Mike MacDonagh's Blog

Somewhere in the overlap between software development, process improvement and psychology

Tag Archives: practices

Scaled Agility: The Project Forum

Name: Project Forum (Middle-out management structure) – Agile at Scale practice

When it might be appropriate

  • In situations where multiple competing stakeholder groups with different agendas are required to work together
  • In situations where multiple product groups need to collaborate on a bigger outcome
  • Where there is a conflict in direction, resource management/ownership or scope between collaborating groups
  • System of systems development

What is it?

The Project Forum is an application of agile philosophy to large project structures. Rather than impose a hierarchy of decision making from the Project Manager downwards the Project Forum is a virtual team in the middle of all stakeholders.

The Project Forum is a self-organising democratic group that balances competing voices and concerns, owns high level scope and architecture, runs the high level release train and performs integration activities for the product.

Use of the Project Forum practice does not prevent any communication directly between contributing groups it only provides a vehicle for that conversation when it’s relevant for the wider project.

From Traditional to Agile at ScaleThe Project Forum practice is an example of Agile at Scale combining social business practices, technical software practices and ways of working to make a simple way of doing big complicated bits of work.

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Knowledge Centered Support in my project

Kelly Drahzal recently published this great presentation on Knowledge Centered Support which made me think a bit on the nature of support mechanisms. I’m currently engaged in rolling out a large and complex enterprise tool (Rational Portfolio Manager) and associated governance, portfolio management and project management practices in a large and complex client.

One of the things we need to do to get these pracitices and the tool embedded in an organisation is manage support. Our support takes two forms, tools support and process support. Normally when a person thinks they’re asking for one of them they’re actually asking for the other :P One of the interesting things about the support that my rollout team provides to the practitioners is that ultimately it’s a transient function – we won’t be the long term support team on this product, in fact support will be handed over to the centralised support function and the rollout team (comprised of external consultants (some IJIers, an IBMer and some independents) and contractors) will dissapate into the ether from whence it came. So obviously, as per Kelly’s presentation we’re very keen on knowledge centered support – we don’t want to waste our time, effort and brain power by re-recreating the answers to people’s problems.

So what do we actually do to try and avoid some of these problems and do some knowledge based support? We’re a transient support function so we don’t have and super tools or even specialist knowledge base management skills. What we do have is a highly skilled team and a number of communication channels.

We capture all support requests in a humble excel spreadsheet, regardless of their communication channel and categorise the requests into a number of categories. (Of course this gave me an excuse to write some cunning macros to keep everything updated automatically).

As well as providing lovely graphs the spreadsheet captures the issue and the response. As a result the team can all see who had what problem and how it was resolved. As problems are solved knowledge is created, capturing it in a spreadsheet is all well and good, and can be searched on by the support team but it’s not great in terms of sharing that knowledge broadly. (As it happens the support spreadsheet is publicly accessible via a guest account on our config management repository – but that doesn’t mean anyone is looking!)

To share the knowledge we communicate it through many channels. Sometimes it’s apparent that our education has been lacking some good guidance so we update the education programme (training courses, open surgeries, lunch ‘n’ learns). We have a wiki where we can post new bits of information, a message board/forum, emailing lists, laminated desk drops, a FAQ on the wiki and also some mentoring guides. One of the functions of our team is to mentor practitioners in the adoption of practices and tools and to do that we have a number of mentoring packages that we give to adopting teams. Ensuring that the mentors are all saying the same thing, giving the same solution to the same problem is important. One of the best ways of doing this it to get the mentors together to talk to each other, run through scenarios and gain consensus on the common answers. We also document these scenarios, sometimes in the practitioner facing User Guide and sometimes through mentor guides.

RSDC 2008 Day 1: Jazz, Sushi, Wallflowers

Today was day 1 of the RSDC 2008. I’ve already been busy for a couple of days but today was the proper first day. Unfortunately I spent the beginning a little hung over. I turned up to the keynote presentation at 8am local time with a bit of a headache – after watching the acrobatics and suffering the loud noise I had an even worse headache – oops :) With only myself to blame I soldiered on to experience many cool things today:

Lots of Jazz stuff

Today IBM Rational officially announced both Rational Requirements Composer and Rational Quality Manager. Also Rational Team Concert has got a lot of press. I blogged a while ago about RRC and RQM (here) so it was good to finally see these products.

Rational Composer is especially interesting to me as it a new Jazz based tool that allows you to manage requirements, create process flow diagrams, GUI mock-ups, manage glossary terms, create traceability and even create Use Case Docs in a single environment. Of course there is integration with Requisite Pro but it seems clear to me that in the long-ish term the products will converge until ReqPro is no longer necessary. I’m looking forward to the GA release of Requirements Composer, and especially the future release that is fully Jazz enabled, making use of Jazz SCM for requirements management and integrating deeply into the other Jazz products. I said previously on my blog that Reqiurements Composer was due for open beta today, but the word is that it will be next week! I’m impressed by this product and I think it will really help people that want to elicit requirements – all the way from organisational business analysts to project business analysts and system analysts. It’s a cool product.

I also saw today the Microsoft Visual Studio client for Rational Team Concert. As a .Net developer myself and someone that works with clients that have heterogeneous environments this is particularly important to me. So far there are some VS native windows for Jazz views such as Team Artifacts and Work Items but I’ve not really seen what the relationship to TFS/VSTS is. Also at the moment some of the views (particularly of work item details) are through the web interface in a html pane inside Visual Studio rather than in a native VS plugin interface – although I’m assured this is to come soon. It’s good to see IBM Rational focussing on integrating with other platform and vendors. As most users would probably say though – I want it now!

Other interesting elements included the news about Rational Project Management and Rational Enterprise Reporting, not to mention the new governance tools from IBM Research including

  • IBM Rational Financier – gives project and program managers insight into the financial value of one ore more projects to help identify and manage risks
  • IBM Rational Governor – helps IT organisations manage project roles and associates decision rights including managing the polices that constrain decisions and promote compliance with processes
  • IBM Rational Tempo – lets project managers understand and mange the variability of schedule overruns, a key source of risk in software development projects
  • IBM Rational Ensemble – reduces risks incurred by communication failures by promoting communication between developers doing related work

All of the above are native Jazz tools and indicate the bright shiny new Jazz future. It seems obvious to me that these tools and will be the future path in the long term for Rational Portfolio Manager

Rational Team Concert will be the first generally available product and will be released towards the end of this month – here’s a screenshot of IJI EssWork in Team Concert just because I’ve been playing with it:

(cliccy piccy)

Many other things caught my eye today – including an excellent presentation on RPM by Scott Craig that happened to include some ideas that I think will seed solutions for some of the problems faced by my own RPM implementation at the moment at my favourite client.

I also liked the look of IBM Rational Self Check as it’s a good tool for supporting what I and my team have been doing manually for years. In fact the Self Check screenshots look remarkably like the measurements slides in my RUP implementation case study! If only this tool had been available 4 years ago! Rational Self Check is part of the focus on measuring practice adoption and the IBM Rational Measured Capability Improvement Framework (MCIF) – of course practice adoption and measurement is something that we know rather a lot about at IJI ;)

The hat

image shamefully nicked from kelly

Met Kelly and Ferdy

It was cool to meet up with some folks who I’ve previously only interacted with online. I think we need to setup a group photo of us all :)

The Wallflowers gig

More gratuitous photo stealing from kelly:

Ian (Spence) had to point out to me that the lead singer (Jakob Dylan) was the son of Bob Dylan – which once he’d told me it was actually pretty obvious. Clearly I need to be more in touch! There were sparkly cups at the wallflowers gig too, obviously I grabbed a couple to take home for my boys (clicky piccy):

Sushi with the Wallflowers

After the exhibition centre and after the wallflowers gig we went over to Kimonos in the Swan for some Sushi and cocktails, the Wallflowers took the table next to us and it wasn’t long before our group and there’s were intermingled. They were kind enough, after getting hassled by Bryon Baker, to sign some autographs for Garth’s kids 8)

Bryon (and others) at karaoke

Speaking of Bryon, he did a funnygreat rendition of Coca Cabana with Gina, I got the vid on my phone so I’ll upload it and post it tomorrow :D

The ribbons

And here’s an updated pic of the copious number of ribbons I have this year. They’re a good conversation starter though :D

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