Rebecca Schwartz

Rebecca Schwartz


Recent posts by Rebecca Schwartz

3 min read

Agile vs. Scrum - What's the Difference?

By Rebecca Schwartz on Aug 19, 2021 10:03:00 AM

2021-q4-blogpost-Agile vs. Scrum Methology- Whats the Difference?

Organizations are rapidly moving toward new work management styles, especially in the age of digital transformation. If you work in project management, you've probably heard the term "Agile" at some point in your career. Maybe you've considered taking this approach with your teams, and have already done some research. "Scrum" is another term you've most likely heard during your research. Although this is a term used in rugby, it is also a specific methodology teams use to work in an Agile manner. At Praecipio Consulting, we've assisted many teams 

with their move to Agile, using the Atlassian toolset to support and ease their journey. We've also worked with many teams who use Scrum specifically, but many use different frameworks - using Scrum is not a requirement to be Agile. Let's take a moment to understand the difference between Scrum and Agile.

What is Agile?

Agile is a project management style in which organizations use an iterative process to continuously deliver work while consistently receiving and incorporating feedback throughout the process. Flexibility is key, so teams can quickly adapt to market changes and customer needs. Agile has a set of principles and values organizations are expected to follow, laid out in the Agile Manifesto. The Agile Manifesto does not delve into specific practices and activities teams should follow in order to work in an Agile way: it serves as a north star for organizations to align to in their Agile journey. There are a few Agile frameworks teams can use to work in an iterative manner, such as Scrum and Kanban. Agile puts an emphasis on people over processes and tools, and gives autonomy to the people on those teams. With that being said, it is up to the teams to decide which framework works best for the way they work and the work they're delivering. 

What is Scrum?

Scrum is one of the many frameworks teams can use to work in an Agile manner. It is mainly used by software development teams, and relies on time-boxed iterations called Sprints. Sprints are made up of the work developers commit to completing within that iteration, typically 2 weeks. The work scheduled in each sprint is based on priority and team capacity, and is carefully estimated to ensure teams can commit the work they've delegated to the sprint. This framework is very detailed, and prescribes a set of specific roles and events, including:

  • A Scrum Master, who protects the teams and ensures they are able to do their work without impediments.
  • A Product Owner, who manages and grooms the product backlog ensuring the anticipated work aligns with the needs of the customer and business.
  • The development team who actually complete the work in the sprint.

As I mentioned above, Scrum is a way teams can work if they're on their Agile journey, but it is not the only option. There are other Agile frameworks that may work better for teams.

How Do Agile and Scrum Differ?

Now that we know a bit more about Agile and Scrum separately, it's easier to lay out the differences between the two. Agile is more of a general philosophy that paints a broader picture around working in an iterative, flexible manner. Scrum is a specific Agile framework and is more granular than Agile. Although both rely on iterations: in Scrum they're specifically time boxed and called Sprints. Scrum also prescribes specific roles and ceremonies, while Agile focuses on the overall principles in the Agile Manifesto. Scrum is also more focused on the team level and the delivery of work. Agile can be scaled across an organization using other work frameworks such as the the Scaled Agile framework, or SAFe, as well as Large-Scale Scrum, styled as LeSS. 

With that understanding in mind, maybe you're ready to start your Agile journey! The Atlassian tools, such as Jira and Confluence, are built to support Agile and the specific frameworks. Jira Software makes it easy to get started with Scrum by providing an out-of-the-box Project template. At Praecipio Consulting, we focus on ensuring the Atlassian tools facilitate your Agile journey by implementing best practices and incorporating our extensive experience working with Agile teams. Reach out if you have any questions around Atlassian and Agile - we're here to help.

Topics: blog kanban scrum project-management safe agile frameworks less
2 min read

Are Retrospectives Useful for Non-Scrum Teams?

By Rebecca Schwartz on Jul 15, 2021 11:34:08 AM

2021-q4-blogpost-Are retrospectives useful for non-Scrum teams?_1

If you work in tech, you've most likely heard of the term "Agile". Agile is a framework typically used by software and project management teams to deliver better quality work to customers in a more timely manner. Depending on the way organizations approach their journey to becoming Agile, there are various methods they can use to get there. One of the most popular Agile frameworks is Scrum, which proposes teams lean on time-boxed iterations, called Sprints, to complete their work. At the end of each Sprint, Retrospectives are to be completed. Retrospectives are meetings where Scrum teams discuss how to improve the way they work; they are typically held every 1 or 2 Sprints. They give the team a chance to come together and discuss what they liked, what they disliked, or what they felt could've gone better during the Sprint.  Many teams neglect to complete this step, even though it is one of the most important items teams can leverage if they're aiming to truly be Agile. Thinking about Retrospectives and their benefits made me realize how useful they can be for all teams, not just Scrum teams. 

Retrospectives and Non-Scrum Teams

Retrospectives are great for non-scrum teams in that they push teams to look back and reflect on the work they've completed. This reflection is key for future work, as teams can avoid past mistakes or time-eating efforts that negatively affected the efficiency of their last project. They can do the same for the items that lead to success in their previous projects so the team can consistently deliver their best work efficiently.

Additionally, retrospectives are great for promoting team unity and trust across the team members. When team members can openly share their honest opinions about how the team is doing, team communication improves, leading to better quality work and better relationships between team members. Any team can benefit from this, no matter how the team goes about completing their work.

Consistent reflection and analysis of completed work are excellent tools, even if the team isn't using Sprints and your work isn't necessarily time-boxed. At Praecipio Consulting, we hold retrospectives after the completion of every engagement. Looking back on the wins and losses, I can't help but feel a sense of pride amongst my team members on the work we delivered. Setting aside this time for the team to come together and communicate with one another allows our delivery teams to grow and bond with one another. Not to mention, the work we produce increases in quality and the processes behind that work become more efficient. 

If you are curious about Agile, and would like to see if it's a good fit for your organization's needs, contact us and one of our experts will get in touch.

Topics: blog scrum tips agile
2 min read

Queues vs. Dashboards in Jira Service Management

By Rebecca Schwartz on Apr 26, 2021 10:15:00 AM

Blogpost-display-image_When do I use JSM queues vs. dashboards-When it comes to understanding the progress of work in Jira, Atlassian has some great options natively within Jira Service Management. Queues are available in each Service Management project in Jira and Dashboards are available in all Jira products. These features give users important insight into what teams are working on, but how do you know when to use which, and why? Having easy access to the progress of work in the system, as well as some of the stats that go along with the quality and completion of the work, is essential for any team's success. Below, I'll discuss the functionality of Queues and Dashboards in Jira and when one should be used over the other. 

What are queues?

Queues are groups of customer requests that appear in Jira Service Management projects. They are used by service desk agents to organize customer requests allowing the team to assign and complete customer requests quickly and efficiently. There are a few helpful queues that come with your service desk, but Jira Admins can also create custom queues if the ones in place are not the correct fit for the team. 

What are Dashboards?

A Dashboard is a page of reports and data visuals related to issues in Jira. Dashboards are customizable and can be tailored to meet the needs of various users throughout the organization. Individual users often create their own Dashboards to easily visualize what outstanding work they specifically need to get done. Teams can use them to see their overall progress of work. Management can use them to get a more high-level overview of the progress of work across the entire organization. Gadgets make up Dashboards and are often based on Jira filters or JQL. They typically come in the form of charts, tables, or lists. Dashboards are available no matter what kind of Jira project you're working in.

When to use queues vs. Dashboards?

Queues are great for agents and other folks who need to work on issues in a service management project. If queues are broken up by SLA's and/or priority, they help agents determine which issues are most urgent and need to be worked on ASAP. Then, agents can easily grab issues from the list and begin working on them. Queues don't give you any stats or overall status on work that's in progress or has yet to be completed. It's simply a way for those working on Jira tickets to organize them and decide what to work on.

While queues are limited to a single project, Dashboards can be used across multiple projects. They give more information on the work and can provide more details such as the time from creation to resolution, how many issues of a particular type were submitted in a given time period, and which agents completed the most issues. Dashboards are perfect for users who need to get an overview of what's going on, but don't necessarily need to work on the issues. Since Dashboards are meant for viewing Jira data, these pages are perfect to give higher-level users an insight into what's going on with the outstanding work. Using gadgets, these users can see where improvements need to be made if, for example, SLAs are continuously breached. They can also be used to see what works well for your teams. 

You have questions?  We have answers!  Contact us to schedule a call with one of our Atlassian experts.

Topics: jira atlassian blog tips service-management tracking project-management jira-service-management
3 min read

Microaggressions in the Workplace

By Rebecca Schwartz on Jan 22, 2021 3:42:46 PM

Blog- Microaggressions in the workplace

Throughout the course of this year, we've discussed implicit bias on our internal Social Justice team at Praecipio Consulting. Implicit biases are sub-conscious thoughts or stereotypes we have about a specific group of people based on their race, ethnicity, sexuality, age, appearance, etc. The feelings and thoughts we form based on these biases are ones we may not intentionally form or are aware of, but everyone has them. The team looked further into how these implicit biases affect the workplace and discovered they correlate directly to microaggressions. As we begin a new year, the Praecipio Consulting team is looking for ways to better our company culture, as well as ourselves personally, so addressing microaggressions and their effects on the workplace seemed like a great way to do this as a group, as well as individuals.

What are microaggressions?

According to Derald Wing Sue, microaggressions are the everyday slights, indignities, put-downs, and insults that members of marginalized groups experience in their day-to-day interactions with individuals who are often unaware that they have engaged in an offensive or demeaning way. The perpetrator of the aggression typically does not realize what they said or did toward the victim is offensive, which makes microaggressions even harder to call out or recognize. There are three types of microaggressions: microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations.

Three types of microaggressions

First, we have microsassaults. Microassaults are more obvious and are usually purposeful. They are often violent and directly target a victim. In the workplace, an example would be if a male coworker gropes a female coworker and plays it off as a joke.

Next are microinsults. Microinsults are the most common type of microaggressions. They are a bit more subtle and unconscious, especially compared to microassaults. They disrespect or demean another person, even if the perpetrator "meant it as a compliment." In the workplace, an example would be if a non-white co-worker was giving a presentation and an employee commented on how articulate the presenter is. 

Microinvalidations are very similar to gaslighting another person. They are often subtle and unconscious. Microinvalidations cancel the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of marginalized individuals. In the workplace, an example is when an LGBTQ+ employee confides in a straight employee about a microaggression they received, and the straight employee tells them they're overreacting. 

Microaggressions and the workplace

Although at the moment, a microaggression may feel like a joke or a harmless action to the person committing them, they have a large impact on the receiver, especially if the microaggressions occur repeatedly over a long period of time. Psychologists often compare them to death by a thousand cuts. Because of the manner of microaggressions, they are often not reported by employees. It’s important to understand what they are and how they affect others to ensure a safe and inclusive company culture. The first step in addressing microaggressions is to recognize when a microaggression has occurred and what message it may be sending. Think about your actions and your words: you may have positive intentions with your behaviors, but think about the impact they have on others. 

At Praecipio Consulting, the Social Justice team has compiled a Resource Library that the company can use to learn about a range of topics, a few geared toward microaggressions and how we can work to eliminate them from our environments. Below is a list of helpful resources around microaggressions that we have in our library. 

If you have read, watched, or listened to any of these resources, we'd love to hear your thoughts, and if you have any recommendations for other resources we should add to our library to learn more about microaggressions, let us know!

Topics: blog do-good social-justice social-responsibility
2 min read

Using SLAs + Automation to set customer expectations in JSM

By Rebecca Schwartz on Jan 19, 2021 9:51:00 AM

Blogpost-display-image_Using SLAs + Automation to set customer expectations in JSMWhen using Jira Service Management to manage your team's service desk, it's extremely important to ensure that your end-users have a good experience. Otherwise, they may become frustrated with the tool and stop using it to submit requests. With the broad range of clients we serve at Praecipio Consulting, we've found one of the biggest keys to a successful service desk is clearly setting customer expectations and meeting those expectations consistently. Jira Service Management comes with Service-Level Agreements (SLAs) that teams can use to set those expectations and give customers transparency around them. It's important to set reasonable goals for your SLAs, and with automation you can make it easier for your agents to stay on top of those goals so your customers are satisfied.

Here's how:

Automate alerts to agents when SLAs are about to be breached

For your SLAs, it's important to be consistent with meeting the expected goals assigned to them. This allows your agents to build trust with customers and encourages customers to continuously use the service desk for their requests. With automation, agents can be alerted when time is running out on an SLA. For the automation rule, there's a trigger titled "SLA Threshold Breached" that works perfectly in this scenario. This trigger allows you to set when an alert should send to the assignee of the request based on how much time is left on the particular SLA. The assignee is then made aware that they need to make progress on the issue and can stay on top of the SLA goal. This, in turn, leads to a happier customer and an increased sense of trust in your agents. 

Automate alerts to customers if a ticket is pending their response 

It's good practice in a service desk to configure so that if a ticket is pending a response from the customer, a "Waiting for Customer SLA" is set to give them time to respond. If the time passes on that SLA (we don't receive a response from the customer after a certain amount of days), the ticket is automatically resolved. Before we automate this though, it can be helpful to send out an alert to the customer to remind them that the ticket is waiting on their response. I've seen customers become frustrated when a ticket is resolved without alerting them that it was waiting on their response, as they simply forgot about their pending request. Sending out reminders sets clear expectations with the customer that the ticket has not made further progress due to inaction on their end and gives them the chance to interact with the request before it's automatically resolved. Other times, you may not receive a response from the customer because they no longer need your assistance. In these situations, the automation to resolve tickets pending customer action after the "Waiting for Customer SLA" is breached can save your agents time and effort, as they don't have to keep track of the time pending a customer response and manually resolve the ticket themselves.

We've seen so many clients reap the benefits of using automation to help their teams stay on top of their SLAs. Not only does it build trust with customers and in your organization; it also fortifies your service desk and improves your the experiences of your end users and agents! If you need help with SLAs, or anything else Atlassian, reach out and one of our experts will contact you ASAP!

Topics: automation service-level-agreement jira-service-management
3 min read

Atlassian Certification Program: Tips for Studying for your ACP Tests

By Rebecca Schwartz on Oct 21, 2020 12:45:00 PM

Blogpost-display-image_Atlassian Certification Program- Tips for studying for your ACP exams-1

Atlassian Certification Program (ACP) tests are a great way to enhance your Atlassian skillset and better leverage the tools at your organization. Atlassian offers a few different exams, depending on what aspects of the tools you're focused on and your current skill level. If you pass, you get a nifty badge you can place on your LinkedIn profile or email signature!


Here at Praecipio Consulting, all of our consultants have taken at least one of the available ACP tests, and we have some great tips and tidbits to share that will help you prep for the exams and understand what they entail.

A little bit about the exams

  • Atlassian offers 6 different ACP exams
  • Exams are typically between 70-80 questions
  • Exams can be taken remotely due to COVID-19, but are proctored
  • Depending on the exam, the passing score is between 60-70%
  • You have 180 minutes (3 hours) to complete your exam

1. Take it back to your college days with study guides and flashcards

When studying for any exam, it's important to figure out how you best learn the material. Is it taking notes by hand so you don't have the distractions of a laptop? Or do you tend to lose loose leaf paper so you prefer to type out what you've learned? Either way, my best tip to prepare for your exams is to organize your notes into a comprehensive study guide. 

Atlassian requires the completion of specific courseware before you can take the ACP exams, and they provide downloadable PDFs for each exam topic. All of this information is great for your study guide. You can use a good ol' fashioned notebook for this, or, if you have access to Confluence, create your study guide there and then use macros and tasks to organize your notes with reminders of trouble areas to focus on 

Because the exams cover a lot of material, flashcards are another great way to memorize information. There are several online services that allow you to create flashcards for free, such as QuizletRepetition works wonders when studying for any exam, so be sure to review your study materials several times.

2. Practice in a test environment

If your way of learning is by doing, a great way to prep is by reviewing admin functionality in your Jira or Confluence instance, especially if you have a test or demo environment. Project schemes, permissions (project and global), and workflow functionality can provide helpful knowledge around exam items. Chances are, if you're taking an ACP test, you already have access to a Jira and/or Confluence environment, but if not, Atlassian offers a free Cloud instance if you're maintaining 10 users or less. Keep in mind that some exams only focus on Server functionality, but it's still great to get a visual for the items you'll be tested on.

3. Collaborate with others prepping for the exam

At Praecipio Consulting, we are all about teamwork. When other co-workers were also prepping for the test, we collaborated on our notes, shared our study guides, and had study groups. Sharing our thoughts and notes allowed us to each figure out our strengths and weaknesses around the exam material so we could help each other be successful. 

If you're the only one at your organization taking the exam, or are just deciding to do it individually, no worries - there are folks all around the world looking to get certified! If you venture over to the Atlassian Community, there are often discussions that folks have started to create study groups with members of the community (check out this post around the ACP-100). 

4. Stay in tune with your physical and mental state 

Prepping for and taking any exam is physically and mentally exhausting. It's important when studying to allow yourself breaks to better absorb the material. While you study, it’s a good idea to create incentives and goals around the study material. For example, once you are through half of your flashcards, you can reward yourself with watching the next episode of your newest Netflix addiction or read a chapter of your favorite book. That way, you have something to look forward to while studying and have a structured pattern for brain breaks.

 When it comes to taking the exam, try to find a quiet space in your home where you can remain undistracted. If you get stuck on a question, mark it and come back to it - you've got 3 hours to get through the questions, so take your time! Remember, your well-being is a key factor in being able to focus and perform your best, so it's important to keep it in check.

Good luck with your next exam, and let us know if your organization needs further support with how to best leverage your Atlassian applications. 

Topics: atlassian blog agents training atlassian-products atlassian-certification-program
3 min read

What is Customer Centricity in SAFe 5.0?

By Rebecca Schwartz on Jul 10, 2020 12:15:00 PM

2020 Blogposts_What is Customer Centricity in SAFe 5.0-

SAFe 5.0 puts a greater focus on the customer, placing them at the heart of all decisions around the product or service the business delivers. Although the technical and functional aspects of a product are key, the satisfaction of the customer ultimately decides the true fate of the solution. If the customer continues to have a positive experience, your business can continue to grow and thrive! In the updated SAFe 5.0 framework, Scaled Agile elaborates on Customer Centricity, which puts the customer at the center of all business decisions that guide an organization to not only meet customer needs but exceed them as well.

What is Customer Centricity?

Customer Centricity is the mindset that the business must adopt to provide a positive experience for the customer. With every decision business leaders make, how those decisions impact the customer must be at the forefront of their minds. For this reason, the organization studies market research and user insight to ensure they truly understand the customer's pain points and develop solutions to address them. Customer-centric organizations take new approaches to solving customer problems by using empathetic design, i.e. putting themselves in the shoes of the customer. In turn, the organization can fully engage with the customer and build long-lasting relationships with them. After all, this is what we try and capture in User Stories; however, in SAFe 5.0, we're capturing this information at every level of the organization to build the right solutions.

Why is Customer Centricity important?

Customer Centricity is important because customer satisfaction is the key to developing a business and maintaining it. If your solutions and services fail your customers, your business will also fail. This new focal point also matters because it allows organizations to get direct feedback and input from the customer. Listening to their ideas and opinions allows businesses to tailor the solutions to their exact needs, which increases company profits, attracts new customers, and enhances current customer relationships.

How does Customer Centricity Affect Me/My Organization?

As an individual and as an organization, this piece of the framework may change your mindset and the entire company vision when it comes to creating solutions. When in the decision-making process, whether on your own or collectively as an organization, the outcomes that affect the customer will need to guide those decisions. As an individual working on client solutions, you may sometimes get requests that aren't necessarily best practice. Using Customer Centricity, you can consult user and market research to arrive at a solution that is best practice while also satisfying the customer.

 

Our Thoughts on Customer Centricity

At Praecipio Consulting, we are excited about this emphasis on Customer Centricity, as we love providing an exceptional customer experience. While working on our projects, we gather customer feedback daily to ensure we're moving projects in the right direction. With this, we're also able to revise on an iterative basis, meaning changes are made consistently throughout the project, instead of piling up and causing delays at the end of the project delivery. We also find that this approach allows us to truly be customer-centric, as we are constantly engaging with the customer and strengthening our relationship with them. Internally, we keep a close eye on the updates to SAFe so we can practice it successfully, as well as guide clients through the changes as well.

 

Contact us today to learn how our Digital Transformationists can help your organization scale successfully.

Topics: scaled-agile safe customer-experience

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