Jira For Free

Atlassian has announced a free tier for some of their software. I am specifically interest in Jira and it is included in this offer. You start by selecting the free trial and then under settings/billing, you change the plan to the free offering. This limits you to 10 users and 2GB of storage, but I am just using it for my “To Do” list and my family so 10 users are more than enough.

Jira is built to help you keep track of tasks to do and how to organize things so you can get the most done at work, so why not apply the same thing to your personal life? Join me in my journey to apply what I’ve learned over the last dozen years to my personal life.

The Best and Easiest Way To Prioritize Your Backlog

The Problem

One of the responsibilities of the Product Owner on a Scrum team is to make sure that the best value is delivered for the development resources spent. This determination drives the prioritization of the backlog and rarely is it done in a vacuum, that almost always there are business stakeholders providing the input that the Product Owner has to take into account when determining priorities. It is further complicated when there is a team of Product Owners that have to come to an agreement, and even worse if there is no clearly define Chief Product Owner.

Keep in mind time spent prioritizing and re-prioritizing your backlog adds no value to the product. It is waste and it the words of Taiichi Ohno, waste comes out of profit.

How Bad It Can Be

Over the years I have seen or been aware of various companies struggling with how to prioritize the work to be done by Scrum teams. Imagine a dozen mid to high-level managers flying to one office and spending the better part of a week going over a backlog containing several hundred items. Not only is the very expensive to the company in salary and travel, but there is also the opportunity cost when these people could be doing something else. This is also contrary to the spirit of Agile because things will probably change within a couple of sprints anyway.

Additionally whatever convention is used to indicate priority will quickly breakdown. Some examples are everything was give a ranking of 1-10 with 10 being the highest. However there were too many 10’s, so what do you do? You make some 11 of course. Another try was to rank things as High, Medium & Low. Since everyone knew no low’s would ever get done most things were a high. Again too many items are a H (high) so next go with H1, H2 & H3. Still far too many items were raked H1 to have any meaning.

A Solution

Something I have found that works is to not try and rank by importance but rather to do an order ranking. What should the team do now, next and then after that. You only need to know 3 things that are the top items at this point in time. The current item is what the team is working on and the stories are fully groomed and the UX work has been done. The item that is, to use a sports analogy, “on deck” UX can be working on and the 3rd item the Product Owner can be working on requirements gathering story writing & refinement. Of course, this cannot be a hard and fast rule as some things have a longer lead time than others.

The key is I don’t need to know today the priority of things that I and the scrum team will not be working on in the near future. I just need an ordered list of the next 3-5 items the team will work on. The Product Owner can review with the business stakeholders every sprint to add an item to the list of near future things to work on and make sure the list has not changed.

A Time To Lock-In

Try very hard to not interrupt work on an item once it has been started on by the development team and if possible also the items that the UX work has been done. My rule has always been once an item is in a sprint we finish it. There will be times that there are extenuating circumstances, but that should be the exception and not the rule.

Exceptions

This article is really talking about feature level items, not bugs or other minor fixes. This is something that will take most of the team most of a sprint or maybe two. I always try to have some small tasks that are important ready to go so when a team gets the sprint goal done they have some filler tasks to finish out the sprint. This is a way you can get bugs fixed or address technical debt. The key is they have to be very small items that you as Product Owner include based on your own judgment.

Why It Works

Rather than having hours worth of meetings to give everything a priority, just give the business stakeholders a homework assignment to go off and pick the next three things for the team to work on. You avoid all the talk and debate about is this a 9 or a 10 (we will make it a 9.5) and just have to pick what the business wants the team to do in the next couple of sprints. Trust me I have saved so much time since I went to this method.

Cinnamon Rolls

Mom’s Cinnamon Rolls

Prep Time3 hrs 20 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time2 hrs 40 mins
Course: Dessert

Ingredients

  • 2 package Yeast Bread Type
  • 1 cup Water Warm
  • 1 Tbsp sugar for Yeast
  • 7 cups Flour
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 6 Tbsp Butter
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • Brown Sugar To taste sprinkled in roll
  • Cinnamon To taste sprinkled in roll
  • Nuts Chopped – To taste sprinkled in roll

Instructions

  • Dissolve yeast in water with 1 Tbsp sugar
  • Add 3 cups of the flour
  • Add butter, sugar, beaten eggs and milk
  • Add rest of flour
  • Knead lightly and allow to rise for 2 hours
  • Roll out to 1/4′ thick
  • Brush with butter and sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon and chopped nuts
  • Roll up, cut 1/2″ thick and put in pan.  Allow to rise in the pan for 1 hour
  • Bake 20 minutes @ 350°F

The Daily Stand-Up – You Are Doing It Wrong

What Everyone Is Doing

Most Scrum Teams that I know of are really missing the purpose of the daily stand-up.  It is treated as a status meeting that is used to provide some form of a status report to management usually via the scrum-master.  Afterall if management does not get a status report how will they know people are working.  The format is something like “This is what I did yesterday, This is what I plan to do today and I do not have any impediments”.  Further, if there are any impediments the daily stand-up is used to convey these to the Product Owner and Scrum-Master

What It Should Be

According to the Scrum Guide, the purpose of the daily stand-up is for the development team to plan how to accomplish the sprint goal.  In fact attendance by the Product Owner and Scrum Master is not required.  Therefore this should be a 15 minute, time-boxed, planning session on how to best go about getting the items that the team committed to completed by the end of the sprint.

An impediment is really only something that cannot be resolved within the team.  If a team member is struggling with any part of what they are working on they should ask for help from other team members.  The team working together to advance toward a goal is inherent in the phrase Scrum Team.  If you do not know where it came from, look up some videos online about rugby teams and their scrum (or scrummage) and you will get an understanding of why this name was selected and how it stresses that the team should function as a team.

A true impediment should be raised with the Product Owner and/or Scrum Master as soon as the impediment is realized.  Do not wait for the next daily stand-up.

How To Fix The Stand-Up

There are two paths to take.  First of all, if other parts of the organization are demanding status reports then the Product Owner needs to find a way to provide that status.  Keep in mind much of “status reports” are legacy business process left over from before Scrum was implemented.  Look for ways to move the rest of the organization into the Scrum/Agile mindset.  Stop asking for a status report as part of the stand-up and start asking about plans for success.

Second, try having the Product Owner and Scrum Master NOT attend the daily stand-up for a week

Bad User Experience – Account Login Help

The best practices for users having trouble logging in are fairly well defined so it continues to amaze me how bad some sites actually handle this.  Not providing a way to self-serve account login problems is simply a bad user experience.  Let me give you two examples I personally ran across recently.  I will not reveal the names of the websites to protect the guilty.  The whole concept of authentication is a balance between preventing unauthorized access and not making it too hard for legitimate users to gain access.  Many times users will go months if not years without entering login information.  This can be due to the information being save in a browser/password manager or the user not visiting the website.  So a method to get help with forgotten login information is critical.

Username Retrieval Bad User Experience

One bad user experience was for a loyalty rewards program that I signed up for at a place of business.  I later tried to log in but I did not know my username since I had signed up with my e-mail address.  So I clicked on the “forgot username” link and was taken to a page where I’m was prompted for my e-mail address and my password.  I did not know the password and without the correct password, I could not retrieve my username.  Loyalty rewards programs are hard enough to get people to use but making it hard to recover your login information is not going to help.  Ironically I brought this up when I visited the business in person and 4 people in customer service all said the website is bad.  Which begs the question as to why nothing has been done about it?

Interestingly I could reset my password by entering my e-mail address which sent me a password reset link.  Once I reset my password I could then use the new password and my e-mail address to get my username.  In this case, adding the password to the username retrieval added no additional security.  If I have access to the e-mail address I can reset the password, so asking for the password to get the username was not needed.  Just send the username to my e-mail address since the username is tied to an e-mail address.

Password Reset Bad User Experience

I am currently between jobs and therefore I am submitting applications online for new opportunities.  I have been surprised and how bad the user experience at some of these job application sites.  Many of them are a 3rd party company that “specializes” in handling the job posting and application process, that literally is the business they are in and yet they have a very poor user experience.  The jobs I applied for were with Fortune 100 companies, so I’m sure they were paying well for this service.

In my case I had applied for a job previously, so my e-mail address was already attached to an account.  However, since it had been several years I did not remember the password.  Selecting forgot my password link prompted me for my e-mail address, which I entered.  To my surprise, I was not sent a password reset link in my e-mail.  Instead, I was sent my 3 security questions to answer, in an e-mail.  Of course, I did not remember what I put down for my favorite restaurant 3 years earlier so I could not reset my password.  Therefore I contacted support and was informed that they could not reset my password or e-mail me a reset link.  The recommended solution was to apply for the job by creating a new account with a different e-mail address.

This is a staggeringly bad user experience and workflow design.  Since the account is based on the e-mail address, me having access to the e-mail account proves it is me.  Also not having any way for support to help users reset their account password shows a further lack of good user experience.  Additionally, the answering of questions is an out-dated method of establishing identity and is not considered a best practice.

Website – The New Face of Business

For many people, a companies website and the workflows in it are the public face of the company.  Having a poor user experience reflect poorly on the company.  It will prompt users to look elsewhere if they have a bad experience.  After all the money a company spends on building a website, it is a shame when it encourages users to look and see if there is somewhere else they can do business.

The Role of Platform Manager

In the digital world, these problems can be avoided, or at least found and corrected with a good Platform Manager.  This is the person who will take responsibility to make sure users have a good expierence when interacting with your companies website or mobil app.

Scanning Your Photo Archive

Since I went to digital photography almost 20 years ago I’ve found that I look at the pictures that are on the computer far more than the prints I have.  Therefore I’ve wanted to scan my old photo collection for several years now.  I knew that wanted to scan from negative where possible, but dedicated film scanners have been very expensive and the flatbeds that claim to scan negatives got very poor reviews.

The Scanner

That changed this year when I discovered the Epson V600 photo scanner.  The big difference is that there is a light in the lid that shines through the negative during scanning providing enough light through the film to do a proper scan.  Also with a flatbed, I can scan pictures that I only have the print of, mainly old family photos.  And best of all the price is just over $200.

My Goals

It is important to note that I am not disposing of my source material after I scan them.  If I ever want an enlargement made I will be going back to the negative and taking it to a professional facility.  My primary goal is to make my print picture collection more accessible and something I look at more often.  For viewing on a screen or making normal size prints this unit produces exactly what I am looking for.  So I’ve started digging through un-organized boxes of pictures and doing some scanning.  This identified another problem I need to solve, how to organize my digital life so I can actually find a picture that I’m looking for.  I have to do some more research in this area, but I’m thinking tagging will do it.

Why Scan From Negatives

There are 2 main reasons, first it is almost always best to go back to the original source material.  Second, the aspect ration of the print media rarely matches the film, so the film has more image than makes in on the print.  That means there are parts of the image that you are not seeing in the prints that will show up on the negative scan.