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!

SAFe-Alignment30

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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?

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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

 

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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.

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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
DetailedTasks

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

  • Sprint Planning > Capacity Planning > Expand Team
CapacityPlanning

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(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.
SprintSummary

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(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.
MemberPlanning

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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

New Spring 2014 Point Release – 14.1.6

Earlier this week, the German football machine exposed gaps in the Brazilian defense. World Cup viewers around the globe were stunned at the precision of the attack and the inability of the Seleção to do anything to slow it down. In the end, the ”Six minutes of nightmares” was more than enough time for the Germans to remove any doubt as to the result of the game, leaving the hour remaining on the clock for Brazilian fans to try unsuccessfully to wake themselves up from their frightful dream.

Unintended gaps in Activity Stream processing are quite the opposite in the sense that they *do* slow down the updates to the Activity Stream. While these gaps didn’t generate quite as many tears worldwide, they did cause noticeable delays in very large systems. We are quite happy to report relief in the form of this point release – 14.1.6.

Olé, Olé, Olé…

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Point Release Updates to Spring ’14, Winter ’14 and Fall ’13

disco-ymca-hustle

In addition to marking a new set of VersionOne point releases, June 6, 2014 is also known for the 170th anniversary of the YMCA’s founding, bringing young men in the western world new avenues for healthy minds, bodies and spirits.

Just as the YMCA founders had planned, this organization evolved into a pan-continental network of oases that liberated youthful exploration, including such notable acts as dancing on the streets of Greenwich Village. While the Village People may not have been mentioned by name in the original articles of incorporation, it’s easy to assume that the founding fathers viewed such eventual promotion as inevitable.

We recommend any dancing triggered by the fixes in this latest point release to be confined to your TeamRoom™, but feel free to dance where you must after reviewing the release notes.

There are updates for the VersionOne Spring ’14 Release, which hustles to crush a nasty Activity Stream bug, as well as the Winter ’14 and Fall ’13 Releases, which bump out a couple of fixes for ranking and API queries.

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New Point Release 14.1.3

defenestrationThis day in 1618 marked the Defenestration of Prague, whereby William Slavata and Jaroslav Martinic were literally thrown out the window after being convicted of violating the Letter of Majesty, thus beginning a Bohemian revolt and the Thirty Years’ war. While valuable, the fixes and additions for Activity Stream and Release Planning that come with today’s point release are in no way intended to incite war.

Defenestration, on the other hand, is highly encouraged for our departing colleague, Mr. Steve Paro, who has graced us with witty and timely release announcements for many a fortnight. We wish Mr. Paro continued success in life with a trajectory of the most artfully cra Continue reading

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