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 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
  • Backlog Groups
  • 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.

Rollups

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

Track

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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

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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?

dial
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.

Ceremony1

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.

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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.

image007

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.

image015

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.

Summary

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.

 

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View from the Enterprise

Introduction

Software development still has a number of stages, steps, tools, platforms and just stuff that needs to be done. This is not getting simpler. In fact as the world of software progresses these things become more complicated through size and scale. We are using a number of tools that did not exist until recently as part of our ecosystems.

The Integration Hub

Along with this we still have a need to understand the state of play for our development and support operations. This state is represented in a number of different tools and processes and can be spread over organisations that number in the hundreds or larger. These projects are scaling and the agile world is also scaling. The questions of how to keep track of events in a way that is manageable and transparent reflects itself in the portfolio layer in the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®), Product Group in LeSS, as well as in DAD. VersionOne acts as an integration hub to bring all these different areas together as shown in the diagram below.

integration-hub-image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As an integration hub, VersionOne has access to information from tools which truly are across the lifecycle of software development. All of the information from this integration hub can be combined into reports which tell a complete and rich picture of the status of the software development story for any particular value stream or portfolio within the enterprise.

As part of requirements, we can use PPM tools to start programmes and projects with information about a number of main concerns such as:

  • Strategy and Investment Funding
  • Governance
  • Programme Management

And includes subjects such as:

  • Pipeline Management
  • Resource Management
  • Change Control
  • Financial Management
  • Risk Management

PPM often is the starting point for work in an enterprise. Work is at hand to make PPM better aligned to agile values, but that may take time. However starting with the big concerns of PPM and moving across the software development landscape we also see:

  • Enterprise Tools
    • Defect Management
    • Sales Knowledge
  • Requirements
    • NFRs
    • Needs
    • Detailed Acceptance Criteria
  • IDE
    • Checkins
    • TDD Results
  • Source Control
    • Checkins
    • Versions
    • Branches
  • CI (Build)
    • Build Numbers
    • Build Quality
    • Test Results
  • Test
    • BDD
    • Acceptance Tests
    • Test Automation Runs and Coverage
    • Test Pass/Fail (Not to be confused with Quality)
  • CD (Deploy)
    • Where is my build now dude
    • What is the status of my environments
  • Team Tools
    • Team Backlogs
    • Team Velocity
    • Burn Down for Current Sprint

The above is only an example of the information generated by each area of the programme. The challenge to enterprises is to see this at the enterprise level. Each tool provides a view into an aspect of the programme or project and as the diagram show can also share this view with VersionOne, sort of an aspect oriented view of the enterprise.

Analytics and the Data Mart

Information made available through the integrations is placed into the VersionOne data mart. This is available to all of the main tools provided such as:

  • Agile Reporting
  • Agile Analytics
  • Agile Visualisation
  • The Data Mart itself

The data mart is populated by data which can be sourced from VersionOne itself or from any of the connected integrations. Once we have access to all of the information shared through the integration hub, what then!

The agile reporting feature has a large number of standard reports that are all available for customization. The usual advice is to find one that is close to what you are looking for and customise a copy of this report. This allows a degree of access to the data held. But there is more!

The visualisations include the scorecard features that allow a fast and intuitive means for grasping the basic health of a programme with drill down capabilities as needed to explore in more detail. This solution provides a scrolling set of scorecards that allow a continuous monitoring of the portfolio to be presented. These can also be customised somewhat. Then what?

The analytics feature can provide a series of customised dashboards for reporting and situational awareness. These dashboards can be customised and user private dashboards can be maintained as desired. These dashboards access the data mart and are good for providing the awareness needed on a daily basis.

Within the analytics you can construct grid views of the data in that data mart, including data items that have been added through the integrations. These views can be exported as spread sheet data for consumption in other places.

In addition reporting features are available to create reports using data in the data mart. These reports can be shared by email in a number of formats such a PDF or Excel. This means that recipients of these reports do not consume VersionOne license counts. This ability to export using external formats is available throughout the Analytics feature.

If these features do not deliver what is needed then the data mart can be accessed by external tools including Business Objects, Crystal Reports, Actuate, Cognos or LogiXML.

Summary

VersionOne integrates a wide range of tools and platforms and creates the data mart from these platforms and data managed directly from VersionOne. This data mart can then be accessed by a wide range of tools provided through the VersionOne data mart.

This approach allows an enterprise to exploit the fact that the most complete set of data for its development organisation is in the VersionOne integration hub. The value in this data is through the information that can be derived and shared from it, while supporting decision making throughout the enterprise from board to team.

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.

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

Posted in Agile Champion, agile development, Developer, Platform, Product Owner, Program Manager, Project Manager, QA Tester, Roles, ScrumMaster, ScrumMaster | Leave a comment

TeamSync: Building a Bridge Between Dev & Product Management

TeamSync

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In today’s face-paced environment where time-to-market is critical, portfolio and program managers recognize that they need to evolve – that they need better visibility, greater strategic alignment, and improved high-level planning and progress management. But many enterprises have not successfully provided these capabilities because doing so would require introducing new tools and processes, thereby disrupting their development teams.

So how do you provide executives, program managers, and product managers better visibility, greater strategic alignment, and improved high-level planning and progress management without disrupting the development teams? You adapt and coexist.

Adapt and Coexist

You adapt by accepting that teams often work better when they are empowered to leverage the tools that best meet their needs. As an organization, it may be in your best interest to align with your development teams and let them keep using the tools they are most comfortable using.

That being said, you still need to understand and manage the work that the teams are doing across your organization, and do so in the tools that best meet your needs, so you have to coexist.

You can coexist by building a bridge between leadership and development, letting your development teams use the tools with which they are most efficient, while at the same time using your enterprise agile platform tools to pull in the data from these teams, roll it up, and provide everything you need to effectively manage your enterprise portfolio.

Building the Bridge

Building this bridge between the tools development teams are using and the visibility that portfolio and program managers need doesn’t have to be difficult. VersionOne is introducing a new type of integration tool called TeamSync™. TeamSync provides portfolio and program managers with visibility into the work that their teams are doing without disrupting the teams’ current agile tooling and processes.

TeamSync is designed from the ground up to allow VersionOne to coexist with other agile team tools while providing accurate and near-time roll-up of the features on which the agile teams are working, including their backlog items, estimates, status, and effort. With TeamSync, agile teams can continue to use VersionOne or Atlassian® JIRA® at the team level allowing that information to seamlessly flows up to the Enterprise, Portfolio, and Program levels in the VersionOne Enterprise Agile Platform.

Find out more about how TeamSync can help you gain the visibility and insight you need to make better decisions and understand progress with minimal disruption to your development teams.

VersionOne is a registered trademark and TeamSync is a trademark of VersionOne, Inc.
Atlassian and JIRA are registered trademarks of Atlassian.

Posted in Release Announcements | 1 Comment

Budgeting in an Agile World

Agile Budgeting-01

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agile budgeting can be a blasphemous term. It’s not uncommon when the subject of budgeting is brought up to hear “We’re agile. We don’t need budgets.”

While it may be true that an agile team itself doesn’t need budgets, it is almost certainly true that the company housing that agile team does. Businesses need to understand, project and in many cases contain costs. Budgeting provides the mechanism to do that.

Agile Budgeting

Traditional software development approaches budgeting at the project level. Each project up for consideration must have a defined cost, benefits and the all-important ROI. The projects are approved based on the ROI or some combination of factors (hopefully *not* including “Who has the loudest voice?”) and the projected cost is turned into the approved budget for that project. ‘Resources’ are amassed and the project work begins.

Many organizations have leveraged agile to ease that process. A nice simple agile approach means one does know the ongoing costs of the development team(s). By feeding in a stream of prioritized initiatives or features to stable teams, the overall costs are well-known. It’s just the per-initiative or per-feature cost that may be less well-known (and many an agilist would say that is rightly so).

The Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) recognizes some of the inherent issues with project-based budgeting and proposes an improved form of budgeting at the Portfolio level (far away from individual agile teams, mind you).The SAFe approach essentially allocates funding to various Agile Release Trains (ART’s) to allow for budgeting at the high level while leaving feature decisions in the hands of those who are most knowledgeable about the value and priority of the options. It also describes the potential for assigning budgets to specific portfolio items that might reach out across ART’s and Programs.

When we interviewed customers about their current and desired budgeting practices with respect to product development, we found one consistent theme: variety abounds. We found those who espouse the approached learned from their SAFe training. We found those who practice old-school project-based budgeting. And we found those who would prefer to utilize strategic themes as a means to budget development capacity. Budgeting clearly remains a practice with quite a bit of inherent variety so a solution for it must be adaptive.

In the Summer 2015 Release, VersionOne takes an initial step towards supporting budgeting within product development with the introduction of Enterprise Budgeting. This new capability is not so much a means to replace the financial people and systems, but as a mechanism to bring the budgets closer to the development organization’s world. This allows quicker cycles in planning and quicker decisions when options must be weighed. As the variety of current market practices indicate, this is an area that is sure to continue its evolution.

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

Posted in Agile Champion, agile project management, Product Owner, Program Manager, Project Manager, Release Announcements, Reporting & Analytics, Scaled Agile Framework, ScrumMaster | Leave a comment