Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Defects kill Sprint Planning

Burning down user stories sprint by sprint at a nice constant velocity is what we hope to be seeing on agile projects. What happens though if there are defects in the work we've delivered and we have to start planning the defect fixing as well as the new work? How should this situation be approached?

Firstly, don't deliver defects! Easy to say but we know that all teams deliver defects at some points. If you start getting a lot of defects back though it's a pretty sure sign that you have a false velocity - you're reporting work as done when it isn't really. It simply hasn't been tested enough. So the second point is that you have to face reality about the velocity of your team. Get the testing done and automated before you deliver the next set of stories.

All well and good but what about planning the next few sprints? How do we plan reliably now when we are not sure how much defect fixing we're going to have to do along side the new user stories. Here's one approach that seems to work... 2 velocities!

The overall velocity of the team is how many "points" the team burns down in a sprint. We want to ensure this is pretty constant, always assuming that the team stays constant and we're not carrying over too much work in progress at sprint boundaries (see here for a previous discussion of that problem). The second important velocity though is "effective velocity" - the amount of new client-required work that is burned down per sprint. This excludes work on defects (which means the higher velocity reported in sprints when you delivered the defects is balanced) and work on refactoring and process improvement (necessary but not what the client is paying for). You can see the effective velocity sprint by sprint by creating a new folder each sprint to contain just the new work completed/targeted).

Giving the team visibility of these metrics is important so they can see the impact of defects and also appreciate improvements when the effective velocity is restired.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Running xProcess with a console

It seems I missed out a vital piece of information in the previous blog - how do you create a shortcut that runs xProcess with a console. Actually it's pretty simple: add "- console" to the target command. So on a Windows machine the Target field of the shortcut should look something like this...
"C:\Program Files\Ivis\xProcess 2\xProcess\xprocess.exe" -console

Friday, September 12, 2008

Reporting and exporting from xProcess 2.9

A project I've been working with recently has been needing to get reports and data out of xProcess to integrate with other management reports. This hasn't proved as easy as I would have hoped with the product's standard reports, custom reports through BIRT, exporting and other options failing to give us what we needed. I decided to do some more experimenting with "UI Actions", which use OGNL to navigate over the data. Turns out this is a pretty good option with writing the required scripts being quite straightforward. The hardest thing turned out to be actually getting the export file which was a bit more of a hassle. I'm told all this will be great in v3 but for now here's my solution.

First you need to create a new Action in your process, and set it applicable to "Task" (or whatever type of object you want to report on) and "UI Action to "true". The only other crucial bit in this stage is writing the OGNL Expression. My script is below so you can always paste that in, see what it does and then change it!

We wanted to extract a set of key attributes of tasks (like dates and size) and display them in a spreadsheet.The script produces a set of comma-separated values (csv format). Unfortunately v2.9 doesn't give you an easy way to save this in a file. Instead the script outputs the values to the console (so you have to start xProcess with a console window). Once the output has been produced you then have to cut and paste the data into a csv file -- yes that's the "clonky" bit. Still it doesn't take a moment and you then have the data in a spreadsheet where you can mess with it to your heart's content. Brill!

All I want now is v3 so I can get this sort of report through a nice clean user interface. Here's the script...
"-- Output to console action - summarises task information --",

#categoryName ='Importance',
#category = #this.getProcess().getCategoryTypeByName(#categoryName),

#output='\n\nTabular output for: ' + getName() +'\n'+
'Parent Task,'+
'Target End,'+
#categoryName + (#category==null ? ' (WARNING - no such category)' : '') +','+
'Size (points),'+
'Estimate (person-hours),'+
'Actual/Planned (person-hours),'+
'Actual to date (person-hours),'+
'Assigned to' +

"-- First define the different functions for Leaf and Parent tasks --",

#leafOutput = :[
#output = #output +
name +','+
parent.name +','+
start +','+
end50 +','+
(targetEnd==null ? '' : targetEnd) +','+
(#cat=getCategoryInType(#category), #cat ==null ? '' : #cat.label) +','+
size + ','+
estimateOfEffort/60.0 +','+
bookedTime/60.0 +','+
bookedTimeToDateIncludingConfirmedTimeToday/60.0 +','+
getCurrentManualAssignments().{#output = #output + ',' + person.label},
#output = #output + '\n'

#parentOutput = :[
#output = #output +
'REST OF ' + name +','+
(parent==null ? '' : parent.name) +','+
start +','+
end50 +','+
(targetEnd==null ? '' : targetEnd) +','+
(#cat=getCategoryInType(#deliveryCategory), #cat ==null ? '' : #cat.label) +','+
(topDown ? (#result = size - sizeRolledUpFromChildren, #result>0 ? #result : 0) : '') + ','+
(topDown ? (#effort = estimateOfEffort - estimateOfEffortRolledUpFromChildren, #effort>0 ? #effort/60.0 : 0) : '') + ','+
bookedTime/60.0 +','+
bookedTimeToDateIncludingConfirmedTimeToday/60.0 +','+
getCurrentManualAssignments().{#output = #output + ',' + person.label},
#output = #output + '\n'

"-- Then process all the tasks, including the one selected --",

#tasks = getAllTasks(),
#this.isDesignatedAsParent() ? #parentOutput(#this): #leafOutput(#this)

"-- Inform the user where the output is",

#$dialog.informUser('Output to console: ' + getName(), 'The result of this action has been sent to the console.\nCut and paste the output into a Spreadsheet and use Data->Text to Columns... to create the table.\n\n'+
'Note: If you do not have a visible console, close xProcess and restart it from a command line window, or run xProcess with a console by adding "- console" to the target command. (E.g. on a Windows machine the Target field of the shortcut should look something like:\n\n"C:\\Program Files\\Ivis\\xProcess 2\\xProcess\\xprocess.exe" -console')
Note: one of the columns this scripts outputs is a category value ("Importance"). You could use the same pattern to display other relevant categories - "Target Delivery" for example if this was a category defined in your data.