I have a GREAT idea!!!….

I was recently asked what to do when a stakeholder or client asks for a feature or user story that either doesn’t make sense or is based on flawed logic or on a lack of technology or domain knowledge. Sometimes stakeholders’ pet projects, wacky ideas and whims and fancies can be the nemesis of a product owner and her team. They waste valuable time and resources and in some cases they can affect team morale, as the team feels that they are on a fruitless errand.

I have two solutions to this problem: Nip it in the bud or meet them halfway.

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When to use User Stories, Use Cases and IEEE 830 – Part 1

A hammer is good for nails, not so good for fixing televisions. A scooter is the best way to get around town, unless you’re in Montreal in January. Choosing one method to describe the customer’s need across projects, teams and environments actually hinders good analysts, architects and developers as much as it helps. What is much more valuable is having an analyst who understands and has the ability to use all of the tools, and relying on her to work with her team to decide whether to hammer the nail or take the subway.

Use Cases, IEEE 830 style “The system shall…” requirement statements, and User Stories each have advantages and disadvantages. A good analyst, or project manager, should know the advantages and have the ability to choose which is most appropriate for the project. Continue reading

Agile and the Analyst

I recently took the Scrum Master course and certification. If you work in software development in any capacity and you have the chance, I recommend you take this course, even if you aren’t a proponent of Scrum itself. Approach it with an open mind and you’ll come away thinking a little differently about managing people. I’m not saying you’ll be an Agile convert, but it will make you re-examine lot of the fundamental assumptions of traditional project management.

As a business requirement specialist, I was particularly interested to see how an experienced analyst might fit into Scrum. I had read a couple of books on Scrum, Kanban, and other Agile topics but I found them somewhat vague when it got to Continue reading

Turning the tables

Test Driven Development (TDD) turns the process of writing code and designing systems around, having developers create an automated test or tests before making any changes to the system at all. If the system then fails the test, the developer makes only the changes necessary for it to pass the test, including possibly refactoring the code or addressing the design if necessary. Then the developer reruns the test.

There are many benefits to this practice. First, Continue reading

Getting the Horse to Drink

Lack of stakeholder and user involvement is often cited as a primary reason for project failure and the greatest source of project risk. Unfortunately, whether you adhere to an Agile, traditional, hybrid or mixed methology, getting and keeping customers involved in the development process is always a challenge. I explained previously that the most common reasons customers state for not being involved are that they are too busy, they don’t trust the technical team’s ability to deliver, and that they don’t see the meetings as productive.

The first reason is generally beyond a project manager’s control, and the second is a lack of trust between stakeholders and IT that is often Continue reading

Leading the horse to water

In my last post I described 3 reasons customers cite for not participating in development. One of the reasons, and one that a project manager or business analyst can impact directly, is the customers feel that the meetings are not a productive use of their time. They feel the meetings don’t accomplish anything, take too long, or that they were unable to contribute and their presence wasn’t necessary.

I’ve witnessed many meetings with customers that I would describe as dysfunctional, and I’ve worked in many organizations where meetings with no agenda, no direction and unclear outcomes are the accepted norm. The focus Continue reading

Honey, Vinegar, and Customer Participation

Recently I participated in a series of instructor-led online courses on Scrum/Agile. During the section on Sprint Planning, the instructor mentioned that shorter iterations provide more agility, and organizations should aim to achieve weekly sprints. This prompted one student to ask:

“The business people I need won’t attend my monthly meetings. How can I get them to attend a weekly planning meeting?”

This is one of the most common complaints or questions I receive, so it was no surprise that a student asked it here. However, what did surprise me was the instructor’s response:

“Tell them that if they don’t participate they can expect the software to be buggy and not meet their needs.”

I have witnessed this sort of approach before, but I was shocked at this answer from someone who claimed to be an expert in Agile. It contradicts the fundamental principals described in the Agile Manifesto: Continue reading