Marcelo Garza

Marcelo Garza


Recent posts by Marcelo Garza

4 min read

Do testers need to be in sprint planning?

By Marcelo Garza on Mar 3, 2021 11:30:58 AM

Blogpost-display-image_Why do testers need to be in sprint planning-In today’s business environment, high-speed implementation is a must. This applies to all products and services. Suppose you were using an application and got stuck because of a bug: after reporting the bug, you expect the team to fix it as soon as possible. If not, your next move is probably going to be switching to another service.

Software companies want teams working together providing quick and on point solutions to save time and resources, which can only be accomplished by the involvement of all of the teams working on a project. That’s why companies are opting for testing with Agile teams, since it allows for a greater collaboration across teams on a project. 

Agile allows a key collaboration between testing teams and developers which can’t always be accomplished with traditional approaches. It enables testers to share their perspective from the start of the sprint planning; this leads to less bugs during testing and creates a better possibility for sprint delivery dates to be met on time.

Let’s dig a little deeper to understand what this means.

The objective of Agile/sprints/scrum 

Agile methodologies were born as an alternative to traditional software development approaches, like waterfall methodology. 

The following images show the big difference between agile and waterfall methodologies. (Source)

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On one hand we can see that the traditional approach (Waterfall) aims to understand user needs and develop a product. After development, testers test the product and report bugs before deployment. The development team then works on them and fixes any errors using the best possible solution. This is progress through phases, one starts only when the previous one ends; this does not create an opportunity for proper feedback or collaboration between testing, developers and users teams.

On the other hand, Agile is mainly focused on performing constant, small deliveries of the product in order for the customer to be able to see how the product advances through the lifecycle. This gives the opportunity for testing to take on a bigger role and to get involved at an early stage of product development and throughout all the lifecycle of the product.

Agile has four important values:

  1. The focus should be more on individuals and interactions instead of processes and tools

  2. Working software is more important than comprehensive documentation

  3. Customer collaboration is more vital than contract negotiation

  4. The process should respond to change rather than follow a plan

Testing in sprint planning: The goal of sprint planning

During sprint planning, the team discusses which stories they will focus on in the upcoming sprint based on aspects like priorities, time frame, feasibility, etc.

The whole team involved in the development of the product should be involved, and if additional expertise on specific backlog tasks is required, then stakeholders can also be part of it.

Sometimes, during this meeting, the testing team can take a secondary role since the main focus tends to be on the development of the stories; this is understandable since it will set the start of the sprint. However, the testing team's' perspective can lead to some serious benefits for developers.

Why testing should be involved

One flaw of working in traditional testing (i.e. Waterfall methodology) is that during the test case design phase, although testers receive the requirements, most of the time they don't get access to the software they will test until it is time to begin the test execution phase.  It is well known that there is usually a big gap between what a requirement specifies and the actual software developed. 

This leads to a huge time investment on the testing side to reach out to both developers and users to define how the product works and how it should work in order to define the correct test scenarios and test cases.

Agile methodologies give testers the opportunity to be involved in the development of the product from the get-go. Testers can be involved in the design of the software by working closely with developers to assess and advise on testability aspects.

An Agile tester should understand the relevance of technical skills. A tester is always prepared to contribute to the technical discussions of the team. Their contribution may extend up to code reviews, user stories grooming, and understanding requirements. The Agile Software Tester gets to work with the developers when they are performing unit testing and share the perspective of testing from a tester's point of view instead of a developer's. The tester can work collaboratively and productively with the product owner and the customer to form acceptance criteria from the sprint planning itself. 

Before any user story is sent for development, the tester and other team members can discuss the complete user story with the team members to find out what the customer wants. Having testers collaborate with developers from the very beginning of sprint planning helps to achieve more accurate estimations and to ensure that everyone has some testing tasks as part of their responsibilities

Great testing teams know they need to become an extension of the customer and end user. Testers need to understand the customer's needs: an Agile tester should be able to describe the feature as well as the customer.

Drop us a line for expert advice on testing and all things Agile, we'd love to help your teams achieve their true potential.

Topics: blog testing tracking collaboration agile software-development
2 min read

Does a Project Manager fit into an Agile world?

By Marcelo Garza on Sep 18, 2020 10:15:00 AM

Blogpost-display-image_How does a Project Manager fit into an Agile world- (1)

Project managers have a wide range of responsibilities when working on a project: they are in charge of planning the project, creating a schedule and timeline, executing each phase, managing budgets, serving as the liaison among all stakeholders, and also troubleshooting and maintenance in addition to other activities. As such, a Project Manager(PM) must be very organized and detail-oriented. A PM also needs to have great people skills because, at the end of the day, this person is responsible for leading the team and communicating with all involved parties.

The Project Management Institute describes the role of a project manager as someone who acts as an agent of change. Someone who “makes project goals their own and uses their skills and expertise to inspire a sense of shared purpose within the project team.”

Project managers serve as leaders. Aside from ensuring the project is delivered on time and within the agreed-upon budget, they also encourage their teams and inspire their clients. They need to solve problems as they arise with strong critical-thinking capabilities while also possessing strong communication skills to ensure everyone remains informed, motivated, and onboard.

A good PM delivers a final product on time, on budget while meeting or exceeding client expectations. Tracing projects back to business goals is becoming increasingly necessary for project managers.

All brains on deck

The Agile framework focuses on self-organization and team empowerment rather than defining specific roles, which is why there is no need for a traditional command and control project manager; the project manager role is pretty much covered between all the existing roles there are.

Anyone who's ever taken an Agile class or training has heard of the defined roles of scrum master, product owner, and development team in the scrum framework, which makes no mention of the project manager role. I have taken five Agile classes from different places and never once have heard the word project manager. So, where does this skill set belong? Is there really no use for a project manager in an Agile setting? Is there nothing a project manager can do to add value to an Agile project? 

An Agile organization can–and does–function without a project manager. However, there is huge potential for a PM skill set to add value to an organization, specifically on large projects. I have worked in QA Testing across various complex projects for the past five years, and it is clear to me that a PM can greatly impact both the journey and outcome of the project in regards to budget and risk management, as well as coordination between multiple scrum teams.

A project manager can add value by managing key aspects of every project, overseeing budgets, risks, etc., especially on large scale projects for enterprise organizations. Having a project manager also frees up the scrum master to focus solely on his or her core functions.

Project Manager vs Agile management

agile project manager

If you are looking to scale Agile principles within your organization, our team at Praecipio Consulting has you covered. Feel free to reach out to us with any questions!

Topics: scaled-agile project-management agile
5 min read

The Pros & Cons of Working From Home

By Marcelo Garza on Jul 3, 2020 3:00:00 PM

2020 Blogposts_Pros & Cons of WFH

Man, 2020 has hit us hard. Just three months into the year and our have lives turned a full 180 degrees. We have all seen the changes that year has presented to all aspects of our daily lives. Businesses have been forced to adapt and innovate their way of work to maintain operations, like companies in the fashion industry, who have now pivoted to make face masks.

Most people are now working from home, and it looks like things will remain the same going into 2021. Given that we are in the digital era anyways and most work is now done on a computer, how much can things change from working in your office to working in your home, right? It shouldn’t be a big deal. Some employers get nervous when the words "home office" are put on the table. They fear productivity may decrease, issues will appear, or people are not trustworthy to do their job properly if they are not in the same room as their supervisors. Truth is, different studies have shown that most people are more productive when working from home. A lot of businesses are now running even full-time home office operations since there are all sorts of new technologies at our fingertips that facilitate communication and remote work. 

Home office pros and cons

Pros

  • Time saved: Forget about spending from 1 to 3 hours sitting in traffic. No more worrying about being late either to the office or to appointments after work. All that lost time and stress is gone, and now you can invest that time into yourself, your family, and friends.
  • Creating a personal working environment: Don't like your office chair? Your desk? In an office, you have to work with what you get most of the time, but at home, you can make your workspace your own. Pick your favorite place at home, find your own furniture, and get that perfect chair that won't hurt your back.
  • You define your hours: Extra hours just got a lot easier. You are already at home, you don't need to be in a rush, your family is closer, you can start earlier, or you can spend a few more minutes finishing that last briefing you have for tomorrow’s meeting. Why not, take breaks during the day and make up for it later.
  • Casual Friday all week: You can forget about having all your shirts, ties, and suits in order and instead enjoy wearing more casual apparel. While we often joke about "business on top, couch potato on the bottom" for virtual conference calls, we recommend that you get dressed for working from home to keep up with a routine.  
  • No chit-chat noise: How many times have you had to deal with your coworker chit-chatting while you were on an important conference call? It’s very stressful to be on a call and have all the background noise from the rest of the office. But no more of that at home (unless your little ones decide to join your call!).
  • More sunlight and fresh air: Not everyone at the office gets the window, and in fact, most people don't even see the sun until they leave the office. Getting some sunlight, enjoying the weather, and getting some fresh air is very important to relieve some of the stress generated during the day. At home you can always get a glimpse from the windows, enjoy your backyard or take a 5 min rest outside.

Cons

  • Technical issues: Working in a home office can be great at the beginning, but once you begin having internet issues, hardware or software issues, losing access to your company intranet, or maybe even losing power at home, things can get complicated and stressful.
  • 24-hour job: Since you have your office accessible all day long, some days you might find yourself putting in work before or after hours or even on the weekends. However, it's important to set boundaries, even something like the physical barrier of closing your laptop, so that you can separate your work life from home life. 
  • No immediate feedback: If you are at home and you have a question or important matter you need to discuss, it’s not as easy to solve when you don't have people around you all the time. That's why it's important to use Slack or collaboration tools like Confluence to keep you and your team focused and informed. 
  • Isolation is not for everyone: We all crave human interaction. Not everyone can handle social distancing very well. Some employees need to feel connected to and appreciated at their workplace. This last point, socializing, is what I believe is the hardest part, especially given the current situation. 

Importance of socializing at work

We as individuals need people. We are social beings, and we need that relief from our mental load that social interaction brings. Now, I’m not talking about chatting with coworkers or discussing projects and work; no, I’m talking about us as human beings, sharing our likes and dislikes, just speaking with one another about our weekend, going out for a drink or dinner after the office. We don't have in quite the same way right now, we can’t go to the movie theater anymore, go to the club and dance, have house gatherings or in some cases, even go to the park. We all missed that more than anything, speaking and having fun with one another.

Boost in productivity

Most people work around eight hours a day at their workplace, which is 34% percent of our day at the office. It is important to choose how you spend this big chunk of time in your life: either be confined to your desk focusing solely on work or utilizing some of this time to invest in building your team and work relationships. 

image2020-4-20_13-37-47

It’s all a personal choice and a way of working. Some view socializing as an unnecessary distraction that negatively impacts productivity and wastes time. However, a study conducted by Mckinsey Global Institute shows that productivity improves by 20-25% in organizations with connected employees.

Communication and collaboration

Did you know that a survey of 400 companies cited an average loss per company of $62.4 million per year due to a lack of proper communication? Communication is a big deal and a lack thereof can cost you.

When co-workers socialize outside of work, working together becomes more enjoyable and keeps people motivated. That is what Stephen Ufford, the founder of a leading identity and business verification company, Trulioo, has to say. He emphasizes that when employees socialize, this leads to improved communication, a good work ethic, flexibility, and a better understanding of each team member's responsibilities.

 

“Most good relationships are built on mutual trust and respect.” - Mona Sutphen

 

This applies to our workspaces and organizations, too. Employees tend to experience a more positive work environment when they trust their managers/organizations.

If you are looking for ways to support your team while working from home, check out our blog post on how to host a Virtual-Bring-Together or learn about how we keep our employees engaged and motivated to live a healthy lifestyle with our Wellness Challenges

 

Topics: work-from-home
4 min read

How To Host A Virtual-Bring-Together

By Marcelo Garza on May 22, 2020 9:15:00 AM

2020 Blogposts_How Jira helps your team work remotely copy 2

Remote work has its perks (do a load of laundry in between calls, take your dog for a walk during your break), but it certainly comes with its challenges. Feeling lonely and isolated when working from home is very real, and as a company that operates 100% remotely, we know how important it is to make sure our team members stay connected. 

That's why we started hosting Virtual-Bring-Togethers, which provides a space for employees to interact and have fun while engaging in an activity that has nothing to do with work. Every Thursday evening, our team members connect via Zoom to play Pictionary, stream movies together, or even enjoy a cooking class. You name it, we've done it! 

Best Apps for Hosting a Virtual-Bring-Together

There are different apps available with all sorts of features that can turn social distancing into distant socializing. These are just some of them that might help you in organizing your virtual event:

  • Skype (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Linux, web)
  • Zoom (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows)
  • Facebook Messenger (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows)
  • WhatsApp Messenger (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, web)
  • Google Duo (iOS, Android, web)
  • Marco Polo (iOS, Android)
  • Houseparty (iOS, Android, web)
  • Discord (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Linux, web)

For a small company, you can easily organize these video calls with all the employees, and if we are talking about a big company, you might want to think of organizing these by teams or departments.

Activity Ideas

As far as the activities you can do, here are some that have been a huge hit with our Praecipio Consulting team members:

Family-friendly 

  • Virtual Pictionary: Divide into teams and use the Whiteboard feature on Zoom to draw pictures. When it’s your turn, you’ll share the screen and draw, and your team will have to guess what you are drawing during the set time limit. 
  • Yoga nights: Let the yogi of the group lead everyone through a restorative yoga flow and some simple sun salutations! Or, if you're feeling adventurous, try some hard moves and bond over the shared silliness.
  • Cooking lessons: If there is a chef in the group, he or she can give cooking lessons for everyone. It's a good way to share dishes, especially if you work with multicultural teams.
  • Playing cards: Organize your regular set of poker, and because you play virtually, it's easier to bluff and you won't have to worry about someone picking an eye on your cards.
  • Book clubs: You can organize book clubs normally would. Just pick a book, have them read a chapter or two to read during the week, and during your Virtual-Bring-Together, discuss different themes and listen to everyone's perspectives. 
  • Cribs: Have team members show off their homes and personality in quick, self-made videos a la the iconic show from the early 2000s. 
  • Costume party: Set themes and have a contest for the best costumes. You don't need to wait for Halloween to dress up and goof around!
  • Origami zoo: Origami nights are easy to organize. Have someone email them instructions before the meeting, and all people need to do is show up with some paper and scissors.
  • Icebreaker questions: Icebreaker questions are simple prompts that allow you to get to know your peers better. For example, you can start a remote meeting by having each attendee share their name, role, and what they like to eat for breakfast. Icebreakers are a simple and effective way to build relationships with remote teams, and to increase the personal connections between your people. You can set different levels for the questions depending on how well you already know each other

Grown-ups only 

  • Bar crawl: If you miss a night on the town, it’s time for a virtual bar crawl. To do this, set up a few spaces in your home to be “bars.” You can try to mimic your favorites or create themed bars! Have a signature drink for each bar! If you're looking for low-cal cocktail options, try some of these!
  • Virtual beer pong: We all know (and love) this classic game, but don't know how to play virtually? Check out this short video with a pretty simple example.
  • Virtual flip cup: Another classic. This one is simpler to play through a video call than virtual beer pong, so I would suggest you try this one first. All you need is your magic red cup, establish an order of turns in between teams, and have a good flick of the wrist.

This last two can also be done with the whole family, just swap your beer out for some water!

Try it yourself!

Socializing amongst team members opens the door to knowledge sharing, builds alliances, encourages teamwork, allows people to get to know others outside of their department, and gives everyone a "big picture" view of the company. When people start socializing, it creates bonds, which translates to caring for others. Having a team that genuinely cares for one another will create a greater sense of belonging and promote collaboration, resulting in improved performance across the board.

A company that provides a space for its employees to relate with one another, to relax, to have fun, and to be humans, shows that it cares for them. So, we encourage you to implement Virtual-Bring-Togethers or something similar with your teams, especially as many of us will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future. 

Topics: virtual-bring-together work-from-home

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