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Agile Project Management

Cutting-edge Agile methodologies, software development techniques and project management practices.

Jul 012014
 
Who Is the Product Owner?

For a rapidly evolving role, the basic requirements of product ownership are somewhat ill-defined. The role was developed initially in Scrum, which has become the most widely used and recognized component of Agile development. But the concept is close to the chief engineer in Lean engineering as well as similar roles in other Agile philosophies. Product owner is a critical role, but one that has sprung from software development rather than the business side. We must bring today’s product owner into the organizational structure. The product owner role is crucial because it represents the actual interface between stakeholders — users, managers, marketers, and the business community — and the development team. Without the product owner, …

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May 242014
 
Welcome aboard, Diana!

One of the great pleasures of being practice director is welcoming aboard new consultants. With each consultant we add to the Agile Practice I feel both the practice and I are enriched. The practice gains new expertise as well as another perspective on various methodical issues we wrestle with. Likewise, I gain access to a set of experiences, insights and values that I might not have been privy to before. Adding a consultant to the practice is actually a most gratifying form of network effect. I feel particularly delighted to welcome Diana Larsen to Cutter through this post. Diana, of course, needs no introduction. So, instead of an introduction I will share an episode and …

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May 242014
 
Read it Twice!

We were not literally poor when I was a kid, but my parents had precious little disposable income. The free public library in which they registered me had a strict two-day book exchange policy. If I borrowed a book on Monday, I could not get a new one till Wednesday. It was cruel torture for a book worm like me: I would typically finish the book I borrowed the very same day and would impatiently count the nanoseconds remaining till I was eligible to borrow another book. Fast forward to 2014 and I am feeling like a stranger in paradise, spoiled rotten by any number of great books, articles, presentations and blog posts on any …

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Describing the end state of a successful Scrum rollout can be very exciting for beginning teams. It can also seem a little daunting, particularly after that first sprint, in which the team could feel some of its potential but wasn’t yet able to reach it. I find this can be especially true for teams adopting Scrum in a larger environment that’s not yet an ideal environment for Scrum. Perhaps the whole team cannot dedicate itself full time to the Scrum project yet, or the product owner is still transitioning out of previous product management responsibilities to other parts of the organization. As much as we would like our beginning Scrum teams to have every advantage, …

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Two of Cutter’s Agile experts are teaching public workshops in the Denver area March 31 – April 3. Don’t miss your chance to work with Hubert Smits and Lynn Winterboer, both of whom are highly knowledgeable, engaging, and successful trainers. So successful, in fact, that 98% of Hubert’s courses enjoy a 98% pass rate on the CSM test! If you’re in the Denver area, this is the perfect time for you to earn the key certifications to qualify you to act as Scrum Master and/or Scrum Product Owner on Scrum teams. And if you’re not in the area, what better excuse to head to the beautiful state of Colorado? Get the details and register here. …

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While the problem of scaling Agile is getting the bulk of attention these days, I’ve been running into another problem quite frequently: the value dimension. There’s nothing in Scrum, XP, or other Agile approaches that mandates some calculation of value. From one perspective, I’m glad that they didn’t. Changing the principles and practices within teams didn’t require a gratuitous injection of value into the discussion, adding complexity and giving ammunition to naysayers. From another perspective, enough time has passed, and Agile has proved itself enough, to start thinking about value. For some people with whom I worked on a recent project, it was fundamental. They already had the odds stacked against them (lots of technical …

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Agile practitioners talk a great deal about the importance of breaking bad old habits and replacing them with muscle memory. Since you’re breaking down programmed, reflexive responses, you need more than words. You don’t reason with a habit. That’s why I often inject serious games as training exercises when I’m working with someone in the midst of an Agile transformation project. For one client, specialization within teams was a serious stumbling block to Agility. As long as Bob (not his real name) was the only person who could build a particular kind of critical component, Bob would be a choke point in every sprint. Other team members had similar specializations in platform issues, data formats, …

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Many organizations start their Agile journey by adopting Scrum because it describes a good strategy for leading Agile software teams. Scrum, however, is only part of what is required to deliver sophisticated solutions to your stakeholders. Invariably, teams need to look to other methods to fill in the process gaps that Scrum purposely ignores. When looking at other methods, there is considerable overlap and conflicting terminology that can be confusing to practitioners as well as outside stakeholders. Worse yet, people don’t always know where to look for advice or even what issues they need to consider. To address these challenges, the DAD process decision framework provides a more cohesive approach to Agile solution delivery (see …

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Lean, Devops and the Resurgence of the Industrialization of Software

One the constant tensions in our industry is the business need to make software more like manufacturing — highly predictable and controllable — and the reality that much of the software development lifecycle is not amenable to the process control techniques that are so effective in manufacturing. Software development is different than manufacturing in that: There is a wide range of uncertainty. Software efforts span from green field projects with little initial understanding of the needed system to bug fixes and small changes with very detailed specifications. There is an indirect relationship between the effort expended and value created. Generally, if one spends 10 hours painting a wall, one can expect there will a lot …

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2014: The Failure of Agile Software Development is Taken Seriously

What happened in the past: Agile is all the hype in Software Development and the talk at the golf courses across the country. Consultancy and certification are booming and rumor has it that all software development projects will now end as a success: faster, cheaper, better. What is really going on: More and more software developers are realizing that agile is being implemented as a hype. Processes become iterative. Documents are replaced by tools that maintain a backlog. Customers are still at a far distance from teams. People are still called resources. Cheap labor is still used to “reduce costs”. A few honest managers are aware that nothing is really changing. Quality is not improving, …

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