All posts by Kerika

About Kerika

Kerika is work management for Lean, Agile and Distributed Teams.

Kanban vs Scrum: what’s the difference, and which should you use?

We have a complete (one-hour long) video of the tutorial presented by Arun Kumar, CEO of Kerika, at the recent Lean Transformation Conference on the subject of Kanban vs Scrum: what’s the difference, and which should you use?

(The slides for this talk, and more, can be found on Slideshare.)

Topics covered:

Forming a team 00:01:32

The Product Owner 00:02:01

The Scrum Master 00:02:55

The Scrum Team 00:03:55

Pulling Work 00:04:04

The Product Backlog 00:05:45

Scrum Stories 00:06:25

Writing a good Story 00:07:35

From Epics to Stories 00:10:25

From Stories to Tasks 00:11:13

Estimating with Story Points 00:13:04

Organizing a Sprint 00:15:00

How long is a Sprint? 00:19:15

Sprints in theory 00:20:32

Sprints in real-life 00:20:53

Daily Standups 00:23:25

Burndown Charts 00:24:13

Team Velocity 00:25:35

Best Practices for Getting Scrum Right 00:28:00

The Nuclear Option 00:30:57

Where does Scrum work best? 00:32:02

Scrum in Government 00:33:25

Where does Kanban work best? 00:35:43

Collaboration Networks 00:37:25

Paper doesn’t scale 00:38:30

Using Kerika for Personal Kanban 00:39:50

Using Kerika for Team Kanban 00:40:24

Using Kerika in the Public Sector 00:40:37

Using Kerika for Scrum Projects 00:40:54

Capturing stories as “virtual sticky notes” 00:41:20

Summary 00:42:57

Question: how do you deal with poor performers on the team? 00:49:15

Question: in Scrum, are units of measure like lines of code still applicable? 00:50:08

Question: how do you measure individual performance? 00:51:03

Question: how do you handle poor performers within a team? 00:52:25

Question: when do you use the Nuclear Option? 00:54:20

Question: how do you estimate stories? 00:55:54

Photo credits: Abdul-Rasul Kassamali, Jama Abdirahman.

We made it easier to prioritize work

For users of Kerika’s Task Boards and Scrum Boards, we have made it easier to prioritize your work.

Background:

Traditionally, in a Kanban or Scrum board the priority is denoted by the position of the card within a column: cards that are higher priority are placed higher within a column, and the card at the top of the column is the highest priority at that stage of the workflow.

For example, in this view of a board the highest priority item for Planning & Design is the card on top of that column:

Highest priority item in Planning and Design
Highest priority item in Planning and Design

This method has the advantage of simplicity and clarity: there is no ambiguity about what is the most important work item at any stage of the workflow.

The disadvantage of this method is that as many cards start to move across the board, especially on boards where the workflow is complex (i.e. the board has many columns), it becomes harder to track all the cards that are especially important.

In other words: the simple method doesn’t scale well, and our goal with Kerika is to provide the simplest user interface on top of the most capable work management system, so we realized we needed to do something more.

Flagging cards

With our latest version, Kerika makes it easier to explicitly tag each card with a priority of Normal, High or Critical:

Setting Priority
Setting Priority

Along with assigning tags to a card, you can now set the priority of the card as well: by default all cards are Normal, but they can alternatively be flagged as High Priority or Critical.

Viewing all the High Priority and Critical Cards

We have also extended the Highlights function for Task Boards and Scrum Boards to make it easy to quickly see all the High Priority and Critical cards on a crowded board:

Highlighting high priority and critical items
Highlighting high priority and critical items

When you are looking at a board, the High Priority and Critical cards are also highlighted with small stars: a solid red star for Critical, and a hollow red star for High Priority:

High Priority and Critical cards
High Priority and Critical cards

The Normal Priority cards don’t have any star; we didn’t want to crowd the design which would have made it harder to spot the more important High Priority and Critical cards at a glance.

High Priority and Critical Cards across all your Boards

And, finally, we have enhanced the What Needs Attention View to include columns for the High Priority and Critical cards across all the boards where you are a Board Admin, or where you have been assigned the card as a Team Member:

What Needs Attention View
What Needs Attention View

Managing multiple Due Dates became easier

We have made it easier for teams to manage multiple Due Dates within the same project, especially when a single work item (as represented by a Task Board or Scrum Board card) contains many different sub-tasks, each of which could have a different Due Date.

Where a card has multiple tasks, each with different Due Dates, the range of dates is shown on cards to make it easier to understand the “time footprint” of the work item as a whole.

Here’s an example of a card with two open/remaining tasks, one of which is due today and the other tomorrow:

Tasks with different due dates
Tasks with different due dates

When viewed on a Task Board or Scrum Board, Kerika will show the range of dates involved for this card:

Tasks with a range of Due Dates
Tasks with a range of Due Dates

This provides better context, better usability for users who work with due dates: at a glance you can see the overall “time footprint” of a work item that involves several sub-tasks.

The What’s Assigned to Me and What’s Due Views are now smarter about handling multiple due dates for the same card: if just one task within a card is overdue, even though the card as a whole isn’t yet overdue, this is shown in the Overdue column in these Views.

Your 6AM summary email (which you can turn on optionally) now lists the due dates on individual tasks within cards, as these become overdue or due this week or next week.

 

We made it easier to see what you are hiding

We have made a tweak to the Hide Column feature that’s available on every Task Board and Scrum Board, for all Board Admins, Team Members and Visitors.

Previously, when you hid a column Kerika would show that like this:

Hiding columns (before)
Hiding columns (before)

The name of the column that was being hidden was shown vertically, to make it easier to retain the overall context of the board.

We have improved this so hidden columns now look like this:

Hiding columns (now)
Hiding columns (now)

The subtle (but important) distinction is that Kerika now shows you how many cards are in the hidden columns, not just the name of the column.  We think this will make this feature more useful, to more people, more of the time.

An easier way to get in touch with us

We have made a bunch of improvements to the Contact Us feature in Kerika, which — as before — can be accessed by clicking on the help button (“?”) in the top-right corner of the Kerika app:

Contact Us
Contact Us

Previously this simply opened up your local email client to send us a message; now the feature is built into Kerika itself, and is smarter about how it works.

When we analyzed our old trouble tickets, and emails to info@kerika.com in general, we found there were very few instances of actual bugs being found, but more commonly there was some confusion about how Kerika was working for the users.

And very frequently when people got in touch with us, they didn’t include important information in their original emails that would help us understand what problem they were currently facing.

This meant we had to reply back to ask them some common questions, like “have you already invited this person to join your board?”, and this led to unwelcome delays in resolving the problem for our users, especially when they were located many time-zones away and there was a 24-hour delay before they replied, and then we replied, and so on.

Our new Contact Us dialog, while very simple in appearance, acts as a smart collector of key information that can help us understand the context of the user’s query:

  • Which board was she looking at, when she decided to contact us? Many users assume that the Kerika team can automatically view their boards, but this isn’t true: it’s not just against our privacy policy; our software was designed to protect your privacy from our intrusion as well.
  • Who is part of this board team right now? Again, this isn’t something we would know without being told by the user, since we don’t have any easy way to look at someone else’s boards.  If you think you have added someone to your board, but haven’t yet, this can help us clarify any misunderstanding on your part.
  • What’s the current state of your Inbox and Sentbox? Are there invitations waiting for you to accept that perhaps got missed, because they unfortunately ended up in your spam folder? Are there invitations that you had previously sent to coworkers, that haven’t been accepted yet?
  • What’s your current computer environment? What operating system and browser are you using? In the very few instances when someone reports an actual bug, it’s very important to know which browser and OS they were using, since the bug may be limited to a single environment.

And, finally, the Contact Us process reminds our users that any intermittent problem they are facing can often be resolved simply by refreshing their browser: if they had experienced any fleeting network problem or latency that interfered with their Kerika view, a simple browser refresh will fix that quickly.

It’s easier to change lines and arrows on Canvases

If you are working with Kerika’s unique Whiteboards, you will appreciate a new feature we have added: you can select any existing line or arrow on a canvas and change it to a different style of line or arrow.

We had previously added similar functionality for changing a shape from one form to another, e.g. a rectangle to an ellipse, while preserving all the other properties and content of that shape; now this is possible with lines and arrows as well.

Tasks within card can now be assigned to multiple people

With our latest version, a task within a card (on a Task Board or Scrum Board) can now be assigned to multiple people, just like the card itself.

This makes it easier to handle more complex work items that contain a large number of tasks, each of which may require more than one person to handle.

To make this work, we have also updated the What’s Assigned to Me and What’s Due Views to make sure everyone who is assigned to a task, where tasks have multiple people responsible for them, sees this clearly.

What’s Overdue: another convenient Highlight

We have added another way to highlight cards on Task Boards and Scrum Boards:

What's Overdue Highlight
What’s Overdue Highlight

This option lets you quickly spot all the cards on a board that are overdue, and it does so in a smart way:

  • If a card’s overall due date has passed, this card will be highlighted.
  • More importantly, if a task within a card is overdue, even though the card as a whole isn’t overdue, this card will also be highlighted.

This smart highlight makes sure that you are aware of everything that’s overdue, even it is just one task that’s buried within a card on a large board.

Here’s what the highlighted board looks like:

What's Overdue
What’s Overdue