Skip to content

Feed aggregator

The Sprint Review as a Sign-Off Meeting

Some teams use the sprint review as a time for product owners or key stakeholders to formally approve the product backlog items completed during the sprint. Is this a good idea?

In general, a sprint review should not be used by a team to get formal sign-off on their work from their product owner. The team and product owner should be working so closely during a sprint that the team knows what the product owner thinks of what they’ve built.

No surprises is my No. 1 rule for the sprint review.

It is absolutely acceptable for a product owner to reject the work of a team on a product backlog item. But the team should know that’s coming.

Team members should not walk into a sprint review expecting glowing praise from the product owner but then be blindsided by a litany of complaints about a feature.

But what about acceptance by a client? Can a sprint review be used for formal sign-off or acceptance in those cases?

Ideally, in cases in which a client hires a vendor to develop a product, someone at the the client company would act as the product owner. And in those cases, it can be OK for formal sign-off on features to occur during the sprint review. But I’d still stick with the advice that there should be no surprises during the review.

Even though the client product owner is providing feedback to the team during the sprint, it’s possible that the product owner needs to wait to fully accept something until other stakeholders have a chance to comment on the work.

As a simple example, my daughter recently asked me if she could go on a school trip. I said it was fine with me, but--guess what--we needed to check that it was OK with her mother. That is, my wife might have had plans for our family during that time that I didn’t yet know about.

This will be a common situation for client product owners in contract development situations. The product owner interacting with the team daily may like how a feature has been built, but may need to confirm that the stakeholders he or she represents agree. Sure, we can say that the product owner should simply go ask. But that can be impractical and might best be done in a sprint review.

But in outsourced, contract development, the client doesn’t always provide the product owner. Many times, the client hires the vendor to take care of everything.

The client is, of course, the true product owner. The client will ultimately accept or reject what is developed. But, on a day-to-day basis, the client doesn’t want to be “bothered.” And so the typical solution in this case is for the vendor to appoint a product owner from someone within its own organization.

And in this case, true acceptance (or “sign off”) on product backlog items cannot happen before the sprint review. The true product owner (from the client) is not sufficiently available and engaged to accept things any more frequently.

Sure, the team may have a preliminary sign-off from their own product owner representative during the sprint. But the true, client product owner may completely reverse that decision in the actual sprint review.

So the ultimate answer depends, like so many things, upon the context in which you’re operating. And so I’ll say that I’m not too concerned by actual, formal sign-off occurring during a sprint review. But I always want to stick with a policy of no surprises during the review.

Sign off or not, as needed. But the team should always have a good idea of what’s coming before they get to the review.

What Do You Do?

What does your team do in sprint reviews? Has the product owner largely seen everything before then? Are product backlog items formally accepted during the review? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Categories: Blogs

Skills that Developers Need to Acquire to Achieve an Agile Transformation

NetObjectives - Tue, 09/27/2016 - 15:20
Skills that Developers Need to Acquire to Achieve an Agile Transformation Amir Kolsky, Rob Neppel, and Jim Trott talk about eight essential skills that developers need to acquire to work in an Agile transformation. Some of these skills are certainly taught in university; some are not as common... but are still essential. These are essential for any professional developer. The essential skills...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
Categories: Companies

Ferguson Enterprises Improves Agile Transformation Success

The Agile Management Blog - VersionOne - Tue, 09/27/2016 - 14:30

Highlights Easy access to reporting and visualizations to track progress Improved enterprise collaboration Accelerated transition to agile Strong partnership to ensure success  Challenges Ferguson Enterprises Inc., the largest wholesaler of commercial and residential plumbing supplies in North America, has been … Continue reading →

The post Ferguson Enterprises Improves Agile Transformation Success appeared first on The Agile Management Blog.

Categories: Companies

Version 7 Beta 7

IceScrum - Tue, 09/27/2016 - 10:41
7.0.0-beta.7 Here comes iceScrum 7.0.0-beta.7. This version brings the “Team availability” feature back, making a new step towards a final release. It works as before, including the recent addition of the useful Sprint Burndown Chart that compares the remaining time to the remaining availability. Apart from that, this new beta also fixes a few bugs…
Categories: Blogs

Hiring for Scrum: Agile vs Agility

Scrum Expert - Mon, 09/26/2016 - 17:19
The Manifesto for Agile Software Development says that you should prefer “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”. But how do you hire the right people for your Scrum software development projects. In her article “Hiring for Agility – Mindset Matters in an Agile Organisation”, Nadia Smith suggests that you should look for more for Agility than Agile. The article starts by remembering the importance of hiring the right people. Nadia Smith wrote that “Agile refers to ‘the Practice’ as resume, education, certifications and experience, versus agility ‘the Mindset’ as attitude, skills, values and behaviours.” Agile vs Agility. Source: Then the article explains how culture should be the driving force behind the organization’s recruitment strategy. This recruitment process should abandon the traditional approach of scanning resume for skills and keywords and invest instead in assessing the attitude of the candidate. Nadia Smiths gives two examples of employee she hired on attitude and provides tips on how to assess the attitude of candidates. Her conclusion is that you should “Find people with a ‘can do’ attitude, who want to evolve, who show resilience, who embrace ambiguity, and have the desire to succeed. These people will evolve your Agile journey, enable growth and create success.” Read the full article on
Categories: Communities

Thinking Differently About Agile Transformation: The “LeadingAgile Way”

Leading Agile - Mon, 09/26/2016 - 15:00

Since coming onboard with LeadingAgile, I am continuously learning more about Agile Transformation and the market for our services.  Each day, I learn something new about why companies choose to work with us versus other consulting companies.  LeadingAgile is different and here is why…

The way businesses operate and survive in today’s market is constantly changing. Companies turn to Agile as a silver bullet, but it’s not. Tons of companies are trying and failing with Agile every day. They fail because they don’t see what it really takes to be successful. They have to start thinking differently about what it takes to adopt Agile in a systematic, meaningful, and lasting way.

To lead a successful Agile transformation, you have to address culture and practices, but it’s the underlying systems that support the Agile culture and practices that makes them meaningful.  All three are important, but where you begin the transformation is really the key! This is my main takeaway from my time so far and what makes our approach so fundamentally different.



Many executives believe if you cultivate an Agile culture, transformation will ooze through the company, and productivity will soar.  They believe if you focus on changing hearts and minds, the delivery systems will fall right into place.

If you have a complex organization, very rarely will a culture-driven transformation result in a true systematic change that sticks.


Even if key players throughout your organization attend Agile classes to adopt practices, there is still a huge missing piece to the puzzle.  Executives that start by changing practices expect the ripple effect to transform the company. Culture and systems are supposed to emerge by changing the way they work, but neither usually happens.  People go through the motions, but because the systems and the culture don’t support the practices, nothing really changes.

If these popular “start with practices” strategies work so well, why does Agile fail in so many companies that use them?

For your company to succeed, it’s time to think differently:  Systems are the key 

For permanent organizational change, adopting Agile is always about Systems first: forming teams, building backlogs, and regularly producing increments of working, tested software. Once you’ve rationalized the “system” and introduced solid Agile practices, a healthy, adaptive, and empowered culture will emerge over time.

At LeadingAgile, we believe you have to look at transformation through a different lens in order to make change really stick.  Culture, Practices, and Structures are all important, but where you choose to begin is essential. Here at LeadingAgile we believe organizations must start with systems, then teach practices, and guide culture over time for meaningful change to happen and for you to reach your business goals.

For more information about LeadingAgile transformation services, go to

The post Thinking Differently About Agile Transformation:
The “LeadingAgile Way”
appeared first on LeadingAgile.

Categories: Blogs

Toronto Agile Conference, Toronto, Canada, November 14 2016

Scrum Expert - Mon, 09/26/2016 - 09:15
Toronto Agile Conference is a one-day conference focused on Agile software development and Scrum project management. This popular conference has sold out each year and provides participants with numerous benefits with seven concurrent interactive sessions and plenty of opportunities to network. In the agenda of Toronto Agile Conference you can find topics like “How to get your whole team talking”, “Building powerful roadmaps”, “The Agile Ecosystem – Changing the way we think about Organizing to Deliver Value”, “Improve decisions using a value-focused prioritization framework”, “Moving from Technical Debt to Technical Health”, “Status and Power Improv”, “Build Your Own Value Stream Map with Lean”, “1000+ org agile transformation that nearly raced off a cliff”, “Refactoring Legacy Code”, “Culture for Great Teams and Results”, “Crushed by Technical Debt?”, “Reinventing Organizations for Agility”. Web site: Location for the Toronto Agile Conference conference: Hilton Toronto, 145 Richmond Street West, Toronto, Ontario M5H 2L2, Canada
Categories: Communities

Tampere Goes Agile, Tampere, Finland, November 5 2016

Scrum Expert - Mon, 09/26/2016 - 09:00
Tampere Goes Agile is a one-day conference that features Agile software development and Scrum project management expert speakers from Finland and abroad. In the agenda of Tampere Goes Agile you can find topics like “Experimenting Your Way Through Transformation”, “After Agile”, “Is Agile everything or is it the only thing?”, “Doctor, please fix my Agile!”, ” Pairing is sharing”, “When quality is just a cost: Useful approaches to testing”, “NoManagement – Change in self-organizing organization”, “Disciplined Agile Delivery for Critical System Development”. Web site: Location for the Tampere Goes Agile conference: Tampere Hall, Yliopistonkatu 55, Tampere, Finland
Categories: Communities

Be Like P Diddy

NetObjectives - Fri, 09/23/2016 - 18:52
When you get in on Monday, your thought should be: Be like P Diddy. No, I'm serious. No, it's not that he's smart, talented, dashing, and that women want him and men want to be him. If you're in the organizational transformation business, or if you're an Agile expert, you need to look in the mirror and say "It's all about the Benjamins." It's all about the Benjamins isn't about charging your...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
Categories: Companies

"Magic Buttons" Blog Posted at

NetObjectives - Fri, 09/23/2016 - 12:26
We just posted a new blog at called "Magic Buttons and Code Coverage". In it we pose an arguably interesting question about test coverage, and would love to hear from others how they would answer it. Come join the discussion!  

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
Categories: Companies

Rules Governing Software Innovation That Don't Work

NetObjectives - Fri, 09/23/2016 - 10:17
Serious games are a powerful tool for Lean and Agile transformation. Games also provide a good analogy for what is happening in software innovation, since both games and organizations are systems. The way in which we define the governing rules for one type of system, such as a game, have a lot of relevance for what happens when you define rules for the other system. Aside from many other lessons...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
Categories: Companies

5 Simple Ways Scrum Project Management Software Can Drastically Reduce Your Business Costs

About SCRUM - Hamid Shojaee Axosoft - Thu, 09/22/2016 - 19:37

It’s likely you originally decided to get Scrum project management software in order to save time. Once you got it implemented and running, it certainly can make everything more efficient. It does more than that, however.

If you’ve been using Scrum software, you’ve probably noticed some adjustment of business costs, due to greater efficiency. If you haven’t been, there’s no better time to start than now.

Only people involved in running a business really understand how much time it takes to keep everything running smoothly. Scrum project management software makes it easier by integrating many functions into an organized framework.

It’s important to always remember that this software does not make anyone a better project manager. That’s still all on the individual.

Many of software providers offer their applications in the cloud, with web-based access, so anyone who needs to do so can log in from any computer, at any time.

Begin at the Beginning

The first place to start reducing business costs with your Scrum project management software is in your choice of software. These apps are a fairly advanced market at this point in time. There are cheaper small business applications and ones that are great for running a vast multinational corporation.

By choosing just the software and add-ons you need, you’ll not only save money at the start but end up reducing costs in the long run through implementing a more streamlined project management process.

The tools you use should not only be powerful, but agile and versatile, and Axosoft provides just that. It Does What It Does

It’s important to always remember that this software does not make anyone a better project manager. That’s still all on the individual. What it does is give a project manager access to data, and the ability to communicate, like never before.

Delegation will become a snap, and everyone involved will always have the knowledge to do their jobs more effectively. You might be surprised to see how much being able to keep on schedule and avoid miscommunications can really affect your bottom line in the best possible way.

If it looks like you’re about to run short on a necessary item, you’ll know before it becomes a problem and be able to adjust accordingly before you start losing money.

Even the best project manager in the world can’t match the efficiency of a computer. It takes a human mind and human skill to effectively coordinate any project, but it takes a machine to make sure nothing gets lost in the shuffle.

It’s all too easy to forget some minor detail that turns into a major problem or leave someone out of the loop who really should have been included. One of the best things about software is that once you put the information in there, it won’t forget—and it won’t let you forget, either.

Talk the Talk

The communication doesn’t just extend to those working on a given project. The vendors you rely upon to get you what you need when you need it, are included in that list. If it looks like you’re about to run short on a necessary item, you’ll know before it becomes a problem and be able to make adjustments accordingly before you start losing money. This will greatly please your clients—who can also be more easily included in the communication loop.

And speaking of clients, you’ll be able to get feedback from them directly, even in real time, if you like. If you’re able to make changes on the fly to better please your client or the end users, you’ll be able to do that to specification, resulting in a better outcome in the end.

Up in the Cloud

Project management software used to require servers, computers, a place to store servers, and IT personnel to provide maintenance. Modern software has moved to the cloud and made things a whole lot easier (and more cost-effective) for any company, large or small.

Today, all you need are the computers you already have (and in some cases, smartphones or tablets). Your data will be available from anywhere; thanks to the web portal you use to log on. And if you really do need technical support, it comes included with your purchase of Scrum project management software like Axosoft—someone will be available by live chat or phone, so you can do some troubleshooting and get back to work right away. No IT personnel required.

Make the Right Choice

Scrum software is a much more mature industry than it used to be. There are many, many options for companies who want to take the plunge to find the right suite of applications for them. One option to keep at the forefront of consideration is Axosoft.

Their devotion is not necessarily to selling more software but in the success of your company and projects. The tools you use should not only be powerful, but agile and versatile, and Axosoft provides just that.

Categories: Companies

"Agile" vs. "Agility"

NetObjectives - Thu, 09/22/2016 - 19:07
When I talk to executives at our clients, one point I always make is that as an industry (software development) we're doing many things wrong. Going Agile has been seen as a fix for many of these - but in fact that's a mistake. No one cares that your development teams are Agile. They can plan and estimate and retro their hearts out, and it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is Agility...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
Categories: Companies

New Help Desk beta is now available

TargetProcess - Edge of Chaos Blog - Thu, 09/22/2016 - 16:24

Our new Help Desk beta is now available.

Yes, available – not planned, expected, or hoped for. We know that some of you have been waiting a very, very long time for this. We’ve promised it many times, started it several times, but so far have failed to deliver. This time, we have something real for you.

If you are half as excited as we are and can’t wait another 3-5 minutes to know all the details, you can scroll down to FAQ section (though, we encourage you to read on).


The possibilities we are planning to provide go way beyond software support. It is already more than just a Help Desk, and future improvements will make the old name too confusing, potentially hiding the possible benefits from you. We decided to use a different name for it: Service Desk, which is a more general term. Don’t worry; if you refer to it as the new Help Desk or Help Desk v.3, we’ll still know what you’re talking about.

Functionality that is ready:

The first thing we had to do is match the functionality of our previous version of Help Desk, so that you don’t have to worry about making a decision on whether you want to sacrifice certain features in order get the newer version. Just like Help Desk, the Service Desk allows you to:

  • submit public and private Issues, Ideas or Questions
  • search and vote for them
  • track the status of requests and related items
  • add comments
  • upload attachments

These features are foundation that we built off of. Service Desk is still in progress, but we’ve made some nice improvements that we can proudly share with you:

A better UI

The original Help Desk portal was released in 2008. It was a decent software back then, and almost 20% of the company development force was allocated to it (at the time, this was a total of 1 person). Over time, the software began to become outdated. We did a face-lift on the program about a year ago, which helped a little – but in order to move forward, we knew we had to throw everything away and start from scratch.


Project Filter

It might sound basic, but our old Help Desk did not allow you to apply a filter to see requests from a particular project. Now, you can.


Description preview

As you know, the name of a request does not always give you a clue as to what it is about. Instead of wasting time opening such requests, you can now see part of the description directly on the request’s card. You can even preview images! We hope this will help you to save time while looking for a specific request or trying to get an overview of what’s in the system.  

Last official reply

Similar to the previous change, we now also show the last comment submitted by someone in Targetprocess directly on the card. We may improve this further, perhaps by adding the ability to “pin” important replies (such as an official effort estimation for an Idea), but that would depend on your feedback.

Hierarchical Comment Trees

Just like in Targetprocess (well, and many other applications too, to be honest), you can have a structured discussion by replying to a particular comment.


Login as a Targetprocess user

A lot of folks were confused when they tried to access the Help Desk, but their password from Targetprocess did not work. This happened because Targetprocess users and Help Desk requesters were different users, and you needed to sign up outside of Targetprocess to access the Help Desk. Now, you can login to the Service Desk with your Targetprocess email and password. In future, you won’t even have to worry about it, if you’re already logged in to Targetprocess on your computer.

Please note that Targetprocess users and Service Desk users are still separate in the beta release, but we are planning to merge them and transfer all requests to the main Targetprocess user. If that could potentially be a bad thing for you, now is the right time to let us know.

Custom fields

This is a big one. You can significantly increase the number of possible use cases and scenarios with the help of custom fields. However, we know that you might not want to always display all fields, since they may contain sensitive internal information. That is why the fields are white-listed you define which fields should be available for users to fill out, and which fields should remain hidden.



Some minor things

We’ve made several more small improvements to the system. Issues will now be submitted as private entities by default, and the ordering of comments has changed to allow you to place either the oldest or most recent comments at the top.

What’s next?

Certainly, we are not planning to stop with what we already have. Apart from polishing things here and there, we plan to make the software more customizable in order to give it the potential to support even more scenarios and business cases. We will allow you to add your own custom request types, not just Issues, Questions, and Ideas. Each of them can have their own personalized “add-request” form with a separate set of fields and predefined data. After all, a request to your IT department to replace a broken mouse is very different from a high level Marketing Project Request. Combine this new functionality with the flexibility and power of Targetprocess, and you’ll have a solution capable of tackling a dynamic array of challenges. It will also be possible to customize the look and feel of the Service Desk with your own logo and custom theme uploaded.

By the way, we already tried it at the 2016 Gartner PPM & IT Governance Summit in London this June, and it proved to be a valuable addition to our Project Portfolio Management solution when used as an entry point for Project Requests.



Q: Wow, I want to try that out ASAP! How can I get one?

A: You can activate it from General Settings in Targetprocess, right under the old Help Desk configuration. You need administrator permissions to do so. 


Important: In this beta the configuration area you see above is a sort of prototype. It works fine for initial setup, but it does not "remember" the settings you entered before. You can still use it to update the mode or  list of custom fields, but you would have to enter all the settings from scratch. You can also contact and we'll take care of that. Don’t worry, this is just a temporary obstacle; we’ll be adding a real Settings page soon.

Q: I have an onsite (on premise) version of Targetprocess. Can I try it out now?

A: Not yet, sorry. We are running it on our hosted environment so that we can monitor and fix issues on the fly. Once we’ve had a chance to make sure everything runs smoothly,  we’ll support local installations as well.

Q: Will I have to pay for Service Desk?

A: No, just like the previous version of Help Desk, Service Desk comes free with your Targetprocess account. You do not have to pay for deployment or requesters.

Q: Can I use it without Targetprocess?

A: No, Targetprocess is required for using Service Desk. Besides, we recommend support staff or whoever is processing the requests to work from Targetprocess, not Service Desk All administration, merging, and state-changing is done from Targetprocess. By the way, here is a nice article on how you can use Targetprocess for customer support:

Q: I have a question, issue or suggestion.

A: That’s great! We would be happy if you shared it with us. You can use the feedback button right in the app, and the message will go directly to our team. You can also go to our own instance of Service Desk  at, pick Service Desk Feedback as a product, and submit a ticket. Alternatively, you can always reach our support team via

Categories: Companies

Targetprocess v.3.10.0: Cumulative Flow Diagram, Entity Split, Emojis

TargetProcess - Edge of Chaos Blog - Thu, 09/22/2016 - 15:43
New Cumulative Flow Diagram

A lot of people have been waiting a very long time for this. We're sorry it took so long, but we had to make sure it was done right. The old solution wasn't good enough, but now we have a solution that we think you'll really appreciate:

  • It is fast
  • It is detailed - you can see all entity states
  • It is interactive - you can hide states and explore dynamics within the selected time period
  • It can be included on a Dashboard

Check out the CFD user guide page to get all the details


Entity Split

From now on, it will be possible to split entities of several types in Targetprocess: Epics, Features, User Stories, Bugs, Tasks, and Requests.

For example: when your Team is doing Backlog grooming and decides that some work assigned to the current Feature should be moved to the next Iteration or Release, you can choose to split the Feature into two entities and plan the second one for another Release.


On the split form, you can see and edit entity properties such as State, Business Value, Epic, Release, and others.


For more details, please see the User Guide article on How to Split Entities.

More Batch Actions

Finally, you can assign a user to multiple items!

Starting with v.3.10.0, you can apply a lot more changes to a set of cards. Move several items to another Project; change their Release, Sprint, or Team Sprint; update the drop-down Custom Fields; change their parent Feature or User Story; assign several entities at once to a user.

batch assign

Emoji in Tags and left menu

Have you ever had problems sorting through all the boards and views in the left menu?  Us too. It can definitely get cluttered in there, especially when the menu is minimized and only showing the preset icons.

That's why we're adding support for emojis in Targetprocess. Don't underestimate their power. They can make classifying and quickly identifying your views a breeze. Just mark your views with the appropriate emoji icon, and watch the left menu fill up with cheerful (and quickly decipherable) symbols:

Mon Sep 19 2016-1

You can also mark your stories and other entities using emojis by adding them as tags:

Mon Sep 19 2016

Emojis can also be used to improve visual encoding by adding them as Graphic Tags. Graphic Tags can be added to the smallest card size in all views. Board icons and the Graphic Tags custom unit on cards can be added from View Setup.

custom grafic tag unit

Restyled Lists

In version 3.10.0, we've made List views look more like a table. Every column has a translucent separator. Dragging this separator adjusts column width.

grid list


Redesigned View settings

We’ve made the UI for views a little less cluttered by moving several controls to the Actions menu. If you need to switch to a different view mode, hide empty lanes, or change the zoom level for cards, just open the Actions menu and select the appropriate option.

View setup

Minor Features
  • Bugzilla Integration Plugin: Map bug fields to Bugzilla custom fields
  • Test Run Import plugin: FTPS resources supported
Fixed Bug
  • Dropdown custom field name is listed as a value in a quick add
  • Mylyn connector updated to work with Targetprocess versions above 3.9.0
  • Fixed Screen Capture Extension: Login doesn't work correctly
Categories: Companies

Bosnia Agile Day, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, October 15 2016

Scrum Expert - Thu, 09/22/2016 - 09:00
The Bosnia Agile Day is a one-day conference that bring international and local Agile experts in Sarajevo to discuss Agile software development and project management practices like Scrum. In the agenda of the Bosnia Agile Day conference, you can find topics like “Let the Elephants Leave the Room: Tips for Making Development Life Leaner”, “From Agile Cat to Agile Tiger”, “User Story Mapping”, “How to write effective requirements in an Agile environment”, “Agile Testing – Adding values to agile teams”, “10 tips how to make your Scrum fail – or succeed if you want”, “The Disciplined Agile Enterprise: Harmonizing Agile and Lean”, “Fitness for Purpose – The Kanban way for focused Agility”, “Coordinating Large Agile Projects”, “Scrum in practice – Developer’s view”, “Agile Secure Development”, “Effective Agile Teams – Behind the open door” Web site: Location for the Bosnia Agile Day conference: Sarajevo School of Science and Technology, 71000 Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Categories: Communities

12 ways to improve cross-office collaboration

TargetProcess - Edge of Chaos Blog - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 22:19

Successful collaboration requires trust. It’s hard enough to establish that bond of trust when someone works in the same room as you. This challenge becomes exponentially more difficult when you have teams collaborating from multiple locations. Throw in a few different timezones, some cultural differences, and language barrier... and you have one hell of a challenge on your hands. Don’t despair though. Most people want to work well together. Sometimes, the distance just makes it difficult. 

A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other.

— Simon Sinek (@simonsinek) August 6, 2012

Here at Targetprocess, we have teams working all over the world. Most of the time, that’s a great thing. When teams collaborate, we are able to apply a global perspective to our work. However, the distance does create some obstacles. These obstacles help your teams to grow, but only if you tackle them appropriately. After 10 years of collaborating across oceans and timezones, we have some pretty good ideas on how to attack the problems that can be caused by working in different locations.

Video > Chat
  • It’s better to have a short video or phone call with a colleague than to go back and forth in your internal chat for 10 minutes (especially if there’s a disagreement about something).
  • Communicating through video allows you see the subtle emotions and facial expressions which you might have otherwise missed. Text-based communication lacks the full context of face-to-face conversation.
  • Careful though: don’t schedule meetings for things that could be accomplished with a simple email (or, better yet, a comment on a work item in Targetprocess)
  • Make sure you have solid equipment for video chats, and that you pick the right tool for your situation. For example: Lifesize is much better than Skype for large group meetings. For smaller meetings, we use GoToMeeting.
  • Some companies have experimented with putting up live televisions in all of their offices. This won't be practical for everyone, and could even be invasive for some, but it's nice having the option to see the rest of your teams. You could experiment with this during retrospectives, or even during co-scheduled company parties.
Mind the timezone
  • It seems like a basic rule, but it’s one of the most consistent issues for distributed teams. Whenever you ask for feedback, set up a meeting, plan when you’ll be able to send over some requested work, etc., make sure you pay attention to what timezone your colleagues are in and how it could potentially affect their response or next action.
  • If you’re a habitual procrastinator, be extra-mindful of this step. You’ll have less time to do things at the last minute if you wake up at the end of your colleague's work day.
  • Trying to keep track of meetings and appointments without a digital aid will inevitably lead to disaster. Use an online calendar that can think about those kind of things for you. We use ScheduleOnce to help our C-level employees and Sales team set up and keep track of meetings. Customers and leads can automatically check their availability and request a meeting. All of our employees are on Google Calendar (ScheduleOnce integrates with Google Calendar), so we can all view each other’s internal availability with ease.
  • Be polite about non-urgent communications outside of business hours. It seems like hardly anybody works regular hours these days, but it’s important to be mindful about what time it is when you contact colleagues.
  • Have a clear and automatic system for indicating when/if you’re available outside of regular business hours. Slack handles this for us: when someone is active on Slack, the dot next to their name turns green. This dot can be deactivated if you’re online but not available, and you can even add a time-dependent “Zzz” to indicate times that you’d prefer to not be disturbed.Working Across Timezones

    "Hey Dan, do you think you could send me those TPS reports real quick?"

Broaden your discussions
  • A key element of collaboration is friendship. I know, this sounds lame, but it’s inescapably true. The ability to chat about the news at lunch, or to bounce ideas back and forth with your desk neighbor provides a huge amount of mental stimulation and gives you a wider perspective for your daily work. It’s impossible to completely replicate the closeness of an office environment, but you can get pretty close by discussing new movies, music, current events (it’s probably best to stay away from politics though), and even family life. For example: did you recently get a cute new puppy? Bring her in for your next cross-office video meeting! She can have a temporary position as your Chief Happiness Officer.
  • Recognize and share any cultural differences you might have with team members. For myself: it's been quite interesting to see my colleagues' social media posts of cities, neighborhoods, and parks all over the world.
  • Everyone can appreciate a funny meme or Youtube video. Encourage the practice of sharing these things across offices (but don’t let this practice turn into procrastination).
Use a real-time work management solution
  • Obviously, we use Targetprocess to manage our work. All of our teams and departments are in the system, so everything can be managed and viewed from a central place. All data is displayed in real-time, and integrations with email and Slack make communication a breeze.
  • Transparency is important here. If many of your boards are private and only accessible to managers or the assigned teams, then a lot of the power of your management tool will remain untapped. Make sure that important information is accessible to everyone.
  • If you’re collaborating with someone outside of your organization (such as stakeholders or customers), find a way to share real-time information from your management solution. At Targetprocess, we use the Share View mashup for this.
Standardize your work storage and communication practices
  • Make sure everyone understands your organization’s “filing system” and knows where to put new things, where to find old things, and how to properly catalogue items. Ideally, your work management solution should satisfy this requirement, but it’s still wise to actively manage your company’s additional storage areas (e.g. Google Drive).
  • Establish a consistent, central place to document meetings and important decisions. Make sure this a real-time source, so you don’t have to worry about managing multiple versions of information. Your work management solution should ideally be able to manage this activity as well.  
  • Try to stick to a common language, even if you’re having a private one-on-one chat. After all, you might have to copy text over to a public channel. If you’re talking on the phone in a different language than your local colleagues are used to, try to have the conversation in private to avoid distracting anyone.  
  • Beware of document deprecation! There’s few things more frustrating and wasteful than hunting for a specific document, doing work based on the information inside of it, only to discover that the document is obsolete and the current version is in a different folder that you didn’t even think to look through. Avoid creating multiple versions of documents. If you do have multiple versions, make sure you label them correctly and delete/archive any obsolete items.
  • Understand what medium of internal communication is best for your current objective. Need an answer from a colleague for a yes or no question? Send them a message in your internal chat. Need a comprehensive report on the results of last week's company meeting? Send your request in an email. Need to kick off a new marketing campaign, or get detailed help on a work item? Create an entity in Targetprocess and tag your colleague so they receive a concise email notification. 
  • Establish automated communication for regular updates. For example: we have a bot in one of our Slack channels that lets us know when builds are being pushed to servers.
Borrow team members for meetings and projects
  • This one is simple enough. If your sales teams in Europe and North America are having a remote meeting, bring in a developer from both locations. The intersection of different teams from different locations will help to facilitate better understanding between offices and departments. Two birds, one stone.
  • If your marketing team is working on a new campaign, bring in someone from QA to give feedback. They might bring in a new perspective that you hadn’t even considered. Worst case scenario: they go back to the QA team with a better understanding of what marketing does all day, and they share this knowledge with their team.
Leverage social media
  • Many companies seem to have lost the original idea behind social media. It’s a great tool for publicizing your product and building your brand, but nobody wants to be on a platform that’s just filled with marketers and bots sending tracked links to each other (just look at the steady decline of Twitter). The purpose of social media is to connect. Connecting with your employees on social media will help you establish better connections with your customers.
  • Encourage everyone to lose their fear of social media. Active and fearless posting from your teams will help to unite your company across offices, as well as display a great example of your company to your followers and customers.
  • If you haven’t already, create a company Instagram. Don’t just recycle your Twitter posts into this platform; post pictures of your office, of your team eating lunch together, your company picnic, or even your employee pets. This might be one of the only opportunities your teams may have to explore the lives of their colleagues. An Instagram can be good for your brand, but it can also be great for your company’s sense of community.

    Our teams meet at the cabin — from the Targetprocess Instagram

  • Your marketing team doesn’t have to handle all of your social media tasks. Encourage your teams to create Pinterest boards to share their hobbies and interests. It’s generally better for these things to be work-related, but it’s also good to step outside of the box from time to time.
  • You may have to take the initiative to get these internal social campaigns started, but they can be a great morale booster if the idea takes hold. It will also help to drive engagement on company posts; your employees are one of the greatest assets you have for increasing this metric.
Never stop paying attention to presence disparity
  • Try to imagine what team members outside of the room are thinking and feeling. If remote colleagues aren’t participating as much in your meetings, they might be feeling left out... or perhaps it’s the end of the work day in their timezone, and they’ve already checked out. You have to think about these things with a critical mind at all times.
  • Avoid consistently “short-sticking” anybody. For example: just because your Australian office is small doesn’t mean that they should be the ones to wake up at an obscene time to catch meetings.
  • Working remotely is great, but it can get lonely. Even worse, it can be technically isolating. If you don’t have solid communication practices built up at your company, you run the risk of leaving your remote workers with an information gap that will impede them from performing their jobs.
  • Before every meeting, make certain that everyone can hear and see everybody else. Work with the equipment you have to reduce the feelings of isolation that can come with attending a meeting remotely.
    Presence Disparity
Meet in person
  • This won’t always be a feasible option, but if you can afford the time and travel cost, meeting your colleagues face-to-face can have an incredible effect on how well you are able to collaborate when working remotely.
  • Meeting someone in person adds a whole new layer of depth to a working relationship. You might discover shared interests and common pain points.
  • When a new team member joins Targetprocess, we try to allocate some budget to allow everyone to get to know each other. In general, it’s good to exchange people between offices for 2-4 weeks every 1-2 years.
  • Trips across the ocean can’t happen too often, but at the very least, we will organize some initial cross-office interaction between teams on the same continent.
Organize team presentations
  • Have your teams put together regular presentations where they can discuss what they do for your organization.
  • Have one team member per month write a personal bio about how they came to work for your organization, what their strong points/weak points, and a little bit about their personal life and hobbies. This could even be a jumping board into publishing employee bios on your organization’s blog to help humanize your company to customers.
Find out how your teams feel about communication between offices
  • Send out an optional survey to "take your teams' temperature" and identify any common problems.
  • Hold a focus group with team leaders from each office or department. Come up with some ways to simplify, improve, or even automate communication across offices and departments.
  • Gauge the efficacy of your internal company chat. Decide if you need to archive some excess channels, or maybe add some new ones to reflect your current strategy.
  • Try new things. Most changes will at least have a positive short-term effect on your teams, especially if the idea came from within. Don't be afraid to try out a new strategy.

In the end, there’s honestly no easy 12-step program to achieving better collaboration. Everything eventually comes down to trust. Do you trust your colleagues to treat you with respect?  Do you trust that your remote workers aren’t just lounging in a pool somewhere? Do you trust everyone to work responsibly and select work items that will benefit the organization? If the answer to any of these questions is no, you might want to take a broader look at your company’s culture, hiring process, and overall goals to see what is going wrong and what you can do to improve. In a successful culture, trust will automatically breed responsibility and independence.


Categories: Companies

Techniques for Improving Sprint Retrospectives – Part 2

Scrum Expert - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 16:48
After presenting some basic retrospective techniques in the first part of this article, Jesus Mendez provides in the second part some additional techniques that focuses on the facilitating part of the Scrum sprint retrospectives. Author: Jesus Mendez, Certified Agile Coach, In my previous article “Techniques for improving sprint retrospectives – Part 1”, we talk about the foundations of a sprint retrospective. We touched base to share my view about the What, When and What for of the sprint retrospective. We have also shared some techniques that could help you help your teams to get the best out of it, focusing on the forming stage of an agile team’s journey. This second part is mainly focused on the facilitator stand and some additional techniques to help you continue adding value to the team’s continuous improvement journey. The facilitator stand To get the best out a sprint retrospective, mastering facilitation techniques is a must. There are things that you might need to consider in order to become the kind of leader that inspires a team to become a great one, like those that I’ve mentioned in my article “Tips4 leaders – 3 Things to consider when facilitating” for example. But further than that, facilitation requires preparation, repetition and training. That is why I strongly recommend you to dive in into Ingrid Bens [1] books about facilitation. I can guarantee you that your perspective about what facilitation means and all that it involves, will definitely change forever. More techniques for improving the [...]
Categories: Communities

SAFe® – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

NetObjectives - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 20:52
Abstract: If you go to almost any Agile conference these days, the topic of SAFe is sure to come up.  You are virtually certain to hear some good things and an equal number of bad things about it.  There is no question that SAFe provides some value, but why the vehement insistence by many Agile consultants that SAFe is not Agile?  Also, even though many companies that are using it, why are many...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
Categories: Companies

50 Shades of Open Source

About SCRUM - Hamid Shojaee Axosoft - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 20:28

After attending my first ever GitHub Universe (yes, it was awesome) as Axosoft’s evangelist for GitKraken, I learned that open-source is super sexy. And, well…closed-source is delightfully naughty too! So, basically, two spaces that are supposed to be mortal enemies are now friends with benefits.

CEO of GitHub, Chris Wanstrath, kicked off GitHub Universe with this message:

“It’s not an open source/closed source world — it’s more nuanced. Some of the biggest companies today are using open source. The world is much more gray today than black and white.”Chris Wanstrath, GitHub CEO

You could hear a collective gasp from the audience, like someone just said, “Guess who’s running for president? Octocat, Mona Lisa, and she’s winning!”

So, let me try to explain some of the shades of gray around open and closed source:

  • GitKraken is built on an open-source framework, Electron, but it is not open-source.
  • Nodegit is open source and one of our developers is a core-maintainer even though he, himself, works on a closed-source project, GitKraken.
  • GitHub is not open-source, although it does support and facilitate open-source projects and communities.
  • Yes, the octocat is a girl named, Mona Lisa! Totally makes sense, right?!
github universe octocat

Ok, I was more confused than when I started this blog, so I asked one of our GitKraken developers, Kyle Smith, what he had to say about the open/closed-source situation.

“I think open-source is great. One of the most mind-blowing things for me when I started working on GitKraken was realizing how easy it was to contribute to open source; that you could talk to and work with your dev heroes online and make significant (or tiny) contributions to tools you use.”

He goes on to say, “I don’t understand the sometimes harsh reactions people have over closed-source. People have to make money to eat.”

Basically, open/closed source are two sides of the same coin, both (potentially) allow for diverse people to work collaboratively and make a difference in the world!

Ok, this was starting to make sense! Hang tight for the metaphor, kids: Open-source is like volunteering, right? You collaborate with a bunch of people, share ideas, skills, etc. to create something larger than the sum of its parts, and your payment is the satisfaction of knowing you have contributed to a necessary community.

Closed-source is like going to work, right? It’s when you collaborate with a bunch of people, share ideas, skills, etc. to create something larger than the sum of its parts, and you get a paycheck and the satisfaction of knowing you have contributed to a necessary community.

Basically, open/closed-source are two sides of the same coin, both (potentially) allow for diverse people to work collaboratively and make a difference in the world!

An astounding example of this is GitHub’s Social Impact team, lead by Nicole Sanchez. Her day-to-day duties include meeting and training every person at GitHub on what diversity and inclusion mean, so they can create a vibrant community online and off.

So, really, GitHub is using some of their closed-source dollars to support the most open-source idea of all: community building.

github ceo GitHub CEO, Chris Wanstrath addresses the audience at GitHub Universe.

And so, it seems fitting, that the last word of this blog goes to the king of open-and-closed source, Chris Wanstrath.

Open source isn’t just about libraries. It’s about people making a real difference in the world.Chris Wanstrath, GitHub CEO
Categories: Companies

Scrum Knowledge Sharing

SpiraPlan is a agile project management system designed specifically for methodologies such as scrum, XP and Kanban.