Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Agile Definition of Done Starter Kit

I often find it amusing when the definition of ‘done’ in Agile is sometimes called ‘done-done’. This is meant to imply that we are not just done with development (the 1st done), but we are done with testing (the 2nd done) as well. However, if you think about all of the activities that are needed to get stories in a sprint backlog into the shape to be potentially shippable, you should probably call it “done-done-done-done” and possibly more (LOL).
So what is the importance of done criteria? First as mentioned, it helps the team understand what is the expectation of getting a story (or the functionality therein) into shape to be potentially shippable. Second, it helps identify the activities and expectations that must occur to build a quality product. Third, all activities in the done criteria are considered when the team sizes the work during Sprint Planning and, therefore, has a direct impact on the sizing of stories. When the team sizes a story, they need to ensure it includes all of the work described in the team’s "done criteria".
I usually bring a starter kit of typical tasks to get a story to "done". This helps initiate an active discussion prior to sprint 1 among the team so that each team member understands the various elements of the done criteria and what elements we are agreeing too as a team. Here is my done criteria (aka, definition of done) starter kit:
  • Incremental designing (and what type of design type(s) the team will use)
  • Incremental development (per the development programming techniques, and this includes developing documentation such as user guides and non-functional requirements associated with the story)
  • Incremental building/evolving the unit tests
  • Consideration for incrementally building out automation for regression testing, etc
  • Applying appropriate source control, checkout/checkin, and branching/merging
  • Applying approach incremental local builds (in private workspace)
  • Applying code review (or pair programming if being applied) as appropriate
  • Incremental testing (per the testing types, e.g., functional, system, integration, etc., pending how much automation there is)
  • Meeting acceptance criteria shared by the Product Owner
At this point, the team discusses these elements and establishes a common definition of done for the stories and the sprint. Now keep in mind that this is the team’s common done criteria and it should be flexible depending on the type of work. Also, once the team agrees to done criteria, expect it to evolve over time and it may be a discussion in the Retrospective if it needs improvement. Some of the effort associated with your definition of done is dependent on what tools, infrastructure, and automation, that currently exists and where you want to go, so keep this in mind.

Finally, if your definition of done has nine key activities, then you can call it the “done-done-done-done-done-done-done-done-done” criteria (LOL).  Maybe just one "Done" is enough.  Once you establish the done criteria for the team, don’t forget to evolve it over time to get you to a quality and releasable product!  

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Agile and the Cloud – Match made in Heaven!

Agile and the Cloud are both pervasive these days.  Agile is a software development method based on an iterative and incremental approaches. Applying an Agile method and mindset can, on the one side, can incrementally build Software as a Services (SaaS) based products and, on the other side, utilize IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service) to build the SaaS products and services.

As most software professionals are aware, the action of delivering the increment into the traditional on-premise software product environment is often laborious and time consuming. SaaS conveniently provides shared software products as services, and associated data via the Internet, a model that can be scaled and configured to a company’s or product team’s needs. SaaS changes the software paradigm by providing the software as a service “in the cloud” to people and companies that need that product or service. Companies no longer need local administrators to handle the rigorous and time-consuming effort of establishing on-premise product infrastructure and the installing the software.

When building products for the cloud, a production-ready environment is made available to teams almost instantly. While most products require an on-premise installation, building cloud products reduces the need for the often rigorous and time-consuming effort of installing the new releases of the software product infrastructure prior to the installation. Because Agile utilizes an iterative and incremental approach, SaaS products can be incrementally upgraded when the Sprint Review (aka, demonstration) indicates that the product is ready. The effort on the SaaS provider side is reduced also, because a few installations by experts are much easier to develop and manage than the many installations by customers (and documentation, ramp-up, and problem resolution that are included).

On the Agile side, the challenge is to build an infrastructure that supports Agile and does not impede the progress of the Agile team that must continue to deliver value. A simultaneous goal is to avoid investment in infrastructure that may not be needed in later phases of the project. One suggestion is to utilize the infrastructure envisioning approach, which applies an incremental approach to the continuous establishment of an effective infrastructure. This is where Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) can be useful to Agile teams. The cloud IaaS and PaaS approaches enable consumers to only use and pay for what they need. This is a distinct advantage for incremental development processes like Agile. This "use-what-infrastructure-you-need" approach minimizes technology debt and allows the team to adjust and scale its needs just-in-time.

As Agile methods continuously build SaaS product increments (i.e. functionality), the cloud delivers them as increasing business value to the customer with little effort from the customer. In addition, the cloud (by way of IaaS and PaaS) provides Agile projects with tools and infrastructure just-in time, so that the team always has the tools and infrastructure they need but never wastefully invests in unused equipment. Consequently, they are able to provide continuous value to the customer in the cloud. This mutually beneficial relationship is a “match made in heaven” for project teams utilizing Agile to build software in the cloud and using cloud infrastructure to support Agile projects. 

Have you benefited with the Agile and Cloud relationship?  If so, in what ways?  

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Agile Culture - Are you Stepping Up?

In the traditional and waterfall world, there tends to be a more directive approach to managing the projects. A hierarchy exists where decisions get made not necessarily based on full knowledge, experience, or information, but based on position. Often times, decisions are made by a few folks and then shared with the team. Ultimately this establishes a culture where folks on the project team become timid, lack enthusiasm, and do not feel vested in the work ahead. This is problematic because we are not getting the most brain power from the team members.

Then along comes Agile. When implemented correctly, the Agile culture places a strong emphasis on team empowerment and ownership. There is little to no command-and-control from management and teams are trusted to make the decisions since they are much closer to the working knowledge and have the experience in that specific area. Team members feel invested in the work ahead because they have a say in the direction of the product.
However, transitioning to an Agile culture does not immediately gain the advantages that you desire. There must be a recognition that managers and some overly directive people need to step back. However, when they do step back, the Agile team members must step forward to fill the leadership gap. if you want to want to feel invested in your work, you must be willing to own the decisions and work ahead.  Otherwise, those people that stepped back will have a tendency (per their natural inclination to be directive) to want to step forward again.

This is where being assertive and proactive becomes important. Some engineers may come from a culture where they are relegated to “getting instructions” and being told what to do. They are not expected to be a leader. With Agile, it is now their job to become self-empowered, become leaders, and take assertive steps forward.

What does this mean in the Agile context? First, as you become part of an Agile project, you must truly internalize that you are now equally part of the team and your thoughts, experience, and opinions matter. This does not happen overnight because the dynamics of getting to an Agile culture takes time.  In some cases, there will be those working against you, to sabotage the change in order to maintain the status quo. But make no mistake, it is up to you to step up and assertively empower yourself.  Ensure you are weaving your way onto the Scrum team as an effective team member

So next time you don’t think you are appropriately involved on the project or you think you need permission to speak up, stop for a moment. Change your mindset and be assertive, speak up, get involved, become a leader, and start owning the work. Agile provides that opportunity. It is your opportunity to step up.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Agile Animal Farm - Pigs, Chickens, and more

Once upon a time there was a chicken and pig walking down the country road. The chicken turns to the pig and says, “I have a great idea! Let’s start a breakfast restaurant called Ham-n-Eggs”. The pig thinks for a moment, and then says, “No thank you. You would just contribute (your eggs) and could leave when you wanted to, while my bacon would be on the line”.

This humorous yet telling analogy from the Agile world helps us distinguish those that are just involved from those that are truly committed on an Agile team. However, in the real world, pigs do have to work with chickens and even other animals around the farm. Let’s take a look at each animal more closely. I have seen or heard about the Pig, Chicken, Fox, and Seagull before and I will also introduce a few more new animals (e.g., Rat, Cat, and Bull) to this interesting analogy. How many of these have you seen in your Agile workplace?

Pig - They are fully dedicated to the project. This would include the Agile team (aka, Scrum Team), ScrumMaster, and Product Owner. They are committed to the work. They work in a pig-pen with other pigs who love their work and environment and love to pitch-in. If Agile is being implemented correctly, they are more than willing to put their bacon-on-the-line every day because they feel ownership of the work. They are assertive and accountable for the success of the project and have a majority (if not all) of their performance goals linked directly to the success of the project and their specific Agile team.

Chickens – They come and go on the project. While chickens are mostly helpful, because they are contributing their eggs, they don’t always understand the full context because they are not a dedicated team member. So occasionally they may accidently contribute a rotten egg. They are not accountable for the success of the project, although they may have a small portion of their performance goals linked to the success of the project.
Fox – They like to stealthily move into and through the team seeing who has certain skills and ideas. Then they like to steal not only resources (Agile team members) for their own teams, but they also steal ideas. They are not necessarily negative, because they are often so quiet in their manipulative work. They are dedicated to their own success.

Seagulls - They like to fly around the project and not really contribute in any manner. They enjoy “talking” (mostly hearing themselves speak) and pretend they are adding value, but they are only annoying the pigs (Agile team members). Often, they like to swoop in so it can look like they are involved (and they’ll tell others this). They are often quite negative, squawk a lot in a “know it all” manner, and often poop on people and their ideas.

Rat –They are deceiver types who will use the trust of the team to gain insight into topics so they can then “rat” on what is going on to others. Often on Agile teams, they are really deceivers because they are really anti-Agile or just plain negative people. They often know the decisions that are made based on certain contexts that the team is in, but will twist the truth in order to bring the project down. It is important to identify these deceivers as quickly as possible and get them off the team.

Cat – They are a lazy type on an Agile team that really do not pitch in but instead like to sleep instead. They are almost purposefully not assertive, have been used to just “getting by” on projects for years, and are not really interested in feeling ownership of the work. They typically neither positive nor negative and simply like to be left alone. The other team members will begin to notice this behavior and realize they are not really interested in becoming part of the team.

Bull – They are command-and-control types who think they can continue to tell their folks what to do even though they are dedicated to their Agile teams. Sometimes referred to as bullies, they charge right into the team and attempt to direct them to their own work and often deviate the team from building product functionality. Typically, they are not interested in the Agile mindset because they see it as a challenge to their authority (technical or managerial) or don’t really understand or care about the business benefits of Agile, but instead want to maintain their own status.

And finally no farm is complete without the Farmer.  However, on an Agile farm, it cannot be just any Farmer but instead a benevolent Farmer who is good to his animals and ensure the animals have what they need to grow and prosper.  The Agile Animal Farmer encourages, inspires, and allows for team autonomy and self organization.     

I hope you enjoyed these animal farm analogies. Did you recognize any of them? What Agile animals are on your Agile farm?

Here are few more links to other Agile animal references:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Holistic view of Continuous Integration & Build (Bite-size Stories) – Part 4 of 9

In the last episode (e.g., Part 3 of 9) of this series, I introduced the importance of the Agile and CM mindset.  One of the key elements in CIB involves an Agile and CM mindset change to think more continuously.  For Continuous Integration and Build to work effectively it is also important to ensure we are breaking down the work into bite-size stories and/or tasks to ensure we can have a potentially shippable increment.  Let’s examine this in more detail. 
In order to do continuous integration, you need to have the work broken-down into a size of work where you can integrate and build frequently.  The ability to specify the right ‘‘bite-size’’ level of story represents change that allow for granular and frequent code changes. This implies that the Agile team has the skills to understand the stories well enough in order to effectively break them down into small and consumable chunks.  This allows the team to make codes changes frequently and incrementally. 
But what are some techniques that help you break down work into bite-size stories? Here are a few ideas:

• Phrase your stories following the Canonical form.  A canonical form for a story is expressed as "As a I want to a so that ". This allows work to be segmented into actor, action, and benefit which helps in breaking down the work.

• Utilize the INVEST approach which stands for making a story Independent, Negotiable, Valuable, Estimable, Small, and Testable (established by Bill Wake). This approach helps us split larger stories or work into smaller bite-sized stories. Here are more details:
  • I - Independent can stand on its own and could be demo’able
  • N - Negotiable indicates that stories are negotiable and can be adjusted
  • V- Valuable to the users and customer
  • E- Estimable so that the stories can be sized
  • S – Small enough to be bite-sized
  • T – Testable so they can be verified and validated to work as written.
• Utilize the Use Case method that helps you break down work into functional steps. Each step should produce a piece of functionality. By using this approach, it provides you a basis for reviewing and determining the value of the functionality from each use case step in the flow. This then allows you to establish a more bite-sized approach to the work using a value and/or priority approach.

As you move to Continuous Integration and Build, your team must have the skills to chunk out the work into bite-sized pieces, in this case into stories that can be done within half the size of a sprint.  This makes continuous integration and build meaningful and allows for more frequent merging and building of the work.  Stay tuned for the next episode where we will focus on the Right-sizing your Branching and what this means in a Continuous Integration and Build process.
Note: If you started with this entry (Part 4), consider reading the first 3 earlier blog entries in this series.
Note: consider reading Adapting Configuration Management for Agile Teams, consider by Mario E. Moreira Wiley Publishing, 2010 for more information on this topic.   

Saturday, July 23, 2011

How an Agile Customer Feedback Vision can lead to Product Success!

Gaining periodic customer feedback of working software is an important aspect of agile development, because it ensures that you are constructing a valuable solution for the customer. Without customer feedback, you are not really applying agile; you are just doing a form of iterative development without aligning your work with the customer’s need. While the engineering practices applied within an agile project focus on building the product right, the validation practices focus on building the right product.

The notion of thinking through and establishing a serious feedback approach for the product, which I term the Agile Customer Feedback Vision, is missing from many agile projects—and even missing within the bailiwick of agile practices. This vision is a strategy for identifying the right customers,  applying personas, establishing feedback sessions throughout the project, and then motivating the customers to attend the feedback sessions.

Establish Customer Profiles

Customer profiles are important to a successful implementation of customer validation. A customer profile identifies common traits in your target customers, including demographics, buying patterns, and areas of interest. The goal is to identify and select customers who meet the profile you are looking for and who are willing to provide feedback.

Identify Personas

Personas represent the users of the product that is being developed.  There are often several personas that use a product for various reasons.  An example of 3 personas that may use an on-premise application are: "Regular User", "Power User", and "Administrator".  They all use the product a bit differently and features are built for their needs.  The importance of identifying the personas in regards to customer feedback is that you should invite the customers that represent that persona when those features are being demonstrated.  For example, when you are demonstrating a feature that focuses on administration tasks, then the best feedback comes from having someone from the customer who represents the administrator.

Motivate Customers to Attend

Start by inviting customers to just one end-of-sprint review or demo session and getting their input. Customers who have not experienced something like this before typically are impressed to see working software so early in a release lifecycle. If they like the first validation session, then invite them to the next end-of-sprint review and excite them by highlighting where you’ve incorporated their input. At this point, ask the customers if they want to participate periodically at a per-sprint cadence.

Capture Customer Feedback

Capturing customer feedback is important to ensuring we are "building the right thing".  I have seen feedback languish which defeats the point of gaining the feedback.  It is critical that the feedback gets incorporated into the next Sprint Review.  The feedback that you gain should be linked to the User Story and should also capture the customer by way of Customer Profile that gave the feedback.

Consider Various Types of Customer Feedback Loops

While there is significant benefit to the end-of-sprint review or demo, the customer is, in most cases, only viewing the working software at that point. Let us review the potential types of customer validation sessions and their attributes in more detail.

• Sprint Review/Demo—This is a type of feedback that demonstrates the working software completed during the sprint, shown to customers in order to both highlight progress and gain the all-important customer feedback.

• Hands-on Experience—This is a type of feedback where customers will exercise the software in a hands-on manner in a simulated or pilot working environment.  This could be in the form of alphas or betas.

• On-premise Installation Feedback—this is a type of validation where customers physically install the working software into their environment.

Once you have established the Agile Customer Feedback Vision, it is important to share it with the team so that everyone is aware of the vision and the importance of the validation activities.

To learn more about Personas, go to: http://cmforagile.blogspot.com/2013/12/personas-do-you-really-know-your-users.html.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Robust Agile Organization - Core Roles and Beyond!

To get to a fully robust Agile organization, it is important for everyone to play a role in Agile. I have found that managing a successful project from an Agile perspective requires three core roles and but must include the many adjunct roles to ensure success.

You start with the Development Team. I prefer to use the term Agile Team (or something similar) since I really want to ensure folks understand that it is not just development or development-centric but includes other key cross-functional roles/disciplines.  This cross-functional team is made up of around 7-9 members who can architect, design, develop, build, technically write, and test. This is commonly made up of developers (who can architect, design, and code, but preferably some who can do all three), QA/testers (who can build and execute tests), tech writers, and CM/build personnel. The key is to ensure you have all of the roles you need to build a product on your Agile Scrum team with sufficient skills to get the job done. If you need DB talent, UI talent, or other talent, ensure you include them on your team.  Another important role in regards to the Development or Agile Team is the Product Architect.  This role may not be considered full-time because it can support more than one team related to a product or solution.  However, it should be committed to the team(s).  This person ensures that the architectural related decisions are established and discussed with the team.
Equally important is the role of Product Owner (PO). This Agile role should be played by someone within each product team that is customer facing to ensure everyone understands customer needs. This is often played by the Product Manager, Business Analyst, or someone who provides the business perspective and engages with customers to ensure the Agile Team is building something that is of value to the customer. Identifying the right customers for validation is the job of the Product Owner. To scale this PO role, the lead PO may introduce Product Owner Proxies (POP) who may be architectures, lead developers, or functional managers (the latter role may now have much less to do). The POP takes direction from the lead PO via the Product Owner Scrum of Scrum sessions to ensure all POs and POPs are on the same page. Then it is important to bring the Customer into the picture to validate that what the team is building is something that the customer actually wants.  Learn more about the PO in the Who makes the Best PO article.

The servant leader for the team is the Scrum Master. The Scrum Master educates the team around the Agile processes and practices, and helps the team apply those practices. The Scrum Master takes the responsibility of a coach ensuring the team stays true to the Agile values and principles as articulated in the Agile Manifesto including applying self-organization around the work. The Scrum Master helps the Agile Team and Product Owner remove roadblocks. This role also facilitates the Sprint Planning session, the Daily Stand-ups, Retrospectives, and the Agile Release Planning session.  Learn more about the Scrum Master in the Who makes the Best Scrum Master article.

If a product or project is made up of more than one Agile Team (e.g., for a project team of twenty you would want to break them into two Agile teams of approximately ten or three of around 7), then there may be a need for an Agile Project Manager (APM).  The APM can manage the dependencies and risks across teams, remove roadblocks, and ensure they work in a concert.  This could be in the form of a Scrum of Scrums (SoS) or similar.  The APM also handles the interaction with the business governance of the organization.  If your organization is large, you will need an Agile Portfolio Management Leader or team.  This leader focuses on providing visibility to the highest value work so that the organization (and teams therein) are building the highest value work to the customer.

If this is your first foray into the Agile space or you want advance in your state of Agile, it is important to have an Agile Coach who possesses deep Agile deployment knowledge to ensure the product teams are implementing Agile effectively. It has been established that training will only provide initial knowledge but team members can easily revert back to old traditional habits. The Agile Coach understands both the short-term and long-term pitfalls of adopting Agile, that Agile is a culture shift and will take time, and can help the team move to Agile is a more effective and efficient manner.

Now we come to management. Middle Management must play their role where they gently back away from command-and-control and act more as servant-leaders where they trust their teams, help them remove road-blocks, and support the Agile practices. They must realize that their direct reports are now on Agile Teams so they cannot be assigned any additional work. They may attend the End-of-Sprint Review (aka, demo) to gain a more genuine sense of progress (seeing actual working functionality) vs. getting a status report. Often times middle management have less to do in an Agile world and may consider changing their roles to either more of a Resource Management or Product Owner Proxy.  Learn more about Agile and middle management by visiting the Agile and Middle Management article.

Executives/Senior Management needs to play a leadership role as Agile champion. They must support Agile and understand that its primary intent is to build customer value which can ultimately mean more revenue for the company. They must also understand that they must get the Agile teams to feel ownership of their work and this requires leadership and not command-and-control style managers. They may need to adjust their staff if it already laden with too much command-and-control. They may also attend the End-of-Sprint Review (aka, demo) to gain a more genuine sense of progress (seeing actual working functionality).  Learn more about Agile and the Executive role by visiting the Agile Executives Playbook article.

Then we bring in other peripheral roles like Sales and Marketing, Finance, and HR. While these roles do not need to work in an Agile manner per se, they use the same concepts of leadership, self-organizing teams, collaboration, streamlining and eliminating waste. Sales and Marketing are involved with bringing a product to market. They need to help the Product Owner with requirements input and clarification to ensure we are building something the customer needs. They need to understand that the Product Backlog and Release Goals are owned by the Product Owner, they must funnel requirements to the Product Owner, and avoid making commitments without the Product Owner in agreement. Finance needs to be flexible in understanding that they can still manage to cost because it is the scope that is the important variable. If performance objectives are part of the organizations processes, then it is important for HR to establish a performance process that allows for team goals. This is because as part of the Agile mindset, it is important to establish that it is the team’s responsibility to ensure the release is a success and not specific to individuals.

Ultimately everyone within the organization should be focused on understanding and delivering customer value every step of the way. Getting to that value oriented mindset is critical to the success of Agile. It takes teamwork to get there and that team is the entire organization.


You can see a presentation that covers many of these roles at: http://www.boston-spin.org/slides/boston_spin_slides_2010_09.pdf

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Agile – Its more Disciplined than you Think

Sometimes Agile gets branded as being the cowboy methodology. Some folks who say they are Agile, use it as an opportunity to abandon processes and documentation so that they can enjoy the wild west life. These cowboys know that they get away with pretending to be Agile since many folks, particularly their up-line management have no idea of what Agile really is. Some folks like to term whatever they are doing as Agile in order to be on the Agile bandwagon.

However, it is the cowboy and those that want to pretend they are doing Agile that propagated the myth that Agile is an undisciplined approach. Ultimately, these pretenders can give Agile a black eye in the organization and industry since others will believe that Agile means no process, implies an ad hoc approach, and is undisciplined.

For those that have followed the formal approaches of Scrum, Kanban, eXtreme Programming (XP), Test Driven Development (TTD), and more, realize fairly quickly that Agile instills much more rigor and discipline than most cowboys can tolerate and more many some folks realize. Some who follow Scrum for instance, learn quickly that there is much more discipline than they originally thought.
One of the early introductions to Agile practices is Sprint (or iteration) Planning.  Imagine every two, three, or four weeks you revisit the backlog to prioritize it, then scrub each story, size the work, and commit to the work. This is meant to be a rigorous day of really understanding the work for the sprint where typically your brain will hurt upon conclusion of this day-long session!
Now let’s visit the Daily Stand-up sometimes known as the Daily Scrum. Imagine every day that someone asks you 'what you did yesterday' and 'what you are doing today', and “what are your impediments”. Imagine, every day this is occurring! This starts to get you into a laser focus of the work because you don't want to go for too many days saying you accomplished nothing.

Finally imagine that at the end of each sprint, you have to actually have working software per the end of sprint review (aka, demo). This means that within the end of a two, three, or four week sprint (aka, iteration), you need to build a function into a meaningful and viewable piece of functionality for validation by customers (and you cannot show customers junk, can you?). And to add to this, during the sprint each story (aka, requirement) you work on has to meet the rigorous “done criteria”. Done criteria can imply (for example) that each story that is worked on, must be checked out, incrementally designed, coded (following appropriate coding standards), possibly code-reviewed, built, unit tested, checked-in/promoted, merged, integration built, smoke tested, and system tested. Whew, is that enough discipline for you yet? All of this within a sprint so that you can have some tangible to show the customer so that they can validate if you are meeting customer needs.

Or course there are many more rigorous Agile practices. The discipline helps with the productivity and because we are empowered as a team, the discipline ensures we all remain focused on the work. So next time someone says Agile is undisciplined and ad hoc, it is clear that they certainly have never actually done Agile, but more importantly, explain to them the real rigors of Agile and if you have Agile practices occurring, invite them to sit in or participate.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Knowing your Agile Personalities

When viewing the Agile world, it is beneficial to recognize the different types of folks on your team and in your organization. This can help you understand their perspective on Agile, if they are positive or negative on the topic, and what level of experience they have. Knowing these personality types can be very helpful if you are a professional looking to deploy Agile into an organization or product team. It is important to distinguish between personality types so you understand the people you are dealing with.

What I believe I may have recognized are seven personality types of people who are in the Agile space: the Innovator, Champion, Workhorse, Bandwagon, Cowboy, Deceiver, and Denier. Knowing these personality types can be very helpful if you are an Agile professional looking to deploy Agile into an organization or product team.  Here are details, highlighting the various Agile personality types including their experience levels in Agile, their positive or negative attitude toward Agile, the common roles that fit into a type, and their common attributes. While some folks fit squarely into one personality type, others may have attributes of two (or more) personality type.

Agile Innovators make up a small population of folks in the Agile arena who are very experienced in this field and very positive about Agile. Agile Innovator is typically designated as an Agile industry leader and is motivated to improve and extend Agile methods, practices, and techniques. They can provide Agile leadership in an organization’s Agile adoption efforts. Many Agile Innovators have extensive Agile Coaching experience and have the ability to adapt Agile practices and methods to fit the context within an organization. They are motivated to educate others on Agile and understand how to get cultures (e.g., a cultural change agent) to accept Agile. Many Agile Innovators are consultants who move from company to company helping them adopt Agile. Those companies lucky enough to have hired an Agile Innovator as a full-time employee will have the benefit of having this expert to guide the organization through all aspects of an Agile adoption effort.


Agile Champions tend to know Agile well and are willing to advocate it in a very positive way across an organization. Some common roles in this space are Agile coaches, consultants, product managers, heads of engineering, development, and QA, and project managers. They make up a small, yet core, leadership in the Agile community and communicate the real meaning of what Agile is and what it means to have it applied. Folks in this role, play an important part of getting Agile adopted within an organization’s culture. They can help make it very clear in what conditions Agile will work. They can help communicate where there are challenges and help share new ideas in the Agile space. Agile Champions help generate Agile buy-in with Senior Management, many of which are part of bandwagon crowd (to be discussed momentarily), to initiate a new Agile culture (in pockets or throughout the company.

Work Horse

The Work Horse has learned about Agile by trying to implement it on their own or as part of an Agile team with some help from others. They are mostly positive about Agile but will be fairly honest on what works and what does not. The common role in this space are the members of an Agile team that have implemented Agile methods and practices. They bring a pragmatic approach to Agile, understanding the structure that Agile needs to thrive, by either being bitten once already or by understanding the environment needed for Agile. The work horse has worked in the trenches and really understands the challenges of implementing Agile because of their experience and they know that project success is tied to implementing Agile in an effective and pragmatic way. A lot can be learned from this group.


The Bandwagon crowd sees benefits in jumping on the Agile bandwagon. Fads and trends rule the day in many organizations so if Agile is perceived to be "hot", then there will be folks who will jump on that bandwagon. Those in the bandwagon crowd tends to be inexperienced with Agile but are generally positive especially when they think it can help their own image or further their career. Some bandwagon folks are engineers who think they should align with the latest enterprise trend so they are perceived as team-players so appear positive since it places them in the right crowd. Some bandwagon folks are middle and senior management who are good at reading the winds of change within an organization and who believe they can get ahead by aligning with the hot new trend even though they may not have much interest in actually learning about that trend (in this case, Agile). They are very willing to "throw around" Agile terminology to give the appearance of knowing more about the field than they actually do.


The Cowboy sees Agile as an opportunity to abandon processes and documentation so that they can enjoy the wild west life. Cowboys are the type of folks who are not necessarily negative about Agile because, in many cases, they know that they get away with pretending to be Agile since many folks, particularly the bandwagon crowd who are their up-line management, really have no idea what Agile is. It is the cowboy that has propagated the myth that Agile is an undisciplined approach for wild-west coders. Ultimately, these pretenders can give Agile a black eye in the organization since others will believe from the cowboy’s actions that Agile means no process. Agile methods instill much more rigor and discipline than most cowboys can tolerate and much more than many folks realize. You will find cowboys out there who know a bit about Agile, and just enough to know how to circumvent it.


The deceiver will provide surface agreement to using Agile but will silently attempt to ignore or even sabotage the project in order to put the blame on Agile. A deceiver is negative about Agile but is usually so because they have thrived using traditional or no method and see this as an impact to their working culture. Some deceivers may have been forced into a role on a team using Agile but do not want to lose any credibility by openly bad-mouthing the new direction. Some deceivers may have enjoyed their singular role within traditional methods and find the team approach within Agile not to their liking and will begin to subtly rebel in a passive-aggressive manner. Some will believe it will impact their career advancements or their compensation. Deceivers are the most dangerous because they may undermine and obstruct the potential success that Agile may bring to an organization and will attempt to hide any evidence of doing so, while a cowboy will try their best to simply avoid Agile.


The Denier will outright deny any benefit to Agile or their interest in moving to it. They are typically set against Agile from the beginning because they see that it will interfere with what they perceived to be their currently successful role within the company. Some deniers have thrived on playing a very specific role on a project and have been rewarded accordingly. Deniers typically do not have much Agile experience. It is actually better to have deniers than deceivers because with Agile deniers you know where they stand. The input from the deniers can help you understand their specific reasons for objecting to Agile (e.g., rewards, roles, loss of control, etc.). In some cases, by providing the deniers Agile knowledge, may lead them to be more positive impression about Agile, and in-turn some may become Agile work horses or champions. Also, by knowing who the Agile deniers are, they can be moved to other projects that are not going to Agile and where they may can continue to provide value to the company.

Consider reading more on this topic in full article: Agile Personality Types

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Holistic view of Continuous Integration & Build (Agile and CM Mindset) – Part 3 of 9

In the last episode (e.g., Part 2 of 9) of this series, I introduced the elements of Continuous Integration and Build (CIB).  One of the key elements in CIB involves a mindset change to think more continuously.  For Continuous Integration and Build to work effectively it is important for the Agile mindset to merge with the CM mindset.  Let’s examine this in more detail. 
CM Mindset
The CM mindset focuses on the CM values.  CM thinking focuses on modularity and in small building blocks.  This makes it easier to group configurations when the building blocks (e.g., configuration items) are uniquely defined.  Thinking in a modular manner also makes it easier to construct and deconstruct a process, particularly when CM professionals are often asked to automate processes so they understand the checkpoints along the way as they script and code.
CM professionals also think in terms of integrity.  This includes both personal integrity in the manner in which CM professionals work and integrity in the product development they are supporting.  Personal integrity implies that CM professionals believe strongly in doing the work the right way and feel accountable to ensure correctness and completion of the task.   Integrity in the product implies that CM professionals feel strongly in working processes that have the ability to track changes to the product and have the ability to verify the baseline of code in which they are working.  
Agile Mindset
Agile thinkers bring a different frame of mind to their work.  In traditional methodologies, the world appears well planned with very specific milestones and changes are constrained after a certain point.  In Agile methodologies, the world is much more fluid, changes are dynamic, and changes are welcome.   Traditional methodologies use a phased or a more serial approach while Agile uses a continually evolving and iterative approach.  In effective, traditional methodologies look for a fairly fixed and pre-defined path while in Agile the path is more collaborative, allowing for learning and gaining an understanding of value to the customer. 
Agile thinking focuses on short iterations and small increments.  In Agile, you time-box activities and breakdown work into small chunks.  This is not dissimilar to CM in thinking modular. This incremental building of functionality allows the customer to provide feedback which in-turn ensures we are building something the customer actually wants.  This allows you to continually see progress. 
The “Continuous” Mindset Shift
A very interesting shift occurs when the concept of “continuous” is ingrained in the culture.  Agile embraces continuous change and those practices that support this.  In more traditional cultures, processes tend to be set up to maintain the status quo and constrain change.  This is why Agile professionals often have challenges getting Agile adopted in more traditional companies.  This is not really a clash of processes, but instead a clash of cultures.  The process used reflects the way the culture works.  Some cultures are heavy in ceremony, governance, and multi-level approval.  Agile will have challenges with this type of corporate culture.
The continuous actions of check-ins and builds introduce a new challenge to CM.  A continuous integration and build practice places considerably more stress and load on the CM version control and build systems.  Having modern, faster, and automated CM tools with underlying infrastructure that can support these continuous actions is important to the success of this practice.
Moving from Event-Driving to Continuous
In an Agile context, what we see in CM and the build space is a fundamental shift in the way we build software.  The build process moves from an event-based integration process to a continuous integration process. In other words, no one needs to hold onto large amounts of changes for a major integration effort or declare that builds will occur nightly, weekly, even hourly.  There is no ceremony needed.  We move away from the infrequent and often painful integrations (a.k.a., merges) and move to an integration and build process that becomes part of the team’s daily activities. 
When you integrate and build all the time, integrations and builds become non-events.  As an example, when code gets continually promoted based on successful private builds and unit tests, an integration and build at the project (or next) level becomes automatic and trivial (e.g., minimal merge and build problems).  Then the results of a successful build routinely become candidates for test and release if they pass the defined tests (e.g., integration, system, performance, etc.) and meet the customer need in the end-of-iteration reviews. 
The primary benefit of continuous integration and build is that the changed code provides immediate feedback whether it runs correctly with the rest of the code in the integration branch (e.g., project release branch or main branch).  When code sits in a programmer’s private workspace, no one else can see it, nor can it be accessed by other programmers. Much like the concept in Agile where value is only realized by working functionality, the same is true with continuous integration.  Progress is only realized when the code has been integrated into the active project code-line where others realize that it exists and it can be built as in an integrated manner with the rest of the code. 
As you move to Continuous Integration and Build, your team must also evolve to a mindset change that involves thinking more continuously.  For Continuous Integration and Build to work effectively it is important for the merging of the Agile mindset and CM mindset in both thought and in action.  Stay tuned for the next episode where we will focus on the Getting to Bit-size work and what this means in a Continuous Integration and Build process. 
· If you started with this entry (Part 3), consider reading the first two parts.    
· Also consider reading: Adapting Configuration Management for Agile Teams - book by Mario E. Moreira, Wiley Publishing, 2010

Friday, February 25, 2011

Agile Value Capture Metric - Are you spending your time Building Value?

When applying an Agile mindset, a team should consider the value of each task that they are working on.  Agile often brings value concepts into play and determining the value of tasks is one way to achieve this.  Is the task considered value-added or non-value-added.   Sometimes folks have a hard time wanting to separate tasks into value and non-value because it highlights the non-valued tasks folks are doing. However, if you really want to know, then you must do this (typically at the Product team level).  Sometimes the answer surprises people.   
Keep in mind that in Agile, value-added tasks refer to only those tasks that are directly related to building the product and that your customer values.  This would primarily include user stories and the attributes of this work related to the “done” criteria (e.g., incrementally designed, developed, built, tested, etc.) in order to complete the user story.  Remember, value is from the customer's perspective.  

On the other hand, non value-added tasks do not contribute directly to building the product.  There are tasks that are out-right of no value including administrative related tasks, writing status reports, all-hands and other status meetings.  There are tasks with no direct customer value but have benefit to quality including spending time on correcting defects, tasks related to technical debt, performing refactoring. Please understand, there are levels of internal value in doing these things and the goal is to make the value levels of the work transparent. 

A good practice in Agile (e.g., value capture metric) is to capture all related work or activity a team does in a sprint (as backlog items) to understand what are value-added tasks vs the other tasks that we do.  For each story or backlog item, assign it an attribute of either “value-added” or “non-value-added”.  You can track this on a sprint basis (or release basis) or trend it over time (from sprint to sprint).  This is a team-based metric so it is for the team's eyes only.  Below are some examples:
Chart 1: Value of work per Sprint (can be rolled up to the release level)

Chart 2: Value of work per Sprint (at the detailed level)

Chart 3: Value of work from Sprint to Sprint (Trend line)
The big advantage of this type of metric is that it helps you 1) be aware of the value and non value related work that your team is doing and then 2) it allows you to make adjustments if you want to get to a more value-added stream of work.  Also, an important caveat: this metric is a team-based metric and not meant to be shown to management.  It is for the team to see where their work is being spent.   

Whether you call it value and non-value work, the key is that much like the prioritization of the backlog, that you become aware of the priority of the various types of work that is occurring on your team. This metric also brings transparency to the types of 'work' where the team members are spending their time.  While this may force you to make some tough decisions (what is value-added and what is not), it will be worth it in the long run to get your team more productive and focused on the value-added work for your customers.  This can help you on your Agile journey! 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Configuration Management Crystal Ball - Is Agile in the Forecast?

As we gaze into the horizon, what do we think will be hot in the CM landscape and where is the CM field headed? Let’s take a look into the crystal ball:

My forecast will focus on:
  • Agile in the forefront of CM
  • More CM books to help you Deploy
  • Extending the CM reach into ALM and beyond
Prediction #1:  Agile in the forefront of CM
We will continue to see a strong focus on Agile in the way we approach and deploy CM.  Organizations are seeing the benefits of Agile and there continues to be a significant increase in adopting Agile.  There continues to be a heavy focus on continous integration and build where teams can take advantage of frequent merging and compiling to ensure their product is integrating, building, and testing correctly.  Also, since so many teams are going Agile, CM professionals need to ensure they are in a position to provide a CM environment that maintains the integrity that CM provides but is adapted to the more frequent actions that Agile introduces (more frequent check-outs and check-ins, builds, etc.). 

Prediction #2:  More CM books to help you DeployConfiguration Management is a field that is pervasive in software engineering.  With the shift to Agile comes the need to adapt and change and become lean.  These are challenges in the CM community.  The good news is that there are newer books on the market that help us address both the deployment of CM as well as the integration of Agile and CM.  With that in mind, here are some new CM books as well as blogs that focus on CM and Agile:
  • Configuration Management Best Practices: Practical Methods that Work in the Real World” by Bob Aiello and Leslie Sach.  The materials in this book are practical, easy to understand, and fully reflects the day-to-day realities faced by practitioners.  It addresses all six “pillars” of CM: source code management, build engineering, environment configuration, change control, release engineering, and deployment. 
  • Adapting Configuration Management for Agile Teams” by Mario E. Moreira.  This book provides both a CM Primer and an Agile Primer for those wishing to learn more about each topic followed by a chapter on how they can work well together. It then focuses on infrastructure for Agile and how using the cloud can reduce technical debt.  It follows this with a robust chapter on adapting the various CM practices for Agile.  It ends with chapters on identifying good tools for Agile (including CM tools) and adapting to standards and frameworks in an Agile environment.
Prediction #3:  Extending the CM reach into ALM and beyond
As we continue into the future, we see CM extending into the Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) space and then see ALM extended into a more unified approach.  Integration across engineering areas helps teams streamline their processes and reduces the effort of implementation and maintenance of manual integrations.  Two such examples of extending the reach include:
  • Rational Team Concert (RTC) provides a lean collaborative lifecycle management solution with agile and formal planning, project reporting, process workflow, work item management, source code management and build management, in a single integrated product supporting all popular platforms.
  • Look for innovative tool companies like AccuRev and AnthillPro establish Agile ALM solutions focusing on source code management and continuous integration and build as its core for organizations looking to improve and scale their Agile processes while still maintaining control.
As we look into 2011, what is the CM forecast and what is your forecast in CM?  Agility will continue to show up in various forms in both the Configuration Management (CM) and Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) contexts.  Also, books such as “Adapting Configuration Management for Agile Teams” will help CM and Agile teams understand and adapt to Agile methods and books like “Configuration Management Best Practices: Practical Methods that Work in the Real World” to help you deploy CM in a lean manner.  What is your organization’s CM forecast?  Whether your forecast is sunny or cloudy (or both), consider flexibility, adaptability, and agility in driving your business!  Have a productive 2011!!!

Feel free to visit the full article at: http://www.cmcrossroads.com/implementation-excellence/13898-cm-forecast-for-2011.  Enjoy!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sunny with a Chance of Agility

What is your Agile weather report?  Some have sunny Agile efforts ahead. Some are looking to get introduced to agility and others are considering strategies for Agile deployments.  As we gaze in the horizon, what do we think will be hot in the Agile landscape and improve our working lives? What might be some of the latest shifts in the Agile industry in the upcoming year?

The theme of my Agile weather report for 2011 focuses on:
  • Job security with Agile credentials
  • More structure with Agile deployments
  • Agile Tooling goes ALM
Prediction #1:  Job security with Agile credentials
I predict that we will see a significant growth in software engineering jobs that include an Agile element to them.  In general, we are seeing a growth in the use of Agile methodologies and practices in the software industry.   Many of the new positions are now mentioning Agile as one of the job requirements.  The implication is that they are looking for people who have worked within an Agile context so that when they join the new company, they bring Agile experience. 
Prediction #2:  More structure with Agile deployments
As product teams become more mature so do their Agile practices.  While Agile has been utilized in projects for several years now, it is still new to many.  With that in mind, I expect to see more formality in deploying Agile.  This is especially true since Agile is no longer a budding trend but maturing where patterns are emerging that lead to more successful Agile deployments.  While some would like to say, “Let’s just get started doing Agile”, it may be better to consider a methodical or strategic approach to the deployment of Agile.  With that in mind, here are some Agile adoption approaches that may be considered:
Prediction #3: Agile Tooling goes ALM
As we look into 2011 and the future, we will see more focus on providing comprehensive Agile tooling capabilities within an Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) framework.  The value of having an ALM framework is that it allows a product team to manage customer needs from business case development to delivery.  When tools support this framework, it can help streamline and reduce the effort in supporting the process.  Some examples of tooling that provides an Agile focus in an ALM context include:
As we look into 2011, conditions could be quite sunny for those companies looking for the Agile edge.  What this may mean to those with Agile credentials is that you will gain job security.  Since Agile is becoming more mature, continues to prove itself, and can scale to larger product teams and their projects, there will be a need to have more consistent approaches to deploying Agile.   There are patterns for success deployments which new teams can take advantage of.  And as Agile tooling makes its way into more of an Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) framework, it can provide a more end-to-end view of how business and user needs make their way to delivery.  Whether your forecast is sunny or cloudy (or a little bit of both), consider agility in driving your business!  Have a productive 2011!