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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Bad managers lead to poor employee engagement, and that costs companies money. Are you one of them? In this article, we'll cover the tell-tale signs of a poor manager--and what you can do if you find out that’s you.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
How can we estimate a project in advance while still maintaining the ability to manage the backlog in an agile manner? In this article, we’ll answer that question, compare release-level estimation to the techniques used for iteration estimation, and give some pointers on getting started with release estimation in an agile environment.
Rather than force people to do their work, why not create a system and a structure that allows people to manage their own work? Agile techniques used by software developers can also be used at home to create a positive, motivating environment where progress can be tracked visually. In this article, we’ll show you how you can set up a simple tracking system that you can use to manage your family, or your kids’ homework, more effectively.
One problem when you have a program with agile projects and non-agile projects is how to marry the two parts. The agile projects deliver value every couple of weeks. The non-agile projects? Well, it’s possible they don’t deliver value for months to years. Release trains to the rescue!
The software development industry has migrated more and more to a virtual, telecommuting industry. But recent headlines have solidified the battle lines regarding virtual teams. Are they good or bad for employee morale and productivity?
by Kevin Aguanno, PMP, MAPM, IPMA-B, Cert.APM, CSM, CSP
When one PM was asked to list the key requirements for a PMIS that would enable it to better support project and organizational effectiveness, he thought about past project, portfolio and program management experiences. The result? A “dream list” of features for a PMIS to support large, traditionally managed projects...a list that was surprisingly agile.
Making a transition from what you’re currently doing to an effective agile process is a project in itself--but it can easily be worth it. There are no guarantees, but let’s look at what we can gain by adjusting our approach...
Making a transition from what you’re currently doing to an effective agile process is a project in itself--but it can easily be worth it. Let’s look at what we can gain by adjusting our approach--our concluding installment looks at interpreting requirements and tracking progress, and offers some further caution and advice.
Question: The software developers in my IT department are hardcore agileists. I maintain legacy systems and do operational work. Is there anything I need to know about the agile world that could affect my work with hardware?
Yes. Cloud computing is an agile practice and a major trend that will probably be discussed in your workplace soon. Learn about it so you don’t look dated and out of touch.
No. Agile is only for software developers at large shops like Google who need to support online retail sales and search engine banks.
Yes. All hardware purchase and installation projects should be converted to a Scrum process for the greatest impact and cohesion between teams.
No. The government has legislation pending to block agile practices as potential antitrust violations.
Have you noticed any hints that your company isn’t customer intimate? Companies and their supportive corporate culture sometimes say one thing and yet practice another. Learn how to inspire your team to be customer intimate--in part by utilizing agile, which takes this approach to heart and emphasizes customer-centric product development.
Imagine you are transitioning to agile. You are a program manager with a few agile projects and a traditional project. How do you manage the program? Here's some help in bridging the gap between two schools of thought.
Agile methods recommend dedicated, co-located teams...so how do they fair when used in part-time, distributed environments? A lot of challenges await, but with the right outlook you can conquer them all.
"Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world."