Category Archives: Agile & Scrum

Posts related to Agile/Scrum methodology

Some minor bug fixes

We did an update yesterday that included a bunch of minor bug fixes and usability tweaks. (It also included a ton of behind-the-scenes improvements to our architecture and product development processes, but if we did our job well you shouldn’t see any of that change…)

  1. When the Kerika server is being updated (to a newer version), your browser will no longer keep trying to reconnect while this is underway.

    We have some code in place to help fix broken network connections: if your browser can detect that it’s connection to the Kerika server is broken for any reason (usually a network error), the browser will automatically attempt to reconnect.

    This doesn’t make sense if the server is down for planned maintenance.
  2. If you are working in multiple accounts and you decide to switch between them, we offer your choices in a more logical way: all the account owners you are connected to are listed alphabetically, and then each account owned is listed alphabetically.

    Our previous display was kind of random making it hard to scroll through a long list of accounts. This affected only a very small number of users who were working on many different accounts, but still…
  3. Now that we are encouraging our customers to converge around service accounts, we are trying to make sure these service accounts don’t get too crowded from the perspective of any single user.

    We have always had the ability to “favorite” some boards (and templates) so you can have your own personal, curated list of boards that you care about — and so you can ignore the rest — but now we have made it easier for Board Admins to move their boards to the trash or archive (or to restore them later) so they can help keep the commonly-shared service account in a more useful and relevant state for all the users within that account.
  4. A really small thing, but we decided to change the Sort by Status feature on our Task Boards and Scrum Boards so that On Hold cards appear at the bottom of the column, below all the others.
  5. Bug fix: if you changed the name of a board using the Board Settings dialog (assuming you are one of the Board Admins), the new name is now reflected immediately in the breadcrumbs.
  6. If someone who is currently a Team Member on your Task Board or Scrum Board is made a Visitor, he/she will not be removed from the current card assignments.  This makes it easier to change your mind if you decide you want that person to be a Team Member after all: just change this person’s role in the Board Team dialog, back to Team Member, and all the old card assignments will be there.

 

A simpler menu for cards and columns on your Task Boards and Scrum Boards

We used to have separate button, and associated menus, for actions related to cards and for actions related to columns:

Separate card and column actions
Separate card and column actions

This reflected the history of the Kerika product: we first designed and built the card actions, and much later added the column actions.

In retrospect, however, we concluded that separating these into two separate menus was not a good idea: it was confusing for our users to remember which menu supported which action. (Even the Kerika team, which uses Kerika for everything that the company does, was having trouble remembering the differences between the two buttons and menus.)

We have fixed that usability problem with our latest release: a single button is shown, and the popup menu that appears includes both card actions and column actions:

Combined Card and Column Actions Menu
Combined Card and Column Actions Menu

Clicking on the Sort and Move actions brings up all the sorting and moving options you have; the Sort menu now has a much richer set of actions:

Sort options
Sort options

We have also done some small tweaks to the sorting action: Sort by Status now puts the On Hold cards at the bottom of the column, below all the ones flagged as Normal.

Seeing at a glance what’s hidden

If you hide a column from your view of a Task Board or Scrum Board, Kerika now makes it clear whether this column has any cards or not:

Hidden columns
Hidden columns

In the example shown above, the Release Notes column is empty, so it is shown in a light shade of grey, while the Final Review column has at least one card, and it is shown in black.

Kerika also helps you see, at a glance, whether the columns you are hiding have any updates you haven’t caught up on, or cards that are overdue:

Hidden columns with updates and overdue dates
Hidden columns with updates and overdue dates

The orange icon in the example above shows that the This Sprint column contains cards with updates on them that you haven’t caught up on yet, and the red icon shows that the Planning column contains overdue cards.

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.

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