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Agile Development: Great for Engineers, Not So Much for Project Management

by Tushar Patel

With over half of companies using a blended agile and waterfall approach to development, it’s critical to be aware of how an agile approach affects planning and alignment with the overall business strategy. Here are the most common challenges in enterprise agile development--and some tips for how smart companies are navigating the new landscape.

Three Essential Leadership Practices that Improve Team Ownership

by Pollyanna Pixton

Why is team ownership important? It is essential to agile team success because individuals thrive on ownership. With ownership, you have a stake in the game and push to find the best solution. The difficulty is that most corporate cultures have command-and-control leaders. Here is some help...

Agile Project Management: Keeping it Simple

by Ken Whitaker

Agile project management, and particularly Scrum, can become overwhelmingly consumed by methodology, jargon and rules. This is just the opposite of what was originally intended for agile-lead projects, and it is the communications part of our role that is so important.

Agile Advocacy

by Mike Griffiths

We all need some help sometimes when introducing agile methods into a traditional organization. Fortunately, a new guide to ease the transition is available. The recently published Software Extension to the PMBOK Guide Fifth Edition acts as a Rosetta Stone for mapping and replacing traditional approaches with their agile alternatives.

Leading Your Organization's Transition to Agile

by Johanna Rothman

Are you wondering what it would take to transition your organization to agile, for real? Maybe your organization has made a half-hearted attempt to transition to agile for some projects. Maybe you are the champion, but agile hasn’t gained the traction you expected by now. Consider these five tips to retrench and improve your organization’s transition.

Three Large Banks, Three Different Approaches to Agile Adoption

by Kevin Aguanno, PMP, MAPM, IPMA-B, Cert.APM, CSM, CSP

As the use of agile methods spreads into larger organizations, senior managers struggle to decide their agile adoption strategy. Here are three stories from three large Canadian banks who each took a different adoption approach.

Taking the Long View in Software Development

by George Dinwiddie

Organizations that over-emphasize expediency can set themselves up for long-term losses. This article addresses strategies for taking a balanced approach--specifically, maintaining development capacity, maintaining code asset value and flexible tool selection.

Topic Teasers Vol. 28: Advanced Velocity Usage

by Barbee Davis, MA, PHR, PMP, PMI-ACP

Question: We are running our agile projects well and have a good idea of our team velocity. However, we have some issues from management, who thinks that a velocity number is a way to taunt other teams to higher performance. How can we convince them that this is a number unique to each team and to each project?
A. Management usually has a different set of driving motivators, and therefore unless you educate them they will not understand that measuring by velocity already allows teams to speed up and produce better quality to its maximum ability.
B. Velocity is figured per person, as some individuals are better educated and more talented than others. Management should understand that a team without your team’s stars can’t work as fast.
C. When teams figure velocity, they are just guessing. Pressure to meet the standards set by other teams will increase productivity and give the organization more value for their money.
D. Ignore management and other customer leaders who want to know details about your progress. Tell them a finish date and make sure you deliver everything as planned.
Pick your answer then Test Your Knowledge!

Topic Teasers Vol. 26: Agile Construction

by Barbee Davis, MA, PHR, PMP, PMI-ACP

Question: I work in the construction industry and am under some pressure from management to make my projects “more agile”. It makes no sense to me that IT processes would be of any use when building actual residences, industrial sites and office buildings. What am I missing?
A. You are correct is thinking that building a tangible construction is very different than creating a software application that is only electronic bits. The methodologies for each are at odds with each other.
B. If you change the wording, such as “customer demos” to “site inspections” and “constant quality testing” to “meeting technical requirements”, you will find that SCRUM, TDD and other IT methodologies can be used in construction and have extensive training available to you.
C. It is a mistake to believe that agile IT practices are the entirety of what the methodology has to offer. If you investigate the true methodology, you will find there is much to blend with your current processes to add to construction project success.
D. You can use part of the agile philosophy in your construction projects, but plan for extra time and cost to accommodate the changes the customer is now entitled to add as you go.
Pick your answer then Test Your Knowledge!

How Do You Reward Achievement Within a Team?

by Ken Whitaker

With the shift to a more agile, team-centric organizational structure, singling out individuals can become a cumbersome and stressful task for even the best and most experienced managers. In this article, we cover how rewards can actually backfire--and give you three rules of thumb for rewarding your best performers.

Topic Teasers Vol. 24: Improving Agile Velocity

by Barbee Davis, MA, PHR, PMP, PMI-ACP

Question: Is there a way to improve velocity of an agile team? There seems to be a lot of advice not to change estimates, overpromise and not to overwork team members. But sometimes there just needs to be a way to jump start productivity.

A. There is no sense in “falsifying” estimates to give the appearance that you will increase team velocity. It just moves you back to more traditional practices where you don’t meet the project timeline goals. Velocity cannot be improved.
B. Even though you don’t want to change estimates arrived at honestly, there are some team tune-ups that have a good chance to increase agile team velocity.
C. Since velocity is based on the performance of team members, if you reduce each person’s estimates by the square root of the velocity of the last iteration you will eliminate slack and increase motivation, resulting in increased velocity.
D. Add 15% to the velocity each sprint or iteration. That way the team slowly learns to work faster and the speed with which projects are completed will be affected positively.
Pick your answer then Test Your Knowledge!

Constant Velocity is a Myth

by Andy Berner

Is your agile team’s velocity constant from sprint to sprint? No? That’s not a surprise. Many teams assume that their velocity will be constant. In this article, we’ll see why that’s not the right expectation--and how that affects how you use this metric.

Topic Teasers Vol. 22: Agile Procurement

by Barbee Davis, MA, PHR, PMP, PMI-ACP

Question: Since our agile team is self-managed, we have recently received notice that we can also oversee procurement on items that would not be commonly used by the rest of the organization. None of us has a background in this area. How do we make good buying decisions?

A. People who are agile should not be buying things. That slows down software development. Tell management you will need a Procurement Department to make purchases so you are not involved in this low-level process in any way.
B. Agile projects do not need anything except enthusiastic and inventive people to create success. Leave any procurement issues to those who follow traditional project management processes.
C. If your team is often short of money to add all the extra bells and whistles to the project, being in charge of procurement gives you the opportunity to ask prospective vendors for free merchandise to use for the project or for team incentives.
D. There are some common questions you can ask to help the team make better procurement decisions. It is a positive move to gain procurement responsibility since you are in the best position to evaluate buying options and get the features you really need to optimize your project success.
Pick your answer then Test Your Knowledge!

Slowing Down to Go Faster

by George Dinwiddie

It's hard to know if we're producing systems as fast as we could produce them. We can, after the fact, always identify ways in which we "wasted" time without contributing to our desired outcomes. But why can't we identify which will be waste before the fact? Because we want to go as fast as possible!

Keys to Chartering an Agile Project

by Johanna Rothman

When you’re a project manager for a traditional project, it’s easy to write a project charter. On an agile project, is that the right thing to do? Should you even use the same template? Here are some fundamental steps to get your project or iteration started on the road to success.

Topic Teasers Vol. 20: QA, QC and Testers

by Barbee Davis, MA, PHR, PMP, PMI-ACP

Question: I’m so confused. I was a Quality Tester at my last job, but here the employees seem to use the titles Quality Assurance, Quality Control and Testing interchangeably. I started out in a more traditional organization, but now I’m a tried and true agile believer. Since I have no job description, what are my responsibilities?

A. The three concepts are often used interchangeably. Ask what it means in your new organization and accept that as your role in your workplace reality despite the real definition.
B. Find the specific meanings for each term from a university professor in the town where you work. Use that information to correct the organization so that they use proper terminology.
C. Once you learn your job description from Human Resources, create a new title for yourself so that others can understand what you do. Perhaps Defect Engineer would be apt.
D. Since agile teams work without formal processes or documentation, there is no need to answer to a particular title. Everyone on the team is merely a team member.

Ready, Set, Go...and Ready Again: Planning to Groom the Backlog

by Andy Berner

For an agile project to progress smoothly, the backlog must be groomed and ready for each sprint. That work must be included in your project plan. This article gives you five points to consider when planning that work.

What to Do When Milestones Don’t Easily Get to 'Done'

by Ken Whitaker

One of the most complex issues in project management to handle is when a team struggles at getting to “done” at key milestones. This article presents the problem along with suggestions on how to combat it.

Is Agile Your Solution or Your Problem?

by Kevin Aguanno, PMP, MAPM, IPMA-B, Cert.APM, CSM, CSP

Are agile practices themselves ever so rigid that they become stifling rather than liberating? Sometimes, strict adherence to an agile framework can cause problems for project teams. Be on the lookout for these issues...

Topic Teasers Vol. 18: The Agile BA

by Barbee Davis, MA, PHR, PMP, PMI-ACP

Question: Today a person appeared at my desk saying he was the new Business Analyst for the team and he set up a meeting with me for next Tuesday. I didn’t want to appear stupid, so I just said okay. We’re an agile team, so is he replacing me as ScrumMaster, or what? Should I be worried about my job?

A. The Business Analyst (BA) certification is the replacement credential for the old Project Management Professional (PMP), but with an agile flavor. Check online to see how quickly you might get this new certification if you hope to continue on with your organization.
B. Rather than replacing a project manager or ScrumMaster, the BA is the representative of the Customer or Product Owner who is funding or authorizing your project. He will benefit the team, as he may have more availability than the actual Product Owner.
C. The BA is a junior version of a Quality Assurance team member, and can help you finish your projects more quickly since he does not have the test backlog of a seasoned QA person.
D. The ScrumMaster reports to the Functional Manager whose department will benefit most by the completed project deliverable. Perhaps the BA made an error in contacting you.

Understanding the PM's Role During and After a Transition to Scrum (Part 2)

by Chris Merryman

We've covered certain challenges a project manager is likely to face when a Scrum transition is first being evaluated, and a comparison between Waterfall and Scrum methodologies. Part 2 of this article covers the ScrumMaster and Product Owner roles in the Scrum environment--and also addresses the project manager’s role during and after an organization's transition to Scrum.

When Estimates Go Wrong

by George Dinwiddie

Custom software development is notoriously difficult to estimate. We start with vague ideas of what we want, expecting to fill in the details later. We’re usually doing something a little different than what we’ve done before, or completely different. How can we act more productively?

How to Stay Agile

by Michael Aucoin

How does one stay agile over time? It’s an important question to address for those of us who must deliver agile projects again and again, perhaps over years. There are at least three reasons for this tendency toward sluggishness...and two ways to cure it.

Can Agile Projects Self-Organize with a Fixed-Price Mentality?

by Sachin Dhaygude

The answer is “yes”, even though the typical fixed-price mentality violates the values stated in the Agile Manifesto. But fixed-price contracts are necessary for the market, so agile projects will have to adjust and offer a workaround.

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