We have a new (five-minute) video that gives a fast overview of Kerika’s many capabilities:
Let us know what you think!
We have a new (five-minute) video that gives a fast overview of Kerika’s many capabilities:
Let us know what you think!
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
Question: how do you estimate stories? 00:55:54
Photo credits: Abdul-Rasul Kassamali, Jama Abdirahman.
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:
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.
With our latest version, Kerika makes it easier to explicitly tag each card with a priority of Normal, High or Critical:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
Previously, when you hid a column Kerika would show that like this:
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:
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.
What would your company look like if working mothers were a central feature of your organizational design, not a bug to be patched?
How great is Kerika’s integration with the Box Platform (that powers our direct signups?)
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:
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!
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).
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.
One final (?) bit of restyling, to make all of Kerika consistent with our new look-and-feel, has been updating the Board Settings dialogs.
The functionality is essentially the same, but the appearance is cleaner, lighter and more in keeping with the Material Design standards we have (mostly) adopted.
(We say “mostly”, because there are some elements of Material Design that we find unattractive. For example, for the on/off toggle switches we prefer the iOS style buttons.)
The Column Settings dialog has also been restyled, and looks nicer and cleaner. The example above shows a board that uses Work-In-Progress Limits.
And the same with Tag Settings: we have a restyled color picker, and better messages for warnings when tag names or colors might clash.
In many of our customers, we find there are specialists who get pulled into many different projects (boards) at the same time, to do very specific tasks.
An example would be an security specialist who is called in to do a vulnerability assessment on every development effort that’s underway within an IT organization. Or, corporate counsel who are asked to review final drafts of every contract, after everything else about the negotiation has completed.
In all situations it’s important to help new team members come up to speed as quickly as possible, but for situations where people are parachuting in to handle specialist tasks, the motivations are a little different: the specialists often don’t care about every detail of the board — which means they don’t care for most of the cards that are already on the Task Board or Scrum Board.
Instead, they want to quickly see what’s been assigned to them, get these work items done, and (hopefully) get out quickly.
So, how can Kerika help people who parachute into projects in mid-stream? By drawing their attention to what’s expected of them.
Here’s how it works:
When you invite someone to join a board’s team, their status is shown as Pending invitation in the Board Team dialog:
Kerika lets you pre-assign cards while you are waiting for the new team member to join: in the example above, Dennis could be assigned cards while the team is waiting for him to act upon the invitation.
When Dennis does accept the invitation, the Kerika welcome dialog works to guide him to a fast start in his new project:
The welcome dialog starts by giving the new team member a quick overview of the project’s state: how long it’s been going on, how many cards are on the board — and, critically, how many cards are already assigned to the newly arrived team member.
Clicking on the See My Cards button in the welcome dialog provides a fast way for the new user to see what’s expected of him/her in this new project:
This feature will be especially useful for specialists who are called in to handle specific tasks on many simultaneous projects: they won’t care about all the cards on each board, just what’s assigned to them.
Get in quick, get your work done fast, and then get out again.
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.