A strong finish to 2013

We had a great year in 2013.  Thank you to our members for suggesting the topics, facilitating and presenting, and participating in DFW Scrum month after month.  Our goal is to help you do better today than you were doing yesterday, and the best way to do that is through the collective wisdom and experience of the crowd (sprinkled with some industry experts).  Our last three meetings of the year exemplified our goal and values.

September: DEV+QA in the same sprint – how’s it possible?

Dave Nicolette led the group in a discussion of how the magic of getting dev and QA to work close together and complete their work within the sprint happens.  Challenges can come from large stories, unclear or missing acceptance criteria, multiple product owners, and a lack of automated testing.  These challenges are quite common, and the beauty of our user group is that we can rely on the wisdom of the folks in the room to share their experiences and successes!  Spending time refining or grooming the backlog so stories are smaller, the requirements and acceptance criteria are better understood, and even writing the acceptance criteria to be testable can be helpful.  Teams that move to behavior driven development (BDD) do all of that while also building automated tests.  The magic is that QA spends time helping to clarify or reveal the acceptance criteria, which the developers need to know in order to write the software—the relationship between dev and QA becomes closer with this mutual need, and the delivery of stories within a sprint becomes easier.  That’s the magic.

October: The Science Behind High-Performance Teams

Peter Saddington, CST, visited us from Atlanta to talk about the behavioral science, neuroscience, and psychology behind high-performance teams.  Self-organizing teams are made up of individuals, and each individual has certain behavioral patterns.  These behavioral patterns can be identified using various assessment tools, and knowing the behavior patterns of individuals can be extremely helpful in forming teams because they contribute to the team dynamics.  What does someone love to do?  What types of problems do they enjoy solving?  How do they know they’ve done a good job at something outside of work?  The answers provide insight into a person.  A strong team includes diversity.  Teams should also have fun together.  Executives don’t ask to increase fun in their organizations, but happier people are more productive and innovation increases.  The biggest obstacle to fun in most organizations is multitasking or context switching.  And if you require your team members to work on more than one project at a time, you put quality, speed, and value at risk.  Leaders should be “lovers of people” and “inspiration starters.”  Slides are available here.

November: Using Agile Outside of IT

We had 3 of our user group members share stories of how they use agile frameworks and practices outside of IT—Jennifer Nusbaum in an educational registrar environment, Tony Akins at home to write a book and mow his lawn, and Ty Crockett at home with his family to do household chores and his son’s school project.  Each presentation reminded us of some of the core concepts behind agile and scrum: how a backlog provides visibility and focus, how iterative and incremental work can get the job done, and the importance of reflecting back on how we can improve for future projects.  It was our first time having multiple presentations at one meeting, and it was quite successful!  We would love to have more members volunteer to share their experiences like this.

What did we forget to say about these meetings?  Comment and let us know.

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Sail or Fail? Navigating Test Automation Pitfalls

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Paul Grizzaffi joined at DFW Scrum last night to go over the topic above. Too often, automation has to be justified and bought into before we spend resources on it. I like how Paul compared it to an Insurance Policy. No one likes to pay for insurance unless of course the tornado takes your house down or the car is totaled. Look at automation in that it will save us from potential catastrophes and customer implications of bad software. However, unlike insurance, automation can make us more efficient and “Agile” at the same time.

I like to say that being “Agile” in software development, simply means that you can ship software when you want. If a feature was demo’d and thought it was good to release to customers, could you do it? Or is it a lengthy / painful process to push code from our developers’ machines to production?

Automation is definitely a specialized skill set at this time, we all know it would be better and a good idea to do, but how do we go about doing it? Paul’s message was clear that you can’t template an approach to automation, but he can share with you some good practices / questions to ask. Other valuable lessons are what NOT to do.

Quality is everyone’s job, automation is everyone’s job. How do we fit it into our development processes? Paul’s presentation is available for download, check it out and  hit him up for questions if you have any.

Quick take-aways

  • Don’t try to automate a broken process (garbage in and garbage out)
  • Must know your process and job before you can automate
  • Think of your automation as a safety net / alarm system (confidence in making changes)
  • Test cases are your contract between the requirements and the interface
  • Try not to change Test Cases for your automation unless the contract changes
  • Automation is an insurance policy, you want a high deductible you get low cost (risky)
  • Discuss automation in context of opportunity cost (not ROI)
  • A human used to do x now its automated they can go to y
  • Exploratory testing is opportunity cost, computers are good at repetitive tasks, humans are not

Strategies for Agile Portfolio Management with Kenny Rubin

Kenny Rubin

Kenny Rubin

For our June meeting Kenny Rubin, a Certified Scrum Trainer through the Scrum Alliance and author of Essential Scrum, was kind enough to speak to our group via webex about portfolio management.  To answer the question of “why is portfolio management important to a scrum user group?” I found this quote from an interview with Kenny:

Many of the problems in organizations start at the highest levels of planning—such as portfolio-level planning. When these higher levels of planning are poorly aligned with agile principles, you can be certain that the misalignment will manifest itself in an ever-increasing snowball of problems that roll downhill toward the development teams. For example, working on way too many products/projects at one time is a classic problem at the portfolio level, experienced by pretty much every company I see. People at the team level are pulled in so many different directions that they have a hard time staying focused and getting the job done. The concept of managing work in process (WIP) applies as much at the portfolio level as it does at the team level, and I wanted to make this alignment clear.

Kenny reviewed 11 portfolio planning strategies that he organized into 3 categories: scheduling, inflows and outflows.  While a company doesn’t necessarily need to use all 11 strategies and there are probably more that he didn’t call out explicitly, more than one must be used in order to be effective.  For more information on the strategies, review Kenny’s presentation at http://www.innolution.com/uploads/presentations/Rubin-2013-06-18-Strategies-for-Agile-Portfolio-Management.pdf  He will also be presenting this topic at the Agile 2013 conference in Nashville, and I look forward to meeting Kenny in person there.

DFW Scrum 2013 Kick-off

Welcome to 2013 with DFW Scrum. We had a great meeting last TUE where we discussed our past accomplishments, how we have impacted the community through education, and what we want to see for 2013. We tried to fire ourselves (being transparent to the group on what we think we could be doing better), but the group still believes we offer value and think we are doing a pretty good job. So, Allison, Gary, and Lance will remain in your leadership team for the time being. If you are interested in being a part of the leadership team, please let one of us know.

For 2013, we really need ALL of your help to guide us to the important topics that are of value to the larger collective of the group. We only have 11 more meetings for 2013, make that 8 if we want to try to have 3 Agile Manifesto Authors or Industry Leaders speak with us. We can’t accommodate every topic, but the only way that we can measure value of the MeetUp is if you vote on a particular topic or suggest one and get others to vote. MeetUp has the ability to accept topics from the group in the way of “Suggested MeetUps“. You can “vote” on that particular MeetUp by saying you will be going to it (whether you actually come the day we schedule it is different). The one with the most people saying they would attend, gets scheduled.

I was going to comb through ALL of the suggested topics we took from our MeetUp on Jan 15, however, it won’t show up as a suggested MeetUp because I am the administrator of the site. I am going to post all of the topics here, you can then go to our MeetUp site and make them Suggested MeetUps. Shortly before our next meeting (Feb 19), I will evaluate all of the topics and choose the ones who have the most “votes”.

Topics that were submitted

  • Scrum Metrics (sequence flow chart, metrics record of progress, Velocity at start, mid, clean-up, and final
  • Case study of a local company in Agile/Scrum
  • Rashina Hoda presentation
  • Free Scrum Tools / Electronic Tools
  • US Government Procurement and Agile Methods
  • Agile CMMI
  • Best Practices for Agile Engineering
  • Ideas and Techniques on getting those around you interested in Agile
  • Hybrid Methodologies
  • Overviews of the different developer roles on the team
  • Hands-on workshops for coaching, estimating, reporting, and the like (logistics of those meetings)
  • Innovations in the Agile Framework
  • The Psychology of Scrum
  • Featured speakers sharing experiences
  • Group activity simulating Scrum
  • Performance metrics for comparing teams
  • Agile/Scrum Buddy System (paired programming for Scrum Master, the team would have meetings to discuss high/lows of the week, each month the team would find new partners which would constantly change)
  • Practical value of CSM/PSM etc…
  • Ideas on how to influence corporate culture
  • Showcase usefulness of Scrum beyond software development
  • Fast moving markets (i.e. Mobile Hardware)
  • Testing Automation
  • Introducing Scrum to an organization
  • Reporting on the project to stakeholders, team, upper management, how much is too much?
  • Change Management processes
  • Business Owner Perspectives / Executive Level Deliverables
  • Scrum and Predictability
  • Managing slack in a Kanban/Agile framework
  • Junior mentoring group that goes to schools and brings Agile principals to kids/high school/college
  • Opportunities within the group for getting and giving mentoring
  • Defect Management
  • Continuous Development (success/challenges)
  • How to integrate UX/UI / Documentation into the Agile process
  • Retrospectives (different styles)
  • ISO and Scrum
  • Small Scrum Teams
  • Scrum Team Maintenance
  • Team Building Activities
  • Agile Games
  • Backlog Grooming Ideas
  • Sprint Planning Best Practices
  • How to fit support tasks into a sprint
  • How to handle explosive growth
  • Non-Collated Teams
  • Evolution of Testing in Scrum
  • Going from Epics to Manageable Stories
  • Getting certified and employed
  • Test Driven Development
  • Managing the Agile Process in an enterprise environment
  • PMP and Scrum

Your mission (should you choose to accept it), is to pick a few topics that you are interested in, word them appropriately to signify the value, and then have your friends vote on them (in the sense of stating they will attend that MeetUp).

DFW Scrum Communication Tactics

I want to spend a blog post just to highlight our feelings and attitudes towards some administrative type activities for the group and provide a forum for your comments.

Email and Spam
I really try to protect the group from Spam Emails. We use a tool called MeetUp and it does provide the ability for users to opt out of mailing lists etc…For those of you who have, I would like to understand the reasons (please challenge any communication you receive from us, forward it to me and highlight that it is not the type of information you expect from our group). My hope is to be a communication hub not only for the activities we have coming up, but we also get requests for job postings and trainings that are coming to Dallas. The emails are up in a digest fashion so you can get a consolidated listing of the message board topics each TUE. We use the message board to post just about any information outside of the meeting agenda. So please feel free to adjust your mail settings in MeetUp to get a digest of the message board once a week. If you have disabled your ability to receive email in MeetUp, I would encourage you to re-activate it and challenge us on any extraneous information you receive so we can be aware and either justify or agree that it was an erroneous email topic for our group. In addition, Scrum trainers that are coming to down provide free seats to our group and sometimes it is not easy to see all the training coming to Dallas, so I feel out group is a great spot to be aware of that.

Calls for Presentations
Gary and I make it a point to protect the group from the many calls we get from people wanting to present at our group. My normal response is that we don’t typically like just a stand-up presentation, our group benefits more from active Q&A as well as activities that drive Scrum points home. Naturally, with the quarterly meetings, I do actively pursue speakers (typically authors or early adopters of the Agile Manifesto).

As our group grows and gains more visibility, we receive more and more requests from people who want to present to our group. That is actually a great thing, anyone who has thoughts and ideas to share with the group on Scrum and Agile Engineering Principals is most certainly welcome. All that to say that we do receive requests from people who are not really part of the group, they just want the group’s ear. We listen to their ideas and decide if it would be beneficial to the group. Sometimes we get winners, sometimes we don’t. But we do learn from the ones we don’t and will heighten our alert for the next time.

For the site however, there is neat tool for Ideas. You can post an idea and others can vote / comment on it and I can eventually turn it into an actual MeetUp. So starting in the near future, I think anyone who has an idea or wants to present to the group, I would first encourage you to post an idea yourself by “Suggesting a Meetup“, but for those outside of our group who want to present, I will post it as an idea. If I get enough interest (which will be defined iteratively I guess), then we will turn it into a MeetUp. This however requires you all to receive the message board emails so I can make the idea visible to the group. Then at your leisure you can comment / vote on the idea.

Tools and Services
Next up is the topic of presentations we get for people who simply want to demo their tools. I don’t want to hide the fact that some companies out there present on a topic, but have secondary (or even primary) motivations to push their tool or sell services. We absolutely frown on that for general meetings, however, I do recognize that it might be nice to reserve a session bi-annually or so where we can get vendors a place to show tools and services. Sometimes you might be looking for that and what a great place to see them all in one meeting. We could give each vendor 20 min or so to show us what they got and then provide time after the meeting for people to go interact with them separately. So be looking for that in the future, there is value in knowing what tools and services are out there.

Thanks for listening (if you did), I know we have not really formally discussed these topics, so if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please let Gary or I know. We would love to hear from you.

Top 10 Agile 2011 Take-aways

Last week, the folks at Synerzip did a great job summarizing their experience at our DFW Scrum User Group. They presented their top 10 take-aways from the Agile 2011 Conference. To summarize, here are the Top 10:

1. ATDD, BDD, and UTDD
2. Technical Debt
3. Requirements Elaboration
4. Lean/Kanban
5. Value Focus
6. Continuous Delivery
7. QA Automation
8. Pair Programming
9. Sustainable Pace
10. Agile Games Incubator

In addition, Hemant and Vinayak provided some other “salient” observations. We appreciate everyone coming out and hope you got some great information to take back to your teams, if like me, you were unable to attend Agile 2011.

Download the presentation here.

DFW Scrum Virtual Meeting: 12.14 12:00PM CT

A quick note to remind you that our next DFW Scrum is on MON (not TUE) 12/14 at 12:00PM CT. Jason Tanner will host this event. To access the event on MON, follow this link.. The link will not be active until MON at 12:00PM CT. I will be receiving additional instructions from Jason on Monday in which I will email and post to the meet up. This will be an exciting and different way to learn. Visit Jason’s site for more information on Innovation Games.

If you have not registered yet, but want to be a part of this game, please register. My next email on instructions will only be targeted to those who have RSVP’d.