Project Management


Notes from:

  1. Agile is a compromise between no process and too much process, providing just enough process to gain a reasonable payoff.
  2. Agile methods are adaptive rather than predictive. Engineering methods tend to try to plan out a large part of the software process in great detail for a long span of time, this works well until things change. So their nature is to resist change. The agile methods, however, welcome change. They try to be processes that adapt and thrive on change, even to the point of changing themselves.
  3. Agile methods are people-oriented rather than process-oriented. The goal of engineering methods is to define a process that will work well whoever happens to be using it. Agile methods assert that no process will ever make up the skill of the development team, so the role of a process is to support the development team in their work.

Predictive vs Adaptive

  1. The usual inspiration for methodologies comes from engineering disciplines such as civil or mechanical engineering. Such disciplines put a lot of emphasis on planning before you build.
  2. So what we see here are two fundamentally different activities. Design which is difficult to predict and requires expensive and creative people, and construction which is easier to predict. Once we have the design, we can plan the construction.
  3. So the approach for software engineering methodologies looks like this: we want a predictable schedule that can use people with lower skills. To do this we must separate design from construction.
  4. This is where design notations such as UML come into play. If we can make all the significant decisions using the UML, we can build a construction plan and then hand these designs off to coders as a construction activity.
  5. For Engineering designs, mathematical analysis can show if a design will work. However, for UML it is only through peer-review that design can be checked.
  6. For a bridge, cost of design is only about 10% of job, rest is construction. For code it is the opposite, apparently only 15% of project is code and unit tests.
  7. Thus, source code is the design document and construction is the compiler/linker. Thus, the construction phase is cheap and and should be automated.
  8. Conclusions:
    • In software: construction is so cheap as to be free
    • In software all the effort is design, and thus requires creative and talented people (source code)
    • Creative processes are not easily planned, and so predictability may well be an impossible target.
    • We should be very wary of the traditional engineering metaphor for building software. It’s a different kind of activity and requires a different process.

The Unpredictability of Requirements

  1. Developers shouldn’t be surprised that the requirements are always changing. This is the norm in software.
  2. One problem with this is that just trying to understand the options for requirements is tough.
  3. Estimation is hard for many reasons. Part of it is that software development is a design activity, and thus hard to plan and cost. Part of it is that the basic materials keep changing rapidly. Part of it is that so much depends on which individual people are involved, and individuals are hard to predict and quantify.
  4. It’s very difficult to see what value a software feature has until you use it for real. Only when you use an early version of some software do you really begin to understand what features are valuable and what parts are not.
  5. In today’s economy the fundamental business forces are changing the value of software features too rapidly.
  6. Predictability is not impossible. NASA’s space shuttle software group are prime example of predictability. But they have huge resources, lots of time, and very stable requirements. But most software projects are not similar to this.
  7. However letting go of predictability doesn’t mean you have to revert to uncontrollable chaos. Instead you need a process that can give you control over an unpredictability. That’s what adaptivity is all about.

Controlling an Unpredictable Process - Iterations

  1. To get some form of predictability, we need an accurate way of knowing where we are at this point. This is where feedback mechanisms and feedback loops come into play. We need to learn about ourselves (the software, team, etc).
  2. This is what iterative development is all about.
  3. The key to iterative development is to frequently produce working versions of the final system that have a subset of the required features. These working systems are short on functionality, but should otherwise be faithful to the demands of the final system. They should be fully integrated and as carefully tested as a final delivery.
  4. The point of this is that there is nothing like a tested, integrated system for bringing a forceful dose of reality into any project. Documents can hide all sorts of flaws. Untested code can hide plenty of flaws. But when people actually sit in front of a system and work with it, then flaws become truly apparent: both in terms of bugs and in terms of misunderstood requirements.
  5. Iterative development makes sense in predictable processes as well. But it is essential in adaptive processes because an adaptive process needs to be able to deal with changes in required features.
  6. This leads to a style of planning where long term plans are very fluid, and the only stable plans are short term plans that are made for a single iteration. Iterative development gives you a firm foundation in each iteration that you can base your later plans around.
  7. A key question for this is how long an iteration should be. Different people give different answers. XP suggests iterations of one or two weeks. SCRUM suggests a length of a month. Crystal may stretch further. The tendency, however, is to make each iteration as short as you can get away with. This provides more frequent feedback, so you know where you are more often.

The Adaptive Customer

  1. This kind of adaptive process requires a different kind of relationship with a customer than the ones that are often considered.
  2. A fixed price contract requires stable requirements and hence a predictive process. Adaptive processes and unstable requirements imply you cannot work with the usual notion of fixed-price.
  3. After all the customer wouldn’t be wanting some software unless their business needed it. If they don’t get it their business suffers. So even if they pay the development company nothing, they still lose. Indeed they lose more than they would pay for the software (why would they pay for the software if the business value of that software were less?)
  4. This doesn’t mean that you can’t fix a budget for software up-front. What it does mean is that you cannot fix time, price and scope. The usual agile approach is to fix time and price, and to allow the scope to vary in a controlled manner.
  5. In an adaptive process the customer has much finer-grained control over the software development process. At every iteration they get both to check progress and to alter the direction of the software development. This leads to much closer relationship with the software developers, a true business partnership.
  6. All this yields a number of advantages for the customer. For a start they get much more responsive software development. A usable, although minimal, system can go into production early on. The customer can then change its capabilities according to changes in the business, and also from learning from how the system is used in reality.
  7. Every bit as important as this is greater visibility into the true state of the project.
  8. If bad news is lurking it tends to come earlier, when there is still time to do something about it. Indeed this risk control is a key advantage of iterative development.
  9. Mary Poppendieck summed up this difference in viewpoint best for me with her phrase “A late change in requirements is a competitive advantage”. Often the most valuable features aren’t at all obvious until customer have had a chance to play with the software. Agile methods seek to take advantage of this, encouraging business people to learn about their needs as the system gets built, and to build the system in such a way that changes can be incorporated quickly.
  10. All this has an important bearing what constitutes a successful project. A predictive project is often measured by how well it met its plan. A project that’s on-time and on-cost is considered to be a success.
  11. This measurement is nonsense to an agile environment. For agilists the question is business value - did the customer get software that’s more valuable to them than the cost put into it.
  12. A good predictive project will go according to plan, a good agile project will build something different and better than the original plan foresaw.

Putting People First

  1. Executing an adaptive process is not easy. In particular it requires a very effective team of developers. The team needs to be effective both in the quality of the individuals, and in the way the team blends together.

Plug-Compatible Programming Units

  1. One of the aims of traditional methodologies is to develop a process where the people involved are replaceable parts. With such a process you can treat people as resources who are available in various types. You have an analyst, some coders, some testers, a manager. The individuals aren’t so important, only the roles are important.
  2. But this raises a key question: are the people involved in software development replaceable parts? One of the key features of agile methods is that they reject this assumption.
  3. Furthermore his (Alastair Cockburn) studies of software projects have led him to conclude the people are the most important factor in software development.
  4. “People” are highly variable and non-linear, with unique success and failure modes. Those factors are first-order, not negligible factors.
  5. This creates a strong positive feedback effect. If you expect all your developers to be plug-compatible programming units, you don’t try to treat them as individuals. This lowers morale (and productivity).
  6. The notion of people as resources is deeply ingrained in business thinking, its roots going back to the impact of Frederick Taylor’s Scientific Management approach. In running a factory, this Taylorist approach may make sense. But for the highly creative and professional work, which I believe software development to be, this does not hold.

Programmers are Responsible Professionals

  1. A key part of the Taylorist notion is that the people doing the work are not the people who can best figure out how best to do that work.
  2. Recent history increasingly shows us how untrue this is for software development. Increasingly bright and capable people are attracted to software development, attracted by both its glitz and by potentially large rewards.
  3. When you want to hire and retain good people, you have to recognize that they are competent professionals. As such they are the best people to decide how to conduct their technical work.

Managing a People Oriented Process

  1. It is about accepting the process not being forced to follow the process by management. Thus, requires active involvement of team.
  2. Another point is that the developers must be able to make all technical decisions. XP gets to the heart of this where in its planning process it states that only developers may make estimates on how much time it will take to do some work.
  3. Such an approach requires a sharing of responsibility where developers and management have an equal place in the leadership of the project. Notice that I say equal. Management still plays a role, but recognizes the expertise of developers.
  4. An important reason for this is the rate of change of technology in our industry. After a few years technical knowledge becomes obsolete. This half life of technical skills is without parallel in any other industry. Even technical people have to recognize that entering management means their technical skills will wither rapidly. Ex-developers need to recognize that their technical skills will rapidly disappear and they need to trust and rely on current developers.

The Difficulty of Measurement

  1. Despite our best efforts we are unable to measure the most simple things about software, such as productivity. Without good measures for these things, any kind of external control is doomed.
  2. The point of all this is that traditional methods have operated under the assumption that measurement-based management is the most efficient way of managing. The agile community recognizes that the characteristics of software development are such that measurement based management leads to very high levels of measurement dysfunction. It’s actually more efficient to use a delegatory style of management, which is the kind of approach that is at the center of the agilist viewpoint.

The Role of Business Leadership

  1. This leads to another important aspect of adaptive processes: they (developers) need very close contact with business expertise.
  2. This goes beyond most projects involvement of the business role. Agile teams cannot exist with occasional communication . They need continuous access to business expertise. Furthermore this access is not something that is handled at a management level, it is something that is present for every developer.
  3. A large part of this, of course, is due to the nature of adaptive development. Since the whole premise of adaptive development is that things change quickly, you need constant contact to advise everybody of the changes.

The Self-Adaptive Process

  1. However there’s another angle to adaptivity: that of the process changing over time. A project that begins using an adaptive process won’t have the same process a year later. Over time, the team will find what works for them, and alter the process to fit.

  2. The first part of self-adaptivity is regular reviews of the process. Usually you do these with every iteration. At the end of each iteration, have a short meeting and ask yourself the following questions (culled from Norm Kerth)

    • What did we do well?
    • What have we learned?
    • What can we do better?
    • What puzzles us?
  3. While both published processes and the experience of other projects can act as an inspiration and a baseline, the developers professional responsibility is to adapt the process to the task at hand.

Flavors of Agile Development

Agile Manifesto

  1. Started in 2001 where bunch of people met and came up with Manifestor for Agile Development.
  2. There were other groups coming with similar approaches to iterative development. No common name for all these approaches but lightweight was being used a lot.
  3. Decision was to use agile as the umbrella name.
  4. No formal organization but there is an Agile Alliance. This group is a non-profit group intended to promote and research agile methods. Amongst other things it sponsors an annual conference in the US.

XP (Extreme Programming)

  1. Got the lion’s share of attention early in the agile movement.
  2. The roots of XP lie in the Smalltalk community, and in particular the close collaboration of Kent Beck and Ward Cunningham in the late 1980’s. Both of them refined their practices on numerous projects during the early 90’s, extending their ideas of a software development approach that was both adaptive and people-oriented.
  3. XP begins with five values (Communication, Feedback, Simplicity, Courage, and Respect). It then elaborates these into fourteen principles and again into twenty-four practices. The idea is that practices are concrete things that a team can do day-to-day, while values are the fundamental knowledge and understanding that underpins the approach.
  4. XP has strong emphasis on testing. XP puts testing at the foundation of development, with every programmer writing tests as they write their production code. The tests are integrated into a continuous integration and build process which yields a highly stable platform for future development. XP’s approach here, often described under the heading of Test Driven Development (TDD) has been influential even in places that haven’t adopted much else of XP.


Scrum (n): A framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.

  1. Scrum also developed in the 80’s and 90’s primarily with OO development circles as a highly iterative development methodology. It’s most well known developers were Ken Schwaber, Jeff Sutherland, and Mike Beedle.

  2. Scrum concentrates on the management aspects of software development, dividing development into thirty day iterations (called ‘sprints’) and applying closer monitoring and control with daily scrum meetings. It places much less emphasis on engineering practices and many people combine its project management approach with extreme programming’s engineering practices. (XP’s management practices aren’t really very different.)

  3. Asserts that knowledge comes from experience and making decisions based on what is known. Scrum employs an iterative, incremental approach to optimize predictability and control risk.

  4. Scrum Events:

    • All events are timeboxed for duration.

    • A formal opportunity to inspect and adapt something.

    • Sprint is heart of scrum. Timeboxed one month or less (if sprint goal is accomplished early).

      • Sprint Planning

        • Timeboxed to a max of eight hours. Answers what can be delivered at the end of sprint? And how this work will be achieved.
        • Dev team discusses forecasts of functionality that will be implemented. Product Owner discusses objective of sprint.
        • Performance of past sprints is also reviewed. Number of items selected from backlog is solely up to dev team.
        • Sprint Goal is decided here. It is basically an objective to work towards for that sprint. e.g. “Has a basic UI for users to work with”, “Can pass packets and has networking functionality”
        • Sprint Backlog is subset of Product Backlog. This includes more detailed planning.
        • By the end of the Sprint Planning, the Development Team should be able to explain to the Product Owner and Scrum Master how it intends to work as a self-organizing team to accomplish the Sprint Goal and create the anticipated Increment.
      • Daily Scrum

        • 15-minute timeboxed event to plan the next 24 hours that only dev team can participate in.
        • Members explain: What did I do to help Dev team meet Sprint Goal? What will I do today to help Dev team meet the Sprint Goal? Do I see any obstacles that prevents me from a accomplishing that goal?
      • Sprint Review

        • Timeboxed to 4 hours and held at end of Sprint to inspect Increment and adapt Product Backlog if needed.
        • Includes Scrum Master, Product Owner, Dev Team and other key stake holders.
        • Demonstration of work happens and discussion of obstacles, product backlog, etc.
        • Review of market, how it has changed, most business value on what to do next.
        • Review timeline and budget as well.
        • Backlog can be re-prioritized.
      • Sprint Retrospective

        • Opportunity for entire Scrum Team to inspect itself and create a plan for improvements during next sprint.
        • Occurs after sprint review and before next sprint planning. Time boxed to three hours.
    • Sprint maybe cancelled only by Product Owner but are very uncommong and not recommended.

  5. The Scrum Team consists of a Product Owner, the Development Team, and a Scrum Master.

  6. Scrum Teams deliver products iteratively and incrementally, maximizing opportunities for feedback.

  7. Product Owner is sole person managing Product backlog.

  8. Development Teams are structured and empowered by the organization to organize and manage their own work. The resulting synergy optimizes the Development Team’s overall efficiency and effectiveness. Every member is known as a Developer. Accountability is to whole team. Usually between 3-9 members.

  9. The Scrum Master is responsible for ensuring Scrum is understood and enacted. Scrum Masters do this by ensuring that the Scrum Team adheres to Scrum theory, practices, and rules.

    • Finding techniques for effective Product Backlog management (helping Product Owner).
    • Acts as a coack to development team. Removes impediments to the progress of Dev Team.
    • Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact Scrum and empirical product development.
  10. A Product Backlog is never complete. The earliest development of it only lays out the initially known and best-understood requirements. The Product Backlog evolves as the product and the environment in which it will be used evolves. The Product Backlog is dynamic; it constantly changes to identify what the product needs to be appropriate, competitive, and useful. As long as a product exists, its Product Backlog also exists.

  11. Product Backlog can span multiple Scrum Teams and thus can apply grouping techniques to the backlog.

  12. The Sprint Backlog is a highly visible, real-time picture of the work that the Development Team plans to accomplish during the Sprint, and it belongs solely to the Development Team.


  1. Different variations for different sized teams.
  2. Despite their variations all crystal approaches share common features. All crystal methods have three priorities: safety (in project outcome), efficiency, habitability (developers can live with crystal). They also share common properties, of which the most important three are: Frequent Delivery, Reflective Improvement, and Close Communication.

Should you go agile?

  1. In today’s environment, the most common methodology is code and fix. Applying more discipline than chaos will almost certainly help, and the agile approach has the advantage that it is much less of a step than using a heavyweight method.
  2. Simpler processes are more likely to be followed when you are used to no process at all.
  3. The first step is to find suitable projects to try agile methods out with. Since agile methods are so fundamentally people-oriented, it’s essential that you start with a team that wants to try and work in an agile way.
  4. So where should you not use an agile method? I think it primarily comes down to the people.


User Stories

Notes taken from:

  1. User stories are short, simple description of a feature told from the perspective of the person who desires the new capability. This is usually a user or customer of the system. Template:

    As a <type of user>, I want <some goal> so that <some reason>.

  2. Often written on index cards, sticky notes and placed in a shoe box, arranged on walls, tables, to facilitate planning and discussion.

  3. Focus shifts from writing about features to discussing them.

  4. User stories can be written at varying levels of detail. Thus, user stories can be written to cover large amounts of functionality. These are generally known as epics. An example:

    As a user, I can backup my entire drive

  5. Epics are generally too large to complete in one agile iteration. It is split into smaller user stories. The above epic can be split into dozens (or hundreds) of user stories:

    As a power user, I can specify files or folders to backup based on file size, date created and date modified.

    As a user, I can indicate folders not to backup so that my backup drive isn’t filled up with things I don’t need saved.

  6. Note that details can be added to user stories. These can be accomplished by splitting user stories into smaller user stories. Or by adding conditions of satisfaction.

  7. Conditions of satisfaction are like high-level acceptance tests. For the example above:

    • Make sure data is verified during copy.
    • Make sure there is a report generated of the backup.
  8. Note that user stories are usually written by product owner. However, during breakdowns of user stories, each team member can write it as well.

  9. The important fact is that it doesn’t matter who writes the user stories. It is more important to have everyone involved in the discussion of it.

  10. User Stories are usually the main composition of a product backlog. Re-prioritization happens often and user stories can be added/removed throughout the agile development process.

  11. Note that Fibonnaci sequence is used to estimate story points. The idea is, the larger the story is, the more uncertainty there is around it and the estimate is less accurate. Thus, total number of points give a number on complexity of project.

    • 0, 1 means user story doesn’t take anytime at all
    • Bigger than 13 means very complex and probably needs to be broken up.

Burndown Charts

  1. A burn down chart is a graphical representation of work left to do versus time.
  2. The outstanding work (or backlog) is often on the vertical axis, with time along the horizontal.
  3. It is useful for predicting when all of the work will be completed.

Agile Fluency


This diagram explains stages agile teams go through as they gain more experience. This shows successful team progression. Note that fluency here means how a team develops software when it’s under pressure.


Most teams are at one-star level. Number of teams with more stars are fewer as there are factors such as organizational culture, technical debt of code, etc.

Fluency is more about habit than skills and thus requires a lot of practice.

It’s best to choose the level of fluency you want to achieve and to practice everything needed for that level from the beginning.

In other words, if your goal is to have a three-star team, use a three-star approach from the start. Although your team will still progress one level at a time, practicing all the techniques together will allow them to advance more quickly.

Important for organization to support team star goals and for team members to stick together.

  1. Scrum is frequently used by one-star teams as their core goal/metric is business value of customer/stakeholders. The focus is on creating value. The idea is organization can realize its investment quickly (2-6 months) and have greater insight into team progress.

  2. Two-star teams deliver on market cadence (shipping as often as market will accept it). Usually use XP combined with Scrum project management. Includes continuous integration, test drive development, test driven development, pair programming, and collective ownership.

    • Consistently and predictably deliver value.
    • Includes metrics used by one-star team to report business value. But core metric is to deliver low-defect product and ability to ship on market cadence.
    • Takes significant investment in time as team needs a lot of skill and practice to consistently deliver these kinds of products.
  3. Three-star teams deliver the most value possible for your investment. They understand what the market wants, what your business needs, and how to meet those needs.

    • However, Lean Startup is an example of a method that operates at the three-star level. It’s most applicable to new product development. The ideas from Lean Software Development (no relation to Lean Startup) are also useful. Agile chartering, embedded product management teams, customer discovery, and adaptive planning are all examples of techniques used by three-star teams.
    • More formal business value reports are presented. There is a mutual trust between team and organization. Need to incorporate business experts full time in the team.
    • Takes several years to develop because it takes time to develop this level of trust between organization and team.
  4. Four-star teams contribute to enterprise-wide success. Team members understand organizational priorities and business direction. Four-star teams will sacrifice their own needs to support the needs of a product more critical to business success. They work with other teams and with managers to optimize the overall value stream.

    • The teams we know that are striving for, and in some cases reaching, four-star fluency are at the “bleeding edge” of Agile practice. They adapt ideas from advanced management theories and innovative product development methods. Techniques include Agile portfolio management, systems thinking, value stream analysis, whole system planning, intact teams, open book management, and radical self-organization.
    • The core metric for four-star teams is whether the team shows understanding of the overall system and reports how its actions affect the enterprise.
    • To date, we’ve most often seen four-star fluency in single-team startups, where it’s not much different from three-star fluency. It seems to be easiest to approach four-star fluency in organizations where trust is high, communication overhead is low, and business information is widely shared.

Managing Deadlines

Dealing with missed deadlines

  1. As a project manager, this is where you earn your value. You have the opportunity to turn the project around.
  2. Can perform Monte Carlo simulation to see the impact of business value if project is killed or if it is continued but delayed.
  3. Identify the problems at this point and possibly Reboot project.
  4. Also, it should never get to this point. Idea with agile is to constantly adjust scope if budget and deadline is fixed. Of course, this is with customer input.


  1. Estimates come from team and Deadlines come from stakeholders.
  2. Sometimes deadlines can’t be pushed, other factors are involved (media promotions, legal regulations, etc.).
  3. A great PM is great not because they achieve project objectives all the time but because they communicate bad news early and often so that project owners can make decisions before they are surprised.

Adding People

  1. Adding the right people can speed the project up, especially if they have specific domain expertise that is missing or weak in the original team,and they are being brought in to support the team rather than taking over and destroying morale.