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Some highlights from Doc Norton’s talk at the ALM user group in December

by Angela 29. December 2014 17:10

From the very first time I saw Michael (Doc) Norton present “Let’s Start an Epidemic” at ThatConference, I knew I wanted to get him to come to Chicago to speak at my group. His overall messaging about community, teamwork, and influence was one that needed to be shared with my local community. Timing was on my side, and in December Doc Norton spoke at the Chicago ALM user group, and it was phenomenal! It was the week before Christmas and I had some SERIOUS piles of Microsoft and TFS swag at home to share as well. Including some great, re-sable Visual Studio shopping bags. Check it out, I was a busy elf!

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Now, on to the main event.  Doc’s talk was on agile metrics, and it was a FULL house. Even snapped a little selfie to prove it :)

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You might be thinking “Wait, AGILE metrics??” Did you just shudder in fear, because most agile metrics evoke feelings of big brother and bring back bad memories associated with “earned value management”, and pitting teams against each other. That was NOT what this talk was about. As a matter of fact, the title of his talk was “Velocity is NOT the goal” and I swear I heard a giant sigh of relief when that title went up!

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This also may have been one of the first meetings where I saw not a single person on email or YouTube the whole time. The only apps running were OneNote and notepad because people were taking down all kinds of tips and tricks on how to do agile metrics the right way. And this was no small mom and pop shop where you’d think to yourself “of COURSE it was easy for them!” You see, Doc works for Groupon, you may have heard of them. They have gone through exponential growth over their short lifespan, and Doc has been largely in charge of making sure they do not implode culturally along their journey. Some of my favorite ideas from this talk were the Hawthorn Effect/Goodwin’s Law connection,360 reviews, joy meters, and too much work in progress. 

The Hawthorn effect is pretty brilliant and absolutely true in my experience.  The idea is simple, once people know they are being measured based on a specific behavior, or on their improvement on a specific metric, they will do everything they can (for a time anyway) to continue performing in whatever way they need to in order to hit those measurements. Goodwin’s Law “when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to become a good measure”. Some might call this the “I’m going to code myself a minivan” effect.  In other words, metrics can often be gamed, so again, be careful what you wish for when it comes to metrics and reporting.

360 reviews is something we sort of did when I was at Microsoft.  Part of your end-of-year review process allowed you to request anonymous feedback from up to 10 people that you worked with throughout the past year, looking for overall ratings as well as personalized feedback. I honestly found it far more valuable to my professional and personal growth than all of the canned metrics we were graded on. 360s allow people to get feedback from a variety of angles, not ONLY from your boss. I also found that it made me feel more personally accountable for being a good team member, knowing that every year I’d be hearing back from my team as to whether or not I had a positive impact on them.

Joy meters provide even more interesting data, though that data can be tricky to collect.  essentially, you are asking people to give fairly regular feedback on the joy they receive from doing their job, whether it be team meetings, checking in code, running tests, whatever. Docs example was a bit easier to collect and “enforce”, because a joy rating was required with every code check-in. As a TFS user I can already picture ways of handling that for code check-ins, but collecting it for other types of activities is not as straightforward. As a start, I want to look at adding a joy meter check-in policy to our own internal TFS instance and start crunching numbers!

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And this last one is not only a great point, a really GREAT point, but it references one of my favorite “I love Lucy” episodes! But seriously, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a standup near the end of the sprint, where every task is active and very few things are done. But everyone was productive and busy! And yet, the team rarely made it’s sprint goals and their velocity was all over the map.

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So, don’t want to steal any more thunder, and Doc said it so much better than I could. If you’re completely kicking yourself for missing the talk, lucky for you it is posted on Vimeo and Doc was more than happy to share it with us.  Check it out, it’s well worth your time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags:

Agile | ALM | Application Lifecycle Management | Productivity | Metrics | ThatConference

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St Louis Day of .NET – Links to Blogs and Decks for all Polaris Speakers

by Angela 24. November 2014 15:22

This year was the second year that Polaris Solutions sponsored St. Louis Day of .NET.  In case you’re wondering why were sponsor a conference in St Louis, a) it’s a really great conference, and b) we have an office down there, a quickly growing one too! So if you missed it this year, stay tuned for STLDODN 2015! Outside of ThatConference, it is one of the most affordable, local conference that I have even been a part of. It was focused on Microsoft and .NET technologies, but also included a lot of talks around test automation, deployment and release management, and agile and scrum.

If you did attend, I wanted to make sure to point you at my slide decks, as well as the blogs and slide decks of some of our other presenters. If you missed them, I spoke on both TFS deployment and management as well as agile adoption, Josh did presentations on machine learning with Azure and ASP.NET identify framework, Clint did a really great presentation on Application Architecture and another on Advanced OOP, and Jeff talked about a topic near and dear to my hear as well – TFS Consolidation and migrations.  If you attended the pre-compiler sessions you may have even run across our newest Polarian – Alejandro Ramirez. Great stuff, all of them! Here is a roundup of how to find more information on those speakers, and to get their slides:

  • Angela Dugan: You’re already on my blog :) slides are here
  • Clint Edmonson: Blog and slides
  • Josh Gillespie: Blog and slides
  • Jeff Przylucki: Blog and slides to be posted soon, check back in a few days!
  • Alejandro Ramirez:Blog and slides

 

A couple of us even made it into the podcast line-up while there as well! I’ll be appearing on an upcoming edition of Technology and Friends, and both myself and Alejandro got a chance to sit down with the great team behind St Louis Tech Talks

Lastly, be sure to check out the STLDODN twitter feed (and search on #STLDODN) for some great tweets, links to the other great podcast episodes recorded live during the conference, as well as links to some of the other presentations.

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It’s almost Fall, and that means more Conferences

by Angela 6. October 2014 09:39

So conference season is kicking in full force again, and I already have quite a few on my radar, though sadly I doubt I can attend them all.  Here are a few worth taking note of, and some are coming up FAST so be sure to register if you’re at all interested because you may lose out!

 

DevOps Days Chicago (10/7 and 10/8): I am particularly bummed that I cannot make it to this one.  Not just because it is organized by my friend Matt Stratton of Arrested DevOps, but because it’s guaranteed to be chock full of topics relevant to ANYONE in the software biz.

DevOpsDays is a community-driven technical conference that focuses on bridging the gap between development and operations. The first DevOpsDays took place in Ghent five years ago, and there have been over forty events worldwide since then. Now, it is finally coming to Chicago.  DevOpsDays provides a collaborative environment where people can interact with their peers, learn about tools and automation, and discuss best practices. The topics covered are relevant for developers, system administrators, infosec engineers, QA engineers, product managers, technical managers, and anyone else responsible for delivering software.

This 2 day event is only $149. You can even receive a 10% discount on registration by using the promo code DEVOPSMATT when registering: http://devopsdays.org/events/2014-chicago/registration/

Also, seriously listen to Arrested DevOps, it’s a great podcast.

 

St Louis Day of .NET (11/13 through 11/15): Just a 5 hour drive (or Amtrak ride) away is this fantastic conference.  I attended, ran a booth, and spoke at this event last year.  There are over 140 sessions with a full day of “pre-compiler” sessions where you can get your hands dirty for a very small additional cost. It’s currently still in early bird pricing, so just $200 for the conference, and $84 for a full had precompiler session. If you register after October 13th the price jumps to $300, and it’s $600 at the door.  So register quick!

They have top quality speakers, a great conference space, a full roster of local tech sponsors (like Polaris Solutions of course!) fun events to network (and just have fun), and is a really good value given how little it costs to attend.  Also, the hotel is pretty swank too, so bring the family if you want to just spend the weekend there :)

 

Agile Day Chicago 2014 – (October 9th) This as a new one (to me anyway) and seems really promising.  For just $99 I get an entire day of learning, collaborating, and sharing ideas with other agile practitioners in the Chicagoland area. The theme this year: Product Driven Learning - Listening, Learning, and Doing. 

  • Learning - Learn patterns and ideas that are currently being done for product learning
  • Listening - New ideas for product learning
  • Doing - An all interactive track where you will be doing things hands on

Sessions will speak to various topics like product design, leadership, technology and development practices all with a focus on outcomes.

More information can be found here - http://devjam.com/2014/07/31/agile-day-chicago-2014/

 

I’m also super stoked to be attending the Microsoft MVP Summit again! But this one is just for Microsoft MVPs. Hope to see you there if you;re an MVP!  And if you’re not an MVP yet, chat with me some time about the benefits, and what kinds of activities qualify you for MVP, it’s an amazing program to be a part of :)

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Something a little Different for the Chicago ALM User Group in October

by Angela 17. September 2014 15:54

So you may have noticed that the Chicago ALM User Group has been a little quiet this summer. Summer is always a tad slow and everyone would rather be out enjoying some time with the family, or maybe by heading up to the Wisconsin Dells for ThatConference like I did :)  Well, summer break is over and the Chicago ALM user group is back! We’ll be meeting in early October for something a little different.

I recently started working with a local firm who has come a long way in their quest for agility and a healthy corporate culture. They've accomplished some amazing positive changes in their use of ALM tooling, in their software delivery process, and most importantly in their corporate culture. Join us in October to hear their story, and maybe pick up some tips on how to make similar changes within your own teams.

Story-telling and panel discussion: Ever wonder how agile is supposed to work in real life, like how it’s described in the books? We did too and tried it out. We want tell our story, “There and Back Again”, a development team’s tale of how we are becoming agile including the thrills of victory and agonies of defeat, then open it up for a panel discussion.

Speaker Bios:

Daniel Porrey has 24 years’ experience in the IT industry with a range of skills from networking and hardware to software development. He has worked for several international based organizations striving to achieve high efficiency while driving the greatest levels of business value. Having been "classically" trained in IT as an Engineer, he has successfully completed numerous large scale projects under the waterfall methodology. With the need to gain even higher performance from his teams, the desire to hire and retain high performance talent, and the ability to deliver more automation, he converted his group to agile over the past several years with great success. In all endeavors, his primary focus has been on the quality of the delivered product.

Anthony Perkins has been part of developing software almost two decades. He has experienced being developer, software architect, and now manages a .Net application team. After working in the waterfall environment most of his career, Anthony is in the midst of transitioning to agile methodologies. Driving for continuous improvement, he looks for ways to improve the delivery of high quality software and overall development process.

Raja Tirumala Rao Guna  has over 9 years of software development experience in Microsoft.Net technologies.   He worked in different roles starting as developer and moving up the path as Dev lead, Tech Lead and Architect, though always a developer at heart.  For the past 2 years he been working on agile projects and using TFS to help on board his teams with Agile engineering practices.

Chris Steele has more than 14 years of professional software experience, and has been working with agile for over 9 years, with a heavy focus on Scrum. Working independently, with consulting agencies, or internally, in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia has provided him with a wide range of experiences and a keen insight into the common problems and solutions that companies find when embracing agile, as well as how to present and sell it to clients ranging from the smallest to global enterprises. Having worked as a development team member, a ScrumMaster, a Product Owner, a resource manager, and an agile coach, in a variety of settings, Chris has had the opportunity to directly experience the day-to-day pulls and stresses inherent in each role, and in almost every organization type imaginable. Passionate about organizational change, and the benefits of agility, Chris also has experience as a speaker both locally and internationally.

 

Register now to secure a seat! http://chicagoalmug.org/

Tags:

Agile | ALM | Application Lifecycle Management | Collaboration | Microsoft | Process Methodology | Productivity | SDLC | Scrum | Team Foundation Server | TFS 2013 | TFS | Visual Studio 2013 | VS 2013 | development

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What Conference? Yeah ThatConference

by Angela 15. May 2014 08:49

With so many conferences, it’s easy for one to get lost in the noise. But don’t let that happen with ThatConference. I know, “but Angela you’re on the conference committee, of course you think I should go”. It’s true, for several years now I’ve been working with the ThatConference gang to keep this thing growing and thriving, but it’s because I believe in it. We don’t get paid, we get nothing out of being on the committee other than knowing we got to help provide this awesome event to the community we are so proud to be a part of. OK, now I’m getting all sappy so let’s move on. The point is, this conference is literally organized by a bunch of us techies and geeks like you, not huge corporations or software vendors with an agenda or licenses to sell.  We strive to make the conference fun, educational, and family-friendly. So I mean it when I say this conference is FOR YOU.

Tickets went on sale today, and you may have noticed a slight uptick in prices. Yeah, things get more expensive every year, that’s life, but is STILL an incredible value at $399. That includes 3 full days of amazing sessions (125+ to choose from!) AND lots of networking opportunities AND a pig roast AND a private water park party just for ThatConference attendees AND a Bacon bar AND multiple social events AND a game night (I might be biased as I am running this one, but seriously, BOARD GAMES!!). That was a lot of ANDs for your money. And if you buy soon you can get an Early Bird discount of $25 making the conference just $374.99. You also get a discounted nightly rate at the water park resort if you’re not a local, which gets you some nice additional perks (last year we got free passes to the Ducks and Tommy Bartlett show with our room). That’s an incredibly inexpensive conference that you can combine with a great family summer vacation in the Wisconsin Dells! The topics being covered this year are incredibly diverse, I’d need a few paragraphs more just to cover them all and no one wants to read that much so check out the full conference schedule here. And don’t be afraid to ask your boss to sponsor your ticket, and maybe send a few of your coworkers too!  If they have any budget set aside for training, I can’t think of a better way to use it.  You’ll get exposed to a far wider range of topics and our food is WAY better too ;)

As you might know if you are a returning camper, we also have a great program for the families, so bring the significant others and kids if you have them. It’s a last hurrah before school at a water park and indoor amusement park. You’ll be a HERO and you still get to go geek out at a tech conference! If you purchase family tickets along with your conference ticket, family members are just $39.99 per person, or $29.99 if purchased before 5/22. That means the entire family can join us at ThatConference social events, the pig roast, game night, a craft night that I organize just for the kids, and of course an entire track devoted to family friendly geekery. And trust me when I say the family sessions will blow their minds! Last year my 10 year old nephew was introduced to programming for the first time (he even used Visual Studio for one session!), and ended up stealing my laptop so he could play around with it some more. How cool is that?!  This year we even have a couple of session being run by kid campers from last year! There’s even a session on writing Minecraft Mods. I know right? The family schedule is here, and it’s REALLY good so look it over, show it to your kids, then sign them up!

Hope to see you In August! Now go sign up, seriously right now, go do it.

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I’m Talking TFS ALM at the Chicago SharePoint Developer Group May 15th

by Angela 13. May 2014 07:51

So often people hear that I focus on TFS for ALM and think I can’t possibly help them because they’re not doing traditional .NET WinForms or WebForms development. Not true! TFS ALM is cross platform and technology agnostic.  Well, within reason, if you’re using a tool with embedded and proprietary SCM you might not be able to use TFS VC, but the rest of TFS’ capabilities certainly still apply.

This month I’m talking to the local SharePoint developer meetup group to talk about TFS for SharePoint ALM, how TFS 2013 can help them reach a higher level of agility, and where it can streamline their processes with build, test, and deployment automation.  During this meeting I’ll be doing a lap around TFS, pointing out what’s new and cool for SharePoint, and doing some demos of my favorite tools. If you’re a SharePoint developer, come join us this Thursday and learn more! I’m nice, and usually pretty entertaining :)

Learn more and sign up here: http://www.meetup.com/Chicago-SharePoint-Developers-User-Group/

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Chicago ALM User Group – April is All About Effective TFS Management

by Angela 16. April 2014 09:07

So as an ALM consultant, I work with a LOT of customers to “clean up” their ALM implementation, and spend a lot of time talking about proper care and feeding of their TFS environment.

Installing TFS is relatively easy, but configuring it to support your organization structure over the long haul can be challenging. How many team project collections do you need? When do you create new team projects? Which process templates should you use? How much should you customize? These are important considerations, and making the wrong choice can cause major headaches down the road. At this installment of the Chicago ALM user group, I’ll be reviewing best practices, discussing the ins and outs of how to structure your TFS projects, and get your most burning questions about TFS configuration answered!

I hope to see you in Downers Grove next week. Please be sure to register soon so I can order the right amount of food and so that the security folks will let you in!

When: Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 from 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM
Where:  Microsoft-Downers Grove 3025 Highland Pkwy, Ste 300, Downers Grove

 

And don’t forget, VS Live is coming to Chicago in early May, and friends of the Chicago ALM user group get a $500 discount code! More details here: http://t.co/LdzaiCR6O9.

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The Sometimes Funky Forecasting Math on the TFS Backlog Tool

by Angela 4. April 2014 11:05

Ever been setting up a project in TFS 2012+, started adding user stories (or PBIs, or Requirements) with estimates to the Product Backlog, turned on the forecasting tool, and started questioning your basic math skills? I have… The first time this happened in a live demo with a customer was really fun. I took a guess at what I thought was going on behind the scenes and luckily I guessed right :) Recently I got confirmation on what’s happening when another fellow TFS user asked the same question in the forums.

So, what on earth am I talking about? Check out the backlog below:

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See it yet? If not, check out sprint 2. And yes, I know, it’s really odd that they use lines to separate sprints/iteration but the TITLE of the sprint is *above* the line. So Sprint 2 in this particular instance includes user stories D, E, and F. But notice that add up to 12 points and the forecasting tool is set to 10. WHAT?! But, but, that doesn’t add up! You’re right, but the theory is that you don’t have enough story points assigned to the first sprint (note that user stories A, B, and C only add up to 8 points), and so the ASSUMPTION is that you’d pull in the first user story in sprint 2 at some point and start working on it during the end of Sprint 1, even though it’s not slated to be FINISHED in Sprint 1. Otherwise your team sits and twiddles their thumbs waiting for the next Sprint to start.  Well, they DON’T really, but you get the point. So you get no credit for the item you started working on early in the Velocity chart, unless you actually drag it into Sprint 1, but now you’ve over-allocated yourself in Sprint 1 and will likely end up finishing that item in Sprint 2 anyway. That’s a whole different set of issues you’re bringing on yourself.

Note the same thing happens in Sprints 3 and 4, below. Yes, marvel at my AMAZING Paint skills ::snorts:: There are 20 story points between them, so basic math suggests that you can finish all of the items in 2 sprints, even if one of the user stories ends up straddling the line a bit. Whether or not you accept this is as a good practice is well, irrelevant for now since you can’t actually do anything about it. The tool works how it works. It doesn’t make the tool useless by any means, but it is something to definitely be aware of.

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Hope that makes sense. Cleared up an annoying little mystery for me. Something else to consider is that the forecasting tool is not meant to be the only way to plan your work, maybe instead you’d rather use slack in your sprints to work on bug fixes, or refactoring, rather than pulling in work for the next sprint. I know, OMG agile purists heads are exploding. They’ll get over it. It largely depends on your process as to how you handle those situations in reality. So use the forecast tool as a GUIDE, not the hard and fast rule for planning work.

Tags:

ALM | Application Lifecycle Management | Agile | Requirements Management | SDLC | Team Foundation Server | TFS 2013 | Visual Studio 2013 | Visual Studio | VS 2013 | Work Item Tracking

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Come Join Polaris at CCC 2014 on April 26th

by Angela 10. March 2014 14:53

So if you haven’t been to Chicago Code Camp yet, you should! I know, I know, there are SO MANY conferences in the Chicago area, how do you choose? It’s true, there are a lot of good ones but here are some benefits to CCC:

a) Because it is community- driven, there is some amazing sessions, including a few sessions on TFS and agile. Here are the ones I am hoping to attend (to be fair I am GIVING two of those talks):

 

Other great sessions cover a wide variety of topics like Windows 8, TypeScript, PowerShell, Unity 3D and Azure, JavaScript and Elixir.

b) it’s FREE for a full day of techie goodness, lunch included. Yeah, you read that correctly, FREE.

c) it’s super easy to get to. It’s right off of 294 and the parking is free.

d) it’s on a Saturday so you don’t even have to miss work! OK, so maybe you don’t see this as an advantage, but I do.

e) Polaris Solutions is a Platinum sponsor and will have a booth. So stop by, say hi, and pick up one of our sweet little booklets on Agile practices.

 

So register now before it sells out, and check out the full list of sessions here: http://www.chicagocodecamp.com/Public/Sessions

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An Upgrade is a Beautiful Thing, Especially When It’s TFS 2013 Update 2

by Angela 6. March 2014 18:09

This is one of my favorite dialogs :)

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Not RTM of course, I am not THAT cool. Hopefully that is coming soon because not everyone has the freedom to install pre-release software and this one is CHOCK FULL o’ goodness. I was hoping to upgrade my company’s server last weekend, but thanks to Comcast’s unreliability I ended up barely getting it downloaded, and then upgraded my personal on-premise TFS instance. And I’m loving all the new stuff! Here are just a few of my favorite things ::cue Julie Andrews!::

1) Tags.  Tags have always been a nifty way to add useful metadata to work items so they could be easily identified, sorted, and filtered on the backlog. But everyone, EVERYONE, wanted to be able to query on tags.  Also, they wanted to work with tags outside of the WebUI.  Now you can! (requires VS 2013.w2 as well)

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2) Charts. I *love* the work item charts as you may have figured out from my previous post on them.  Such a simple and easy to learn way to visually slice and dice your shared work item query results. My customers love them too! Another frequent request is “why can’t we pin these to our team dashboard?”  Well, guess what, that is an option too! So now that Team home page just got EVEN MORE useful :)  Keep in mind you can only pin charts based on the types of queries you can make a team favorite, so SHARED queries.  Also notice that now to pin something to the team homepage, you have a new option:

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3) Test Plan printing. I know right?! Before your only option was Test Scribe and while it was handy, and free, it was not really customizable. Now from a quick click from the Test Hub on the web, you can request a “hard copy” of Test Plan artifacts for sharing with others via email, or as HTML. Sweet huh? And notice all the links, so an active TFS user could jump right into MTM to see or edit the items he is reading about.

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There is a lot more than this, but it’s already a pretty long blog post.  So check out Brian’s blog post and the MSDN download page for the CTP to find out more about the new features available in TFS 2013 Update 2.

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