Saturday, November 20, 2010

Agile Tips: All about user stories

Several months ago our team started the transition to Agile. One of the top topics of the transition is user stories. How are stories created? How do they change in the process of planning and implementation? How to split them and how do they compare to other planning tools?

This slide deck is from a workshop I prepared and our team did. I addressed different aspects of user stories in Agile.

Monday, September 20, 2010

SharePoint Saturday LA – great event

A second SharePoint Saturday Event in California took place in LA last Saturday at the Hilton LAX. The organizing committee chair Karuana Gatimu and co-chair Christian Buckley, once again put a great community conference. Owen Allen did a very insightful keynote on the transition of SharePoint to a business management platform. Needless to say I loved to hear him talk about ACM and CM utilizing SharePoint as a solution platform.

The sessions were a mix of repeats from SharePoint Saturday East Bay and local speakers, covering a variety SharePoint topics. I did once again my talk on when and how to use SharePoint and Silverlight, with excellent attendance and great feedback.  For those that joined the session follow the links below to download the slide deck and other resources.

Client Object Model on Channel 9

Using the Silverlight Object Model

Saturday, September 11, 2010

SharePoint Saturday East Bay – Recap

Another great SharePoint Saturday Event  in San Ramon. The organizers Christian Buckley, Michael Noel, the sponsors, and the volunteers did an excellent job in providing a top notch facilities and amenities for the event. Global 360 was a gold sponsor of the event.

Lots of great sessions on SharePoint virtualization, search, governance and other hot SharePoint topics. I was really thrilled to do a new session on when and how to use SharePoint and Silverlight. For those that attended the session follow the links below to download the slide deck and other resources.

Client Object Model on Channel 9

Using the Silverlight Object Model

Friday, September 03, 2010

Agile Tips: The End Game

Making short iterations work is hard. First the team has to find the right amount of work and commit, only to be confronted with reality and find out that the estimates are not what they meant them to be.

In the first days of the iteration (T-8) the top priority stories get tackled, and somewhere in the middle of the iteration (T-5) the team has a pretty good feel, of which stories have a good chance to get accepted, and which may fall off the iteration or get split.

This last part of the iteration is what our team calls the End Game. The End Game starts 3-4 days (T-3) before the end of the (2 weeks) iteration. This is when we start deciding, which stories can be accepted, which  may be split, and which may be moved to the next iteration. The rule of thumb we adopted is that once we enter the End Game, we do not take new stories if there are other stories in the works that have higher chances of acceptance.

butnup

This simple rule helps the team concentrate on completing top priority stories and the associated bugs first and then move onto new work. We found that this leads to a much better outcome rather than have many stories open at once and than struggle to split them or move them to the next iteration.

Another effect of adopting the End Game rule is that it raises the team awareness of what it takes to complete the stories with highest chance for acceptance. This is when team members that have completed and accepted their assigned stories, start asking the question: “How can I help other stories so they get accepted?”.

Tasks get reshuffled, pairs form to tackle difficult tasks, conversations with the product owner take place to set priorities. Work gets done-done.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Free Day-Long SharePoint Event

Are you new to SharePoint, and want to find out more? Is your company already using the technology, but you’d like to expand your knowledge with best practices? Do you have specific business or technical questions, and want to take advantage of this opportunity to speak with the experts?

SharePoint Saturday East Bay is an educational, informative and always FREE day filled with sessions from respected SharePoint professionals and MVPs, covering a wide variety of topics focused on Microsoft SharePoint technologies. SharePoint Saturday is open to the public, and is your local chance to immerse yourself in SharePoint! Food and beverages will be provided throughout the day, wrapping up with a raffle and many prizes.

Features

· 40 sessions across 7 different tracks, including Business Intelligence, Search, Social Media, Metadata and Taxonomy, Migration and Upgrade, SharePoint Designer, Branding, and more…

· 30+ speakers, 20 sponsors, product demonstrations, best practices

· Fabulous raffle items, including SharePoint tools and a new iPad!

· Food and beverages throughout the day

Invite your friends, your colleagues, and your entire team!  Register online today at http://spsbay.eventbrite.com

SharePoint Saturday East Bay

When:                   September 11, 2010

                              Doors open at 7:30am, Keynote at 8:30am

Where:                  San Ramon Marriott

My session:          SharePoint 2010 and Silverlight a Bigger Picture

2600 Bishop Drive

San Ramon, CA 94583 

Phone:  925-867-9200

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Agile Tips: Celebrate success or get pounded by the waterfall (again and again)

A crucial part of driving and sustaining a change towards better adoption of Agile is the opportunity to celebrate success – small wins, frequently. Winning teams have clear expectations, understandable context and the commitment to get the work done-done. Driving point in declaring small wins after each iteration is setting the scope of the iteration close to the actual capacity of the team. If you consistently get burn up charts where the scope undergoes big adjustments downward (red scope line), this is a clear sign that the team committed to more that can be done. Reasons for that can be lack of experience in estimating points, external pressures etc.  A good way to control the scope is to experiment each iteration to committing to a lower/higher number estimated points, so that the scope is with in the 5% margin from the average for the team (green scope line). This can be achieved by controlling external pressures, estimating points as a team rather than individually and actively negotiating with product owner and other stakeholders about what goes in the iteration and what not. 

butnup

 

While dry charts and numbers don’t create great software, they help teams adjust and build up the culture of the motivated successful team.  Step 1 - pick the right size for each bite.

Monday, August 16, 2010

SharePoint 2010 and Silverlight a Bigger Picture

We've all seen sessions where the power of SIlverlight is demonstrated with "Hello World!" apps and smily faces. We've also seen sessions on SharePoint 2010 that outline how to use the Client OM, but stop short when it comes to putting the complete solution into perspective.

Is this enough to build well researched and designed, innovative solutions?

I am really thrilled to join as a speaker and attendee with many other SharePoint enthusiasts at the two upcoming SharePoint Saturday events on the West Coast. I'll talk about how our team at Global 360 approaches business solutions. Starting with an outline of the use of Sketchflow as a design, communication and prototyping tool and then taking a deeper dive into how to use SharePoint 2010, Silverlight and specifically the SharePoint 2010 Client Object Model to transform the prototype into a small scale case management application.

If you are interested, join the SharePoint crowds at:

SharePoint Saturday - East Bay

SharePoint Saturday - Los Angeles




Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Dynamically loading SharePoint 2010 or 2007 master pages for your legacy layouts

So you have a layouts page you used in your SharePoint 2007 product and you want to use it in SharePoint 2010. The functionality did not change much, however when you open the page it looks ugly and it uses an older SharePoint 2007 master page. What can I do to fix this, so that I have one code base that covers both platforms?

One option is to dynamically change the master page on the PreInit event. Keep the aspx page as it is and do not change the master page entry. In the page class add the snippet below. In this particular example I use reflection to find out the version of SharePoint, but you can use any other method.

protected override void OnPreInit(EventArgs e)
{
    bool isSP2010 = false;
    try
    {
        Assembly assembly = Assembly.LoadWithPartialName("Microsoft.Sharepoint");
        var assemblyName = assembly.GetName();
        isSP2010 = assemblyName.Version.Major > 13;
    }
    catch (Exception)
    {
        isSP2010 = false;
    }
    if (isSP2010)
    {
        this.Page.MasterPageFile = "/_layouts/applicationv4.master";
    }          
}

Layouts work on both SharePoint 2007 and 2010!

Dovizhdane!

Credit goes also to Dan D. and Ivan P., thanks!

HTTP Error 503. The service is unavailable. in SharePoint 2010 Central Administration

In order to install a web application running only in 32-bit mode, I had to change the default IIS application pool settings to allow 32-bit applications. This worked fine for my application, however later I installed SharePoint 2010 on the same machine and when I opened the Central Administration I got the wonderful:

HTTP Error 503. The service is unavailable.

No IIS logs, no ULS logs, not much clues… The SharePoint Central Administration application pool was always shutting down for some reason.

6-1-2010 5-00-26 PM

It turns out that if Enable for 32-bit Applications is enabled SharePoint will not load and turn down the application pool. I changed this setting back to false and I was able to get to the Central Admin.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Access denied by Business Data Connectivity.

When you create a new external content type for security purposes SharePoint 2010 will not assign any permissions. The first thing people try to do is to create an external list using the external data source and try to open it. The following error occurs:

Access denied by Business Data Connectivity.

The first thing I tried to do is check permissions for the current user to the database and check other permissions. Save yourselves some time and jump directly to Central Administration > Application Management > Manage Service Applications > Business Data Connectivity Services. From the drop down context menu on your external data source select Set Permissions. Add users or groups, set actual permissions for each group, keep the propagate option selected.

I am not sure how the permissions are propagated, but I guess there is job that gets executed, so some delay may be expected.

The external list works!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Summer of Dreams

Living in some of the most culturally diverse and tolerant places in the US and in the world has thought me a lot about cultural tolerance, however I realize that this was a long learning process and as a kid growing in the capital of Bulgaria I simply was not exposed to the issue of cultural or ethnical diversity in the same way an open modern society does. I recall how only couple of years after the infamous words of President Reagan that ended with “Tear down this wall!” resulted in a cultural vacuum that quickly caught the attention of a number of NGOs. As a result I was fortunate to visit West Berlin several days after the wall fell and mingle with peers from distant, until then, West Germany. Every summer for the next 4-5 years thank to organizations sponsored by governments, private businesses and giving individuals as a college student I met with hundreds of peers from neighboring Turkey, Macedonia, Rumania and many other European countries. Prejudice and stereotypes about our Balkan and European neighbors fell down faster than the Berlin wall.

Now almost 20 years later I decided to support a similar project trying to help kids from a small and diverse (about 30, 000) town in Bulgaria with a large Roma population. Roma have been living on the Balkans for hundreds of years. They have darker skin and they rarely had equal opportunities anywhere they live in eastern Europe. Bulgarians and Roma in this town live separated in their own neighborhoods, schools and rituals effectively establishing a cultural wall that inhibits the growth of this town. The Roma school is underfunded and the graduation rates and the employment rates are much lower. The little common both groups have is related to crime and trouble. Most of the efforts of the authorities are directed in monetary assistance, but that does not address the underlying issue of lack of tolerance on both sides of town.

Katie a US Peace Corp volunteer with a strong faith embarked on a mission to educate kids from both sides of town about cultural and ethnical tolerance and help them establish rituals and cultural ties that will remain self sustained after her departure in two years. She works with a local NGO based in the Roma school and she already had some success with several small projects including a culturally neutral Halloween party with kids of both ethnic groups.

Her next project is Summer of Dreams where Katie and other volunteers will help 20 kids from both groups learn about tolerance and diversity on a neutral grounds in a summer camp in another part of the country. Currently the Peace Corp is collecting donations for her project on this page http://sn.im/SummerOfDreams. I find that this is a great way to spread the real values of the American culture based on tolerance, giving, diversity and equal opportunity. If you do too, please consider supporting Katie and her volunteer peers in this effort. You can also follow Katie on her blog http://handofhope.blogspot.com, where she shares the hardships and successes of her mission.

Another way to support the project is to twitter:

Tolerance and equal opportunities need work. Support #SummerOfDreams #Bulgaria here http://sn.im/SummerOfDreams or retweet

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

If you need my opinion don’t ask me to answer with YES or NO

Sometimes people ask me: Why can’t you just answer with yes or no?

While yes/no answers are perfect in some occasions I find that they are the absolute killer of collaborative work. A yes/no answers do not start a discussion they close it. While many developers think that a short yes/no answer makes them look more responsible and valuable I tend to disagree.

What I usually want to understand is: Why do you ask? What is the context of your question? This not only helps with gaining some thinking time, but also gives an opportunity to view the issue at hand from at least two or more angles. Then answering the question takes a bit more time too, since the original question was not specific enough to begin with. Now there is real data to work with and the answer becomes more of a conversation.

When asked a question one should also consider another aspect. The person answering the question often can learn about something that was previously not known, so the conversation becomes balanced and more meaningful for both parties in the collaboration.

So next time you ask me a complex question, respect my opinion, don’t expect a yes/no answer, and If you demand one, my answer might as well be “I don’t know.”

Friday, February 05, 2010

How does the Ribbon in SharePoint 2010 fit the process platform?

I recall the first time I saw the ribbon in MS office. I loved it then and I love it now. The live preview felt really nice and many frequently used features sprung out to the forefront. In the last couple of days I had another look at the use of the ribbon in SharePoint 2010 and after running some scenarios around process personas in my mind I just don’t see how the ribbon is good for the hands down business user such as a claim processor or data entry. For this type of work context, simplicity and speed of execution are essential and I don’t see the ribbon providing real value - there are just too many options. Global 360 has identified this as an issue in SharePoint 2007, which partially lead to the persona-driven process management, and it will be perhaps even more valid in SharePoint 2010.

The reason why the ribbon was created in MS Office was to reduce the complexity of an overcrowded, multi-level menu systems that was extended for decades and had so many contradictions that the users utilized actively only a fraction of the features. SharePoint 2007 however did not have this type of issues. Frequently used SharePoint menu options were exposed in a rather simple (a good thing) set of context menus and drop down menus. Most administrative features were grouped in site settings pages.

In MS Office the ribbon did bring out more important features to the front and added live-preview and overall lead to simplification. In SharePoint 2010 it feels like the ribbon exposes the user to more features at once than in its predecessor. For many trivial options, such as creating and uploading new document, you have to go through several more clicks and discover the menu location. Other rarely used options are brought out causing clutter.

I realize that the SharePoint had to address a much wider set of requirements, but let’s have a look at some examples. Can somebody tell me what is the value in having this Browse tab as a default when browsing document libraries?

image

Do you get dizzy only looking at the plethora of “useful” features brought out in the List tab?

image

Don’t get me wrong I am not in the bashing business, but in the opportunity business. While traditionally the SharePoint community has dealt with the complexity with more training and custom developed solutions, there are other opportunities out there. Training is certainly important aspect for SharePoint developers, IT and operations, but when it comes to many process users it may not be enough, and custom development is costlier and riskier.

My take: SharePoint 2010 brings a wealth of new features in the ECM, DM, WCM, Social Networking and other areas that make SharePoint a great process platform, however the User Experience continues to be fairly unspecific and too busy for many business users who need less clutter, targeted and context aware business applications optimized for high volume productivity.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

BPM Q&A on Innovation

Something noteworthy happened today in the twittersphere. Two analysts from Gartner and Forester had a quick and very telling exchange about the state of BPM innovation.

     

Elise Olding, Gartner asked:

Q:image

 

Connie Moore, Forester responded:

A: image

Coming from these two consultancies this means a lot to me for several reasons:

  • It is not a secret that many players in the BPM market have been aligning their roadmaps with incremental improvements so that they can fit the trend set by Gartner and Forester and this has certainly killed a lot of original ideas. Such message may encourage BPM players to stop chasing the BPM tail take some risk and bring fresh ideas to the table.
  • Connie's response brings joy to my heart as we at Global 360 have been working on people centric BPM  in oppose to process centric BPM for quite some time and such statement will continue to strengthen our commitment to persona-driven BPM.

My take: Yes innovation centered on people is essential especially for the pure-play BPM players. They will feel the pressure to differentiate their offers from the newly formed BPM giants to be able to grow after the recent tectonic movements in this market. However innovation is a fragile and unpredictable thing it needs to be fostered, cared for. Those that are able to pull this off will lead, the rest will wither. As a developer with healthy attitude towards design and innovation I am hopeful.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Where is the End in the End-To-End for business processes?

 

 

Charlie put out his hand and touched the screen, and suddenly, miraculously, the bar of chocolate came away in his fingers. He was so surprised he nearly dropped it.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

 

Every time a business finds a way to extend the reach of the consumer experience (which may include consumers, partners, vendors and other stakeholders in the business process) closer to where it is consumed, there is a significant gain in productivity.

One of the essential requirements of the process platform is the ability to enable businesses to capture, manage, quickly deploy and execute end-to-end processes. However I find that quite often this has been viewed one-sidedly either from the IT or from the modeling perspective of the process. In other words, if you design web service interfaces and know how to manage your infrastructure that should be enough, right?  Or perhaps if you can put all the BPMN shapes in the process map that should be good enough, no?

But how about the partner or the customer outside of the organization, who’s systems are not included? Aren’t they part of the business process? Certainly many would say: SOA can helps us with all of that … and let them figure out the handshake as an afterthought.

My take is that this is simply not enough!

Looking back at the distant 50s and 60s of the 20th century the creation of the Interstate Highway System in the USA created an infrastructure that made possible the supply of large consumption markets with an enormous variety of goods delivered from all parts of the country and the world. The cheap and fast transportation of all kinds of commodities raw materials and finished goods made possible the emergence of discount retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target. Extending the reach of the retail business processes closer to the consumers and the improvements in shopper’s experience totally reshaped the industry in the decades to come.

Changing the value proposition and the experience lead to the abandoning of the moms-and-pops shops regardless of how hard they tried to dress up their windows.

At the turn of the century the transformation of the Internet into an affordable to most households Information Superhighway ignited the web revolution and extended the reach of retail and other business processes enabling every imaginable organization from NGOs, retail, finance and banking to social networking to expand their reach. The paragon of Internet retail Amazon is probably one of the most striking examples. Amazon has been steadily chipping away market share through providing more choices, better services and first class customer service from your home PC, HDTV or mobile phone. Extending the reach of the retail business processes further and even closer to the consumer and enriching the user experience with clever innovations proves to be a winning strategy for Amazon. In 2009 holiday season for the first time Wal-Mart and Amazon crossed swords in a price cutting war that left no clear winner.

Wal-Mart decided to do what it can do best lower prices and dress up the window shop – Amazon unveiled investments in user experience innovations combined with extending the reach of its business processes to mobile devices such as its own Kindle and mobile phones. Amazon Mobile was designed specifically to enable the user to manage every aspect of a purchase adding new services specifically designed for the new medium Amazon Remembers.

So how is that relevant to the BPM players?

The commoditization of BPM in the last couple of years is not a secret. BPM providers have been trying to create critical advantage by improving their modeling tools, improving analytics and simulation and aligning themselves along technological boundaries. While this is a must in a very competitive market, these measures are relatively short-lived and do not provide a long lasting competitive advantage. Global 360 provides a platform that manages all aspects of the business process across departments, we have also taken a unique approach of identifying the needs of the actual users rather than the specifications of IT managers and business analysts. As a result Global 360 has pioneered the persona driven BPM. This attention to user experience has been a departure from the traditional incremental improvements in process modeling, simulation and execution typical for this market. How about extending this gains further?

Can the car insurance claim get processed by the time the driver leaves the crash scene?

Does the medical claim start when the patient files a fax for reimbursement or when the ER nurse performs the triage?

Can the car application loan get approved by the time the customer leaves the dealer’s lot?

Just to put things in perspective, think of what would happen if Amazon asked you to go get your package from the nearest distribution center, instead of having it delivered to your doorstep. Is that good enough? The end-to-end user experience is going to be increasingly important for BPM systems, so why not work on improving it?

The fundamental shift in how work enters and exists the business process created by the emerging new generation of mobile device platforms is another way of redefining and challenging the typical roles in many business processes. Two great examples are the mobile applications of the car insurance giants Nationwide and Geico, which recently started offering an interactive claim submission application from the crash scene. How would that affect the job of a document scanner/indexer, claim validator or customer representative in these organizations?

By empowering users at the real end of the business process, organizations will continue to improve processing speeds, lowering costs and empowering the end users. Furthermore extending the user experience and the reach of the BPM system outside of the organization boundaries will provide value back to the end users by exposing analytical data, tips or otherwise helpful information that improves the relationship and loyalty between the organization and its partners and customers. For example wouldn’t it be nice if Geico Mobile allows you to setup notifications to 911, or loved ones in the event of an emergency, or perhaps gives you a map of body shops and repair estimate? Would the triage nurse make the same decisions if she has analytical data from regional hospitals about a flu outbreak? And what if you can buy a cheaper car because the dealer can lower their expenses to process a car loan?

While many are seeking value and growth in chasing the BPM tail there are some surprising productivity opportunities out there. Try thinking end-to-end user experience rather than end-to-end process and you’ll be surprised.

References:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_Highway_System http://www.people.hofstra.edu/geotrans/eng/ch3en/conc3en/map_interstatesystem.html 
http://www.cio.com/article/147005/45_Years_of_Wal_Mart_History_A_Technology_Time_Line 
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/24/business/24shop.html 
http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13549_7-10112215-233.html 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBs27pJZnR0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3UlbP158hE
http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000291661

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Live SharePoint/Global 360 Business Application Demo

After the feedback received from the webinar in December (see previous post). Global 360 is moving away from the slide deck and providing what our audience wanted most – a live demo of the our products working with SharePoint. No frills, no smoking mirrors.

Interested in seeing how you can leverage Global 360 and SharePoint to create a process platform?  Want to see first-hand how you can quickly and easily manage and monitor SharePoint-based documents and business processes?

Register to one of the two events:

Featured Speakers: Scott Kirkland VP, Product Management, Global 360

Monday, January 04, 2010

How to use SharePoint as a Process Platform

SharePoint is a proven platform for website creation, document sharing and collaboration. But, what about process management?

Is SharePoint the right platform to automate and improve the processes that run your business?

Two weeks ago Terry Schurter, Director of Product Strategy at Global 360 and I talked about on how to leverage SharePoint as a strategic process platform using Global 360’s products.

Click here to access the recording of the webinar

Click here to access the slide deck