Beth Albertson’s presentation on using Kerika at DSHS

Beth Albertson, Solutions Architect at Washington State’s Department of Social and Health Services, gave a presentation on November 18, 2014, at the Project Management Institute’s Olympia Chapter.

Beth Albertson
Beth Albertson

Beth talked about her own background in project management — how she started off as a chemist and researcher, and gradually found her way into project management and IT over the years — and how she used Kerika to transition from a classic “Waterfall” style of project management to something more Agile.

The presentation was very well received, and she has graciously agreed to share it with everyone :-)

A small, but hopefully useful, change in how Templates are sorted

A couple of weeks ago we expanded your privacy choices to make it more easy for your account team to discover your projects and templates, which is something that our enterprise users had been asking for.

With the update we did this past weekend, one small change you might notice is on your Home Page: the Templates column on this page will sort all the available templates like this:

  • Templates you create are shown first; presumably these are the most important ones from your perspective.
  • Next, we show you templates created by other people where you are part of the project team.
  • Next, we show you templates that are being made available to you because they are being shared within account teams.
  • And then, finally, we list all the templates that Kerika itself offers.

Our latest update: a minor facelift…

Our latest update to the Kerika software features a bunch of bug fixes and other improvements that are mostly under the covers, as several user interface tweaks to help improve usability.

One change you will notice right away is that when you open a card, the details dialog box has new tabs for Tags and History: this was done to make it easier for people to find these functions, which were previously tucked away within the tab for the card’s description.

Card Details
Card Details

The History tab is all the way at the bottom now, where it’s easily accessible but not in the way — since History is not a frequently used function.

There are other UI tweaks: icons have been modernized and the overall look is cleaner, and the Trash column of a board now shows you when each card was deleted.

Sorting cards in a column just got easier

You used to be able to sort all the cards in a column by Due Date, now you can also sort them by person and by status!

Sort By
Sort By

This makes it even easier than before to manage large boards:

Sorting By Status organizes cards as follows:

  • Critical
  • Is Blocked
  • Needs Review
  • Needs Rework
  • Ready to Pull
  • Hold

This makes it easy to organize your day: all the most important stuff, e.g. the cards that are Critical or Blocked, come to the top of the column where they are not likely to be overlooked.

Sort by Person organizes cards so that you can see all the items that are assigned to individuals: all the cards assigned to Arun, for example, will show up together within the column.

And where cards are assigned to several people, a simple alphabetical sort is applied on the names.

You still have Sort by Date: Kerika is smart about showing you only those sorting options that are relevant to your situation, and if a particular column doesn’t have any Due Dates, this sort option is not shown.

We just made it easier for you to manage very large boards :-)

Off-topic, but fantastic: Meet Bill Sowry

OK, so this has nothing to do with Kerika, Lean, Agile or even software for that matter, but this is a great story that we can’t help but share with the world…

Bill Sowry is a Brigadier with the Australian Army, currently posted as Defense Attache in London.

He is 53 years old. And very fit. (This bit is important.)

Bill Sowry
Bill Sowry

Many years ago, he had a tour of duty in India: he joined a long tradition of Australian officers who were selected for specialized training at the Indian Army’s Defense Services Staff College, where his local “sponsor” officer was another up-and-coming officer: Major Mohit Whig of the 2/5 Gorkha Rifles.

Here’s what they looked like back then:

Mohit Whig & Bill Sowry
Mohit Whig & Bill Sowry

Bill had a great time in India and loved the time he spent with the Whig family — Mohit’s cheerful, amiable personality had survived years of front-line action in Sri Lanka, the Indian North-East, and Kashmir.

And Bill retained a fondness for India long after leaving its shores — as he said, “you can take the man out of India, but you can’t take India out of the man.”

Bill and Mohit's family
Bill’s family, Mohit’s family, and friends


In 1997, Mohit was killed by an IED in Kashmir: false information was fed to his unit that led to troops being sent into an ambush

Mohit was never one to “lead from behind”. His unarmored Jonga was at the head of the convoy and was blown up by a bomb.

When Mohit died, he left behind a widow and two young sons, one of whom was born with severe spina bifida, which has left him disabled for life.

And there the story might have ended.

OK, so some soldiers go on a mission in insurgent country. They get blown up. Happens all the time. No big deal.

But it didn’t, because Bill is not an ordinary soldier…

A couple of years ago, using Facebook he was able to get back in touch with Mohit’s family (Thanks, Mark Z!)  and learned that Mohit’s younger son needed some critical rehab treatment to give him more independence, especially as he grew to maturity.

This treatment was expensive (£25,000) and unavailable in India, so Bill resolved to raise money for sending Mohit’s son to Australia for rehab.

And he is doing this in a truly spectacular way: a minimum of 4 pushups for every Km. of the Tour de France.

Bill has already over 15,300 pushups over 3 weeks — yes, that’s hundreds of pushups each day!

OK, remember that bit about Bill being 53 years old?

Bill is raising money using the JustGiving site: he has 4 days to go, and a final £5,000 to raise in order to meet his goal.

We have been thrilled to help Bill, and invite you to help him get to the goal line!


Kerika at the PMI Olympia Chapter

Arun Kumar, CEO of Kerika, and Beth Albertson, Solution Architect at Washington State’s Dept of Social and Health Services, gave a joint presentation at the Project Management Institute (PMI)’s Olympia chapter yesterday.

Beth talked about her experience in moving away from Microsoft Project to online task boards, and Arun talked about the general use of online task boards for distributed teams, Lean teams, and Agile teams, with a special focus on the public sector.

It was a great evening, with dinner served and some great Q&A afterwards!

Too bad we forgot to take pictures :-(

Using Kerika to help fight Ebola

James Gien Varney-Wong is putting together global brainstorming team to work on creative solutions for fighting Ebola, and Kerika is helping the team share their ideas and content.

You can learn more about this effort at OpenIDEO, where James has embedded a small part of a massive Kerika Whiteboard that people from many countries are using to share their ideas:

Ideas for fighting Ebola
Ideas for fighting Ebola

It’s an exciting, large-scale use of Kerika Whiteboards, reminiscent of the work done by Charles Fraser for the Foundation for Common Good; you can see that Whiteboard page — as a regular Web page! — by clicking here.

Foundation for Common Good
Foundation for Common Good (Click to see the Whiteboard)


Off-topic: Should you go to college at 16?

Note: this post is off-topic; it has nothing to do with Kerika, Lean, Agile or even software…

After a couple of years of lurking on Quora, I finally decided to contribute; here’s my (slightly edited) answer to the question What are the benefits of going to college at 16?

In my experience, the benefits of going to college at 16 are outweighed by the disadvantages. I finished high school in India at 16 and had to make the critical decision of what to study next, and where.

Pretty much by accident I ended up studying Physics at the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi: Physics had been my favorite subject at school, and I assumed that at college I should simply study more of whatever had been my favorite subject at school, because that’s what it meant to pick a major.

(Although the IITs were already well known, I was actually completely ignorant of their existence, which says something about the unusually cloistered nature of my high school education. I happened to meet the head of the Physics Dept at IIT Delhi who encouraged me to take the entrance exam. I crammed for 3 months for the exam, got admitted, and never even applied elsewhere. Big Mistake #1.)

Looking back, almost every aspect of this decision was ill-considered:

  • College is actually a different chapter in your life, not a more focused continuation of  school. I discovered that just because Physics was my favorite subject at school, I had no real desire to make it my career, nor the talent to be in the first rank of scientists.
  • You cannot pick a school by reputation alone; you need to have a savvy understanding of your own needs and see what the overall college experience can bring you that you need most for your personal development.  After I got admitted to IIT Delhi, I was persuaded by friends that I had already won the lottery of life, and so I never even considered other colleges.
  • At 16, I had just finished eleven (!) years of boarding school life and it turned out that I really didn’t know how to work well with people from more mainstream backgrounds. By going from an “elite” boarding school to an “elite” college, I did myself no favors.

And so after 3 years at IIT Delhi I learned that

  • I really needed to explore a wider range of subjects than the very narrowly focused curriculum at the IITs would support. (It was as essential to read Bertrand Russell as to learn thermodynamics.)
  • I had no real experience or skill in dealing with “ordinary” folks from ordinary, middle-class backgrounds, and was lacking some critical skills in that respect.
  • I really liked computers far more than Physics or any other subject. (An introductory class on FORTRAN IV did the trick.)

I ended up quitting IIT Delhi to study at Washington State University and considered it one of the smartest moves I ever made, but it was a move I made at 19 when I was finally old enough to understand myself.

(And quitting IIT Delhi turned out to be a bizarre experience in itself: they had no expectation that anyone would ever want to leave, since getting in was so hard in the first place, and hence no idea how to deal with my request to exit. I think they finally struck me off the rolls for cutting classes, a couple of years I had already moved to the U.S. By then I had given up trying to explain to them that I really did want to leave.)

If you are 16 and done with school, don’t go to college. Do a bunch of different activities, read, paint, travel, meet people, explore ideas,  and, most importantly, take the time you need to understand yourself better before you go off to college a year.

Emails and notifications in Kerika

Kerika always sends emails to users in two scenarios:

  • Someone assigns a card to you. The system waits 2 minutes, to ensure that the person who made the change doesn’t change her mind, and then sends you an email that an item has been assigned to you.

    We figured that if someone expects you to do a piece of work, it would be good to know that sooner rather than later.

  • Someone chats on a card assigned to you. Any Team Member can write a message on any card, regardless of whether they are assigned that card or not.

    If someone chats on a card that you own right now, an email gets pushed to you (again, after a 2-minute wait.) We figured that if someone has something to say about a work item that you are responsible for, you would want to know that sooner or later.

Kerika optionally sends emails to users in a bunch of other scenarios, all of which are determined by your user preferences (which you can set at

  • If someone chats on the board itself (as distinct from chatting on an individual card), you can get this sent to you as email.
  • If there are cards assigned to you that have due dates, at 6AM you can get an email that lists everything that is overdue, due today, or due tomorrow.

    If you are a Project Leader on any board, this email includes all cards on those boards that are overdue, due today, or due tomorrow, regardless of whether they are assigned to you or not. (We figured that as a Project Leader you would care about overdue items even if you weren’t personally responsible for them.)

  • If new cards are added to a board where you are a Project Leader, you can get notification emails if you want to keep track of all new work items.
  • If cards are moved to Done on a board where you are a Project Leader, you can get notification emails if you want to keep track of completed work.
  • If a card is reassigned from one person to another on a board where you a Project Leader, you can get notification emails if you want to keep track of how work is being handed off from one person to another.

So that’s emailed notifications in Kerika: just two types of emails are always sent, and they relate only to cards that you are personally responsible for; all the other emails are optional and can be turned on/off as you like.

What happens if people make changes to cards while you weren’t looking? (If you were looking at the board, you would see the changes in real-time, but even then, with a very crowded board, you might not notice that a card has changed in some way.)

Kerika uses the orange color as a way to alert you of changes. You can learn more about this on our website, but the basic concept is simple: Kerika highlights, in orange, any card that has changed in any way since you last looked at it, and by “look at it” we mean that you opened up the card and looked at the specific details that changed.

For example, if someone adds new files to a card, the attachments icon (the small paper-clip) appears in orange. After you open the card and look at the list of attachments, the orange highlight disappears.

These orange highlights are very smart about making sure you know exactly what changed on a board; they even let you find changes that are outside your immediate visibility: e.g. changes on cards that are way down below the scrolled view of the board, or changes in columns that you have chosen to hide.