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Agile Project Management

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

Nov 012011
 
Half-Life Metrics

“Gaming the system” is the kind of phenomenon that makes pedantic software development managers end their careers in mental asylums. A metric is introduced in order to achieve a certain outcome. To enhance the prospects of achieving the desired outcome, individuals and/or teams are compensated on the measured value of the metric. Over time they learn how to “game it”; that is, skillfully improving the measured value irrespective of whether or not such improvements still are in good accord with the desired outcome. The means (i.e., the measured value of the metric) becomes the end. “Gaming it” manifests itself as failure over time of the measured performance to fully represent actual performance. For example, a …

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The Runway of Software Products

In her October 4, 2011 HBS blog post Can HP Change its DNA?, Judith Hurwitz contrasts corporate DNA for hardware versus DNA for software, as follows: The DNA that has been in HP’s bones from the start is all about excellence in hardware engineering…. With hardware markets, money is spent upfront to develop a system. However, once that product is launched, revenue streams in quickly and evenly. .. By contrast, when software is delivered to the market, it may take a year or even several years before it becomes a well-accepted and profitable endeavor… This is what I’ve observed at HP. As it has tried to invest in software, again and again it has killed products off before …

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Sep 302011
 
A Seven Year Retrospective

I felt like a psychiatrist in October 2004. An endless stream of strangers was coming to my office to complain about the software I was responsible for. I did not need to ask the classic question “How did you feel about the software bug?!” – I was proactively advised how the person calling upon me – every person! – felt about it… Some actually reverted to Hebrew (my native tongue) in order to make doubly certain I did not miss any nuance of their disappointment, dismay, despair, anger, anxiety and anguish. The only saving grace I had was that I have just been hired to turn the product around. It was a little difficult to implicate me …

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Sep 292011
 
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Innovation is part of the curriculum in just about any Agile engagement I carry out for Cutter. To my way of thinking, the linkage between Agile and innovation is straightforward. Agile enables affordable experimentation. Experimentation begets discovery. Discovery is the first step toward innovation. Just about everyone of my clients responds heartily to this simple-minded derivation, and for a very good reason. Clients crave innovation as it gives them competitive advantage through the life cycle of the product. Hence, enhancing innovation is a very appealing message. I still have to meet a client who would say “well, you know, our problem is too much innovation…” Short-term engagement do not usually give me the opportunity to …

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A New Arithmetic for the Backlog

The delineation ‘functional vis-a-vis non-functional’ requirements has been used by many/most of us for quite a few years. Useful that it is, I find various Cutter clients needing a more granular delineation. For example, in a recent engagement the client has actually identified the following kinds of requirements: Functional “Traditional” non-functional Devops Technical debt (TD) Striking the balance between the four is a tricky business. It is hard enough to generate some kind of (fast changing) equilibrium between the first two. Doing so across all four is a stretch for most teams. It requires good grasp on numerous subject matters. Even if the team includes a member versed in devops and another one who is …

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Sep 252011
 
Our Walls are Thicker

A couple of years ago I found myself immersed in a devops dialog with an executive of a fully integrated service provider. I forgot how many hundreds, if not thousands, of developers reported to her. While all might not have been well with the way software was produced in her organization, the bigger problem she was wrestling with was time-to-value. The software might be done, or even ‘done done’ as Agilists would often say, but its deployment unto the data centers owned and operated by the very same service provider was agonizingly slow. In particular, time to deployment of anything that touched legacy code was “infinite.” Figure 1: Wall of Confusion Slide By Patrick Debois …

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Sep 202011
 
From Here to Agile2021

  Agile 2011 has been something of an epiphany for me. The confluence of workshops, discussions and interactions with Cutter presenters in the conference led me to thinking of the shape of things to come in quite a different manner than I used to. In particular, I reached the conclusion the forthcoming 2011-2021 vintage will be quite different from the tried and true Agile 2001-2011 vintage. I have no doubt the nuts-and-bolts of Agile will continue to be a major component of the Agile “curriculum.” You simply must get the Agile practices working at the team level. Metaphorically speaking, you are building towers in the sand if your teams are not proficient in the Agile method. …

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Sep 202011
 
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One of the saddest patterns I’ve seen several times in my career is that of an agile island. The story usually goes along this route: a highly motivated middle manager finds herself in some difficult situation and decides that agile is the right way out of her turmoil. She starts to read books, she engages skilled consultants, she gets the team on board, introduces self-organization, finds skillful product owners, and, after one year or so, she has a highly successful agile team. Well, not everything is really perfect, but after all, the situation is way better than it was before the transition and the clients notice a significant difference — though there is still some …

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Sep 112011
 
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Last February I developed an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT)  problem that placed me squarely in the category of “interesting patient” (as one of the physician I saw told me with a wry grin). Just at the point the number of medical specialists I had to consult grew to the level that my medical insurance started suspecting a fraud, I reached the conclusion that while nothing is too wrong with any single organ, I am probably struggling with some from of a system problem. Since then I have been known to quip that henceforth Jerry Weinberg will be the only “physician” whose help I would seek.. Imagine my delight getting the thoughts captured below from Ernest …

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  My friend Annie Shum has drawn my attention to prosumers and their effect on the value chain. According to Annie, three things are happening in an interlinked manner: Consumers become prosumers – they both consume and produce; consequently, The value chain becomes composite; hence, The whole product is transformed. Consider, for example, a keep-the-memories photo storing, sharing, processing and printing service like Snapfish. The company must have hundreds of millions of customers, many of which are obviously creative. A creative customer who prepares a photo album of her son’s wedding, might design a template she will use to produce the album. This template could be posted and sold on the Snapfish web site for …

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