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Test Automation Patterns: Issues and Solutions

Agile Connection -

Automating system level test execution can result in many problems. It is surprising to find that many people encounter the same problems yet are unaware of common solutions that worked well for others. These problem/solution pairs are called “patterns.” Seretta Gamba recognized the...

Lightning Strikes the Keynotes: STARWEST 2014

Agile Connection -

Throughout the years, Lightning Talks have been a popular part of the STAR conferences. If you’re not familiar with the concept, Lightning Talks consists of a series of five-minute talks by different speakers within one presentation period. Lightning Talks are the...

Design Thinking Meets Civic Tech

Rally Software - Agile Blog -

As part of our recently announced partnership with Code for America, Rallyers took a leadership role in supporting the annual CodeAcross event here in Boulder, where Rally is headquartered. On a recent snowy Saturday, Code for Boulder—the local all-volunteer Brigade—hosted “Crafting Civic Tech: The Housing Edition.”

Veteran Rally Agilists, company founder Ryan Martens, and Rally coach Ronica Roth led the group of more than 50 community members on a six-hour design thinking journey. The goal: identify ways to improve and increase civic engagement among community members and local government, with a focus on the issue of housing.

Ronica Roth and Ryan Martens explaining the design thinking approach

Digging Into The Topic of Housing

The City of Boulder sums up the area’s housing situation as “Setting + Culture + Opportunities + Quality of Life = High Demand for Housing.” To create a “collaborative community conversation,” the City is teaming with Code for America to increase two-way dialogue with residents and encourage citizens to take a more active role in key local issues.

"The city takes transparency and community collaboration seriously. Communication in the twenty-first century is changing and we want to harness the entrepreneurial spirit of our community—and be part of that change." Jane Brautigam, City Manager

Because the timing of the annual CodeAcross event aligned well with the first few weeks of the project between the City and Code for America, the local Brigade designed the gathering to broaden and deepen the conversation between community members, then share insights and ideas with local government.

Crafting Problem Statements from Empathy Interviews

The Stanford University Institute of Design created a design thinking workbook to lead people through the process of gaining empathy as a critical first step toward creating solutions that solve real human or business needs. Without addressing problems that people want or need solved, products and services are destined to require “push” from the creator rather than “pull” from the user. Participants started the day by practicing empathy interviews on each other. Afterwards, several pairs shared with the whole group the problem statements they crafted after interviewing each other.

“Listening is a critical skill to develop—it was a great setting to practice listening.” Dina Robin, participant

Next we heard from Becky Boone, the Code For America fellow who is conducting an in-depth exploration into the needs and challenges of improving community engagement in Boulder. Becky has done numerous empathy interviews within government as well as the community. As a result, she crafted problem statements on the topic of housing. Here’s a small sampling, written in the design thinking format: [Name] needs a way to [user’s need]. Unexpectedly, in his/her world, [insight].

  • Hugh needs a way to weigh in on housing issues in Boulder. Unexpectedly, in his world, he does not have a computer or internet access.
  • Jake needs a way to feel like his opinion matters. Unexpectedly, in his world, he hasn’t seen public opinion matter when the City Council makes a decision.
  • Tam needs a way to feel like her presence in Boulder matters. Unexpectedly, in her world, she feels her contributions to the local economy aren’t valued, hence her opinions aren’t valued.
  • Bao needs a way to know who to talk to when he wants to talk about housing. Unexpectedly, in his world, he has no awareness of the current structure in place.
  • Darryl needs a way to feel like his demographic is valued in Boulder. Unexpectedly, in his world, people in power have spoken dismissively of what he has to offer.
  • Maxwell needs a way to allow change in his neighborhood. Unexpectedly, in his world, people are squashing ideas for the city, eliminating possibilities in his neighborhood.
Teams Dig Deeper, Craft Possible Solutions

Teams ranging from four to eight people formed around the “problem statements” that attendees had interest in exploring further. For two hours, they talked through potential solutions, continuing to use the design thinking workbook as a guide.

“The Code for Boulder Civic Tech Forum was excellent because we were encouraged to stay in the place of inquiry, rather than racing superficially to find the solution. We worked in small teams with other community members who care deeply about an issue. I am focused on senior housing issues and am thrilled that two very concrete and needed tech solutions arose from our discussions today.” Neshama Abraham, participant

To wrap up the day, each team shared their ideas for solutions with the whole group.

Then participants were encouraged to rate the ideas and solutions that were generated. Each person was encouraged to place two dots next to the idea(s) they believed were most important. Red dots indicated “hot” ideas and blue dots indicated what may be a “quick win.”

The top vote-earning idea was to create a two-way dialogue with citizens, where they could click an online map of current development projects, learn about those of interest, and leave comments that would become part of the public record related to the location. What came to be known as “idea #1” received 12 votes total: 7 blue and 5 red.

Ideas Into Taking Action

The week following the event, both the City Council and Housing Committee received briefings from Becky Boone, and both groups asked to stay informed of how these ideas progressed within the Code for Boulder Brigade.

Brigade members decided at their subsequent meeting to work toward making idea #1 a reality. Because of the bonds formed during the CodeAcross event, there is now open dialogue between the city and this all-volunteer civic tech group to access data sets that have previously not been available to the public or not in a format usable by the latest technology. City employees are attending the Brigade meetups and listening to the requests of how to improve what they offer to residents.

How did the event live up to its goal to identify ways to improve and increase civic engagement among community members and with local government? We’re proud of our “wins”:

  • Over 50 community members worked together for a day of active listening, ideation, and problem-solving. They experienced the design thinking methodology, starting with empathy listening to craft problem statements, before jumping to possible solutions: an approach that they can use in other contexts.
  • Three city leaders and one City Council member joined us throughout the day. They heard firsthand from residents and participated in a collaborative problem-solving process.
  • Three city employees have gotten involved in the Brigade’s new initiative that came out of CodeAcross. The result is not only increased dialogue, but the opening of additional data sets and ongoing project collaboration between civic tech volunteers and local government.
  • The Brigade now has a solid queue of potential projects from other ideas the came out  the event, all of which were generated by community members.
“The event brought together a diverse group of community members and leveraged excellent problem solving approach. Design Thinking brings out the very best in the group by encouraging them to first think broadly, and then to employ a combination of empathy and creativity to find innovative solutions. I believe the event delivered some excellent ideas that may ultimately benefit the entire Boulder community.” Gerry Valentine, volunteer facilitator

Watch a 90-second overview of the day, produced by the City of Boulder’s Channel 8.

Rally’s partnership with Code for America’s Brigade program will continue to bring opportunities to apply approaches like design thinking, Lean Startup, and Agile team processes to the civic tech movement. Our next event? We’re bringing civic tech to RallyON 2015 in Phoenix, June 15-17. Stay tuned for details in the coming months.

Geri Mitchell-Brown

An Introduction to Agile Project Intake

Scrum Alliance -

Many factors play a part in the success or failure of any Agile initiative. We will present a series of articles to analyze the one factor that we deem most important: the intake of Agile projects.

Top 10 Tips for Measuring Agile Success

VersionOne Agile Management Blog -

Choosing the right agile metric to measure agile success is really simple, right? I wish that were the case, but in reality choosing the correct agile metric can be a little tricky.

So, how do you get the most out of your agile metrics? I reviewed the 9th annual State of Agile survey, which compiles insights from nearly 4,000 respondents, to find out how agile practitioners are measuring the success of their agile initiatives.


#1 On-Time Delivery

According to the State of Agile survey, 58% of the respondents* said they measured the success of their agile initiatives by on-time delivery.

With agile, our schedule is fixed and our scope is flexed. What does that mean for on-time? Well, time just happens, so theoretically, we are always on time. But, on-time is generally measured in context with the expectations about what will be delivered. To measure and have visibility of what is being delivered, we may look to the out-of-the box metrics of the burndown or the burnup.

For instance, in this VersionOne burndown chart you can see progress as the team heads toward an expected end date.






This burnup chart, on the other hand, allows you to see the trend of getting stuff done, as well as the impact of scope changes.








#2 Product Quality

A total of 48% of the respondents to the survey said they measured the success of their agile initiatives through product quality.

Quality is often measured in multiple ways, including looking at the customer satisfaction, revenue growth, and the technical aspects of testing conducted throughout the development life cycle. With agile software development teams, we’ll look at our velocity of completing working software with quality built in. We tightly couple continuous testing and inspection throughout the lifecycle of the development, so we’ll constantly be monitoring testing trends as well as constantly inspecting build and code health.

For instance, in this testing trend chart you can see the cumulative progress around testing activities. Ultimately you want to see all green, but a large amount of red along the line might reflect some issues in the code base or process.





#3 Customer/User Satisfaction

The survey found that 44% of respondents measured the success of their agile initiatives by customer or user satisfaction.

As with all these benefits, there are multiple ways to measure the outcomes. In the case of customer/user satisfaction, these include looking at the Net Promoter score, sales figures, number of support calls vs. number of features delivered in a time period, or usage statistics of product or site capabilities.

#4 Business Value

Approximately 44% of the respondents to the State of Agile survey stated that they measured the success of their agile initiatives by business value.

And several of the principles of the Agile Manifesto recognize the importance of delivering business value. Measuring business value is very explicit when we know that there’s a contract for work to complete or a compliance need and fines if we don’t finish the work. On the other hand, sometimes measuring value is prospective or speculative in the sense that the market inputs drive decisions and the value is often a best guess. Having a business value score applied to the features to be delivered can measure value.

Here’s a sample epic cumulative flow chart based on value. This helps you see the delivery of anticipated business value as features and other large stories are completed. 









#5 Product Scope (Features, Requirements)

Another 39% of the respondents answered that they measured the success of their agile initiatives with product scope.

Setting a goal around what to get done over the next three months, then tracking status, and getting it completed is hugely rewarding. Actually having real-time feedback as to the progress of work is valuable to everyone on the team, from the engineers to the program managers. With agile software development projects, you can always rely on the burndown charts, or just visualize the progress of the cards moving from left-to-right on the project kanban board.

Here’s an epicboard in VersionOne that helps the team track and visualize the progress of features at a program level. Or if you’re using Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®), you can see progress at the release train level.






#6 Project Visibility

Project visibility was the measure of choice for 30% of respondents to the survey.

One of the best ways to build trust is transparency. That means having the plans out in the open and making progress visible to all. Sharing progress at multiple dimensions provides the different stakeholders with information that makes sense from their point of view. Metrics that show feature or overall progress against a targeted plan can provide great insights.

In this chart you can visualize progress on a feature and known work. The red diamond represents what was actually anticipated, so it’s easy to gauge whether you are above or under the anticipated scope.







The other reason visibility is important is because we need to have alignment among internal teams so they can best manage their work in relation to component or service dependencies.

Understanding the impact of one team’s work on another team is critical. By looking at the dependency chart below, it’s easy to identify the stories at risk.








#7 Productivity

According to the State of Agile survey, 29% of the respondents said they measured the success of their agile initiatives through productivity.

The concept of productivity in an agile world is a measure of outcomes, not output. So looking at burnup for a product or based on value is hugely impactful. Simply looking at a burnup of count of stories or features over time is a great way to understand how much the team is actually delivering.

#8 Predictability

Approximately 25% of the respondents from the survey said they measured the success of their agile initiatives by predictability.

A predominant metric used to assess predictability is velocity trend. For a three- to four-month period, this shows how much work has been completed at a sustainable pace on average. A velocity that wildly fluctuates might reflect a team that is changing, work that is unpredictable, or simply a team that is still getting used to defining work small enough to complete in an iteration.

A velocity trend chart like the one below not only helps you see performance, but also gives you visibility into whether or not the team’s output is at a predictable state – as this one shows.








You can always try to assess velocity based simply on the count of story cards completed every week. This is usually the best indicator of predictability.

#9 Process Improvement

Another 23% of the respondents said they measured the success of their agile initiatives by process improvement.

A core tenet of all lean and agile mindsets is continuous improvement – constantly getting better. But how do you know you are getting better unless you are measuring the outcomes? There are all the metrics above that help, but there’s also the extremely helpful cumulative flow chart which shows how well work is flowing through the lifecycle.

With this team level cumulative flow chart, you can see where bottlenecks or slowdowns may exist.






Also, there’s cycle time – which helps us with planning and predictability. Cycle time is a great metric to view over time to see if process tweaks and adjustments are having an impact on productivity.

For instance, in this cycle time report, you can see the level of variability and performance across the various estimated pieces of work.








#10 Don’t Know

Just 11% of the State of Agile survey respondents said they didn’t know! Well, if you don’t know the benefits, try to start looking at the metrics above. You’ll see improvements in delivered value, better quality around what is produced, a more predictable cadence, and ultimately happier customers.


These results show that there isn’t just a single metric that everyone uses. Different organizations, types of management, and teams need different metrics.

Not sure which metric is right for you? Check out the 9th annual State of Agile survey to learn more about what nearly 4,000 of your peers are doing.

What metric do you use to measure your agile initiatives’ success?

*Respondents were able to make multiple selections.

State of Agile is a trademark of VersionOne, Inc.

Unleash What’s Next

Rally Software - Agile Blog -

The world’s moving faster than ever, and as a partner to some of the most innovative companies in the world, Rally is at the forefront of change. We bring our world-class SaaS platform and the most experienced coaches and consultants in the industry to help customers navigate today’s challenges — including nimble competitors, changing markets, increasing regulation and faster cycles of innovation.  And like you, we too must adapt to change.

Rally has been a pioneer in Agile approaches, with Agile development software that revolutionizes the way companies across the globe accelerate software delivery. We have delivered countless scaled Agile solutions and led large-scale transformations across thousands of people and hundreds of teams, helping our customers to align software development with strategic business objectives and leverage agility across their organizations. Building agility is mission-critical in organizations today. It’s improving the way we work, learn, respond to change, innovate and win in the market.

Just as Rally has evolved, our brand must evolve to better reflect and communicate our expertise in helping organizations worldwide succeed on their Agile journeys.  As a result, you may notice that Rally looks a little bit different. We’re introducing a new logo that modernizes our look while staying connected to our Agile roots.

We have a new tagline, Unleash What’s Next, designed to better communicate what Rally software and services help customers achieve.

You’ll also see our name as Rally instead of Rally Software, because we are more than a software company: we’re a partner to our customers, helping them succeed on their path to agility.

Learn more about our refreshed brand, and how we work with our customers to help make them more successful, efficient, and productive, in this short video.

Our customers, partners, and employees have played a key role in shaping who Rally is today, and for that I thank all of you. Our employees continue to be the heart behind everything Rally does — I’m grateful to you, the Rally team, for taking this journey.

We’re excited about the future and look forward to continuing to innovate with you to step beyond the possibilities of today.

Tim Miller

Using Feedback Loops to Boost Development Lifecycles

Agile Connection -

Feedback loops serve as opportunities to increase productivity, either in an individual’s performance or in project teamwork or process. Identifying areas for improvement throughout each sprint and turning them into action items can help you track and address the key challenges related to technology or product improvement.

Agility for Nonprofits Means Better Business, Greater Impact

Rally Software - Agile Blog -

With the constant pressure in the non-profit sector to do more and create more impact, while at the same time continuing to be good steward of resources, it’s become imperative that nonprofits develop a business sense that isn’t typically associated with our sector. Working with Rally has given us a huge advantage in developing team processes and skillsets. Rocky Mountain MicroFinance Institute (RMMFI) isn’t just fulfilling a great mission; we’re well on our way to becoming an efficient and productive agile team, capable of delivering outstanding results.  

We strongly believe that being a nonprofit is no excuse for not operating based on solid business principles. Adopting ‘the agile way’ has reshaped and strengthened the manner in which we live this organizational value.

RMMFI has always taken a non-traditional approach to the business planning process in our work to help low-income and otherwise marginalized individuals launch and grow micro-enterprises. Day in and day out, we preach simplicity, focus, and the experiential learning process to our aspiring entrepreneurs. But sometimes—especially in times of high growth—we have trouble swallowing our own medicine. Through RMMFI’s partnership with Rally, we’ve had the opportunity to learn from a number of experts and gain exposure to valuable agile principles that have, in many ways, come to define our approach to work planning and project management.  

One of the things we’re most excited about is our shift toward a more intentional, “agile-inspired” organizational planning process. In 2015, RMMFI changed the way we defined our annual plan to be more focused on the priorities of the organization while being realistic about our capacity to get the work done. Our goal is to increase the visibility of the work being done across the organization, increase collaboration among team members, and put a system in place to continually reassess the workload for changes in priority and scope. This shift has or will affect all phases of planning across the organization, from the printed Annual Plan we share with stakeholders to the individual sticky notes hanging on a team member’s Kanban board.

In recent weeks, RMMFI has been working with our coach, Rachel Weston Rowell, to develop the project planning abilities of the team. In a matter of weeks, RMMFI will begin implementing a sprint planning method with the hopes of making the workload more approachable, making deliverables more valuable, and making our staff more organized and happy. In addition, Rachel led us through a work planning exercise to determine problem areas in our client recruitment process. This exercise helped the team identify blockages in our “value stream” (pictured below) and helped us define improvement projects that would allow us to get to better results—such as more client applications in the door with the same or less effort/strain on the part of staff.

“Working with RMMFI has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Being able to take the agile and lean concepts that we leverage both inside Rally and in our work with our customers, and bring them into the nonprofit space means we get to impact an even larger community. I’ve seen RMMFI take huge steps in transforming their processes and practices, how they collaborate, and how they steer their business. Nonprofits are hungry for the same things that for-profit business are – to be more effective at what they do and how they engage, all in service to their mission.”

In the last three years, Rally’s experts have helped us develop time management trainings for our clients, facilitated strategic planning sessions for our Board of Directors, and assisted staff with the development of process improvement activities that are now in regular use. Additionally, through a grant funded by the Rally For Impact Foundation, our leadership team has taken the Leading Collaborative Meetings course from Agile University. By taking that class we better understand how to work collaboratively across teams and projects as our organization grows. Nearly every interaction with the Rally team becomes a learning opportunity in facilitation methods—a skillset that’s very valuable in the delivery of our core client-facing work.    

Part of RMMFI’s mission is to create for our clients a network of expertise, and provide them with access to business knowledge that doesn’t naturally exist in their world. In many ways, Rally has played that exact same role for RMMFI. Instead of being stuck at a certain level of impact or performance, we’re now able to use some of these practices to do more and create more: maximizing our time and resources on what matters most. The better we become at actually doing the work, the more opportunity there is for low-income or otherwise marginalized individuals to turn their ideas into a business that works—a business that has the potential to transform a household, a neighborhood, and ultimately, an entire community.

Graduates of RMMFI Class #11, who all got a little dose of agile planning as part of our Boot Camp curriculum

Brendan Landry

It’s Time to RallyON!

Rally Software - Agile Blog -

We invite you to join us at RallyON 2015, June 15-17 in Phoenix, Arizona.

RallyON brings you the best thinking, strategies, and practices to help you capitalize on the new pace of change. Find out how today’s leaders are adapting to the future of work and building organizations that are fast, lean, and nimble. Come to learn, connect, innovate, and be inspired.

  • Join your peers at sessions and workshops to discuss your toughest challenges — and solutions.
  • Get your product or IT delivery engine humming at scale through visibility and planning into your process.
  • Learn how to create an unstoppable delivery engine, where coordinated teams operate with agility and flow at scale using the coolest new collaboration tools.
  • Discover how to surface risks and dependencies, and get the best results, from Agile release planning and quarterly business steering.
  • Hear stories from your peers about applying Lean, Agile, and DevOps practices to eliminate silos and extend agility and flow throughout your teams.

Visit the RallyON site to learn more and register!

  Rally Software

Re: Level 2 thinking

Alistair Cockburn -

Recent Change Note: grammar fix

The real numbers are not integers.

-by Kevin Steffenson on 3/21/2015 at 12:53 AM

Would you feel differently about these kinds of thinking if instead of naming them as levels 0 to 2, you named them for something un-sequenced; as operating in the orange green and purple zones?

-by Chris F Carroll on 3/21/2015 at 8:19 AM

Level 2 thinking

Alistair Cockburn -

Level 0 : doing what you’re doing, including chatting. Eg, kick a ball; talk with someone

Level 1 : notice what you’re doing, think about it. “I’m kicking this ball, it makes me happy to kick a ball, even though that wasn’t a very good kick”

Level 2 : discuss or think about the thinking about, discuss or think about the structure and the meaning of the discussing about and thinking bout.

I don’t think there is a Level 3, because the act of doing Level 2 is either Level 0 or Level 1, the act of discussing that you’re thinking about the thinking about of it is Level 2 again.

The people I hang out with communicate primary at Level 2. We do whatever we do, we notice that, and we (typically silently) comment to each other on the meaning of the fact that we and/or other people did or did not notice the structure and meaning of what just happened at the Level 0 and Level 1 communication.

It’s fun. Even fun (for a short time), hanging out with people who operate mostly at Level 0. Having a meta-meta-discussion with someone about a Level-0 interaction is interesting, because Level 1 is missing, so most of the referents aren’t there.

Thinking largely of you, Jonathan House and Ghennipher Weeks (and one or two others).

Instead of MVPs, Maybe We Should Be Releasing SMURFS

Agile Connection -

The term minimum viable product, or MVP, has come to be misunderstood and misused in many organizations. It doesn’t mean you should be releasing half-baked, barely feasible software. Instead, you should be thinking of your product’s capabilities as a Specifically Marketable, Useful, Releasable Feature Set—or SMURFS!

Agile Tools Can Be More than Overhead

Scrum Alliance -

I have often heard teams say that Agile tools add no value. I would like to share some ideas, based on my practical experience, about how and why I think these tools do add value and can be more than just overhead.


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