Author Archives: Luciano Félix

Scrum Gathering Brazil Review

This review was written by Luciano Félix in portuguese and translated to english. The orginal text can be accessed here.

After losing my flight, thanks to the heavy rains in Recife, I get straight from the airport to the first Scrum Gathering Brazil with great expectations. Everything was very well organized. The Hyatt hotel was a great venue to the gathering. I’d like to congratulate JimCundiff, Jodi Gibson and Alexandre Magno for very successful event.

Project Management as a Strategic Competency – Ricardo Vargas, PMI

I believe Ricardo faced some disadvantages because a great part of the agile community doesn’t get along with the PMI and Ricardo didn’t have a deep knowledge about Scrum, so I think because of that he took a more political and defensive strategy. On his presentation Ricardo said that thePMBOK should not be followed blindly, that’s is just an umbrella, a set of what they think are good management practices and should not be used by the book. “ThePMBOK doesn’t born to be respected”, he said. We noticed an attempt from the PMI to get closer to agile process, creating study groups and awarding paper about it. Ricardo insisted in the idea that the Scrum and the PMBOK have the same goal, deliver value to the customer, sincerely I don’t know any process that want to do the opposite, the goal may be the same, but the chosen path is quite different and it’s get clear when someone asked about the project management importance and the idea of self-organized teams. Ricardo told us that he still sees the PM as something essential to the project success and that he doesn’t believe in self-organized teams. Even with the differences I believe and can’t close ourselves to the PMBOK completely, the dialogue is always important.

Contracts and Scrum: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – José Papo, BRQ

Jose Papo did a very good talk about contract models, which he called, Good (Open Scope), Bad (Close Scope) and Ugly (Progressive acquisition and by Metrics). Papo shows a great knowledge about the matter, discussing the upsides and downsides of each model, how to apply them, how to workaround the demands of a closed scope contract. It was really interesting, lately I talked to him about the metrics contract, basically function points, and how they will match with the team estimation. It really worth a look.

Virtual Keynote – Ken Shwaber, Scrum Alliance

Unfortunately I couldn’t watch too much form Ken’s Keynote because my presentation would be immediately after Ken’s. He begin with some Scrum concepts and talk a little about Scrumbut. At this I had to leave, but I knew that he perform an activity o illustrate the difference between a command-and-control culture and the idea of self-organization, but the polemic arose when he announced a certification to developers, CSD, Certified Scrum Developer, focusing on engineering techniques, what causes the polemic was the decision to uses Microsoft tools to support the certification.

Using the DoD to improve the product quality – Gustavo Coutinho, Provider e Luciano Félix, Especializa

To start I was very surprised with the amount of people how attended our talk, at least 80 people were there, i was really happy. Gustavo and I tried to show why is so important to have a good and visible definition of done and what kind of benefits it can bring to the project quality. Gustavo also presents how the ProviderSistemas are using the DoD and which king of gains they are getting since. At the end of the session we get a lot of question, that we hope we have answered satisfactorily. We also get a great feedback from a lot o people after the talk and we were able to extended the discussion on the breaks, no doubt it was a great experience.

The challenges to scale Scrum – Danilo Bardusco, Globo.com

Danilo shows how the Globo.com scaled Scrum on the projects they have, He talk about the initial difficulties, which strategies they used to implement the necessary changes.Danilo let it clear the importance to apply good engineering techniques and implement the management within the teams. I will say it again, is incredible how the Scrum culture merge in theGlobo.com DNA.

Creating a Scrum User Group – Igor Macaúbas, Provider

Arriving for the second day, I went straight to the Palm I room to help Igor set everything to his
presentation. Igor did a great job and his presentation deserved to be watched by more people.
He showed a little bit about the Recife Scrum User Group background, which challenges we faced on the beginning, the ideas that worked, that didn’t worked, etc. It’s interesting to see that the group are becoming a source of information about Scrum, not only in Recife, but nationally too. Besides that, Igor have been contacted by professionals from different locations and having the recognition from JimCundiff himself.

How to present Scrum to the customer – Fabiano Milani, Adaptworks

Fabiano’s presentation was not exactly what I was expecting, but was very interesting anyway. He shown how Adaptworks sells the Scrum idea to their customers. Fabiano insist on the importance that the customer understand how Scrum works so he can have a better dialogue with the supplier. I completely agree.

Good things and bad things on our Scrum adoption – Paulo Silveira, Caelum

Paulo’s keynote was really short, he shown a little bit about the Scrum training evolution on Caleum, before and after Alexandre became a CST e and little about the difficulties they faced on the Scrum adoption. The motto was that Scrum is easy to understand but hard to implement.

Game Development with Scrum – Diego Asfora

Unfortunately I didn’t see the beginning of Diego’s presentation, but I saw that he presented his experience as a mobile game developer when he was working on C.E.S.A.R.. Diego talked the problems he had to create multi-functional teams and get them to plan he sprints together, specially when it concern tests, always tricky when it comes to mobile applications.

6 Secrets for running to a good retrospective – Boris Gloger

As expected the room was crowded and even tough I already knew most of the content is always nice to see Boris in action. He started discussing about the human learning process e how we already use the retrospective concept on many areas of human knowledge. Boris showed how important retrospective really are and gave some very useful advices. I really worth a look.

After Boris presentation, We had to leave to no loose our flight and we end up not seeing a final round table, but with no doubt I was a great event. The opportunity to meet a lot of people from different places, exchange experiences and participate on debates was incredible. See you on the next Scrum Gathering.

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Scrum Tools | VersionOne | Review

VersionOne is one of most well-known tools to manage agile projects on the market. With a great amount of functionalities VersionOne can be used with many agile flavors, Scrum included. With some many features, as you can imagine, VersionOne will require a significant financial investment to use it, so is recommended that you try the 30-day evaluation available on their website until you decide to purchase it. At first we may be overwhelmed by the amount of features and configuration possibilities, so it’s a good idea to watch some video training also available on VersionOne website. For the propose of this review we will be using the Enterprise edition.

Getting Started

A good way to start using VersionOne is on the Admin section. Here you can create projects, members, sprint schedules and a long list of possible configurations. You can define custom fields for your objects, define the possible values for backlog item status, type,  etc. After being comfortable with your customizations and created your project, it’s time do build your backlog. On the Product Planning tab you may notice some different information in addition to the normal backlog feature. On VersionOne you can register things like Customer Requests, Strategic Goal, Epics, Themes,Issues, etc. So you can do a lot of work on it even before you start building your real backlog. Luckily all things thing isn’t mandatory, so use them as your needs require.

Planning

There are different levels of planning on VersionOne, Product, Release and Sprint. As we said earlier, the product planning is where we can maintain our backlog. There’s a lot a information that you can define to a backlog item, like Complexity, Requested by, the Theme that the item is related to, etc. but you don’t have to worry about all that, there’s a in-line add feature where you can provide only basic information like priority and estimate and quickly create a lot of items.

Let’s talk more about priority and estimate as usual. You are very free to estimate your items on VersionOne, that’s not a defined unit of measure and no defined scale. So if you work with Planning Poker or a different technique, you need to enforce a scale outside the tool. On the priority feature there’s a interesting thing, you can define a value to the priority property (High, Medium and Low) but you also can drag and drop to do a finer prioritization, the problem is that you can put a Low priority item on top of a High priority item, which can be a little confusing. To me the drag-and -drop makes the priority field a bit obsolete and should be the primary mechanism to prioritize. On the Release Planning, you can create you releases as child projects form your main project, define a date range and drag the item you choose to be part of it. The Sprint planning is similar to Release planning, create a sprint and drag the chosen items to it, and now you can create tasks to our items at this moment, you could have created them before, but we assume that the sprint planning should the appropriate moment to do that, and again VersionOne has the common bad habit to enforces task estimates in order to have a working burndown chart. To track the work during the sprint, there’s a nicely done taskboard feature. You can also create special tasks to test, where you can define tests details.


Tracking and Reports

On the reports tab you can see a big list of reports where you can track more statistics about your team than a baseball scout. There’s burndown charts to sprints, releases, project, parking lot charts, velocity charts, retrospective reports and a lot more. It’s a very rich set of reports, so rich that I seriously doubt that a team can use it all for real, but of course even if not use it all, you can find some good things in there.

Conclusion

There’s many more good things and bad things about VersionOne to fit in this review, but there’s no doubt that VersionOne is one of the most complete tools on the market, but even with all the additional features it brings, there’s not a  breakthrough feature, something that really sets the tool apart from the various competitors and you always expects something more from the big players. Although VersionOne has a great number of features it’s not the most expensive tool on the market, so if your company are willing to invest on a tool that brings many features, integrates with other tools, and a good support structure, VersionOne could be a choice.

Scrum Tools | ScrumNinja | Review

Developed by Internaut Design, a company from San Francisco, California. Scrum Ninja is a hosted project management tool for scrum teams. You don’t to worry about installing anything on your company, all your information will be hosted onInternaut servers and accessible through the web. ScrumNinja is focused only on Scrum teams bringing the basic features necessary to run a scrum project and it is free for 3 users or less.

Getting Started

As usual, creating a project is your first activity in the tool and is possible to create as many projects as you need. Just provide a name and a timezone, to correctly update yourburndown chart. Immediately after creating a project you have to define your first sprint even before create your first story, it’s a little bit strange and if try to bypass this,ScrumNinja will automatic create a sprint for you, but don’t worry to much, you can edit the sprint data to your convenience.

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Stories and Tasks

So now you can create your stories, just a few info and you are done, you can choose to estimate the story at this moment or when it’s more convenient to you and after creating a few stories you will notice something on your backlog.ScrumNinja will divide all your backlog into sprints based on the average of previous sprints and if you try to put a new story on a sprint but the estimate is bigger them the sprint capacity a new sprint will be created unless you update the sprint capacity manually. I think it’s a unnatural way of thinking, what would be much simpler if the sprint projected velocity be updated automatically when a new story is added or moved or updated. To prioritize your stories is easy, just drag and drop each story on the list to the desired order, every tool should use this kind of mechanism and this feature is not perfect only because the idea of dividing the backlog into sprint upfront with fixed velocity will makeScrumNinja rearrange your sprints every time you change a priority and it can be confusing with you have a large backlog. Maybe is time to create your tasks. You will be taken to the Card Wall screen, where you can create the tasks. Very easy to do, but again, you need to estimate them in hours, so you will not see aburndown chart, if you don’t use hour estimates define 1 hour for everything as I said in previous reviews, it will do fine. The card wall isexactily a copy of a common task board and you can drag the tasks to update their status, you also can create new tasks, delete or edit some. ScrumNinja also provides a burndown feature but it’s only a simple hour tracking chart. It’s well designed but maybe you need something more.

Conclusion

ScrumNinja have good points, the extensive use of drag-and-drop capabilities is definitely a welcome, but ScrumNinja lacks of some more depth. There’s only basic features that may be insuficent for most of the scrum teams, maybe with some upgrades this tool can be a consistent one, but not right now.

Scrum Tools | Agile Buddy | Review

“Simplifying the Agile project management”. That’s the Agile Buddy catch phrase. As you can see Agile Buddy is a tool to manage agile project. It runs on the web and was developed by Brightspark. It has a good look and feeling, with the main features organized in tabs. There is a free trial available if you want to take a look at it before you buy it.

First Steps

To start using Agile Buddy we need to create a Product register, then you can start creating your backlog. There is no need to create releases or iterations upfront. You are free to create as many stories as you like with minimum data and fill that when it is more appropriate. It´s possible to define a great amount of information like source, business value or risk. These properties do not have much impact on the story progression into the project being just informative properties, but when it comes to the real deal (size, priority) Agile Buddy does have some little problems that are so common in most of the tools. Speaking first about the prioritization process, Agile Buddy brings us a range of 5 possible values to define a story priority, from blocker to minor. This will lead us to the well known problem of having different stories with the same priority, which can be OK if we talk about the bottom of a big backlog, but it’s definitively a problem to the stories on the top of the backlog, as I said in previous reviews a simple ordination will prevent this kind of problems. On the estimation feature, I enjoy the fact that the use of the word size defines the story estimate. Agile Buddy comes with an estimation screen that is useful on estimation meetings providing a quick way to estimate a great amount of stories. Another good point is the use of the Fibonacci-like scale, the most popular scale on agile projects, but unfortunately this feature isn’t problem free. The major problem is that you can only work on unestimated stories, so you can not alter the size of a story through this screen. If you need to do that you have to edit a story and then set a new size. The funny thing is on the story edit screen you can set nay value to the size, not limited by the Fibonacci scale, this is a bit confusing and should be fixed on future releases of the product.

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Planning

On the planning part, Agile Buddy gives us two features, Release Planning and Iteration Planning. To be able to do your iteration planning you are obligated to do your release planning first. The release iteration is basically an assignment screen, where you can say which stories will be on the next release. There’s no much more of it, maybe the feature would get a real boost if you could access some information about the development teams capacity or the application could provide some sort of projections about how many iterations it’s going to take until the release is ready and how the decisions of putting in a story or not will affect the schedule. The iteration planning works the same way,you just need to choose which stories will be part of your iteration. The difference is that only stories that were previously assigned to be part of the release will be available this time. After assigning the stories it’s a good moment to create your tasks for each one of them. Unfortunately you have the leave the planning screen to do that and access the Task option on the Create menu and again you see another common problem. You have to estimate your task in hours. So if you don’t want to do that, you can use the idea of one-hour-to-everything, so you can have a burndown chart to show. At least you can create several tasks without having to access the Create menu again, this speeds up things a little, but it would be even better if you could do this in the story context.

agilebuddy2


Running a Sprint

There is no specific feature to use to update the tasks and stories status on a daily basis like a task board. The Track screen is the most close to this. There’s a track screen for the whole project, for the release and the iteration. On the release track, you can see release backlog with the status of the stories and a Story burnup chart, where you can see how many story points are completed during the release. On the iteration track you can see the selected product backlog (stories) with the sprint backlog (tasks) and a burndown chart to the task hours. You can also update the status of the end and the stories as well.

Conclusion

Although Agile Buddy is an easy to use and learning tool, it suffers from the same problems many tools do. Agile Buddy covers only basic features and doesn’t bring any innovation and maybe these features are not enough to justify their price, maybe on the next version.

Scrum Tools | XPLive | Review

XPLive is a web based tool to manage agile projects, but it also available as an Eclipse plugin or as a Visual Studio 2005 add-in. XPLive aren’t based on Scrum only but tries to map practices from the most used agile approaches like Scrum, XP, Crystal, etc. As web tool you don’t need to install anything on your servers, only request a login with different service plans. There’s a 15 days trial period for you to evaluate the tool and see if it suits your needs.

Getting Started

You can start by creating your project, very simple, just define a name and a description and assign the people that going to work on the project, you don’t need to put everyone now, so you can assign new people when is more appropriate. After that XPLive enables the main features of the tool.Release, Iterations, Stories, etc.

To create your backlog, use the Stories option to add new stories to your backlog. To create a new story XPLive gives tons of information to fill, like, Business Value, Technical Risk, Requested By , etc. but if you don’t use these information you can leave it blank, besides that XPLive has some problems concerning two of the most important properties of a Story, estimation and priority, the story estimate are measured in hours, if you use story points or ideal days you can just ignore the label hours and work with the estimation unit that you like, in the priority side, XPLive gives you a range of values from 1 (high) to 10 (low) which will cause a lot of stories on your backlog to have the same priority, as we know, it’s not a good thing.

Iteration and Releases

With your backlog in place you can start planning your sprints, XPLive solves this on excellent way, you have a backlog box with your stories and your sprint box and just need to drag the desired stories to the sprint box, very good. If the planning is really well done, the same can not be said about the sprint task board. After you have created tasks for all your stories, you can see them on the task board, with the basic 3 columns, but to update the tasks status you can not drag and drop the tasks through the columns, you need enter on each task and edit the status property, and worst, the values available for the status property haven’t a direct match with the task board columns.

Another problem is that the tasks estimates are measure also in hours but the task hours and story hours are completely different things and not related at all, this could be a little confusing. The task hours are used on the iteration burndown chart and the story hour on the release burndown chart. This could be better resolve if they had called the story hours into something different , like maybe, ideal hours.

Conclusion

XPLive brings the basic features for a agile team, it’s a relative easy to use tool but it still have some problems to fix, but the main problem with this tool is the user experience, If you have a great amount of stories and tasks to manage, it will take you a long time to put them all on XPLive. It could be much better if they have used more things like drag-and-drop, quick-edits, better colors, this kind of solutions would create a much better user experience and will cause more people to enjoy the tool.

Scrum Tools | ProjectCards | Review

ProjectCards is a tool created by ProjeNova, an IT company from Quebec, Canada. The goal for ProjectCards is to be used by anyone involved on the project and with any flavour of agile process. ProjectCards have a Eclipse look and feel and is also available as an Eclipse plug in. If you are familiar with the interface it will be easy to learn how to work with this tool.

Getting Started

When you open ProjectCards for the first time you can open a Sample Project or create a new one. It will present to you 2 views, as we say in Eclipse lingo, Themes view, where we can organize your stories in themes and sub-themes and Project Planning view, where most of the action happens, that’s where you have your Release Plan, the Task board, etc.

The Themes view is basically a way to see themes, stories and task on a tree organization, nothing more, so we don’t need to talk more about it.

Project Planning

The Project Planning view is divided in three tabs, Release Plan, Dashboard and Velocity. On the Release Plan tab we see a different organization of you backlog. You are free to create your folder hierarchy, respecting the following: Top-Level folder, Mid-level Folders, Story cards, Tasks, so you can create something like , Release (top-level), Sprint(mid-level), Story, Task. There are also something information available on the grid like status, task estimate, sprint duration, velocity, etc. The problem is that you don’t have a priority property for your stories so you can’t easily see a prioritized backlog. Another problem is that you have to create a sprint (mid-level folder) to create a story card, so you can’t see your backlog as a simple list of stories, at least is easy to move a story from a sprint to another, just drag the story card and drop it on the sprint folder.

The Dashboard tab is our taskboard, with the well known columns, To Do, In Progress and Done besides that ProjectCards creates sub-status to each one of this columns, this isn’t really useful, just creates another layer of bureaucracy. Another big problem with the Dashboard tab is that you move stories, not tasks, through the status and columns and again we miss the prioritization to make clear which story to work first.

At last the Velocity tab is just a grid to register week velocity data. I really don’t understand why they create this the way they did. You have to input the data manually when it should be generated automatically based on the information the team provides every sprint and you have to do it every week, but your sprint could have 2,3,4,5,etc. weeks, that’s not a clear relation.

Extras

Projects comes with the possibility to create custom fields on the story creation, this could solve the prioritization problem, but it would be a mere informative property with no effect no other views. You can also generate a Project report, with information about the project, it’s a good way to organize all data on a presentable view to management.

Conclusion

The use of Eclipse look and feel makes ProjectCards more intuitive to many people, but they made some real bad choices, like the the lack of a real prioritization, no use of tasks in the dashboard, no charts of any kind, etc. Just a good presentation is not enough if you don’t bring good functionality and on that matter ProjectCard falls short.