Monday, 21 March 2016

What's in your tool kit?

Yeah, yeah so you have a million different Post-Its and Sharpies. Time to experiment.

Recently, I have been spending an obscene amount of money on other bits and bobs to help me come up with some better (or longer lasting) visualisations. There's also some stuff that I ended up using in retro's a lot. Here's some stuff I have tried:

Magnetic Tape
Most boards are magnetic these days (mine turned out not to be but I have stopped crying now) so this is an alternative to blue tack for avatars or other icons. Pretty pricey but it does hold well and is easy to move.

Sticky Tabs
I have begun to hate Blue Tac and these are promising. They are sticky tabs that stick and re-stick. The hold on them is often a little too good sometimes but they do what they say on the tin. Early days, wondering what happens when they get 'fuzzy'

Egg Timers
I love these in retros. They are very unconfrontational and allow you to keep everything moving along - if you need to work to a timebox, these are awesome. You can also use them in meetings to keep people from rambling on. 3mins is a nice time, will be ordering more - they come in a range of times.

Phrase and Date Stamp
I found this rubber stamp that had phrases on it too - nice for dates on story cards. Now people will not have to suffer my handwriting.

I have found that stickies often don't make it across the board - one of my teams started stapling them to the main story once they accepted it to cut down on picking them off the carpet. Can't live without one now....

Large Ruler
Tip: add a little some Blue Tac on each end to make it easier to draw a dead straight line on any surface

Chalk Pens
These turned up one day and are brilliant for writing on glass. They come in a range of funky colours and are more difficult to rub off than whiteboard pens - good for lining out task boards. They come off easily with a bit of water.

Lining Tape
Great for lining out boards when you don't want them to move. Not sure when then really 'stick' or what will be left behind if you have to remove.

Sucker Cups
If you cannot use tape or afford Chalk Pens then this could be an option. Sucker cups with string work OK but do have to be pushed in everyday or they have a tendency to fall off. Good on glass not sure about white boards.

Magic Whiteboard
Personally, I don't like this stuff but it does have it's place in the emergency corner. I am usually lucky enough to have a whiteboard but this fills the gap when that luck has run out.

What have you got in your toolkit - have I missed anything? Let me know :)

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Debts and credits in your backlog

Once a month I feel like a rich man. On the day I get paid, my bank balance shows the fruits of my efforts in all their glory. This lasts a day or 2 until some bugger comes and swipes the lot!

In reality, I am actually poor. Like most people I have a huge debt in the mortgage on the house that keeps me warm and dry. This is a well-managed debt, lasting years that I nibble away at each month. 

If I were to treat my finances like a business on an extensive balance sheet then I would make my true financial situation visible. It would make me sad obviously, but if I want to know my true position then this is what I should do.

A POs responsibility does not lie solely in serving the customer. They must also align the customer’s requirements with their company’s vision. These are 2 perspectives but the developers give you a 3rd which is equally important – they can tell you about all the things you CANNOT see and yet still affect your product.

Many POs I have worked with insist that the backlog should not have any stories that describe technical debt since they have no value. I would ask you to consider that the backlog is better seen as a balance sheet – it forecasts the future worth of your product.

So if we treat the backlog as a balance sheet, we can start to attribute the losses of not addressing technical debt against the gains of new features. It is actually the combination of these that describe the true position of your product and its ability to continue making you money. 

Our technical debts are ever increasing – this is either an active process which we decide on or a passive process through neglect.  Just like a mortgage, there is maximum we can afford based on our resources – we cannot keep increasing our mortgage forever.

If we don’t carefully managing our debt we might have to take out a more expensive loan to cover the costs over a shorter term. At worst, this could be one of those payday loans because we exhausted our credit with all other lenders who rely on us being sensible in order to do business with us.

Technical debt provides balance to your backlog. Viewing your debt alongside your credit allows you to make more informed decisions about what to invest in and when.