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Showing posts from September, 2010

Cost Control Agile/Traditional

Logical starting points for cost control is to begin with estimating, most of your costs for your project are estimates and, by definition, have different accuracy levels. Try to estimate as accurate as possible, regardless of your perceived level of accuracy; be ready and able to control costs. When using Scrum the work for the project is assigned to the ENTIRE team not one person on the team. Self-organization is key to the team’s makeup; scrum team members use the effort and degree of difficulty (development) to give estimates to the work. There are lots of ways to estimate in agile frameworks, numerically (1-10) Fibonacci sequence (1,2,3,5,8,13) and even clothes sizes can be used (s, xl, xxl,xxxl), the KEY to the estimating process is that the ENTIRE team knows and understands the decided scale it will use for the estimations. Once you have your sprint meetings the entire team will sit down and estimate the effort for each story that is stored in the backlog. Thus you efforts …

Change Control Agile/Traditional Implementation

You can try some of these objectives for implementing some change control in your projects whether you are using agile (XP, Scrum) or traditional (waterfall) frameworks. Remember that “change” is a technique in scrum, every iteration, every cycle and every sprint encounters change and as purveyors of agile frameworks we embrace it as a team. What happens in these types of frameworks is the team gets very good at change; the team does not shy away from change they accept and embrace the change building better software for the stakeholders/business owners. By structuring change the agile team benefits the business organization by cross team education, better ROI, more control of the product and satisfaction amongst all your stakeholders/business owners. Agile frameworks build adaptable, cohesive, and disciplined teams, some paperwork will still have to be created but try to complete “just enough” you will find that the framework starts to create gradual structures within the team wh…

Change Control Agile/Traditional

With the constant changing environment in the technology field not many things stay the same for very long. One thing throughout all projects is a constant, and that is CHANGE. It is inevitable in every project and always active in the field of project management. Resources, hardware, client requests, software changes, realignment of management, realignment of company goals, acceleration of timelines, and finances are just a few drivers of change which will accompany you on any information technology development project. When you don’t manage for change watch out! You will miss schedules, costs, client’s unhappiness, management unhappiness, and can damage your companies competitive edge.

All scrummasters/project managers and team members must understand the concept of project change control. Optimizing change control will help you identify changes, recognize changes, understand the requested change, and anticipate the impact of change to the project; change management will assist …

Burn Down Chart Creation/Ideas

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I my experience when our agile teams created burn down charts we would usually chart them by hand and now in hindsight I see that we were not being agile about our documentation. There are so many applications that are developed for agile project management that you don’t really need to manually chart the projects course. Burn down charts are very easy to read, the graph shows business owners/stakeholders how much effort (hours, days, weeks, months) the development of the project will require before it is completed.

First let’s do some basic chart creation: (visual examples)

1.Create your graph (white board, software)
2.Horizontal axis: use the component of Time. (months, weeks or days) You can even use the number of sprints in each period.
3.Vertical axis: milestones of the project.
4.Add your details to the chart that shows milestone and all the work that will need to be done for it to be completed.
5.Add your line when each milestone is completed.
6.Add work (don’t forget this) so …

Burn Down vs. Gantt Chart

Gantt

During your planning phase Gantt charts are very useful, they really help the stakeholders understand what has to be completed. The problem with the charts is that can become extremly complex and can contain 100’s if not 1000’s of tasks all tied to dependences. When the dependencies are so intertwined once you change one you affect all the other parts of the chart that means reworking which means maintaining the chart becomes a fulltime job. You will also find that the chart has the inability to show the evolution of the development project, it starts very quickly to be impossible to compare estimates you performed for the project. (Current time, estimated time)

Burn-Down

Agile frameworks use Burn-down charts; the key to the chart is it shows the amount of work it will take to complete the project. They are extremely easy to understand, the line (going down hopefully) is called the burn-down velocity. Basically it will show the team is how many hours per day the team needs to…

Gantt Chart Limitations

Gantt charts are great when you need to clearly communicate your project schedule, progress to business owners/stakeholders/team members as well as external stakeholders. Visually the Gantt chart is un-surpassed; it is immediately comprehensible for people with little or no knowledge of your project. Usually you can define your project on a single sheet of paper, then you can describe to the attendees what you expect to happen and provide justification to allocate your resources accordingly. They are simple to read, update, monitor progress, monitor schedule and have the ability to monitor resources for the entire development project.

If they are so easy do they have any limitations? Yes they do: (see below)

1.Not easily reveal a project's critical path.
2.Not clearly identify a behind schedule condition.
3.Present a challenge for recording progress.
4.No widely accepted standards for Gantt charts.
5.Require a great deal of updating and posting.
6.Are difficult to use to respond to…

Gantt Chart Mechanics

Gantt charts are great for organizing and clarifing the planned use of resources by creating horizontal bars to represent activities and exercising control against the bars. The charts use forward scheduling logic, so you set the chart up by setting today's date as Day Zero and making time estimates for each activity. By setting it up this way (forward scheduling) you provide the team with an opportunity to create trial-and-error schedules. Use progress bars to exercise control.

Here are some Gantt Chart examples:

Sometimes they are also called bar charts or milestone charts, basically acknowledging milestone checkpoints. These milestones are NOT tasks; they represent important events involved with your project. To optimize the use of the Gantt chart and the management of it, focus on critical events so that only milestone markers remain. Remember to review it frequently, and discuss it at your project team meetings.

Here are a few tried and true steps in the creation of the cha…

Estimating Costs

The real language of business is money, no matter what political system you live or work in. As a Project Manager, Quality Analyst or Business Analyst you will not need to be an accountant, BUT you will need a good working knowledge of costs.

Three types of fixed costs are:
1.Fixed.
Fixed costs remain constant, regardless of changes in activity level. As activity levels of the project rise and fall, fixed costs remain constant in total.
2.Variable.
Variable costs fluctuate in direct proportion to changes in levels of project activity. As output changes, the number of costs used increases and decreases proportionately.
3.Overhead.
Overhead is simply defined as all cost of a project that are not fixed and variable costs. You incur overhead costs but they are not directly traceable to your project.

Estimating Methods:

1.Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).
You can use your WBS (older post) to estimate project duration and cost, it does help you make sure that you create estimates for each activ…

Estimating Characteristics

When performing the task of estimating you usually have three primary dimensions that you look at: occurrence, timing, and magnitude of uncertain future events. A quick way to remember this is to look at estimating like this: if (occurrence), when (timing), and how much (magnitude).

Occurrence is the highest level in the hierarchy chart for estimating:

1.Occurrence.
Occurrence "Will uncertain future events take place?" If the answer you come up with is no, you do not need to continue estimating. If my answer is yes, you will need to continue to the next level.

2.Timing.
So you get your proposal approved, so you will need to consider the timing of all project deliverables. So you ask "When will my client request implementation of the application?"

3.Magnitude.
Magnitude=volume. Ask yourself "How much implementation will be required?"

There are also three additional estimating questions you should ask:

1.Cause and effect relationship does it exist?
Cause and e…

Flowchart Challenges

Despite my experience and the success I have had in creating flowcharts and the relative ease in the creation of them, you MUST be aware of these obstacles:

•Unstable process: Un-Stability in a process will kill your flowchart, if the process does not happen the same way each time you are just wasting resources.

•Complex process: Processes that are so complex that it is difficult to understand. Start small and flowchart this type of processor processes very slowly.

•Team Trust: Participants are dishonest regarding their knowledge, they hold back information if they feel threatened by the outcome.


Integrated Flowcharts or Deployment Flowcharts
Integrated flowcharts (also known as deployment flowcharts) are very useful in building upon a basic flowchart. They show process flows and identify which department or individual has responsibility for a task. This comes in handy when a process has hundreds of steps and tasks pass through multiple departments/teams. You can use them to iden…

Processes to Create a Basic Flowchart

Basic Flowchart:

1.Determine the process you need to define.
Scope creep is a killer while defining flowcharts, If you have scope creep you will begin to flowchart a certain process and wind up flowcharting the entire enterprise.

2.Level of detail.
Figure out if you need a macro (1000 ft high) or micro (1ft high) you will need to decide this while detailing your charts, large overview or step by step processes.

3.Determine the process steps.
Brainstorm with the team (qa, development, business analyst, business owner) to define the steps that take place.

4.Sequence the process steps.
Use boxes for basic process steps, diamonds for decisions (yes/no), and lines with arrowheads to connect your figures.

5.Compare your flowchart to your actual process (in real time) to validate.
Make sure (HAVE TO) your project team participates in this activity.

6.Identify steps that should be targeted for elimination or improvement.
Make sure (HAVE TO) your project team participates in this activity; they …

Flowcharts and Process Scope

I have always been a very visual individual and I am a fan of flowcharts because I always believe that before you begin work on a project, it is helpful to diagram what you know about a process or what you plan to do with the process. When gaining knowledge about a process, it is essential that you understand process scope (how big it is), process steps (what happens and in what sequence) and process relationships (which steps must happen before other steps occur). Flowcharts create a graphical or visual representation of a process. It is so much easier to describe a process using a chart then it is by just using words. In my experience visual aids assist in the understanding of the application under development and can be used by developers, quality assurance, business analysts, project stakeholders and even clients.
Benefits of Flowcharts for Application Development:

1.Levels of common understanding.
They increase your understanding of various process levels. This will assist y…

Maximize your WBS Charts

There are changes you can make to your WBS charts, you can change them to an indented chart because the format is preferred over the flow format (below post) when your project is large. Also, if you are contracting or work for a government agencies they require the indented format WBS when a Request for Proposal (RFP) is submitted to bid on a project. These charts come in handy for a multitude of job descriptions, quality assurance, business analyst, project managers, business owners and always uncover areas that might have been missed during the planning and or analysis phase of the software development lifecycle. (SDLC) Even though the WBS is widely known as the primary tool used to scope a project, I have seen it used successfully in requirements gathering and analysis, quality assurance, design and development, implementation and training.

Keys to maximizing your WBS:
1. Assigning responsibility.
Once you identify all the elements of a WBS, it is very straightforward to determ…

Data Collection Tools for PM/QA/Business Analysts

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Projects are so complex today because there are many stakeholders/business owners to satisfy and because there are boundaries of cost, time, and performance that will create stress for a project manager/scrummaster and his team. Add one of the Agile frameworks to the mix and the speed of the project will increase 10 fold. While a project manager/scrummaster needs to have a basic understanding of the technical aspects of a project, it is not necessary that project manager/scrummasters are technical experts. The best way to run a project is to utilize human resources (team skill sets) optimally and to align technical elements of the project to team members that have the technical expertise in the element they need to development. Tools (automated/not automated) are great but the project manager/scrummasters must be able to ask the right questions and understand responses. One management tool that can be used by the project manager/scrummasters/quality assurance/business analyst is a…

Information Technology and Business Analysis

From strategic planning to data analysis, Business Analysis provides a calculated approach to addressing a company's business needs and providing a viable solution. Business Analysis differs from project management in a number of ways, one of the most important differences is that business analysis brings investigative insights into business issues. These creative insights provide the organization with a disciplined approach to solving business problems within different departments, units and teams. The role of the Business Analyst will differ depending on the business problem you are dealing with and the type of industry you are working for. They can analyze the operational efficiency of a manufacturer or detail requirements in a development shop or find more efficient ways to increase revenues in a non-profit organization. But approaches to define and resolve the business issues remain the same for any business and industry.

These are a few of the classic approaches that don…

Effective Benchmarking Ideas

Benchmarking is a process of setting KPI figures against competitive internal and external goals, this might be benchmarking against your competitors or against different businesses either in or outside your business.

Here are a few tips to set up the benchmarking process for your organization.

You can follow these steps for your global organization:

1. Select KPI: KPIs that gauge each organizational goal are developed.

2. Select Benchmarking Targets: Allows the organization to set either internal or external benchmarks.

3. Collect Data: Data collection at all levels, department, unit, team so can construct a comparative analysis.

4. Analyze Data against Benchmarks: Data is analyzed against the targets and benchmarks your organization has set.

5. Improve Strategies: Analyze data then gather and give feedback to management, staff to evaluate objectives.
What are the RIGHT KPIs for your company how do you choose?

Choosing the right KPIs for your company and its departments is the major …

Organizational Prerequisites for KPI’s

Before a global organization creates KPIs for each goal, they will need to have a many organizational processes in place for this to be effective. Without having the processes in place will render all of the measurement processes of the KPI’s useless wasting time, money and resources.

Some of the base processes needed to be successful is as follows:
Strategic & Annual global planning
Formalizing structures, processes, and roles for all members of the organization
Identifying clear objectives for each strategic goal and vision for all teams/units
Creating quantifiable, measurable, detailed and timely KPIs
Communicating KPI and clear objectives to all employees from the top down
Continual strategy meetings based on feedback from KPIs

Strategic and Annual Global Planning

Strategic Planning is one of the MOST important thing that management can do for the health of the organization. Planning helps to identify how management objectives are achieved by setting performance goa…

How to Measure Business Performance

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So how are we going to measure the business performance when global business activities differ by organization and industry. You will have to tailor your KPIs to the specific activity of the company, department, unit, and even team. For you to get any performance upgrades in your organization the performance indicator has to:

• Guide immediate and short-term goals for the organization. KPIs are hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and could also be by iteration depending on the framework you have decided to use (Agile, XP, Scrum, Waterfall) for your projects. Unlike using end-of-year results, they have to be collected more frequently to improve activities and management decision-making.

• Include specific quantitative and qualitative measures. KPIs have to provide clear measures for employees and teams. They must encompass the entire organization no matter how big or small.

Activities Tracked by KPIs



For many companies, examining these specific measures or KPIs is important to define and t…

Why We Measure Business Performance

KPIs assist in the steering of a company's management toward thinking of their global organizational objectives. For the organization to be successful, you must ask yourself, team and enterprise an essential question: How can management tell which activities are leading the company to global successes and which are merely doing the enterprise harm?

Key performance Indicators provide answers to these basic questions:
Where so we stand as a company?
What global objectives do we want to achieve?
What time frame do we want to achieve these objectives?
How can we achieve them, manageable costs and still be competitive?

Key reasons to use KPIs:

1. Allows managers and employees to DEFINE and TRACK measures for every objective.

KPIs are quantitative and qualitative reflections of each objective. Organizations use these indicators to decide whether an objective can be measured. This is crucial if they would like to improve it. Unless a quantifiable measure is defined as an indicator of…