Sunday, December 5, 2010

November 18 Meeting Notes [John Levy]

Notes from the recent Engineering Leadership SIG Meeting, November 18, 2010.

Tools for Team: A Panel Discussion on Collaborative Tools for Product Development

Co-Moderators: Ron Lichty & Tam Nguyen

Panelists: Sasha Ovsankin, Sandeep Jain, Chris Lunt, David Etheridge

Introduction by Tam Nguyen

Short presentation by Steve of Agile Learning Labs – note that there is a CSM course this weekend – with Chris Sims

Panel (see full names above)

Sasha is with a medical imaging startup

Chris is VP-Engineering with ReadyForce, his 8th startup

Sandeep’s focus is on productivity

David is working on Enterprise rollout

Ron: It’s hard not to be regretful after acquiring a tool and rolling it out, isn’t it?

Poll of audience: tools of interest?

Requirements management; project management, bug tracking, document management, lifecycle management, Agile support tools, defect/requirements tracking (customer-facing), adoption analytics, compliance (quality/conformance), wireframing, code review tools / 3-way merge tool, architecture / design patterns, code metrics, web conferencing

Question A: Creating Requirements and Selection Criteria

How do you know what you’re looking for?
Chris: ask peers, people I trust
Sandeep: it varies by stage (of the development group & company)
Sasha: transparency – “it just works”; allows everyone to see all the data;
Enjoyable to use
Sandeep: minimize overhead for developer
Sasha: input should be where the information happens
[discussion of whether these tools are “collaborative” tools]

Requirements-related tools ---
David: written requirements … Engineering response to PRD – the manager or leader has to break it down into sentences, then link tasks to each one;
It requires a human to understand the requirements!
Sasha: … and requires agreement by multiple groups
Selection: consensus – try it out; find an advocate who sells it to the team
The panel is generally in favor of SAAS, rather than on-premises servers/services

Question B: Adoption – How does adoption fail?
Chris: need cross-functional support (e.g., Product Management)
What are key success factors?
David: no greater burden than today (for users)
Ron: intersection between team & company vs. tools? Q: a lot of contractors with backgrounds using different tools – how to deal with this?
Sasha: has to be easy to learn / use
Chris: assign a peer to help the contractor get integrated with team & tools
Sandeep: embed the process in the tools
David: (regarding “resistance”) I make an agreement with my engineers: you enter (task) data, and I will deal with the upper management demands [on your time]

Question C: Favorite tools / recommended tools
Sasha: Pivotal Tracker; Freemind (mind mapping);
Tam: Xmind (mind mapping)
Chris: TRAC – wiki / source browser; (Redmine – not as good); GIT (but it doesn’t move back in time so well); Selenium (web testing)
Sandeep: SWplanner / HP Quality Center; Perforce; TeamTrack
David: Jira + Subversion, Bamboo, Crucible, Fisheye, Bugzilla + Yahoo Sprint Mgr

Audience questions
(Note: the audience had no major users of Rally Agile tools, Sprint 360)
(Cooperation tools, like wikis, blogs: wiki – about 50% use them; blogs – about 6 people out of 50 in the audience)
Sasha: continuous integration – an important part of Agile;
[unknown]: get Product Managers to write acceptance criteria
David: described using a Plan of Record (vs. PRD and Engineering response); tell executives “let them [engineers] solve puzzles” and get out of the way; if the PRD is too detailed, they will get passive-aggressive on you.
Much agreement from the audience on having seen PRDs that said too much about what to build (and how), rather than what function is to be delivered

John Levy helps business managers who are frustrated by the lack of results they are getting from IT or Engineering. He specializes in rapidly getting high-tech teams to align with business strategy and to contribute to business success of the enterprise.

John has been consulting for managers in industry for over 20 years. John’s book on management for technology executives, Get Out of the Way, was published in May 2010.

For more information, please visit his website at ,
Email him at , or call 415 663-1818.