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Showing posts from November, 2007

Midway through Sprint 01

Time to revisit our example Scrum Project started a couple of weeks back. How's our team doing? Here's the burndown as it was 2 weeks ago.

When we left it, the Sprint was red indicating an overcommitment based on current estimates. Either the team would need to negotiate a slight reduction in scope for the Sprint or risk disappointing the project stakeholders at the end of the period.

Here's the situation today (click for an enlarged view).

The status of the Sprint is now amber. Comparing the charts carefully one can tell from the reduced size of the work that there is a reduction in scope (also visible from the task lists) but there is good progress visible from the closed tasks to date. Other things to note in the screenshot are:
Alerts (showing where some open tasks have exceeded their "best-case" estimates - they are prompts that the 3-point estimates for these tasks may need review);
Closed tasks in the Explorer view (show with check mark); and
The task list for t…

Participating in the project

The key thing about defining processes and project in xProcess is that the participants on a project can interact with the plans day by day, making them not just a view of what someone once hoped might happen, but an up to date record of the most likely outcome given progress so far.

The easiest way for project members to update their estimates, progress and plans is to use the web client of xProcess. By installing the xProcess server, this becomes accessible to team members using just a browser. They log in using their Subversion password and can then see their task assignments and update time bookings, which tasks are active, task estimates and descriptions, and other aspects of the plan relevant to their work. Here's a typical screen shot taken from our Scrum Project example (click on the image to enlarge).

Different filters can be used to show either just tasks scheduled for this week or all tasks assigned to the participant. Clicking on a task bring the task details in to the l…

Adding structure, artifacts and gateways to task patterns

Task patterns can be very simple (just one task with no extras) or a quite complex template controlled by several parameters and providing the implementer of the task with template documents, quality checklists (gateways), variable estimates and a family of subtasks. It's important to note that often simplest is best! Or at least (following Einstein) "as simple as possible but no simpler". We already discussed this issue in the blog with regards patterns for FDD (see Comparing big patterns and small ones). In Scrum, we've shown that different patterns can be used in addition to or instead of the Backlog Item pattern (see previous posting). Now let's look at what additional features might be useful to add to our Enhancement and Defect patterns.

Depending on the size of Scrum team you may have specialist roles that go beyond those of
Product Owner ScrumMaster Team MemberFor example the specialist role of Tester is useful on nearly all but very small projects. Develop…

Different patterns for Backlog Items

If you've followed through the series of articles on Scrum (see Using the pre-defined Scrum Process) you'll know they've covered making a Scrum project in xProcess and setting up a backlog of tasks that you can prioritise, forecast and display in Burndown or other charts. Participants on the project can access their tasks in the plan and update progress or modify estimates to complete them. But the pre-defined "Basic Scrum" process is just that - basic. It doesn't take into account the type of project you are doing with Scrum (it may not even be a software development project), nor the specifics of your company's or your team's process. With a little process engineering we can make things much more specific, and sometimes that's very useful.

The types of things you might want to consider once you're up and running with the basic process include:
Adding different role types if there are areas of specialisation within the team
Adding artifact temp…

Agile 42 at the Scrum Gathering

It was great to get together last week with old friends and colleagues Alex Aptus and Andrea Tomasini, who were over in London for the Scrum Gathering 2007. They are both doing Scrum consulting and training in Germany. Andrea's company is called Agile42 and if you think about it the name has some logic to it - "agile" is the undisputed answer to all the major questions of software engineering (mmm...?) in the same way that 42 is the answer to that only slightly larger chestnut: life, the universe and everything. Actually I'd recommend Alex and Andrea's work precisely because they understand that the answers to large questions are not trite or formulaic. If you manage to engage them for your project you'll not only get excellent training in standard methods but thoughtful and experienced consultants that will help you solve the hard questions too.

Another highlight of our meeting was seeing the newly opened St Pancras station on the day that the first Eurostar …

Top-down or bottom up planning for Sprints

xProcess supports two ways to specify the required resources for a parent task: top-down or bottom-up.
The simpler approach is bottom-up. A parent task has subtasks with their own estimates of size and effort. The parent task size is therefore just the sum of subtasks' sizes.

What if you don't yet know what all the subtasks are? In this case - or if you want to specify some contingency or slack without inflating the estimates for the subtasks (Parkinson's Law would suggest this is a good idea) - then you can supply an independent estimate for the parent task by specifying it as top-down.A previous entry, Parent Tasks and Top-down Planning, has already discussed this feature and shows the user-interface for using top-down estimates. The question here (since this is part of the series on Using the pre-defined Scrum Process) is how to use it for Sprints in Scrum.

Let's take a look at the current state of "Sprint 01" in our example Scrum project. Although this is q…

Prioritising the backlog

The key point about priority-driven planning approaches like Scrum - common in fact to all agile processes - is that the set of tasks undertaken by the team are ordered by priority rather than by a pre-determined procedure. (Priority is usually assessed based on business benefit and risk.) This article focuses on this particular aspect of using Scrum with xProcess and it covers:
Adding backlog items to specific SprintsShowing a Sprint in Burndown and Gantt charts, and finally
Prioritising the backlogHaving created a Scrum project with resources and a set of backlog items (see the previous post in this series) our next step is to prioritise the backlog. Our starting point here is a project which has three Sprints defined and a number of backlog items that have been estimated for approximate size. For simplicity in this example I've created 26 backlog items (with single character names from 'a' to 'z') with sizes of between 1 and 5 "points" (points being nomi…

Using the pre-defined Scrum process

I've recently been asked for more guidance about using the pre-defined Scrum process in version 2.9 of xProcess. It uses some of the new features for process definition (like Composite tasks) and also has "top-down" estimating for projects built-in, which is useful for resource planning and financial reporting. So I'm planning to post a series of blog entries on the process and in this one I'll focus on getting started with this process "out of the box". Here's what it covers:
Creating a Scrum projectAdding resources to the project
Adding Sprints to the project (a Sprint in Scrum is like a "timebox" in other methods)Adding Backlog Items to the project (Backlog Items are the tasks the project must achieve)So step one is to select the Project Manager perspective (the default) and hit the "New" button so we can make a Scrum project. The New project dialog shows the processes that are available for import, so if you've not already …

Searching the blog by topic

Blogspot offers some useful facilities for finding blog entries by topic. Below most entries there are a series of labels. Clicking on any of these will bring up other related articles on the same topic. Try it our with the labels below this post.

xProcess Europe

On November 6th Ivis announced that it had demerged its European operation (see Press Release) . The new company is known as xProcess Europeand it's owned by former members of the UK team including Andy Carmichael and Paul Kuzan both seminal thinkers in the evolution of xProcess.
Andy Carmichael: "Paul Kuzan and I are both very pleased to be involved with the on-going evolution of the xProcess product and brand, and we believe xProcess Europe provides a great opportunity, particular for developing the services offering that customers adopting xProcess are often looking for. Providing better support and expertise for companies wanting to improve the processes behind their project and portfolio management will be one of the main focuses of the new company. While our product sales and support work will primarily be targeting the European market, we will continue to offer process improvement services world-wide, wherever the needs exist."xProcess Europe and Ivis Technologies …