Project Schedules The Management Model On Agile Methodology

Introduction

Agile Development: Project Schedules on an Agile Methodology

User-Story-Map-in-Action

If you come from a traditional project management background, or if you have a Project Management Office (PMO) that needs a project monitoring tool or status, then you’ll be used to Gantt charts; but in Agile we’ve got even better tools for the management and visualisation of progress.

Tracking the burndown graph that shows the evolution of the sprint is vital to the progress of the development cycle, as are Kanban boards that make it easier to see the task progression.

By using these two tools, we actually have significantly more control than with a complex Gantt chart. The tasks are the stories, which for the users have a clear outcome, as they can actually see the deliverable emerging.

The Kanban Board is used to show progress of individual stories and their progression through the development cycle. There is no need to micro-manage the sub-tasks – just keep an eye on the story.

Kanban Board

kabhan-report

Burndown Chart

burndown-chart

The burndown shows the throughput of work, and how much there is to go. The work left to be done could be seen as both effort and complexity – because they are the same thing.

Here are some tips that can help you create these progress charts for Agile software development projects:

Don’t overcomplicate the Kanban board; just make sure it works and is being used.
The most granular level in the Agile timeline is that of the stories, so it is not necessary to include sub-tasks for the stories.
It does not make sense to control the timing of each story, since we are talking about the timing of each iteration (sprint), and the set of stories that compose these iterations.

Agile Development: Making Sprint Retrospective Meetings More Productive

Introduction

Agile Development: Making Sprint Retrospective Meetings More Productive

Sprint Retrospective is the opportunity for the entire Agile Team (Product Owner, Scrum Master and Development Team) to inspect and create an action plan for improvements to the next sprint. The meeting helps the entire team to identify what worked well, and what should be improved.

I have some tips for making sure the meetings go swimmingly:

  1. The Scrum Master must be well prepared as a facilitator for the meeting.

There are thousands of retrospective techniques published in books and blogs, which when applied well achieve wonderful results. The main question is how and when to apply one particular technique or flow rather than another. However, an important issue is not only knowing the technique but knowing how to facilitate a retrospective.

Expertise in conducting good retrospectives is only gained after a period of experience. There is no single way for the Scrum Master to conduct good retrospective meetings.

The points below will help the Scrum Master to be prepared for the meeting:

  • Be prepared: Collecting relevant facts prior to the sprint cuts out the discussion as to whether, say, we have 20 or 25 stories completed.
  • Let all participants express their points of view.
  • The more the Scrum Master knows the team and the people, the more efficiently he or she can conduct the meeting. Get to know you team mates, and help them express themselves.

2. Choose a good time for the meeting.
The scheduled day and time of a Sprint Retrospective is very important, because depending on the team and the daily work scenario, people may be tired, or focused on other important aspects such as deployment or bug fixes. You have to make sure everyone is available. First thing on the day after the sprint finishes sound good, but team members may also need time to gather their thoughts.

3. The product owner needs to be present.
It is critical that the product owner is present to make a meeting effective and more productive. This is even written in the Scrum Guide. The first sentence of the Scrum Guide on Sprint Retrospective is as follows: “The Sprint Retrospective is an opportunity for the Scrum Team to inspect itself and create an improvement plan to be implemented in the next Sprint.”

Since the Scrum Team is composed of the three Scrum roles, including the product owner him/herself. The presence of the product owner is mandatory, whether or not your Scrum Team enjoys it.

4. Do not look for the guilty.
One of the biggest fears when people enter a Sprint Retrospective is that the meeting becomes a witch hunt, where the only thing that matters is to find whoever is guilty for the problems. To avoid this, it is very important that the team understand the objectiveness of the meeting. The team should be prepared from the outset to listen to constructive criticisms so that they can create an action plan of improvements for the next sprints.

This will only be achieved after a time of maturation of the team within the Agile methodology, so these discussions should be encouraged by the Scrum Master.

7 Steps to Passing the PSM 1 Exam

Introduction

7 Steps to Passing the PSM 1 Exam

Facing into an exam is never easy, particularly if your company is paying for it, or if you are doing it with a group of work colleagues; you don’t want to be seen as a failure.

At the moment of writing this, there are two well-known certificate centres. The first one is the scrum.org organisation, run by Ken Schwaber, which does a certification titled Professional Scrum Master (PSM). The second is the Scrum Alliance team, which makes you Certified Scum Master (CSM). In this article, I am writing about PSM certification, but those hints are also valid for CSM candidates.

To pass the PSM exam at the first level, you need to focus both on preparation for the exam, and on the exam itself. Below you can find seven tips that can definitely help you in reaching your goal.

1. Attend a good Scrum Master training course.

It all begins with training. You can study on your own, but it is like learning the rules of physics from a book. It is possible, but without any practice and instant feedback from the trainer, you may understand things the wrong way. There is a lot to be learned from the classroom environment – feedback and questions from other student enhance the learning experience. There is also the opportunity for ongoing support from your classmates.

In everywhere there are Scrum courses of varying quality on offer, so the most efficient way to select one is probably by asking people. Word of mouth is very powerful, and you will get real information about the trainer.

The training programme must contain practice hours. This is when you verify your theoretical knowledge, and where you really absorb the material. Listening to lectures is boring, and you actually don’t learn that much; but practising it during the course helps you get a real understanding. On top of that, when you figure out how things work, you are more likely to remember it automatically.

Please check how many participants are to attend at a given date. The higher the number is, the lower chance of individual contact with the trainer and of having all your questions answered. On the other hand, being alone is not good either, as you need a team you can train on. In my opinion, eight to 12 people in the room is the right number, as the trainer can replicate two Scrum teams. 6 works but at 16 its getting hard to get the trainers attention.

Real Practice – learners design their own Scrum process.

2. Do open assessment.

On the scrum.org page, you will find the “Open Assessments” tab where you can check your knowledge about the Scrum framework. This sample exam is a must-do thing before the exam, for three reasons.

The first reason is that it will allow you to check whether you are good enough to pass the final exam. It will save you stress and money, as this is free of charge, so you have nothing to lose.

The second reason is to see what the real exam looks like, and how fast you are able to read and answer the questions. It will help you get used to the pressure of time, and will give you a feel for the exam and how it looks.

The third reason, equally important as the first two, is that by answering those question, you are still learning. What is great is that you can do open assessment many times, and each time you will answer different questions. By doing this, you simply learn new things, and new ideas appear in your head. You can find answers to them later in books, and so your knowledge will grow. Remember that some of those questions are similar to, or the same as, the ones in the real exam – so don’t just pluck answers from the air.

Try the Althris Sample Exam here

3. Explore the Scrum Guide.

The Scrum Guide is your primary source of knowledge. It is a short read, but every sentence matters. It’s dense with information, so read it a number of times and stop to think about the implications of each sentence. As it is for many experienced Scrum Masters, you will still need to look back at this document throughout your career, so get to know it.

The PSM I exam is sometimes tricky, and a small detail can decide whether your answer is correct or not. General knowledge is not enough, as it leads to quick but wrong answers in the exam. You need to know exactly how concepts are presented in the guide.

4. Buddy up for a day.

If you are already working in an Agile company where there are Scrum Masters, you are lucky. Ask any of them if you can become his or her ghost for a couple of days. Buddying is a learning technique, where one employee does their daily tasks as usual, while the second person follows what is going on. The buddy accompanies the employee all day long.

You learn by observation, but you also get to ask anything about the Scrum Master’s work. The most important thing in this exercise is that you will encounter real-life situations, which will generate tons of questions in your head. You can get instant answers to those questions, as the expert is at your fingertips. I can guarantee that you will learn a lot, and it will be a kind of interesting experience for you both.

5. Use discussion groups.

I am subscribed to several Scrum groups on LinkedIn and, from time to time, I am notified by email about some new threads. People ask loads of questions, from the basic level, like “We have teams of 10; is that OK with Scrum?” to more sophisticated ones such as “How do you manage dependencies between teams working on the same backlog?”

You should read first before contributing any questions. As you read loads of questions and answers, you will get to see different points of view, and then start to formulate your own.

The second thing is that discussion groups are another way to find replies to your topics. Don’t hesitate to post your doubts, even if you are a newbie. Experienced people really do like to respond – I think it makes them feel more like experts. And you get the benefit of their knowledge

6. Choose the perfect time and place.

The good thing about the PSM exam is that you can take it at a place and time of your choosing. Most people are at their peak effectiveness in the morning, but there are exceptions to this rule, so choose what is best for you. The other important thing is choosing a place. Be sure you won’t be interrupted, and there won’t be any annoying background noise.

Having a space where you can read out the question also really helps concentration for some people, and certainly reduces stress.

7. Read the exam carefully.

There are 80 questions, and 60 minutes to answer them. It means that you have one minute to read the question and give the answer, so don’t be in a rush. As I mentioned above, some of the questions are tricky, and one word can change the whole meaning of the sentence. Spend most of this minute on reading thoroughly before answering. When you get stuck, give the most probable answer, and continue. The system allows you to go back and change the answer if needed, but really a straight-through read is often the best way. It’s a short exam, and you may not have the time to revisit the questions as you go.

You can use this article as a starting point for your own checklist before the exam. Check what works for you and what doesn’t. And, after all, this is hard work – so don’t forget to celebrate the success. You will soon be a member of a small elite group of certified Scrum Masters.

I am also due to publish an ebook (just tidying it up at the moment) with further information and pointers, so subscribe to be the first to get an issue.

Good luck!

David is currently writing a more detailed guide on the PSM exam linkin to get further updates

Agile Development: How To Write Effective User Stories

Introduction

Agile Development: How To Write Effective User Stories

A user story is a short and simple description of the customer’s need. It is usually told from the perspective of those who are requesting the new feature or requirement. A user story is short and sweet, but prompts the developer to get a handle on what is required. It makes it easier for the developer to produce an on-target feature of superior quality, and allows them to understand the goals and needs of the customer more quickly. It is normal to write a user story on Post-its or index cards.

Usually, user stories have a specific format, such as the following:

“As a [persona],
I want to [do something],
so that I can [realise a reward].”

This is a sample from my training course where we ask students to use Lego to build features

 

writing-effective-user-stories-with-lego

The user story prompts the user to ask questions, and suggests, for instance, specifying not just any cow, but a cow that can be milked.
Using lego to plan creation of stories

Use the acronym INVEST to get to the best user stories.

So a user story should be all of the following:

Independent (I): A user story should not depend on another one. Dependent user stories are difficult to estimate and prioritise, and removing a dependent user story often causes problems in others.
Negotiable (N): A user story is not just a text detailing the features that the product owner expects, or a piece of functionality that will be implemented. Look on a user story as a starting point for a conversation, or an opening problem for the team to suggest solutions to.
Valuable (V): We cannot just create fun user stories. We must describe the value that the customer will get from this user story.
Estimable (E): There must be enough information to allow the team to make an estimate about the user story, otherwise it cannot be started.
Small (S): A user story cannot take more than one sprint to complete. Any user story larger than this will be impossible to plan or estimate safely. If it’s too big, create an epic and split it into smaller user stories.
Testable (T): If you cannot test a user story, you cannot know whether it’s worked. If a specific user story cannot be tested for lack of information, do not put it in your backlog.
Use themes and epics when necessary.

If you use the INVEST concept to create user stories, and can keep to it, you’ll have good quality stories. In some situations you will see the need to separate them into themes or epics.

Themes: A theme is a group of user stories that share attributes in common. Often, multiple user stories will have similar goals, or be related in an obvious way. All of them are directed together to a single path; however, they do not need to encapsulate a specific feature or necessarily be delivered together. So a theme may contain several epics or several user stories.
Epics: An epic is a great user story that cannot be completed in a single sprint, resembling a theme being built with multiple stories. Although the stories that make up an epic are completed independently, their value to the business may not be delivered until the entire epic is complete. This means that it does not make sense to deliver an epic until all the stories tied to it are complete.
Althris provide Scrum Master Training in Dublin and Cork, check out our PSM sample exam papers.

PMBOK 6 Tailoring

Introduction

Project Management Body of Knowledge PM Tailoring

PM Tailoring

The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) presents the guidelines for best practices that can be applied to projects. It also presents a standardised terminology. PMBOK guideline preparation itself follows ANSI standards, so it is natural that it goes for a standardised terminology! Generally, a single word (or phrase) is used to define or describe a process (or element) of project management. Those who have worked on projects can readily appreciate the benefits of standardised terminology in the project management profession. In the real world, we have seen the confusion created by using different words for the same thing.

One of the important phrases that have started appearing from PMBOK Guide Third Edition is tailoring. The usage of this term in the later editions is growing, and there is an even greater emphasis on tailoring in the 6th edition, which emphasises the importance given to tailoring. Project management methodologies/processes are constantly increasing; and real-life projects are becoming ever more diverse and complex! The saying One size does not fit all goes well here. It makes sense now to throw some light on tailoring.

Tailoring is making project methodology fit. There may be different situations warranting different methodologies and the adaptation of different processes. Industry type, environment, organisational experience, kind of project, etc., may lead to different processes being chosen for different projects. Each project is unique with its own set of goals, resources and constraints. Tailoring is the act of adapting different processes to make them suitable for different projects. The standards, guidelines and rules presented in PMBOK may be general and globally applicable. There is a need to design and tailor the processes so that desired goal is achieved in each project.

The project manager along with his/her team is responsible for the process of tailoring. To quote PMBOK,

for any given project, the project manager, in collaboration with the project team, is always responsible for determining which processes are appropriate, and the appropriate degree of rigor for each process. Project managers and their teams should carefully address each process and its constituent inputs and outputs.

When the project manager and his/her team do this they obviously buy into this.

 

There can be several stages in tailoring. In the initial stage, the PM methodology may be based on the PMBOK Guide. In the second stage it is more geared towards the elements of the project and based on Organisational Project Management Office (PMO) guidance. The third stage of the tailoring can be at the project execution level, depending on how well suited the processes are for achieving the desired outcome. As we can see, tailoring is done throughout the entire life cycle of the project. Another important aspect to remember is the documentation. There is a need to document the tailoring process approach in the project management plan, and then at the execution stage, in terms of how each process was tailored, and why it was added, removed, or revised.

Four key takeaways from this blog post are:

  1. Tailoring is making project methodology fit.
  2. The PM and team are responsible for the tailoring process.
  3. Tailoring is done in three stages.
  4. Tailoring needs to be documented.

Join the conversation and follow us to get an update on PMP exam preparation or take an open PMP test.

PMP Ready – Exam Requirements

Introduction

PMP Certification – To Be or Not to Be?

Project Management Professional (PMP) is the most important industry-recognised certification. It is one of the flagship certifications offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the leading not-for-profit professional membership association. PMP is recognised globally as a gold standard in project management. The PMP certification can provide a significant advantage when it comes to salary and earning potential. Well over 700,000 certified PMPs around the globe stand as testimony to its benefits!
Gaining and maintaining PMP certification goes with its own process, starting with the first goal of passing the PMP exam. There are certain prerequisites as to eligibility for taking the exam. The PMP Handbook by the PMI outlines the eligibility criteria. The first step is to see whether you meet the following prerequisites:

  • A secondary-level degree (high-school diploma, associate’s degree, or the global equivalent);
  • 7,500 hours spent leading and directing projects.
  • 35 hours of project management education.
    or
  • A 4-year degree.
  • 4,500 hours spent leading and directing projects.
  • 35 hours of project management education.

Explanation of educational qualifications

  • A high-school diploma or associate’s degree or global equivalent means education partaken for 3 years or less after school leaving.
  • A 4-year degree means any graduate degree such as Engineering or Technology, of 4 years’ or more duration, which is partaken after 10+2 school years.
  • You will need to show 36 hours of PMP related Project Management Training from a training organisation such as Althris Training Dublin

Explanation of experience requirements

  • For diploma holders, the project management experience required is 7,500 hours. This is roughly 60 months or 5 years’ experience.
  • For degree holders, the project experience required is 4,500 hours. This is roughly 36 months or 3 years’ experience.

Explanation of “Leading and Directing Projects”

This means that you should briefly state any job/experience that you have done in the field of planning, execution, and control. It is not necessary that you should have experience in all the project processes.

Explanation of Non-Overlapping Experience

  • Let us assume that you have managed two projects in the year 2016. Project A ran from January 2016 to May 2016 (5 months). Project B ran from March 2016 to February 2017 (12 months). This should not be taken as 17 months’ experience as there is an overlap of 3 months. Experience will be taken as 14 months only.
  • Experience reported should have been accrued within the last 8 consecutive years prior to your application submission. If you are applying in 2017, you can report experience between 2009 and 2016.

 

The PMP exam has a price of US$405 for PMI members, and $555 for non-members. PMI membership is not mandatory for you to take the exam. However, it makes sense to become a PMI member, at a fee of $139, as you get an exam fee reduction of $150! Additional benefits can also be enjoyed with PMI membership. 35 hours of project management education needs to be undertaken through a Registered Educational Partner (REP) that imparts the training and grants the necessary certificate towards fulfilment. Its cost can be ascertained from the education partner.

The next part of this article is “PMP – Applying for and Scheduling the Exam”
Althris

PMP – Applying for and Scheduling the Exam

During the software development process it is vital to establish a robust process of software quality assurance, even if you are developing using an Agile development methodology.

Agile Books worth reading

Introduction

Agile Books worth reading

How Do I Design A Training Programme?

Introduction

Designing a Training Programme

I was recently asked by one of my larger customers about how to design a training programme. I didn’t have to think very long about it because I have the answer. Training must be outcome orientated, if you don’t know what you want how can you decide what training is needed.

1) Training Must Be Outcome Oriented.
That means starting with what you are trying to achieve. Particularly the behavior difference that your are looking to change. This is a really good starting point and helps you design the course around the outcome. Training for the sake of training is generally a waste of time.

2) Learners Must Have Pre-Work
Pre-work gets them ready and primed for learning. This should not just be reading but they must have attempted an activity or exercise.

For example: If the training was to include “how to create a charter” because we need better project charters then the learner would be expected to bring a charter with them. Sharing it with the room and perhaps outline 2 good things and 1 poor thing about the charter. This work equally well for user stories, project flows, burndown charts etc.

Online learning with exercises can be particularly good for this.

3) The Class Must Be Interactive With Exercise.
Mature students learn more from each other than from a trainer. This works best if its day-job orientated.

For example “Breakdown a user requirement or story” for our current project. The room can discuss, comment debate the topic with the guidance of the facilitator.

4) Use Games
Games , competitions and real scenarios as exercises, these energize, provide relief but re-iterate the learning if no 3 missed the mark.
For games suggestions have a look at https://tastycupcakes.org/

5) Agree Learning Outcome
Get learners to agrees to implement the learning outcome. The outcome hasn’t actually been implemented so this may still need to be done. It’s the facilitating trainers role to drive this home but an even greater effect can be achieved with short sharing sessions after the initial training.

For example lets meet in 2 weeks time for 30min to see how we all have gotten on.

To PMO Or Not To PMO

Introduction

When It Comes To A PMO I’m Generally Asked One Of Two Questions.

Do I need a PMO?
Or
How do we keep our PMO relevant in the agile world?

 

PMO is not a solution looking for a problem
The question generally comes from different types of companies but my response is the same. What’s the problem that you are trying to solve? In too many organisations a PMO is often a solution to an unclear problem. The PMO nay-sayers might say a non-existent problem.

So let’s turn this the other way around and figure out what is the business case for the PMO and ask those advocating it to create a project to support the business case.

We can ask ourselves what is the problem that we are trying to solve and put forward the options to solving it. The PMO should deliver clear benefits via a number of services that it offers. Those benefits should be measurable and if the service offering stops delivering the benefit then the service should be stopped.

The PMO should make the job of a project manager (or Product Owner/Scrum) easier and must deliver a service not just add administration. Setting up a PMO to control or oversea projects is simply the wrong approach.

 

Let’s Look At Some Possible PMO Services And See What Benefits They Can Deliver

Lessons Learning – this is a great service to offer as it provides an opportunity to share and learn. The benefits that this delivers can be realised with increased confidence in project delivery. Turning this into a benefit, we could measure current confidence, then implement a lesson learning process and see if confidence improves.

Template Database – Easy to do and can deliver results really quickly. For this we could measure how long it takes to set-up a project before and again after so the benefits are clear.

Project Assurance – Audit/Assurance of projects – this can deliver better governance and greater management confidence in delivery. Yes again find a measure.

Programme Management – Supporting the strategic initiatives by breaking down the big picture into implementable projects. This can deliver much quicker kick-off and the delivery of benefits earlier.

Facilitation – running of particular types of workshops. Perhaps lessons learning/Retrospectives, risk/worry workshop, stakeholder engagement. For this ask the Project manager what they want and check if the services makes their job easier.

 

A few other Services That are Worth Looking at:

  • Capacity Planning
  • Training
  • Governance Protocols
  • Impediment Removal
  • Value Realisation and Value mapping
  • Resource Provision

Signs The PMO Isn’t Working:
The PMO is thought of as a group that checks boxes vs. facilitating productivity
Stakeholders don’t understand the PMO purpose or know how to engage
The PMO is regularly considered for the “chopping block” when budgets are tight
Stakeholders go around the process or don’t engage with the PMO
Nobody is clear what the PMO does
People duck when the see someone from the PMO
Project managers are acting more as fire fighters instead of fire preventers and are reluctant to look for support from the PMO
If you choose to embark on the journey of building out a PMO, remember the following tips:

 

Keys To PMO Success:
Start small and have (and recognize) wins along the way
Find a sponsor, Engage and figure out the problem that needs to be solved
Create a business case with measureable benefits
Deliver value quickly
Follow a simple maturity model, phased roll out of services
Treat the build out as a project (requires a charter) and the PMO as a business unit (requires a business plan)
And finally don’t just pick the service and offer it, identify the problem and investigate if the service an can support it.

#iguru_soc_icon_wrap_5fbe06c647a07 a{ background: transparent; }#iguru_soc_icon_wrap_5fbe06c647a07 a:hover{ background: transparent; border-color: #116cb6; }#iguru_soc_icon_wrap_5fbe06c647a07 a{ color: #acacae; }#iguru_soc_icon_wrap_5fbe06c647a07 a:hover{ color: #ffffff; }