The conference season kicked off for me in my own back yard at 2012 Mile High Agile on April 3rd in Denver. This was the second annual Mile High Agile conference and, once again, touted a full house of engaged participants and an impressive variety of sessions and networking opportunities.
Highlights included a keynote address by Jeff Patton, a prominent speaker, writer, instructor and product design coach, who reminded us of the importance of the conversation and reaching a shared understanding of requirements.
Four sessions were held in each of seven tracks: Agile Technical Practices, Agile Quality Practices, Executive & Leadership, Agile Coaching, Product Management, Agile Boot Camp and Agile Outside the Box, as well as an additional track from sponsors covering a variety of topics. There were also 10-minute Lightning Talks and Birds of a Feather sessions where interested parties could flock together.
In the short video clip below, you hear from Kim Barnes and David Madouros who give their number one piece of advice for those new to Scrum teams:
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As usual, my only problem was that there were so many interesting sessions that it was hard to decide which ones to attend! At this conference, I even participated as a speaker, leading an interactive session in the leadership track about distributed collaboration.
This is just the beginning. Melanie Webb and I will be attending STAREAST 2012 in mid-April and already have had some interesting interviews with speakers, so stay tuned!
SSQ recently published Social media: A guide to enhancing ALM with collaborative tools. The guide shows many examples of the use of social media in the development lifecycle.
Social media also offers specific advantages to business. I spoke with Steve Nicholls, author of the book, Social Media in Business, who writes about four business opportunities available to organizations with social media: communication, communities, collaboration and collective intelligence.
SSQ: Steve, you talk about different types of social media tools. Would you say there are certain types of social media tools that are most beneficial for software development teams?
Steve Nicholls: Most businesses do not think about business goals when they think about social media. Any tools considered need to always be in the context of the business goals. The quick way of saying that is it depends on what you want to achieve. For instance, if it is to raise your profile, you would set appropriate social media goals and then select the best social media tools based on your organizational environment. For example, you’d look at things such as what are you already using, what skills you have, the resources, etc.
SSQ: In what ways are software development teams able to communicate with their customers by using social media?
Nicholls: Again, the thing to consider is the business goal you’re trying to achieve, then what blend of social media would be needed to achieve that. It could be the organizational goal could be related to increasing the repeat customer percentage to increase revenue by X %. One marketing strategy could be to have a more effective customer relationship management strategy. You would then select the social media program that would support those goals. That would be around customer service, the ways you interact with the customer to provide information. It would depend what you already do as to what tools you would use. There are a number of tools that could be used but you would want to look at the way you exchange different types of media, the way you have meetings and the frequency you measure customer satisfaction and surveys, ratings and so on.
SSQ: Are privacy and security concerns when businesses start to use social media? What should organizations watch out for?
Nicholls: Managers and policy makers are right to be worried about privacy and security concerns; these are real. What should you watch out for? Most companies are worried about their reputation in the marketplace; employees wasting time on non-work related social activities, of which there are many; leaking of competitive and confidential information; and stealing intellectual property and legal problems, from what your employees say and do online. Employees also have concerns that employers are spying on them, that social media adds more work to an already full schedule, the organization boundaries blurring as to what is company business and private to the employee. Some employees may need to use social media for their personal life but access is blocked in their work place. Use of mobile devices is also an issue as a number of the organization’s security protocols can be bypassed using a tablet computer or a smart phone. These issues are best dealt with using a well-crafted and enforced social media policy.
SSQ: What would you say is the biggest takeaway readers will gain from your book?
Nicholls: There are two major takeaways:
1. You need to have a clear model of what social media is and how your company can utilize it, not just in your marketing and IT peopl,e but in your competitive strategy.
There are risks and obstacles with social media, which cannot be underplayed, and there are risks in every area of business; the key is to quantify that risk and weigh it against the potential gains.
2. To implement social media in a systematic way, you need a comprehensive implementation framework –- like the 3-Core Project success system that is easy to learn and provides a step-by-step low risk way of moving your organization forward.
There are companies in your market, or the more dangerous, in a related market, that are trying to figure out how to gain a competitive advantage using innovative combinations of social media tools to enhance their business strategy. If you are a leader in your market, or aspire to be a leader, then you need to have full comprehension of the advances in technology and software that is fuelling the rise of the Internet revolution. If you are a follower, then you need to have a model for the best of the best and not look at your nearest competitor and feel comfortable because they are not doing much either!
Currently the book is available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk and from www.SocialMediainBusiness.com.
Earlier this month, CollabNet announced Agile Assessment, a new consulting service that helps IT organizations assess the status of existing Agile practices and develop strategies to extend the benefits of Agile-based methodologies across the enterprise.
I had the opportunity to speak with David Parker, Vice President of CollabNet’s Scrum Business Line Unit about the announcement.
SSQ: Can you tell us more about the Agile Assessment? Is it a series of questions like a survey, or does a team come in and observe? Does an organization get scored, and then are there recommendations about how the team could incorporate more Agile practices?
David Parker: CollabNet’s Agile Assessment is one of the most critical steps an organization can take to become more Agile. First, it clearly defines the goals you are seeking to accomplish while weighing the business context in which you operate. Second, it delivers a snapshot of your organization, helping you to determine the extent that you have embraced Agile. And finally, it delivers a crisp, prioritized plan that defines the practical steps you should take to become more Agile.
The process by which we build this assessment includes a detailed questionnaire, on-site observation of the development teams and free-form discussions with management stakeholders.
SSQ: The announcement says the service includes: “strategies to extend the benefits of Agile-based methodologies across the enterprise.” What type of “Agile-based methodologies” are we talking about? Scrum? XP? or things like “collaboration,” and “transparency”?
Parker: Although CollabNet has a long history of involvement with Scrum, we do recognize that 1) most organizations adopt a hybrid Agile approach that incorporates aspects of Agile and Waterfall and 2) new methodologies like Lean/Kanban are emerging. As such, our assessment is methodology-agnostic. As mentioned above, a critical part of the assessment is the prioritized action plan that helps companies determine the steps they need to take to become more Agile. From our perspective, it does not matter what flavor of Agile the company is adopting. Our goal is to simply help the organization become more Agile.
SSQ: Agile practices promote face-to-face communication and collaboration. Is the team makeup (co-located or distributed) part of the assessment? What are your thoughts on co-location vs. distributed teams?
Parker: Geographically distributed teams are a reality today. It is the rare enterprise who has not, to some degree, embraced a distributed development model. As such, part of scaling Agile to the enterprise necessitates the use of Agile in a distributed context. Having worked with hundreds of clients with distributed development models, we fully appreciate the challenges it brings. But the benefits of access to deep talent pools and of reduced cost (to a lessening extent) make the net result a positive one for the enterprise. We have proven that Agile can add great value to distributed development organizations.
CollabNet’s Agile assessment examines the interaction of distributed teams. We look at release planning, sprint planning, backlog management, and organizational context. In this way, the assessment helps organizations understand where things are working well and where there is room for improvement, and provides a plan for better integrated distributed teams.
SSQ: Once again, on the question of “extending across the enterprise,” can you elaborate? Are we talking about using Agile practices for sales? Marketing? Governance? Operations?
Parker: Although CollabNet’s Agile Assessment focuses on the software development organization, we recognize that the development organizations do not work in a vacuum. The truly Agile enterprise brings multiple stakeholders into the development process, and into IT as a whole. When we think of extending Agile across the enterprise, we are looking at ways to better engage with stakeholders in other parts of the organization.
SSQ: Do the services include an evaluation of the organization’s ALM toolset and/or recommendation for tools?
Parker: Although tools can play an important role in a broad-scale Agile adoption, CollabNet’s Agile Assessment is tools-agnostic. Evaluation of specific tools is not part of this assessment.
SSQ: Are “best practices” for Agile ALM available?
Parker: With hundreds (thousands?) of large-scale ALM and Agile customer engagements, CollabNet has built up a huge repository of expertise in Agile practice, Agile Process and ALM. We believe that we are one of the few vendors that can really combine these three for enterprise adoption. Each and every engagement we enter into leverages this vast experience. CollabNet case studies provide real-world examples of our implementations.
SSQ: Are these Agile development coaching services? If so, is a particular methodology such as Scrum recommended?
Parker: The CollabNet Agile Assessment is not a coaching engagement. Rather, it is designed to provide a snapshot of an organization’s adoption of Agile techniques and a prioritized set of recommendations for helping improve agility. We seek to be tools-agnostic, and we do not favor one flavor of Agile over another. That said, CollabNet does have deep expertise in Scrum. We’ve trained more ScrumMasters than any other vendor, and have on staff an impressive set of Certified Scrum Trainers and Coaches. If Scrum is the best fit for an organization, we are certainly well-equipped to help them adopt it.
Recently, SSQ created a quality metrics guide which includes a series of articles, tips and stories related to measuring software quality. It’s a complicated and controversial topic with no easy answers. We asked our readers to weigh in, and I wanted to share a couple of insightful responses we received.
Darek Malinowski, an ALM Solutions Architect at Hewlett-Packard, writes:
In my opinion we should start from business requirements. First we should estimate the weight (criticality) or business impact of each requirement. Business impact is related to loss of money, loss of confidence, loss of market etc. So the best to measure quality is requirements coverage by tests vs. requirements criticality. This can tell if the product we deliver to the business provides all needed functionality as required.
Haya Rubinstein works as the Quality and Delivery team lead in SAP in the IMS NetWeaver MDM group. After reading Crystal Bedell’s article, What upper management should know about managing software testing processes, she gave a very detailed answer to our question about how her organization measured software quality.
In my experience, management is interested in the test KPI’s even before the release is decided on. There is usually a quality standard that they wish to adhere to.
Following is an example of KPI’s for a software release:
- 0% defects on the top ten priority functionalities.
- Less than 5% degradation in performance.
- All new features have been tested.
- All new “hard” software requirements were met.
- All quality standards were met or mitigations were agreed on with quality standard owners.
- Over 90% of tests on new features have passed.
- Over 95% of all unit tests have passed.
- Over 95% of all regression tests have passed.
- Over 95% of all quality standard tests have passed.
- No Very High or High priority defects remain open.
- All medium priority defects have been examined by development to ensure they are not a symptom of a more severe issue.
Rubinstein goes on to describe the detailed and disciplined process that is used throughout the development life-cycle with test milestones starting with the planning of the feature through it’s delivery. She says that at the end of the test cycle, management receives weekly reports aimed at showing compliance to the KPIs including:
- If there are any risks to KPI compliance they are presented together with the mitigations proposed.
- The compliance to the KPI’s above with the current status (number or % and color coded)
- Details of open Very High/High priority defects –Defect #, Summary of issue, Created by, Opened on date, Assigned to, Current status
- Approval status for the relevant features according to hard software requirements and details of remaining defects that are still open on each of the features.
- Link to full defect report.
- Link to full test plan report.
- Notes exist for all open defects.
An overall status (green, yellow, or red).
Replay Solutions recently announced that they are expanding their performance monitoring tools to the mobile market. Larry Lunetta, CEO, and Jonathan Lindo, VP of Products and Technology at Replay, explained how the two new solutions work.
It’s a very powerful ability to transport any issue, whether performance-related, security-related, or a logic bug, from a test environment back to the developer’s desktop, where he or she has a very rich set of tools that can be applied to understanding and fixing that problem.
apmMOBILE, which is focused on production and is applied in a more lightweight manner, offers real user monitoring for enterprise help desk and customer support. It can be enabled on every mobile application, and operates in either an “always on” mode or be activated on-demand. Lindo explained, “We are able to expose a level of information that we haven’t seen to date on the market — things like performance trending, deployment metrics and AppDex monitoring.”
An important aspect of these two offerings, according to Larry Lunetta, is the following:
For more on mobile performance, see Performance management for mobile devices: Solutions and strategies.
There was a time when two-way communication was limited primarily to those people with whom we already had relationships. Then social media came along bringing us a whole new way to communicate. Virtual networks are giving us access to more information than we ever thought possible. We have more than access to information and documentation, though. We have access to people – experts, team members, authors, vendors and customers. This ability to connect with anyone from around the world has helped in fostering stronger communication and collaboration in teams, regardless of where team members are physically located.
SSQ has published a number of articles and expert responses focused on how social media has changed the way businesses operate. In Social media: A guide to enhancing ALM with collaborative tools, you’ll find a collection of tips, stories and expert responses describing ALM tools that take advantage of social features and how distributed teams are taking advantage of social tools.
Recently, SSQ’s Agile expert Lisa Crispin spoke at our local SQuAD (Software Quality Association of Denver) meeting about distributed teaming and challenged us all to experiment with new ideas. Listen in and hear some of her thoughts about distributed teams and social media. “It’s really transforming how we work,” says Crispin about social media, a big Twitter fan.
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Today OpTier is announcing the rebranding of their APM product to back a new approach to application performance that reflects the needs of today’s always-on business environment. I spoke with Linh Ho, Vice President of Corporate Marketing at OpTier about this effort.
According to Ho, the challenges inherent in mobile performance testing include identifying where issues lie along the operation delivery chain, developing and testing for five or more platforms, as well as a myriad of devices, and taking into account service provider differences.
As far as testing across the many different devices, Ho advises:
If there is a need to prioritize, prioritize where the bulk of your customers are. Otherwise, your critical business application is your business, and if that’s not performing, you can’t ignore a particular device because there are only ten users using it. Those are ten customers.
She offered several additional tips for ensuring mobile performance, including:
Be cautious of third party content or components that could impact performance.
Test early and very often.
Make sure you are monitoring and measuring and reporting on performance of applications all the time.
As far as ideas for implementing an APM strategy, Ho recommends a cross-siloed solution that provides value to developers, testers, QA managers and operations team members. She also suggests that “when looking for a strategy, make sure your choice is complementary to what your organization has already invested in. A lot has already been invested in the monitoring space; add on to complement the older technologies.”
She further emphasized that monitoring must be taking place at all times, and while a lot of older technologies are not always-on, it’s important in today’s economy that businesses and solutions move to this always-on approach.
For more on performance testing, check out these related stories from SSQ:
With the acquisition of Austria-based Ventum Solutions, IT process automation vendor UC4 has added automated enterprise application release process software to its ONE Automation platform. The acquisition was announced today.
Application release is a key pain point for DevOps teams who are rolling out applications in enterprise, services, cloud and the many other diverse environments available today, said Clark, CMO of UC4 (Bellevue, WA), in our pre-announcement interview.
Adding Ventum’s release release planning and coordination capabilities to UC4’s deployment engine completes its central management and control capabilities. “We want to make sure organizations don’t have what they have today when rolling out applications,” Clark said, citing huge volumes of helpdesk calls that typically follow releases.
UC4’s goal with ONE Automation is to provide structure to DevOps processes. “The DevOps movement has real grass roots activity based on using open source tools,” said Clark. “But DevOps lacks an automation framework and engine and platform to make sure processes are scalable and implementable by operations in IT.”
Now integrated into ONE Automation, Ventum’s automated release management software bring features in the areas of application and component modeling, test environment scheduling, resource conflict identification and centralized approval processes.
Already integrated with UC4’s Application Release Automation, Ventum’s solution enables release managers to initiate a deployment using UC4’s automation engine from within Ventum’s UI. Tighter integration is currently being developed to provide even greater efficiencies and cost savings.
For more information on application release automation, check out these resources:
Automation from version control to deployment
Automating release management processes with continuous integration
UC4 white paper on Application Release Automation
“Only 12% of companies perform a thorough analysis before enabling mobile devices access to business applications,” according to a recent survey conducted by Dimensional Research and sponsored by HP. Yet as Gal Tunik, Senior Product Manager, HP Software, observes in a recent article, “mobile applications have revolutionized how people conduct business.” He discussed challenges and strategies for managing mobile application performance in a recent interview.
Challenges include server utilization issues, network issues and end-to-end performance testing problems, Tunik explains. HP and partnering organizations provide products that address each of these issues and integrate with each other.
Tunik offered the following pointers for deployment and mobile performance testing:
Using your business goals as a guide, identify the devices your targeted market is most likely using; this is important as it is not feasible to test each and every device on the market.
Consider developing with the older models in mind.
Enhance employee productivity by doing BYOD (“bring your own device”) functional testing.
Test applications on each of the main operating systems, as these can affect performance differently.
Test in real network conditions, on real carriers, which can vary widely.
For more information on testing management, see Real-time performance monitoring for mobile apps, Mobile testing: Nine strategy tests you’ll want to perform and Improving software performance: Mobile, cloud computing demand APM.
High performing teams are able to balance creative conflict and safe communication, according to Agile Coach Ryan Polk of Rally Software, whom the Atlanta Scrum Users Group hosted at their January 25 meetup. Polk illustrated the variations between teams with a continuum featuring “Conflict” on one end and “Harmony” on the other. At some point between “Creative Conflict” and “Fun/Play,” towards the center of this continuum, is where high-performing teams can be found.
He explained, “If you don’t have people working together, no amount of process or tools or framework will result in a high-performing Agile team.” Then he reviewed the typical Agile ceremonies, discussing how the standard practices break down when a team isn’t working together effectively.
The Agile practice that Polk highlighted most was retrospectives. He said that they may be the most important activity, though many practitioners may avoid retrospectives because team members lose interest in them. He offered several fun approaches to get started with retrospectives, including activities such a “Draw me a picture,” “Futurespectives” and “Break-up letter.” He also recommended the book Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen.
In addition, he offered some suggestions about the estimation process, which he said should not be overly time-consuming, but rather an off-the-cuff activity, and he offered examples of estimation games that can take some of the pain out of this process, such as “Planning Poker” and “High-Low Showdown.” He emphasized that these activities “feel like games, and they enable estimation in a safe environment. They are also very accurate.”
More information from this presentation is coming soon on Ryan Polk’s blog.
Recent articles on SSQ related to Agile team work include: