Long time users of our Pulse Continuous Integration Server would know that we don’t believe in posting long-term roadmaps. They just never reflect a changing reality! But we have always been happy to discuss features with customers, including keeping our issue tracker (creaky old version of Jira that it is) completely open for all to see and contribute. In that spirit I’d like to talk a little about where we’re heading with Pulse in the near term, the bit that can be predicted, in a format more digestible than disparate issues.
The next version of Pulse (as yet unnamed), will have updates focused on a few areas:
- Upgrades of underlying libraries including Equinox, Spring, Spring Security, Hibernate, Jetty, Quartz, EhCache and more. If you haven’t seen a lot of visible changes reported recently this is why: these upgrades have occupied the first part of this development cycle. These are truly the most boring of all changes, which we hope you won’t notice directly at all! What you will notice, though, is a payoff of this strong foundation over time.
Major updates to the administration interface. The interface works well enough at the moment but could be improved in a couple of key areas: discoverability and efficiency. Key goals for these updates include:
- Improving the visibility of the most commonly-used configuration via overview pages.
- Making it easier to discover what is overridden (via templating) and where.
- More efficient navigation, especially through the template hierarchy.
- Modernisation to take advantage of HTML 5 (which the current interface predates).
These changes are big enough to warrant a dedicated blog post at a future point.
- Improved visibility of the build environment. When builds fail in curious ways the culprit is often a small difference in the environment. Pulse currently publishes environment information via implicit env.txt artifacts, but these haven’t kept up to date with the variety of options Pulse now gives for specifying build properties.
- Improvements to the Windows experience. In 2.7 work was done to improve Windows service support, but more could be done to streamline the setup process in particular.
As always we will also be working on dozens of smaller improvements and suggestions from our user base, most of which fall under one of:
- UI polish, especially in the reporting interface.
- Increased flexibility of project and build configuration.
- Updated support for modern versions of build tooling.
The Android development tools project has seen big changes over the last year. The original Eclipse ADT development environment was superseded late last year by Android Studio — a new IDE based on Intellij. Under the hood Android Studio also uses a new command line build system based on Gradle, replacing the previous Ant-based system. I’ve been keen to find out how these changes impact the integration of Android test reports with continuous integration servers like Pulse.Summary
- Android JUnit Report is redundant.
- Run on-device Android tests with: ./gradlew connectedAndroidTest
- Collect reports from: app/build/outputs/androidTest-results/connected/*.xml
The original Ant-based build system for Android didn’t produce XML test reports for instrumentation tests (i.e. those that run on-device), prompting me to create the Android JUnit Report project. Android JUnit Report produced XML output similar to the Ant JUnit task, making it compatible with most continuous integration servers. The good news is: Android JUnit Report is now redundant. The new Gradle-based build system produces sane XML test reports out of the box. In fact, they’re even more complete than those produced by Android JUnit Report, so should work with even more continuous integration servers.
The only downside is the documentation, which is a little confusing (while there are still documents for the old system about) and not very detailed. With a bit of experimentation and poking around I found how to run on-device (or emulator) tests and where the XML reports were stored. With a default project layout as created by Android Studio:
ASDemo.iml app/ app.iml build.gradle libs/ proguard-rules.pro src/ androidTest/ main/ build.gradle gradle gradle.properties gradlew gradlew.bat local.properties settings.gradle
You get a built-in version of Gradle to use for building your project, launched via gradlew. To see available tasks, run:
$ ./gradlew tasks
(This will download a bunch of dependencies when first run.) Amongst plenty of output, take a look at the Verification Tasks section:
Verification tasks ------------------ check - Runs all checks. connectedAndroidTest - Installs and runs the tests for Debug build on connected devices. connectedCheck - Runs all device checks on currently connected devices. deviceCheck - Runs all device checks using Device Providers and Test Servers. lint - Runs lint on all variants. lintDebug - Runs lint on the Debug build. lintRelease - Runs lint on the Release build. test - Run all unit tests. testDebug - Run unit tests for the Debug build. testRelease - Run unit tests for the Release build.
The main testing target test does not run on-device tests, only unit tests that run locally. For on-device tests you use the connectedAndroidTest task. Try it:
$ ./gradlew connectedAndroidTest ... :app:compileDebugAndroidTestJava :app:preDexDebugAndroidTest :app:dexDebugAndroidTest :app:processDebugAndroidTestJavaRes UP-TO-DATE :app:packageDebugAndroidTest :app:assembleDebugAndroidTest :app:connectedAndroidTest :app:connectedCheck BUILD SUCCESSFUL Total time: 33.372 secs
It’s not obvious, but this produces compatible XML reports under:
with names based on the application module and device. In your continuous integration setup you can just collect all *.xml files in this directory for reporting.
Although the new build system has killed the need for my little Android JUnit Report project, this is a welcome development. Now all Android developers get better test reporting without an external dependency. Perhaps it will even encourage a few more people to use continuous integration servers like Pulse to keep close tabs on their tests!
To all Pulse customers, existing and potential, a bit of news: we’ve applied some long-overdue changes to pricing. Well, not changes so much as clarification! Since the initial release of Pulse we’ve always favoured an up-front pricing policy. We loathe hidden pricing designed to lure you into a lengthy, pushy sales process. So our sales front page has always included pricing information.
However, the pricing on the page didn’t show the full reality. We had three tiers of pricing for 1, 5 and 15 agents, then the option of license 10 packs on top. In practice customers often asked a few questions:
- Can we get a more specific number of agents, e.g. 10?
- Can Pulse handle large numbers of agents, well beyond 15?
- Do discounts apply as the number of agents continues to grow?
In all cases the answer has been yes. We aim for flexibility, and have allowed anyone that asked to purchase a smaller number of agents at a time. Pulse can certainly handle many more than 15 agents: some customers have hundreds in production and we’ve always offered discounts for high numbers.
Thus it is about time we reflected reality in our published prices. From now on there are no defined agent pack sizes: you start with a single agent license for US$900, then add as many additional agents as you need. Agents are priced on a sliding scale so they become progressively cheaper as your installation grows. You can see this clearly on our updated sales page.
What does this mean for existing customers? As a matter of policy: no existing customer will lose out. If you have a deal better than the new published pricing, that deal remains. This may mean you can get more agents free, or a discounted renewal price next time around. For reference: the original single agent license is now US$50 cheaper, and this will translate to a US$25 discount for our existing Pulse Standard License holders. The pricing for 5, 15 and 25 agents remains identical, so many customers will see no change. Larger licenses will be dealt with individually as they come up for renewal.
We think this new pricing better reflects our aim to be both up front and flexible. If you have any questions, please contact sales.
Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve released a few small changes:
1) Links no longer open in the same window.
2) The backlog can now be pinned open. If you click the thumbtack in the backlog, it will stay open until you unpin it for that project.
3) You can now have cards default to the top of a phase instead of the bottom. Your setting will be persisted by project.
Last week, Sid Probstein, CTO of Attivio, and Andy Singleton, founder of Assembla presented a webinar about “Fast IT,” a new way of managing rapidly changing and Agile projects in areas like mobile, Web, analytics and marketing applications, while working smoothly with reliable core systems ("Core IT"). Andy discussed the dynamics of Fast IT, and Sid presented a case study of how Attivio spun up a major Business Intelligence app in two weeks with two people.
If you missed the webinar, view and download the slides.
Want an overview of Fast IT in 60 seconds? Watch the video below:
Get notified about new and exciting content around Fast IT by completing the form below:
Paying for your Assembla subscription with PayPal has never been easier. We recently added the ability to set up recurring payments with PayPal that will automatically pay for your Assembla subscription every billing period, whether that be monthly or annually. Previously, it was a manual process that required logging in and paying every time an invoice was created.
To set up automatic payments with PayPal, visit your billing page > select the PayPal option > and follow the steps.
If you have any questions or issues, please contact Assembla support at email@example.com.
If your team uses Slack, HipChat, Flowdock, or Bigplans for communication, we have added preconfigured webhooks to make setting up these integrations painless. Once configured, you can selectively manage the Assembla events that are posted out to these apps, such as ticket activity, commits, deploys, etc., to monitor project activity in real-time, inline with other team communication.To get started, click on the desired integration below:
Ripple is a protocol for value exchange that makes it easy to transfer and trade fiat currencies, Bitcoin, or XRP - the native asset of the Ripple network.
Assembla is giving away 1000 free XRP (the Ripple native cyptocurrency) to any person with software development skills who is interested in learning about Ripple development. Get it here: https://www.assembla.com/ripple
I called Ripple Labs a few months ago to find out more about ways that their "gateway" can help us pay developers in many different countries. Essentially, we do banking for the developers on our global team. We pay internal accounts, hold the money until they ask for it, and then transfer money to them by bank wire, ATM/Payoneer, or other mechanisms. We have found that the bank wire system is embarrassingly slow and unreliable. This is the problem that Ripple is trying to fix. Their gateway is like a bank in an open-source box. It keeps accounts in any currency, including USD, other currencies, XRP, and Bitcoin. It can transfer those accounts instantly and reliably on the shared "ledger." It is also gaining exciting new features such as "multi-signature" which enables outsourcing and crowdsourcing customers to post a budget amount, and then transfer it to their hard-working suppliers through an arbitrator.
Now I am working more closely with Ripple to help them scale up their development process. I decided to make this free XRP offer for two reasons:
- Users need 20 XRP to activate a Ripple wallet. We want to remove the hassle from acquiring the XRP so new developers can get started.
- We want to build an email list of developers that might be interested in working on internal development, bounties, or bank integration projects.
If you use Assembla and Bigplans, we have added a pre-configured webhook making it easy to post Assembla events out to your Bigplans chat room. Check out below for configuration instructions.
Bigplans is a simple, integrated way to manage a distributed team. It includes a "lean" task board, real-time chat, and a unique "advisor" (a real person) that helps you get on-demand resources if you need them. For programming teams, it includes a tight integration with Assembla login and Assembla tickets.
You can use the Webhooks tool to feed Assembla events into any of your team chats. To get started, you will need the Webhook tool installed in the Assembla project you want to configure. If you do not have the Webhook tool installed, visit the Admin tab > Tools section > and click ‘Add’ next to the Webhook tool.
Once installed, click on the Webhook tool in your main navigation and select Bigplans from the list of pre-configured post options:
You will need to obtain and update the auth token in the “Content” section.
To obtain your Bigplans auth token:
Visit Bigplans and navigate to the plan you want to post Assembla events to. Click on the ‘Connect’ option in the top bar. Under the “Message API” section, there is a section called “API Token” that will display your token. If no token is set, click on the ‘Reset’ button. Copy the token ID and replace the “BIGPLANS_AUTH_TOKEN” in the Webhook tool.
Now configure what Assembla events you would like to post to your Bigplans chat room and click ‘Add and Authenticate.” Don’t forget to enable the configuration under the “Title” field.
Your Assembla events will now be posted to the configured Bigplans chat room:
If you use Assembla and Slack, we have added a pre-configured webhook making it easy to post Assembla events out to your Slack chat room/channel. Check out below for configuration instructions.
To get started, you will need the Webhook tool installed in the Assembla project you want to configure. If you do not have the Webhook tool installed, visit the Admin tab > Tools section > and click ‘Add’ next to the Webhook tool.
Once installed, click on the Webhook tool in your main navigation and select Slack from the list of pre-configured post options:
You will need to setup an incoming webhook service integration within Slack to obtain your token. To do this, visit https://YourSubdomain.slack.com/services/new/incoming-webhook, select the desired channel to post to, and click ‘Add Incoming Webhook.’
Once created, copy the provided Webhook URL and update the External URL in Assembla’s Webhook tool.
Now configure what Assembla events you would like to post to your Slack room/channel and click ‘Add and Authenticate.' Don’t forget to enable the configuration under the “Title” field.
Tip: Within the Slack “Incoming Webhook” page that you set up for this integration, you can scroll to the bottom of the page and expand the “Integration Settings” where you can add a label, change the post-to channel, and change the icon and name for your webhook bot.
Your Assembla events will now be posted to the configured Slack room/channel:
If you use Assembla and HipChat, we have added a pre-configured webhook making it easy to post Assembla events out to your HipChat chat room. Check out below for configuration instructions.
To get started, you will need the Webhook tool installed in the Assembla project you want to configure. If you do not have the Webhook tool installed, visit the Admin tab > Tools section > and click ‘Add’ next to the Webhook tool.
Once installed, click on the Webhook tool in your main navigation and select HipChat from the list of pre-configured post options:
You will need to obtain and update the auth token and room ID in the “Content” section.
To obtain your HipChat auth token:
You will need to visit https://YourSubdomain.hipchat.com/admin/api and enter your password to access the “API Auth Tokens” page. Under “Create new token” select ‘Notification’ type, provide a label, and click ‘Create.’ Copy the token ID and replace the “HIPCHAT_AUTH_TOKEN” in the Webhook tool.
To obtain your HipChat room ID:
Visit https://YourSubdomain.hipchat.com/admin/rooms and click on the desired room you would like to post Assembla events to. Copy the App ID and replace the “HIPCHAT_ROOM_ID” in the Webhook tool.
Now configure what Assembla events you would like to post to your HipChat room and click ‘Add and Authenticate.” Don’t forget to enable the configuration under the “Title” field.
Your Assembla events will now be posted to the configured HipChat room:
When we at Assembla heard about the 2-2-2 project structure used by Attivio, we knew we had a fun story and a big idea to share. The fun story is the way that Attivio can spin-up major Business Intelligence apps with 2-day, 2-person prototyping sessions. The big idea is “Fast IT”: a way of managing fast and Agile projects, while working smoothly with your slower, more reliable core systems: "Core IT".
In this Webinar, Sid Probstein, CTO of Attivio, and Andy Singleton, founder of Assembla, will share their discoveries about ways that “Core” and “Fast” can work smoothly together. We will show tools that help you wrap and index your Core IT so that you can easily use it in Fast IT projects. And, we’ll show how to professionally launch and manage an expanding portfolio of Fast IT projects for analytics, Web, mobile and marketing applications and SaaS integration.
This Webinar is designed to help IT professionals or project managers who are handling analytics, Web, mobile, cloud and marketing applications.
Garrigan Lyman Group was worried about losing the loyalty of its own customers. The agency was expanding rapidly and tackling more complex e-commerce, mobile, social media and video projects. Clients had no visibility into when new requests would be delivered. Development managers were having trouble tracking releases and matching resources to requirements. Teams needed a solution to prevent missing deadlines and ensure the quality of delivery.Objective
Chris “Whitey” Geiser, GLG’s CTO, knew that the agency could not afford to lose “customer equity,” the hard-won confidence that GLG could deliver innovative digital marketing solutions. So he and his team began looking for technologies that could help them centralize processes, manage development requests, and improve communications with clients.Results
Assembla has helped Garrigan Lyman Group win new business from existing clients. The solution has helped GLG evolve from helping clients with flashy but self-contained marketing projects, to solutions that work with the core of their businesses. It allows the company to collaborate better with clients and improve control of their development processes.
To see how GLG learned to work more closely with its customers,
fill out the form below to download the full case study.
Derek Neighbors, Jade Meskill, Clayton Lengel-Zigich, and Roy van de Water discuss:
- What is more important, principles or practices?
Derek Neighbors, Jade Meskill, Clayton Lengel-Zigich, and Roy van de Water discuss:
- What happens when someone has central control
Derek Neighbors: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Agile Weekly Podcast. I’m Derek Neighbors.
Roy van de Water: I’m Roy van de Water.
Jade Meskill: I’m Jade Meskill
Clayton Lengel‑Zigich: I’m Clayton Lengel‑Zigich
Derek: We’ve got another fantastic, hypothetical situation.
Derek: You may spot this in the wild, I don’t know. We’re talking about things that could potentially maybe happen, someday, to some teams.
Say you had a czar of a department, or a unit, or a job function.
Roy: Like a real Russian Tsar?
Derek: Yeah, like an architect…
Jade: I’m a Marxist, sorry.
Derek: In the hypothetical situation, we would probably see this as being an architect, or maybe be a designer of some kind. When I say designer, I mean the chief of the companies, the [inaudible 00:55] top guy.
Jade: Or the head programmer?
Derek: The head jock honcho.
Jade: On the team, the technical lead or something?
Derek: Not even that. Above the technical lead, the top of the food chain. They have this stance that says, “The only thing that can done can only go to production if I have approved it.”
Roy: You’re saying everything has to go through this guy?
Derek: Everything has to go through this gal. She is totally 100 percent, “The design, every pixel has to be done by me,” or “Every single method has to be approved by me if we’re writing code.”
This person works in a large organization, thousands of people per se, and lo and behold, they can’t go to every planning meeting.
The good news is they have some mini‑czars that they can send out to these planning meetings. They can go to these planning meetings, and help the developers and the designers do things.
Then what happens is all sorts of decisions happen in a planning meeting. When these mini‑czars come back to the big honcho, the big honcho says, “Nope, I don’t like it. It needs to be this way.” Now they go back to the team and have to tell the team, “Sorry.’”
Derek: …What does that look like? What happens? How do you fix that? How do you rectify that situation? What are the downsides to that stuff?
Roy: First off, is there anything wrong with that?
Clayton: Yeah, I’ll take the devil’s advocate approach. The reason that all the design has to go through that one person is because if you want to maintain a consistent brand experience for the end‑user, you can’t just let people ‑‑ especially developers who don’t have any design sense ‑‑ to go off and do a bunch of crazy stuff.
Roy: There’s a bunch of awesome examples where I’ve seen exactly that with Google. In fact, I’ve heard, Derek, you complained about this specifically that Google has all of these products out there of totally different experiences, that are totally not integrating because they’re all being developed in isolation.
Derek: Ever since their designs are [inaudible 02:56] left…
Derek: They have not been on‑brand.
Jade: I’ve seen these on the development side, too, where you’ve got all these dumb programmers that we hired that are up there writing a bunch of crap. If they could just do it like me, everything would be so much better.
Derek: Yeah, where do you think our tech‑level of that comes from?
Jade: Yeah. [laughs]
Clayton: I suppose we pay these people six figure to be morons.
Derek: The dumbest, highest paid people, we have.
Roy: I get that. The guy at the top, his neck is on the line if should go south, he wants to make sure that everything goes north. Right?
Derek: Yeah, it’s pretty scalable, they are able to ship a lot of production software this way.
Clayton: That’s a trade‑off. If you go through this bottleneck where one person has to approve everything, obviously everything goes very slowly, and you don’t ship very often.
Jade: And you redo a lot.
Clayton: Yeah, you probably use a lot of rework, as obviously the market’s going to change, and you’re going to have to go back and fix things and change your strategy. But theoretically, everything looks pretty good, and it’s pretty close to being “perfect” when it does ship.
Roy: I guess that depends on their value system then. Do you value the ability to move fast, to make changes and respond to changing requirements in the changing world? Or do you prefer to have a perfect experience? Because I could see value in both of those.
Derek: Yeah, if a lot of people really applaud Apple and Steve Jobs and what he did ‑‑ he certainly was not interested in shipping on a very tight schedule and going very fast. He was much more concerned about shipping perfect products than he was shipping bad products more frequently.
Roy: Right. Another example is like Rolls‑Royce or something, where, I don’t care if it has the latest and greatest features, but…Hold on, let’s be clear here. I’m not buying a Rolls‑Royce.
Roy: I could see people don’t really care about [inaudible 04:46] features, they care about every product being extremely high quality. I don’t know if they actually have this, but I could see them having a philosophy like the CEO hand‑checks every single car before it leaves the factory, because they insist on having that premium experience, and that everything is perfect.
Jade: Apple’s an interesting case, because they’ve shipped a lot of great hardware. They shipped a lot of really poor software that is not consistent and not very good.
Derek: You’ve obviously used their online store before.
Jade: [laughs] Yeah.
Clayton: I’ve always had a tough time with the Apple comparison. I think that’s the first one that people jump to, but no one ever really acknowledges the difference in hardware.
Jade: It’s much harder to fix hardware once it’s gone up the book.
Clayton: Yeah, so that’s different. That’s something that we should clarify.
Derek: When I look at this hypothetical situation, the thing that I think is the biggest pain for me or the biggest thing that I see that people aren’t talking about, is what does it feel like being a team member who goes through a planning meeting with a group of people and comes up with a solution and an idea only to, an hour later or a day later or two days later, say, “Uhh, what you’re doing is really stupid and really dumb. This is the right way to do it. Throw away everything you’ve done and go do this other thing instead.”
What does that feel like as a team member, do you think?
Roy: I can see two parts to that. First off, we talked a lot about autonomous teams. I would feel like, as a team member, a large part of your autonomy gets taken away if someone comes back and says, “You have to do it my way.”
If it’s taken from the standpoint of, “Hey, have you considered using other options”? And they are truly better ideas. If you follow the core commitments and you choose to always seek to better an idea and to accept any idea no matter where it comes from, then that sounds like it would only be a positive experience.
I think that how that interaction takes place, and the attitude of both parties, has a huge impact on how that’s going to go down.
Clayton: I would feel pretty useless and like my time was being wasted. I would probably not even bother attending. Or if I did attend, it would just be for show. I would probably not even be paying attention because, really, what difference does it make?
Roy: But there is a difference. Clayton, if I came to you. Let’s say you plan on a Monday and I come to you on a Wednesday. I say, “Hey, I saw what you guys planned out on Monday. Have you considered using other possibilities”? Would you have that same reaction?
Clayton: If you said, “Had you considered these other possibilities”? We had some dialog, and I said, “OK, let’s talk about it next Monday.” I think that would be one thing. If you said, “Put the brakes on. Really think hard about these other choices, because you’re doing them no matter what.” Then I would feel like, “What’s the point. Why did I waste that time”?
Jade: I can tell you what it’s like to be on the other side of that. I’ve been that person. It sucks. You can’t trust anybody. You are paranoid and you need to be…
Roy: Just to be clear, what side are you talking about?
Jade: The person who’s the bottleneck. Who…
Roy: Oh, I see.
Jade: …is changing things for everybody.
Roy: And insisting that your rules be followed?
Jade: Yeah. It’s a very crappy position to be in. You don’t sleep well. You’re not relaxed. You’re always stressed out because everything is going wrong around you all the time. You don’t trust anybody. I think that’s really where…that’s the core of the issue. You don’t trust anybody.
Derek: In this particular hypothetical, there’s also a middle person. We’ve not talked about that middle person. Not only is the person that is doing the work probably leaving frustrated…
Roy: So you’re talking about the Vice Czar in this, right?
Derek: The Vice Czar goes into this thing thinking, “Oh, I totally represent the attitudes and the patterns and the thinking of my boss.” We go in and I walk out thinking, “Man, this is all going to be really good.” Then I go back and they say, “Why did you make this decision? You’re letting them do that? I can’t believe that”!
Now, not only do I have to feel like maybe my boss doesn’t trust me, but now I have to go deliver that news to a whole group of people to say, “Hey guys, even though I said that this was probably the right thing to do, as it turns out, the Grand Czar does not agree with me.”
What does that got to feel like?
Clayton: You lose face with the other people. I know that I told you that it was good, or that we agreed that it was good, but it turns out that it’s not. So either I can play that off as, “The czar guy is a real jerk. Man, what an asshole! I hate that guy too.” Or you would have to just hope that people aren’t thinking, “This person is really stupid. They don’t understand what their boss wants. Man, I’m not going to bother asking their opinion anymore.”
Roy: Right. Even the boss is probably getting frustrated with them. They’re coming back with ideas representing the team. It’s probably not what the boss wants in the first place. They’re never going to think the same way. So this person is probably just getting shit on from both sides.
Derek: So we’ve got the hypothetical. We’ve got some of maybe how it feels to be all of the roles in the hypothetical. How would you go about fixing it?
Roy: In my opinion, if you can figure out some way to have the team earn the Czar’s trust and rid the organization of the Czar, not rid of the person but rid of the role, I think that will go a long way. Somebody who is insistent on all of these best practices, good coding styles, good design, or whatever, they should be going out and championing all of those things and explaining why it’s so important and really convincing people and winning them over rather than telling them what to do.
Jade: A lot of times they do have a lot of really great knowledge and sometimes even some special insight that other people don’t have, but you’re right.
They should be going out and helping those other people to gain that skill and also experience things from the other side of the fence.
The things that are changing during planning or the real complexities on the ground of dealing with this on the fly, those type of things so that there is some empathy for what the people are going through while they’re out dealing with these situations.
But again, it comes back to building trust with those people. You believe that they’re doing the best thing that they can.
Roy: It gets tough though when you set up a system like that in which you’re like, “I’m the one who is going to decide on the design, so Clayton don’t even bother wasting time coming up with designs or whatever.”
“Don’t even bother coming up with the method definitions because I’m going to shoot it down and give my own implementation anyway.”
Now all of a sudden Clayton hates me, and it’s going to be really difficult for Clayton to earn my trust because he is going to be trying to get away as much as he can to please the people that are breathing down his neck without getting my ire.
He is going to be subverting me, which is going to cause me to trust him even less like that’s just going to be a feedback loop.
Clayton: There are definitely cases where people get in this situation like what Jade described like no trust and I don’t think most people would want to be in that, but there are some people who do enjoy the aspect of controlling everything.
They want to be the hero and they want to be seen as the smartest guy in the room and all that stuff.
I would say that probably is a pretty big component in a lot of these cases compared to the person who really doesn’t want it to be that way all the time, but it’s just like, “Oh, woe is me,” it just happened to be that way.
There is some aspect to that. I think unwinding some of that desire for control where they don’t feel like all of their self‑worth at their job is based on whether or not they got all the answers right all the time. I think that could go a long way.
Derek: When I look at it, Steve Jobs might be a good example. I didn’t know Steve and I certainly didn’t see him work, but I would…
Roy: Me and old buddy Steve, yeah.
Derek: I think that if I were to…
Roy: I call him Steve.
Derek: …guess how he operated, he trusted his people. Because I don’t think he could get the results he got without trusting them. What he wanted to control was the essence of the spirit of the products that were put out.
Not necessarily how they were built and so to me the difference is you come back from a planning meeting and I say, “Oh my God, you’re doing all the stuff wrong and this is how you should have done it.” I don’t think that’s how Steve operated.
He probably operated in a “I’m going to let you do whatever and when you show it to me, if it’s crap, I’m going to say it’s crap, but I’m not going to ship that and fuck you go do it right, and when you get it right, we will ship it. Until then, leave me alone, don’t waste my time.”
“Why did you call me to this fucking demo that sucks this bad”? What I think is very, very different than saying, “I’m going to tell you exactly how to do every little thing.”
I might tell you at the demo to say like “I’m not doing that and I had expected this.” And I think that’s a subtle difference, but that’s very different than trying to control how everybody does their job.
Instead of saying here’s the bar of expectation and I’m going to make you live up to that, I’m not going to tell you how to live up to it.
Jade: I think that’s right.
Derek: How do you get somebody to get to the point where they’re allowed to let the essence of what their standard is hold but not have total mistrust.
Jade: I think there are some systemic problems in that as well that that person is probably being held accountable for those decisions by their people.
Getting some understanding put in place there is a big help. To help their boss see that like they don’t need to be held to that.
They need to be held to the standard of they’re making everyone around them better and helping them achieve that essence and not being a control freak.
Because usually it’s people that don’t want to do that. They end up in that situation because of some externality.
Derek: Right, fear usually, they’re afraid of something.
Roy: I wonder if people that are successful at it and managed to climb their way to the top might not be the ones that enjoy it though.
Jade: There are people that enjoy having that control like Clayton said, and those people might not be able to help them.
Derek: All right. See you next month.
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Derek Neighbors, Jade Meskill, Clayton Lengel-Zigich, and Roy van de Water discuss:
Clayton Lengel‑Zigich: It is hard doing that every week.
Derek Neighbors: You don’t do it quite as good as Jade does.
Jade Meskill: All right, go Roy.
Roy van de Water: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Agile Weekly Monthly Podcast. I’m Roy van de Water.
Jade: I’m Jade Meskill.
Clayton: I’m Clayton Lengel‑Zigich.
Derek: I’m Derek Neighbors and joining us today is the improv group.
Roy: In the room next door.
Jade: Yelling very loudly.
Roy: Today we are talking about thinking simply, instead of thinking complexly. Jade, you and I have been…
Jade: Accused of being simple?
Roy: Accused of being simple.
Roy: Can you tell me a little about what that idea means?
Jade: Sure. We’ve been trying to…
[shouting in background]
Jade: These guys are really… [laughs] yelling in there.
Roy: I’d like to denote that they were entirely quite for the last 45 minutes before we walked into this studio.
Derek: It’s like they’re Chicago trading for [indecipherable 1:10] .
Jade: Buy! Buy! Sell! Sell! [laughs]
Derek: You do the savings, I’ll do it.
Jade: We’ve been working on some concepts of trying to write very, very small, simple applications, taking the UNIX philosophy and applying it to web applications to avoid the over‑complication that tends to arise in larger systems.
Roy: What does an over‑complication look like?
Jade: Usually a system where the responsibility is not very well delineated between either modules or different parts of the application. It tends to be very messy and sloppy, where it’s hard to tell where something…There’s no discrete functionality, I guess is the best way to say it.
Derek: The way that I think about it is, if you had a web application where the code that displays the page where you enter in the details about a job is in the same place as the code that makes the…Say the job in a database in the same place in the code that schedules the job, in the same place in the code that runs the schedule of job, in the same place in the code that…They’re all in the same place.
Roy: It sounds like everything is in the same place, it sounds pretty simple to me.
Derek: Right, until you get everything in the same place, and then something goes wrong, or you want to change something. We have this problem with the Agile Weekly podcast or Agile Weekly website, where we had a bunch of things that were all clinched together.
If I took the approach of a normal, say, Rails application, like the standard Rails way of doing things. When certain pieces of the system got a little too big, or too unwieldy, it was hard to…it seemed like it was simple because it was all in the same place, but the real simplicity came when we broke those out into little pieces.
Then you have these…you’re going back to [indecipherable 3:08] sampler, mentioning the UNIX philosophy, with these little teeny pieces that all did their one little thing really well. They all just worked together.
Roy: So why wasn’t it obvious to be that way in the first place?
Jade: Because in the beginning that would have actually been more complex.
Roy: So how do you know when you are doing something complexly instead of simply?
Jade: I think when it becomes hard to explain, it’s probably too complicated.
Roy: Is that like the metaphor ideal, like you should be able to describe whatever you’re building as a metaphor, and as soon as your metaphor circuit is breaking down that means that you’re putting too much in there? Is that…
Jade: I think that’s a good way of putting it. If it’s not something that you can explain in a simple, conceptual way, it’s probably gotten a little bit out of control.
Roy: Is this idea of complexity versus simplicity something that is on the overall project, or is it something that you see replicating down to the individual components of a method, or a class, or something like that?
Jade: It’s an important recursive idea that happens. If you are being simple with the very small parts of your system, it’s easier to be simple at the larger scale as well.
Derek: I think developers in general…they find it easier to think in these terms when they’re maybe down in the class with the [indecipherable 4:31] methods. I think that’s where they live, and all that stuff. Then you go up a few levels and even talking about what features you’re delivering.
I think a lot of developers might understand that concept at that level, but then it gets in the features and it’s like, “Well, the product guy said just build this stuff, and like well, OK, whatever, I don’t care.” Where I think that’s the even more important part, that’s an equally important part to be having this discussion about simple…
The planning meetings that we’ve been involved in lately for sure. I think we’re constantly driving towards trying to find something that’s simple, but not too simple, or not too simplistic. That’s a really hard thing to do.
Jade: Yeah, I think being simple is hard.
Roy: So this is the type of thing that I might solve using design patterns, like, “Can I just throw those at this problem?”
Jade: We have an observer. Let’s find out…
Clayton: I think the interesting thing to me, it’s always easier to add complexity that it is to remove complexity. When you start to get that Zen peace, it’s way easier to say, “Let’s start super simple and we can add what we need to add,” which is a very hard discipline to build.
Even if you’re talking product. That struck it for me. Can’t say how many times you’re talking about a feature and you’re up there at a whiteboard drawing it out, and somebody’s like, “Well that’s just too simple.”
At the end of the day, if you give this to the developers, it might turn into a two‑week feature request even though it sounds so simple right now, on the surface. As human beings we like to overcomplicate everything all the time.
Roy: What drives that, though? Why do we want to overcomplicate things?
Clayton: Some of it is uncertainty, or, we have this need for completeness. If we only say we’re going to show X, it’s like, “Yeah, but Y and Z and A and B are all available to us, too. We have to show them.”
“Why? What if we just showed X? What if X is enough? That is all that feature needs, why do we need the…”
“Because those other things exist, so we have to show them.” There’s very much this, because we can, we should, mentality.
Derek: Another thing we see in our work is that people have an aversion or misunderstanding of iterative development. It’s like, if we don’t do this now, we’re…
Jade: You mean incremental development?
Derek: Yeah. If we don’t do this now, we’re never going to do it. If you guys don’t plan every single thing that we think we know, then we’re totally screwed. You guys are going to forget it.
To be fair, I bet you there’s a lot of product people out there who have teams that maybe aren’t the most reliable and don’t deliver what they say they’re going to deliver, and all those things.
When someone were to come in and say, “Hey, we’re going to do some really simple thing and ship it real soon,” it’s like, “Yeah…I don’t believe you.” Like, I’m not going to take that risk.
Clayton: To me, it sounds like there’s a little bit of the 85‑15 rule, where you can deliver 85 percent of the value with 15 percent of the effort. Then you spend the other 85 percent of your time delivering the last 15 percent of the value.
I have worked with different product people, designers and architects in the past, where they want to get all 100 percent, because they know that if you spend 15 percent of the effort now to deliver 85 percent of the value, you’re never going to spend the other 85 percent to deliver the last 15 percent.
Which may be a really awesome business decision, but you’ll never be 100 percent as good as it could be.
Roy: Some of it is, building off Clayton’s response there, is, there are a lot of teams where if you say, “OK, fine, let’s just do X.”
You say, “OK, let’s do Y.” “OK, let’s do Z.” Then you say, “OK, let’s do A.”
Then they’re like, “We’re going to have to re‑evaluate the whole thing. If you would have told us up front that we had to do A, we would have totally built this in a different way. Now that you want A, we just have to throw away the last six months’ worth of work, and start all over, and if only you would’ve told us.”
Once they get trained for that it becomes, if I know anything I must disclose it now and tell you that you have to build it into the app, because if I disclose it later you may come back and tell me, “Oh man, we have to throw everything out and start again.”
Clayton: By disclosing everything up front and insisting that it all gets done, the product owner is really trying to maximize his choice later on down the road. His ability to choose later on.
Roy: They’re trying to mitigate their risk, I believe. If they disclose all that and say we need to do all of that, then they think they’re mitigating the risk of somebody coming back later and saying, “Oh, we can’t do that because you didn’t tell us.”
In reality, what they do is increase their risk exponentially, because they make it so it becomes almost impossible to deliver what they’re asking for.
Jade: The cognitive load becomes much more to deal with and “grok” all of those additional features when they’re not needed.
Derek: It sounds to me like then you’re going to try to build a system that’s overly architected just in case you have to build any of the number of features you’re told you have to support.
Roy: One thing recently that clarified this a bit more for me was that we had a situation where we wanted to deliver some features that would have been nice to have a database.
Having a database was a non‑trivial thing, so we used the file‑system. We had a table with a row and a column in it. That’s all there was.
Derek: A folder with files in it?
Roy: Yeah. We had a folder with files. That was sufficiently complex for what we wanted to do. I think some people hear that, and they think, “What are you, f‑ing crazy? You can’t use the file‑system…”
Roy: “…Use a database, that’s crazy.” What we understood was, right now, for what we’re trying to do, for this little slice, that’s what we need right now. We acknowledged that that is not a long‑term solution, but it’s going to be as long‑term as it needs to be for what we want to do with it.
Jade: It was very simple to replace.
Derek: I think where this started to come and play for me was when we started to cross the chasm, so to speak, in doing a lot more mobile development.
So things that we thought were pretty trick and pretty sleek and pretty simple and pretty small started to fall down really quick when a customer would say, “hey by the way, I need an android version or an iPhone version of this.” and I was like, “oh shit, like dude like how in the, man!”
And so when it got to the point like “OK, let’s make everything like API and we’ll have the front end consumed of the web version consume that API and hey now we can have the iPhone version.”
Jade: Anything can use this API
Derek: API right like it started to like I think click a little bit more just even in that that you could kind of separate this concerns a little bit better.
Then you can start to say “OK how about make perhaps even smaller and smaller,” and keep slicing those so that they are easier and easier to replace, so when you do find something new you might not have to rewrite the whole system to do something. You might be able to rewrite a little piece of the system to do something which is a lot less risk and a lot easier to do.
Jade: That’s kind of where [indecipherable 11:27] and I got into writing these micro‑applications that had very discreet functionality.
We were having trouble, even with that simplified view of things of just having an API and a web service that was still wasn’t good enough. There was still too much co‑mingling of functionality between different classes and you know, the abstractions were good enough.
We took a crazy stance and tried to work on like how can we build the smallest possible thing to do this one job, and then chain all of those things together as needed?
Roy: I felt like that worked for those instances I am curious to try more places and see how well it runs across the board.
In that case it was a project that only ended up being a collection of five or six of these smaller apps, but when you start to build a more complex user experience where you have a whole store form or something where the user [indecipherable 12:24] component you try to keep all of those pieces separate. I wonder how well that’s going to play together.
Clayton: I feel pretty confident in it from the next example like; pick any five UNIX commands. It could probably do a bunch of stuff. If you chose wisely.
Derek: Yeah, It does fall down at certain point though. What I mean by that is, there’s a whole lot of things people do, they don’t do with Unix commands any more. You could use “set OK” and “grip” to do a whole lot of things.
Derrck: But you probably open up “vi” or “sublime” to do it instead because the interface is easier even though its [indecipherable 13:00] all mashed into an application than a whole lot more than those simple things.
I think there are this kind of. It is nice to assemble them small‑ly. Into small little apps that interact but when you have to chain too many interactions together, the complexity of remembering what and how to chain things starts to become cumbersome.
Clayton: That and when there’s like a whole bunch of apps that you don’t even know existed.
Clayton: So you start rewriting them yourself
Derek: Yeah. What tends to happen is when you have things that have common things you start to see those assembled into other apps.
I would say that OK and grip get used within most editors the developers use today. Because they make sense to kind of bundle natively into an editor rather than a drop out to a shell and do them. I think the work that those things did and put in place are straight up stolen and re‑used inside of those editors.
Jade: It’s like when we talked about, we built a simple app but at some point it became too complicated. It was simpler to take a different approach of writing smaller, more complicated apps. Think this is the contrary example of at some point that becomes absurd. The interactions are too complicated.
Jade: Now you find a simpler way to merge those things together.
Derek: It goes back to; it’s always easier to get more complex.
If we’ve got the set the OK, the grip, and we need to put them all together like we know those things really well now and so we know how to assemble them into an interface or into certain things a lot better than if we would have tried to build those things as part of the bigger complicated thing to start with.
Jade: I think that’s where some of the ideas around, like hexagonal design can come into play. Where you’re composing complex systems out of simpler modules and simpler pieces.
Clayton: We’ve been talking a lot about in terms of software, but this same stuff applies to process things.
You can take the components and do them very well and you can build some sort of process that works and maybe it gets too big sometimes or maybe you decompose or whatever, but it’s not just whole scale, you know.
From a coding example, jumping straight into some massive java architecture thing and that’s the same thing as like what you’re going to get on the juror train and see if this mother app…
Clayton: …Or it’s like trying to get a good user story. I am like “let’s try and get good at talking to each other as a team first.”
Derek: Let’s get good at working together.
Jade: Yeah, let’s try those things first and then you know, you can juror me to death.
Roy: Hey I will see you next month
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What is your real objective? To plan for maintenance hours or to ensure that your team is optimally utilized working on both user stories and defects while turning out quality code on a continuous basis, including defect fixes?
Last night was the inaugural meeting of the PMI Atlanta Chapter Agile Local Interest Group. This group will meet on the third Tuesday of every month to provide Agile speakers and events to support the Agile Project Management community. I am heading up the LIG with a great group of volunteers including Phyllis St John – who has been instrumental in getting the LIG up and running. Cox Enterprises provided that space and John Kosar from CCCI sponsored dinner and coordinated the space.
I was the presenter last night. I did an introduction to the roots of Agile and talked about Knowledge Domains around the new PMI Agile Certification.Agile Fundamentals View more presentations from Dennis Stevens.
Thanks to everyone who attended and provided input on what you would like to see from the LIG.
Mike Cottmeyer will be presenting next month. I will post details here on the location as we get that sorted out.
PMI regularly surveys project practitioners to identify trends in the practice and needs related to project management. One of the practices that PMI has monitored over the last several years is the continuing growth and usage of Agile practices in project management. Since Agile is a topic of growing importance in project management many project professionals are eager to gain Agile techniques to apply on the job. Similarly, organizations that utilize project management to serve both internal and external clients are seeing value in Agile methods to deliver projects for these clients more quickly.
Because of these changes in the project management environment, PMI is developing an Agile certification. This certification will complement the existing PMI offerings in Agile, such as our Agile Community of Practice, SeminarsWorld and eSeminarsWorld classes, and Global Congress area of focus sessions.
My entire focus over the last decade has been responsibly connecting Agile and Project Management to help organizations deliver technology that makes a different to the business. I am passionate about where PMI is going with this. Over the past year or so, I have invested significant time and travel in the groups that are helping connect Agile and the PMI community. These efforts include:
- Core team member of the Agile Community of Practice
- Key member of the team advising PMI on the best way to offer an Agile certification to serve project practitioners and the organizations for which they work
- Presenting Kanban at SeminarsWorld
- Chairing (with Mike Cottmeyer) the Agile Track at this year’s Global Congress
- Launching the Atlanta Agile PMI Local Interest Group
Agile Certification Overview
I have talked about why I value certification and what certification means previously. I am an advocate of communities generating shared language and exploring how to do what they do better. And I believe that a certificate that exposes a basic understanding with that community is valuable. There is a HUGE gap in understanding between the traditional Project Management practitioner and project management based on an Agile foundation.
PMI’s Agile Certification builds on six key competency areas. Here are the six key areas and a conceptual view of how they may contrast with traditional thinking. Pragmatically, these all exist on a continuum. The key is that most organizations lean toward the traditional side of the equation and that most Project Management implementation put up barriers to delivering projects with practices that lean toward the Agile end of the continuum.
1. Value Driven Delivery
Agile: Deliver value by understanding and prioritizing what is important to the customer and the business, continually refining the smallest and simplest thing that might possible work, delivering quality results incrementally, and obtaining feedback to improve the result.
Traditional: Define the project up front. Use robust change management to protect against / prevent change.
2. Stakeholder Engagement
Agile: Establish and maintain mechanisms that ensure that all current and future interested parties are appropriately participating throughout the lifecycle of the project.
Traditional: Throw projects over the wall across Analysis, Design, Development, QA, and Production. Engage end-users at the end. Leave significant strategic decisions to the interpretation of the development organization while the project is in the black-box of development.
3. Boost Team Performance
Agile: Boost team performance through creating an environment of trust, learning, collaborative decision making, commitment and conflict resolution, thereby enhancing relationships amongst individual team members.
Traditional: Focus on resource optimization. Form teams around projects. Share resources across multiple projects simultaneously. Take power away so people just do what they are told according to the standards. Put all decision making into the hands of few key managers.
4. Adaptive Planning
Agile: Work with the team and the stakeholders to produce and maintain an evolving plan from initiation to close based on goals, business values, risks, constraints, and stakeholder feedback.
Traditional: Plan the work and work the plan. Stick to the Gantt Chart.
5. Problem Detection and Resolution
Agile: The team identifies problems, impediments, and risks; determines strategies for dealing with them; and executes the strategy.
Traditional: Management identifies problems, impediments, and risks; determines strategies for dealing with them; and executes the strategy.
6. Continuous Improvement
Agile: Improve the quality, effectiveness, and flexibility of the product, process and team and influence the organization in order to better deliver value now and in the future.
Traditional: Perform lessons learned at the end of the project. Use those to update organizational processes and standards.
If you are a traditional and experienced project manager you may not agree with the dichotomy between Agile and Traditional that I presented above. This is either because you view the Agile approach as irresponsible or because you believe you apply Agile in situation specific ways without having to call it Agile. In theory, I agree. In practice I see way more traditional project management than agile project management. Right now, most organizations don’t even have language or feel it is safe to discuss how Agile fits in.
Having open and responsible discussion around the concepts of value drive delivery, stakeholder engagement, boosting team performance, adaptive planning, and continuous improvement can do nothing but help organizations improve performance. I don’t believe PMI has gotten it perfect in this effort. They have made great progress toward establishing language around the important conversations and have expressed a desire to evolve this body of knowledge rapidly. Creating the Agile Certificate will create safety for organizations to explore the Agile options responsibly. I am excited about the where the Agile Certification today and where it is heading in the future. But, within five years – I hope that these Agile concepts aren’t controversial. I hope they just become part of the generally accepted way of delivering projects.
Follow the conversation on Twitter at #PMIAgileCert
On February 11-13, 2001, a group of 17 people came together and created the Agile Manifesto. This launched a decade of dramatic change in the way software projects are delivered in many organizations. A decade later, on February 11-12, in the same resort in Utah, 33 people got together to discuss the Agile Manifesto and talk about what is next. There was a lot of great discussion and a lot of agreement. What was interesting to me was that there was a lack of agreement on what the last bullet,
“Maximize Value Creation Across the Entire Process”
Working Code as Value
“Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.”
To many in the software development community – including many of the attendees at the 10 Years Agile workshop, value means working, tested, deployed code. I agree that this is important, but this is not value. Working, tested, deployed code is captured in the first bullet:
“Demand Technical Excellence”
But does this deliver any value? Quality software is necessary but not sufficient for value delivery. Some in this community view quality software and software craftsmanship as the final purpose. There are some that feel that this was all that in the control of the members of the Agile community. I don’t share this perspective. Value not only has a broader meaning than this, but this limited perspective can actually be value destroying.
Organizational and Personal Values
When we were defining Value-based Development – it was marked up to be Values-based development by someone. Within the agile community, there is a metaphor of software development teams as pigs surrounded by chickens and seagulls. The pigs are committed to development the chickens are involved and the seagulls just fly in a crap all over everything. The pigs are management and the seagulls are management. This metaphor comes from the difficult organizational environments that many developers have worked in. There are some in the community that consider value to be improving the conditions that people work in every day. This is captured in the second bullet:
“Promote Individual Change and Lead Organizational Change”
This is valuable, but does this deliver any value? Improving the environment that individuals work in is really important. Software development is a creative endeavor, it is critical to create an environment where people feel safe and motivated so they can do great creative work. Some in the community view this as the real motivation behind the Agile community. They feel that Agile software development is about what’s in the best interest of the developers. Organizational and Personal values are key – but they aren’t value. In fact, a singular focus on improving personal values can be value destroying.
Value as Customer Value
There is a strong movement emerging in the Agile community, or the post-agile community, that agile is about customer experience. Customer experience is critical to get people to use your product. Customer value is the difference between what a customer gets from a product, and what he or she has to give in order to get it. Customer value is really, really important. Google is my favorite search engine. They absolutely understand what customer value is. But they don’t stay in business on customer value. They make money from advertising and a lot of other things other than search. Again, customer value is necessary but not sufficient. Too narrow of a focus on customer value can lead to a failure of the business. I agree that customer experience is underserved in the Agile community. I believe that Customer Value is a key component of the fourth statement “Maximize Value Creation Across the Entire Process.” But, it is not the entire story.
Value as Economic Value
Eli Goldratt, in “The Goal” defines the making money today and into the future. This is about economic value. There are multiple views of economic value.
Business Value: Increase or Project Revenue, Reduce or Prevent Costs, Improve Service, and Maintain Compliance in alignment with the organizations strategy.
Cost of Delay: the cost to bear as a result of delay in investment.
Risk: An obstacle to Business Value.
Businesses are economic enterprises. Any view of Value that doesn’t acknowledge this is short-sighted. Agile is about quality software, organizational and personal value, and customer value. But at the end of the day, Agile is about improving the ability of the organization to improve economic outcomes.
Just like Agile, value is not well defined. And different people have different perspectives of value. Even when faced with the options, they decide that some of them are not important. I am a strong advocate of all the aspects of value – and Agile organization’s must setup guard rails to ensure that technical, personal, economic, and customer value are held in high regard. But they are a means to an end – not an end unto themselves. There are parts of the Agile community that not only view these as an end unto themselves, but that promote the idea that a focus on economic value is actually bad. I don’t share this perspective. Agile is about improving economic outcomes. Technical, personal, economic, and customer value are enablers of this end. Doing these right helps deliver economic outcomes. Focusing on these outside the context of economic value is destructive.