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Last Chance to Register for the CQAA Agile Testing Practices Program on Jan 26th in Chicago

by Angela 25. January 2016 15:54

I don’t run across many non-QA folks that are members of CQAA – the Chicago Quality Assurance Association, which is a shame. If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably part of a software development team (or you are my mom being supportive – Hi Mom!), and ALL members of the team are responsible for quality so really you should check out CQAA in general. They have a lot of really great local events and webinars, AND this year they have a conference coming to Chicago. More on that later…

I coach a lot of software teams on agile and Scrum and hands down one of the biggest challenges is quality.  Specifically – how does QA keep up with development efforts? Well, my first bit of advice is that keeping up with testing implies that only QA is bothering to assure that quality is there, and developers have a huge role to play too. How they do that, well, your team needs to decide. Some level of up-front testing is critical to ensuing quality from the moment there is enough of a requirement worth swarming on to the minute it hits production. TDD, BDD, ATDD, there are many options. This might be just the opportunity you’ve been looking for to delve more deeply into that topic if you’ve been on the fence, or maybe if you haven’t even begun doing the research. Software developers are inherently “lazy” right? How efficient is it that Karen can give you the run down and save you a lot of Googling Smile

This looks like a great event that I hope you consider attending, regardless of your role on the team. I was fortunate enough to end up at a lunch table with Karen many years ago at a Quest conference, and Karen had so much great experience and insight to share. I look forward to any opportunities I can find to learn from her. Today is the last day to register, and I really apologize for the last minute notice but I had forgotten about it myself until today.

 

Influencing your Team Towards BDD & Agile Practices

Karen N. Johnson

About the Topic

We’ve shortened the software development release cycle and we are even moving towards continuous delivery, but our testing efforts still seem to have that waterfall-feel to it. How can we influence more Agile testing practices without feeling like our testing strategies have “fallen off the rails!"

First let’s look at a few of the common terms such as BDD and TDD and understand what each term means and what those practices look like in our daily lives. Next let’s explore small tactical practical ways we can influence adoption of early test thinking on our teams. Let’s also develop a few short concise “elevator pitches” that we can share with teammates, product owners and even senior management in those casual spur of the moment conversations that take place to help influence a continual and evolving adoption of BDD and Agile test practices.

Key Learning Objectives

  • Understand the terms BDD & TDD
  • Learn specific tactics to help move your team towards Agile testing practices
  • Develop an “elevator” pitch for promoting BDD for every layer of management 

About the Speaker

Karen N. Johnson has worked as a software test consultant for many years. Her client engagements range from teaching to project work. Karen is frequent speaker at conferences. She is a contributing author to the book, Beautiful Testing by O’Reilly publishers. She has published numerous articles and blogs about her experiences with software testing. She is the co-founder of the WREST workshop, more information on WREST can be found at: http://www.wrestworkshop.com. Find her on Twitter as @karennjohnson (note the two n’s) and her website: http://www.karennicolejohnson.com.

Host and Location

SAVO Group Ltd.

155 N Wacker Drive

2nd Floor Conference Center

Chicago, IL 60606

Agenda

1:30-2:00 Sign-in & Networking

2:00-2:15 Announcements

2:15-4:00 Presentation (15 minute break at 3:00)

Registration

REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED TO ATTEND THIS PROGRAM.

PLEASE REGISTER BY Monday, January 25, 2016 at www.cqaa.org. If you have any questions, please contact CQAA Program Director at programs@cqaa.org.

 

Hope you can make it! And if you do attend, wave to my husband if you see him, as it is in his office Smile

Tags:

TDD | BDD | Software Testing | Quality Assurance | Quest | CQAA | Software Quality | unit testing | Test Automation | Testing | Agile | Application Lifecycle Management | Scrum

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Join Me at LCNUG in July–How TFS 2015 is Gonna Rock Your Agile World

by Angela 30. June 2015 19:33

This is the summer of Visual Studio 2015 (which releases on July 20th BTW) and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the number of great features they have managed to get out the door around managing and tracking agile activities in TFS/VSO. If you don’t want to wait until July to play with them, you can download the RC now, or setup your free account on VSO.

I am speaking at the Lake County .NET Users Group next week, specifically on all of the new TFS goodness around agile/scrum/lean etc. And while yes the user group is practically located in Narnia, it should be a lot of fun so I hope you can make the trek up to Lake County to join us.

When: Thursday, July 9, 2015 from 6:45 PM to 8:30 PM (CDT)

Where: College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois
19351 W Washington St Grayslake, IL 60030

What: What’s Going to ROCK your Agile Team’s World in TFS 2015?

Abstract: TFS has come a long way in the last 10 years. With the upcoming release of TFS 2015, and all of the new features being released to VSO at break-neck speed, it’s hard to know why you should consider upgrading. Spend an hour or so with Angela walking through the new Kanban boards, service hooks into great collaboration tools like Slack, and when your appetite with an overview of the new capabilities coming in Build vNext and RM 2015.

Bio: Angela Dugan is the Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) Practice Manager for Polaris Solutions, a small .NET development and ALM consulting firm based out of Chicago and St. Louis. Angela has been in software development filling various roles since 1999, including 5 years as an ALM evangelist with Microsoft. In late 2011, she left Microsoft to follow her passion back into the consulting world where she could be far more hands-on with her customers. Angela also runs the Chicago Visual Studio ALM user group, is an active organizer and speaker at several local conferences, is a Microsoft ALM MVP, a Certified Scrum master, and a certified SAFe Program Consultant.

Outside of wrangling TFS, Angela is an avid board gamer, a chicken farmer (seriously, they have chickens!), an aspiring runner, and a Twitter addict. She lives in a 105 year old house in Oak Park that she is constantly working on/cursing at with her husband David.

Seriously, NARNIA!

image

Registration: http://www.eventbrite.com/o/lake-county-net-users-group-2353411364

Tags:

ALM | Application Lifecycle Management | Agile | MSDN | Process Methodology | Productivity | Scrum | TFS | TFS 2015 | Team Foundation Server | VS 2015 | VSOnline | Visual Studio | Visual Studio 2015 | Visual Studio Online | VS Online

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David Hussman on How to Build the Wrong Thing Faster and Learn From It at the CAOS in July

by Angela 18. June 2015 11:58

Lately the conversations I am seeing happen around agile are more about what agile is really about, as opposed to specifically how to “do it right”. Getting a break from drum beating around which practices are “real agile” or “real scrum” is really refreshing. I’ve been particularly re-energized by the conversations around MVP, minimal viable product, and how it’s NOT just a v1.0 of your app. Instead, a better way to think about your MVP is that it’s the earliest possible opportunity for learning*. Learning what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, and figuring out how to improve are key things you can take away from your MVPs. I feel like it was always an undercurrent of WHY people released MVPs in the first place, but at the end of the day it was often marketed as getting code into customers hands sooner. I’ve never met a C-level executive with numbers to make that was jazzed about tossing a barely functional V1 of their app out to customers purely as a rapid time to market strategy. It’s simply not compelling enough given all the risks that strategy could bring.  But tell them that it’s about better focusing of the (very expensive) team’s efforts, more quickly getting to the heart of what customers REALLY want, and not wasting time on the things customers don’t care about? That equates to real dollars, and the C-level folks can put their arms around that. It’s not even that revolutionary of a concept, I think a number of people in the race to adopt agile get hung up on the execution, and lose sight of the goal. 

*I’d give credit to someone specific for that little nugget, but everyone I follow on agile lately is saying this and I have no idea any more who said it first.

I won’t wax philosophic on it further, because that’s the whole purpose of the meet-up I want to encourage you to attend in Chicago next month. In fact, it is a SUPER meet-up. For real, how do you NOT attend a free *super* meet-up. More details can be found at the Chicago Agile Open Space Meetup site but here’s a brief synopsis to tempt you into joining the group and signing up to attend:

 

David Hussman - How to Build the Wrong Thing Faster and Learn From It

  • For years we’ve worked hard at software development. Agile methods have allowed teams to establish better flow in software development; refactoring language, not just code, presents itself as the next meaningful evolution. Can ‘software development’ be refactored to ‘product development’? Some brave pioneers that are already doing this, and are re-learning that building the product is much less clear than simply getting work done. The land of product development is filled with holes or ambiguity and laced with land mines of wrongness. Ideas that you are certain about often fizzle or change when you watch someone interact with your product. Being overly certain or overly focusing on ‘just getting work done’ are weak weapons in a place where being wrong, and learning from it, is a vital part of finding your way to success.

Instead of talking about ‘why you should do agile,’ let’s explore ‘why you should think in product,’ assuming you are using some agile practices. Our journey will explore the messy, sloppy and non-linear aspects of product development. Along the way, we’ll investigate how software construction is important, but courageously failing and learning in product is even more essential. We’ll look at how some teams are producing more real product value with less code. We will also peer into the world of program level development, where collections of teams produce product without injecting incidental complexity by employing what you might call ‘test driven product.’

Who knows, toward the end of the journey, we might even rally to refactor the agile manifesto to read ‘Learning in Product over Simply Getting Things Done.’”

 

Hope to see you there on July 20th! If you can’t make it for this one, be sure to join the meetup to learn about other upcoming topics.

Tags:

Agile | Application Lifecycle Management | Scrum | ALM | Product Development

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Still Running TFS 2010? It’s Aging Out of Support Next Month. Polaris Solutions Can Help You Upgrade Quickly

by Angela 4. June 2015 12:04

You heard me correctly, mainstream support for TFS 2010 ends on July 14th, less than 6 weeks from today! So if you’re thinking “it still WORKS, why should I upgrade?” Consider these points…

  • Any issues arising with your server will NOT be patched or serviced by Microsoft support, and it will be harder and harder to find experienced people to work on it (well, who WANT to work on it)
  • Your infrastructure team may be chomping at the bit to stop supporting the old operating systems and SQL Server versions that TFS is running on
  • You’re missing out on some amazing new capabilities that it would take me hours to cover and that I promise will revolutionize the way you develop and deliver software
  • You attract great new talent by offering robust and modern development environments, trust me on this
  • I can tell you from a LOT of personal experience, that the longer you wait to upgrade, the harder and more time consuming it is!

The good news is that you may qualify for up to $5,000 worth of free services to help you plan and prepare for your upgrade through the Microsoft Deployment Planning Services program (DTDPS)! Wondering what that is? Below is a quick FAQ that I created to explain the program:

Now what exactly IS DTDPS? Well first of all it’s a Microsoft offering, so expect MANY acronyms to follow. DTDPS stands for Developer Tools Deployment Planning Services. Specifically, the development tools that these services are meant to be used in conjunction with are the Microsoft Visual Studio ALM platform - Team Foundation Server, Visual Studio, and Microsoft Test Manager (TFS, VS, and MTM for good measure). 

So what does this really do for me? While most people are already very familiar with Visual Studio from a .NET development perspective, many people who own the other tools within the TFS platform are not taking full advantage of them. DTDPS is the solution to this problem, connecting customers with the right partners to make sure they are getting the full value of their ALM investment. Software that sits on the shelf is a huge waste of money.  And from Microsoft’s perspective is something you’re not likely to buy again, so it is of course in their interest to offer such a program.

What kinds of services are included in DTDPS? Currently there are 4 DTDPS offerings available: TFS deployment planning assessment, Visual Studio Quality Tools assessment, Visual Studio Agile Deployment Assessment, and Visual Studio DevOps Deployment Assessment. You’ll notice a theme here, the word “planning”. These engagements are not meant to be used to implement the tools. Instead, they are short, fixed-length (3 and 5 days) engagements for gathering data and analyzing your current environment and needs in order for us to help you build a plan for implementation and adoption of Visual Studio and TFS ALM tooling. It’s a great kickstart and will drastically accelerate your ALM initiatives.

But what if I don’t need one of those services, but need other assistance with TFS? Well, it depends. I know, I know, typical consulting answer. These programs can be expanded upon to assist customers with other ALM related concerns, so drop me a line at the email I provide below, and I’ll be happy to discuss it with you in more detail. 

Who delivers the engagement? DTDPS is a program delivered through certified and experienced ALM partners like Polaris Solutions to help customers with SA (Software Assurance) benefits to take full advantage of the tools they own.  We have delivered dozens of these engagements over the past few years and every customer we have worked with has been extremely happy with the valuable roadmaps that we delivered. You will benefit from a wealth of relevant experience and proven ALM practices that only comes from us having deployed and leveraged the tools in a large number of different environments and business verticals.

OK, I’m intrigued, but how expensive is it? It is FREE. Seriously, and absolutely.  This benefit is available to customers who purchase Microsoft products with SA, think of it as a rewards program. In fact, you may have DTDPS credits without knowing it!  Many of the customers I work with did not know they had DTDPS credits available until I turned them onto the program.

I want in! How do I sign up?  Start at the DTDPS site. Here you can peruse the various services available and see which ones are right for you and your organization.  Then check out the DTDPS QuickStart guide which walks you through the steps of accessing your benefits.  Then you just pick a partner to work with, like us, and you’re on your way to a better way of doing ALM!

 

If you are interested in learning more about DTDPS, or if you would like to find out more about getting a free quick assessment of the effort required to upgrade and the benefits that your team would enjoy, please contact me at Angela@PolarisSolutions.com. And if you know anyone still using an older version of TFS (anyone running TFS 2013 or earlier qualifies) help them out and point them to this blog!

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Chicago Code Camp returns to IIT in Chicago in 2015

by Angela 3. March 2015 17:42

So did you hear that Chicago Code Camp is returning to IIT in Chicago?! Very exciting news. And a much shorter commute for me Smile 

What is Chicago Code Camp? Really?! I hope that isn’t a serious question. It’s a fantastic 1-day event! Here is the blurb from the website, because I don’t know that I can sum it up much better than this:

Chicago Code Camp is a community event where developers learn from fellow developers. The one day polyglot code camp's goals are for developer to share ideas, learn from one another, and then develop upon topics of interests that were discovered during events. Our topics from previous years included development (and/or trending practices) in .net, java, open sourced frameworks, web, mobile, cloud, robotics, testing, soft skills, agile and scrum practices, and more.

Sessions range from informal talks and panel discussions to formal presentations. There will be a mix of presenters – some experienced speakers with years in the industry, some that may be speaking in public for the first time, as well as students and first time developers. We are expecting to see people from throughout Midwest region and beyond.

2015 will be our 7th year of Chicago Code Camp and we are happy to return to the City of Chicago and to the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Call for speakers is OPEN so be sure to submit your best ideas! And keep in mind that we do get a lot of submissions, and voting is blind, so bonus points for very detailed submissions and creative content.

 

Lastly, and most importantly because this is a community supported event, there are also sponsorship opportunities. If you are looking to support the community, maybe even use the opportunity to do some networking, advertising, and recruiting of some great local talent, this is a great one to consider! Sponsorship opportunities start at just $500. Find out more on the Sponsors page.

 

 

***********UPDATE**********

Registration is now open, and the event is, as it always has been, completely FREE!

Tags:

.NET | Agile | ALM | Application Lifecycle Management | Azure | C# | Chicago Code Camp | Cloud Computing | DevOps | Mobile | Mobile development | Release Management | SDLC | Team Foundation Server | Testing | TFS 2013 | Visual Studio | VS 2013

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Polaris Solutions Holding an ALM Lunch and Learn on Agile Testing Success in St Louis Next Month

by Angela 24. February 2015 14:39

    Our St Louis office is holding a Lunch n Learn at the local Microsoft office in March. Agile testing is a challenge for most software teams, especially larger organizations with well-established QA groups and processes. Learn from one of our resident agile testing experts at the free event!

    More details:

    Description: If you are either planning to or are already practicing agile software development, Team Foundation Server (TFS) and Microsoft Test Manager (MTM) offer you a powerful platform to successfully plan, manage and execute agile testing.

    During this free lunch session we will cover in detail the different testing capabilities offered by TFS 2013 and MTM for Scrum and Agile methodologies, and will also share what we have learned from helping our clients as they implemented and matured their agile testing practices.

    Key Experiences:

    • The evolved role of testing in Agile Projects

    • Iteration test planning techniques

    • Test tracking with TFS and MTM

    • Different approaches to bug management

    • Test automation Do’s and Don’ts

    • Testing metrics that are worth measuring

    • Exploratory testing strategies

    • Best practices & lessons learned in the field

      Complimentary lunch will be provided to registered attendees.

      Presenter: Alejandro Ramirez is a Software Quality professional and Senior Consultant with Polaris Solutions. He has over 17 years of experience working in software in development, testing, and IT governance. His experiences range from small businesses, startups and non-profits, to Fortune 500 corporations in a variety of fields. He is certified in ITIL and Lean. He is also a blogger, speaker, mobility champion, and helps companies incorporate ALM strategies to continuously deliver valuable software.

      When: Tuesday, March 24, 2015 from 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM (CDT)

      Where: Microsoft Corporation, 3 Cityplace Drive Suite 1100 Creve Coeur, MO 63141

       

      Register for this Polaris Solutions event today!

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      Join Polaris for a TFS Release Management Webinar in February

      by Angela 22. January 2015 16:29

      So in case you have not heard, the licensing for Release management just got CRAZY inexpensive, if you have MSDN anyway. More about licensing can be found on MSDN.

      Wondering what Release Management is? Well I don’t want to steal Zaneta’s thunder, so I’ll sum it up. Imagine a TFS extension that allowed you to easily deploy an application across a host of environments, including approval workflows for release to each environment, with the click of a button. If you’re an agile shop looking to achieve continuous deployment across a number of environments, this is a must have! 

      Join us in February to learn more from one of our RM experts! Register Now

      Continuous Delivery with Release Management

      DevOps is an increasingly important part of application lifecycle management and is a growing area of interest as businesses need to develop and deploy quality applications at a faster pace. Release Management for Visual Studio is a continuous delivery solution that automates the release process through various environments all the way to production.

      With Release Management in Visual Studio you can configure, approve and deploy your applications for any environment. Create automated deployment orchestrations for each environment no matter how complex the configuration. Delivering your software more frequently and easily to an environment allows your testers to get to work validating your system and keeps your stakeholders involved in giving feedback.

      Please join us for this free online webinar to learn more about this powerful ALM toolset.

      Key Experiences:

      · Overview of Release Management

      · Installation and Setup

      · TFS integration

      · Approval workflows overview

      · Release Template creation

      · Authoring and maintaining releases

       

      Event Info: Thursday, February 12,2015 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM CDT

      Presenter: Żaneta Surdel has been developing software for the last 10 years. She has worked on a variety of projects utilizing various Microsoft technologies and filled a number of roles – programmer, (human) release manager, ALM consultant. She holds a MCSD ALM certification and is a certified Scrum Master. For the last 4 years, she’s been a Senior Consultant with Polaris Solutions.

      Register Now

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      Chicago ALM User Group - Christmas 2014 Edition with Doc Norton

      by Angela 5. December 2014 16:44

      Join us on Wednesday, December 17, 2014 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM for this very special event!

      December is always a special meeting for us!  We will have great food, lots of great giveaways, and I'm excited to say that we have an amazing speaker flying in from California for this event - Doc Norton.  You may already follow him on Twitter, read his blog, or maybe you have seen him speaking at one of many conferences.  If not, I highly recommend checking out his blog, and then be sure to sign up for our December event so you can hear him in person.

      In December, Doc will be tackling effective metrics.Velocity is one of the most common metrics used-and one of the most commonly misused-on agile projects. Velocity is simply a measurement of speed in a given direction-the rate at which a team is delivering toward a product release. As with a vehicle en route to a particular destination, increasing the speed may appear to ensure a timely arrival. However, that assumption is dangerous because it ignores the risks with higher speeds. And while it’s easy to increase a vehicle’s speed, where exactly is the accelerator on a software team? Michael “Doc" Norton walks us through the Hawthorne Effect and Goodhart’s Law to explain why setting goals for velocity can actually hurt a project's chances. Take a look at what can negatively impact velocity, ways to stabilize fluctuating velocity, and methods to improve velocity without the risks. Leave with a toolkit of additional metrics that, coupled with velocity, give a better view of the project's overall health.

      Speaker Bio: Doc is Global Director of Engineering Culture at Groupon. Once a dedicated code slinger, Doc has turned his energy toward helping teams, departments, and companies work better together in the pursuit of better software. An agile practitioner and coach since 1999, Doc's 20-plus years of software development experience have provided him with exposure to a wide range of topics. Doc declares expertise in no single language or methodology and is immediately suspicious of anyone who declares such expertise. A frequent speaker, Doc is passionate about helping others become better developers, working with teams to improve delivery, and building great organizations.

      Location:Microsoft-Chicago 200 East Randolph, 2nd Floor, Chicago

      Register here: http://chicagoalmug.org/

      As always, please be sure to register soon so I can order the right amount of food and so that the security folks will let you in! You can park in the Aon center for a discounted rate after 6pm, but your best bet may be SpotHero if you choose to drive. I’ve seen $8 parking ½ block away using their service.

      Tags:

      ALM | Application Lifecycle Management | Agile | development | SDLC | Culture | Metrics

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      September 25th, 2013 Edition of the Chicago Visual Studio ALM User Group: Visual Studio ALM 2013

      by Angela 17. September 2013 09:29

      image

       

      Well, with all the excitement of ThatConference, I skipped having an August meeting but we’re back! 

      With the upcoming release of Visual Studio ALM 2013 tools, it seemed necessary to spend some time digging in! Jim and I will be spending this meeting talking about what's new and cool. We are still arm wrestling over who gets to demo what features, so for now just know it will be awesome! :)

      And don't forget to get your fresh downloads of TFS and VS 2013 RC today. MSDN subscribers will also find everything they need through their Subscription site.  If you’re interested in participating in the virtual launch event on November 13th, be sure to check out the VS 2013 Launch Site and sign up soon!

      Meeting Date: Wednesday September 25th

      Agenda:6:30 - Dinner, 7:00 Presentation

      Location:Microsoft-Downers Grove 3025 Highland Pkwy, Ste 300, Downers Grove

      Registration:      http://chicagoalmug.org/ 

      PLEASE NOTE: Security has gotten tighter at the Downers Grove building.  You MUST register as building security will NOT allow individuals to access the building without being pre-registered.  Their rules, not mine.

       

       

      Speaker Bio:

      Angela Dugan is the Polaris Solutions ALM Practice Manager. She focuses on TFS implementation and customization in the real world, Visual Studio related training and mentoring, and helping organizations to adopt Agile/Scrum methodologies. Angela had spent the previous 14 years as a custom application developer with a small consulting firm in Chicago, as well as did 5 years at Microsoft as an ALM evangelist. Catch up with her adventures on her blog.

      Outside of wrangling TFS, Angela is an avid board gamer, an aspiring runner (up to 2.3 miles without vomiting!), and a Twitter addict. She lives in a 102 year old house in Oak Park that she is constantly working on with her husband David.

      Jim Szubryt manages the application architecture team for the Enterprise Workforce at Accenture in Chicago. This responsibility includes managing the TFS Team that supports 2,500 developers in the global development centers. He has worked with the global teams on implementing ALM practices and his team is in the process of piloting TFS 2013.

      He is also a Microsoft ALM MVP and a Microsoft Visual Studio ALM Ranger. He was project lead on the disaster recovery planning guidance that was published in March. Currently he is the Project Lead on the Ranger’s guidance for reporting with TFS 2012. Prior to becoming a project Lead he has written parts of the TFS 2012 upgrade guidance and the TFS Server guidance that are found on CodePlex.  His blog can be found here.

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      A Continuation of My Ruminations on the Human Factor of ALM

      by Angela 2. August 2013 12:41

      Part 1: In the beginning

      In my “And Now For Something Completely Different” series, I wax philosophical, almost literally, on human behavior. Now I’m hearing that Bjork song in my head. Anyone else? No? Just me? Ok then, moving on.

      Now, before anyone thinks I’m some kind of behavioral science genius, I had quite a few of these realizations while reading “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates us” by Daniel Pink. Earlier this year at the ALM Summit, it seemed like every other speaker that I went to see recommended that book. And so I gave in and ordered it, hard to argue being that it was around $10 on Amazon. I also then spelunked into a deep rabbit hole of Wikipedia articles, scientific studies, and other related digital publications to see what the real experts had to say. And while nothing I read was specifically aimed at ALM, or even technology per se (except for the use of OSS to disprove money as a primary motivator), I found so many ideas that were EXTREMELY relevant to what I was doing in my day to day job. So this post will focus on the first major point of many that I dog-eared in the book.

      Favorite quote #1: The best use of money as a motivator is to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table. (and ditch the stupid contests!)

      Intrinsic motivation. This is one of those things that you KNOW to be true, but you can’t quite put your finger on the why of it. I know I had that reaction whenever contests and incentives were announced at my previous job. I immediately groaned, rolled my eyes, and tried to think of the fastest way to produce the results they wanted while still doing all of the work that I saw as actually being valuable. You know, the stuff I am “graded” on during my end of year review.  Turns out, everyone felt that way too. And we never got the type of results from those silly contests that management was hoping for. It also felt like a form of punishment, as in, if you need to incentivize me with $500 do this, it must REALLY suck! Imagine our enthusiasm to take on that challenge? At the end of the day, money and rewards only get you so far, and too many bonuses and rewards can actually backfire and decrease motivation. People have to be internally motivated to WANT to do something for a strategy to realize long term success. Now I’m not a volunteer, mind you, I get paid very well at my new job, but I did leave a higher paying job to realign my career path with my passions. At the end of the day, the challenge of solving customers’ problems and making their lives better was driving my behavior. My passion is ignited and sustained by fresh, new problems and by having at least a little freedom to be creative in how I do my job. I should note that in most cases, I am speaking specifically from the perspective of a person working in IT so if you are in a vastly different line of work, you may not agree with all of my observations.

      So back on track, my first thought was that this is yet another example of where agile is just a natural fit for software development. People enjoy challenge, and novelty, and need an environment that fosters that. Not that Waterfall based environments cannot provide freedom, novelty, and challenge (don’t laugh), but I have yet to find one that provided freedom, let alone the RIGHT kinds of novelty and challenge to promote a motivational environment. For instance, working 80 hour weeks for a month to make a deadline because of poorly planned milestones that you had no early visibility or input into is NOT a motivating challenge. And when the next 6 – 12 months of your life are scheduled, collated, and written in stone well, there goes freedom and creativity. Your focus now is on making dates, at any cost.

      Because Agile and Scrum-based processes focus on self-direction, introspection, and continuous improvement, people get opportunities to constantly evolve and find new and more efficient ways to solve problems. Now that’s FUN. I’ve met few software engineers who don’t respond to that kind of motivation in a VERY positive way. After all, software development is as much of an art as a science. Despite all of the misleading comparisons to building a house, building software requires FAR more creativity and flexibility than framing a McMansion in the suburbs. And making software is HARD. The first time a Scrum instructor (Richard Hundhausen to be specific) uttered those words out loud, I kind of laughed, but then realized just how significant that statement was. Say it out loud with me and really think about it, “software development is HARD”. Sure there are hundreds of frameworks and software patterns out there to help you do it, but at the end of the day knowing how and when to use them, or even when to stray from them, is a really tough skill to master and requires constant recalibration.

      Any artist will tell you that being confined by strict rules, and working under a heavily structured rewards and punishment system, stifles their creativity and narrows their focus. Working without freedom and with stifled creativity results in an inferior product, and an unhappy artist. It’s no different for software craftsman. At first I bristled a little at that term, “software craftsman”, but have come to embrace it as being a FAR more accurate label for what we do. Software is not churned out using repetitive and unchanging patterns like a Whopper. It relies as much on the right-brain as it does the left, and if it doesn’t for you, you might be doing it wrong.

      Next we’ll talk about metrics. Hairs on the back of your next standing up? Did you get a little chill just then? I did.

      Tags:

      Application Lifecycle Management | Agile | Collaboration | Process Methodology | SDLC | development | Scrum

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