Agile and Product Management – Some Links

I met Saeed Khan at a TPMA meeting where I was a memeber of the panel discussion on agile and product management.  Saeed and I disagreed about a few things, particularly around the importance of the distinction between releases and patches to software products.  He forwarded me a few links from his blog which I found very interesting.  Again, I don’t completely agree, but I think it is worth while for people to see these ideas and judge for themselves:

http://onproductmanagement.net/2008/11/09/5th-element-to-agile/
http://onproductmanagement.net/2008/10/30/agile-pm/
http://onproductmanagement.net/2008/10/16/the-value-of-scrum/
http://onproductmanagement.net/2008/09/28/agilescrum-reality-check/

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ANN: June Agile Software Engineering Practices

Isráfíl Consulting Services is pleased to announce our upcoming:

Agile Software Engineering Practices Courses (2 day)

Software Developers, Technical Architects and Lead Developers for teams that currently use or are intending to use Agile methods such as Scrum, Extreme Programming or OpenAgile will benefit from attending this course.
After completing this course you will:

  • increase your development productivity
  • be familiar with basic disciplines to create well-tested, defect-free code
  • be able to integrate successfully into Agile teams
  • understand what makes healthy, maintainable code
  • receive a Certificate of Attendance
  • receive $100.00 discount on a 3-day Scrum training and certification course by our partners

Available Classes:

  • 2009-06-22: 2-day Agile Software Engineering Practices – Ottawa, ON $1450.00 CAD [16 spaces]
    • Register by June 1 and get the early-bird price of $1,250.00.
  • 2009-06-25: 2-day Agile Software Engineering Practices – Markham, ON $1450.00 CAD [16 spaces]
    • Register by June 1 and get the early-bird price of $1,250.00.


Register!: http://www.israfil.net/publictraining/registerCourse Details: http://www.israfil.net/publictraining/coursesClass Schedules: http://www.israfil.net/publictraining/scheduleFor more information, please e-mail us at: training@israfil.net

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Great Blog: Go Fragile! Fear-driven Development

<a href=”http://gofragile.wordpress.com/”>Go Fragile Blog</a> – lots of fun (and insightful) articles.  Highly recommended.

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Using Agile to Run a Small Business – Five Types of Work

At Berteig Consulting, we used Scrum to run our business for quite a while – about one year.  Over that time we struggled with a few different concepts and practices.  As a Certified Scrum Trainer, I am very aware that Scrum requires us to use the framework itself to expose obstacles, rather than modifying Scrum to accommodate obstacles.  However, over the course of that year, it became more and more obvious that there is something fundamentally different between writing software products (where Scrum is fantastic) and running a business.  Scrum, the framework, just wasn’t good enough.

The main problem we had was with the types of work we encounter in running a business.  We noticed patterns in the types of tasks we had every Cycle (Sprint).  In this article I will look carefully at two of those types of work and then briefly describe the other three types of work.

We discovered that calendar items such as meetings, scheduled public events, and even personal appointments didn’t fit anywhere in Scrum’s Product Backlog or Sprint Backlog.  At first, we tried to think of this as an obstacle and force-fit these into the Product Backlog.  That didn’t work because that meant we couldn’t always prioritize by value.  Even if the Product Backlog had something more valuable in it than the scheduled meeting, we sometimes couldn’t change the dates of the meeting to accomodate the more valuable work.  So Calendar Items became a new category of work in addition to the new “features” that were in the Product Backlog.  (I say “features” in quotes because we were running a business not writing software.)

We also noticed that we were struggling with applying the concept of the Definition of Done.  This led us to explore the concept of Repetitive Work.  For example, we need to clean our office on a regular basis – vacuum, water plants, take out trash, etc.  If we left that until it became more valuable than anything else on our Product Backlog we would have ended up with a disgusting work environment.  So we thought that this should be part of our Definition of Done.  The problem then became a more conceptual one: what were we doing that needed cleaning so that it would be considered done?  Well of course, it’s simply part of business operations.  Cleaning is not independently valuable.  We did decide that it was most cost-effective to outsource it, but it didn’t match the concept of Definition of Done as applied to the work in the Product Backlog.  That led to an insight: actually, we were looking at a new category of work: Repetitive Items.  These are those activities that we need to do to sustain our business and which should become habits, or which should be automated or outsourced.

After identifying Calendar Items and Repetitive Items as types of work, we decided that we needed to look at the Product Backlog more carefully.  We decided that we needed to separate features, or as we called it “New Work”, from defects or Quality Items.  We also formalized the concept of a queue of Obstacles, which is mentioned in Scrum, but about which is given very little guidance.

So after over a three years of trying to use agile methods to run our business, we have finally come up with a stable and seemingly sufficient set of types of work:

  • Calendar Items
  • Repetitive Items
  • Quality Items
  • Obstacles
  • New Work

We have written more about our experiences and their results in our e-book: The OpenAgile Primer.  If you are trying to use agile methods to run a business or any other kind of organization, please check it out and let us know about your experiences.  We hope that OpenAgile will become an Open-Source method that we can contribute back to the world of work and life.

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Scrum Training Discount

We know that our Certified ScrumMaster Seminar is already the best value out there: 3 days of intensive training for just $2000 Canadian Dollars (that’s about $1700 USD), with all sorts of great exercises and practical advice, and mind-changing concepts.  However, we also know that if you have attended a CSM course already, you can’t easily justify going to another one.  That’s why we are offering a substantial discount if you are already a Certified ScrumMaster.  If you have gone to any CSM training in the past at any time with any trainer, you can take advantage of a 50% discount to come to our course.  That means attending, refreshing, rejuvenating and getting a great opportunity for just $1000 Canadian Dollars (that’s about $850 USD).

Contact us at sales@berteigconsulting.com if you would like more information.  Applicable to all public courses offered in Canada by Berteig Consulting.  Offer valid for all paid registrations made for classes being held before the end of August 2009.  (Also a great opportunity to visit Canadian relatives, see the CN Tower, or just get away during the summer…)

Here are the classes:

May 13-15, 2009 – Toronto (Markham)

June 3-5, 2009 – Ottawa

July 15-17, 2009 – Waterloo

July 22-24, 2009 – Toronto (Markham)

August 12-14 – Toronto (Markham)

August 26-28 – Ottawa

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