Wednesday Mar 19, 2014

Scrum Teams -- Do you feel the rhythm?

Hi, I’m Terri Merenkov a member of the Global Methods team at Oracle. This month I celebrate my 18th year with Oracle. You might be surprised by that, but many in the Global Methods team have more tenure than I do. This is part of what makes my job so interesting. If I don’t know the answer to something about Oracle Implementation projects of a certain type, I don’t have to go far to find someone who does. Even though some concepts have been around for a while, there is always something new coming so we are constantly adapting and changing.

We have many things to learn about, today, even though they may have been around for a while, for example Scrum. Scrum was created in 1993 by Jeff Sutherland. The term “scrum” is borrowed from an analogy used in the 1986 study by Takeuchi and Nonaka (Takeuchi), published in the Harvard Business Review. In the study, the authors equated high-performance, cross-functional teams to the packs formed by Rugby teams.

Here we are nearly two decades later actually applying Scrum in our software development projects. Yet some people think that Scrum is new,maybe it is coming into the mainstream perhaps because we realize that often taking something large and breaking it down helps support a successful software implementation.  It is only now that we're seeing teams celebrate success using Scrum.  Of course, not everyone is successful. Scrum seems so simple, it's often the human factor that really determines how well things go.

In the 80’s I was very into music, I started in University as a music education major. My major was percussion as well as piano, with a minor in French. At the time, I had no idea what a computer was, however, I was playing electric keyboards “synthesizers” with built-in percussion instruments of course I was enamored with the Mellotron and Moog synthesizers that were being used by some of the progressive rock bands. Once I discovered that music was being cut from the curriculum of many schools, I decided to re-think my major. A software “recruiter” lived across the street from me. She suggested that I try taking some computer courses, since often people who are good at music and language happen to excel in using computers. I began taking classes in computer science, and the more I learned, the more I wanted to know!

I find it interesting at this point in my life, I’m being reminded of good things that I learned about when I was younger, that are actually useful in my adult life – today.

Just the other day, I was working on some updates to the Scrum View in OUM and I came across the word “Cadence”. Oh, I thought, I know about Cadence! Any good drummer knows that a cadence is needed to get the marching band to stay in step when marching across the football field or in a parade.  Of course the percussionists are experts in various percussion instruments,

The percussionists in a marching band have a natural rhythm, in fact when the band is marching in between songs, the percussionists are keeping a cadence that allows everyone to step together, as part of a group, each individual takes nice even steps until we’re in place to play the next song.  This rhythm can me a steady tapping on the drum "rims" or use of the full percussion instrument.

So think about a Scrum team, just the way you would think about a group of musicians in a band. Good Scrum teams “feel the rhythm” they have a cadence that allows the team to work together easily, almost naturally. With each Sprint retrospective, they examine what worked and what didn’t. Over the course of several Sprints, a true cadence is achieved by the team. A sustainable team cadence leads us to another term used in the Scrum approach; velocity.

When I think of velocity, I think of speed, but in a software development effort, speed isn’t always our main focus. In Scrum, velocity is obtained by calculating the number of units of work that can be completed by the team during a specific timeframe (Sprint). Velocity refers to the speed at which a team can implement and test use cases (user stories) and change requests (that is, how much of the product backlog the team can complete). This is reflected in the Burndown Charts by showing the progress made so far versus the planned/estimated progress. Of course with each Scrum Sprint, the team becomes more experienced, and can determine velocity based on how many units of work they have completed during previous Sprints.

 

Contrary to what some may say, even though Scrum uses the word Sprint, we aren’t necessarily only focused on going as fast as we can until we burn out the team. Rather, we work on building teams that can develop, test and integrate working software in a collaborative, yet agile fashion.  This results in a sustained rhythm. So I ask you - can YOU feel the rhythm? What experiences have you had in building expert teams that work well together?  Have you used Scrum successfully and why?  Listen... do you feel it?

Saturday Nov 23, 2013

Oracle Unified Method (OUM) Customer Program

PURCHASE OPTION NOW AVAILABLE!

Oracle’s Full Lifecycle Method
for Deploying Oracle-Based Business Solutions

The Oracle® Unified Method (OUM) Customer Program has been expanded to include a purchase option.

The Program allows customers to obtain copies of the method for their internal use – including guidelines, templates, and tailored work breakdown structure – in one of two ways:

1.) OUM Customer Program – No-Cost Option:

Customers, who have a signed contract with Oracle for a consulting engagement of two weeks or longer meeting some additional minimum criteria, are permitted to download the current release of OUM for their perpetual use. They may also obtain subsequent releases published during a renewable, three year access period.

2.) OUM Customer Program – Purchase Option:

Customers who do not qualify for the free option, and who do not wish to engage Oracle consultants, can opt to purchase the OUM Method Pack. The price for an unlimited, perpetual license is 16,000 USD. This allows the customer to distribute OUM within their enterprise for internal use. At the time of purchase, customers are also able to purchase an initial three year subscription for 15% of the purchase price or 2,400 USD. After the initial subscription period, the subscription may be renewed annually for 2,400 USD. This subscription allows them to download updates to OUM during the subscription period.

    Contact your local Oracle Sales Representative about enrolling in the OUM Customer Program.

    Saturday Nov 03, 2012

    The Birth of a Method - Where did OUM come from?

    It seemed fitting to start this blog entry with the OUM vision statement.

    The vision for the Oracle® Unified Method (OUM) is to support the entire Enterprise IT lifecycle, including support for the successful implementation of every Oracle product. 

    Well, it’s that time of year again; we just finished testing and packaging OUM 5.6.  It will be released for general availability to qualifying customers and partners this month.  Because of this, I’ve been reflecting back on how the birth of Oracle’s Unified method - OUM came about.

    As the Release Director of OUM, I’ve been honored to package every method release.  No, maybe you’d say it’s not so special.  Of course, anyone can use packaging software to create an .exe file.  But to me, it is pretty special, because so many people work together to make each release come about.  The rich content that results is what makes OUM’s history worth talking about.  

    To me, professionally speaking, working on OUM, well it’s been “a labor of love”.  My youngest child was just 8 years old when OUM was born, and she’s now in High School!  Watching her grow and change has been fascinating, if you ask her, she’s grown up hearing about OUM.  My son would often walk into my home office and ask “How is OUM today, Mom?”  I am one of many people that take care of OUM, and have watched the method “mature” over these last 6 years.  Maybe that makes me a "Method Mom" (someone in one of my classes last year actually said this outloud) but there are so many others who collaborate and care about OUM Development.

    I’ve thought about writing this blog entry for a long time just to reflect on how far the Method has come. Each release, as I prepare the OUM Contributors list, I see how many people’s experience and ideas it has taken to create this wealth of knowledge, process and task guidance as well as templates and examples.  If you’re wondering how many people, just go into OUM select the resources button on the top of most pages of the method, and on that resources page click the ABOUT link.

    So now back to my nostalgic moment as I finished release 5.6 packaging.  I reflected back, on all the things that happened that cause OUM to become not just a dream but to actually come to fruition.  Here are some key conditions that make it possible for each release of the method:

    • A vision to have one method instead of many methods, thereby focusing on deeper, richer content
    • People within Oracle’s consulting Organization  willing to contribute to OUM providing Subject Matter Experts who are willing to write down and share what they know.
    • Oracle’s continued acquisition of software companies, the need to assimilate high quality existing materials from these companies
    • The need to bring together people from very different backgrounds and provide a common language to support Oracle Product implementations that often involve multiple product families

    What came first, and then what was the strategy?

    Initially OUM 4.0 was based on Oracle’s J2EE Custom Development Method (JCDM), it was a good “backbone”  (work breakdown structure) it was Unified Process based, and had good content around UML as well as custom software development.  But it needed to be extended in order to achieve the OUM Vision.

    What happened after that was to take in the “best of the best”, the legacy and acquired methods were scheduled for assimilation into OUM, one release after another.  We incrementally built OUM.  We didn’t want to lose any of the expertise that was reflected in AIM (Oracle’s legacy Application Implementation Method), Compass (People Soft’s Application implementation method) and so many more.

    When was OUM born?

    OUM 4.1 published April 30, 2006.  This release allowed Oracles Advanced Technology groups to begin the very first implementations of Fusion Middleware.  In the early days of the Method we would prepare several releases a year.  Our iterative release development cycle began and continues to be refined with each Method release.  Now we typically see one major release each year.

    The OUM release development cycle is not unlike many Oracle Implementation projects in that we need to gather requirements, prioritize, prepare the content, test package and then go production.  Typically we develop an OUM release MoSCoW (must have, should have, could have, and won’t have) right after the prior release goes out.   These are the high level requirements.  We break the timeframe into increments, frequent checkpoints that help us assess the content and progress is measured through frequent checkpoints.  We work as a team to prioritize what should be done in each increment. Yes, the team provides the estimates for what can be done within a particular increment.  We sometimes have Method Development workshops (physically or virtually) to accelerate content development on a particular subject area, that is where the best content results. As the written content nears the final stages, it goes through edit and evaluation through peer reviews, and then moves into the release staging environment.  Then content freeze and testing of the method pack take place.  This iterative cycle is run using the OUM artifacts that make sense “fit for purpose”, project plans, MoSCoW lists, Test plans are just a few of the OUM work products we use on a Method Release project.

    In 2007 OUM 4.3, 4.4 and 4.5 were published.  With the release of 4.5 our Custom BI Method (Data Warehouse Method FastTrack) was assimilated into OUM.  These early releases helped us align Oracle’s Unified method with other industry standards

    Then in 2008 we made significant changes to the OUM “Backbone” to support Applications Implementation projects with that went to the OUM 5.0 release.  Now things started to get really interesting.  Next we had some major developments in the Envision focus area in the area of Enterprise Architecture.  We acquired some really great content from the former BEA, Liquid Enterprise Method (LEM) along with some SMEs who were willing to work at bringing this content into OUM.  The Service Oriented Architecture content in OUM is extensive and can help support the successful implementation of Fusion Middleware, as well as Fusion Applications.

    Of course we’ve developed a wealth of OUM training materials that work also helps to improve the method content.  It is one thing to write “how to”, and quite another to be able to teach people how to use the materials to improve the success of their projects.  I’ve learned so much by teaching people how to use OUM.

    What's next?

    So here toward the end of 2012, what’s in store in OUM 5.6, well, I’m sure you won’t be surprised the answer is Cloud Computing.   More details to come in the next couple of weeks! 

    The best part of being involved in the development of OUM is to see how many people have “adopted” OUM over these six years, Clients, Partners, and Oracle Consultants.  The content just gets better with each release.  

    I’d love to hear your comments on how OUM has evolved, and ideas for new content you’d like to see in the upcoming releases.

    Monday Feb 06, 2012

    Back to the Strategy

    Methodologists are much like everyone else in that we are all too crazy busy to spend time reflecting on the past.  However, as I was preparing for a presentation at the 2012 JDE Summit last week, I found myself reflecting on the fact that I had returned to the site of an important milestone in the evolution of OUM.

    It was seven years ago, in a conference room at the Oracle campus in Broomfield, Colorado, that several legacy Oracle, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards folks got together and sketched out what became Oracle’s method integration strategy.  We may have tweaked the actual wording since that meeting, but the foundations of the strategy have remained:

    • Support current methods (Compass, AIM, ABF, Siebel, DWM FT, etc.)
    • Develop a single, integrated method, to support the entire Oracle ecosystem, across all Oracle products (OUM).
    • Decommission legacy methods as the field transitions to OUM.

    In the seven years since the initial meeting in Broomfield, this strategy has served as a solid foundation as OUM has evolved and many acquisitions have subsequently been brought into Oracle.  So I suppose that for even crazy busy people, there is benefit in reflecting back on the fundamental decisions that continue to drive our day-to-day tasks.

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