100 Top Agile Blogs

Luis Gonçalves has posted a list of 100 Top Agile Blogs, ranked by Alexa ranking. I’m gratified to make the list, where I’m in some pretty good company.

Another Two Sides to Estimation

There are many ways to look at the issue of estimation. Everyone in the business of software development has had experience with wanting estimates, being asked for estimates, or both. That experience frames how they look at the issue. A considerable share of those experiences have been painful. I dare say that everyone in the business has had some painful experiences around estimation, and the painful ones seem to stick in our memory more vividly than the benign ones.

What makes these experiences so painful? Again, the causes are legion. One frequent contributor is well illustrated by a story my older brother taught me as a child.

(Continued)

The Quality Carousel

I just observed yet another conversation on twitter that started with the topic of waste in software development, brought in value as an arbiter between waste and necessity, and then quality as a modulator of value. Surely a practice that increases quality also increases value, and therefore cannot be considered waste.

These discussions seem to spin in circles. They always have, and likely always will. Why? Because they treat quality and value as attributes of what is built, rather than as relationships. I like Jerry Weinberg’s definition in Quality Software Management:Systems Thinking.

“Quality is value to some person.”

This does not bring agreement to the discussions of value and quality. It does bring a different focus to them. Who is the person that matters? I can tell you who that is. (Continued)

Getting Things Done

No, not the book and personal productivity method by David Allen, though somewhat related in intent. I’m talking about getting things done in software development.

Traditional phased software development processes tend to have a long delay between starting to work on something, and having something working that people can use. During this time, there may be a lot of work expended on partial products and artifacts to support the process, but little or nothing that could be used for its intended purpose.

Both timebox-oriented [e.g. Scrum] and flow-oriented [e.g. Kanban] methods try to emphasize getting things done so that they can be used earlier and provide value. Even if you decide not to use them earlier, at least they can be evaluated for suitability of the intended use, and progress toward a larger collection of functionality that will be deployed for use together can be more reliably tracked.

The strategies for getting things done vary. (Continued)

When Klunky Component APIs Show in the UX

At various times, the behavior of Facebook reveals to me that it’s a loosely coupled system with long latencies in synchronizing its various data stores. Just today, the iOS app asked me to confirm a friend request. When I did so, it gave me a pretty generic error—something about not being able to do this action at this time. That’s when I realized that I’d already accepted that particular friend request, days ago. That tells me that there are often inconsistencies between the database used with one interaction, and the one used with another interaction on another interface.

It also tells me that there are likely teams working on components, rather than features. If it was a feature team, the need for an error message would have driven a different underlying implementation. A feature team would want to differentiate between not being able to accomplish an action because it was already done, and because some problem was blocking it. For the former, there’s no need to show an error at all. (Continued)

Validation and Uncertainty

What an extraordinary conversation I had recently on Twitter. It started with Neil Killick’s statement that we should not consider our stories truly done until validated by actual use. This is a lovely thing, if we can manage it. While I’ve not set such a bold declaration of “done,” I’ve certainly advocated for testing the benefit of what we build in actual use. Deriving user stories from hypothesis of what the users will do, and then measuring actual use against that hypothesis is a very powerful means of producing the right thing—more powerful than any Product Owner or Marketing Manager could otherwise dream up.  (Continued)

Setting Expectations

Karl Scotland wrote an excellent blog post on Estimates as Sensors. In it, he extols the use of estimates to “sense capability and create feedback for yourself.” This is similar to my point in Estimation as Hypothesis.

At the end of this post, it now says “I don’t recommend using them to make promises and give guarantees to others.” Originally, this said something like “I don’t recommend using them to make promises and setting expectations of others.” I asked him what he did use for setting expectations. He had two responses. “I’d say expectations are set from understanding our capability, refined through sensing, and with a confidence range.” and changing the post to reflect his original intent.

There’s more to this business of setting expectations. (Continued)

Short Overview of Estimation

Back in 2008, Bob Payne and I were working with a team learning to practice Agile Software Development. They were doing quite well at a lot of things, but their sprint velocity bounced up and down like a yo-yo. The sawtooth velocity chart indicated, since they were clearly delivering value at a pretty steady pace, that they were not very good at estimating stories. Bob suggested to me that they might do as well, with less effort, by counting the stories instead of estimating them. (Continued)

Definition of Ready

Many time, in the middle of developing a user story, the programmer discovers a question about how it’s intended to work. Or the tester, when looking at the functionality that’s been developed, questions if it’s really supposed to work that way. I once worked with a team that too-often found that, when the programmer picked up the card, there were questions that hadn’t been thought out. The team created a new column on the sprint board, “Needs Analysis,” to the left of “Ready for Development,” for these cards that had been planned without being well understood. (Continued)

Taking the Long View in Software Development

My article, Taking the Long View in Software Development, has been published on ProjectManagement.com. Free registration is required on that site.