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See LeanKit’s Mobile Apps in Action

LeanKit goes with you wherever the work needs to be done. Our iOS and Android mobile apps help you stay connected to your team while you’re away from your desk. Quickly create new cards, update status, reassign work, and add comments or image attachments to ensure everyone has the most recent information to keep the work flowing.

The post See LeanKit’s Mobile Apps in Action appeared first on Blog | LeanKit.

Categories: Companies

Post Assembla events to your favorite chat apps: Slack, HipChat, Flowdock & more

Assembla Blog - Wed, 07/16/2014 - 02:26

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: slack logo HipChat Logo flowdock logo Bigplans logo
Categories: Companies

Interested in cryptocurrencies? Get started with 1000 free Ripple XRP

Assembla Blog - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 20:55

ripple logo

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.
ripple blog CTA
Categories: Companies

Assembla Bigplans Integration How-To

Assembla Blog - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 18:26

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:

Bigplans Assembla Webhook

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.

Bigplans Assembla Webhook Token

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:

Bigplans Assembla Webhook Chat

If you have any questions or problems during setup, please contact support@assembla.com. If you do not have an Assembla project and would like to test out this integration, try Assembla out for free.

Categories: Companies

Assembla & Slack Integration How-To

Assembla Blog - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 14:23

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:

Slack Assembla Webhook

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.’

describe the image

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:

describe the image

If you have any questions or problems during setup, please contact support@assembla.com. If you do not have an Assembla project and would like to test out this integration, try Assembla out for free.

Categories: Companies

Assembla & HipChat Integration How-To

Assembla Blog - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 13:40

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:

HipChat Assembla Webhook

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.

describe the image

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.

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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:

HipChat Assembla Example Chat

If you have any questions or problems during setup, please contact support@assembla.com. If you do not have an Assembla project and would like to test out this integration, try Assembla out for free.

Categories: Companies

Annotations, Multiple Uploads & Owners! Oh my!

Pivotal Tracker Blog - Sat, 07/12/2014 - 00:30

We’re excited about the latest round of features in the iOS Tracker App! We think they’ll make you faster at giving feedback & we’ve removed some of the noise when navigating a story.

Annotations:annotation
A picture is worth a thousand words, and now you can add more! Simply drop an annotation pin on a screenshot, provide text & bring clarity to an otherwise complicated issue.

 

Comments and attachments are together again:
Not only can you now attach multiple files to a comment but you can also view the attachments inline with the comments. Context is good.

Consolidated Git Commits:uploads
Commits are now collapsed into a single entry so you can keep better track of the conversation.
Tapping will expand all the glorious commit details.

Hide accepted stories:
When your team accomplishes a ton of work in the current iteration, hide the accepted stories to quickly get to ones that need your attention.

Multiple owners:
More than one person working on a story? It’s easy to add other owners to a story.

Swipe to read notifications:swipe-notification
Swipe to read an individual notifications. Now cats can be Trackers, too!

If you liked this release, please rate it on the AppStore.

Trackalacka!

The post Annotations, Multiple Uploads & Owners! Oh my! appeared first on Pivotal Tracker.

Categories: Companies

[Webinar] "Fast IT": Concepts and Examples from Assembla and Attivio

Assembla Blog - Fri, 07/11/2014 - 17:41

Join us on July 23, 2014 from 11:00 AM - 11:45 AM EDT for a webinar “Fast IT”: Concepts and Examples from Assembla and Attivio.

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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.

describe the image

Presented By:

assembla logo rectangle    Attivio logo

Categories: Companies

UX: Why Lists Save Time

TargetProcess - Edge of Chaos Blog - Fri, 07/11/2014 - 02:44

Any information in the world falls into one of the 2 categories: it requires some action on our part, or it wants to be consumed (or browsed). The job of a UX designer or an infoviz/dataviz specialist, then, is to create UIs or pages with one of these goals in mind. If we want to subtly nudge users to browsing more pages in a passive mode, the design logic needs to be built just for that. If we want to help users act and save their time, rather than make them hang out on a web page,  then the page layout or user interface has to take that into account. I will show the difference between these two kinds of logic based on the  list and grid infoviz patterns from a news hub and from a project management tool.

It’s quite common nowadays to display news as a grid of tagline+image sets, maybe with a mouseover text. Here’s one such grid:

news grid

If we think about it, this image+headline+mouseover layout is used with one major goal: engage users. Make them spend more time browsing the news, move mouse over images, check a few headlines, click on an image. Once a mouseover text is displayed, it’s an easy-lazy thing to get to the full view of the news, with advertisements, videos and social comments. The grid layout, thus, appears to eat more of users’s time, luring them with this ease to click and to browse. In general, if we lay this whole “engagement” thing aside, reading news is a passive online activity, and it can be completed rather quickly. So, if someone wants to scan the news, rather than get stuck in them, they wouldn’t want to hover mouse over those pieces, checking for the clues. The grid layout in the news appears to be more “engaging”, as they call it, but it loses in terms of time spent vs. value gained. I mean, what if I don’t have time to move mouse over those snapshots to find out what’s behind a headline? Busy readers will likely want to just scan the news and headlines. They don’t even need those large image thumbnails. That’s why a list layout scores higher on the time spent/value gained scale. Check this out:

news list

This layout allows  to scan many headlines+summaries in one look. Readers are able to decide faster, if they want to click on some news or not, without mouseovers. Apparently, I would want to read more about the cleanup from storms, which left three dead, and I don’t have to hover mouse over an image, as in a kid’s game, to find out what the cleanup from storms entails. That’s why I like the list layout better: it is more respectful of my time. I must give credit to the UX designers of this news portal, though. They have provided users with an option to choose between a list and a grid.

That was the case with passive browsing. A few “active” things available to users on a news web-site would be clicking on an ad (the more time they spent there, the more likely they are to do that), posting a comment and/or sharing news in social networks. That’s the logic behind the grid design in case you were wondering why such a draining layout — that’s how it looks to me — should ever be used in the news. Another handy example of grid slowing us down is… our desktop. Often I just save stuff to my desktop, files, snips or images, and when I want to find something, it takes more time and effort to move eyes between thumbs, as compared to using a list or search.

Let’s now consider the logic behind the list and grid/board layouts in a project management tool. The UI of such a tool must encourage users to spend time productively. It might seem a stretched parallel, but in some ways board/grid is less efficient for project management as well. Lists will work better when it gets to managing bugs, for example:

list view inline edit 1

If someone in charge, a QA manager, or anyone else, will want to create a living display of bugs, tailored for hands-on work, it would be such a list. Apart from the compact layout, the list has inline edit for most of the fields, and it’s like with processing fish: bug details can be updated faster than in a grid view. Besides, the very columns in this list are customizable; one can choose which column they want to see and which not. Now, what if this person in charge were to work with bugs displayed as a grid? Check this out:

board view mouse over

As with the news portal grid, one has to move mouse over bugs for more details, e.g. to check on a bug’s severity. This grid layout would be a plus if I had time to leisurely contemplate which card might mean what, but if I want to change a bug’s status, assign people, or update tags, I need to dive further in *sigh*, click on the bug card and work there. The grid layout does not allow for quick scanning of the bugs and quick editing/updating. But it would be optimal for changing states as they do on a Kanban board. Thankfully, this project management tool allows users to switch between views when they want to do whatever they want :)

I hope these examples helped reveal some logic behind designing information layouts for various purposes.

Related articles:

How Visualize: Board, List or Timeline?

Visual Management Software

How Timelines Help Project Managers Track Progress

Categories: Companies

How Workspace Improves Productivity

TargetProcess - Edge of Chaos Blog - Tue, 07/08/2014 - 22:57

Success in software development business depends on an intricate fusion of optimized individual performances, be it for a C-level executive, or for a junior software developer, QA engineer or UX designer. Naturally, stakeholders want to drive business results to the optimum, using the leverages they can control, as they are looking for the ways to foster productivity of teams and individuals. In the end, it’s people who take decisions, come up with creative ideas and make working software. That’s why it’s so important to design a harmonious workspace that helps people feel good and deliver their best work. Enough has been said on how stressful environments strangle performance. A stressful environment, the way I see it, covers not only work, but lifestyle-related stresses, such as tedious commutes, being a parent to a newborn or overspending energy on a pursuit unrelated to work. Employers pretty much have no control over such things. A sensible employer will surely be aware of the impact they make on productivity, but these are life choices that people make, when it goes about babies and hobbies; it’s a matter of personal responsibility. Commutes can be controlled, partially, either by setting up an office in a favorable location with decent standards of living and reasonable population density, or by allowing remote work. What stakeholders can control completely is workspace. Rather than brooding over utopian surroundings, it makes sense to focus on the things that can be improved in your office.

That’s exactly what we do in our company, Targetprocess. We are in product development, and this implies that enhanced creativity and optimized individual performance are essential for the company’s success. In this business the price is too high if people are coming up with faulty solutions, on all levels. We simply cannot afford being downtrodden by a dull office environment.

A well-thought-out workspace can help a lot with these 4 things (or activities):

#1. Informal exchanges

Very often, if not always, discussions on work-related issues occur anywhere but at a scheduled meeting. Such conversations can bring along some good ideas, from our experience. That’s why Targetprocess office has been specifically designed to encourage these informal exchanges. The office is made up of 3 round towers, and we have a lounge dining area in one of the towers, the Green one, where we carry free buffet lunches. There’s also an espresso machine with a counter, and this lunch space has snacks and supplies. This environment encourages people to talk and share ideas. Here’s a map view of our Green tower (we also have the Blue tower, and the Orange tower, the space takes about 11,000 sq feet in total):

green tower

The other two towers have coffee counters in the center, with bar stools and a cooler/heater nearby. Everyone is welcome to stop by, sit down and discuss something.

Another thing that we have in place to facilitate informal exchanges is a no-cubicle setup. Some of us had previously worked at companies with huge open spaces, which would be another extreme. Of course, people can talk freely when they sit in one large room, but the noise and distractions are horrible. So, we’ve arranged something in the middle and remodeled the original space in the towers as “slices of a pie”. Check the snapshot of the Blue tower:

the blue tower

These pie-slice rooms hold comfortable workspace for our feature teams. Each feature team is cross-functional, and includes software developers as well as QA engineers. They usually develop one piece of our product’s functionality. This workspace arrangement is more favorable for our development process than a maze of 50 cubicles in one open-space, looks like. And, of course, it fosters informal exchanges in feature teams.

#2. Focused solo work

This kind of work can also be facilitated by office space. We have silent rooms, with a lounge chair or a couch, available to anyone who needs some time alone. One of these rooms is located in our office library. A UX designer, or a software developer, or a company stakeholder, or anybody else can walk in to the library (we have 300+ books and counting), pick a book from a shelf, flip through the pages, sit down in an armchair nearby and get some insight. Actually, a library is not only a part of an office space. It is a part of our continuous learning culture, which is mega-important to us as a software product company. Here’s a picture of some bookshelves in the library:

TauLibrary

#3. Visual aids

We believe in the power of all things visual. Nothing facilitates creative thinking and problem-solving more than having a problem sketched, visualized, diagrammed and dissected. Also, nothing can give a work status report faster than a crisp visual dashboard. That’s why our office sometimes reminds a school with many classrooms. We have whiteboards in every pie-slice room, and we’ve also used IdeaPaint to turn some of the walls into the renewable sheets for jotting down ideas, software architecture maps and what not. That’s how we visualized our production roadmap on an IdeaPaint wall a few years ago:

roadmap for 2 dev teams Targetprocess

A large digital screen is another tool that helps a lot with visualizations. Just one example, that’s how we feed the status of our production builds to a screen:

a screen with production builds in Targetprocess office

 

This whole visualization philosophy is very strong with us, and since our product is a visual management tool, we have many screens with boards in the office.

#4. The sweet things and “feel good” stuff

These are the small things that do not directly contribute to productivity, but help brighten up the environment and make it happiness-oriented. Imagine, after a dull commute in a rainy day, or after a night of bad sleep you walk in to your office… and this charming cat greets you  :)

a cat with the deer horns

This cat is a very influential guy, by the way. We use it as a token to identify who is in charge of automated test runs. The cat obviously feels some affinity with deer (this picture was taken at Christmas time).

It somehow happens that our employees care about the space around them. Such small things do not appear in the office by an executive rule. People use their own creativity to make their workspace vibrant. Take a look at this custom artistic installation at a QA engineer’s desk:

inspiring wooden clips

I believe each and every office can come up with things like that. Such DIY craftworks create a cozy environment at work, helping people feel relaxed rather than stressed out. When everyone is focused and still relaxed, that’s when the real good work happens.

There’s yet another dimension to office environments. Workspace can be improved not only with furniture, or artefacts, but emotionally. Harmonious emotional spaces facilitate improved individual and group performance as much as harmonious room spaces, if not more. But this would be a subject for another article.

Related articles:

5 Things We Need for Sustainable Performance at Work

Cognitive Endurance Basics for Software Development

Continuous Problem-Solving Is No Accident

Top 5 Non-Office Brain Killers

The Perils of Facebook-ization

Do You Need an Open Office?

Our Library

Categories: Companies

The Perils of Facebook-ization

TargetProcess - Edge of Chaos Blog - Thu, 07/03/2014 - 18:16

Software development companies have been using real-time online communication tools for about 10-15 years by now, and it’s hard to imagine how they could possibly do without such tools at all. Online collaboration started out first as instant messaging, back in the late 90′s – early 2000′s. With distributed teams and with work outsourced to other parts of the world, instant messaging became indispensable. Be it a development team located thousands miles away from an executive team, or from a customer support team, or whether an organization needs an online hub where the remote workers can get together, no one questions the need for such tools and the value they bring to the workflow. However, online messaging has always been a subject to productivity-related concerns, and for a reason. I want to look into how the real-time online communications at work evolved over the last 15 years, how it was early on, what has changed now, and what we need to do about those changes, as stakeholders, or as employees if we want to be productive and feel good about our work.

Instant messaging at work in the early-mid 2000′s: Block and Spy

In early 2000′s workplace culture was more restrictive and prohibitive, in general, than nowadays. Some companies used the punish-and-fear practices with regard of instant messaging at work: they would log ICQ chats, banning any chatter unrelated to work altogether, or they would go as far as to totally block instant messengers.  A point to note: there was no Facebook in the early-mid 2000′s. Instant messaging just started out, and I’m old enough to remember how it seemed to be one of those technological miracles. People were soo eager to chat online with their friends when at work. The employers, naturally, wanted to keep their employees working and working. The practices of material production were implanted to software development back then. They assumed, mostly, that knowledge workers should work by the same token as machines in the manufacturing: 9-5 and non-stop. Back at those times, the issue of productivity with instant messaging at work was about not letting people get distracted. To get an idea of how it was back then (or to refresh the memories), we can refer to this 10-year old article in Wall Street Journal. Someone would probably smile, as they read this, quoting from the article:  “Being overly casual with colleagues and superiors is one of the biggest pitfalls of using instant messaging.”

The rise and decline of Facebook in the mid 2000′s – early 2010′s

By mid 2000′s this dynamics was replaced by a new one. Enter Facebook, going mainstream in about ’07-08. No doubt, Facebook has influenced the way we live our lives, let alone our communications with friends and co-workers. Some employers sensed trouble as early as then and blocked access to Facebook in their companies. But these attempts were futile, because the general public opinion tended to regard such actions as the Draconian culture-of-fear measures. 5-7 years later, one can observe yet another change. Now numerous studies and research prove that Facebook makes people unhappy, and they give a detailed account of how exactly this happens. I reckon the recent notorious psychological experiment conducted by Facebook is a clear proof that they sense trouble and look for the clues on how to keep people hanging out there. Otherwise, the Facebook’s game might be over. Anyway, back to to my story.

The Facebook-ization of workspace

Facebook, as outstanding a phenomenon in public life as it is, has certainly influenced the way companies arrange their online communications. Before Facebook, it was about instant messaging. In the age of Facebook, real-time communication at work has got more and more Facebook-ized. Now these tools are not “instant messengers”, they are referred to as the tools for “team collaboration, file sharing, document sharing, social sharing”. Can you feel the difference? Now, let’s think logically: if research proves that Facebook makes people unhappy, and given that real-time collaboration tools have acquired many Facebook-ish traits, it is safe to assume that teams might be subjected to this same unhappiness and feeling low as they use such tools, similarly to how it happens with Facebook users! So, which Facebook-like peculiarities of online team collaboration tools do we need to keep an eye on?  Where’s the potential danger of unhappiness and unproductiveness?

Miserable observer vs. energetic doer

As the research has it, one of the most insidious traps associated with Facebook, on a psychological level,  is spending more time in passive than in active mode. The more time we spend browsing photos and passively checking updates, the worse it feels. Same with the real-time team collaboration tools. Once we spend a lot of time passively checking status updates of our co-workers, on how something worked great or sucked in an area of work which is beyond our control, a certain cognitive bias of being let out of the real action is slowly formed. It might feel that our work doesn’t matter at all. There’s a nagging voice that says: “All my efforts are in vain, no one needs them.”  In a bounceback fashion, these people will want to stand out and make a difference. But their work is not related to any major achievements. They just do their job, as a tech support engineer, or as a QA engineer, or as a software developer. Still, they feel alienated, under the influence of this bias, and they will act Facebook-ishly to remind the rest of the world that their work matters. They’d post an update that — in their mind influenced by the bias — would make their work appear meaningful. But this update wouldn’t add value to the work of others in the team. Or, they might tend to be overcritical as to how things work, or how something is eternally wrong. I do not mean the exchanges where the team collaborate online to resolve an urgent issue real-time. My point is that these channels of communication have to be arranged thoughtfully, and engage those employees that can be the doers in such situations, rather than passive observers.  I’ve given just some examples of the distortions produced by those biases. Let alone that this vicious “feeling low+the need to compensate” circle creates a swirl of alienation, its contribution to the team’s productivity is zero. If an employee is preoccupied with this unhealthy virtual environment, and tends to act in a Facebook-ish fashion, they do not do the work. They blow their productive focus and their mental energy on coping with such psychological biases.

What to do about Facebook-ish biases?

If something like that happens in your team, fingerpointing and spotting individual point of failures will not help. People are people, we have emotions and visceral reactions. The only way to go forward and to keep us productive, energetic and healthy at work is to sit down, think and come up with the strategic setup for internal communications. Who in the team needs to collaborate real-time to do their job? For whom online collaboration is more of a waste, loaded with potential biases? If someone needs some information, could there be such a setup, where they’d get this info async? If this info is available, how do we make sure that everyone knows where to get it? These are just some questions that one needs to answer. If you’re a a stakeholder, or a person in charge of the mechanics by which your company runs, there’s a compelling evidence that calls to de-Facebook-ize work-related communications. If we think more about it, the real-time messaging is usually required for customer-related issues.  It could be, a tech support team urgently needs help from developers or from the dev ops.  But do they need to include other people from QA and dev to these firefighter talks? Gee, if the production team see that customers always come complaining, they might get a bad cognitive bias that no matter how hard they work, customers still have issues. The rule of a thumb is: think who needs which information to do their work, rather than “why don’t we keep everyone informed real-time?” Biases developed from spending time in passive-observer mode come with a price tag: dissatisfaction with work, loss of productivity, and a whole array of other such bad things, which no sensible person, be it an employee or a business owner, would want to have in their organization.  If you are an employee, think if you want to stay on top of all the updates real-time. Beware passive browsing. It’s the most dangerous thing ever about anything online. If your management has no policy for real-time collab tools, invent it for yourself.  When you start feeling bad being a passive observer, and catch yourself posting notes with negative or sarcastic messages, run away. Shut down those channels, and focus on your own work.

Slack, an online team collaboration tool, displays some cheerful messages for its users. One of these messages is particularly wise and well-intentioned. Here’s how it goes: “Enjoy Slack responsibly“.  Also, Slack has a slogan on their web-site: “Be less busy”, which I would like to extend: “Be less busy. Be more focused instead“.

Related articles:

Getting Closer with Remote

Skype Is (not) The Limit

Categories: Companies

How It Works: Kanban+Timeline

TargetProcess - Edge of Chaos Blog - Fri, 06/27/2014 - 16:09

If you’re using Kanban board as a process tool in software development, you must know that Kanban is mainly about letting the work flow through the production states.

Pull some work from backlog, get it through the pipeline and on it goes.

Kanban is great, but it desperately lacks one thing which matters a lot in this world plagued by time constraints. This thing is called a sense of time. If a team does some cross-project work, as they pull smaller items from a support requests backlog, they will likely want to be informed not only of a current state of a work item. They will want to know when it is safe to assume that this work item will be done, or passed over to another department, etc. Trying a workaround to include this sense of time to a physical Kanban board on a wall might be a cumbersome task. Take a look:

Kanban with time

This board has a mention of a milestone, Nov 9. The stickers are to-do items. This workaround just informs of a fixed milestone, and doesn’t take the production dynamics into account. There’s no way to give a forecast from this board, if the team will complete whatever their work is by November 9, judging by the pace with which they progress. Not to mention that there’s no way to see at which pace are they progressing. There are some Kanban reports that can help predict that, but they will not be available in a whiteboard, obviously. This might work for this team, but some other hypothetical team will want their Kanban board tailored to their time-sensitive objectives in a different way. And they would need to sweat and invent specific workarounds, if they need more than just a date written on a board.

We’ve always wanted to help our brothers sweat less at work :) .. and we’ve been well aware of this need, that timelines should be somehow intertwined with Kanban boards. The project management tool that we develop supports Kanban along with other dev processes, and our on-going goal is to make the tool still more convenient. That’s why we’ve implemented timelines that can now be used in combination with a digital Kanban board.  We used to have a paper timeline on the wall, too, but this visual roadmap is more of a thing that creates the spirit of common purpose, than a hands-on tool. The Kanban+timelines combination can be used to see how teams are doing with their work, and in what time they expect to complete it. That’s how this Kanban+timeline board might look (click to enlarge):

Timelines tracking for many projects

There are two projects on this board, and there’s a backlog for each of them. Alternatively, there can be a shared backlog (our tool supports that as well). What goes next are work items laid over a stretch of time. Where the strips end is the current forecast for “Done”.  The timeline can accompany the traditional Open-In Progress states on a Kanban board as well, if that’s what someone needs. Again, no sweat here, one can quickly set up a custom timeline+Kanban combination in our tool.

Having a timeline available as another option on top, or instead of a Kanban board, helps make sense of what’s going on with the projects in less time, pun intended. Besides, timelines keep the sense of time always present with a team (which they might be missing if they only look at a plain Kanban board). It surely is less hassle to maintain the digital Kanban+timeline board, and any stakeholder who is not immediately involved with the team’s work will quickly get an idea of what’s going on with the projects. There’s no limit to this digital timeline, and as to how it can be fit into a screen. Just make sure your screen is big enough for it :) For smaller screens, the scroller — at the bottom right on the screen above — will navigate you through unlimited sands of time.

It looks to me that adding a timeline to Kanban board is more of a burning need, than a luxury. If you want to try timelines combined with the Kanban board, click on the circle on the right.

Related articles:

Visual Management Software

How Timelines Help Project Managers Track Progress

How Visualize: Board, List or Timeline?

Take 5 Visual Reports for Kanban

Categories: Companies

Do You Need an Open Office?

TargetProcess - Edge of Chaos Blog - Wed, 06/25/2014 - 01:10

We’ve been raised in the belief that all humans are social animals, as the theory of evolution has it. If you’re wondering how the evolution and being a social animal is ever related to work in software development, or, more precisely, how it slows down personal and organizational productivity, that’s exactly what my today’s article is about.

Social Animal ≠ Productive Performer

What strikes me most is that we keep on going with the axiom that humans are social animals. Seemingly, we forgot that evolution never stops. With the advances in technology and life infrastructure that happened in the last 30-40 years, the “social animal” concept has suffered some severe cracks. If we look at animals, why are they social? Why they stick together? It helps them feel secure in their natural environment (a flock of deer will sense the danger of the wolves approaching better than one deer), and it helps them get the food easier than on their own (lions, or wolves, hunt in families and then share the meal). Now, do we humans have to gather into a herd, like those animals do in the wild, to secure ourselves or to escape starvation? Obviously, no. But, for some reason, organizations still stick to this thinking as they arrange open-space office layouts for knowledge workers.

Even evolution-wise, the purpose of humans working in an office, to maintain their living, deep down, is no longer to be just fed or to seek shelter. If a contemporary human wants to stay secure and keep “being fed”, the evolution dictates the need to find the optimal ways to perform well at work. “Optimal” stands for “achieve best results with least personal energy consumed”. Staying in physical proximity in one room at work no longer helps our natural evolution, but rather presents a big obstacle to it. With knowledge work, it’s counter-evolutionary and self-sabotaging to expose oneself to the environments that drain us. Numerous research reports prove what people intuitively feel inside:  to keep good health and to perform well, we need to arrange for a space that helps personal productivity, rather than blocks it.

The law of personal energy conservation in the office

Think about it. If you were to count the cases when staying in one room with your co-workers really contributed to your individual performance, and hence to your own well-being and to the well-being of the whole organization vs. how often it was an annoying distraction that sucked your energy that could have been invested into doing the real work? Our co-roomers’ activities have the same effect on us as many apps running in the background have on smartphones. It seems that the phone is doing nothing and just idles, but the battery charge gets lower. The energy is  gone. If you’d need to make an urgent call in the middle of nowhere, with no option to charge it, your smartphone will not be able to accomplish this vital task.

middle of nowhere

It’s about the same with staying in an open-office space. If we throw in to the mixture the other stresses that people have in their lives, things get even worse.

If not an open office, then which one?

How to go about designing office spaces, then? The answer is: it depends on the unique setup and production/development process in your organization. Sometimes sharing a room might work better for a small workgroup, if they rely heavily on a real-communication inside the group.  Like, for a feature team of software developers and QA who call on each other, as they have to verify commits, or if QA’s need help from developers to reproduce a bug, etc.  Or, for customer service employees in technical support and in accounts. It makes sense for them to stay in a shared open-space for their evolution and well-being (read, for their ability to do their work better). However, an open space would be a productivity killer for a strategizer, or for someone who comes up with creative concepts or designs that development teams will then carve in the digital rocks of software. Can you imagine Winston Churchill or Steve Jobs working in an open space office, let me ask? Hardly anyone would doubt that privacy is a must for the highly creative work.

There’s another erroneous consideration that stakeholders might have in mind about open-space offices. They assume that physical proximity will cement people’s belonging to  a cohesive team of individuals who share company goals and values the more, the more time they spend together. Wrong. Belonging to a group can be promoted by other means, such as sharing a company’s philosophy through the space itself, or, what’s most important, by doing some good job together. We wouldn’t think that a family of 4 would have a better sense of a family if they are forced to live in a 200 sq feet apartment, would we? The same is true here. Creating an organizational ethos and having employees light up with it does not happen simply by stowing people in one room. It takes more foresight, thinking and attention to detail. For starters, the team spirit is best promoted by a successful release or by another important milestone achieved together.

This is all about how the specifics of work correlates with the space. While some companies simply do not feel that they can (or should) allocate larger budgets to fine-tune their offices, some people can do just fine working at home, if their home is better conditioned for work than an open-space office. Alternatively, for someone with kids, or with the A/C at home not working, an office would be a better place to work. What and how works better will also depend on the office demographics.  Millenials, the Gen Y-ers, for example, are more likely to put up with the distractions merely due to the fact that they appreciate their office as a space where they can socialize (some say it might be the root cause of why this generation seems to be underpeforming in general). Disclaimer: I’m a Gen X’er :) Not sure if it’s solely for that reason, but I value focused concentration at work more than socializing. This is just another example that shows how deep stakeholders need to think as they approach the job of designing an office. There are so many factors to consider and to write about, that it would take a huge article just to list them all. For each and every company, there will be a unique solution.

Related articles:

5 Things We Need for Sustainable Performance At Work

Continuous Problem-Solving Is No Accident

Getting Closer With Remote

Cognitive Endurance Basics for Software Developers

Top 5 Non-Office Brain Killers

Categories: Companies

Success Story: GLG Boosts “Customer Equity” with Assembla

Assembla Blog - Tue, 06/24/2014 - 17:25
GLG Logo Challenge

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.

//

Categories: Companies

The Insanity of the 1s and 0s Trap

NetObjectives - Fri, 06/20/2014 - 08:15
I’ve been fortunate enough to be at several conferences with Don Reinertsen. I love being next to him watching a talk together.  More than once I’ve heard him remark – “people in this industry are too used to working with 1s and 0s and forget there are other options.”  Unfortunately, our two most popular (or perhaps, I should say – most being pushed for certification) are Scrum and the Kanban...

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Categories: Companies

Episode #138 – Principles or Practices

Integrum - Agile Weekly Podcast - Thu, 06/05/2014 - 15:00

Derek Neighbors, Jade Meskill, Clayton Lengel-Zigich, and Roy van de Water discuss:

  • What is more important, principles or practices?
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Categories: Companies

Episode #137 – Central Control

Integrum - Agile Weekly Podcast - Thu, 05/08/2014 - 15:00

Derek Neighbors, Jade Meskill, Clayton Lengel-Zigich, and Roy van de Water discuss:

  • What happens when someone has central control

Transcript

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.

[laughter]

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…

[laughter]

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.’”

[crosstalk]

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…

[laughter]

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.

[laughter]

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.

[laughter]

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.

[music]

Announcer:  Is there’s something you’d like to hear in a future episode? Head over to integrumtech.com/podcast, where you can suggest a topic or a guest.

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Categories: Companies

Episode #136 – Simple

Integrum - Agile Weekly Podcast - Thu, 05/01/2014 - 15:00

Derek Neighbors, Jade Meskill, Clayton Lengel-Zigich, and Roy van de Water discuss:

  • Simplicity

Transcript

[laughter]

Clayton Lengel‑Zigich:  It is hard doing that every week.

[laughter]

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.

[laughter]

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.

[laughter]

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.

[laughter]

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] .

[laughter]

Jade:  Buy! Buy! Sell! Sell! [laughs]

Derek:  You do the savings, I’ll do it.

[laughter]

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.

[laughter]

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?”

[laughter]

Jade:  We have an observer. Let’s find out…

[crosstalk]

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…”

[laughter]

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.

Roy:  Exactly.

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.

Jade:  Everything

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.

Roy:  Yeah

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.

Derek:  Right.

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…

[laughter]

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

[music]

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Discussions

Agile Zen - Tue, 01/21/2014 - 18:22

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How to handle Tickets during Sprint Planning?

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