Courtney Pool

Courtney Pool


Recent posts by Courtney Pool

4 min read

What Exactly is Agile Methodology?

By Courtney Pool on Aug 17, 2021 12:22:47 PM

Blogpost-DisplayImage-August_ What is Agile Methodology-

Any person who's worked in or around software for any length of time has likely heard of Agile. Since the release of the Agile Manifesto in 2001, Agile has quickly spread through the industry, and even companies who aren't fully Agile sometimes claim to be, if only to check the box. Still, despite this popularity, we regularly receive confessions from people who admit that they don't fully "get" what Agile is, often from teams outside of software developers who want to know if Agile can help them too.

The Elevator Pitch

"Getting" Agile is a multi-step process, but knowing the elevator pitch is a great place to start. Agile is an iterative approach to software development and project management, with iterative being the keyword. Its primary focus is on delivering value incrementally, with those increments being faster, more frequent, and with fewer strings attached than some traditional approaches. Agile also acknowledges, accepts, and even encourages that risk and change are likely to pop up and need mole-whacking along the way, allowing for real-time course-correcting as needed.

This short description can help people navigate through many of the superficial conversations around Agile. If you want to impress though, knowing the details is the next step.

The Details

To really understand what Agile is, it helps to first understand why Agile is. Agile's origin is in software development, and its inception was a direct response to the rigidity of existing development methods like Waterfall. Despite this, its existence is not at all meant to be a critique of Waterfall, which is a valid methodology that still has uses in several scenarios; rather it's an answer to the "But what if...?" questions that plague so many projects, such as: 

  • What if I discover more requirements after development has started?
  • What if we don't catch a big problem because we waited too long to test?
  • What if we need to ship to market faster or more frequently?

Answering these questions is difficult in a Waterfall environment, and failure to answer them can be costly. This can be especially true in software, where conditions and criteria frequently change, and rapidity and innovation are critical factors in winning over users. Enter Agile, whose principles allow teams the flexibility needed to answer these questions as they arise while still meeting product and stakeholder needs.

While some interpret this flexibility as Agile having no rules, this could not be further from the truth! The Agile Manifesto itself includes both key pillars and guiding principles, which every organization purporting to be Agile should follow. Amongst the guiding principles are those that are arguably more nebulous, like "Working software is the primary measure of progress." Still, many are undeniably rules and not suggestions, such as the principle requiring the increments mentioned above: "Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale. "

Beyond that, there are also rules associated with each particular Agile framework to adhere to as well.

You see, while "Agile" is the overarching methodology (or philosophy, some argue, an ongoing debate), the actual "doing" is often guided by the numerous frameworks within Agile, with more popular frameworks like Scrum, Kanban, eXtreme Programming, and the Crystal Method leading the charge. Of course, that's not to say that one can't simply follow the principles of Agile without needing a specific framework -- you absolutely can! -- but development teams may find it easier to work within a framework. Aiding this ease is that each framework has taken the Agile principles and hammered them into specific actions, ceremonies, and practices for teams to follow, reducing the need for teams to develop their own.

Knowing the pitch and the details is essential to understanding Agile, but "getting" Agile requires that you take it one step further and apply it outside the business.

The Real World Example

As mentioned, Agile is an iterative process that seeks to frequently deliver value while still allowing for the winds of change. One of the reasons Agile can work so well is, if you think about it in the simplest of terms, because most people do Agile every day.

No, seriously!

I recently moved and learned again how ever-present Agile is. I prepared for the move with a soft plan and a general goal in mind: get everything packed and ready by X date. I even took an incremental approach to it, regularly moving smaller and more manageable items over to the new house in the weeks leading up to the move. As is frequently the case, though, life had different plans, and I found myself scrambling to finish hours before the movers' arrival (see: winds of change). I could have chosen to stubbornly stick to my original plan, risking either an incomplete project or a financial blow from having to delay, but I instead chose the Agile approach. I reprioritized and adjusted my goal, focusing on readying the most vital components and shifting lower priority items to my next increment. 

And just like that, you're Agile!

So now you can quickly explain Agile to someone any time it comes up, dazzle them with a few specific details, and even deliver an analogy or two to help set it in. The final step? Contact us to find out how Praecipio Consulting can help you make it work for your teams.

Topics: kanban process tips agile software-development waterfall
2 min read

Best Practices for Using Labels in Jira

By Courtney Pool on May 21, 2021 8:15:00 AM

Blogpost-Display image-How to use labels in jiraJira has a multitude of ways to group and categorize similar issues, such as through projects, requests types, or components. Many of these are aimed at issues that exist within one project, though, making it a bit more difficult to track items across your entire Jira instance. This is where labels can shine.

Labels are basically tags on issues. If you have 4 different projects that may all see tickets related to the same customer, then a label for that customer would give you a great way to quickly gather an overarching view of everything that exists for them. You can also have multiple labels on an issue, allowing you to easily catch it in any number of buckets.

Like with many things in life, though, a watchful eye and steady hand are needed to really use labels effectively. With that in mind, we’ve identified a few best practices to help.

1. Labels should be used for informal grouping.

In other words, don’t count on just labels to be the driving factor of important reports or anything else you need to be accurate 100% of the time. Because new labels can be created by users from the issue screen directly, they are not and should not be viewed as a source of truth. They’re great at what they do, but be careful to limit the importance placed on them.

2. Try to limit the number of labels you have.

Labels are shared globally, which means the list can get very long, very quickly. To make them more effective, try to come to a consensus internally on the whens and whys of new labels.

3. Set up clear naming guidelines.

Limit the number of labels by making sure you have clear naming guidelines. This will be different from organization to organization, but we encourage you to discuss and decide on these guidelines early and to then check in periodically to make sure they're being adhered to. If you’re looking to label issues from ABC Law Firm, for example, you could quickly end up with labels for abc, abclaw, abc-law, etc. Without naming standards, you will dramatically decrease the efficacy of the labels as an informal(*) grouping tool.

4. Routinely clean them up.

Even with clear naming guidelines and a company decision to limit the number of total labels, you may still end up with some that are no longer relevant down the line. Set a regular time for somebody to go in, check them out, and determine if there’s any room for clean-up. Even better, cleaning up labels is as simple as entirely removing them from all issues, giving you the opportunity to swap them out for another if needed.

5. Don’t overuse them.

This one really echoes all of the points above, but it bears repeating: Don’t overuse your labels. If you’re looking for something to track issues for a very-important, super-vital, must-be-accurate report? Labels are likely not the answer. Have a certain issue type that can have 30 different permutations? Again, labels are likely not the answer.

Jira as a tool has many options for tracking related issues. And labels, in the right hands, can be a great means of doing just that — if they’re handled intentionally and in moderation. Don’t be scared to give them a try, but do keep these best practices handy to keep your labels as helpful as possible.

Contact us if you have any questions on labels, or in anything Jira: We are experts in all things Atlassian.

Topics: jira blog best-practices tips information-architecture
4 min read

How to Handle Delete Permissions in Jira

By Courtney Pool on Feb 16, 2021 11:47:00 AM

Blogpost-display-image_Why you should restrict who can delete issues in JiraPermissions are one of the most important things to “get right” in Jira. Sure, having the right fields, screens, and workflows are all vital pieces of the puzzle as well, but they can easily be tweaked along the way. While permissions can also be updated as needed, a user who can’t see or edit the issues they need may have their work completely blocked in the meantime.

And then there is the group of permissions so important, so crucial, so absolutely imperative to get right that they earned a blog dedicated solely to them: the delete permissions.

“Well, of course,” you may be thinking, “everybody knows that.” But even if it may seem like common sense to you, it can easily slip through the cracks — it’s happened to others before, and let me tell you, it doesn’t always end well.

You see, delete permissions are so incredibly critical for one reason:

There is no recycling bin in out-of-the-box Jira.

This means that if something is deleted, whether through intent, accident, or malice, it’s gone. Poof. And while the loss of one item may be easy to recover from, the loss of tens, hundreds, or even thousands? Even I can feel the sweat dripping down your spine now.

So, to summarize: Delete permissions? Very important.

Types of Delete Permissions

Amongst these permissions are four groups:

  • Delete Worklogs
  • Delete Comments
  • Delete Attachments
  • Delete Issues

And two types:

  • Delete Own
  • Delete All

Delete Own Permissions

The Delete Own permissions, as the name implies, will allow a user to delete content tied to their specific user account. These permission types exist for the majority of the above-mentioned groups, with the exception of Issues.

Delete Own Worklogs applies to any time that's been tracked to an issue, whether through Jira's native feature or through an app like Tempo Timesheets. As such, it is a fairly innocuous permission and can be assigned to any user with access to a project, unless you have very strict requirements otherwise. It will likely primarily be used for clean-up, and the ripples it can cause are fairly limited.

Delete Own Comments is also often used for clean-up, and again, its area of effect is a bit smaller. However, just because a comment is deleted doesn’t mean that people haven’t already seen it, or even acted upon it. It may be better to instead point users in the direction of comment editing, or have them enter new comments entirely, even if it’s just to say, “Disregard the last.”

Delete Own Attachments is another permission that can be used for tidying. This might be useful were someone to, say, accidentally upload an adorable picture of their dog rather than the spreadsheet they were looking for. It's fairly low impact as well and can likely be given out to any users within your project, especially if you're following the Backup Rule of 3 or similar internally.

Delete All Permissions

Each of the Delete Own permissions has a Delete All counterpart. Delete Issues exists here as well, though the naming convention differs from the other four. Delete All permissions give a user access to delete items associated with any user account. As such, we generally recommend these permissions are limited to only certain groups, such as Project or System Admins.

Delete All Worklogs, Delete All Comments, and Delete All Attachments can each only be performed in a single issue at a time. This barrier helps to protect against mass deletion, but in the interest of data integrity, you’ll still want to restrict who is allowed to perform these actions.

And as for Delete Issues? This will also give a user the ability to delete from within a single issue, but unlike the three mentioned above, this permission gives a user access to Bulk Change as well, which allows actions to be taken across multiple issues at once. As such, ask yourself if you even need to grant this permission at all. Sure, there could feasibly be a time when you need to mass delete issues, but it’s likely to occur so rarely that, should those stars align, the permission can be assigned when needed to system admins and then removed as soon as the job is done. This extra step will save you from being the organization that just lost a year’s worth of tickets.

If something is deleted in Jira, it’s gone forever. This can be a nightmare for many, but especially those in organizations with heavy audit requirements. Rather than leaving yourself open to a very unpleasant surprise, do your team a favor and review your permissions now.

Stop worrying about Jira and make full use of its powerful features!  We can help you implement and optimize your Jira instance, contact us, and one of our experts will be in touch shortly.

Topics: jira atlassian blog best-practices tips configuration verify bespoke
2 min read

Jira Service Management for HR

By Courtney Pool on Jan 13, 2021 12:58:15 PM

Blogpost-display-image_Jira Service Management for HRIn November of 2020, Atlassian rebranded Jira Service Desk to Jira Service Management. With this rebranding, Atlassian sought to make one thing clear: JSM isn’t just for IT. In fact, any team who receives requests from others, whether from external or internal customers, can utilize JSM.

Similarly, IT Service Management (ITSM) doesn’t have to be just for IT either. IT organizations around the world benefit daily from applying ITSM principles and processes to their own organizations. Enterprise Service Management (ESM) sees this success and seeks to take it a step further, contending that ITSM practices can be applied even outside of IT teams, which allows for similar successes in other departments. JSM agrees, and it even has quick-starts in Atlassian Cloud for some business teams, including HR.

By now, you may have already read about the ITSM capabilities that can be leveraged by your HR department. You may even already have a few use cases in mind. At Praecipio Consulting, one of the most frequent JSM use cases that we encounter for HR is onboarding and offboarding. 

To start, you’ll want to be sure that you have one request form for onboarding and another for offboarding. One of the things that makes JSM great for non-tech teams is the ability to change display names for fields and add help text to forms, making it even easier for people who aren’t familiar with Jira to submit requests.

As onboarding and offboarding are typically handled by multiple teams and individuals, you can also utilize an app to auto-generate subtasks for each Request or Issue Type on issue creation. This is also possible in Jira Core and Jira Software, of course, but having this driven by a request created through the portal means that a user can set it in motion with more ease than they would be able to otherwise.

Queues are another JSM feature that will be helpful for your HR team once a request is submitted. You could set queues up for just onboarding and offboarding, or you could even go deeper, having queues that differentiate between full-time employees, part-time employees, and contractors, as an example. Queues can be set to run on anything you’re collecting in your form.

Once a request comes in, you’ll benefit from the Service Level Agreements, or SLAs, that JSM can apply. SLAs can be set based on any number of criteria, so your HR team can easily track if they’re meeting expected targets, as well as have another way to prioritize their work. For example, a high-priority offboarding will need more attention than onboarding that’s more than a week out, so the SLAs can be set accordingly, with more time afforded to less pressing tasks.

Onboarding and offboarding are common needs in every HR department, but these same features can be applied to most HR tasks you can think of, like PTO requests, asking for assistance with benefits, or even recognizing a colleague.

The rebranding of JSM is a message to all teams, in all companies, that service tools are not just for IT. They can be a huge benefit to many teams, and HR is a great place to start. 

At Praecipio Consulting, we offer a wide range of services for HR teams (or any team, for that matter) looking to use best-in-class ITSM tools. Reach out today and let us know how we can help you make the most out of JSM

Topics: human-resource itsm jira-service-management
8 min read

Tips for Supporting Remote Employees Who May Feel Lonely

By Courtney Pool on May 5, 2020 9:15:00 AM

2020 Blogposts_Remote Doesnt Mean Alone

We've already seen how COVID-19 has impacted the way companies do business, with employees across various industries breaking ties with their cubicles and desktop computers for the foreseeable future. The rapid nature of these changes has left many employees reeling, and the indeterminate return to normalcy may seem daunting for people who already feel like they need to relearn how to do their jobs, not to mention facing wholly new challenges and struggles in doing so.

Companies can ease this transition for newly-remote employees by understanding the challenges they're encountering and proactively finding ways to combat them. To that end, we scoured the internet and polled affected family and friends to identify a few of the more common concerns for those new to working from home, and we put together a handful of solutions that have helped us at Praecipio Consulting.

"I don't know how to get the support I need"

Many employees may feel that it's more difficult for them to get the support they're used to. Now that they're working at home, there's no deskmate to catch the eye of, no supervisor to roll over to, and no IT personnel to flag down as they're making the rounds. This can be especially true for employees at smaller, entirely-local companies who are used to regularly seeing all of the people they ever need to talk to.

If you're worried that your employees are having a difficult time getting the help they need, consider doing the following:

  • Set up a regularly scheduled forum for people to get help from and provide help to others.
    • We have weekly meetings for each department, but you could also extend blocks for already scheduled team meetings. It's important that there is time dedicated solely for employees to share issues they're seeing and get assistance from others. Complex or complicated problems can be difficult to solve over text, so make it easier for your employees to talk through problems with colleagues.

  • Create additional support channels in current communication tools.
    • And don't be afraid to limit the scope! Some employees may feel uncomfortable asking for help in general support rooms, especially if they're worried that their questions may come off as basic or unimportant. Having dedicated spaces for specific job functions, like one for a specific tool an employee may use, make employees feel more comfortable asking "stupid" questions. This also allows teammates to focus their attention on areas where they feel particularly strong.

  • Implement or improve upon a Service Desk aimed at providing employees with support.
    • Service desks are widely thought of as tools primarily aimed at IT/Ops organizations, but a number of other areas can successfully utilize them as well. If you have any group or team that commonly fields questions and requests from colleagues, a service desk could be used to provide structure and oversight to the process, allowing all parties involved to have a more organized exchange and reliable means of tracking.

"It's taking me longer to do my job"

Suddenly, transitioning from working in an office to working from home can leave employees feeling like they need to relearn aspects of their job, whether it's how to work with different (or less) equipment, how to account for things they don't have at home, or even something as simple as how to handle new distractions. Although studies show that working from home ultimately boosts productivity, there's certainly an adjustment period for those new to it.

 

If tasks seem like they're taking longer to complete than they would have in the office, one of the following may help:

  • Encourage the use of time tracking tools.
    • There are a number of time tracking tools and apps available across the web. Promoting these tools with employees will help them to better track of how they spend their time throughout the day. Employees can use time tracked to determine if they need to make some changes to their own routines, or possibly lean on others for assistance. A manager once told me that if you think it's taking too long to do something, ask around because odds are that someone has found a way to get it done in half the time. Accurate time tracking will help employees identify the areas where someone can help them improve.

  • Share productivity-boosting tips within the group.
    • Look to a best practice guide for working from home and take the recommendations to heart. Something as easy as setting up a dedicated office space instead of camping out in that comfy recliner can immediately have a positive impact on productivity and can help people get back into "work" mode.

  • Understand that some things may take more time.
    • If someone was able to walk down the hall to the mailroom before, but now finds themselves having to put on pants and drive to the post office, it's going to take longer to do tasks that may have taken only minutes before. The same rings true for those who are down from three monitors to only one or for those who are competing for bandwidth with neighbors. Likewise for people who now have to wait for others to get back to them versus looming over a colleague's shoulder until they get an answer. These are all acceptable reasons for tasks to take more time.

"Communicating internally is more difficult now"

Good communication can feel unachievable for those working 'alone' for the first time. No longer being able to tap a coworker on the shoulder to get an immediate answer or huddle together in a breakout room to work through a problem can leave employees feeling a bit lost. 

If your teams struggle with communicating well, the following steps are a good place to start:

  • Adopt a collaboration tool.
    • If you're not already using a collaboration tool internally, considering implementing one; and if you are already using one, consider how it could improve to drive better communication. We make heavy use of Slack internally. In our instance, we have dedicated channels for specific clients and tools, which is a great first step toward better communication, but we make use of a number of the lighter elements the tool has to offer too. Doing something as simple as customizing quick statuses or syncing your calendar with the tool will all ultimately help people communicate better. Even something like a custom emoji of a team member (we have a few!) can act as a quick way to get a point across.

  • Set guidelines for when a particular communication tool should be used.
    • Ask yourself, "When should we use email? When should we use the phone? What do we do when all hell breaks loose?  " Having guidelines regarding when to use each communication tool and standardizing those guidelines as much as you can between teams will take a lot of the uncertainty out of communication. 

  • Encourage documentation of everything discussed.
    • Even if you're just jotting down quick meeting notes or doing a two-to-three line recap of a Slack call, having something to reference later will help drive accountability between colleagues and act as a quick jump-off for conversations to follow. We try to keep all of ours stored in Confluence so that each participant can add in their own notes. Working from home often means multitasking for a number of people, so ensuring that there are records kept of items discussed and decisions made will keep everyone on the same page and make future actions and conversations easier.

"I feel so lonely"

Though this is one of the hardest things to help employees with, it's also one of the most important. Loneliness has a real and palpable effect on an employee's mental and physical health, and failure to address it can lead to increased stress, loss of productivity, and lessened quality of work. This is likely to be especially true right now, with many employees being isolated from friends and family for the past several weeks due to stay-at-home orders.

If you're concerned that your employees may feel isolated and lonely, the following can help:

  • Have employees turn on their videos during virtual meetings.
    • This is our internal policy for all meetings, regardless of the number of participants. Having each participant enable their video reminds other employees that they're not "alone," and it helps to keep participants more engaged. Talking to a "real person" instead of a computer screen can help to simulate at least some of the intimacy of in-person meetings, and it allows people to see a speaker's nonverbal cues, like body language and facial expressions, which can be useful in effective conversation. And if nothing else, it acts as a push for everyone to get dressed every morning, which also aids mental health.

  • Schedule virtual get-togethers.
    • We began hosting "Virtual Bring Togethers" for all employees at the onset of stay-at-home orders, and it truly does help. Laughing together over Pictionary or Bingo or receiving a virtual cooking lesson is a great way to keep employees engaged and to lessen the feelings of isolation. Slate has even found people who've successfully figured out how to play board games together over Zoom. Think of some fun things you and your team can do.

  • Don't be afraid to ask direct questions.
    • The easiest way to monitor an employee's mental well-being is to have a frank conversation about how they’re handling the changes. If an employee does feel isolated, you'll have the opportunity to start putting together individualized plans to help.

 

The recent surge of remote employees has already had a major impact on a number of companies, and the effects are likely to last, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Support your newly-remote teams well, and you might be pleasantly surprised by how much happier and more productive they are. 

If you are searching for more resources on how to navigate remote work with your employees, consider implementing daily stand-up meetings, and you can also check out our tips for mastering the work-from-home lifestyle

Topics: confluence workato work-from-home
2 min read

How Workato Helps Remote Teams Rapidly Resolve Incidents

By Courtney Pool on Apr 28, 2020 9:15:00 AM

2020 Blogposts_Workato

It's 2 AM. You just pushed out a major release, and then it happens. You're alerted to an Urgent bug. Lights start flashing, the sirens are blaring, and in the distance, someone yells, "Get the president on the line!"

Ok, so maybe it doesn't happen like it does in the movies, but that doesn't mean you can't have any bells and whistles.

WFH Incident Management 

When dealing with escalated issues, a swift response is absolutely critical – any delays in addressing an issue can severely impact a company, whether in time, satisfaction, or revenue lost. As such, many companies are quick to set up at least basic alerting through Jira in an attempt to rally the troops as quickly as possible. While relying on notifications from Jira may be enough to mostly get the job done, though, you're still risking some immediacy of response, as many people don't check emails the moment they're received (and some may even filter them directly to junk if the instance is too noisy).

A two-pronged approach is often needed in these situations, with town-criers tasked with alerting others on apps like Slack as well. This approach does work better, but it still relies on a human component, which again, introduces risk. Mitigating these risks is especially important now that most teams are fully remote due to COVID-19, preventing any quick updates over the cubicle wall. Automation can remove these risks while also alerting others as quickly as possible.

Enter Workato.

Mitigating Risk With Workato

Workato is a middleware tool dedicated to making APIs and automation more approachable to the Everyman. It’s also a powerful teammate in the ever-raging battle against mission-critical issues.

To best illustrate this, consider the following use case:

You have a team of internal stakeholders who need to be notified immediately for every Urgent or Critical issue entered into Jira. While the teams that work on the issue need immediate notification,  which team that is is notified will differ by product. You use Slack internally, so notifications typically happen there.

Workato can help accomplish this.

The recipe needs to be built to trigger conditionally based on priority, as identified above. From there, you also know that you'll want to push to Slack, and that which group receives alerts will differ differ based on values selected.

BONUS TIP: If your teams use Zoom, you can even leverage Slack's integration to have a Zoom meeting available when you need it, without having to spin one up yourself.

Expanding on the use case above, if you want Critical issues to notify in Slack and set up a war room in Zoom, have Workato send the command /zoom meeting [ISSUE ID - ISSUE SUMMARY] and wait for the fireworks. Once your recipe is built out and thoroughly tested, you can sit back and relax – at least until the next Urgent issue comes in. Automation will take care of the rest.

By letting Workato take the wheel, you can remove a lot of the risk from addressing escalated issues — and get to enjoy some of the bells and whistles, too.

Topics: workato incident-management work-from-home

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