Agile Tip: Mapping Use Cases with Portfolio Items, Projects, and Stories


I’m working with a customer who needed to put their “as-is” product use cases into VersionOne Lifecycle. After looking at several options, we decided to use a combination of planning levels, portfolio items, and user stories to create the customer’s complete product use case repository.

They had a big need to be able to plan changes to the existing products to their company’s product direction roadmaps via the VersionOne Lifecycle roadmap planning capability.  This product content repository was setup using the flexible list types in VersionOne’s Projects, Portfolio Items, and User Stories.

  • Projects were setup with a use case repository planning level and separate display workspaces for the use case list types
  • Portfolio items were setup with a parent use case, and then conditions, courses (for normal and alternative), and additional details were setup
  • Backlog item types were used to track the normal and alternative types, business rules, assumptions, frequency of use, and exceptions

Use Case Repository Screenshot

The customer is now tracking changes to their as-is product in VersionOne Lifecycle. The teams know which products they are working on, as well a which teams they need to depend on and work with to deliver the value.

Key Benefits:

  • Ability to trace from the Change in the Use Case all the way to the delivery update
  • Team accountability from product definition to delivery
  • Collaboration using conversations and the community topics for process flow roadmapping
  • Cross-story relationship tracking between use cases and delivery using upstream and downstream dependencies
  • Ability to plan and execute on changes to the existing use cases on your VersionOne Lifecycle roadmaps
  • History tracking for all updates in one place
  • Integration from the use case to DevOps via VersionOne Continuum®

The teams have started using the VersionOne import to convert all of their existing use cases into the new format.  And future changes will include updates to use cases listed in the repository.

If you’re looking for ways to easily document your product use cases or scenarios, you should take a look at using a use case repository planning level and the existing assets that come standard in VersionOne Lifecycle.

Posted in agile project management, ALM Tools, Backlog Management, Collaboration, Platform, Product Owner, Product Roadmapping, Program Management, Program Manager | Leave a comment

WSJF Ranking Demystified

wsjf-rankings-demystified-800x328How does your organization decide what features to work on for the next release? Do you let the clients vote and then order the portfolio by those results? Does the loudest sales person get their items prioritized to the top of the list? Or is it more of a “gut feel” by the product owner?

If you’ve experienced the methods above, you have probably wondered if there is a better way to decide what to work on – a way to quantify a few values for each item and then use an objective algorithm to determine the order. Well, do we have a feature for you!

Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) is an industry accepted standard for organizing your feature backlog and determining what features to work on first. Created by Don Reinertsen and popularized by the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®), the calculation takes into account three value measurements, as well as the size for each feature to derive the WSJF number, which is then used to order the feature list.

The theory

Why does this work? Let’s look at the theory behind it.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of the Cost of Delay, think of it this way: any time we delay a feature, we incur some cost. Therefore, getting the most value is synonymous with minimizing the Cost of Delay. For example, a toy company around Christmas time incurs this cost every day they delay release of a new toy, since other toy companies are getting that business.

First of all, if we have a simple case where all of the work is about the same size, we should first work on items that have the highest cost of delay, minimizing the overall cost. Our imaginary toy company should make the most profitable toys first.

In another extremely simple case, if all work has the same cost of delay, we should work on the smallest items first, again minimizing the cost and maximizing the value. Our toy company should make the toys it can build the fastest. Makes sense.

However, in most cases in the real world, both the cost of delay and the size vary from item to item. In that case we should work on the Weighted Shortest Job First, optimizing for maximum value and minimum cost.

Example WSJF Values in Portfolio Item Details

Example WSJF Values in Portfolio Item Details

This method combines Business Value, Time Criticality, and Risk Reduction to create a combined Cost of Delay value. The Cost of Delay is then normalized for the job size (divided by Swag) to arrive at one number (WSJF value). Finally, sorting the list by this WSJF value reveals the order in which the features should be worked on.


WSFJ in VersionOne

As of the Spring 2016 Release of the VersionOne Lifecycle, these new values (Business Value, Time Criticality, Risk Reduction, Cost of Delay, and WSJF) are natively available for portfolio items at all levels, such as initiative, epic, or feature. Portfolio grids can be customized to show these values or even be sorted by any of the values. WSJF rank can be easily be applied to your Portfolio using the Rank by WSJF option from the multi-action menu button.

VersionOne Portfolio Bubble Chart using WSJF Values

VersionOne Portfolio Bubble Chart using WSJF Values

WSJF values are available in all places where you manage your portfolio – in the Portfolio Tree view, in the Planning Rooms, and in the Release Scheduling view, which is useful during your Product Increment (PI) planning. Finally, these values can also be used in the Portfolio Bubble Chart, allowing for portfolio analysis along any one of these dimensions including the WSJF value.

Click here for more information about VersionOne’s Spring 2016 Release.

Scaled Agile Framework and SAFe are registered trademarks of Scaled Agile, Inc.

Posted in SAFe, scaled agile, Scaled Agile Framework | Leave a comment

Release Planning Steps Forward


Planning out a set of work across multiple teams during Release Planning or Program Increment (PI) Planning can raise many questions which don’t always have straight forward answers:

  • How much work can the group take on?
  • Should we include a buffer?
  • How should the work be divided among the teams?
  • How do we get everyone on the same page?
  • Will we be able to recognize the necessary adjustments when reality begins?

Terminology Evolves, The Practice Holds Firm

Release Planning is an age-old agile practice of defining the work for an upcoming release. Over time as organizations have become more agile, many have accelerated their release velocity. Some organizations release after each sprint, others release daily, and still others release after each commit. This new-found power has called the term Release Planning into question as potentially confusing because the act of planning for the mid- to longer-term is no longer necessarily correlated to a single release.

The Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) took a step in that same direction by defining the overall activity in different terms, calling it PI Planning. In PI Planning, we find a practice of planning out all work for a defined period (the program increment) across all teams in the program within a structured two-day session.

Release Planning Across Teams

Regardless of the specific term used, there are a couple of general desires in planning. One is to load the specific time frame with the greatest amount of value that can be delivered. The second is to allocate the work across the available teams in a way that allows the group as a whole to undertake the plans in a confident, coordinated manner.

Release Planning

Team Allocations during Release Planning

In VersionOne’s Spring 2016 Release, the Release Scheduling view (which, by the way, you can call whatever you want thanks to the newly expanded terminology options) has been extended to allow full team-level planning capabilities. While you’ve been able to plan out releases and see both release and team capacities for a long time, now you can plan work directly into the teams working on each release. Seeing each team’s capacity bucket filling up as more work is added to their plate presents a great visual that helps everyone involved understand just how much room is left and where that room exists.

Planning out a release or PI isn’t just about fitting the high level capacity, it’s all about the teams, too.

Click here for more information about VersionOne’s Spring 2016 Release.

Scaled Agile Framework and SAFe are registered trademarks of Scaled Agile, Inc.

Posted in agile project management, Product & Release Planning, Product Owner, Program Manager, SAFe, scaled agile, Scaled Agile Framework | Leave a comment

Manage Your Mission-Critical ALM Integrations with ALM Connect


With the introduction of ALM Connect™, VersionOne is providing a one stop shop for the integration needs of larger organizations.  With previous integration options, you would have to manage multiple integration installations.  With ALM Connect, you can manage all your integrations from a single platform, and there are several other features that make ALM Connect an integration powerhouse.alm-graph-800x800With previous integrations it didn’t take long before a customer would ask “well this is great and all but can we have other fields?”  The answer is yes, but it would require your team or the services team to write that code.  Both of these have a cost, directly or indirectly someone is being paid to add that code.  With ALM Connect this is a simple mapping exercise.  If you need a new field, you can simply edit the current mapping and add that field.  Not only do these mappings provide flexibility, they provide options for conflict resolution.  With previous integrations, it was whatever came out of the box, unless you had custom code written.  With ALM Connect, once these mappings are created, they can be saved as templates and reused on other integration points.  The advantages just keep going!

Flexibility is key with ALM Connect. In the past, the older integrations only supported data flow in one direction and to one project.  ALM Connect allows for data flow in either direction by setting up the appropriate mapping flow.  You can set up the flow so that a field such as customer ID is one way and the status of the story is bi-directional between systems.  “But what if the statuses don’t match?” No worries, you can simply adjust how each status maps to the status in the other system.  For instance, if a system has a status of not started, discovery, development, testing, done, and accepted,  then the mapping can be adjusted so that discovery, development, testing point to in progress in the other system.  Need different data flowing for different projects between systems?  No problem, each integration can be set up differently in ALM Connect.

All of this is great for teams and keeping data in sync, but what about the people who are responsible for initiatives or high level features? ALM Connect has you covered at the higher level. The product management team can create portfolio items in VersionOne.  Those portfolio items are then sent over to the system that the teams choose to work in.  As the team decomposes the portfolio item into stories, they are sent over to VersionOne and you guessed it…related to the corresponding portfolio item which provides details back to product management.  As the stories are completed, progress is sent over to VersionOne for reporting.  In essence, this helps to complete the cycle, from idea to delivery with progress tracking along the way.

ALM Connect is powered by OpsHub technology.  OpsHub has been in the integration business for more than five years.  Integrating systems is what they do.  OpsHub provides integration updates regularly and provides enhancements to existing integrations.  OpsHub has key relationships in place with the tool vendors to ensure they are aware of upcoming changes to tool platforms.

With VersionOne ALM Connect you have a powerful enterprise integration solution that will ease integration administration, allow teams to work in their preferred system, while providing data and reporting back to product management.

Learn more about ALM Connect.

ALM Connect is a trademark of VersionOne Inc.

Posted in Agile Champion, agile development, agile project management, agile time tracking, ALM Tools, Backlog Management, Developer, Integration Hub, Product Owner, Program Manager, Project Manager, QA Tester, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Portfolio Item Subscriptions


During my time on the VersionOne Services team, one of the features I always tried to highlight with larger customers was subscriptions. Such a simple feature can provide a huge impact in larger enterprises. Team members can use subscriptions to alert them  when they have been assigned to a task or test. A product owner can subscribe to be notified when a story is set to the done status for approval. And now with the Spring 2016 Release VersionOne can also  support subscriptions for Portfolio Items.

There are several good uses for Portfolio Item Subscriptions. First, it will be quite useful for users involved in higher level planning who want to be kept up to date with changes to initiatives or features. Another use would be for anyone involved in DevOps to know when a portfolio item of type feature is set to ready for deployment. And for organizations implementing the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®), subscriptions are useful for PI planning.  Those are just a few ways to use Portfolio Item Subscriptions that come to mind quickly.  From the screenshot below you will notice that we tried to be consistent with other subscriptions.

PI Subscription Options

PI Subscription Options

After clicking subscribe you will be presented with the typical filtering options such as project, portfolio item type, and owner. The status changed subscription of course contains a status filter. Give the subscription a title, set your filters, click subscribe…and you’re done!

A feature enhancement such as Portfolio Item Subscriptions is a classic case where a small addition can make a huge impact.  We promote face-to-face collaboration, however that is not possible in all cases.  For distributed teams or people that simply wear too many hats, subscriptions are an easy way to feel connected.

What uses can you come up with for Portfolio Items Subscriptions?

Click here for more information about VersionOne’s Spring 2016 Release.

Scaled Agile Framework and SAFe are registered trademarks of Scaled Agile, Inc.

Posted in Collaboration, Product Owner, Product Tips & Tricks, Program Manager, Project Manager, SAFe, scaled agile, Scaled Agile Framework, ScrumMaster, Stakeholder | Leave a comment

VersionOne Spring 2016 Release


Once I was the Winter Release, then my CEO told me,
“Go build yourself some features or you’ll be lonely.”
Once I was a Winter Release

It was a big big release, but we thought it could be bigger
Pushing each other to the limits, we were learning quicker
By March PI Planning and shortest job first was rankin’
Never content so we were out to make that feature super kickin’

Once I was a Fall Release, my boss told me,
“Go get yourself a Program Board or you’ll be lonely.”
Once I was a Fall Release

I always had that dream, like the release before me
So I started writing code, I started writing stories
Something about that glory just always seemed to bore me
‘Cause only those who amigo will ever really know me

Once I was a Summer Release, my story got told
Before the conference and we sold, when life was crazy
Once I was a Summer Release

I only see my goals, I don’t believe in failure
‘Cause I know the smallest features, they can really make it major
I got my devs with me, and all those in favor
And if we don’t ship before I leave, I know you’ll see it later

Now I’m a Spring Release, my story’s getting’ told
I am writing about everything I have before me
Now I’m a Spring Release

Soon we’ll be another release, our products will be sold
We’ll have traveled around the world and still be selling
Soon we’ll be another release…

Spring Release is out.  Check out the notes.

  • 4/23 – Team / Catalyst Batch Update
  • 4/30 – Enterprise / Ultimate Batch Update
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New VersionOne Program Board Supports SAFe Program Increment (PI) Planning

new-versionone-program-board-supports-safe-800x328If your organization is implementing Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®), then you’ll want to take a look at VersionOne’s new Program Board which is central to Program Increment (PI) planning. The Program Board helps team easily view and track dependent work across their PI’s. This board shows dependencies that have been assigned to work and planned into iterations providing transparency and visibility for program and delivery teams to visualize the work done, the work in progress, and to clearly identify potential blockers in the way.

ProgramBoardThe Story is the Hub

The easiest way to visualize how to manage the items on the Program Board is to know how to manage the work.  Using an agile method like Scrum and SAFe, teams deliver value via working solutions, planned in sprints, and delivered in releases.story spoke

Using the VersionOne Lifecycle for Agile ALM platform, the user story is the center of the asset wheel, and all the entities around it make up the report.

Stories are the key in several ways:

  • Stories are aligned to releases (e.g. PI’s)
  • Stories are planned into sprints or iterations
  • Stories are assigned to a team, representing the group responsible for completing the work
  • Stories have dependencies, upstream and downstream with other user stories, especially the stories that have cross-team, feature and sprint/iteration boundaries
  • Stories are tied to features or epics using portfolio items, and they roll up from feature to epic if the hierarchy exists

Key Benefits of the Program Board

  • Visualize cross-team dependencies
  • See the work dependencies aligned to the sprints
  • View percentage complete indicators for the features
  • Indentify upstream and downstream work, and hover over visualizations for easy reading
  • See unplanned and out-of-scope work
  • Manage your PI Planning Board electronically and track history of changes as you go

Easy Steps to Create Visualizations with the Program Board

Here are the steps you can use to setup and track cross-team dependency work for your enterprise on the VersionOne Program Board.

1. Teams – Create the Teams, or verify that the teams are already created.  You can also see the teams from Release Planning > Team Scheduling

2. Epics & Features – Breakdown Epics to Features and align the Features to the correct planning level project asset.  This can be done in Release Planning.

3. Stories & Alignment – Create the user stories manually or via the Excel Import, and align the Assign Dependenciesstories to the Teams and Features, (Portfolio Item field). Both editable fields on the story.

4. Dependencies Track dependencies between the stories, teams, and features by creating upstream or downstream dependencies from Story to Story.  This can be done on the a story grid page like the Product Backlog Page, or on the Story Detail Page. Dependencies are set at the Story level, but they roll up to the team and feature level dependencies.

5. Sprints – Plan the stories into one or more sprints.  This is done in Sprint/Iteration Planning and is the final puzzle piece that will allow you to see the cross team, and feature work.

Other Notes

  • You can have different views of the Program Board by aligning the Epics to a higher planning level (e.g. align Epics to the ART or Portfolio)
  • The selected project must have a start date, end date, and schedule.
  • For all the details on the Program Board and all the other agile capabilities above, please visit our community page.
  • The Program Board is available in the Ultimate Edition starting in the Winter 2016 – 16.0.3 release.

Scaled Agile Framework and SAFe are registered trademarks of Scaled Agile, Inc.

Posted in Agile Tips, Product & Release Planning, Product Tips & Tricks, Program Management, Program Manager, Project Manager, Reporting & Analytics, Scaled Agile Framework, ScrumMaster, Sprint Planning & Tracking, Stakeholder, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is the Process Fix In?

In the best selling book Who Moved My Cheese?author Spencer Johnson tells the fictional tale  of two mice, and two humans who must deal with the inevitable changes happening in their “cheese” environment. Two of the key lessons about changes from the book are that in work and life, you must:cheese

  • Monitor Change:  Smell the cheese often so you know when it’s getting old.
  • Adapt To Change Quickly: The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy the new cheese.

Source: Wikipedia

Anticipate Change

The need to accept and anticipate change is a recurring theme surfacing in all agile teams looking for better ways to try to manage uncertainty. The good news is that there are team-tested ways to make even minor improvements that can pay valuable

CollaborationVersionOne is helping agile teams collaborate at all levels, as well as
anticipate and manage changes using Conversations, and Community Topics to manage their lean change process documentation efforts. 

Monitor & Adapt Using Conversations

Conversations allow agile team members, stakeholders, and others to actively collaborate about anything related to different assets, such as releases, epics, work items, tasks, and community topics. Because they are automatically associated with the various items, you can easily find and keep track of related discussions. This is a key way for your organization to be able monitor, track, and trace changes including all the important discussions leading up to the change.

As teams adapt more quickly to changes, they become experts at exclusively using the correct dosage of VersionOne Conversations to document all the important decisions for the work they are doing. This provides transparency for the team to see what was done, along with the tracking history behind the change decision.  Guest collaborators can also be included in the conversations, allowing your customers and suppliers to interact directly with the teams. This capability does not give them access to the work in VersionOne, just to the conversations they are included on. This also does not count against your license usage.

Benefits with Conversations

  • Monitor change where it happens
  • Eliminate inefficient communication vehicles like email
  • Consolidate and collaborate directly on the work items
  • Provide transparency at all levels of the enterprise
  • Collaborate with key stakeholders on the work being done
  • Track accountability via the changed date and member name

Real-World Conversation Example

A great use case for VersionOne Conversations to use them to track, monitor, and understand changes made to Community Topics. Conversations are used as the “confirmation medium” for your changes.  Here is how that looks in VersionOne:Lean process Change - CU


A. Lean Process Changes Made

  • Change ExampleA new process change for checking in fixes surfaces at a team retrospective. This spawns a proposed update conversation related to the Community Topic for “How We Check In Fixes.”
  • The change follows the lean change process and is documented in the topic, as well as a conversation for further discussion. With the topic updated and discussed, it’s ready for consumption by the teams, but is it understood?

B. Understanding Confirmed 

  •  Start a conversation on the changed topic to “Check Understanding (CU)”.  The Check Understanding topic can instruct the correct roles (e.g., ScrumMaster) to confirm that their team has adoptedCheck Understanding the change, and to use the conversation to ask any additional questions for clarification.
  •  The organization can then review the CU conversation for that change to verify that all the teams are “on board.”
  • These changes are integrated with your Agile ALM solution and help drive team and organization lean-process thinking.

The end result is your ability to quickly adapt to and efficiently monitor changes.

So the answer to the question “Is the Process Fix In?” is all in the conversation, when it happened, why, who agreed to the fix, and who understands the change.

Posted in agile development, agile project management, Agile Tips, Collaboration, Product Owner, ScrumMaster, Stakeholder | Leave a comment

Agile Tip: SAFe Team Program Increment Objectives in Community Topics

Using the VersionOne Communities and Topics to present team objectives is a fast and efficient way clearly display your Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) Team Program Increment (PI) objectives.  Integrated into the TeamRoom via the Topics panel, the VersionOne TeamRoom topic conversations also allow your suppliers and customers to communicate and discuss the objectives and status of different PI’s.  This can be done as a member of the team, or as a guest collaborator via an email address.Using Topics for PI Objectives

Key Benefits:

  • Alignment to the SAFe PI Objectives at any level
  • Transparency for team and leaders across the organization
  • Collaboration with your suppliers and customers
  • Ability to change as situations change by using the conversations to document decisions
  • Ability to use @Links in the rich text editor on topics to link to any other asset in VersionOne
  • History tracking of every update to the Communities > Topics

How to Use Communities and Topics for Your PI Objectives:

  • Add a new community for your team using the  VersionOne Collaboration capability
  • Create a new topic for your team’s PI Objectives (e.g. PI#xxxx)
  • Pin the topic to your TeamRoom
  • Start collaborating

TeamRoom is a trademark of VersionOne Inc. Scaled Agile Framework and SAFe are registered trademarks of Scaled Agile, Inc.

Posted in agile development, Agile Tips, Collaboration, Product & Release Planning, Product Owner, Program Manager, Project Manager, Scaled Agile Framework, ScrumMaster, Sprint Planning & Tracking | Leave a comment

Time Tracking Doesn’t Have to Be a Hassle. No, Really.

Main_timesheets-800x328Agile teams typically track a few key metrics. Scrum teams may look at sprint velocity and sprint burndown, while Kanban teams may care about cycle time and throughput. The exact set of metrics and their importance is specific to each team.

A few of those metrics are fueled by team members tracking the time they spent on a task and updating the remaining hours for the task. This data feeds the burndown charts and inform future planning sessions. However, in order for these entries to provide maximum value to the team and keep others up to date, they need to be updated at least once a day.

Is Time Tracking Required?

On top of the need for daily effort tracking, some teams are required to track their time for accounting purposes, whether to enable client billing or to satisfy government regulations. This is often done in a separate system of record, with its own login and password and often cumbersome user interface, forcing the team members to enter the same data twice. Moreover, the tasks and stories that the team member is working on are not automatically available on their timesheets.

An Elegant Solution

At this point, you’re probably thinking to yourself that there’s got to be a better way, seeing how this duplication of effort is hurting the team productivity and morale, while making their time tracking less accurate. We, at VersionOne, had that same thought and we introduced a user-friendly Timesheet interface embedded within the platform that the team is already using every day in our Winter 2016 Release.  More importantly, the effort tracking data that the team is already updating feeds the Timesheet and vice versa, the time entered into the Timesheet can be viewed on the tasks and stories. The Timesheet even allows for a quick and easy update of your remaining “to do” for each task.

Team Effort Tracking Feeds the Timesheet and Vice Versa

Team Effort Tracking Feeds the Timesheet and Vice Versa

The Details That Delight

This new feature is available as of the Winter 2016 Release of the VersionOne Enterprise Agile Lifecycle platform. The Timesheet is available through the “My Home” menu in the application, as well as through the user menu, which allows for direct access from the TeamRoom. The initial Timesheet view shows all items that you already tracked time against in the current week, with quick access to add more items. When adding new items to the sheet, any item that you own is available for quick selection. Not seeing the item you need? Just start typing to look up any other item.

The Timesheet user interface is very intuitive and easy to use. Click into any cell to edit, type a new value, tab to the next field, repeat. Don’t bother looking for the Save buttons, as all edits are automatically saved. Of course, you can also navigate to any week, not just the current one, to view and edit your entries.

Sample Timesheet View

Sample Timesheet View

Easy Integrations

Given that the data is shared between effort tracking on stories/tasks and the Timesheet, any existing backend integrations will continue to work. If you don’t already have the data flowing into your back office reporting solution, the information you need is only an API call away.

Similarly, all of your existing reports that show effort progress will work the same way, will be fed by more accurate data collected from happier team members.

Stay tuned for additional articles introducing other Winter 2016 Release enhancements.

Posted in agile time tracking, timesheets | 2 Comments