Enhancing Scrum Meetings - an important way to manage the SCRUM workflow

What is SCRUM? Scrum, an iterative and incremental Agile methodology was coined from a concept of th

What is SCRUM?

Scrum, an iterative and incremental Agile methodology was coined from a concept of the game ‘RUGBY’ where the forwards of a team form up with arms interlocked and heads down, and push forward against a similar group from the opposing side. The analogy in a product development process is to work together and move ahead as a team to achieve the goal.

The most noteworthy aspect of an Agile methodology is that it does not follow any rigidness. A fully Agile enterprise would not have a business or technical side rather would work directly to delivering the best business value. Hence, software development companies are shifting towards agile project management.

The scrum team

A scrum team is the group that actually works on a scrum project. It all begins with the Product Owner and his or her vision for the project. Next there is the Scrum Development Team. They are a team which works across various functions in a self-lead and coordinated atmosphere. The Scrum Master is the manager for this team because of his or her authority and leadership inside the group. The job of the Scrum Master is to manage and monitor all the issues that occur during a development process. A scrum sprint is the basic unit of a scrum workflow.

What are scrum meetings?

After the planning of the entire project plan, scrum meetings are held daily to set the day’s work. Usually held in the morning, these meetings are called ‘daily scrums’ and serve as the starting phase of each day’s work.

Daily, before the start of the day’s work, the entire team meets up to have a meeting- which is lead by the scrum master. The sole purpose of this meeting is for each team member to illustrate his or her work for the day and to inform coordination required from peers. This meeting is neither a status reporting session nor an issue solving exercise. Most agile/Scrum textbooks specify that each member of a team should address only three key topics in a daily scrum meeting:

  • What was done on the previous day?
  • What is to be done today?
  • What are the hindrances being faced?

Rules to be followed during a scrum meeting

A general rule of thumb is that a scrum team with ‘n’ members will take about ‘2n+5’ minutes for a daily scrum meeting if the team is well prepared for it. As an example, a small team with 6 members will take 17 minutes for daily scrums, while a larger team will take more time.  Of course, if the project needs a huge number of people, a single scrum team will not be effective. It is broken down into smaller teams. A scrum team should have 7 ± 2 members (i.e., 5 to 9 members).

Ways to have an effective scrum meeting

Most experts and practitioners of the scrum workflow, follow the following steps to have an effective scrum meeting:

  • Daily meetings of scrum are to be conducted at the same time and in the same place. Preferably mornings or if not possible, at the end of the day are the best times to have these meetings.
  • Meetings should be crisp and short but effective. Long meetings become tedious and the team members get distracted.
  • As the meetings are a time bound activity, it should be tech free zones. Use of mobiles or laptops might lighten the concentration and also waste precious time.
  • The scrum master should project the daily data to illustrate as mobiles or laptops should not be allowed.
  • All team members should prepare before hand for the meeting and the scrum master should make a routine of letting who to speak when.
  • The time should be utilized only to capture the discussion during the meeting not to resolve those issues.

Why are Scrum Meetings Necessary?

An important portion to cover in this context is as to why a scrum meeting required if all the information is available in the Agile project management tool like VersionOne. Well, there are a lot of advantages that a real time meeting offers. The summarization of the necessity of scrum meetings is:

  • Information is very specific and tied to stories and tasks in the agile project management tool being used. These tasks need proper planning and prioritization which is to be decided while in the meeting.
  • Any incomplete work of the previous day-not included on the current day’s schedule can be continued. Total dependence on the tool might leave out those tasks.
  • The incomplete task has to be justified with a proper planning for it.
  • The meeting also makes all the team members get a brief idea regarding the current day’s work.
  • The inputs of everyone are an essential takeaway from every meeting.

Scrum accelerates software delivery and business innovation and changes the way project teams work. Its help the software development companies meet client needs, provide value to their customers, and helps the organization deliver effective services quickly.

Why Poor Planning Can Lead To Project Failure?

What were the causes which resulted in project failure? How to manage software projects in a best wa

What were the causes which resulted in project failure? How to manage software projects in a best way to avoid excessive costs, risks in software development companies?

A survey done by KPMG on the Unsuccessful Information Technology Projects revealed that the three most common reasons for project failure are:

  • Poor project planning: A weak project plan and an inadequate risk management approach can lead to project failure. Risk management becomes more important as the organization expands.
  • A weak business case: The need for the project should directly map with the organization’s business needs.
  • Lack of top management involvement: The project should be backed up by the management to secure the buy-ins and support at every stage of the project development.

Some of the specific areas wherein poor planning can lead to failures are:

 Goal and vision

  • Failure to interpret the question “what are we reallytrying to achieve?”
  • Failure to document the clear vision and communicate it to the organization.
  • Project objectives are not aligned with the overall business goals of the organization as a whole.
  • Project defines its vision and goals, but the document is put on a shelf and never used as a guide for subsequent decision making
  • Lack of coordination between multiple projects spread throughout the organization.

Planning

We need to ensure that the detailed work has to be mapped out over the next few months to ensure that the project resources are correctly assigned once the project actually begins in the IT organization. These include how we manage scope, issues, risks, work plan, etc

  • Failure to plan - diving into the performance and execution of work without planning.
  • Working under constant and rigorous schedule pressure
  • Failure to manage management or customer expectations
  • Planning should be seen as a team activity rather than only the Project Manager’s duty.
  • Failure to break a large project plan into small deliverable tasks.
  • Unclear roles and responsibilities may lead to confusion and gaps.
  • Some team members are burdened with overload resulting in low efficiency in critical areas of the project while others are underutilized.
  • Requirements should be prioritized as the team focus is not wasted on lower priority items.
  • Failure to provide sufficient user training with the changing demands of the project.
  • Change requests should be handled formally while accessing changes in schedule or budget.

 Stakeholder engagement issues

  • Failing to identify/view the project through the eyes of the stakeholder results in a failure to appreciate how the project will impact the stakeholders.
  • One stakeholder group should not dominate the project while ignoring the needs of other.
  • Failure to include needed “change management” activities into the scope of the project.
  • Failure to inculcate effective communication between employees from top management to lower management who are involved in the project

 Leadership and governance

  • Failure to establish a governance structure with respect to the needs of the project
  • Appointing a Sponsor who lacks the expertise, seniority, training to perform the role effectively.
  • The Project Manager lacks the interpersonal or business skills to coordinate with team members and make things happen for the success of the project.
  • The Project Manager Micromanages the project causing the team to de-motivate and fail to track things sufficiently.

Requirements Issues

  • Vague or open ended requirements (like requirements that end with ‘etc’)
  • Each requirements should support the project’s objective and should have an effective Return on Investment (ROI)

Team issues

  • Lack of clarity in roles and responsibilities which results in confusion and errors.
  • Inefficient team members to complete the work that is committed
  • Projects are done while expecting the team members to work “off the side of the desk” i.e. to work full time while also meeting project milestones.
  • The team lacks the Subject Matter Expertise needed to complete the project successfully
  • Failure to provide the team with appropriate training with changing demand.
  • Expecting the team to work which is already exhausted in doing overtime.

 Estimation

  • Those team members who will perform the work are excluded from the estimating process
  • Estimates are provided without a corresponding statement of scope and based on insufficient information or analysis.
  • Big items are estimated and the small scale activities are omitted
  • Failure to build contingency plans
  • Depending too much on the tools to deliver proper estimations.

 Decision making problems

  • Key decisions are made by people who lack the subject matter expertise to be making the decision
  • Lack of “situational awareness” results in ineffective decisions being made
  • Decision fragments are left unanswered (parts of the who, why, when, where and how components of a decision are made, but others are never finalized) resulting in confusion
  • Failure to establish clear ownership of decisions or the process by which key decisions will be made

 Project tracking and management

  • Proper monitoring lets the Project Manager identify where resources are needed to complete the project on time.
  • Project is tracked based on large work items rather than smaller increments
  • Failure to monitor supplier or vendor performance on a regular basis

 Risk management

  • Risk management is seen as an independent activity rather than an integral part of the  planning process

Conclusions

The past failure should not de-motivate the project managers from further efforts. The instances of IT project failures gives us the opportunity to focus on the relevant aspects that can be derived from vulnerable areas where IT projects are more likely to fail.

Managers can review the following points to reduce the probability of project failure by considering the following ways:

  • Make sure to plan before starting the development or implementation of the project.
  • Set up the necessary processes to calculate and inform the risk.
  • Ensure that the IT project has clear objectives and goals.
  • Understand project trade-offs when making changes.
  • Use the duration of the task to estimate the schedule.
  • Get the support from the executive/top management and get their consent and feedback at every stage of project.
  • Ensure that the team members communicate to avoid the communication gap.
  • The users should also participate in design and implementation of your project to get appropriate feedback.
  • Make sure you have the appropriate skills needed to fulfil the project’s demand.

In avoiding the above points, it can help the Project Manager to mitigate risks associated with Project Management that can led to failure of IT projects in software development companies.

 

Learning from our mistakes with Causal Analysis and Resolution

Handling problems and defects in software development projects is difficult in many organizations. T

Handling problems and defects in software development projects is difficult in many organizations. The problems’ analyses, when performed, usually do not focus on the problems sources and root causes. As a result, bad decisions are taken and the problem is unsolved. This leads to dissatisfaction, increased costs, and lack of quality. Causal analysis and resolution prevents the introduction of defects into a product by integrating into each phase of the project thereby improving quality and productivity. Defects and problems arise from other projects or from the earlier phases of the current project. Causal analysis and resolution activities are therefore the communicating lessons learned among projects. It helps the software development companies to improve the quality and process performance of their activities and enhances the productivity.

Identification of the team members and their roles is critical. One person needs to oversee the causal analysis process. The responsibilities of the causal analysis team leader would be conducting the defect causal analysis meetings, monitoring completion of actions, updating the status of actions and providing feedback to management, and other staff. The contribution of these staff is important, because they are knowledgeable of the causes, have an interest in the defect information, and can benefit from the result of the analysis. The defect causal analysis team members are responsible for attending causal analysis meetings, documenting the results of defect causal analysis meetings, and implementing the recommended corrective action.

Selecting defects and other problems for causal analysis:

  • Project managers, group heads identify the defects, problems, and incidents
  • Metrics, problem reports, internal audit reports, test reports, assessment findings, training feedback, peer reviews, etc. are the sources of problem and defect data

The process by which the proposed actions are arrived at to address the selected defects:

  • Defects and problems are analyzed to determine their root causes
  • Common causes are identified
  • Proposed actions and time periods are identified to prevent the future occurrence of problems and defects

Project manager identifies proposed actions to prevent the future occurrence of identified defects and problems. These proposed corrective actions or preventive actions are planned for by a proposed change to a specific process element such as the operational process, checklist, template, guideline, etc. The project manager then defines the time period by which the above actions are to be implemented. Group head prioritizes the corrective and preventive actions to be taken up for implementation to prevent the recurrence of defects and problems. The quantitative benefits received as a result of the process improvement is measured and recorded.

The effects of changes in process performance are evaluated as follows:

  • Project manager or group heads review and verify the effectiveness of completed actions in terms of benefits, realization, improvements etc.
  • Measures for measuring the benefits are:
  • Reduction in defect rates
  • Improvement in productivity
  • Reduction in cycle time
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Improved survey results
  • Increase in number of bids won
  • Elimination of defect type
  • Improvement in link-up time

Tools used for doing causal analysis are:

  • Project documents
  • Pareto charts
  • Histograms
  • Cause and effect (fishbone) diagrams
  • Check sheets

Data is recorded for use across the project and organization as follows:

  • Project manager disseminates the status of previously implemented changes and results
  • Project manager or group heads raises process improvement proposal
  • Project manager attaches project end causal analysis and uploads in process database
  • Project manager shares results of activities forums, awareness newsletters

A causal analysis meeting can be held two weeks after coding begins. Defects reported through review methods, or inspections can be used to identify common errors early in the coding process. This proactive approach is preventative and corrective. Causal analysis and resolution can begin as early as the concept definition stage, using defects found through inspection of the requirements. It provides a mechanism to the software development companies to evaluate their processes and adds value to the organizations.

 

 

Risk assessment through quantitative analysis

What is quantitative analysis? While analyzing risks in software development companies, we use two a

What is quantitative analysis?

While analyzing risks in software development companies, we use two approaches-Quantitative or Qualitative. Qualitative analysis is the technique wherein we use proper mathematical models. Whereas, qualitative analysis is done by assessing the quality of work which does not contain any sort of measurement. Qualitative analysis involves the analysis of statistical and mathematical data with numerical results.

What is quantitative analysis in risk management?

As quantitative risk analysis deals with a numerical solution, risks are assigned numbers on which the assessments are made. Usually this analysis is made on the basis of cost or time. That is, risk is measured in terms of the loss in cost or time.

Necessity of Quantitative risk assessment

Ideally, a quantitative risk assessment is a compulsion when the policies involved in a project demands it. Apart from all this, there are situations where quantitative techniques become essential. These situations vary from project to project.

Some cases where quantitative analysis is a must for proper risk assessment are:

  • When single point estimates are used for project planning.
  • Understanding the maturity in risk management process of the project undertaken.
  • Deciding between two or more Project approaches.

Quantitative analysis also aids to characterize organizations and leaders to analyze project risk. The ultimate aim of quantitative analysis is to minimize the annual loss and can be used to:

  • Identify the threats that can be reduced to optimize costs.
  • Prevent the loss of assets.
  • Optimize the ROI.

Difference between Qualitative and quantitative analysis

  • Qualitative analysis considers all the risks in the identifying process while quantitative risk analysis process considers those processes which are marked for further analysis in the qualitative risk analysis.
  • Qualitative analysis is done by creating a probability/impact matrix whereas quantitative risk assessment techniques predict the outcomes in terms of money or time based on combined effects of risk.
  • All projects use qualitative risk analysis but not all projects use quantitative analysis.
  • Qualitative analysis does not use mathematical models to analyze risks whereas quantitative models do use mathematical models to analyze risks.

Various techniques used in Quantitative risk analysis

The various techniques used in quantitative risk analysis are:

  • Estimated monetary value
  • Monte Carlo Simulation
  • Sensitivity analysis

Estimated monetary value (EMV):

According to PMBOK, this is a process used to identify, analyze and respond to project risk.

EMV is used to analyze as to how much risk can be tolerated by the stakeholders and how much fallback plans do they want. Stakeholders often want to know the monetary value of the risk occurring. For such situations EMV is the best technique.

EMV= Probability*Impact

Example:

 Suppose there is a project where there are the following risk probabilities:

  • Weather: A 25 percent chance of excessive snow fall that will delay the construction for two weeks which will, in turn, cost the project to $80,000.
  • Construction cost: A 60 percent probability that the price of the project will go down by $100,000 because of lowering construction cost.
  • Labor turmoil: A 15 percent probability of construction coming to a halt if the workers go on strike. The impact would lead to a loss of $150,000. Consider your industry and geographic area to determine whether this risk would have a higher probability.

To find out the EMV, the following calculations are made:

Weather: (25/100)*(-80000), negative since loss

                =-20,000

Construction cost: (60/100)*(100,000), positive since gain

                                                         =60,000

Labor turmoil: (15/100)*(-150,000)

                          =-22,500

Therefore Project EMV = -20000+60000-22500=15,500, hence the project will gain $15,500 as the final value is positive.

Monte Carlo simulation:

Monte Carlo analysis uses simulations to determine the risks for various scenarios. Here, certain variable inputs are considered to generate the range of outcomes with a confidence level for each outcome. This is done by establishing a mathematical model. This technique is used for forecasting the likely outcome of an event and thereby making project decisions.

 

Let us take an example. Suppose there are 3 modules for a project. Monte Carlo analysis determines the best case (optimistic), most likely and worst case (pessimistic) scenarios as follows:

Modules

Best case completion

Most likely case completion

Worst case completion

Module1

2 days

4 days

5days

Module2

3 days

4 days

6 days

Module3

1 day

3 days

5 days

Total duration

6 days

11 days

16 days

Let us assume that we run the simulation for 500 times. We see that the project can be completed between 6 to 16 days. We get the following results from the simulations:

Total Duration

No. of times the simulation result was less than or equal to the total duration

Percentage simulation where the result was less than or equal to the total duration

6

5

1

7

20

4

8

75

15

9

90

18

10

100

20

11

125

25

12

140

28

13

200

40

14

440

88

15

475

99

16

500

100

 

This simulation shows that there are 18 % chances that the project gets completed in 9 days, 40 % chances of it being completed in 13 days and so on.

Sensitivity Analysis:

Sensitivity analysis is a technique used to show the effects of changing one or more variables on an outcome. For example, in project management, it may be used to determine the change in ROI if the output of a certain variable process is changed.

In project management, the purpose of sensitivity analysis is to:

  • Help identify the key variables which influence the project cost and benefit streams
  • Investigate the consequences of likely adverse changes in these key variables
  • Assess whether project decisions are likely to be affected by such changes
  • Identify actions that could mitigate probable adverse effects on the project

Conclusion

Irrespective of it being a quantitative or qualitative process, risk assessment, in software outsourcing companies, is the most important phase of project management. The various ways of Quantitative assessment serves assured ways of risk management after qualitative assessment is made. So, the importance of qualitative analysis is very high as it gives exact values for risk assessment.

Top ten project management tools for small to medium IT projects

Project management deals with initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the&nbs

Project management deals with initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of team to achieve targets  and meet particular success criteria. A project is a temporary mode designed to produce a unique product, service or result which has defined beginning and end. Project management tool helps better to communicate with team members and keep clients informed. Project management can be seen in every walk of life and phases from making a recipe to developing a complex software, application and webpages.

Project Management facilitates to manage risk, quality, change and benefits the user in terms of timeline, scope and budget. It helps managers follow time frames more accurately, preventing projects from ending past due date. Working with project management tools assist project managers to keep projects under budget and on time. It is important for most business's of any scale which considers  costs that include time / resources, dollars costs and return on the investment needed to make the projects. It smoothens the process of determining the schedule of projects, resources allocated and responsible for ensuring that the stakeholders know about project status.

 1) Microsoft Project

It is widely used tool for project management. Desktop application is available as a Office 365 subscription which allows to work from any corner of world. Plan resources, manage team schedules, calculate scenarios, and collaborate with all the project stakeholders. It helps them develop a schedule, assign resources to tasks, track progress. It also manages the budget, and analyze workloads for an ongoing project.

 2) Podio

Podio is open by default and transparent and can be built on top of an open API. Podio speeds communication and provides the transparency and accountability needed for efficient teamwork, by enabling people to organize and track work in one easy-to-use place. Every app is made using a simple drag and drop interface, with which any user can pick from a combination of these field types to create their apps. Podio has feature of reporting, workflows, webforms, workspace, podio chat, task management.

3) Wrike

Wrike's end-to-end solution takes your projects from initial request to tracking work progress and reporting results. Wrike enables to create and delegate tasks, track deadlines, visualize  plans on the Gantt chart, and share reports. It includes following feature of Gantt chart, Resource and workload management, Cross-team collaboration, custom status and workflow, Real time status update and visual dashboard and reporting. Wrike is a powerful yet user-friendly solution that helps you achieve your project goals.

 4) BASECAMP

Basecamp is easy to use interface to collaborate with your team and client. It allows you to create multiple projects and setup discussions, write to-do lists, manage files, create and share documents, and organise dates for scheduling. It facilitates to manage projects and check status on mobile device on the go. It is a good application for small projects where a lot of collaboration is required with clients and team or for internal projects.

5) Smartsheet

Smartsheet is an online project management & task collaboration tool that defines how teams work and works as software as a service application. It is  easy to use spreadsheet-like interface, coupled with file sharing, Gantt charts, card view and work automation features have helps to quickly grow into a favorite business app for productivity and manage any kind of work with one centralized tool that is seamlessly integrated with Google Apps.

 6) Teamwork Projects

Teamwork Projects is the ultimate productivity tool to manage projects with your team. Teamwork allows you to keep all your projects, tasks and files all in one place and easily collaborate with a team. It helps to visualise the entire project through a marked calendar and gantt chart and setup reporting.

 7) Asana

Asana helps teams to track work by single user and manage projects. It facilitates to manage tasks, projects, conversations and dashboard and keeps work organized, and teammates accountable. It also helps to create or join project. To keep track of work with mobile apps for both iOS and Android. It is free to use for teams upto 15.

 8) Freedcamp

Freedcamp is free for unlimited users and projects. Free accounts are limited to 10MB file size limit with unlimited storage on all plans. It facilitates to provide features free to non-profits, teachers and students. It includes components such as Tasks lists,sticky notes,calender milestones, discussions, time tracking.

 9) Trello

Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes projects into boards and organize everything together . It tells what's being worked on, who's working on what, and where something is in a process. It helps to minimize meetings and sync with other platforms.It is easy to organize boards and members for every slice of life with teams. There is no limit to no of users.

 10) Zoho Projects

Zoho Projects is the project management software a that enables users to work online. It is focused on product development and customer support rather than sales and marketing. Zoho integrates with various platforms like MS outlook calendar, google apps, Dropbox. It  plans projects,deep insights charts and reports, keep track  of time,track and fix issues and manage documents. It adds unlimited users on all plans at no extra cost.

 

Conclusion

Project Management have become indispensable to the modern-day project manager and they form the basis what is achieved during the course of a project. Knowledge of the different kinds of costs that the project will incur is essential to successful budgeting while project managers are planning a project. An understanding of overall cost of a particular company in a specific industry will help project managers create budgets that take cost into proper consideration and deliver winning results. It is difficult to tag any project management tool as the best. Choice of project management tool by companies depends on project requirements, back-end technology, performance, cost and many other aspects. This list is an indicative list that a company can use to select. These are upfront tools to manage project one should review for appropriately according to budget and have secure user experience.