3 min read

Tips For Setting Up Effective Kanban Boards In Jira

By Michael Lyons on Sep 8, 2021 3:01:34 PM

2021-q4-blogpost-Tips For Setting Up Effective Kanban Boards In Jira

Jira's
 Kanban boards are great tools for tracking the progress of work being done by teams and for gaining insights into opportunities. Boards are highly customizable and can accommodate numerous types of processes. This flexibility is very helpful for teams that need to track a continuous flow of work in high volumes. If you are new to using Jira's Kanban board or are looking to get maximum results out of using the boards, we have a few tips that can help.

 These tips are meant to help make your Kanban board be as insightful as possible.

Reflect the Work Being Done

Boards are most effective when they are set up in a way that is easy to use, and match a team's work processes. You can add any number of columns to your board depending on how your team works. Statuses from your workflows can be mapped to the columns in any way. The option to customize is very helpful for teams, but it is important to align columns and statuses in a way that the user can efficiently move the work through the board. Designing a board that is inefficient can make the board frustrating to use. 

An effective way to map statuses for a Kanban board is to ensure that each status is mapped to a column, especially those statuses that are along the critical path. This helps the user navigate within the board seamlessly to provide updates on their work and track progress. This also prevents the user from having to take the extra steps to update issue statuses. Mapping each column to a status is by no means a requirement, but it helps to make these statuses available in the board so the user can quickly drag and drop the issue into a new column as work is being completed. 

Filter, Filter, Filter!

Work can add up when your team is very busy! All of this work can show up on the board and make it difficult to use if filters are not used appropriately. Luckily Jira provides a few options for filtering out issues. We recommend leveraging sub-filters and quick filters to help clear up yourboard. Sub-filters can be added to boards to help filter out issues that are older than a specific time frame or that have been moved to a certain status. We like to use sub-filters that filter out any issues that have been resolved or closed for more than two weeks, for example. Quick filters can be built to help filter down to issues that have certain field values or components. End users can interact directly with these filters and can toggle between them depending on the information they would like to see.

Leverage the Backlog

When issues are being created, it's important to discern which items are ready for work and which items are still being vetted by the project team. Boards that do not make priorities clear can cause confusion. For example, if a column has both an "Open" and "To-Do" status mapped, all work items within those statuses will appear in the column. Having so many of these items in a column can make it challenging to quickly determine the items that the team should work on.

Implementing a Kanban board with a backlog can help declutter the board and help users better identify work in the "To-Do" status. This is a feature that can be enabled within the board. All work items in an "Open" status form the backlog and do not appear on the board, while work in the "To-Do" status will appear in the first column. Your team will now know the items that take priority and are ready to be completed. 

Implement WIP Limits

Jira allows teams to set limits on the amount of issues that can be placed in columns. These limits should be based on what the team's work-in-process limits (WIP) are for processes. If the number of items in a column exceeds the maximum, the column will be highlighted. This gives teams insight into where they need to focus their efforts and shows them where opportunities are within the process. 

We are process obsessed: our custom-made workflows are designed by our teams of accredited and experienced professionals. If you have any questions about Jira or Kanban boards, please reach out to us! We would love to help.

Topics: jira blog kanban process process-consulting tips
4 min read

What Exactly is Agile Methodology?

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

2021-q4-blogpost-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
10 min read

ITSM and ITIL: Not So Different After All

By Yogi Kanakamedala on Jun 9, 2021 4:01:01 PM

2021-q4-blogpost-ITSMvsITIL

The change to remote work has forced Information Technology (IT) teams to quickly and efficiently serve their customers. Due to this, many people talk about using ITSM processes or ITIL strategies to help their teams. But what does this mean? Are they the same? Or completely different? What does an IT team implementing these practices look like? To understand this, we first have to understand ITSM and ITIL. 

What is ITSM?

Atlassian defines Information Technology Service Management (ITSM) as a way IT teams manage the end-to-end delivery of IT services to customers. This includes a defined set of processes to design, create, deliver, and support IT services. 

The core concept of ITSM is the belief that IT should be delivered as a service

I think of ITSM simply as a set of tools you can use to improve your IT team. Just like you would use a handsaw to cut a piece of wood or a screwdriver and a screw to connect two pieces of wood together, you have to think about what you would like to accomplish with your IT team and which tool would be best for the job. 

ITSM processes focus on your customer's needs and services rather than the IT systems behind the scenes. These processes, when implemented properly, can help cross-department collaboration, increase control and governance, deliver and maximize asset efficiency, provide better and quicker customer support, and reduce costs across the organization. What are some of these magical processes? Glad you asked! 

  1. Service Request Management
    Any incoming inquires asking for access to applications, software licenses, password resets, or new hardware is classified as Service Requests. These requests are often recurring and can be made into simple, duplicable procedures. These repeatable procedures will help IT teams provide quick service for the recurring requests. Applying well-designed practices to your Jira Service Management application can streamline the process for an organizations' customer to create Service Requests and for internal IT teams to act on the Service Requests.  

  2. Knowledge Management
    The process of making, sharing, utilizing, and managing data of an organization to attain its business objectives can all be a part of Knowledge Management. Creating a Knowledge Base (KB) for IT teams to create content is crucial for teams to learn from the past and maximize productivity. Having a collaborative workspace, such as Confluence, for all teams to work within can help create one source of truth of information. KB articles can also be shared with your customers through the Jira Service Management portal to help resolve common or simple Service Request without having to contact the IT Team. 

  3. IT Asset Management (ITAM)
    IT Asset Management (also known as ITAM) can help ensure valuable company resources are accounted for, deployed, maintained, upgrades, or properly disposed of. Because assets have a relatively short life-cycle, it is important to make the best use of all assets. Integrating tools such as Insight with your Jira instance can help track all valuable assets throughout your organization conveniently within Jira issues in real-time. 

  4. Incident Management
    Any process that is responding to an unplanned event or downtime will fall under the Incident Management bucket. The only goal of Incident Management is to make sure that problematic services are brought back to their original operational status in the shortest time possible. For any incident to be quickly resolved, the original reporter has to be able to quickly communicate with the proper IT team asking for help and the IT team must be able to easily communicate back with the reporter to gather any relevant information needed to solve the problem. Jira Service Management can help make this crucial communication effortless.

  5. Problem Management
    Taking lessons learned from an incident and determining the root cause of the problem so that future incidents can be prevented or, at minimum, limiting downtime is the basis of Problem Management. Once a root cause analysis is performed on an incident and documented within your Confluence instance, the impact of future incidents can be reduced. 

  6. Change Management
    Change Management can be used to control and understand the impact of changes being made to all IT Infrastructure. The Change Advisory Board (CAB), a group of individuals tasked with evaluating, scheduling, and validating a change, can be leveraged to better maintain and ensure the stability of your IT Infrastructure. By taking advantage of Jira, employees can easily suggest changes and the CAB will be able to review the proposed changes, approving and scheduling the change as they see fit. 

To see these processes in action, let's consider a tangible example that will help bring it all together:

"Austin Snow" is a new employee at your company. As part of the onboarding process, they will need a brand new laptop. As their manager, you submit a Service Request to your IT team through the Jira Service Management Help Center. An agent in your accounting department is then assigned to this task. Using information from a KB article that has been built out in a Confluence page, the agent can see that they are supposed to put in a purchase order for the new device. From the Confluence page, the agent also knows to add this new asset in Insight and assign ownership to Austin.

Once the laptop is delivered and Austin tries to access an application and finds that they get a 404 error message. Austin reaches out to the IT team through the Help Center to create an incident with them. The IT team then proceeds to investigate this issue. They can find the root cause of the problem and fix it. Using the lessons learned from this incident, the IT team performs a root cause analysis (RCA) for the problem. As a result of the RCA, it is found that a change to the organizations' infrastructure can help prevent this problem in the future. The IT proposed the change to the Change Advisor Board (CAB) who then investigates the impact of this change, weighs pros and cons and schedules an outage window to perform this change. 

As can be seen in this example, ITSM processes can help quickly fulfill requests, transfer knowledge, keep track of assets, respond to problems, identify the cause of a problem, and implement any changes needed to prevent problems in the future. 

What is ITIL?

Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a set of best practices designed to support a company's IT operations. ITIL was introduced in the late 20th century as a series of books by a government agency in Great Britain in an attempt to help the British Government provide a better quality of IT service at a lower cost. ITIL v2 condensed all of the content in the early 2000s into nine publications. These two older versions are seldom used, most organizations currently implement ITIL v3 or ITIL 4.

ITIL v3

In 2007, ITIL v3 introduced the service lifecycle, a set of five core publications, to help organizations focus on continual improvement. The ITIL Service Lifecycle consists of five stages; Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation, and Continuous Service Improvement.

blog-graphics-01Source: AXELOS, “ITIL Foundation: ITIL 3 Edition” (2007 - Updated 2011)

The Service Strategy stage helps level set the expectations of an organization so that a service provider can meet the organization's business outcomes. The Service Design stage helps the service provider gather all the requirements and create a plan to turn an idea into reality. The Service Transition stage is when the design from the previous stage is implemented and made ready to go live as smoothly as possible. The Service Operation stage focuses on making sure the services being provided are being fulfilled as agreed upon. Finally, the Continuous Service Improvement stage focuses on service provided staying agile and keeping up with the ever-changing needs of the organization. 

ITIL 4

Most recently, ITIL 4 took into consideration the latest trends in technologies and service management to help organizations as they undergo digital transformation. ITIL 4 consists of two main components; the four dimensions model and the service value system (SVS).

blog-graphics-03

Source: AXELOS, “ITIL Foundation: ITIL 4 Edition” (2019)

The four dimensions model lays out four key areas to consider to ensure a holistic approach to service management. These four dimensions are Organizations and People, Information and Technology, Partners and Suppliers, and Value Streams and Processes. The four dimensions have to work together to help ensure that any Product or Service provided to the customer is able to provide value in an effective and efficient manner.

For example, in the above Austin Snow use case, the Organizations & People would be the HR Team performing the onboarding, the IT team helping deliver the laptop, the Support team handling the outage, and Austin Snow themself. The Information & Technology would be all the tools, Jira Service Management, Insight, etc. that were used to help Austin. The Partners & Suppliers would consist of the internal IT team in charge of the service request and incident management or any other external team that as leveraged to deliver the request or fix the incident. finally, the Value Streams & Processes would consist of any well-defined procedures that were used to help deliver the service to Austin.

blog-graphics-02

Source: AXELOS, “ITIL Foundation: ITIL 4 Edition” (2019)

The service value system lays out how all the components of an organization have to work together to provide maximum value. To accomplish this, 5 main elements are used produce Value from an Opportunity or Demand; Guiding Principles, Governance, Service Value Chain, Practices, Continual Improvement. 

Guiding Principles help define how an organization will respond in all circumstances. These principles should be considered when making any decisions. Governance defines how an organization is directed and controlled and always stem from Guiding Principles. The Service Value Chain is a set of inter-united processes used to deliver a product or service to a customer. Practices are resources to help perform work. Continual Improvement is how the process can be improved to help provide the most amount of Value to an organization. When all of the elements of the SVS are implemented and used properly, an organization will be able to capitalize on every Opportunity. The four dimensions must be considered with all elements of the SVS to ensure a great quality of service is provided to your customers. 

ITIL v3 and ITIL 4 are essentially guiding the same fundamental ideas of service management. ITIL 4 takes a new approach to provide this guidance. It is important to consider the inner workings of your organization to understand a set of principles that will best mesh with your organization. 

How are they related?

Now that we have laid down a foundation for ITSM and ITIL concepts, let's explore the relationship between ITSM and ITIL.

Unlike the title of this blog may suggest, these two concepts are not opposing ideas. ITIL is a framework of ITSM, meaning ITIL takes the concepts and values of ITSM and lays out a set of defined best practices that organizations can easily apply to their business to help improve IT services. In other words, ITSM processes describe the "what" while ITIL best practices describe the "how". 

ITIL is not the only ITSM framework; frameworks or processes such as DevOps, Kaizen, Lean, and Six Sigma are also implemented by organizations. ITIL is the most popular ITSM framework to help improve IT service delivery.

In summary, ITSM is a defined set of processes to design, create, deliver, and support IT services. ITIL, a framework of ITSM best practices, can be used as a set of guidelines to quickly adopt ITSM principles into your organization. These guidelines can then be continuously improved to be a perfect fit for your unique IT team. 

As The Digital Transformation(ists), Praecipio Consulting can help you integrate digital technology into all areas of your business. For more information, please check out these case studies: FORTUNE 20 ELECTRONICS COMPANY OPTIMIZES JIRA AND CONFLUENCE FOR ITSM BEST PRACTICES and WORLD'S LARGEST BEVERAGE AND BREWING COMPANY MIGRATES TO ATLASSIAN ITSM PLATFORM.

If you have questions on ITSM or ITIL, and wonder if your organization can benefit from these powerful methodologies, contact us, and one of our experts will be glad to help.

Topics: jira confluence process itil itsm digital-transformation jira-service-management remote-work frameworks
2 min read

Agile Tips: The Purpose of a Sprint Retrospective

By Morgan Folsom on Jun 1, 2021 10:15:00 AM

2021-q4-blogpost-Purpose of a Sprint Retrospective_1

A sprint retrospective is, in practice, a meeting scheduled after every 1-2 sprints in which the team comes together to discuss how to improve the way they work. The meeting can follow several formats, with the most common consisting of each team member sharing what is working well, what isn’t working, and any new ideas they have to improve. Some examples of takeaways from the meeting might be “Our daily standup is helping to keep everyone on track,” “We need a better process for reviewing tickets after QA is finished with them,” or “Let’s try estimating with story points instead of time values.”

Retrospectives were introduced to make sure the team is constantly in communication about how to improve. This process is commonly known as a feedback loop, and is one of the hallmarks of any good Agile process. Feedback loops have been discussed as one of the most important parts to becoming successful, either as a team or as an individual, a claim backed up by copious amounts of business literature full of research and examples on the topic. A prime example of this can be found in Talent is Overrated by Geoff Collins. While not a perfect book by any means, Collins does a wonderful job of explaining the importance of feedback loops. The argument posits that the way humans improve at anything is to do the thing, look back on the thing and analyze it, figure out how to improve performance of the thing, then do the thing again. The retrospective helps teams to do the middle two parts of that process.

Here are some tips for running a successful sprint retrospective:

Get on a consistent cadence

Doing retrospectives too often will lead the team to resent them. Doing them not often enough will greatly reduce efficacy and result in an inability to put into action the ideas brought up in the meeting.

Prepare ahead of time

Before the meeting, encourage team members to spend a half hour thinking of what is working well, what isn’t working so well, and ways to improve. That way the team can most efficiently use everyone’s time when they come together for the retrospective.

Bite off what you can chew

Instead of trying to implement all the new ideas after every retrospective, focus on determining which ideas are the quick hitters: those that have a big impact, but are easy and quick to implement. By adding the one or two best quick hitters each week, the process will evolve at a sustainable pace. Over time, the team will likely run out of quick hitters, giving you a chance to implement the more intricate ideas. 

Are you making the most out of your teams? If you need assistance with Agile, get in touch, we'd love to help.

Topics: optimization process process-improvement sprint agile
3 min read

Can a Product Owner also be a Scrum Master?

By Morgan Folsom 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: process scrum workflows project-management agile
3 min read

Should scrum teams track their time?

By Amanda Babb on Feb 5, 2021 8:03:49 AM

Blogpost-display-image_Should scrum teams track their time-"How many hours are in a Story Point? Pink. Because penguins don't like ice cream." -Amanda Babb in every conversation about hours and story points. 

While I use this example as a cheeky way to say the two methods of estimation (hours and story points) don't coincide, the reality, of course, is much more complex. Business and product teams typically think in terms of dates and schedules. Development and operations teams typically think in terms of level of effort. That's not to say story points and dates do not nor will ever coincide, it's a matter of how to speak each other's language. 

What is a Story Point?

Our Dragon of the West, Christopher Pepe, explained it well:  humans are terrible at numbers. That's why we have so many ways to express things without using numbers. For example, I have Big Dog (Leonard) and Tiny Dog (Howard). Tiny is small in comparison to Big Dog. However, at 50 pounds, he's not small compared to, say, a Chihuahua. This is what we call relative estimation in the agile world. This thing is larger or more complex than the other thing over there: it will take a larger level of effort to complete. 

Computers, on the other hand, are wonderful at numbers. It's part of the reason we invented them. In Jira Software, a story point is simply the numerical expression of a relative estimate. When we need to understand the level of effort of more than one thing, we aggregate the relative estimate into a total level of effort. This is known as the commit in a velocity chart. As we complete work, we burn down the level of effort until we understand what's left. At the end of a sprint, we determine whether we met our commit or not. The completion of the work over several sprints determines our velocity. From there, we can reasonably predict the level of effort we can complete during a sprint. 

Why can't a team estimate in hours? 

It's not a matter of can't. At Praecipio Consulting, we've seen many teams succeed well in estimating their level of effort in hours. However, this involved a significant effort to run time studies on routine tasks for the team. In a time study, an outside party will watch a person do a task and time it. Then watch them do it again...and again...and again. Then, the outside party watches another person perform the same task several times. The outside observer will continue with this until they feel they have sufficient data to make a reasonable assumption (read: average) of the time it takes to complete said task. Rinse and repeat for all tasks all personnel complete in a day and through out the week. 

Estimating in hours works well in repetitive work environments. The same tasks must be completed the same (or similarly enough) throughout the day and week. However, when we're thinking about software development, we all know this is rarely the case. What may seem like a simple feature request can become a significant effort when looking at how the new feature interacts with the rest of the services, modules, or products. Yes, we've done something similar before and it took four hours. But what has changed since the last time we implemented something similar? What else have we deployed? Did we change our methods? Are we integrating this with another system? Have the APIs been updated or changed? How many releases have been performed since the last time we did this? 

The shoulds and shouldn'ts of tracking time in Scrum

Why are teams being asked to track time when they estimate and understand level of effort in story points? In a word, Money. Under complex financial and regulatory practices, most businesses report quarterly earnings to regulatory bodies and markets. The best way a business has to gather and report this information is through complex financial systems that aggregate data from inputs across the organization. One of the more critical inputs? Time tracking. So how should we and shouldn't we track time in a scrum team? 

  • You should establish the minimum time guideline such as 15-minute or 30-minute increments
  • You should not expect accuracy down to the minute for a given task
  • You should expect the team(s) to continue to estimate their level of effort in story points
  • You should not make the team switch to hours to estimate their level of effort
  • You should centralize where the team should track time
  • You should not expect the user to log in to multiple tools to track time
  • You should download our Lean Budgets White Paper which details different ways of managing the data and provides a solution in Jira Align
  • You should not expect to implement a fundamental change in financial tracking and reporting across your organization without help

At Praecipio Consulting, we have implemented several solutions to this problem across industries and with all sizes of organizations. For help regarding how your teams can balance time tracking, scrum, and financial reporting, feel free to reach out to us! 

Topics: blog plan process scrum lean-budgets agile
3 min read

The Cost of Quality

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 24, 2009 11:00:00 AM

The Cost of Quality (COQ) business model describes a method of increasing profits without increasing revenues.

Here’s how it works: COQ increases profit by shrinking business costs. If your business has a 5% profit margin, for example – and you decrease costs by 5% – you’ve doubled your profits. That’s simple enough, but how do you decrease costs?

COQ identifies the importance of shrinking costs without taking the usual cost-cutting measures like not buying everyone’s favorite pens or not stocking refreshments in the break room — the “let’s avoid morale buzz-kills to save a few bucks” approach to increasing profit. Instead, COQ promotes lessening mistakes and increasing business process efficiency.

Companies adopt and tweak COQ to reflect their business goals and in turn their profitability. The model applies to not-for-profit businesses too: budgets are tight; grants, revenues, or contributions may not increase, but the same valuable services need to be delivered with less and less money, right?

COQ is made up of three elements: conformance costs, non-conformance costs, and opportunity costs. We’ll explain these before we explain the rest of what the graphic illustrates:

Conformance Costs

  • Communicate
  • Review
  • Report
  • Status-Check
  • Inspect
  • Train
  • Validate
  • Benchmark
  • Test
  • Prevent
  • Plan
  • Preinstall
  • Check
  • Audit
  • Appraise
  • Survey
  • Evaluate
  • Proofread

Non-Conformance Costs

  • Fix
  • Repair
  • Rework
  • Retrofit
  • Revisit
  • Overstock
  • Re-do
  • Refer
  • Reorganize
  • Scrap
  • Error
  • Constraint
  • Incorrect
  • Excessive
  • Late

Opportunity Costs

  • Under-utilize
  • Cancel
  • Downgrade

Notice these three cost categories are not associated with the cost of producing the output. Materials needed to assemble a product (labor, supplies, etc) are not included. The three elements merely reflect the costs associated with the business process. As we always say, “the profit’s in the process.” The efficiency of your business processes determines your efficiency as a business. If you’re going to maximize your efficiency and profitability, you need a sound understanding of the cost of quality.

Think about it: process is where value is added and where profit is made. Consumers don’t squeeze oranges to make juice anymore. Okay, maybe on rare occasion, but who cuts down trees and processes timber as a raw material to make paper?

The cost of quality is associated with the cost incurred to ensure process outputs (products and services) meet customer requirements. For example, let’s say Company A manufactures pens, a process that takes ten steps to complete. About half of the time, the process works effectively, and high-quality pens are made. The other half of the time, however, is plagued by faulty manufacturing— lackluster execution in the assembly process. As a result, Company A has to keep half of its pens in its shop for a bit longer for fixing/repairing, incurring non-conformance costs. This leads to a lack of consistency. Ultimately, this waste is passed onto the customer with an increased price per unit and/or inferior product— making it more and more difficult to compete.

That’s why COQ’s biggest cost adjustment occurs in reducing non-conformance costs— tightening the process and ensuring customer requirements are met. This may require spending extra money to do some work over again.

Now, to run through the graphic:

  • Conformance costs are important and help ensure a business’ success and stability. when optimizing your business, conformance costs should stay the same or in many cases increase.
  • Non-conformance costs, as we’ve mentioned, need to drop significantly— though you can never expect to be without them, strive to get rid of them.
  • Opportunity cost is the value of the next best choice. It’s the “what could have been.” If a business is suffering from non-conformance costs, the “what could have been,” is higher in the left portion of the graphic, where non-conformance costs are much higher. If a business is succeeding financially, there is little “what could have been,” therefore reducing the opportunity cost.
  • Operating costs are constant. They’re the costs of a business’ building, utilities, licenses, etc— which fluctuate, but not enough to factor into this model.
  • Profit looks like this: $$$. Reducing non-conformance generates more $$$.

So, how do you reduce non-conformance? Remember: the $$$’s are in the process.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm business efficiency library management practices predicatability process services technology value continuous-improvement information infrastructure-system-admin it itil itsm operations

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