5 Surefire Ways to Become an Awesome Product Owner

By Scott Hallam, CSP, PMP

As a product owner, you’re the one who defines and prioritizes a team’s work, which is difficult but rewarding. After all, you define the tools for building the product that will ultimately help your company achieve its business goals.

Frankly, it can be overwhelming to try to balance often-competing business priorities and constraints of time, budget, and scope.

The good news is that by properly applying Agile principles to product development, regardless of what that product may be, you can achieve your company’s goals quickly and cost-effectively.

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Agile Transformation: 5 Changes Project Managers Can Expect

By Jesica Wetherhold, CSP, PMP

The manufacturing and software development fields have been using Lean and Agile principles for years, and service sectors like financial services and healthcare are rapidly following suit for project implementation and delivery. Companies want to find a competitive edge by delivering the most valuable product in the least amount of time, and Agile development methodology makes that a reality.

In order to succeed in Agile, it’s necessary to shift focus and thought processes around how to manage corporate initiatives. This is true across the organization, from C-suite executives and management teams to marketing, finance, and project management professionals. In fact, project managers will often need to take on new roles altogether, like “product owner” or “scrum master.”

As team members that are heavily affected by Agile processes, there are five key adjustments a project manager must prepare for in order to succeed in an Agile development transformation:

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Scaled Agile: 3 Ways to Keep it Going

By Mike Huber, Agile Engagement Director

So you’ve gotten rolling with Agile methodology at your company, eh? You tore down common Agile misconceptions after reading the first blog in this series and then you learned the keys to Agile success in the second blog. Assuming your first initiative went well, you now want to scale your processes.

Hold up – Scaling Agile is a challenge!

Expanding Agile to other areas of your business requires you to look long and hard at your current implementation to determine its feasability for future engagements. Evaluate how things have unfolded in your first Agile project. Have any new concerns cropped up? Are you creating technical debt beyond what’s comfortable for your team and stakeholders? Objectively, is everything just right?

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5 Must-Have Ingredients for Agile Development Success

By Mike Huber, Agile Engagement Director

In part one of this series on Agile, we debunked the top three excuses for avoiding Agile development. Now, let’s look at the five foundational building blocks you need once you decide to employ Agile development methodologies at your company.

1) Embrace Change

What’s that saying? “Only wet babies want change,” and even then there’s quite a bit of screaming in protest.

Change isn’t easy and sure as heck isn’t quick. It’s stressful and frustrating. So how do we minimize the screaming? The most successful way is to present the goal of change in such a way that convinces everyone it’s the most brilliant thing your company has ever done.

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3 Reasons Agile Development Fails - And Why They're NOT Valid

By Todd Florence, Vice President

When it comes to the topic of Agile development methodology, I bet you fit into one of these categories: (a) you’ve tried Agile and failed (b) a leader in your organization is mandating Agile, or (c) you’re just a geek and interested in it.

But why would you consider a new development methodology? The old ones have worked just fine, right? Agile development is likely being considered because it’s the new, hot thing for more rapid and iterative digital projects. And it’s touted as being able to save you time and money.

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Agile Marketing: the Only Way Forward for Digital Marketers

By Jenifer Kern, Vice President, Marketing

Leading companies like Apple and Google have been doing Agile Marketing for years, but it still hasn’t really hit mainstream yet. And here’s the thing, although the rest of us have been slow on the uptake: the Agile methodology could be a game-changer for Marketing.

I’m talking about for everyone in Marketing, not just America’s tech darlings. As smaller organizations scramble to get more done with less, an Agile framework can help teams prioritize and execute projects faster. As larger organizations struggle to keep projects moving across multiple layers of management and departments, Agile helps bridge gaps between IT, Marketing, and the Business.

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Two Ways for Product Owners to Prioritize a Backlog

By John Dobson, Healthcare Practice Director

While executing Agile development projects for large organizations, we often run into a few of the same challenges no matter the type of client.  A common challenge is the “everything is critical” scenario when trying to prioritize work. Sound familiar?

For these projects, an Agile Product Owner is typically provided by the client. And to level-set, this does not reflect poorly on the Product Owner. The theory of backlog prioritization operates under the assumption that priorities are clear, but reality is rarely that nice. The more common scenario is that the Product Owner has multiple objectives (or superiors) to account for, each with a different agenda. Net impact is that, depending on which objective/boss you want to satisfy, priorities are different. The result is a Product Owner trying to juggle multiple and competing priorities while still providing a clear path forward.

So what can be done about it? We have a simple and practical way of addressing this issue.

Solving the complex political challenges of negotiating between superiors and/or competing agendas is an idealistic objective—not a realistic one. And there is an easier way: change the context of the conversation.

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What is the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)?

By Mike Huber, Agile Engagement Director

The increasing number of organizations performing Agile development at the team level know that nothing beats an Agile approach for delivering fully-tested products to the customer in the most efficient manner possible.

Agile methodologies were originally created for teams working on project-focused delivery. So how do you scale Agile development approaches from the team level to work across an entire portfolio?

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Embracing an Agile Corporate Culture

By Todd Miller, ScrumMaster, Product Owner

Businesses from all industries are facing competitive markets like our economy has never seen before. The notion of delivering a product as fast as possible with the highest quality is making that competition move at the speed of light. This is especially true with digital products as they have become the key driver for increasing operational efficiencies, market offerings, and product sales.

Here's why fostering a corporate environment with original thinking matters:

  • Encouraging creative freedom from executives to line workers is what drives innovation.
  • Innovation is what drives faster time to market and higher quality products
  • Speed and quality products deliver higher value to customers than the competition
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What is Agile, Part II: Key Agile Terminology

By Celerity

Have you been asking yourself, "What is Agile?" You're in the right place. This is the second installment of a two-part series on the basics of Agile.  In the first post we defined how Agile works. Now we’re equipping you with the top 10 key terms you need to know to be conversant in Agile. 

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6 Ways to Boost Quality with Agile Development and Software Testing

By Todd Miller, ScrumMaster, Product Owner

"Bugs in your product are a symptom of bugs in your process - if you focus on fire prevention, you'll reduce the need to fight fires"  -  Henrik Kniberg, Lean from the Trenches

Quality in agile software development is not negotiable. Teams should strive to deliver a fully functioning, high quality, potentially shippable product increment every iteration. In defining quality in software, we not only refer to the cumulative defects of a system but other attributes that combine to satisfy a customer’s needs. This article focuses on methods and practices that instill a sense of urgency on the topic of quality in your teams and agile projects.

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What is Agile Development? Defining the Basics

By Todd Miller, ScrumMaster, Product Owner

Agile development is super-hot right now. But what is Agile development, exactly? We’ve compiled this post to provide a basic overview and key definitions of the Agile methodology. 

The Agile software development methodology began in the mid-1990s but has recently gained significant traction inside and outside of IT departments due to its suitability for an ever-changing business landscape. The most common Agile approaches today include Scrum and Kanban, but there are others such as Extreme Programming, Lean and SAFe for the enterprise.

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Adding Transparency Into Your Agile/Kanban Workflow

By Kenneth Yu

Adding Transparency Into Your Agile/Kanban Workflow

Why the 3 Columns of “To Do, Doing, Done” Aren’t Always Enough

On a recent project, I noticed that our previously high-performing Scrum team was sputtering. We were missing an increasing number of sprint commitments, and none of our retrospective suggestions were improving performance. In fact, retrospectives often turned into constructive critiques, where we were examining resource utilization, development/QA processes, requirements, and estimation tactics in an effort to improve efficiency. I often felt like we were guessing at ways to improve, without any empirical evidence to support our suggestions. All we knew was that leftover tasks sat in the “doing” column on our board for days on end.

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What is Scrum and Why Do You Care?

By Chuck Klein, VP, Strategic Accounts

What is Scrum and Why Do You Care?

You might be familiar with the traditional way of doing software development, called waterfall. This methodology is very linear, with a “big bang” delivery at the end. You start with requirements, move to software design and development, then testing and finally implementation.

The major challenges with the traditional waterfall approach include:

  • A large investment in upfront requirements gathering, which often leads to outdated requirements documents
  • Lack of foresight into the end product, so if the original requirements are off, you don’t have the opportunity to fix them before the software is put into production
  • Difficulty in adjusting priorities if there are changes in the business environment; in other words, a lack of flexibility.
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6 Reasons Why Businesses Should Adopt an Agile Framework

By Jim Bailoni, EVP, Strategic Accounts

Lean project methodologies such as Agile development Scrum and Kanban are all the buzz right now. So what does a just-in-time approach mean for your business?

Companies want to save money while still best serving customers, but they often forget the easiest way to illicit customer feedback: just ask the customer. The Agile/Lean world focuses on higher interaction with customers and the ability to easily change course based on customer feedback. The processes are truly empirical, which gives a team the opportunity to quickly adapt as it studies and observes, rather than basing a project on assumptions and theory.

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The Scoop on Scrum Development

By Todd Miller, ScrumMaster, Product Owner

When I got my Certified ScrumMaster license in Silicon Valley a few years ago, I was surprised to find 20 or so employees from Apple—not from their Development team, but from their Marketing team—there to learn about Scrum. Now, that doesn’t seem so strange. Scrum is quickly affecting more and more departments in businesses everywhere, as teams outside of IT are trying to find better ways to deliver the right thing to a customer as efficiently as possible.

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Agile and Waterfall: The Best of Both Worlds for Project Management

By Chad Baker, PPM Consultant

“One fails, we ALL fail!” is a common phrase used across team that use Agile methodologies. But why is this not a mantra for Waterfall projects? Today it seems many organizations are focused on one methodology or the other, instead of looking at ways to leverage the strengths of both to successfully deliver projects.

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Managing an Agile Development Project with Scrum: Balancing Speed and Feature Fidelity

By Bob Mead, Agile Coach

Having an “I want it here, I want it all, and I want it now” mindset is one of the quickest ways to derail an Agile Scrum project.

During my experience as a Scrum Coach working in Agile methodologies, I often see a lack of trust between business leaders and IT software development. This leads to a mindset in which the optimal strategy for the business Product Owner is to ask for as many product features as possible, delivered in a highly refined state. The Product Owner might push every opportunity to implement gold-plated, trendy software product features. That mindset, unfortunately, may lead to some ill-fated consequences, like reaching the project end date before the project is completed.

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How A Django Developer Can Write Speedy Unit Tests, Pt. 1: The Basics

By Casey Kinsey, Web & Mobile Consultant

In this series, we’re discussing basic to advanced techniques for writing fast, efficient, and focused unit tests in the Django framework/content management system (CMS). Let's start with some background.

One of the most important aspects of working on a software team is software testing agile code. During a big sprint towards a production release on a recent project, my web development team decided to get really serious about testing. After all, we had code in production now. We had to make absolutely sure that future releases fixed bugs instead of introducing them.

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