4 min read

The Importance of Good Information Structure

By Michael Lyons on Sep 15, 2022 10:30:00 AM

In our second blog of our Advanced Roadmaps Blog Series, we will focus on the importance of good information structure and how it can improve your Advanced Roadmaps plan. In our first blog of the series, we discussed how Advanced Roadmaps works and how it can help teams scale operations and drive better business outcomes. Now we will dive into how to set up your information in Jira to make an effective plan.

When creating a plan, it's imperative that the plan is using great structure and information. Great structure helps derive insights more effectively and makes the plan easier to understand. I always like to compare plan building in Advanced Roadmaps to baking cookies. When baking cookies, it's important that quality ingredients are used and those ingredients are being used in the right amounts. The same goes for Advanced Roadmaps plans! In this case, the Jira information are our ingredients and the structure of that information is our recipe. An Advanced Roadmaps plan is only as good as its information structure. Leveraging good information and repeatedly using a solid structure makes for making great cookies, err, I mean plans! Is anybody hungry here?

Hierarchy

Information structure includes numerous pieces, the first being the work hierarchy. It's important that your team establishes a hierarchy of work items and leverages that hierarchy consistently. Advanced Roadmaps accommodates the varying work hierarchies teams use. Some teams may have a hierarchy of epics all the way down to tasks. Some teams may just use stories and sub-tasks. Those are just a few examples. As long as structure is established and it is being used properly, you're well on your way!

Advanced Roadmaps will reflect this hierarchy within the plan that you build. Work from Jira is grouped together based on the hierarchy within projects and how those issues are linked. In the Advanced Roadmaps plan, the information is shown in a tiered view so you can quickly see how lower level work, like stories and tasks, tie to higher level work, like epics and initiatives. 

It's important that the team, or teams, included in the plan are thinking about the work in the same hierarchy. This comes in handy when discussing work at each level and teams can understand the magnitude of the work being done. When everyone is on the same page they can strategize and plan work more effectively. 

Jira Projects

The next piece of the structure involves the Jira projects that are included in the plan. The information that is reflected in plans can come from full Jira projects or boards within those projects. The information that is included in the issues will be displayed on the plan. Project configurations and how well information is recorded across projects will have an impact on the effectiveness of the plan.

If your team is including information across multiple projects, project configuration becomes extremely important. Sharing configurations across projects means they will use the same statuses, screens, workflows, and fields. These shared configurations have significant benefits. Statuses can be reduced, which makes it easier to understand the stage of the work being done across projects. Work is grouped together in the plan in a much cleaner fashion.

Shared configurations also result in a more standard way of recording information. There will be more consistency in the information that is filled out within Jira issues. For example, having a configuration that requires start and end dates enhances all related plans. If requiring this information wasn't standard, it would be more difficult to plan out incoming work. Sharing configurations is extremely beneficial as you start to add more and more project to the plan

Filtering and Linking Issues

Filtering information going into a plan is a good way to highlight the most important work for your team. Advanced Roadmaps has a filtering feature that allows you to include information that you want given a certain criteria. An effective filtering method that I have seen is filtering issues by issue type. There is a limit on the number of issues that can go into a plan. Filtering out certain issue types reduces noise from work you might not want to see. For example, a large number of sub-tasks can be present within a project and may not be necessary for the plan. Adding those sub-tasks into the plan can make the plan busy and could distract from more important information. Advanced Roadmaps enables users to filter those issues out. This creates more room for the relevant work that you want to track.

Advanced Roadmaps can display links between Jira issues. Consistently linking issues, when applicable, within Jira can provide additional context to your plan. Issue linking helps show how work items depend on one another and can show how issues relates to higher level work. This practice also helps track dependencies, which can help you more accurately plan and prioritize work with your plan.

Good information structure is very important to creating an effective plan to drive success. Hierarchy, standardization, filtering, and linking are great ways to make the plan look good, but they are also important when you start strategizing and communicating with your plan. 

In the next blog of our Advanced Roadmaps blog series, we will discuss how to plan capacity by using the tool. Advanced Roadmaps provides many features that can help your team plan workload effectively. Please stay tuned!

Reach out to Praecipio Consulting if you would like to learn more about Advanced Roadmaps and how it can help your business or team implement Agile at Scale practices. 

Topics: jira scaled-agile advanced-roadmap
3 min read

Scrum Sprint Planning: How Long Should Sprints Be?

By Praecipio Consulting on Mar 29, 2022 10:05:18 AM

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Teams new to scrum face lots of decisions – one critical decision for teams to perform efficiently is determining sprint length. Every team's needs are different, and there's rarely a one-size-fits-all approach to planning the length and organization of your sprint.

What is Scrum? How long should sprints be?

What is Scrum? Scrum is an Agile framework that gives teams guidelines on how to complete their work. It contains sets of roles, ceremonies, and considerations for how your work is completed.

An Agile sprint is a concept in scrum that represents a time box, i.e., a short amount of time the team has committed to complete the work. And how long is a sprint in Agile? Sprints in scrum can be as long as you want; however, it's most common for sprint length to be between 1 and 4 weeks. Teams running Scrum sprints need to decide what makes sense for them.

We often see that team's first instincts lean toward the extreme: Either 1-week sprints or 4-weeks sprints. While there are arguments for the varying lengths of sprints in scrum, here are some standard variables that you and your team should consider.

Sprint Planning for Planned vs. Unplanned Work

Before sprint planning begins, it's essential to define what you want to accomplish during that sprint. Instead of using overarching strategic objectives to guide your team, sprint goals should be smaller, more attainable chunks of work that can be completed in a shorter timeframe. 

If you are an Agile Scrum team with high variability in your work, longer sprints may give you the necessary buffer to complete the job. If you've got a 1-week sprint (with 1 of your 5 days already dedicated to ceremonies), even one or two random pieces of work can prevent your team from completing the work in the committed scope.

On the other hand, if the team has unplanned work with a lower level of urgency, Scrum sprint lengths that are shorter allow you to include the work in your Scrum sprint planning within a shorter period.

As far as how to best manage work, Jira is a great tool to help teams achieve this. Here's a guide on starting, managing, and completing a sprint using Jira. 

Time Dedicated to Scrum Ceremonies

How much time per week should sprint planning to be spent in scrum, retrospectives, backlog grooming, and demos? Shorter sprints mean more time is spent in these meetings. This becomes even more essential if you do not have dedicated roles (scrum master, product owner).

What we see in 1-week sprints is that teams can lose a full day (twenty percent of the sprint!) of each sprint to demos, retros, and planning. So the shorter your Agile sprints are in scrum, the more often you're having these ceremonies.

Size and Scope of Tasks

Is your work small enough to be completed in the sprint length? For example, if you are often not completing work in 1 sprint, a longer sprint in scrum may make sense (or you may just need to work on improving properly sizing your tasks).

Feedback Cycle

How often do I want to see and evaluate completed work? Is it acceptable to go 4 weeks without demonstrating the work that's being done? Do you need to know every week? Sprint length determines how often you see sprint demos and complete sprint retrospectives.

Inspection and Adaptation

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to optimal Scrum sprint length, and iteration is the key to scrum - so don't worry if your first choice doesn't work for your team. That's what your retrospectives are for, after all!

For more background on how we do Agile at Scale, read our case study on how Praecipio Consulting helped an enterprise client accelerate their Agile transformation.

Is your organization going through an Agile transformation? Learn about this robust framework and how our team can help your organization drive successful business outcomes through our Agile at Scale implementations. 

Please reach out if you have questions or are considering how to migrate your team to an agile approach.

Topics: scaled-agile scrum sprint
3 min read

What is Jira Align: A Primer

By Amanda Babb on Jun 30, 2021 4:45:59 PM

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couple of years ago, in Atlassian's annual flagship event formerly known as Summit and now known as Team, I was in a room full of people for two days providing training on Advanced Roadmaps for Jira on behalf of Atlassian. If you've never attended a live Summit event, the Kickoff Keynote is always a sight to see. One year, Scott and Mike dressed as Daft Punk and mixed music as DJ Kanban (I still nerd out on that one), you see announcements about the expansion of Pledge 1%, and, of course, new product announcements. Jira Align was acquired by Atlassian and announced at Summit 2019. I. Was. Floored. You see, we here at Praecipio were looking for a larger agile-at-scale solution for some of our largest clients. 

Enter Jira Align

After becoming a SAFe® Program Consultant (SPC) in 2015, I spent a lot of time with clients understanding intake and execution processes and facilitating them through the Atlassian product suite. These clients were either just starting their SAFe® journey or had been the earliest adopters and already implementing SAFe®. After implementing Advanced Roadmaps (then known as Portfolio for Jira) to support SAFe®, becoming the Atlassian University On Demand "voice" of Planning with Advanced Roadmaps, and guiding the course content with Atlassian, I was in love with Advanced Roadmaps. And I still am. Advanced Roadmaps is a powerful data aggregation, roadmap, and scenario planning tool for small- to medium-size organizations either as standalone entities or within an Enterprise organization.

Jira Align, however, brought forth a whole new realm of possibilities. Bringing robust framework expertise and combining it with an easy-to-use interface, Jira Align is THE solution for Enterprise organizations running agile-at-scale. Don't believe me? Atlassian is considered a Leader in the Gartner Enterprise Agile Planning Tools Magic Quadrant as of April 2021. Experience and third-party accolades aside, why is Jira Align so amazing? Let's take a closer look. 

Jira Software Integration

Unlike Advanced Roadmaps, Jira Align is a standalone product hosted either in multi-tenant or single-tenant cloud infrastructure. While there is an on-prem solution, of course, there are a lot of additional considerations if you have to choose this deployment. The connection between Jira Align and Jira Software supports both Data Center and Atlassian Cloud instances. The most critical part of the integration is the Jira Software Epic. Epics can be created in Jira Align and pushed to Jira Software or created in Jira Software and pulled into Jira Align. Keep in mind, when creating the integration, best practice is to isolate Epics into their own Jira project. Bringing in Stories and Sprints is also easier if a Jira project represents a single team. 

Rooms at Every Level

Whether you're just starting out with a single Agile Release Train (ART) or are running multiple ARTs, Jira Align provides the Program Room for each ART. This is the central hub for tracking the current Program Increment (PI) and planning the next one. Sprint Progress, investment runway, intra-ART and inter-ART dependencies, PI Burndown, it's all centralized within the Program Room. This provides Business Owners, RTEs, and Program Managers a clear view of the progress of the work in the PI. 

Jira Align also provides the Portfolio Room and Strategy Room. These rooms provide the progress towards Strategic Themes, Portfolio investments, progress toward long-term goals, and status updates. When properly connected to Epics in the Program room, Teams and ARTs can open the "Why?" tab on the Epic and see how their work is contributing to the overall strategy. 

Everyone's Favorite: Reporting

Jira Align has over 180 out-of-the-box reports. Each layer in Jira Align has a Track section pre-populated with the more popular reports for that section. For example, in the Program section, Jira Align provides Program Increment tracking, Program Increment insights, and Dependency Maps. If you're not sure what type of report you're looking for, simply click the Reports menu and ask a question in the search box. 

For those organizations that need to integrate with other systems or need more robust business intelligence, Enterprise Insights can be added to Jira Align. 

Want to know more? We here at Praecipio would love to walk you through how Jira Align can support your agile-at-scale transformation. Contact us!

Topics: atlassian scaled-agile integration reporting jira-align safe advanced-roadmap
7 min read

SaaS Management can be SAFe®

By Christopher Pepe on Dec 11, 2020 2:30:00 PM

Blogpost-display-image_SaaS can be SAFe Blog

SaaS is the future

2020 has caused the world to work from the internet. Whatever you used to do in your own data centers can now be performed by vendors, be they cloud or software service providers, better, faster, more securely, and at less cost than you.

The diagram below indicates the trajectory of change from traditional to SaaS (software as a service). Learning how to manage SaaS providers is the new skill that must be learned and introduced into your strategy.

pizza-as-a-service-min

The hardships of this year have also proven that you need agility in your 5 year plan so that you can change along the way.  The capability to pivot based on circumstances is the other new capability of an organization moving towards a digital and VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) future. You have to be agile, not just in IT, but the way you think, act, and react. Leadership has to manage and accelerate this change in culture and behavior, which means scaling new ways of working enabled by technology is the new management paradigm.

Allowing a SaaS provider to manage a core function such as Marketing, HR, or Sales is the norm, freeing you to concentrate on creating unique services that benefit your customers and save time for your staff. 

Scaled Agile Framework SAFe®

No matter what blend of Agile that you are using (Scrum, Kanban, DevOps, AgileITSM, XP, TDD, BDD, etc.), you will need to spread these practices across your business. New ways of working, constant improvement, collaboration, and the elimination of siloes, benefitting from technology, be it your own or others, is the only way to survive. 

Accomplishing this change means a dramatic, and in some cases, drastic, alteration to how things are currently performed:

  • You keep your program office but lose your project mentality
  • Product and Service Owners are the new organizational role with accountable budgets and teams
  • Agile Budgeting replaces annual budgets, and the same occurs to annual reviews as constant and consistent feedback is provided top-down
  • Multi-year contracts are swapped for partners that facilitate your agility
  • The use of technology to keep you in business enables every aspect of your business
  • Staff are not made redundant but instead acquire t-shaped skills
  • Customer focus and shifting left from their request or needs drives your product strategy

Organizations need guidance to make these types of change successfully. Enter Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®).  The diagram on their website visualizes the breadth of their philosophy and impact on an organization. 

SAFe® is a continually changing set of practices that has blended the technology, people, and business practices into a competency-based model: 

  • Leadership based on agile and lean: empowerment, self-organization
  • Team and Technical Agility: No defects, use of cloud & internet, open-source, SaaS
  • Behavior-Driven Development (BDD): products based on the people use them
  • Test-Driven Development: code, infrastructure, people feedback in short cycles
  • Agile Product Delivery: small changes made often, usually daily
  • Lean Portfolio Management: if it is not helping someone, then you don’t do it, constant improvement, reduced technical and cultural debt
  • Lean Governance: common or standard data models, budgets are based on the value of outcomes and funded accordingly, guardrails guidelines both corporate and regulatory, business continuity and sustainability is a daily way of acting 
  • Organizational Agility: long-term goals but very short-cycle plans capable of pivoting based on breaching a KPI or OKR (Outcome based vital indicators)
  • Continuous Learning Culture: effort is rewarded, management changes to a coaching model from a telling model, relentless improvement is mentored, innovation is the goal

SAFe® is the most ambitious version of this framework's scaling technology, leadership, financial, and organizational practices. It supplies examples, training, templates, and a worldwide community of practitioners. It is not for everyone. It is not a program of introducing Safe® that will make it successful for you but instead a multi-year effort of scaling the way your business does things at every level into a new model. 

SAFe® helps you avoid and overcome these engrained practices:

  • Budgets by department or project become funding for products and services
  • Prioritization of new features or services is based on value of delivery and cost of delay
  • Creating your own software is replaced by using open source or SaaS
  • Data used and kept by your business is standardized for ease of maintenance and change to new services as needed
  • Mapping the way you work end-to-end and ensuring any changes are not localized but instead improve the flow of work and data is the new program office structure.
  • Change Approval Boards or freezes are stopped because you trust the testing and release process that has been enhanced and automated. 
  • Design thinking is encouraged to solve problems
  • Design thinking underpins making things as small and as standard as possible such that any part of your business can use it or improve it
  • Everyone is thinking about what can I do to make things better, do things faster and safer, and how can I save effort or time or money

SAFe® Benefits

  • Increase the velocity of change: ways people work and the software that supports these changes
  • The software lifecycle of Demand-Approve-Develop-Integrate with other code-Unit Test-Performance Test-Submit to Live Approval-Go live is replaced with Experiment-Develop-Test-Go live
  • SaaS + Cloud + Digital is the technology trilogy whereby owning your own technology is discouraged (still allowed where regulatory mandates leave no other option)
  • Complex projects requiring months or effort are replaced by an understanding of what a new service or feature or technical update will provide a customer or staff member and therefore, this is what is created and deployed
  • Technical stability is more critical than new service introductions (think of your customers and how angry they get when things go wrong)
  • Feedback, monitoring, alerting are the trilogy of information collaboration and coordination (no silos)
  • Legacy infrastructure or technical debt is mitigated by using cloud services aligned with your work and customer practices. Technology underpins the way you do things and not just there because!
  • Training on SAFe® culture and practices is top-down and extends to your external suppliers
  • Project Management is now Agile Product Management, coordinated across products and services instead of merely helping a department or team
  • Prioritization based on what it fixes, how it meets a regulatory demand, what outcomes it being in terms of value and customer satisfaction, or how it helps staff perform a function

Doing SAFe® means:

  • You are willing to release small chunks of change daily versus large pieces that might wait months before going live
  • You can monitor the impact of that change in terms of issued caused or customer satisfaction
  • If an issue ensues or satisfaction is not as expected, then you can easily roll-back the change with minimal effort or impact (go back to the way things were before)
  • New skills of negotiating or always thinking of enhancing products via technology are taught in a variety of formats such as hackathons, formal training, a partner working, and management coaching
  • Operating and Strategy long-term plans are replaced by short-term vision plans that are customer and market-centric
  • Centers of Excellence or Software Factories are created aligning how people working based on data and technology mapping exercises with the approved practices of the organization, which encourages:
    • Standard tooling for Enterprise Application/Service Lifecycle Management 
    • Standard data and artifact repositories
    • Use of SaaS providers for core activities
    • Always on testing, monitoring, and alerting across the value chains

A train yard is a frequent analogy to explain software factories and centers of excellence. You need a standard gauge rail for all trains to use, and an aligned place for trains to be monitored and dispatched. This allows trains to move safely across the landscape, delivering people to their locations. Your organization needs to establish the same kind of software delivery practice. This model is what SAFe® uses to foster the fast and safe distribution of technology via an engineered flow of work.

SaaS Safe® tips

  • Create a vision of why SaaS and Safe® are being adopted, underpinned by training
  • Change the language used top-down from project to product
  • Have metrics that make innovation for customers or staff the prime target
  • Developers develop and operations keep things up is the most prominent IT silo. Break this by making product teams that own their product or service.
  • Technology metrics of Defect Rejected Ratio, Detected Defects, Change Time compared to Market release, Value of Delivery versus Effort are viewed on product boards
  • Create fun programs of change such as Kill the CAB, which force the introduction of standard technology components for use by any aspect of the business
  • DevSecOps is not an option but a mandatory requirement: you have to test at every opportunity and use security practices and tools to keep your business safe and compliant
  • Automate what you can as often as you can, but only if this improves the quality and speed of work

SaaS is the way of allowing someone else to perform a function via the use of their technology. Carefully avoiding vendor lock-in will make SaaS a credible option for your business. The transition to remote working has opened up a world linked by technology, and your organization needs to do the same by scaling the thinking and practices of technology to everything you do. SAFe® is a framework proving your business a set of rules that promotes scaling Agile, Lean, and DevOps across your organization. It is a radical alteration of your culture that will take time and leadership to embed successfully.

Whether implementing SaaS, SAFe® , or just generally digitally transforming your company, Praecipio Consulting can help!

Note: SAFe® is a Registered Trademark via ©Scaled Agile, Inc.

Topics: scaled-agile saas safe agile
6 min read

Using Advanced Roadmaps for Jira

By Amanda Babb on Oct 15, 2020 12:15:00 PM

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As an Agile evangelist and a Digital Transformation-ist, I am asked this question from time to time. My first thought is, "Of course you're Agile...you just don't know it yet," but before I can actually answer that question, I have to understand the process. Every organization and agency in the world takes something, does something with it, and produces an end result. It's the process that is key for you and your organization to understand before implementing the Atlassian tools and specifically, Advanced Roadmaps for Jira (formerly known as Portfolio for Jira). 

At Praecipio Consulting, we call ourselves a bunch of process nerds that just happen to use the Atlassian tools to facilitate work. Think about making a pot of coffee: there are specific steps you have to take in a specific order to be successful. Starting the coffee pot before adding water and coffee doesn't work. Adding water and starting the coffee pot (without coffee) doesn't work either. There's a specific process that you need to follow to produce a pot of coffee. 

When it comes to work, what's the first step? How does the organization take in work? For those running traditional models, you may know this as Requirements. We have an idea that we'd like to propose, gather the requirements, and define the project scope. We then move to Design: expected function and architecture, and then to Implementation: actually putting the requirements into place in a product. In each of those phases, Advanced Roadmaps for Jira can help! 

What is Advanced Roadmaps for Jira? 

Advanced Roadmaps for Jira is a planning and roadmapping tool from Atlassian. It was first released in 2015 and has since developed into a powerful visualization tool for small-to-medium-sized organizations. With Atlassian's dedication to maintaining framework flexibility, it has evolved to become the tool of choice for many organizations, regardless of their self-proclamation. By supporting three estimation statistics (Days, Hours, and Story Points), Advanced Roadmaps for Jira can provide you with the best chance of success for understanding cross-team and organizational dependencies and answering the most important question, "When will this be done?" Purpose-built for Jira Software, Advanced Roadmaps for Jira supports mixed methodologies as well as framework-specific organizations. Add in the concept of multi-layer hierarchies, and you've got yourself a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) as well as the ability to automatically schedule timelines based on Team capacity or velocity. 

Advanced Roadmaps for Jira adheres to the concept of the Iron Triangle. What is the scope? What is the timeline? Who are the resources (people) involved? Based on the estimated scope of work, the timeline in which I need to get it done by, and the people I have to do it with, will it be available on time? Simply choose the estimation statistic to calculate a schedule and you're off! Well, almost...

Scope: Where is the work being tracked in Jira? 

When creating a Plan in Advanced Roadmaps for Jira, the first thing to understand is the source. After establishing your hierarchy, determine where these Jira Issues exist. Where is work being performed in Jira? Is it in a specific Jira Project? Or perhaps a Kanban board for process visualization? Or across multiple projects? These are the sources for creating a Plan. You can use Jira Projects, Boards, or Filters as the source for a Plan. You can also use any combination thereof. However, aim for simplicity: use a Jira Project or a Board when you are able to instead of a complicated Filter as a source. 

We recommend using Filters as a source only when you need to manage stage-gates in your process. Using the example above, If the Statuses in your Jira Workflow are Requirements, Design, and Implementation, consider creating a filter that excludes Requirements. Just because it's a good idea, doesn't mean we will pursue it past the Requirements stage. In a Plan, we only want to see those things that made it through the stage-gate into Design. It's in the Design stage we will determine if or when we can get it done based on the timeline and people before moving into Implementation. We are not ready to Plan an effort until we've passed Requirements. 

Resources (Teams and Team Members): Who is doing the work in Jira?

While it's a bit chicken-egg, determining who is doing the work is critical to determining scope. In a Plan, we connect Teams and Team Members to the Sources in the Plan. This eliminates the need for clicking or typing or trying to assign a piece of work to the correct Team in a Plan. By connecting these, Advanced Roadmaps for Jira will determine the scope for the Teams and Team Members based on the source of the Plan. You also have the ability to tie multiple Teams to a single source. As an example, if you have two Teams managing their work in a single Jira Project, you can use the Project as a source for both Teams. By adding Team Members to the Teams, you can guarantee assigned work will be directed to the correct Team. However, unassigned work will be divvied up based on the next Team Member's availability. We recommend creating a single source per Team if both Teams cannot be assigned each others' work. 

Moreover, by adding Team Members to your Teams, you can determine the hourly capacity of each member. We see this most frequently used when specific job functions are split across Teams (e.g. QA or Design). By default, Advanced Roadmaps for Jira calculates 100% capacity at 40 hours per Team Member. If you need to split capacity across Teams, simply adjust the Team Member's capacity to 20 hours (50%) on one Team and 20 hours (50%) on the other Team. By using the Auto Schedule function in a Plan, you can then recalculate the timeline based on the change in capacity. 

Time: When will it be done?

This is where the power of Advanced Roadmaps for Jira truly shines. By using Releases (aka Versions), the Plan can calculate your probability of completing the effort on time. The Plan can also calculate when an effort will be complete based on Scope and Teams. For example, if I estimate my effort will take 4000 hours and the Team has a capacity of 200 hours, it will take 20 weeks to complete the effort. If my Release finish date is in 10 weeks, I will be off track by 10 weeks. The Plan will highlight this in red. 

Don't think of Releases as traditional "software releases". Instead, these are milestone dates for a specific Jira Project or across multiple Jira Projects. They can be calendar quarters, fiscal quarters, or even a specific date-driven event. By designating the Finish Date of a Release, you are determining the amount of time the organization has to complete a specific (or the entire) scope of work. 

Dependencies and Scenarios

Critical Path is a common concept in a traditional WBS. These larger milestone issues drive the entire schedule. If one moves, the rest move as well. In Advanced Roadmaps for Jira, we can manage this via Dependencies. By linking issues together, the Plan will schedule work using a finish-to-start dependency. Issue 1 must be complete before Issue 2 can start. Moreover, since items at the lower levels of the WBS drive the size and duration of the critical path, you can visualize a schedule slip based on the progress of the lower levels. 

Not sure you're ready to commit to a specific Plan? When trying to understand the "What if?" in each Plan, you can enable Scenarios. The Initial Scenario (default name) is used to understand current state: what the are Teams currently working on, the progress, schedule, and release dates. Creating additional Scenarios allows you to Plan for best-case or worst-case scenarios. What happens if I add capacity to the current scope of work? Will I be more likely to hit my Release (aka milestone) dates? By adding a Team to a Scenario (thus increasing capacity), you can Auto Schedule just that Scenario to determine if there is any impact to the overall schedule and any milestone dates. If you like what you see, you can update Jira Software from that specific Scenario and any other Scenarios will update based on the underlying Jira data. 

Want to know more? 

As an Atlassian Platinum Enterprise Solution Partner, Praecipio Consulting can help you determine the best way to leverage Advanced Roadmaps for Jira to support your intake, planning, and execution processes so that your organization can become more Agile. We have extensive experience in the entire Atlassian product suite and implementing Agile frameworks that provide a great foundation for your organization or agency. 

Topics: scaled-agile homepages agile advanced-roadmap
2 min read

How to Know If Your Organization Is Ready to Scale Agile: Tips & Best Practices

By Amanda Babb on Sep 28, 2020 12:15:00 PM

How to know if your organization is ready to scale Agile


Are You Ready to Scale Agile? 

You are an Agile evangelist. You have championed the shift to Agile at your organization and have coached several teams successfully. Your organization is delivering quality product faster to your internal and external customers. But there's still a struggle to coordinate across different parts of the organization. And you get pulled into meeting after meeting to coordinate across teams. As a result, your most successful teams are expressing frustration with each other and, and now, quality has slipped. Something has to change. 

You've heard about scaling Agile. You may even have an idea of some of the well-known frameworks, such as SAFe, LeSS, Scrum@Scale, etc. But are you ready? Is your organization ready to scale Agile? 

Organizational Readiness

While this is not an exhaustive list, ask yourself and your organization these questions to assess your readiness to scale Agile. 

  • Which framework is best for your organization?
  • Do you have management and executive buy-in? 
  • Do you have funding for external training and certification?
  • Can you group teams together to support strategic initiatives?
  • Can you identify your change agents and champions?
  • Can you identify a set of teams to pilot the change?
  • How much time are you willing to commit to the change?
  • How much time do you have to commit to the change? 
  • How much time are you willing to commit to continuous learning? 

Iterate Your Framework Implementation

Just like the scaled Agile frameworks themselves, you approach their implementation iteratively. One of our clients chose and implemented SAFe for a single program and scaled iteratively. They started with one Agile Release Train and in three years scaled to four Agile Release Trains with the intention to launch an additional train before the end of the year. They also reorganized the Trains once they realized they were no longer organized around value and instead were structured in a traditional resource-management way. 

The implementation of SAFe within this client's organization, while it had a specific start date, was implemented iteratively and over time. It also took the backing of management and executives and a devoted set of change agents willing to take the steps for scale.

We here at Praecipio Consulting have assisted our clients in their journeys to scale Agile. Let us know how we can help you take your first step. 

Topics: blog scaled-agile best-practices tips safe agile
3 min read

Does a Project Manager fit into an Agile Framework?

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

Project Manager Role in Agile Framework

Project Managers have a wide range of responsibilities when working on a project: they oversee planning the project, create a schedule and timeline, execute each phase, manage budgets, serve as the liaison among all stakeholders, and also troubleshoot and maintenance, plus whatever other tasks that get added to their plate. As such, a Project Manager (PM) must be very organized and detail oriented. They also need 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.”

PMs 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 Project Manager in the traditional sense; the role is pretty much covered between all the existing roles.

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. Personally, 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 PM in an Agile setting? Is there nothing they can do to add value to an Agile project?

An Agile organization can- and does- function well without a Project Manager. However, there is a 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 regard to budget and risk management, as well as coordination between multiple scrum teams.

In an Agile environment, 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. 

Take, for example, the below chart from Ken Rubin and his article “What Happens to the Project Manager when Doing Agile Development with Scrum?”  While the PM role no longer exists in a traditional sense, you can see how the tasks and roles normally assigned to them still exist within the system, but are spread out throughout the team. As a result, the person who would normally act as the PM, can work very well as the Product Owner, the Scrum Master, or on the Development Team, depending on his or her background and specific skillset.

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: blog scaled-agile project-management digital-transformation agile
5 min read

Jira Align vs. Advanced Roadmaps: The Difference

By Amanda Babb on Sep 15, 2020 10:00:00 AM

Jira Align Adv Roadmaps Blog Header

As organizations continue to scale Agile practices, our team at Praecipio Consulting is frequently asked which Atlassian product will best support the effort. Principal Consultant, Brian Nye, put together a great webinar describing the differences between Advanced Roadmaps for Jira (formerly known as Portfolio for Jira) and Jira Align. As Praecipio Consulting has expanded our Jira Align practice, we'd like to take a moment to compare and contrast these products to help guide you in making the right decision for your organization. 

Your Agile and Digital Transformation Journey

Your organization can't talk about your Agile transformation without talking about your digital transformation and vice versa. After all, the Atlassian products are meant to support Agile frameworks as well as your digital transformation. Many organizations have embraced remote work as a result of the global pandemic and have fundamentally shifted toward online planning, road mapping, and execution management. 

Your organization may also use non-Atlassian applications to manage planning and road mapping. You've chosen to integrate these products with Atlassian for execution management. While this may be a great solution in the short term, I challenge this as a long-term solution. Many of the frameworks guiding agile-at-scale exist because we're trying to bring strategic planning closer to actual execution and back again. Ask your organization the hard question: does maintaining these integrations follow the organization's digital technology vision for the future? 

Advanced Roadmaps for Jira (formerly Portfolio for Jira)

Available as an App for Data Center/Server Deployments and packaged with Jira Software Cloud Premium, Advanced Roadmaps for Jira (Advanced Roadmaps) is a great way to bridge the gap for small- to medium-sized organizations. If you currently have fewer than 500 agile team members executing their work in Jira Software, Advanced Roadmaps for Jira can provide visibility within and across teams. First, define the hierarchy above the Jira Software Epic. We use Initiative most frequently when deploying this for customers because of the reference documentation from Atlassian. However, you can choose whichever naming convention you'd like as long as there is a corresponding Issue Type. For example, create an "Initiative" Issue Type and link it to a Hierarchy level in Advanced Roadmaps called "Initiative." We also strongly recommend the Initiative Issue Type live in a separate Jira Project from all other execution work. This helps your Agile teams focus on the current backlog of work while the Initiative moves through its own review, decision, and backlog refinement process. 

Creating a Plan is as simple as defining your source data (Jira Projects, Boards, or Filters), tying the sources to Teams, and choosing Releases from your source data. Honoring the Iron Triangle of project and program management, you may either choose to have the Plan dictate your schedule or, when planning for the next business quarter, you may choose to drag and drop the Gantt-style bars to schedule work. There is also an option to blend the calculations. Meaning, if a Sprint already exists and is pre-filled, let the Scrum Board be the source of truth. Have the Plan calculate any Empty Sprints going forward. The same is true for Releases and Teams: the Plan can auto-schedule a Team or a Release based on the relative rank of the backlog in the Plan. 

If you're looking to understand the impact of shifting priorities, you can enable Scenarios in a Plan. This will allow you to pull the source data from Jira Software and blend it with additional planning while maintaining the current execution schedule. You can add new Initiatives, Epics, and Stories, as well as adjust Release Dates, and observe the impact of adding, removing, or reassigning Teams to work. If you have the Server or Data Center App, you can group Plans together into a Program to understand the overall health of multiple Plans and Releases in a single view. 

Jira Align

As its name implies, Jira Align brings strategic planning and execution together in a single product. Pulling execution data from Jira Software and blending it with Agile-at-scale frameworks, Jira Align ties your strategic vision to tangible work and is best suited for organizations with more than 500 Agile team members executing their work in Jira Software. Instead of trying to define a hierarchy, Jira Align provides a pre-set hierarchy with flexible language. Whether you're running SAFe, LeSS, Scrum@Scale, or your own model, Jira Align's seamless integration with Jira Software provides visibility across multiple Portfolios and Programs. 

Jira Align comes in three deployment options: multi-tenant Cloud, single-tenant Cloud, and on-premise. While we recognize the allure of an on-premise solution, Praecipio Consulting recommends either the multi-tenant or single-tenant Cloud deployment. This provides the robust functionality of the product without the additional IT infrastructure management as well as managing routine maintenance such as upgrades. Jira Align also comes in two licensing models, Standard and Enterprise, billed monthly per user. Standard provides your organization the ability to run Programs (also known as teams of teams) whereas Enterprise adds the Lean Portfolio Management and financials into the mix. In addition, each Jira Align seat comes with four Jira, Trello, or integrated users. Another key difference between the two license levels is integration. With Standard, you can integrate a single instance of Jira Software with Jira Align. This is perfect for the organization that is large enough but lacks maturity in their Agile-at-scale framework. Enterprise provides unlimited connectors, which in the case of some of our clients, allows them to avoid the pain of merging multiple instances of Jira Software before deploying Jira Align

The Jira Software Epic is the lynchpin of the integration. Teams will still work with Epics, Stories, and Sub-Tasks within Jira Software whereas Product Managers, Release Train Engineers, Portfolio Managers, and Executives work within Jira Align. The robust permissions within Jira Align also focus the right role in the right data. A Program Manager may care about the execution of the program, whereas the executive wants to understand how you're tracking to the annual corporate strategy. By aggregating and rolling data upward, Jira Align provides health and status monitoring of quarterly, yearly, and long-term goals. With over 180 out-of-the box reports, every role at every level can access the right information at the right time to ensure your organization's success. Jira Align also has Enterprise Insights, an optional App, to take business intelligence to the next level. 

Which one is right for my organization? 

The first questions to answer while you're evaluating either tool are around Agile transformation maturity, digital transformation maturity, and user discipline both across and vertically in the organization. Because both options rely on teams to perform their execution work consistently and with good data integrity, either product can be a blessing or a curse. 

  • How long have your Agile teams been executing within an agile framework? 
  • How long have your Agile teams been executing within Jira Software? 
  • How consistent are your teams across the organization? 
  • Do your teams and your business understand one another and communicate well? 
  • How well has your Jira Software instance been governed since it was deployed?
  • How much chaff do you have in Jira Software? 

While this is not an exhaustive list, implementing either Advanced Roadmaps for Jira or Jira Align requires you to ask tough questions of your organization. Praecipio Consulting can not only help you assess your current state, but we can also provide guidance and recommendations to accelerate your digital transformation. If you are ready to take the next step in your digital transformation and Agile journeys, let's chat!

Topics: scaled-agile jira-align agile advanced-roadmap marketplace-apps
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
2 min read

SAFe Cheat Sheet: A Guide to Scaled Agile Framework

By Erin Jones on Feb 23, 2015 11:00:00 AM

No matter the size of your organization or your industry, the end game of any company is to deliver the highest quality product to customers at the greatest market value, with the lowest cost of production. This school of thought drives the Agile methodology of software development, pushing for faster delivery of better products with the least amount of risk, and has fueled the scalable Agile solution for enterprise-level organizations: Scaled Agile Framework (or SAFe). Operating under the principles of Agile development, SAFe aligns the development and initiatives of all levels of the enterprise company- from agile teams to executives- for accelerated value delivery at a reduced risk. Leveraging short feedback cycles organized into sprints and release trains, the cost of deployment decreases as deliverables have clearer direction and requirements to ensure a better fit for purpose. 

How does Atlassian support SAFe?

How does Atlassian support SAFe?

What are the core values of SAFe?

What are the core values of SAFe?

 

How does Atlassian support SAFe?

The Atlassian product suite was created (and is continually innovated) to support best practices in the Software Development Lifecycle. To that end, the use of products like Jira Agile, Confluence and Jira Portfolio integrate to bring maximum traceability to every release, enabling teams to hit their deadline and their budget with the highest quality product. With Atlassian, you unlock the power of SAFe, leveraging Jira Agile, Confluence and Jira Portfolio to achieve the following objectives (and much more): 

How does Atlassian support SAFe?

Want to learn more about SAFe?

Ready to learn more about how Scaled Agile brings best practices and delivers the greatest results to your enterprise organization? As Atlassian Platinum Solution Partners, Praecipio Consulting is here to help! 

First, check out our webinar on SAFe®, Agile in the Enterprise, presented by Senior Solutions Architect, Certified Scrum Master, and SAFe® Program Consultant Amanda Babb to get a more complete introduction to implementing Agile practices at the enterprise level.

Next, contact us today to see how our Consulting Services can help you meet your goals.

Topics: jira atlassian scaled-agile best-practices confluence enterprise sdlc jira-software safe marketplace-apps

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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