Today’s problem and Tomorrow’s problem

http://blog.samanage.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/yesterday-today-tomorrow.jpg
Photo credit: http://blog.samanage.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/yesterday-today-tomorrow.jpg

I am a great follower of Jim Highsmith and I am still fascinated by his concept “Today’s quality and tomorrow’s quality”. Reference http://jimhighsmith.com/beyond-scope-schedule-and-cost-the-agile-triangle/

I read this long time ago and had a post regarding this as well. But what I realized recently is that the concept of today’s … and tomorrow’s … is more universal than it seems from the outside. It is applicable for many things beyond just quality in the software engineering.

One contrary application of this concept can be found in problem solving.There is a general struggle when it comes to how one approach problem. Going with Jim Highsmith’s concept, there are today’s problems and tomorrow’s problems. We waste lot of our resources (let it be money, time, etc.) finding solutions for tomorrow’s problem.

For example if you are planing a software system to be used by 5 million users (like Trello) without even writing a single piece of line, then it is a waste. In a realistic example, many software designers are being pushed on concepts of “re-usability”, etc. before even a single piece of line is written. [I think the term “Use before Reuse” was coined due to this :)] Finding solutions for those are simple waste of resources.

We struggle in classifying a certain problem to be today’s problems or tomorrow’s problems. As humans we always like to think big and therefore pretty much liking to find solutions to tomorrow’s problems. So it is not easy to identify and categorize whether it is today or tomorrow in the outset.  As I mentioned people waste lot of their resources on solutions for tomorrow’s problem. Let’s see how.

The resources are wasted due to the timing of the solution. In simple terms, if the problem is today, then solution would be for tomorrow. If you implement a solution for a today’s problem, it will give results tomorrow, not today. You have the pain of the problem today anyway no matter what the solution is. If you are sick, then the medicine will make you better tomorrow, not today. If you have a “quality” problem in your piece of software, whatever solution to that would result in improving quality tomorrow, not today.

If the problem belongs to tomorrow’s then where the solution belongs to? It simply belongs to waste basket.

 

Note: Jim Highsmith’s concept of today’s quality and tomorrow’s quality is not about finding solutions for tomorrow’s problem. It is about keep an eye about tomorrow’s problem, which is always a good thing. Avoiding tomorrow’s problems and finding solutions for tomorrow’s problems are two different things.

For example if you exercise thinking that you will become obesity in 10 years time, that is good. All lies in analyzing the problem not finding the solution like in Lateral thinking

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Agile

Ken Schwaber's Blog: Telling It Like It Is

I am returning from the Agile Alliance conference. I thought I would share the answer to several questions that I was asked in my session:

1. What is “Agile”
Any software activity that conforms or attempts to conform to the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto for Software Development.

2. If you could add another value to the Agile Manifesto, could you state it?

We value practices, tools, consulting, coaching, and software organizational work that continuously improve their adherence to the Agile Manifesto
OVER
Tools, products, methodologies, processes, practices that only use the word Agile to market themselves to make money and whose correlation to the Agile Manifesto is coincidental.

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What is waterfall?

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Recently I have been involved in a discussion what is waterfall (of course in software development perspective).

The very first thing comes to the mind is that waterfall software development is a phased approach (over iterative Agile). You have got defined phases and boundaries to cross like “Requirement phase, Design phase, etc.”

If you stop for a moment and look in detail, you will realize that this is more of a description of the “Execution model”. Or how the Waterfall model is executed. But there is much more deeper conceptual definition if you look at from a business perspective.

When you look at software engineering from the problem vs solution concept, you can see it. Software is a solution for a business problem. And software engineering is all about articulating the solution.

waterfall

So this is how the Waterfall approaches;

  • You have the “Business problem” and
  • You have a layer to “Specify the problem” (requirement),
  • Another layer to “Specify the solution” (architecture and design),
  • Another layer to “Develop the solution” (development),
  • Another layer to “Confirm the solution” (testing)
  • Final layer to “Apply the solution” to the problem (Deployment).

Through this you can transform the horizontal phases of waterfall to vertical layers and by doing so you can see how the waterfall development is really structured.

I don’t need to mention the waste and the confusion this causes when you have so many layers between the Problem and the Solution.

But Agile software development provides a much more compact approach which is more effective than Waterfall. In Agile, you just have two layers representing the Problem and the Solution. Problem is represented by Product owners (if you consider Scrum) and Solution is represented by Development team. By reducing the unwanted layers in the middle, Agile has reduced the waste and the confusion.

But as a note this doesn’t mean that you can avoid the needed steps like design, testing, deployment, etc. It is just that all are done within one layer

Images;

http://goo.gl/TDVuri

Relative estimates and bubble sort algorithm

While reading Mike Cohn’s article, I came across this comment http://goo.gl/KU6cA What a cool idea when it comes to relative estimation techniques.

If you are to get the benefits of relative estimates, you need to get the relative sizing right (which is a challenge itself). But most of the teams struggle on this. Let me give you an example to illustrate this.

To illustrate this difficulty;

  • Team has 20 stories to estimate
  • They go through the backlog and establish the base story and mark that as 2 story points
  • Then they start from the beginning of the backlog and start estimating the relative size
  • 1st story is easy and you compare effort for that against the base story and mark it as 5 story points.
  • When it comes to 2nd story, you now needs to compare it with 2 other stories (base story and 1st story)
  • This adds on when you go further down the backlog
  • What happens is that you loose the sense of stories in the top of the backlog when you come towards the bottom of the backlog. Instead of having one common base story you tend to have localized bases since as humans we don’t have much RAM

There are options to avoid this (such as Triangulation, etc.) but what bubble sort algorithm offers is simple and effective than those.

How you can use is to first go through the backlog and give it a bubble sort. You don’t need to worry about what is the relative size of the story but just compare whether the current story is bigger or smaller compared to next story in the list.

See further http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bubble_sort

If you do this as the start, it will not have the problem which I mentioned above example. Further this will act as a good ice breaker for the estimation session.

Images are taken from http://goo.gl/Qrnfp and http://goo.gl/7uUlI

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Question 1: Do you know the problem? Yes. Do you know the solution? Yes. Then go and use waterfall.
Question 2: Do you know the problem? Yes. Do you know the solution? No. Then use Agile.

 

Question 3: Do you know the problem? No. Do you know the solution? No. Then use Learn startup.

 

Reference: David J Bland “Lean startups is not only 4 for start ups

Photo credit: http://goo.gl/EPb0O

Scrum Guide 2013

Ken Schwaber's Blog: Telling It Like It Is

Jeff and I have been working on the next revisions to the Scrum Guide. We will be presenting a webinar about it within a month or so.

We first presented and published Scrum in 1995 at an OOPSLA conference in Tampa, Florida. Almost twenty years have passed. Agile and Scrum have succeeded far beyond our expectations. Actually, we never had expectations beyond using Scrum for ourselves, so anything more was easy.

Between 1995 and the publication of the Agile Manifesto in 2001, Mike Beedle, Martine Devos, Mike Cohn, Deborah Stenner, Tonya Horton, Will Smith, and Alan Buffington all moved Scrum forward, using it and helping us refine it.

After 2001, I started holding Scrum training classes, first called Scrum, then Scrum Master, then Certified Scrum Master classes. Some of the people in those classes had epiphanies. They wanted to help spread Scrum through training and consulting. Some of them (and…

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