Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Parent Tasks and Top-Down Planning

A key aspect of agile planning is that you expect the plan to change. That doesn't make it a bad plan, it's just the baseline from which you can judge whether to accept certain changes and what impact can be expected. To help you build flexible plans xProcess supports a very important feature - top-down planning. Parent or composite tasks can have their own effort and size estimates which are independent from the size of their children. Alternatively you can select Bottom-Up planning of the parent task and its size will be defined entirely by its children.The above screenshot is part of a task editor that is defined as a top-down parent task. It displays the size (15 points) and effort estimate (120 hours) but also shows how much of this is already allocated to subtasks and how much remains in the REST of the parent task.

The advantage of this approach is that parent tasks can be defined and estimated before the details of their subtasks have been defined. This works for both parent tasks and composite tasks which are collections, iteration or selections of task patterns. As Project Manager you can plan near-term activities in fine detail while leaving tasks that are further into the future as larger activities that will be planned in more detail as time progresses.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Outsourcing for quality

Some people think that outsourcing is about minimizing the costs by moving work to wherever rates happen to be lowest at the time. The costs of distributing software teams can be high however and such a strategy may fail to reduce costs at all, and worst of all it can impact quality and agility.

There are good reasons to distribute teams however - for example to maximize quality by picking the best available expertise.
Ivis found such a partner in SwiftTeams who are based in St Petersburg. Their expertise in graphical editors for development tools is second to none, and the xProcess product has benefited enormously as a result.

How then do you overcome the difficulties of planning and coordinating teams that are geographically distributed? This is one of the key motivations of course for deploying xProcess. It provides the key visibility and communication layer and minimizes the negative impact of having a few thousand miles between the sponsors, planners and specifiers and the implementers. A number of key enhancements to xProcess in recent months have been motivated by improving our application of the Scrum process with SwiftTeams. We'll be looking for more in the coming months too.