Tag Archives: Sprint

Agile Mind Games – the Psychology of Scrum

Team Effort Estimations Are Critical to Accurate Velocity, Maximum Productivity, and Team Building.

The team tech lead may provide an effort estimation with little or no input from the developers and/or testers doing the work.

If the tech lead vocalizes his/her effort estimation…

  • BEFORE the developer who will be doing the work, the developer may feel pressured to agree with the tech lead’s estimate.
  • lower than the developer’s guestimate, who will be doing the work, this might create social friction and inaccurate velocity.
  • WITHOUT a collaborative approach, a comprehensive estimation may be ruled out, such as consideration for not only dev. and test., but infra (configuration management, i.e. build & deploy) and other effort costs.

Using tools like Planning Poker, where all estimations are revealed at once helps the team appear to not contradict one another. The negotiation process occurs after all teammates flip their cards at once. Derives better estimates with more perspectives not factored in based on a single Tech lead providing the estimation.

Transparency and Scrutiny

Many “hands-on” project/product stakeholders want maximum transparency into the current state of the product regardless of the duration of the sprint (e.g. 2-week sprints),   Typically, a pulse on the product at two-week increments satisfy most.

Some of the agile, change management tools such as Microsoft Azure DevOps offer dynamic graphing and reporting.  Product stakeholders may be provided dynamic dashboards, that include Burn Down, and Burn Up charts based on the sum of effort from user stories (i.e. product backlog items).  At any given time charts can predict velocity, and based upon the outstanding, total effort estimation, can chart a course to the next release.

Meaningful burn up and burn down charts rely not just on accurate effort estimations, but the people who are assigned these user stories constantly update the status of these stories, e.g. New; In-Progress; In-Review; Done. Countless times I’ve seen team members update the user story status the day before the sprint close/demo, from New -> Done.  This habit gives any product stakeholders a false view of the product within a sprint.

Another challenge and opportunity with Transparency and Scrutiny within a given sprint, is making sure each user story has one or more (child) tasks.  Defining tasks provides a wealth of opportunity, such as naming all of the tasks to complete for the story, e.g. database tasks, UI tasks, etc.  If the tasks are itemized, they may also be assigned to multiple team resources, and show a delineation of labor.

Sticking with the Azure DevOps tool, Tasks have a default field, “Remaining Work”.  This field may express task work in hours or days, the unit of measure. In the beginning, tasks are populated with the total task guesstimate of hours. Each day the person assigned the story task may draw down on the task to incrementally show progress within the task and correlating story.

Task, Work Remaining field must be relentlessly updated across the Backlog in play or else it will create more harm than good. At this level of scrutiny on tasks are amorphous and will be challenging to garnish any projected value.

The Abominable Blocker

What, you can’t figure it out on your own?

The dreaded blocker has the ability to stop a Scrum team in its tracks. The term Impediment used synonymously with the word Blocker, has an innocuous sounding sentiment. Your Scrum team may use either, perhaps a less severe issue merits an Impediment?

The Kanban / Scrum board may have a column in the workflow called Blocker, which should fixate your team on helping to remediate that Blocker. Our Daily Scrum of 15 min may focus on Blockers as they have been isolated in our workflows.

Conquer the blocker before it conquers you!

Applause, Applause

Closing and Demo for Sprints should follow healthy applause from the team, including Stakeholders and Product Owner. Positive reinforcement of a job well done. We’ve completed what we committed to complete, should be followed by applause. We should take a moment to soak in the feedback.

Pass the Mic

For those of us on the Scrum team who are introverts and actively look for ways of dodging opportunities to speak, this one is for you. During Daily Scrum, pass the facilitation mic around where everyone gets an opportunity to facilitate per stand up.

Allow all people within the team an opportunity to demo the “Done” user stories on sprint close. It’s not to break folks out of their shell, it’s to impart a sense of pride in the work accomplished, and truly resonate the one team mentality.

Disclosure: the opinions provided are my own and do not reflect that of my clients, or anyone I represent.

Wireless Carriers: Data Only Plans

Is there any traction on ‘Data Only’ wireless plans which augment your primarily carrier?

E.g. when you reach the allocated capacity of the primary plan, one of N secondary wireless providers may be selected ‘on the fly’ or in  settings.  Each wireless provider may offer their own competitive ‘data only’ plan.  The subscriber may choose a “10 GB for 10 USD.”

Alternatively, the consumer may direct traffic of a certain type, e.g. Network packets for movies to ABC wireless.

Prime example, my family shared plan offers 10 GB to share among the 4 of us.  One of us, for the last two months, chewed up our data plan.   At 75%, 90%, and 100% AT&T sent us warning notifications, which was very good.

After we bust the quota, we are automatically charged one GB for 15 USD.  It may be just me, but that sounds pricey.  Both months I stopped the data component for one of the phones.  Also, a great feature AT&T, but it doesn’t go far enough, block only streaming movies when not in WiFi.  I’d prefer if the middle tier, the wireless solutions management implement the feature.  The kids don’t have access to it as would a device implementation.

Wireless Data Plans, Packet Protocols, Granular Reporting

6 Days Left of my Billing Cycle: 0.3 GB Left (out of 10 GB)

Are you kidding me?! I login to AT&T’s Wireless, myAT&T portal to dive into where is all our data going?  I am able to see quite easily what mobile phone number is eating up our plan, but no additional granular information.  AT&T has a great site with lots of good information to help their customers manage their plans.

However, it seems wireless providers leave it up to the handset manufacturers to interpret the usage of the phones. Makes some sense on an individual level, but as multi line / family wireless plans continue to evolve, the growth of wireless services management portals should be spent on providing consumers transparency into their usage, aggregated and granular.

Packets of [wireless] data, bits of information, have a ‘signature’ as they travel through the Internet ether.  Packet protocol defines where the data/information originates, and it’s destination, as well as any other required information by the application sending / receiving the data.  Wireless carriers’, services management portal should allow consumers to slice and drill down to see how data is being used. For example,

Wireless plans of 10 GB is not a lot with teenagers.  You may want to target areas to curtail usage so you aren’t ‘bleeding data’.  At this time, there is not enough transparency on how data is being used from the wireless provider’s usage platform. The provider should be able to parse data packets to quantify how data is being used, and provide reports, e.g.

June 2015 Snapshot for 212-555-1212

231 songs streamed from ABC, N MB; 23 videos watched on YouTube, 2.3 GB; 34 streamed videos from Netflix, 3.2 GB; 345 emails downloaded, 90 MB;

DAM on wireless services:  Application data packet objects may have visibility through Digital Asset Management (DAM), all objects that can be managed, phone calls to chats from Facebook (except where encrypted).

Now take a piece of paper, write privacy on it, then rip it in half and toss it in the garbage.

Adjustable Data Quota Limits on Member’s of Family/Shared Data Plans

A cap on the amount of shared data each person in the plan is allowed to use should be adjustable at any point in the billing cycle. Good Use Case:  my kids are on my family plan, and I want to limit their data usage.  They always use more than my wife and I.

Another possible use case, from a small business perspective, if you add a few lines on your plan, then you may allocate to specific type of employees, such as sales reps., specific amounts of data.  There are several types of widgets can be used, such as a pie chart, and the total pie represents the total data package, and each slice represents an allocation to each member of the shared plan.

Update: I stand corrected, and do see an AT&T Smart Limits for 4.99 USD per month:

Android Powerful VoIP Phones Giving Cellular a Raspberry Very Soon

I was reading the article by CNET, Samsung: Galaxy S4 for U.S. has four cores, not eight, and said, well that’s just not nice.  I would have also said fair, but hey, life isn’t that fair, is it?  Then I remembered about a few guys at my last few companies who build their own PCs.  Then I thought of this recent craze called, Raspberry Pi, you might have heard of this inexpensive computer.  The wheels started turning and I though, well, I want 8 cores, and maybe 32 megabytes of RAM, then I thought, hey why not more?

Now, I pulled back the reigns.  How can I build a phone?  What are the barriers?  For one, what are the mechanics that I can’t handle?  Well, there’s this whole concept of carriers, bands, and regulated waves.  Solved, in limited form.   I put together a phone that uses Voice over IP (VoIP).  There are tons of hot spots all over, and every day the number grows and grows.  The operating system, is that a problem, probably not.  The article  I saw the other day from CNET, Android originally designed as smart-camera system, also was another piece to the puzzle.  The Android mobile OS is Open Source, and I thought amazing, it’s Open Source.  Open-source software (OSS) is computer software with its source code made available and licensed with an open-source license in which the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change and distribute the software for free to anyone and for any purpose.  Many of the other challenges, screen, and other components, are relatively not too bad of a challenge.  So what I might end up with as a prototype is a VoIP phone from the 1980s, a brick phone.  Well, not that impressive.  Several companies, such as Avaya, and Cisco have been doing this a long time.  Then I thought, if the Raspberry Pi Foundation can make a small computer inexpensively, anyone  would be able to make a small VoIP phone as powerful as they want.  Coming soon from a Geek near you.

Raspberry Pi
Raspberry Pi