadership,
  • A clear project vision, and
  • A habit of good communication

What agile teams need to learn is how to demonstrate these characteristics in the way the PMO understands.

This is one reason the Agile Manifesto values emphasize “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.” Unfortunately, all too many PMOs and project teams are embroiled in the struggle over which tools to use for expressing the project vision or for project communication.

The new integration between CA PPM and VersionOne helps get PMOs and agile teams over the tool debate and into constructive conversation. The solution helps the PMO see a high-level plan coming from an agile team. It also helps an agile team turn their tracking data into timesheet data. These simple, loosely coupled data flows can provide your PMO with sufficient data to make program and portfolio decisions, leaving your agile teams with more time to focus on their work. Taking the tools problem off the table is just the first step in fostering more meaningful collaboration between these waterfall and agile groups.

What about you? Have you seen any tension between these two groups where you’ve worked (or perhaps coached)? What was the impact, and how was it addressed?

Posted in Collaboration, Platform, Product Owner, Program Management, Program Manager, Project Manager, Reporting & Analytics, ScrumMaster, Stakeholder | Leave a comment

Point Release: Updates to Summer 2014 Release

The first official day of fall, the Autumnal Equinox, is now behind us.  From here on out, the temperature begins to drop and the days start to get shorter.  It’s the perfect time for getting outdoors, sitting around the campfire, roasting marshmallows and maybe even watching the game on your new iPhone 6+ (because you can).

But as you venture outdoors and seek to stay warm by the fire, be sure to take heed of Smokey the Bear’s campfire safety tips.  They will keep you safe and from burning things up that shouldn’t be! “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires!”

Speaking of safe burning, last Friday’s point release brings you the SAFe 3.0 Epic Burn-up Chart.  It will keep you safe from losing visibility on work and it’s meant to burn-up.  Happy charting!


Posted in Point Releases, Reporting & Analytics | Leave a comment

Inside Our Dev Team: The Birth Story of Estimably for Agile Estimation

We seem to reach consensus much faster…

Summer_14_Release_main_imageIn case you missed our Summer 2014 release announcement, Estimably™ is a free, poker-style agile estimation tool (game) within VersionOne TeamRoom™ that allows a team to easily participate in story estimation exercises no matter where they work. One of VersionOne’s development teams was an early use case, and discovered first-hand the value of a good estimation tool.

The team is called openAgile, and is VersionOne’s most distributed team. Led by Josh Gough, openAgile has people in Midtown Atlanta, in the hour-north-of-Atlanta suburb, Alpharetta, in the 12-hour-flight-south-of-Atlanta city of Paraná Argentina, and occasionally at home; yet, the team still finds ways to pair program and to be available to each other for helping out and answering questions.

I’ve spoken with openAgile team members who say the following collaboration tools are part of the formula for success with distributed agile teams:

  • VersionOne (of course)
  • GoToMeeting
  • GitHub
  • HipChat
  • Google Docs
  • Email
  • Skype

Today I’ll focus on Estimably and give you the story from inside our dev team on how this tool was created, how it has helped our teams, and how it can help yours reach better consensus, faster – particularly with distributed teams – during story estimation.

Before Estimably, the openAgile team was trying to put estimate values directly onto stories in VersionOne while discussing it in a GoToMeeting. In the words of Amitai Romanelli, the team’s software-engineer-in-test, “We would discuss items and throw out ideas, after which the product owner would take the comments and suggest a number and seek agreement.” Josh characterized the process by saying, “One or two people closest to an item spoke up and basically dominated the estimate. The loudest people in the room had the most influence over the outcome. It was a problem because we focused on who, rather than what and how.”

Sometimes the loudest people in the room were those who were really involved on an item. Sometimes the loudest people in the room were those who knew the most about the technology. And sometimes the loudest people in the room were hosting the meeting. Even if the bias varied, the inconsistency in the process generally led to a feeling of disinterest and frustration.

Laureano Remedi, a developer on the team, expressed that, “Estimation was less participatory since only a few people who really knew the work were talking about the estimates. Conversation was focused and centered among them.” Many people on the team were feeling their participation didn’t matter – or, at most, that participation was difficult. More objectively, the team was taking an hour to get through a small set of stories without building solid, shared understanding.

They were already dealing with day-by-day context switching across multiple products. Even with uncompleted stories in a sprint, people were idle without a clear idea of what to do next. The openAgile team had started to do weekly backlog grooming sessions. As the product owner, I brought Estimably to the team to try out. Nominally, the team developing it was looking for feedback on what they were building. One of the developers, Acey Bunch, explained, “We tried it because we’re geeks. Plus, I think we sensed the need to find a better way to estimate.” Another developer on the team, Matias Heffel, described Estimably as, “a cool and very helpful tool that I could recommend to distributed teams, like ours. Without saying a word, you assert opinion with a simple, numeric vote. Even that simple vote can lead to a fruitful discussion.”estimably quote

Developer Mariano Kunzi described the current agile estimation process: “The moderator picks a story and leaves it open so everybody can read it. Most of the time, it comes with a context explanation so everybody can understand what is about to be estimated. Questions are allowed, too. After that, the story is put in Estimably so each individual can vote. Once that is done, the votes are shown. When there is not consensus, people in the upper and lower extremes explain why they voted that way. When explanations are done, the votes are cast once more. If consensus is still not achieved, the moderator makes or influences an outcome.”

Valentin Plechuc, another team member, described the result as, “a more smooth process with focus on what we are looking for, in this case the estimate for just one story. Overall, story estimation is more organized, more dynamic, more participatory, and with less time wasted.” Mariano added, “The new process forces me to participate and pay attention. With Estimably, you take an active role instead of a passive one (that’s a good thing!). I also think everybody gets to state their opinions, even if it is just by voting.”

“We seem to reach consensus much faster, and everybody seems to agree with the final decision,” Acey added. “We actually accomplish what we set out to do, and our story estimates are much more reflective of what the team thinks as a whole.”

“The product owner still has a lot of influence. This is not a bad thing,” Josh said. “As the product owners refine backlog items into smaller, testable units ahead of time, they set their teams up for success and for smaller estimates. This has resulted in more cohesive workitems that have better team understanding and consensus. Overall, we feel informed, up to date, and prepared.”

Check out Estimably and tell me what you think in the comments below. If you think Estimably is something you might want to try, learn more here or make a request.

Posted in Collaboration, Customer Stories, Developer, Inside VersionOne, Product Owner, Product Tips & Tricks, Sprint Planning & Tracking | Leave a comment

Using Conversations to Help Business and Development Work Together

A very important component of the agile mindset is the partnership of business and development. When your company culture shifts away from silos to an all-for-one mentality where teams are working together on a regular basis, the organization’s mark word cloudcapability to produce customer value and achieve goals dramatically improves.

“Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.”

This is one of the 12 principles behind the Agile Manifesto. If you want to learn more about the values outlined in the Agile Manifesto, check out this video.

Conversations, both verbal and written can help the business-development working relationship immensely. Here are a few key things organizations can do to work more closely together to deliver higher-quality working software:

conversations new_mark



  • Use common-language user stories – Making sure that stories are understood by both the customer and coder. This clarity will help drive shared ownership, confidence and the ability to deliver.
  • Be visible - Keep reviews and updates visible to all parties. All-in reviews and having the end goals in mind at all times helps everyone know they’re on the right track.
  • Build trust - All sides should work to build a strong level of trust across the team(s) and to help actively address any areas that need to be improved.
  • Partner with business to resolve impediments - Reach out and use all available resources, but work to reduce the number of communication vehicles; find a common repository to share your story conversations and decisions.

We’re curious… what do you think are some ways to ensure that business people and developers can communicate on a regular basis?

Posted in Collaboration, Developer, Release Announcements, Stakeholder | Leave a comment

What’s the Best Way to Spend 10 Minutes?

Let’s think about this for a minute…

You could:

  • Ice-bucket challenge someone
  • Set a stapler in a Jell-o moldStapler
  • Crash someone’s Facebook by inviting them to Candy Crush
  • Add a ‘Blue Screen of Death’ screen saver to your boss’s laptop
  • Load a DVORAK driver onto a PC with a normal keyboard
  • Clean those 24 sticky coffee rings off your desk
  • Assign a bunch of fake stories to people

But if you really want to make a lasting and meaningful impact on the agile community, please find 10 minutes to take the 2014 State of Agile survey.

“The annual State of Agile survey has become one of the most comprehensive industry surveys serving the agile community. The survey gives agile software professionals an extensive set of relevant statistics, peer guidance and validation that can be very helpful in making smarter decisions about their delivery process.”

– SD Times Editor-in-Chief David Rubinstein



10 minutes is nothing when there are 9 FREE SONOS systems at stake. Go for it!


Now in its 9th year, the State of Agile has helps agile practitioners, consultants, technology students, professors, bloggers and business people in all industries better understand agile methods and practices. The survey runs late summer through mid-September and VersionOne publishes the report in Q4 or early Q1.

If you take it, you get:

  • Entered into a drawing for 1 of 9 SONOS wireless HiFi systems (each worth $600)
  • Exclusive, early access to the data sample from 2,000-4,000 respondents in your industry
  • Satisfaction that you helped others make informed decisions about their agile practices – in just 10 minutes

What are you waiting for? Take the State of Agile survey now.

take survey now image

Posted in General, Inside VersionOne | Leave a comment

Salute To The World’s First Reported Hacker

We dedicate these security-focused point release updates to the world's first hacker

We dedicate these security-focused point release updates to the world’s first hacker

In 1903, the world’s first reported hacker, magician and inventor Nevil Maskelyne disrupted John Ambrose Fleming’s public demonstration of Guglielmo Marconi’s purportedly secure wireless telegraphy technology, sending insulting Morse code messages through the auditorium’s projector.

Since this time, hackers have been looking to exploit technology loopholes, for fun, profit and even ill will.   We here at VersionOne take security seriously and that’s why in this week’s point release to Winter ’14, Spring ’14 and Summer ’14 releases we have plugged a low-risk vulnerability to prevent hackers from invoking any petty nuisance into our product.  Here’s to safe and happy computing!

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VersionOne Mobile Collaboration & Estimation on Display in Orlando

Agile 2014 began in Orlando today. Agilistas from the world over are now gathered for the big annual event.

Here at VersionOne, we put some additional touches on new Summer Release mobile functionality and a fix or two that can be seen at the conference. Come visit us in our booth to see the latest in action. You won’t be disappointed.

If you’re not at the conference, check out the new goods here and feel free to review notes for the latest point releases:
• Spring 2014 – Point Release 14.1.7
• Summer 2014 – Point Release 14.2.1

Posted in Collaboration, Point Releases, Release Announcements | Leave a comment

4 Things Your Sprint Planning Needs To Set Yourself Up For Success

It’s incredibly valuable to be able to raise flags or fire flare guns as soon as something is at risk. VersionOne helps teams assess if their sprint is at risk before they’ve even committed.  Below are 4 steps to follow during the ‘HOW’ part of sprint planning to ensure the team comes up with a realistic plan:

(1) Create detailed tasks for each backlog item, assign hourly estimates and possibly an owner.

  • Sprint Planning > Detail Planning > Plan Backlog Item

Click image to enlarge

(2) Populate capacity for each individual on the team for the upcoming sprint.

  • Sprint Planning > Capacity Planning > Expand Team

Click image to enlarge

(3) Compare Detail Estimate to Capacity to see if the plan is realistic

  • Sprint Planning > Detail Planning
  • Ex: Team A’s velocity is 23 so Sprint 6 points being 22 is acceptable. The team’s capacity is 200 hours and all of the tasks and tests total 194, which is also acceptable.

Click image to enlarge

(4) Check to see if a particular member on the team is over or under capacity

  • Sprint Planning > Member Planning tab
  • Ex: Boris Tester is over-allocated. Therefore, on sprint planning day, the team is able to come up with a plan on how they can still finish their tasks. They notice that Danny Developer is under-allocated so he committed to help execute test cases to help Boris out.

Click image to enlarge

The commitment ceremony should be a recurring meeting following sprint planning where the team reviews their findings from Steps 3 and 4 and negotiates any changes to the plan to make sure they are setting themselves up for success. Once everyone is in agreement, the team commits to the Product Owner that they will finish the sprint as planned and the Product Owner commits to the team that the sprint backlog will not change. There’s nothing that seals the deal more than doing a team toast with a beverage of choice. Cheers to success!

Posted in Product Owner, Product Tips & Tricks, Program Manager, Project Manager, ScrumMaster, Sprint Planning & Tracking | Leave a comment