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?

Monday Apr 22, 2013

Tailoring the OUM Workplan

Did you know that OUM has guidance for tailoring your project?

Located in the Supplemental Guidance section of the Key Components on the Manage view is the Tailoring OUM for Your Project guidance.  This guidance describes a step-by-step process for tailoring OUM for your project.  This process starts with the Estimate and/or Proposal and ends with Assigning Resources and Duration to Activities and Tasks. 

What this blog focuses on is the tailoring of the actual OUM Project Workplan for your project for activities and tasks (tailoring steps 2.0 through 5.2) including tips for applying a bottom-up as well as a top-down technique for tailoring the Project Workplan.  So let’s get started.

For our example, we are starting with the OUM Project Workplan that is located in the Method Resources section of the Key Components of most view pages. In OUM 5.6, a new Project Workplan template was introduced with pre-tailoring capability for most Implement views.  Our example project also is most closely aligned with the Requirements-Driven Application Implementation view.

To develop our Project Workplan, we have several options.  We can employ a top-down approach and start with all of OUM and tailor it down.  We can employ a bottom-up approach and start with the Core Workflow and build up from there.  The best approach is probably to start with the workplan that most closely matches our engagement and tailor up and down.  That is, immediately tailor down to a pre-tailored Workplan and continue to tailor from there based on the requirements of the engagement, while simultaneously keeping in mind the Core Workflow and building up from there.

So for our example, we are starting with the Requirements-Driven Application Implementation pre-tailored OUM Project Workplan.

Our next step is to eliminate activities/tasks that are not needed. Consider the following:
  1. Don’t eliminate anything in the Core Workflow without carefully consideration.
  2. Review any available supplemental guidance.
  3. Consider removing activities/tasks NOT included in the Estimate and/or Proposal.
  4. Determine if it’s possible to eliminate all if not most of some processes. For example, consider removing the following processes and corresponding activities and/or tasks, if your project does not include ANY requirements for them:
  • Performance Management
  • Organizational Change Management
  • Training
  • Data Acquisition and Conversion
Now that we have tailored down, we should consider if we need to add any activities/tasks.  These include two types of activities/tasks:
  • Activities/Tasks that were excluded from the Requirements-Driven Application Implementation pre-tailored Project Workplan, and
  • Project-Specific (Custom) Activities/Tasks

For the excluded activities/tasks, use the 01_OUM_Set_Project_Filter view of the OUM Project Workplan to review any activities/tasks that were not included in the Requirements-Driven Application Implementation pre-tailored OUM Project Workplan and determine if they are needed for the engagement.

Project-specific custom activities/tasks are activities/tasks that are not already included in OUM. Add these to the Project Workplan.

Now we have a tailored OUM Project Workplan for our engagement.  However, we still need to apply partitioning, if applicable, and iteration planning.  This however is a topic for another blog.  In the meantime, I encourage you to peruse the following OUM guidance:

From the Manage view, Key Components, Supplemental Guidance:

  • Planning a Project using OUM
  • Tailoring OUM for Your Project

Form the Manage view, Key Components, Method Resources

  • OUM Project Workplan – This link accesses the Project Workplan page which allows you to download a zipped file containing the Project Workplan and the Project Workplan User’s Guide.

Finally, you might also want to review the Task Overviews for WM.010 (Develop Baseline Project Workplan) and WM.030 (Manage Project Workplan).

Wednesday Jan 30, 2013

A Method Store – Supplemental Guidance (Understanding the Structure of OUM)

My last blog in this series on understanding the structure of OUM discusses supplemental guidance.  This is the final section of the OUM Repository “store” that you need to consider.

Going back to our grocery store comparison, the grocery store contains additional specialty items.  These items complement the groceries.  You don’t always need these items, but sometimes they come in handy.  These items might include sections for gourmet or hard to find groceries, a book section with cookbooks or a section with small kitchen appliances and utensils.  While you don’t need these items all the time, different items may be useful for different recipes or occasions.

OUM has supplemental guidance that complements the base method materials.  This is additional supplemental inventory that might be useful for your project.  Just as you narrowed down the base method materials based on your type of project, you can also narrow down the supplemental guidance based on your type of project.

If you have decided to use a particular view, applicable supplemental guidance can be found in the Key Components section at the top of the view.  The first column contains view-specific supplemental guidance.  For example, if your project is a Requirements-Driven Application Implementation, this view includes links to the Application Implementation Overview and Supplemental Guide.  

Additional supplemental guidance is found in the second column of the Key Components.  This can be anything from additional supplemental guides, such as Oracle Support Services, to additional resource links.  The last link in this column is to the OUM Supplemental Guidance page that provides an Index to ALL supplemental guidance in OUM

The final column in the Key Components section of the view is to method resources.  This includes the OUM Project Workplan, Key Work Products and the OUM mappings.

Review the resources found in the Key Components section of your selected view or go straight to the Supplemental Guidance page from the Method Navigation pull-down menu of any view in OUM and see what additional guidance is available in OUM and if it is useful for your current project.

Monday Jan 28, 2013

A Method Store – Views (Understanding the Structure of OUM)

This is the fourth blog in a series of blogs on the structure of OUM.  In the previous blogs, I compared the OUM repository to a grocery store or a store with method materials with three main departments (focus areas); Manage, Envision and Implement and each of these having sections for phases, processes, activities and tasks.

So now you have your project and you know you don’t need to use everything in OUM but with all this material, where do you start?

Start with a view, or a pre-populated shopping list that provides access to the method materials (or inventory) for a particular type of project, for example, Application Implementation, Software Upgrade, etc.  The OUM views have been determined with the help of experienced subject matter experts (SMEs).

Views can be selected from the OUM Home page using the Select a View pull-down menu.  Alternatively, you can use the Resources button on the Home page to go to the Resources page and from there open the View Catalog.  The View Catalog describes each of the views supported in the current release of OUM.

Each view is organized similarly to the original focus area views.  If applicable, there will be Guidelines sections for each focus area that allow you to access the phases and processes.  At the bottom will be a filtered list of Tasks and Work Products.

Start with the view that most closely matches your project and then tailor it for your project requirements.  You can even start with the OUM Implement Core Workflow and add additional method components based on your project requirements.

My next and last blog in this series will discuss OUM Supplemental Guidance.

Friday Jan 25, 2013

A Method Store – Base Materials (Understanding the Structure of OUM)

Once again, building on my previous blogs where I compared the OUM repository to a grocery store or basically a store with method materials with three main sections (focus areas); Manage, Envision and Implement.

Each focus area is organized similarly.  Within each focus area of the OUM repository, there are sections (or departments) for phases, processes, activities and tasks.

Phase guidance is found in the Phase Overviews.  Phases are a chronological grouping of tasks.  In OUM, services are delivered by phase in order to reduce project risk.  Each phase allows a checkpoint against project goals, and measurement against quality criteria.  Phases are temporal groupings, that is, they are bound by time.  They cut vertically through project activities and provide natural points for establishing project milestones for progress checkpoints.

Process guidance is found in the Process Overviews.  A process is a discipline or subproject that defines a set of tasks related by subject matter, required skills and common dependencies.  A process usually spans several phases.

Activity guidance is found in the Activity Overviews.  An Activity is a set of tasks related either by topic, dependencies, data, common skills/roles, or work products. The tasks in an activity may come from different processes.  Activities in OUM begin and end in the same method phase.  Activities are spread within the project phases according to the time and ordering where they logically occur during the life of the project.

Task guidance is found in the Task Overviews.  A task is a unit of work that is done as part of a project and results in a new or revised work product.  A task is the smallest traceable item on a project workplan, and forms the basis for a work breakdown structure.  A work product is simply the output of a task.  Many OUM tasks have work product templates.

Once again go to the Select a View menu on the OUM Home page and select “Full Method and Focus Areas”.  From this page, choose the focus view.  Once in any of the focus area view pages, expand the Guidelines window or choose it from the Current Page Navigation menu.  From within this window, you can access the focus area phases and processes.  You can access the tasks and their associated work products by expanding the appropriate Tasks and Work Products sections at the bottom of each focus area view.

Okay now that you know how the base method materials are organized in the OUM repository, my next blog will discuss the OUM views, or your pre-populated shopping lists.

Friday Jan 18, 2013

A Method Store - Focus Areas (Understanding the Structure of OUM)

If you remember my previous blog entry, I compared the OUM repository to a grocery store, that is, a store with method materials.  Just as the grocery store is organized into sections or departments, the OUM repository is segmented into three main sections or focus areas; Manage, Envision and Implement.  

Each of these focus areas has its own view.  From the OUM Home page, use the Select a View menu to go to the Full Method and Focus Areas page.  From there choose the focus area view.

The focus areas provide the framework for all the other method materials. Specifically, the Manage focus area provides the framework for program and project management.  The Envision focus area provides the framework for enterprise-level planning and the Implement focus area provides the framework for project implementation.  In OUM, focus area guidance is found in the Focus Area Overviews.

So, if you are making your shopping list for your project, ask yourself the following questions:
  • Do I need project management for my project?  In most cases, you always need project management and therefore, should consider the Manage focus area.
  • Is my project an enterprise-level planning project?  If so, consider the Envision focus area.
  • Am I implementing a COTS product, or doing a BI/EPM, WebCenter or custom project?  If so, consider the Implement focus area.
Once you know what focus area(s) you need, use the Select a View menu on the OUM Home page and select “Full Method and Focus Areas”.  From this page, choose the focus view.  Once in the view page, you can access the method materials available within each focus area, which is the topic for my next blog.

Thursday Jan 17, 2013

A Method Store (Understanding the Structure of OUM) - Introduction

This blog entry is the first in a series of blog entries to assist you in understanding the structure of the Oracle Unified Method.

The Oracle Unified Method (OUM) is a repository of information that can be used to support the entire enterprise IT lifecycle, including support for the successful implementation of every Oracle product.

Think of OUM as a grocery store filled with inventory (method materials) that can be used to implement your project.  When you shop, you never select everything in the grocery store.  You pick and choose what inventory is appropriate based on your grocery needs.  The same is true for the OUM repository.  You pick and choose the method materials appropriate for your project

When you shop at the grocery store, you have some idea of the inventory and how it is organized.  Even if you have never been in a grocery store, you know that the inventory is organized by sections or departments, such as, a bakery, and departments for meat, produce, dairy, canned goods, etc.  

The OUM repository or “store” contains a comprehensive set of method materials to support your projects.  These materials are organized as well.  The OUM inventory is organized by focus areas, phases, processes, activities, tasks, and work products.

Last, when you shop at the grocery store, you usually have a shopping list of what you need.  This list is based on experience, habit and planning.  

OUM has views, or pre-populated shopping lists that provide access to the method materials (or inventory) for particular types of projects, for example, Application Implementations, Software Upgrades, etc.

Now that we have been briefly introduced to the OUM repository and what it contains, my next few blogs will discuss how the OUM repository or “store” is organized.

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 Mar 19, 2012

Developing an Implementation Plan with Iterations by Russ Pitts

Developing an Implementation Plan with Iterations by Russ Pitts 

Ok, so you have come to grips with understanding that applying the iterative concept, as defined by OUM is simply breaking up the project effort you have estimated for each phase into one or more six week calendar duration blocks of work.

Idea being the business user(s) or key recipient(s) of work product(s) being developed never go longer than six weeks without having some sort of review or prototyping of the work results for an iteration…”think-a-little”, “do-a-little”, and “show-a-little” in a six week or less timeframe…ideally the business user(s) or key recipients(s) are involved throughout.

 

You also understand the OUM concept that you only plan for that which you have knowledge of. The concept further defined, a project plan initially is developed at a high-level, and becomes more detailed as project knowledge grows. Agreeing to this concept means you also have to admit to the fallacy that one can plan with precision beyond six weeks into a project…Anything beyond six weeks is a best guess in most cases when dealing with software implementation projects.

 

Project planning, as defined by OUM begins with the Implementation Plan view, which is a very high-level perspective of the effort estimated for each of the five OUM phases, as well as the number of iterations within each phase.

 

You might wonder how can you predict the number of iterations for each phase at this early point in the project. Remember project planning is not an exact science, and initially is high-level and abstract in nature, and then becomes more detailed and precise as the project proceeds.

 

So where do you start in defining iterations for each phase for a project?

 

The following are three easy steps to initially define the number of iterations for each phase:

 

Step 1 => Start with identifying the known factors…

 

…Prior to starting a project you should know:

 

 <!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->The agreed upon time-period for an iteration (e.g 6 weeks, or 4 weeks, or…) within a phase (recommend keeping iteration time-period consistent within a phase, if not for the entire project)

 

<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->The number of resources available for the project

 

<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->The number of total number of man-day (effort) you have estimated for each of the five OUM phases of the project

 

<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->The number of work days for a week

 

Step 2 => Calculate the man-days of effort required for an iteration within a phase…

 

Lets assume for the sake of this example there are 10 project resources, and you have estimated 2,536 man-days of work effort which will need to occur for the elaboration phase of the project. Let’s also assume a week for this project is defined as 5 business days, and that each iteration in the elaboration phase will last a calendar duration of 6 weeks. A simple calculation is performed to calculate the daily burn rate for a single iteration, which produces a result of…

 

((Number of resources * days per week) * duration of iteration) = Number of days required per iteration

 

((10 resources * 5 days/week) * 6 weeks) = 300 man days of effort required per iteration

 

 

Step 3 => Calculate the number of iterations that can occur within a phase

 

Next calculate the number of iterations that can occur for the amount of man-days of effort estimated for the phase being considered…

 

(number of man-days of effort estimated / number of man-days required per iteration) = # of iterations for phase

 

(2,536 man-days of estimated effort for phase / 300 man days of effort required per iteration) = 8.45 iterations, which should be rounded to a whole number such as 9 iterations*

 

*Note - It is important to note this is an approximate calculation, not an exact science. This particular example is a simple one, which assumes all resources are utilized throughout the phase, including tech resources, etc. (rounding down or up to a whole number based on project factor considerations). It is also best in many cases to round up to higher number, as this provides some calendar scheduling contingency.

 

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