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Kanban agile planning with Burn-Down chart

BurndownChartPlan

Three simple truth:

  • It is impossible to gather all the requirements at the beginning of a project.
  • Whatever requirements you do gather are guaranteed to change.
  • There will always be more to do than time and money will allow.

The agile team should have a strategy for dealing with any changes in the process. There are several problems with a static plans:

  • Our team changes – some of the lead developers can leave to another project of great strategic importance (they was used to say about our project like this). Next, we realize that, we aren’t going as fast as we had thought.
  • Halfway through the project, customer discovers what he really want.
  • … running out of time.

tree_swing_development_requirements

In a rush to meet the new deadline, testing gets cut, the existing team need to cancel the vacations, etc., etc., it becomes another late, over-budget and failed IT project.

To deal with this realities we need a different way of planning things that will deliver great value to our customers, the plan that is visible-open-honest, lets us make promises we can keep and enables us to adopt changes when necessary.

Agile planning is measuring the speed that a team can run the customer requirements into working, production ready software and estimate when they will done.

The to-do list or customer requirements will be called user-stories. The team’s velocity is the speed of converting the user-stories into working software. We have to use team’s velocity to measure our team’s productivity to set the expectations about software delivery to the customer for the future.

Every user-story should be sized based on its difficulty and the requirement. It is good to use relative or point based systems for sizing. Let’s say small (1pts), medium is (3pts) and large is (5pts).

Let’s start creating our agile plan:

Step 1: Creating release story list. This is a logical grouping of user-stories that we can deliver to the customer after some iteration. Each logical grouping is estimated by team and can be prioritized by customer. After grouping the user-stories we can have the number of releases. Each release period can be in a range of 1 to 6 month. Each release will have several iterations which each of them can continue from 1-2 weeks.

Step 2: Sizing. Every user-story needs to be estimated and voted by the team, customers assistance would be great, because when he wants to add something in the feature, more or less he can have small imagination of how can it affect to the delivering process. Once we have our user-stories gathered and estimated we know about total points of the project.

Step 3: Prioritizing. We have to get important staff first. Together with customer and team it is good to sort the items from most important to less important. The risky ones should be managed differently.

Step 4: Estimating the team’s velocity.  For each iteration the team’s velocity should be estimated based on current situation and previous delivered velocity. So for the first iteration the team’s velocity should be guessed.

Team velocity = completed user-stories / iteration

Step 5: Delivering.  We can deliver by specific iteration completed dates or by the set of the features. Every iteration the team will complete (burns) amount of user-stories or points and by its average we can estimate what the team can deliver in which iteration.

Burn-Down chart:

This kind of chart is extremely useful to visualize the process of how quickly the team completing the customer’s user-stories, in other words burning through our customer’s requirements. It will help us to tell how much work has been done, how much work remains, the team’s velocity and our expected completion dates.

Let’s discover most of this things in example below. Imagine that our personal work in audit contains 53 hours of work that we should release at 1st December.

FlowStatusInIterations

BurnDownChartRelease

Burn-down chart in release date

From this chart we can see that the release was planning to happen on 1 of December but it didn’t happened. That can happen because of user-story estimations, team’s velocity or other reasons. The table with flow status on release date shows how many more iterations need to make the release happen.

Burn-down chart makes all the events in our project visible. If the customer decide to add something more, we can instantly see the impact of it to the delivery dates. Project’s burn-down chart shows the flow like it is. This is highly visible part of the planning.




Strategic planning: The winners way

Strategic Planning

Strive to the sky – and you will find the sky and the earth. Strive to the earth – and you will not get either none of them.  Lewis Carroll

The strategy – is a detailed plan for achieving a comprehensive and integrated goals.

The term «strategy» came to us from the military field. According to the views of military strategy – it is a part of the art of war, which determines the general character of the armed struggle in order to achieve victory. In business, a strategy is purposeful activity for the company’s planning, production of goods and services, marketing and personnel management based on vision, mission and values of the company. There are some narrow strategies also but the focus of the strategy is the same. 

The strategy was elaborated on the basis of the result of analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the army andDecision making the army of the enemy, as well as the proper evaluation of the conditions in which was to achieve victory (SWOT-analysis).

It is significant that the ancient Greeks and the ancient Chinese, have given to the  strategy a lot of attention, considered the most skillful strategist the one who found the opportunity to win not so much in the power of his army, but in terms of the battle, was able to conquer the others without engaging them in armed conflict.

Strategic planning – it’s still, first and foremost – a long-term organizational planning. The strategy defines the objectives and ways to achieve them so as to obtain a single direction of actions. Thus, the strategy defines the boundaries of the possible actions of management decisions.

First, let’s differentiate between strategy and tactics. Strategy represents the direction for an organization and it usually includes one or more big picture destinations that are desired by the leadership. Tactics are the day-to-day operational «ways and means» an organization employs to achieve the big picture objectives. These terms are often used synonymously and it represents one of the major
problems in many planning initiatives. Managers cannot effectively think strategically and tactically at the same time. In other words, every time that a strategic planning session denigrates into talking about tactical issues, the effectiveness of the strategic discussion is lost.

The strategy should:

  • contain clear goals that is decisive for the overall outcome of the case;
  • support the initiative;
  • concentrate the main effort at the right time in the right place;
  • provide such flexibility of behavior to use a minimum of resources to achieve maximum results;
  • denote the coordinated management;
  • assume the correct schedule of activities;
  • provide guaranteed resources.

Signs of a successful strategy:strategy-execution

  • Optimal – the shortest way to the goal of the project includes only the necessary and sufficient set of actions;
  • Efficiency – requires the minimum number of different kinds of available resources and has the greatest chance of successful implementation;
  • Realistic – corresponding to the current economic, social, legal, cultural, ideological and other living conditions, enforceable under these conditions;
  • Valuable – corresponding to project goals and objectives, leading to their full implementation.

Strategic thinking

This component is intuitive by nature. It addresses the big picture questions of an organization, such as:

  1. Who are we?
  2. Why are we in business?
  3. What business are we in?
  4. What business should we be in?
  5. Who are our customers?
  6. Who should our customers be?
  7. What impact will external factors have on our business in the future?

strategy

Every organization has an almost infinite reservoir of possibilities contained within its people, markets, and infrastructure. Effective strategic planning helps to define and draw out this potential based on the uniqueness of the organization and the realities of the marketplace in which it operates. A realistic strategic plan, focused and well executed, is still the most dynamic pathway to success in the world of organizational performance. And the chances are pretty good that our competitors still haven’t learned how to do it right! So what we are you waiting for?