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Re: [scrumdevelopment] Developers on multiple projects

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  • Johanna Rothman
    Elizabeth, I ve had good results with the approach you describe. Did you use kanban (cards on the wall) to make this happen? bmwpapa, your organization needs
    Message 1 of 13 , Jan 2, 2010
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      Elizabeth,

      I've had good results with the approach you describe. Did you use kanban (cards on the wall) to make this happen?

      bmwpapa, your organization needs to start managing the project portfolio. Especially in small organizations, it's quite common for the number of project to outweigh the number of developers (project staff of all stripes). 

      I just worked with a small organization who sounds like your description. They moved to one-week iterations, with a few people on each staffed project, and each week (or 2) re-evaluated the project portfolio to see which projects to staff now. 

      Right now, you have partial commitment to all the projects, with the result that all are slowing down. I bet there are a bunch of defects being inserted and not caught because of the multitasking in people's brains. 

      I have much of the preface to my book here: 

      Daniel just wrote a nice description here: http://praglife.com/

      A tool is not what you need. You need decisions about which projects to staff *for now* and which ones to postpone. Or, as Elizabeth says, rank order all the features, regardless of project, and make the team work together to work on one backlog, composed of whatever, but the key is that you don't have a lot of work in progress.

      Johanna


      On Jan 1, 2010, at 10:18 PM, Elizabeth V Woodward wrote:

       


      I was brought in to help a smaller company a while back… What I found was that the teams were made up of some really amazingly talented people… The biggest problem was that they were constantly being interrupted when working on one thing to work on something else. Along with the multiple projects, there were multiple contacts who could shift the team’s attention…project managers for each project on the client side, project managers for each project on the company’s side, the CEO of the company, the CIO, etc. Not good.

      Because it was a small company, having the entire team dedicated to one project would not have worked. There were lulls in activities where the client was reviewing information with subject matter experts or gathering data for the project. During that time, the team had cycles to work on other projects. Additionally, there really were time-sensitive, critical work items (developing a time-sensitive proposal with some initial modeling for a potential client, for example) that needed to be done in parallel with current project work.  It wouldn’t make sense to wait until the end of one project to work on the proposal, for example.

      What we did was set up a backlog of all of the work for the whole team, owned and prioritized by one person. The CEO determined who would serve as that Product Owner. That Product Owner took input from the different project contacts, the Team, etc, and—based on knowledge of the projects, technical constraints, business impact, the team’s capabilities/ input and info they provided on the cost of context switching—the PO was ultimately responsible for the order/prioritizatio n of work items in the backlog. This helped to eliminate the thrashing we were seeing. It also made visible problems with too many projects in play at a given time. Using velocity and looking at the size of the work items, everyone had a much more realistic picture of what user stories and other work items could be accomplished. Engaging clients for the reviews and planning ensured that we stayed in alignment with clients' expectations.

      The whole team (7 people) participated in ONE Daily Scrum, so everyone knew what everyone else was working on. The team answered the three questions, focused on discussing dependencies they had on each other, let other people know when they needed help, discussed potential blockers, etc. We were able to much more quickly identify and address issues. We did not have separate Daily Scrums depending on which people were working on which projects during that Sprint. Everyone was on the same Sprint cycle. We did not have a separate planning meeting for each project with user stories that would be addressed that Sprint or separate retrospectives for each project. The Team planned and reflected together. However, we did have separate demos/reviews with the appropriate stakeholders for the different projects.

      -elizabeth


      > Please respond to scrumdevelopment

      >
      >  

      > Here's an example scenario, based on real-world situations, for your
      > feedback...
      >
      > Company A is a small company with 5 projects, and 10 developers.
      >
      > Developers work on multiple projects. This is for various reasons
      > (senior developers contribute their advanced skills and domain
      > knowledge across multiple projects, other developers cross-train for
      > interchangeability, small companies can't afford dedicated teams on
      > each project, etc.).
      >
      > If Joe Developer works on 3 projects, he has to track/attend 3 of
      > everything (sprints, stand-ups, planning, review, retrospective) . He
      > has to keep track of all his work across all 3 projects. Depending
      > on the situation, he might work on projects in priority order (one
      > project at a time), or he might work on his tasks in priority order
      > (jumping from one project to another).
      >
      > [Q:] What is your experience with this? I'm sure it's preferred to
      > have developers/teams dedicated to a single project, but I'm curious
      > how common this scenario has been in your experience and how you've
      > handled it. Should the sprints be aligned or staggered?
      >
      > [Q:] What agile tools would you recommend overall for this scenario?
      > I prefer tools that are free/cheap, simple/intuitive, fast/
      > responsive, with potential integration with third-party defect
      > tracking, wiki pages, etc.
      >
      > I've researched some nice agile tools that provide easy user story
      > specification with drag-n-drop prioritization, easy drag-n-drop
      > sprint planning, task breakdown, storyboard drag-n-drop, reporting,
      > etc. BUT... tools that manage multiple projects, and enable
      > developers to see their tasks across multiple projects, seem to cost
      > more and have increased complexity.
      >
      > In summary, I want to learn the best way to manage this situation
      > (developers on multiple projects), and I want to find cost-
      > effective, simple tools to help the team be most productive when
      > dedicated teams are not an option.



      --

      Rothman Consulting Group, Inc.     781-641-4046

      Speaker, Author, Consultant - Managing Product Development

      ==========================================

      http://www.ayeconference.com, Nov 7-11, 2010

      New: Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects







    • bmwpapa
      Thanks Elizabeth. If I read you correctly, you seem to describe a single backlog, managed by a single PO, with ONE team, across multiple projects. This
      Message 2 of 13 , Jan 2, 2010
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        Thanks Elizabeth. If I read you correctly, you seem to describe a single backlog, managed by a single PO, with ONE team, across multiple projects.

        This appears to be more story/task-centric, rather than project/release-centric - i.e. work on stories/tasks in order of priority, regardless of which project/release it's for. But, then, how do you track your release burndown, velocity, and goals/progress for individual projects? Each project should be release-able after each sprint, but each sprint tracks multiple projects. Unless I'm missing something, this approach seems to cloud the bigger picture.

        In response to other posts...

        Andre seems to suggest that developers on multiple projects is plain wrong. I understand it's not preferred, but I'm not convinced it's always avoidable.

        Maurice seems to think that I want "everything", but I'm willing to pay "nothing". However, I'm really just stating the obvious preference for cost-effectiveness. I want the biggest bang for the buck. Who doesn't?

        I'm still interested to hear more real-world experiences...


        --- In scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com, Elizabeth V Woodward <evwoodwa@...> wrote:
        >
        > I was brought in to help a smaller company a while back… What I found was
        > that the teams were made up of some really amazingly talented people… The
        > biggest problem was that they were constantly being interrupted when
        > working on one thing to work on something else. Along with the multiple
        > projects, there were multiple contacts who could shift the team’s
        > attention…project managers for each project on the client side, project
        > managers for each project on the company’s side, the CEO of the company,
        > the CIO, etc. Not good.
        >
        > Because it was a small company, having the entire team dedicated to one
        > project would not have worked. There were lulls in activities where the
        > client was reviewing information with subject matter experts or gathering
        > data for the project. During that time, the team had cycles to work on
        > other projects. Additionally, there really were time-sensitive, critical
        > work items (developing a time-sensitive proposal with some initial
        > modeling for a potential client, for example) that needed to be done in
        > parallel with current project work. It wouldn’t make sense to wait until
        > the end of one project to work on the proposal, for example.
        >
        > What we did was set up a backlog of all of the work for the whole team,
        > owned and prioritized by one person. The CEO determined who would serve as
        > that Product Owner. That Product Owner took input from the different
        > project contacts, the Team, etc, andâ€"based on knowledge of the projects,
        > technical constraints, business impact, the team’s capabilities/input and
        > info they provided on the cost of context switchingâ€"the PO was ultimately
        > responsible for the order/prioritization of work items in the backlog.
        > This helped to eliminate the thrashing we were seeing. It also made
        > visible problems with too many projects in play at a given time. Using
        > velocity and looking at the size of the work items, everyone had a much
        > more realistic picture of what user stories and other work items could be
        > accomplished. Engaging clients for the reviews and planning ensured that
        > we stayed in alignment with clients' expectations.
        > The whole team (7 people) participated in ONE Daily Scrum, so everyone
        > knew what everyone else was working on. The team answered the three
        > questions, focused on discussing dependencies they had on each other, let
        > other people know when they needed help, discussed potential blockers,
        > etc. We were able to much more quickly identify and address issues. We did
        > not have separate Daily Scrums depending on which people were working on
        > which projects during that Sprint. Everyone was on the same Sprint cycle.
        > We did not have a separate planning meeting for each project with user
        > stories that would be addressed that Sprint or separate retrospectives for
        > each project. The Team planned and reflected together. However, we did
        > have separate demos/reviews with the appropriate stakeholders for the
        > different projects.
        > -elizabeth
        >
        > > Please respond to scrumdevelopment
        > >
        > >
        > > Here's an example scenario, based on real-world situations, for your
        > > feedback...
        > >
        > > Company A is a small company with 5 projects, and 10 developers.
        > >
        > > Developers work on multiple projects. This is for various reasons
        > > (senior developers contribute their advanced skills and domain
        > > knowledge across multiple projects, other developers cross-train for
        > > interchangeability, small companies can't afford dedicated teams on
        > > each project, etc.).
        > >
        > > If Joe Developer works on 3 projects, he has to track/attend 3 of
        > > everything (sprints, stand-ups, planning, review, retrospective). He
        > > has to keep track of all his work across all 3 projects. Depending
        > > on the situation, he might work on projects in priority order (one
        > > project at a time), or he might work on his tasks in priority order
        > > (jumping from one project to another).
        > >
        > > [Q:] What is your experience with this? I'm sure it's preferred to
        > > have developers/teams dedicated to a single project, but I'm curious
        > > how common this scenario has been in your experience and how you've
        > > handled it. Should the sprints be aligned or staggered?
        > >
        > > [Q:] What agile tools would you recommend overall for this scenario?
        > > I prefer tools that are free/cheap, simple/intuitive, fast/
        > > responsive, with potential integration with third-party defect
        > > tracking, wiki pages, etc.
        > >
        > > I've researched some nice agile tools that provide easy user story
        > > specification with drag-n-drop prioritization, easy drag-n-drop
        > > sprint planning, task breakdown, storyboard drag-n-drop, reporting,
        > > etc. BUT... tools that manage multiple projects, and enable
        > > developers to see their tasks across multiple projects, seem to cost
        > > more and have increased complexity.
        > >
        > > In summary, I want to learn the best way to manage this situation
        > > (developers on multiple projects), and I want to find cost-
        > > effective, simple tools to help the team be most productive when
        > > dedicated teams are not an option.
        >
      • George Dinwiddie
        ... That s the job of that single PO, to work on things in a fashion that makes sense. The PO can track the individual projects separately. ... It s always
        Message 3 of 13 , Jan 2, 2010
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          bmwpapa wrote:
          > Thanks Elizabeth. If I read you correctly, you seem to describe a
          > single backlog, managed by a single PO, with ONE team, across
          > multiple projects.
          >
          > This appears to be more story/task-centric, rather than
          > project/release-centric - i.e. work on stories/tasks in order of
          > priority, regardless of which project/release it's for. But, then,
          > how do you track your release burndown, velocity, and goals/progress
          > for individual projects? Each project should be release-able after
          > each sprint, but each sprint tracks multiple projects. Unless I'm
          > missing something, this approach seems to cloud the bigger picture.

          That's the job of that single PO, to work on things in a fashion that
          makes sense. The PO can track the individual projects separately.

          > In response to other posts...
          >
          > Andre seems to suggest that developers on multiple projects is plain
          > wrong. I understand it's not preferred, but I'm not convinced it's
          > always avoidable.

          It's always avoidable if you want to avoid it. That people often let
          activity get in the way of progress is no reason to accept it as a
          necessary part of your life. Maybe you want to read "Getting Things
          Done." What Andre suggests is the same principle, applied to a software
          development team. Do things in chunks that are useful and distinct.

          > I'm still interested to hear more real-world experiences...

          I highly recommend that you read Johanna's book on portfolio management.

          - George

          --
          ----------------------------------------------------------------------
          * George Dinwiddie * http://blog.gdinwiddie.com
          Software Development http://www.idiacomputing.com
          Consultant and Coach http://www.agilemaryland.org
          ----------------------------------------------------------------------
        • Maurice le Rutte
          bmwpapa schreef: Maurice seems to think that I want everything , but I m willing to pay nothing . However, I m really just stating the obvious preference
          Message 4 of 13 , Jan 2, 2010
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            bmwpapa schreef:
             

            Maurice seems to think that I want "everything" , but I'm willing to pay "nothing". However, I'm really just stating the obvious preference for cost-effectiveness. I want the biggest bang for the buck. Who doesn't?

            __

            It was more of an observation that very often people query about a tool and then state that they are not very willing to pay for it, not a comment specifically too you. Of course everybody wants cost-effectiveness, but that is with everything you buy. What is cost effective depends on your situation and can't be judged by me, so asking for something cost-effective to others might not give you the answer that matches your preferences the best.

            If a person would ask you where he can get something to eat and then states that the meal may not cost to much but it should preferably a lot than you are more likely to refer the person to a fast-food restaurant rather than to a haute cuisine. Obviously the experience is completely different. So it might be better to first find out what the person would expect, after which you can always decide that haute cuisine is not what you want.

            On the other hand, developers are expensive. Loosing market is expensive. Developer stations also cost quite some money, as do desks, heating etc etc. That is all accepted, but we don't want to spend money on a tool that could save money.

            Maurice.
            -- 
            http://www.scrummaster.nl / http://twitter.com/scrumnl
          • Elizabeth V Woodward
            Hi bmwpapa, ... Correct. We re looking at a situation where team members of ONE team might be working on a couple of different projects at a given time. Bob,
            Message 5 of 13 , Jan 3, 2010
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              Hi bmwpapa,

              > Thanks Elizabeth. If I read you correctly, you seem to describe a
              > single backlog, managed by a single PO, with ONE team, across
              > multiple projects.


              Correct. We're looking at a situation where team members of ONE team might be working on a couple of different projects at a given time. Bob, Mary and Cindy may need to work on Project A during one Sprint and Tim, Meg, and Dan might work on Project B during that same Sprint. Next Sprint, Bob, Mary and Dan may need to work on Project A, etc. In the end, all members of the team are responsible for both projects.
               
              > This appears to be more story/task-centric, rather than project/
              > release-centric - i.e. work on stories/tasks in order of priority,
              > regardless of which project/release it's for.


              It is project/release-centric, though. Consider one point in time, there were two clients and the team was working on two projects, one for each of the two clients. If the team worked from two different backlogs, we would end up with competing priorities. Is Story A in product backlog A more important than Story A in product backlog B? Who decides? Toss in a request from the CEO for help with a proposal in the upcoming Sprint and it's easy for the team to be split in a lot of different directions without a clear understanding of what's most valuable/important. One backlog means the business is making a clear decision about what the priorities are and everyone can see the trade-offs. It's easier to see what happens to stories/progress for Project A or Project B when the CEO asks the team to take on a 40pt proposal for the next Sprint and their velocity is showing an average of 80 pts per Sprint. With multiple backlogs, it's not so obvious.  (I've also witnessed separate backlogs for one team with a 40% velocity on Project A and 60% velocity on Project B sort of thing...I'm much, MUCH less excited about that actually...)

              > But, then, how do you
              > track your release burndown, velocity, and goals/progress for
              > individual projects? Each project should be release-able after each
              > sprint, but each sprint tracks multiple projects. Unless I'm missing
              > something, this approach seems to cloud the bigger picture.


              Yes, you're still looking at breaking down the work for each project into chunks that can be completed--done done done--at the end of each Sprint and is looking to deliver a releaseable product (for each project) at the end of each Sprint. No change there. Velocity is tracked for the whole team, everyone has a common understanding of relative sizes and what a "point" means. You're still tracking the amount of work remaining for each project in your release burndown charts, no change there. But, yes, you're associating the story with the project (in your spreadsheet, card or whatever tool) so that you can track. No clouding for us... crystal clear clarification, awareness of big-picturing impact across projects, understanding of where we are and where we're going.

              >
              > In response to other posts...
              >
              > Andre seems to suggest that developers on multiple projects is plain
              > wrong. I understand it's not preferred, but I'm not convinced it's
              > always avoidable.


              I'm sure folks will cringe, but for the company I'm describing...working on multiple projects worked out very nicely for the company and for the team. Using Scrum in this way, clients were happy, the team aligned deliverables with the customers' expectations, quality was good and the team delivered value at the end of each Sprint, we reached a comfortable sustainable pace, etc.

              -elizabeth
               
              > Maurice seems to think that I want "everything", but I'm
              willing to
              > pay "nothing". However, I'm really just stating the obvious
              > preference for cost-effectiveness. I want the biggest bang for the
              > buck. Who doesn't?
              >
              > I'm still interested to hear more real-world experiences...
              >
              > --- In scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com, Elizabeth V Woodward
              > <evwoodwa@...> wrote:
              > >
              > > I was brought in to help a smaller company a while back… What
              I found was
              > > that the teams were made up of some really amazingly talented
              people… The
              > > biggest problem was that they were constantly being interrupted
              when
              > > working on one thing to work on something else. Along with the
              multiple
              > > projects, there were multiple contacts who could shift the team’s
              > > attention…project managers for each project on the client
              side, project
              > > managers for each project on the company’s side, the CEO
              of the company,
              > > the CIO, etc. Not good.
              > >
              > > Because it was a small company, having the entire team dedicated
              to one
              > > project would not have worked. There were lulls in activities
              where the
              > > client was reviewing information with subject matter experts
              or gathering
              > > data for the project. During that time, the team had cycles to
              work on
              > > other projects. Additionally, there really were time-sensitive,
              critical
              > > work items (developing a time-sensitive proposal with some initial
              > > modeling for a potential client, for example) that needed to
              be done in
              > > parallel with current project work. It wouldn’t make sense
              to wait until
              > > the end of one project to work on the proposal, for example.
              > >
              > > What we did was set up a backlog of all of the work for the whole
              team,
              > > owned and prioritized by one person. The CEO determined who would
              serve as
              > > that Product Owner. That Product Owner took input from the different
              > > project contacts, the Team, etc, andâ€"based on knowledge
              of the projects,
              > > technical constraints, business impact, the team’s capabilities/input
              and
              > > info they provided on the cost of context switchingâ€"the
              PO was ultimately
              > > responsible for the order/prioritization of work items in the
              backlog.
              > > This helped to eliminate the thrashing we were seeing. It also
              made
              > > visible problems with too many projects in play at a given time.
              Using
              > > velocity and looking at the size of the work items, everyone
              had a much
              > > more realistic picture of what user stories and other work items
              could be
              > > accomplished. Engaging clients for the reviews and planning ensured
              that
              > > we stayed in alignment with clients' expectations.
              > > The whole team (7 people) participated in ONE Daily Scrum, so
              everyone
              > > knew what everyone else was working on. The team answered the
              three
              > > questions, focused on discussing dependencies they had on each
              other, let
              > > other people know when they needed help, discussed potential
              blockers,
              > > etc. We were able to much more quickly identify and address issues.
              We did
              > > not have separate Daily Scrums depending on which people were
              working on
              > > which projects during that Sprint. Everyone was on the same Sprint
              cycle.
              > > We did not have a separate planning meeting for each project
              with user
              > > stories that would be addressed that Sprint or separate retrospectives
              for
              > > each project. The Team planned and reflected together. However,
              we did
              > > have separate demos/reviews with the appropriate stakeholders
              for the
              > > different projects.
              > > -elizabeth
              > >
              > > > Please respond to scrumdevelopment
              > > >
              > > >
              > > > Here's an example scenario, based on real-world situations,
              for your
              > > > feedback...
              > > >
              > > > Company A is a small company with 5 projects, and 10 developers.
              > > >
              > > > Developers work on multiple projects. This is for various
              reasons
              > > > (senior developers contribute their advanced skills and
              domain
              > > > knowledge across multiple projects, other developers cross-train
              for
              > > > interchangeability, small companies can't afford dedicated
              teams on
              > > > each project, etc.).
              > > >
              > > > If Joe Developer works on 3 projects, he has to track/attend
              3 of
              > > > everything (sprints, stand-ups, planning, review, retrospective).
              He
              > > > has to keep track of all his work across all 3 projects.
              Depending
              > > > on the situation, he might work on projects in priority
              order (one
              > > > project at a time), or he might work on his tasks in priority
              order
              > > > (jumping from one project to another).
              > > >
              > > > [Q:] What is your experience with this? I'm sure it's preferred
              to
              > > > have developers/teams dedicated to a single project, but
              I'm curious
              > > > how common this scenario has been in your experience and
              how you've
              > > > handled it. Should the sprints be aligned or staggered?
              > > >
              > > > [Q:] What agile tools would you recommend overall for this
              scenario?
              > > > I prefer tools that are free/cheap, simple/intuitive, fast/
              > > > responsive, with potential integration with third-party
              defect
              > > > tracking, wiki pages, etc.
              > > >
              > > > I've researched some nice agile tools that provide easy
              user story
              > > > specification with drag-n-drop prioritization, easy drag-n-drop
              > > > sprint planning, task breakdown, storyboard drag-n-drop,
              reporting,
              > > > etc. BUT... tools that manage multiple projects, and enable
              > > > developers to see their tasks across multiple projects,
              seem to cost
              > > > more and have increased complexity.
              > > >
              > > > In summary, I want to learn the best way to manage this
              situation
              > > > (developers on multiple projects), and I want to find cost-
              > > > effective, simple tools to help the team be most productive
              when
              > > > dedicated teams are not an option.
              > >

              >
            • Roy Morien
              What is a 40% velocity amd a 60% velocity ? I thought that velocity was an absolute measure of team output, however measured. If there is such a concept as
              Message 6 of 13 , Jan 3, 2010
              • 0 Attachment
                What is a '40% velocity' amd a '60% velocity'? I thought that velocity was an absolute measure of team output, however measured.
                 
                If there is such a concept as '60% velocity', where, who and how is the 100% decided, and how is it measured and published?
                 
                Regards,
                Roy Morien 
                 

                To: scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com
                From: evwoodwa@...
                Date: Sun, 3 Jan 2010 15:24:16 -0600
                Subject: Re: [scrumdevelopment] Re: Developers on multiple projects

                 

                Hi bmwpapa,

                > Thanks Elizabeth. If I read you correctly, you seem to describe a
                > single backlog, managed by a single PO, with ONE team, across
                > multiple projects.


                Correct. We're looking at a situation where team members of ONE team might be working on a couple of different projects at a given time. Bob, Mary and Cindy may need to work on Project A during one Sprint and Tim, Meg, and Dan might work on Project B during that same Sprint. Next Sprint, Bob, Mary and Dan may need to work on Project A, etc. In the end, all members of the team are responsible for both projects.
                 
                > This appears to be more story/task-centric, rather than project/
                > release-centric - i.e. work on stories/tasks in order of priority,
                > regardless of which project/release it's for.


                It is project/release- centric, though. Consider one point in time, there were two clients and the team was working on two projects, one for each of the two clients. If the team worked from two different backlogs, we would end up with competing priorities. Is Story A in product backlog A more important than Story A in product backlog B? Who decides? Toss in a request from the CEO for help with a proposal in the upcoming Sprint and it's easy for the team to be split in a lot of different directions without a clear understanding of what's most valuable/important. One backlog means the business is making a clear decision about what the priorities are and everyone can see the trade-offs. It's easier to see what happens to stories/progress for Project A or Project B when the CEO asks the team to take on a 40pt proposal for the next Sprint and their velocity is showing an average of 80 pts per Sprint. With multiple backlogs, it's not so obvious.  (I've also witnessed separate backlogs for one team with a 40% velocity on Project A and 60% velocity on Project B sort of thing...I'm much, MUCH less excited about that actually...)

                > But, then, how do you
                > track your release burndown, velocity, and goals/progress for
                > individual projects? Each project should be release-able after each
                > sprint, but each sprint tracks multiple projects. Unless I'm missing
                > something, this approach seems to cloud the bigger picture.


                Yes, you're still looking at breaking down the work for each project into chunks that can be completed--done done done--at the end of each Sprint and is looking to deliver a releaseable product (for each project) at the end of each Sprint. No change there. Velocity is tracked for the whole team, everyone has a common understanding of relative sizes and what a "point" means. You're still tracking the amount of work remaining for each project in your release burndown charts, no change there. But, yes, you're associating the story with the project (in your spreadsheet, card or whatever tool) so that you can track. No clouding for us... crystal clear clarification, awareness of big-picturing impact across projects, understanding of where we are and where we're going.

                >
                > In response to other posts...
                >
                > Andre seems to suggest that developers on multiple projects is plain
                > wrong. I understand it's not preferred, but I'm not convinced it's
                > always avoidable.


                I'm sure folks will cringe, but for the company I'm describing.. .working on multiple projects worked out very nicely for the company and for the team. Using Scrum in this way, clients were happy, the team aligned deliverables with the customers' expectations, quality was good and the team delivered value at the end of each Sprint, we reached a comfortable sustainable pace, etc.

                -elizabeth
                 
                > Maurice seems to think that I want "everything", but I'm willing to
                > pay "nothing". However, I'm really just stating the obvious
                > preference for cost-effectiveness. I want the biggest bang for the
                > buck. Who doesn't?
                >
                > I'm still interested to hear more real-world experiences. ..
                >
                > --- In scrumdevelopment@ yahoogroups. com, Elizabeth V Woodward
                > <evwoodwa@...> wrote:
                > >
                > > I was brought in to help a smaller company a while back… What I found was
                > > that the teams were made up of some really amazingly talented people… The
                > > biggest problem was that they were constantly being interrupted when
                > > working on one thing to work on something else. Along with the multiple
                > > projects, there were multiple contacts who could shift the team’s
                > > attention…project managers for each project on the client side, project
                > > managers for each project on the company’s side, the CEO of the company,
                > > the CIO, etc. Not good.
                > >
                > > Because it was a small company, having the entire team dedicated to one
                > > project would not have worked. There were lulls in activities where the
                > > client was reviewing information with subject matter experts or gathering
                > > data for the project. During that time, the team had cycles to work on
                > > other projects. Additionally, there really were time-sensitive, critical
                > > work items (developing a time-sensitive proposal with some initial
                > > modeling for a potential client, for example) that needed to be done in
                > > parallel with current project work. It wouldn’t make sense to wait until
                > > the end of one project to work on the proposal, for example.
                > >
                > > What we did was set up a backlog of all of the work for the whole team,
                > > owned and prioritized by one person. The CEO determined who would serve as
                > > that Product Owner. That Product Owner took input from the different
                > > project contacts, the Team, etc, andâ€"based on knowledge of the projects,
                > > technical constraints, business impact, the team’s capabilities/ input and
                > > info they provided on the cost of context switchingâ€"the PO was ultimately
                > > responsible for the order/prioritizatio n of work items in the backlog.
                > > This helped to eliminate the thrashing we were seeing. It also made
                > > visible problems with too many projects in play at a given time. Using
                > > velocity and looking at the size of the work items, everyone had a much
                > > more realistic picture of what user stories and other work items could be
                > > accomplished. Engaging clients for the reviews and planning ensured that
                > > we stayed in alignment with clients' expectations.
                > > The whole team (7 people) participated in ONE Daily Scrum, so everyone
                > > knew what everyone else was working on. The team answered the three
                > > questions, focused on discussing dependencies they had on each other, let
                > > other people know when they needed help, discussed potential blockers,
                > > etc. We were able to much more quickly identify and address issues. We did
                > > not have separate Daily Scrums depending on which people were working on
                > > which projects during that Sprint. Everyone was on the same Sprint cycle.
                > > We did not have a separate planning meeting for each project with user
                > > stories that would be addressed that Sprint or separate retrospectives for
                > > each project. The Team planned and reflected together. However, we did
                > > have separate demos/reviews with the appropriate stakeholders for the
                > > different projects.
                > > -elizabeth
                > >
                > > > Please respond to scrumdevelopment
                > > >
                > > >
                > > > Here's an example scenario, based on real-world situations, for your
                > > > feedback...
                > > >
                > > > Company A is a small company with 5 projects, and 10 developers.
                > > >
                > > > Developers work on multiple projects. This is for various reasons
                > > > (senior developers contribute their advanced skills and domain
                > > > knowledge across multiple projects, other developers cross-train for
                > > > interchangeability, small companies can't afford dedicated teams on
                > > > each project, etc.).
                > > >
                > > > If Joe Developer works on 3 projects, he has to track/attend 3 of
                > > > everything (sprints, stand-ups, planning, review, retrospective) . He
                > > > has to keep track of all his work across all 3 projects. Depending
                > > > on the situation, he might work on projects in priority order (one
                > > > project at a time), or he might work on his tasks in priority order
                > > > (jumping from one project to another).
                > > >
                > > > [Q:] What is your experience with this? I'm sure it's preferred to
                > > > have developers/teams dedicated to a single project, but I'm curious
                > > > how common this scenario has been in your experience and how you've
                > > > handled it. Should the sprints be aligned or staggered?
                > > >
                > > > [Q:] What agile tools would you recommend overall for this scenario?
                > > > I prefer tools that are free/cheap, simple/intuitive, fast/
                > > > responsive, with potential integration with third-party defect
                > > > tracking, wiki pages, etc.
                > > >
                > > > I've researched some nice agile tools that provide easy user story
                > > > specification with drag-n-drop prioritization, easy drag-n-drop
                > > > sprint planning, task breakdown, storyboard drag-n-drop, reporting,
                > > > etc. BUT... tools that manage multiple projects, and enable
                > > > developers to see their tasks across multiple projects, seem to cost
                > > > more and have increased complexity.
                > > >
                > > > In summary, I want to learn the best way to manage this situation
                > > > (developers on multiple projects), and I want to find cost-
                > > > effective, simple tools to help the team be most productive when
                > > > dedicated teams are not an option.
                > >

                >


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              • bmwpapa
                Thanks Elizabeth and Johanna. I really appreciate your time and thoughtful responses. Summary: - Developers should ideally be dedicated to ONE project at a
                Message 7 of 13 , Jan 3, 2010
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                  Thanks Elizabeth and Johanna. I really appreciate your time and thoughtful responses.

                  Summary:
                  - Developers should ideally be dedicated to ONE project at a time.
                  - Manage your project portfolio (commit/kill/transform).
                  - If developers must span multiple projects, consider ONE team/backlog/PO "uber" project.

                  I'm still not clear about release burndown tracking of individual projects, though. Elizabeth, when you wrote "release burndown charts" below, did you really mean "sprint burndown charts"?

                  Elizabeth wrote:
                  > You're still tracking the amount of work remaining for
                  > each project in your release burndown charts, no change there.

                  My question was regarding RELEASE burndowns, not SPRINT burndowns. In this scenario, you're suggesting ONE backlog with stories across ALL projects, so this agile "uber" project is tracking multiple project releases as a single release, right? How does one track a release burndown of stories that pertain to INDIVIDUAL projects?

                  I hope my question makes sense.


                  --- In scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com, Elizabeth V Woodward <evwoodwa@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > Hi bmwpapa,
                  >
                  > > Thanks Elizabeth. If I read you correctly, you seem to describe a
                  > > single backlog, managed by a single PO, with ONE team, across
                  > > multiple projects.
                  >
                  > Correct. We're looking at a situation where team members of ONE team might
                  > be working on a couple of different projects at a given time. Bob, Mary
                  > and Cindy may need to work on Project A during one Sprint and Tim, Meg,
                  > and Dan might work on Project B during that same Sprint. Next Sprint, Bob,
                  > Mary and Dan may need to work on Project A, etc. In the end, all members
                  > of the team are responsible for both projects.
                  >
                  > > This appears to be more story/task-centric, rather than project/
                  > > release-centric - i.e. work on stories/tasks in order of priority,
                  > > regardless of which project/release it's for.
                  >
                  > It is project/release-centric, though. Consider one point in time, there
                  > were two clients and the team was working on two projects, one for each of
                  > the two clients. If the team worked from two different backlogs, we would
                  > end up with competing priorities. Is Story A in product backlog A more
                  > important than Story A in product backlog B? Who decides? Toss in a
                  > request from the CEO for help with a proposal in the upcoming Sprint and
                  > it's easy for the team to be split in a lot of different directions
                  > without a clear understanding of what's most valuable/important. One
                  > backlog means the business is making a clear decision about what the
                  > priorities are and everyone can see the trade-offs. It's easier to see
                  > what happens to stories/progress for Project A or Project B when the CEO
                  > asks the team to take on a 40pt proposal for the next Sprint and their
                  > velocity is showing an average of 80 pts per Sprint. With multiple
                  > backlogs, it's not so obvious. (I've also witnessed separate backlogs for
                  > one team with a 40% velocity on Project A and 60% velocity on Project B
                  > sort of thing...I'm much, MUCH less excited about that actually...)
                  >
                  > > But, then, how do you
                  > > track your release burndown, velocity, and goals/progress for
                  > > individual projects? Each project should be release-able after each
                  > > sprint, but each sprint tracks multiple projects. Unless I'm missing
                  > > something, this approach seems to cloud the bigger picture.
                  >
                  > Yes, you're still looking at breaking down the work for each project into
                  > chunks that can be completed--done done done--at the end of each Sprint
                  > and is looking to deliver a releaseable product (for each project) at the
                  > end of each Sprint. No change there. Velocity is tracked for the whole
                  > team, everyone has a common understanding of relative sizes and what a
                  > "point" means. You're still tracking the amount of work remaining for each
                  > project in your release burndown charts, no change there. But, yes, you're
                  > associating the story with the project (in your spreadsheet, card or
                  > whatever tool) so that you can track. No clouding for us... crystal clear
                  > clarification, awareness of big-picturing impact across projects,
                  > understanding of where we are and where we're going.
                  >
                  > >
                  > > In response to other posts...
                  > >
                  > > Andre seems to suggest that developers on multiple projects is plain
                  > > wrong. I understand it's not preferred, but I'm not convinced it's
                  > > always avoidable.
                  >
                  > I'm sure folks will cringe, but for the company I'm describing...working
                  > on multiple projects worked out very nicely for the company and for the
                  > team. Using Scrum in this way, clients were happy, the team aligned
                  > deliverables with the customers' expectations, quality was good and the
                  > team delivered value at the end of each Sprint, we reached a comfortable
                  > sustainable pace, etc.
                  >
                  > -elizabeth
                  >
                  > > Maurice seems to think that I want "everything", but I'm willing to
                  > > pay "nothing". However, I'm really just stating the obvious
                  > > preference for cost-effectiveness. I want the biggest bang for the
                  > > buck. Who doesn't?
                  > >
                  > > I'm still interested to hear more real-world experiences...
                  > >
                  > > --- In scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com, Elizabeth V Woodward
                  > > <evwoodwa@> wrote:
                  > > >
                  > > > I was brought in to help a smaller company a while back… What I
                  > found was
                  > > > that the teams were made up of some really amazingly talented
                  > people… The
                  > > > biggest problem was that they were constantly being interrupted when
                  > > > working on one thing to work on something else. Along with the
                  > multiple
                  > > > projects, there were multiple contacts who could shift the team’s
                  > > > attention…project managers for each project on the client side,
                  > project
                  > > > managers for each project on the company’s side, the CEO of the
                  > company,
                  > > > the CIO, etc. Not good.
                  > > >
                  > > > Because it was a small company, having the entire team dedicated to
                  > one
                  > > > project would not have worked. There were lulls in activities where
                  > the
                  > > > client was reviewing information with subject matter experts or
                  > gathering
                  > > > data for the project. During that time, the team had cycles to work on
                  >
                  > > > other projects. Additionally, there really were time-sensitive,
                  > critical
                  > > > work items (developing a time-sensitive proposal with some initial
                  > > > modeling for a potential client, for example) that needed to be done
                  > in
                  > > > parallel with current project work. It wouldn’t make sense to wait
                  > until
                  > > > the end of one project to work on the proposal, for example.
                  > > >
                  > > > What we did was set up a backlog of all of the work for the whole
                  > team,
                  > > > owned and prioritized by one person. The CEO determined who would
                  > serve as
                  > > > that Product Owner. That Product Owner took input from the different
                  > > > project contacts, the Team, etc, andâ€"based on knowledge of the
                  > projects,
                  > > > technical constraints, business impact, the team’s
                  > capabilities/input and
                  > > > info they provided on the cost of context switchingâ€"the PO was
                  > ultimately
                  > > > responsible for the order/prioritization of work items in the backlog.
                  >
                  > > > This helped to eliminate the thrashing we were seeing. It also made
                  > > > visible problems with too many projects in play at a given time. Using
                  >
                  > > > velocity and looking at the size of the work items, everyone had a
                  > much
                  > > > more realistic picture of what user stories and other work items could
                  > be
                  > > > accomplished. Engaging clients for the reviews and planning ensured
                  > that
                  > > > we stayed in alignment with clients' expectations.
                  > > > The whole team (7 people) participated in ONE Daily Scrum, so everyone
                  >
                  > > > knew what everyone else was working on. The team answered the three
                  > > > questions, focused on discussing dependencies they had on each other,
                  > let
                  > > > other people know when they needed help, discussed potential blockers,
                  >
                  > > > etc. We were able to much more quickly identify and address issues. We
                  > did
                  > > > not have separate Daily Scrums depending on which people were working
                  > on
                  > > > which projects during that Sprint. Everyone was on the same Sprint
                  > cycle.
                  > > > We did not have a separate planning meeting for each project with user
                  >
                  > > > stories that would be addressed that Sprint or separate retrospectives
                  > for
                  > > > each project. The Team planned and reflected together. However, we did
                  >
                  > > > have separate demos/reviews with the appropriate stakeholders for the
                  > > > different projects.
                  > > > -elizabeth
                  > > >
                  > > > > Please respond to scrumdevelopment
                  > > > >
                  > > > >
                  > > > > Here's an example scenario, based on real-world situations, for your
                  > > > > feedback...
                  > > > >
                  > > > > Company A is a small company with 5 projects, and 10 developers.
                  > > > >
                  > > > > Developers work on multiple projects. This is for various reasons
                  > > > > (senior developers contribute their advanced skills and domain
                  > > > > knowledge across multiple projects, other developers cross-train for
                  > > > > interchangeability, small companies can't afford dedicated teams on
                  > > > > each project, etc.).
                  > > > >
                  > > > > If Joe Developer works on 3 projects, he has to track/attend 3 of
                  > > > > everything (sprints, stand-ups, planning, review, retrospective). He
                  > > > > has to keep track of all his work across all 3 projects. Depending
                  > > > > on the situation, he might work on projects in priority order (one
                  > > > > project at a time), or he might work on his tasks in priority order
                  > > > > (jumping from one project to another).
                  > > > >
                  > > > > [Q:] What is your experience with this? I'm sure it's preferred to
                  > > > > have developers/teams dedicated to a single project, but I'm curious
                  > > > > how common this scenario has been in your experience and how you've
                  > > > > handled it. Should the sprints be aligned or staggered?
                  > > > >
                  > > > > [Q:] What agile tools would you recommend overall for this scenario?
                  > > > > I prefer tools that are free/cheap, simple/intuitive, fast/
                  > > > > responsive, with potential integration with third-party defect
                  > > > > tracking, wiki pages, etc.
                  > > > >
                  > > > > I've researched some nice agile tools that provide easy user story
                  > > > > specification with drag-n-drop prioritization, easy drag-n-drop
                  > > > > sprint planning, task breakdown, storyboard drag-n-drop, reporting,
                  > > > > etc. BUT... tools that manage multiple projects, and enable
                  > > > > developers to see their tasks across multiple projects, seem to cost
                  > > > > more and have increased complexity.
                  > > > >
                  > > > > In summary, I want to learn the best way to manage this situation
                  > > > > (developers on multiple projects), and I want to find cost-
                  > > > > effective, simple tools to help the team be most productive when
                  > > > > dedicated teams are not an option.
                  > > >
                  >
                  > >
                  >
                • Ron Jeffries
                  ... I took the OP to mean 40 percent of the team s full capacity goes to project A ; Ron Jeffries www.XProgramming.com www.xprogramming.com/blog Learning is a
                  Message 8 of 13 , Jan 4, 2010
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                    Hello, Roy. On Sunday, January 3, 2010, at 10:52:24 PM, you wrote:

                    > What is a '40% velocity' amd a '60% velocity'? I thought that
                    > velocity was an absolute measure of team output, however measured.

                    I took the OP to mean "40 percent of the team's full capacity goes
                    to project A";

                    Ron Jeffries
                    www.XProgramming.com
                    www.xprogramming.com/blog
                    Learning is a human process, and knowledge is not what is found in the library.
                  • George Dinwiddie
                    ... The team can have a sprint burndown for the work they commit to finish during the sprint. Each project can have a release burndown (or burnup, which is my
                    Message 9 of 13 , Jan 4, 2010
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                      bmwpapa wrote:
                      > I'm still not clear about release burndown tracking of individual
                      > projects, though. Elizabeth, when you wrote "release burndown
                      > charts" below, did you really mean "sprint burndown charts"?
                      >
                      > Elizabeth wrote:
                      >> You're still tracking the amount of work remaining for each project
                      >> in your release burndown charts, no change there.
                      >
                      > My question was regarding RELEASE burndowns, not SPRINT burndowns.
                      > In this scenario, you're suggesting ONE backlog with stories across
                      > ALL projects, so this agile "uber" project is tracking multiple
                      > project releases as a single release, right? How does one track a
                      > release burndown of stories that pertain to INDIVIDUAL projects?

                      The team can have a sprint burndown for the work they commit to finish
                      during the sprint. Each project can have a release burndown (or burnup,
                      which is my preference) for work required for the release.

                      I prefer using a burnup for this, as the scope of a release can be
                      flexible. See
                      http://idiacomputing.com/pub/BetterSoftware-BurnCharts.pdf for more on this.

                      - George


                      --
                      ----------------------------------------------------------------------
                      * George Dinwiddie * http://blog.gdinwiddie.com
                      Software Development http://www.idiacomputing.com
                      Consultant and Coach http://www.agilemaryland.org
                      ----------------------------------------------------------------------
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