Product Managers Unite!

Agile methodologies, DevOps practices and dedicated tools have improved collaboration, efficiency, and time to market for development teams. But the needs of product managers are often overlooked. Lenore Adam investigates Atlas in her first Micro Focus blog post, enjoy!

With dev, test, and biz teams, that is.  Thanks to a Micro Focus Atlas, product managers can now be at one with dev, test, and business teams.

Agile methodologies, DevOps practices and dedicated tools have improved collaboration, efficiency, and time to market for development teams. But the needs of product managers are often overlooked.

Capturing evolving customer needs and understanding the impact of these changes on schedules, resources, and budgets are what product managers do.  PMs are the voice of the customer for engineering, and the financial and business analyst for the executive committee.  But to do the job properly they need information in real time for insightful analysis.

  •  How will a new customer requirement impact the release cycle?
  • Which requirements caused the project timeline to slip?
  • How much development time was spent on a specific requirement?

This need for knowledge has driven the development of Micro Focus Atlas requirements management software. Let’s put Atlas to the test with a couple scenarios.

Your customers demand a new requirement. Development asks ‘exactly how badly do you need this?’

Product managers often have to evaluate trade-offs, like whether a new feature is worth a schedule delay.  They rely on data to support recommendations, but without good data, sound judgment is compromised.  One of my mentors used to chant ‘the data will show you the way’.  But how?

To begin with, you need your finger on the pulse of current activity.  Atlas creates a bi-directional link with DevOps and Agile tooling.  Customer requirements created in Atlas are sent to the Agile backlog, establishing a direct connection between customer requirements and the dispersed stories and tasks needed to execute that requirement. Automatic status updates of these activities are centralized back into Atlas and available for PMs. No black box of engineering activity, no need to interrupt busy engineering managers for updates.  Setting up the sync is pretty straightforward as these YouTube postings prove:

Syncing Atlas & Rally

Syncing Atlas & JIRA

Syncing TFS & Atlas

Now, with an eye on the future, use this data within the Atlas environment to develop a what-if planning scenario to evaluate options.  What would be the expected schedule impact if a new feature was included in the release?  Does the potential increase in revenue offset the expected schedule delay?  Linking engineering activities to customer requirements gives projects teams the tools needed to make better decisions.

atlas

So why did the schedule slip?

The execs promised the sales teams and customers a timely delivery. So what went wrong?  Feature creep?  Did specific features take significantly longer to execute than planned?

Use the Atlas Time Machine feature to clarify cause and effect.  Explain why the original estimate was so far off with historical tracking that summarizes which stories were added, removed, or updated and how this impacted schedule over time.

Leverage the data in Atlas for your project post mortem to make the next project even better.  Atlas project baselining is where the team hits ‘rewind’ to uncover the original project definition and scope. The version control identifies each change, the person who made it and any associated discussions for context.  For the multi-disciplinary team, this is an opportunity for an informed discussion and objective review after the whirlwind of development and release.

The hands-on executive – ‘hey, remember what happened the last time you did that?’ 

What happens when an executive bypasses the decision-making process?  Suddenly, a requirement ‘proposal’ becomes a new requirement, end of story.  True confession: we often padded our schedules and budgets with a line item affectionately labeled ‘friends of execs’ to factor in these unpredictable yet inevitable curve balls.

The trick is to view the schedule before and after the unplanned insertion in a previous project.  Was there a schedule slip – and if so, how bad was it?  Even understand the breadth of impact by using the Atlas Relationship Diagram to trace downstream requirements that may also have been impacted.

And here’s the killer data point you need to save the project from unhelpful top-floor intervention:  How much development time was chewed up by the requirement?  That said, Atlas just records the facts. You’ll need to draw on all your expert diplomacy skills to present them. Try ‘Just sayin’…’

Micro Focus Application Delivery and Testing   

Accelerated delivery.  Continuous quality.

Make Atlas your resource for uniting business, development, and test teams. And it doesn’t cost a cent to get started. Access a free cloud-based trial of Atlas 3.0 and start.

Agile Methodology Today (is mostly not very Agile)

This is not a personal judgement, but is symptomatic of being selective in how change is done in most companies. Most companies understand there to be many benefits with the adoption of agile methods in a company, but equally many would struggle to clearly state how those benefits are delivered. Without that understanding, the headlines become the detail, and initiatives are started with the headlines in mind, not the practices themselves. I hear things like this a lot:

Many companies I meet are going, or have gone, agile – but almost all of them are not.

This is not a personal judgement, but is symptomatic of being selective in how change is done in most companies. Most companies understand there to be many benefits with the adoption of agile methods in a company, but equally many would struggle to clearly state how those benefits are delivered. Without that understanding, the headlines become the detail, and initiatives are started with the headlines in mind, not the practices themselves. I hear things like this a lot:

  • “we incorporate many of the agile practices here”
  • “we do agile project management
  • “the 3-month iteration”
  • “Agile PMO”
  • “agile does away with writing down requirements

In reality, transitioning a team or whole company to agile is to immerse in it completely, but the trend is more to dip a toe in the water, or extract the elements of it which seem less disruptive to the existing methods and approaches. While it’s clear that this is a way to balance the risk and disruption of change, one of the most rewarding outcomes of the transition to agile is the thinking that is forced on people to consider which of the things they do are truly worthwhile, and which are a result only of the way they work. As Jack Welch of GE famously stated, “Willingness to change is a strength even if it means plunging part of the company into total confusion for a while”. For most organisations, transitioning to agile methodology will create this “total confusion” since it should affect almost everything they do, including not just their internal processes but right through to the way they manage their customer relationships and partnerships.

Agile is not a passing trend, or at least should not be, since its value is robust and is sustained on much more than the way an organisation sees itself – much more importantly its sustained on the way that it affects the organisation’s ability to deliver better products and services, faster, at optimal cost. The caution is that going “Selectively Agile” will not probably affect very much at all, and may result in a company resorting to other approaches or solutions having decided that agile is not for them. This would be a missed opportunity – since agile offers substantive change more than any of its predecessors have over the last 20 years, and if we refer to the market evaluations such as the Chaos manifesto, the evidence is that all of that effort, invention and innovation has not really improved the capability of the industry at all.

So while we celebrate many new ideas, achievements and innovative solutions in these awards, we should not lose sight of the truly important things that we must strategically pursue as an industry that will provide real, sustainable improvement. Continual effort to make traditional waterfall, PMO-driven or command-and-control approaches workable in today’s marketplace will surely only become harder and harder.

Chris Livesey

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