The Box Platform has some limitations that you may bump into:
Certain characters are not allowed in file names, e.g. “/”. We noticed people were running into this problem, most probably because they were hitting the wrong keys inadvertently when renaming files.
Kerika is going to take of this silently from now on: if you try to rename a file using a character like “/” that Box can’t handle, Kerika will silently ignore that character in your renaming action.
File names can’t be more than 260 bytes. For people using English and similar languages, this generally means a file name cannot be more than 260 characters (with each character requiring one byte of storage). But for most Asian languages, e.g. Thai or Japanese, one character may require two bytes of storage, because the size of the alphabet is much larger than the Roman alphabet used by English.
This means that in some languages, file names may have to be much shorter, depending upon how many bytes are needed for storing each character, which in turn depends upon the size of their alphabets.
Some folks from Thailand were running into this problem: Kerika will start detecting this better, and provide more useful error messages
We have long had a deep, excellent integration with Google Apps: you can sign up with your Google ID and have all your Kerika-related files stored in your own Google Drive, where you can access them independently of the Kerika app.
We are now taking that one step forward, with seamless integration with Google Team Drive.
Google Team Drives are shared spaces where teams can easily store, search, and access their files anywhere, from any device.
Unlike files in My Drive, files in Team Drive belong to the team instead of an individual. Even if members leave, the files stay exactly where they are so your team can continue to share information and get work done.
You don’t need to do anything different: the integration is built-in with the latest version of Kerika (and, since we are software-as-a-service, everyone always uses the latest version of our product!) and the integration is seamless.
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.)
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
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
It will come as no surprise to our users that the Kerika team uses the software for every aspect of the company’s internal operations, including, of course, our product development.
(There really isn’t anything better on the market for planning and executing product roadmaps — we know, because we have checked and made sure we are better than everybody :-))
We are sometimes asked about our own internal workflow: how we plan releases and manage our Sprints, and in particular how we have gone without using regular old email for over 4 years now!
Well, here’s a glimpse at our internal workflow:
We work in two-week long Sprints; we have found two weeks to be the ideal Sprint length since it provides enough time to produce something — at least some usable part of a new feature — while not being so long that we forget we are supposed to be working as a Scrum team.
Whenever we plan a new Sprint, we are always also looking forward as well: hence the columns titled “Sprint +1” (i.e. the Sprint that will come after the current Sprint), “Sprint +2” (the Sprint that will come after the next Sprint), etc.
This gives a view into the next several weeks of our product roadmap which makes sure we don’t approach any single work item with tunnel vision.
Now you might notice that “Sprint +3” in the list above is way larger than “Sprint +1” or “Sprint +2”: that doesn’t mean that we expect a sudden spurt in productivity (i.e. increase in team velocity) in 4 weeks time. It just means that as we go further out in our planning there is more uncertainty about priorities and so the Sprints that are well into the future are not well defined — and that’s perfectly OK.
Within each Sprint we have a fairly conventional flow: Planning, Development and QA. The QA step actually consists of three separate stages:
Code Review: we try to make sure we review all the code we are writing in any Sprint, unless it is a really trivial change we are making (e.g. changing the label on a button).
Deploy to Staging: we have a separate set of servers where we test our new releases. This also happens to be where we have all our real projects running: we believe very much in the idea that “developers should eat their own dogfood”, so we run out entire business on the latest build that went past Code Review.
This can be a little scary or frustrating at times: if there was a bad release to our staging environment, it can bring every project and board to a screeching halt. But, from our perspective, that’s the whole point: make it everyone’s business to ensure that we produce high-quality code, and make it everyone’s priority to fix any problems that come up.
This model of living on the bleeding edge of our product gives us a really good incentive to write good quality code!
The final QA step is Show & Tell, where the team formally presents the new features or bug fixes to the Product Owner. With each new feature we will have identified a set of test cases, as part of the Planning phase, and these are used to formally check the new feature in a meeting attended by everyone on the team.
Very occasionally something will get rejected at the Show & Tell stage, in which case the card gets moved back to Planning or Development and flagged as “Needs Rework”. It’s more common for work to get rejected at the Code Review phase, not because it is buggy, but because it might not meet our internal coding standards.
Once a feature or bug fix has passed Show & Tell, it is ready for Deployment to Production.
We have a continuous integration process for handling code changes — pulling them from our internal git code repository — but we don’t do continuous deployment. Instead we prefer to deploy on the last day of each 2-week Sprint. We usually time this for Friday morning, Indian Standard Time, so that our developers in India can take one final look at the system working in production.
We have an unusually strong emphasis within the team on creating documentation at the same time as we write code. Many small companies skip documentation because they think it will slow them down.
In our own (sometimes bitter) experience, skipping documentation is false savings: if there are problems to be fixed later, or even if a feature simply has to be extended in the future, it’s very hard for even the original developer to recall the logic that she used to write the code in a particular way.
What’s important to note, however, is that we don’t have very big documents: most documents are less than a page long, because they refer to very specific work items. But we have thousands of these small documents, since every feature we have ever produced, and every bug we have fixed, has been documented.
And thanks to Kerika’s very cool integration with Google Docs (we use Kerika+Google), managing these thousands of documents is very easy: just open the relevant card for a specific feature or bug fix and you will find all the relevant documents as well:
For new features we always have a short Planning Document that identifies any existing modules that will be affected and provides an outline of the new code that will be written. Here’s an example:
There may be other documents created, depending upon the complexity of the new feature, but even the smallest new feature will have at least one planning-related document that’s written before the code is written.
For bug fixes, we have a Repro, Cause & Fix document that methodically analyzes the cause of a bug:
The most important section of this document is the Introduced Since piece, where we trace the origin of the bug back to its source, to understand what new feature or bug fix we were originally working on that resulted in this new bug appearing.
This methodical root cause analysis, which we do for even the most minor bugs, helps us identify patterns in our code writing that we need to improve. Sometimes it can even point to bugs that we haven’t discovered yet: the root cause analysis may identify an assumption that we have applied in other places, all of which need to be looked at to make sure there aren’t other variations of the same bug that haven’t been identified yet.
After the bug has been fixed, the Repro, Cause & Fix document is updated to reference the git branches where the code fix can be found. This completes the circle of careful analysis, careful execution, and methodical review that we strive to adopt (and improve continuously).
The End of Email
We stopped using regular email towards the end of 2013. There was never any formal decision to renounce email; instead there was a formal decision to “eat our own dogfood” in a very serious way.
And as we started to build our entire company using our own product, we found that using Kerika is so much better than using email that there really wasn’t any need for email any more.
So people simply started drifting away from email. There was no explicit decision or formal movement to do so, people just realized, on their own, that email is an exceptionally poor way of managing work within a distributed team.
Considering the size of our team — and entire company, for that matter — you may be surprised by the degree of formalism we have adopted, and the heavy emphasis on analysis and documentation.
We spend at least as much time on analysis and documentation as we do on “pure coding”, and if we add in the Code Reviews and other elements of formal QA, the actual coding time is a relatively small portion of our total expenditure.
But trying to skimp on analysis and documentation really doesn’t pay off, in our experience: if you are building a company and product for the long-run, as we very assuredly are, you need to build it right, not just fast.
Some of our users are working on open-source, advocacy, or volunteering projects, and for these people privacy is less important than publicity: rather than hide their work, they would prefer to have as many people as possible view it, in real-time, so they can build momentum for their initiatives.
People usually don’t pay attention to the question of who owns a particular board, but it is an important question to consider when you create a new board: the Account Owner owns not just the board, but also all the files attached to cards and canvases on that board.
This is not always important (and often not important in day-to-day use of Kerika): our deep integration with Google and Box ensures that everyone who is part of the board team has automatic access to all the files needed for that board, with access permissions managed according to each individual’s role on the board: Board Admins and Team Members get read+write access; Visitors get read-only access.
(And, as people join or leave board teams, or their roles on a particular board’s team changes, Kerika automatically manages their access to the underlying project files, regardless of whether these are being stored in Google or Box.)
But when someone is planning to leave an organization, the question of ownership can suddenly become important: you don’t want an ex-employee to continue to own critical project files.
Changing ownership of boards was not something that was easily done in the past — there were workarounds, but they were fairly cumbersome and obscure — and we mostly handled these as special requests, on a case-by-case basis.
With our newest update to Kerika, this is no longer the case: changing the ownership of a board is a simple process that can be initiated at any time by the current owner of a board:
You can ask any other Kerika user, who has signed up the same way as you did (i.e. either as Kerika+Google, Kerika+Box, or by directly signing up) to take ownership of a board. Because this is a consequential action, not something you should rush into, you are asked to confirm your intention by typing the word “YES”:
Once your request is sent off to the other user, the board is in a frozen state: existing members of the board team can continue to view the board, but no one can make any changes:
If you change your mind, you can cancel the request before it has been accepted. This can be done by selecting the board from your Home Page:
You can also find your pending request in your Sentbox, and cancel it from there:
Note: once a board’s transfer is complete, it can’t be undone by you. If you really need to get ownership back of a board, you will need to ask the new owner to transfer the board to you.
An important caveat for Kerika+Google users
We try to ensure that files attached to a Kerika+Google board have their ownership changed at the same time as the board itself is transferred, but there are some limits to how Google will allow for a change in ownership:
All Kerika-related files are stored in a set of folders in a user’s Google Drive, organized by account and board.
Google let’s us change the owner of a folder, so we can make sure that when a board is transferred the ownership of the associated Google Drive folder is also changed.
However, for the individual files contained within the folder, Google only allows for a change of ownership of files that are part of Google Docs: documents, spreadsheets, presentations, forms, etc.
Files like images (.jpg, .png, .gif), zip files, and PDFs, for example, retain their old ownership between the Google API doesn’t let Kerika change the ownership of these “non-Google-formatted” file types.
A fun video we made recently featuring Faith Trimble and Kate King, from the Athena Group, talking about how a consulting company can function as a truly distributed team — and get great work-life balance as a result!