Katie Thomas


Recent posts by Katie Thomas

3 min read

Can a Product Owner also be a ScrumMaster?

By Katie Thomas on Apr 12, 2021 10:21:00 AM

Blogpost-display-image_Can a Product Owner also be a Scrum Master-TL;DR: No!

Can one person hold both the Product Owner (PO) and ScrumMaster(SM) role in an Agile team? It's a question that a lot of companies starting their way through their Agile transformation will ask themselves (and us!). The Scrum team has three specific roles: Product Owner, ScrumMaster, and (most importantly) the Development team. It's clear why the question of combining SM and PO comes up so often - trying to figure out where current roles fit into the new dynamic can be a challenge for an organization, especially if your teams are now smaller and you don't have enough resources to fill the role of an SM and PO for each team. 

However, combining these roles is the biggest disservice you can do for your Agile teams. It may seem like a small tweak to the model, but given the functions of the two roles, you are setting up your teams for failure. Let's start with the definitions of these two roles so we can see why that is. 

Product Owner

The focus of the Product Owner is on the Product, as you might have guessed by now.  According to ScrumAlliance.org, "The Product Owner defines the what--as in what the product will look like and what features it should contain." The PO is responsible for maintaining the product backlog, and are responsible for communicating with stakeholders internally and externally to identify what the development team is working on. In their day-to-day, they are responsible for creating and prioritizing backlog items and communicating with the team expectations and acceptance of complete work items. 

ScrumMaster

The focus of the ScrumMaster is the team. "The ScrumMaster helps the Scrum Team perform at their highest level. They also protect the team from both internal and external distractions. ScrumMasters hold the Scrum Team accountable to their working agreements, Scrum values, and to the Scrum framework itself", as defined by ScrumAlliance.org. Where the PO is focused on What, the SM is focused on Who and How.  Arguably, the most important part of this definition is the emphasis on protecting the team. Internal distractions often come in the form of scope creep – new scope being introduced once work has already been committed to. In Scrum this often looks like new stories or bugs being introduced in the middle of a Sprint, and the job of the SM is to prevent this from happening as much as possible.

While I'm sure that we all know that some scope creep is inevitable (unless perhaps you're inhabiting the perfect utopia of business environments, in which case, I'll keep an eye out for my invite), but it can get out of hand quickly if there is no one on the team who is able to push back against the business. 

Okay, so why can't they be the same person?

By definition, the role of the ScrumMaster is to protect the team from the Product Owner (and the stakeholders that they are representing). Blurring the lines between these two roles mean that there is no one to push back when scope is added last minute, or ensure that the team is sticking to Scrum best practices, despite heavy workloads.

The most common outcomes that we see when these two roles are combined are:

  1. Tons of scope creep. Just, loads of it. All over the place.
  2. Sprint commitments are consistently not met because the team is being asked to do more work than they've agreed they are able to. 
  3. Product Owners assign out work to the team , as they are now "Managing" the team. 
  4. Buggier products –  after all, if I'm a developer trying to get through more work than I've acknowledged I can do, quality is inevitably going to suffer

Overall, not great!!

So what should I do then?

In a perfect world, you should have a single ScrumMaster per team, and Product Owner per product. This means that Product Owners can span multiple teams, if the teams are working from the same product backlog, but ScrumMasters are dedicated to a single team. If you don't have enough resources to commit to this model, in the short term, a ScrumMaster could potentially span more than one agile team - but I would say no more than 2 - after all, one person can only attend so many Scrum ceremonies while also being available to unblock their teams. 

However, the long term success of your Agile transformation means that it's time to start planning to fill those roles. Combining these roles will almost certainly decrease the effectiveness of your move to agile, as your teams are left unprotected and (likely) overworked. 

Looking for more information on Scrum best practices? Check out Sprint Planning - How long should sprints be? or Agile Batch Size: An Ode to Laundry

Topics: blog process scrum workflows project-management agile
2 min read

Jira Tips: Create From Template vs. Create From Shared Configuration

By Katie Thomas on Apr 9, 2021 11:26:00 AM

Blogpost-display-image_Create from template vs. Create from shared configuration (1)

There are a variety of ways to create projects in Jira – whether from a predefined template from Atlassian or from a shared configuration with an existing project. As Jira administrators, this is one of the first questions you'll be faced with when onboarding new teams to the instance. Let's walk through the different strategies, and why we prefer creating from shared configuration. 

Creating from a template

Creating from the Atlassian templates will create a new set of unique schemes to that project - new items in your instance that are not shared with any other project. To create from a template, simply select one of Atlassian's predefined models on the 'Create Project' page. 

The benefit of using these templates is that each of your projects are self-contained, and a model has already been put together by Atlassian. Configuration is not shared with any other projects, even if everything is exactly the same. This means that teams can adjust their workflows, screens, etc. without affecting anyone else. This can be good for teams who don't share any processes with other teams using Jira, and allows project administrators more control over their projects. 

However, for organizations that are looking to scale and/or standardize, this can be a huge headache.

Creating from shared configuration

Using a shared configuration means that you are reusing existing and established configuration items in your instance. Rather than creating new sets of schemes when a project is created, you create based on another project. For example, if you created from shared configuration, both the old and new projects will use the same workflows, screens, and field configurations. Note that they won't share any Jira Service Management specific configuration items, like request types or queues. 

Additionally, once a project shares a configuration with another project, Project administrators can no longer edit the workflows without being Jira admins, which has the added benefit of supporting the goal of standardization and scalability in addition to administrative governance.

There are pros and cons to each of the above, but ultimately, it is recommended that whenever possible, projects should be created from Shared Configuration.

While templates allow teams to have more control over their projects, it does not lend itself to standardization or maintaining a clean Jira instance. Although IT teams often request more options for teams to self-service with Jira project configuration, in the interest of scalability, allowing any user to create their own Jira projects is not a best practice. Jira projects should not be treated as "projects", spun up or spun down on a regular basis: as a best practice projects should be long-lasting and consistent. Additionally, from an administrative perspective, it can be challenging to manage the sheer number of schemes and additional items when trying to troubleshoot issues or maintain the instance.

Looking for expert help with your Jira instance? Contact us, we'd love to help!

Topics: jira atlassian blog administrator best-practices tips
3 min read

Jira Workflow Tip: Global Transitions

By Katie Thomas on Apr 5, 2021 11:47:00 AM

Blogpost-display-image_Jira Workflow Tip- Global TransitionsBuilding Jira workflows can be overwhelming. As Atlassian Platinum Solution Partners for over a decade, we at Praecipio Consulting have spent a lot of time building workflows (seriously, A LOT). 

One piece of workflow functionality that we often see either ignored or abused are global transitions. A global transition in Jira is a transition to a workflow status that is able to be triggered regardless of where the issue is in the workflow. These can be very powerful, and we use them in some capacity in almost all of our workflows. However, there are a few things that we put into place to make these transitions easier to use. 

When do I use a global transition?

While these are not appropriate in all situations, we recommend using them in situations where users should be able to move to the status from anywhere else in the workflow. The most common use cases are "On Hold" or "Withdrawn" transitions, where users should be able to place the issue there regardless of where it is in the life cycle. It is understandable that users shy away from global transitions, as without specific configuration they have the potential to be confusing to end users and open up the workflow in ways we may not want. Keep in mind that global transitions should not be overused - using direct transitions allows for processes to be enforced, while global transitions are great options when you need to remove an issue from its normal flow.

With that in mind, we recommend the following configuration on all global transitions:

How to configure a global transition

Transition Properties

Opsbar-sequence is a transition property that allows you to determine the order of all transitions in your workflow. To use it, you assign numbers to each transition, and Jira will numerically order them on the issue view. 

Global transitions generally belong at the end of the list, so we usually give them a high number (100 or  500) so no matter how robust your workflow gets, they're always at the end of the list of available transitions. 

Conditions

Workflow conditions prevent transitions from showing when certain criteria are not met. As a best practice, we always add a condition so the transition is not available from the status it's going to – e.g. if we have a "Withdraw" global transition that goes to Closed, the condition should be "Status != Closed". If this condition isn't present you'll see the global transition available when you're in the status it's going to. 

Post Functions

One of the biggest issues that we see with global transitions is around resolution. Jira resolutions are an extremely valuable tool, and if you don't configure your global transitions correctly, they can affect your data integrity. So, 

If the global transition is moving into a "Done" status (e.g. Closed or Withdrawn), add

  1. A post function that automatically sets the Resolution, OR
  2. A transition screen with resolution that prompts users to enter a resolution before the transition

If the global transition is NOT moving into a "Done" status, add

  1. A post function that clears resolution

With the above configuration, your workflows will be more user friendly while also ensuring that your Jira data stays clean. 

Still need more help with your workflows? Praecipio Consulting is an Atlassian Training Partner with a robust catalog of training, including Workflow help!

Topics: jira blog tips training workflows configuration atlassian-solution-partner
5 min read

7 Non-Negotiables When Choosing an Atlassian Business Partner

By Katie Thomas on Dec 8, 2020 2:25:00 PM

Blogpost-display-image_7 Non-Negotiables When Choosing an Atlassian Business Partner2 (1)

Ask any project manager what the number one contributor to a successful project result is, and they will tell you that it’s having the right people on the team. That goes for vendors too. Because behind every consulting gig are people making decisions that influence your company’s future. 


The decision to select an Atlassian Business Partner is a big one. The stakes are high, with perhaps millions of dollars and people’s careers hanging in the balance. A bad vendor decision could haunt you for a decade or longer. 

The process to choose a vendor usually starts with a referral or by viewing the Atlassian Partner Directory. However, with over 50 Platinum Partners distributed across the globe, it can be overwhelming. After visiting a few of the partner websites, you may be no closer to a decision.

Christian_Lane

Christian Lane, CEO of Praecipio Consulting, an Atlassian Platinum Partner, offers his thoughts on how to approach the partner selection process to ensure your project is delivered on time and within budget. 

 

He starts by sharing his recommended list of “must-haves.” In his opinion, any vendors not having these should be immediately disqualified. 

Look for relevant experience

To be approved as an Atlassian Partner, you must have smart people. All companies can easily add up the years experience among their people and come up with an impressive number. But that’s not the differentiator between firms. Don’t accept a general numerical answer. Dig deeper and ask for specific experience in your industry and what the scope of those projects were. 

Executive involvement

There is nothing more frustrating than dealing with a person that isn’t empowered to make decisions. You want top levels of management to be familiar with your project and understand its strategic value. This way they can apply their leadership and senior experience to add value. You want them to ask questions about workflow, reporting, integrations, and how it relates to the overall goal of the project.  

Rate of repeat business

As the saying goes, “The best predictor of future success is past behavior.”  Ask the vendor about their rate of return business. It’s perhaps the clearest indicator of a company's performance and customer satisfaction. Lane adds, “72% of our business last year was from repeat clients. Any competent firm should be able to tell you their number. If they don’t know it, that's a red flag in itself.” 

Percentage of revenue from change orders

Avoid the bait and switch. Managers want to deal in absolutes when it comes to money and time required to get the job done. You don’t want to fall in a trap of working with a vendor only to be told that your request wasn’t included in the original scope. For example, at Praecipio Consulting, we have a defined process to expose any and all needs of a project. By clearly defining the work from the start, you avoid missed expectations and expensive changes. For our team, this process starts with defining the problem in the sales process and includes engineers and other technical people. If there are any limitations or features to add for the solution, they contribute to the conversation. All parties move in lockstep, and a delivery commitment is made. The process has proven to work, as only 2% of our revenue last year came from change orders. Lastly, pay attention to how much value is delivered before the signed contract. 

Listed in the Atlassian Partner Directory

Only choose a partner from the official Atlassian Partner Directory. These companies have demonstrated their expertise and willingness to dedicate themselves to the software. They have to make an investment to be included, and their business model revolves around partner support. Using any other firm not vetted by Atlassian should be approached with extreme caution and is not recommended. 

Platinum Partners have the most experience and have been doing this type of work the longest. They have been recognized as the best and have inside knowledge about new products, features, and beta testing. For example, our leadership team members have participated in panels, councils, and have had an influence in building the software and program itself. 

What do they stand for? 

Commonly referred to as mission, vision, and values, look for what drives the vendor beyond earning revenue. Do they share your same morals and values? Besides words on a website, do they walk the walk on issues like social justice and environmentalism? Lane says he has seen more customers comment recently on their social injustice stance and Praecipio Consulting's commitment to the 1% pledge initiative. “We’ve always been socially aware and decided to build a company that leaves the world better than we found it. I’m proud of our ideals. As part of our hiring process, we want to make sure employees can get behind our causes and work toward the greater good. When clients recognize our efforts, it fuels our fire to want to do more.”  

Net Promoter Score

Ask vendors what their Net Promoter Score (NPS) is. NPS is a commonly accepted simple score of how likely customers are to refer you to their peers.

  • 0-6 are detractors, meaning they will tell people to stay away from your firm and NOT hire you.
  • 7-8 are passive promoters, meaning they will praise you when asked
  • 9-10 are active promoters, meaning they will go out of their way to tell peers about your good work 

Praecipio Consulting holds a lifetime NPS score of 71 (for context, the industry benchmark for software and tech companies is 28). Our team is proud of this score because they put so much heart into every project and seeing their clients' delight with their work is the ultimate payoff. 

Lane adds that the less quantifiable metric is “Ease to do business with.” Entering an agreement to work with an Atlassian Partner is a big commitment in terms of time. Are they responsive and U.S. based? Are they flexible and adaptable? And do you enjoy working with them? There has to be good chemistry to get the best result. Lane concludes, “Business is hard enough as it is sometimes. Don’t spend your valuable time working with difficult people. Control all the variables you can and make the most informed partner choice you can.”

 

Topics: do-good pledge-1% nps atlassian-solution-partner social-justice
4 min read

How to Have a Stress Free Holiday

By Katie Thomas on Dec 4, 2020 2:01:00 PM

Blogpost-display-image_How to Have a Stress Free Holiday Vacation (1)

In just a few weeks, the holidays will be here. Your partner may be already making needed plans to enjoy the much-needed downtime at home. But inside, you may have an uneasy feeling about work projects. Can you afford to take off and not fall woefully behind? Will important software-based projects stall? Or worse, crash and burn?

If the thought of taking PTO comes with mixed feelings, this article is for you. 

At Praecipio Consulting, we’re business process experts. Every day we work with executives from the world’s most respected companies. We surveyed our partners to learn their advice on how you can take time off to recharge your batteries and have your team keep projects moving at the same time. 

Christian_LaneChristian Lane, our CEO, begins the conversation. “I love taking time off. It’s essential for my well being, and we require everyone in the company to do the same. It’s a non-negotiable. But when we do have key team members out, we have set expectations.”

 

 

Announce your plans and block off your schedule

Let your coworkers know not to schedule anything for you during this time, and be aware of these dates when you are discussing project deliverables. 

Bust your tail for 3 weeks prior

Put in extra hours if you have to, but I prefer to better use the time already allocated for work. Staying focused and being productive now will help you have peace of mind later. 

Empower your #2

For executives in senior management, there may be time-sensitive decisions that need to be made in your absence. It’s important to have a second-in-command that has full authority to make most decisions while you are gone. Have a meeting with this person about the parameters of this responsibility and make sure the other players on your team are aware of who you have delegated to. In addition to leaving decision authority in capable hands, you’ll likely see this person respond well and appreciate the trust. Understand that mistakes may happen, but it’s also a learning opportunity. 

Joseph Lane, Atlassian automation expert and one of our partners at Praecipio Consulting, takes a more tactile approach. He stresses that in the Agile mindset, effective managers must use the right tools that are purpose-built and customizable to keep critical business functions working effectively. If any project relies on any one person for completion, this potential single point of failure is problematic for the organization and stressful for the employee. When this key person needs rest and relaxation, business stops, and that’s expensive. 

joseph_lane selfieMore specifically, Lane is referring to the Atlassian suite of products: Jira, Confluence, Trello, and others. When used to their fullest potential, team members can work independently if needed and collaborate following a quality assurance process the company developed. Users and managers can almost instantly view the progress on a project and comment. Lane recommends having a clear system for accountability and escalation when challenges arise. If this is clearly defined before a manager goes on vacation, team members can bring in more people, access more resources, or find vendor partners to solve problems. Failure to have these processes in place means that projects could stall and teams lose momentum. Lane summarizes, “Be more process-oriented than person dependent.” 

Christian Lane encourages everyone on software teams to develop a mindset for responsibility. That means if you find a problem, you own it. See it through to a solution. He loves the idea of stress-testing your systems by creating fires. “It keeps people on their toes,” he says. An example might be inserting a snippet of code that wreaks havoc. Engineers must backtrack and see where it was introduced. Also known as chaos engineering, it’s the practice of experimenting on a software system in production to build confidence in the system's capability to withstand turbulent and unexpected conditions.

Still, totally unplugging, although the healthiest option, isn’t always possible. Lane tells a story of when he was conflicted about taking his laptop on an overseas vacation. “On one hand, if I took it, I knew I couldn’t help myself and work. On the other hand, if there was a legitimate emergency and I needed to log in, I wouldn’t be able to.” 

In the end, he decided to travel with his computer and stay disciplined to only look at his Atlassian enabled dashboard when he logs in. If he saw all green lights, he would close the laptop after just 5 minutes or so per day. 

In the end, great leaders are measured by how well the business continues without you. As leaders, our job is about driving continuous improvement. When you take off time, operations may not be improving and optimizing, but they should still continue. 

A recap for a stress-free holiday:

  • Announce your plans, block off your schedule
  • Bust your tail for 3 weeks prior
  • Empower your #2
  • Use the right Atlassian tools 
  • Have process and systems for escalation in place
  • Develop a mindset of responsibility
  • Stress-test your systems

 

Topics: holiday atlassian-solution-partner work-life-balance

Praecipio Consulting is an Atlassian Platinum Partner

This means that we have the most experience working with Atlassian tools and have insight into new products, features, and beta testing. Through our profound knowledge of Atlassian environments and their intricacies, we can guide your organization as you navigate these important changes.

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