Web Seminar Recap: Business Book Report- The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

written by: Tegan Smith on September 19th, 2014

Each month we pick a valuable, substantive business book we think will benefit the professionals we serve. Some are new; some are classics. Either way, we do the reading, and then use one of our free web seminars to deliver a one-hour “book report.” This month’s book pick is The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Taleb has written a book that explains how the business world works now more than ever. It’s a world of fast-paced, unpredictable events that are hard to keep up with and even harder to predict. If you are a professional who struggles to cope with change or find ways to deliver value quickly enough to respond to the market, this is a must-read.
Taleb put his finger on the dynamics of a world where luck, evolution, unpredictability, and response time all converge to make it seemingly impossible to navigate a market landscape that just moves too fast. However, he also explains how navigation is possible for those who understand the underlying drivers, and how it’s actually possible to stay nimble and alert, ready to respond when events occur that are impossible to predict – events Taleb calls “Black Swans.”

This one hour Business Book Report seminar on The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable was held by Chris Knotts on Tuesday, September 16th, 2014. If you missed this great seminar, catch up by downloading the recording and slides here!


Frequently Asked Questions: Transitioning from Waterfall to Agile

written by: Tom McGraw on September 16th, 2014

Following the most recent “Agile, Iterative and Waterfall” web seminar, presenter Tom McGraw addressed some of the FAQ’s that may arise while a team is transitioning from Agile to Waterfall. With this transition becoming a popular trend and many companies following suit, we thought that these questions and their answers were too good not to share!

The complete seminar slides and recording are available for free download here. For similar seminar topics visit our seminar archives page.

FAQ: Agile to Waterfall by Tom McGraw

Our organization is beginning to move to a more agile practice.  Many people seem to be of the impression that agile does not have or require documentation. Can you describe the role/type(s) of documentation are best in an agile environment?

Although Agile values “Working software over comprehensive documentation”, it doesn’t mean there should be no documentation at all.  Oftentimes, having the right Agile tool for your process can solve this problem and retain the necessary information.  With that said, if the documentation has a customer, or provides value to you and your team, it should not be discarded entirely.  Documentation that is never reviewed in the future, has no value, and has no ‘end customer’ is documentation that should be discarded.  There is a helpful, brief video from one of our Agile SME’s that may provide additional insights on this topic:

Are sprints a combination of random enhancements as well as iterations of a larger requirement?

Sprints and iterations in most cases are synonymous.  Organizations can adopt their own Agile processes which in some cases can differentiate the two based on certain criteria (i.e., multiple sprints can be a part of an iteration).   The two terms really arose through the formalizations of specific Agile flavors.  As an example, Scrum names the increments in development ‘sprints’.

Can you explain epic story vs. user story? What flags a story as epic?

Epic stories can be used differently and understood differently across various Agile teams.  In short, an epic story is more than likely some large user story that may not be able to be implemented without being broken down into smaller pieces.  There are no true widely-accepted defining criteria for what would be considered a ‘user story’ versus an ‘epic’.

What is typically outlined in a client’s contract if the development work is using an Agile method?

There’s limited information at this point, because of the few contracts written for Agile projects.  Most organizations do not bid contracts using Agile terms, and they’ll even translate into hours instead of the story points in some cases.  Few RFP’s require responses with Agile terms, and it may be up to you to determine based on the scope of the project outlined if an Agile approach is the best approach.  With all of that said, there is an increasing number of requests that include a requirement for holding some sort of relevant Agile certification (CSM, ACP, etc.)

Can changes within the current iteration be acceptable too?

This can be difficult to answer because it is highly dependent on your current processes.  In many cases sprints and iterations are synonymous, and in some environments, sprints may make up a larger iteration.  If there are changes mid-iteration, I’d be highly cautious of the impact that can have on other planned story points to be completed in the same iteration.  If the right controls are in place and there is truly a need to make a change during the current iteration it can be acceptable if managed appropriately.

I missed the first 3 identifiers of agility, can you restate those

Sure, the first three identifiers of Agility, as discussed in the presentation are “Frequent Deliverables”, “Adaptability to Changing Requirements”, “Shared Responsibility”.  More information for each of these characteristics of Agile teams is on the slides, which should have been provided to you via email after the presentation.

Can you point us to some online free resources to read through the best practice to follow for Agile project.

Well, I’ll start with ours at ASPE.

A number of Agile-related white papers and documents overviewing practical implementations can be downloaded on our free resources page: ASPE-SDLC Free Resources

Now, if you are a member of an Agile community (i.e., Agile Alliance, Scrum Alliance, PMI), those organizations typically provide countless resources shared amongst the community.

PMI provides a ‘Reference Materials List’, which lists many of the well-recognized readings and resources available pertaining to Agile: Reference Materials for PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® Examination


How Agile Project Management Can Remedy Your Project Failure

written by: Christie Marsh on September 15th, 2014

With large scale projects, there is a lot on the line and a lot that can go wrong. Often these projects are delayed or not delivered as they were promised. This is a common occurrence within government organizations due to their regulations, but can affect any industry.

No team wants to be underperforming. We all want project success, not failure. With agile development, you are able to adjust the outcome of the product throughout its creation, preventing the sudden bugs and problems when the product is released months or even years down the line.

Using agile project management, large projects are broken down into smaller phases that are continuously addressed. Teams complete a small amount of requirements, design, coding, integration, testing and delivery of working code each week. This allows for things like scalability and user testing to be integrated earlier in the process and corrections can be made to problems as they occur. The time and money spent on rework will therefore be minimal and give your team a better chance of meeting budget and deadlines.

As projects become more complex, they will benefit more and more from moving towards agile project management. With the right process and training, Agile adoption could be what makes your project succeed.


Q&A with ICAgile Expert, Kelly Thoma

written by: JT Moore on September 11th, 2014








Q: How did you get started with Agile?

I started my Agile journey in 2011 when I was assigned as a business analyst to the first pilot project at my company that was going to use the Agile mindset and advanced practices in developing software. We were taking a transformational approach of “Being Agile”, first applying the mindset, and not just “Doing Agile” practices. I was hooked as soon as the instructor, Dr. Ahmed Sidky, opened his mouth! I was captivated by Agility and that experience has changed my career. I gravitated towards a specialty in Agile training, coaching and facilitation. As a business analyst on that first pilot, I participated in four incremental deliveries for the product and then was asked to join the company’s Agile Transformation Initiative. And I’ve “Been Agile” ever since. 

Q: You have a rather unique title: Agile Coach on the Agile Operations team. What is your day-to-day like?

A typical day for me consists of delivering Agile training to employees across our enterprise. So far, I’ve trained over 600 employees in the Agile mindset and practices associated to incremental development and iterative delivery. In addition to training, I also have responsibilities of participating in strategic discussions regarding the rollout, or transformation of the enterprise, from applying a traditional waterfall approach to an Agile iterative approach. I also spend a great deal of time coaching teams that are new to Agile in applying practices such as Chartering, Iteration Planning, Software Demonstrations, Retrospectives, Backlog Grooming, User Stories, Estimation, etc…

Q: What challenges do you face with scaling Agile?

When transforming a large enterprise, we have to remember we are also transforming people and a deep-routed culture. We have to remember to employ good change management concepts and recognize that we are asking for individuals to change, and that everyone experiences change differently. We are asking people that are experts at their jobs, and have probably been for a long time, to do their job differently. With that, we have to be prepared for resistance and managing how different people will react to change, from despair, fear, hostility and even happiness (as in my case) until we gradual start moving forward with acceptance.

Q: Why did you seek ICAgile certification?

I’m not the type of person that just collects certifications to have them so it looks good on my resume. I think that most anybody can study for and pass a test, and that doesn’t mean he/she can actually demonstrate the necessary skills required to be an effective coach. Let’s face it, coaching is about people, not just projects and passing a standardized test doesn’t tell you anything about your people skills. ICAgile certification is competency based, which means you have to prove in front of a panel of industry leaders that you actually have the goods to be an effective coach. I feel that in addition to the knowledge, I now have industry recognized credibility.

Q: How was the ICP certification process/experience?

When I started on my journey, I didn’t really know where I was headed. My first stop was becoming an ICAgile Certified Professional (ICP) after taking an Agile Fundamentals class. When I joined my company’s Agile transformation initiative, the next stop was becoming an ICAgile Certified Professional in Agile Team Facilitation (ICP-AFT) and then becoming an ICAgile Certified Professional in Agile Coaching (ICP-ACC), after completing both the associated course learning objectives, respectively. I pursued all this training and certification to become a more effective Agile coach and assist my company, teams and individuals through an Agile transformation. At this point, I still wasn’t entirely sure where my Agile journey was taking me.

Q: What caused you to seek further certification and pursue ICAgile Expert-level certification?

I’ve never been accredited or certified in anything before.  This opportunity is unlike any I’ve come across.  When ICAgile finalized their process for the Expert-level (competency-based) certification I knew it was meant for me. I started to read about the qualifications and study the competency rubric and said, “Hey I can do this. It’s a challenge, and I’m up for it!”

Q: Which track of the ICP certification did you take? And why?

I took the Agile Coaching track. I have always wanted to help people. It’s been my dream; in my youth, I even contemplated the medical field, and have discovered I have fulfilled my dream by helping others in the IT field instead.  The niche I’ve found within ICAgile allows me to give back to the community.  ICAgile has given me the opportunity and credentials to fulfill my dream of helping others.

 Q: How was the preparation for the Expert-level assessment?

My own personality forces me to be over prepared, but it is a serious process and should be taken as such. In addition to the required training and coaching experience, I had to submit a 10-minute video demonstrating my facilitation skills. Along with the video, I had to provide time markers from the video describing what facilitation techniques I was demonstrating. I must have watched that video a hundred times to get the markers just right! I also had to submit three references of people that I had coached, with at least one of them being new to Agile. I was also required to submit facilitation guides and any other documentation that would demonstrate my thought process in preparing for facilitating or coaching a team.

Q: How was the ICE-AC Gate review process?

After submitting my application with all the aforementioned documentation, I had to sit before a panel of industry experts for a 2-hour interview/gate review. I was extremely nervous, and was soon feeling relaxed after a quick five minute round of introductions. Next, the panel watched my video live which was followed by a short Q&A. I was glad when that was over! Next, I did a 10-minute coaching role play, followed by a 10-minute mentoring role play. Boy was I glad when that was over! This was followed by another round of general Q&A. Lyssa Adkins had some really tough questions.  I’m glad I prepared as I did because I kept thinking “Boy, I don’t want to go through this again!” The panel then deliberated for 35 minutes while I stepped away and prayed that I would pass. Upon rejoining the panel, I was elated to find out I did pass. Even though I passed, I was really appreciative when the panel gave me great feedback intended to stretch me a bit and make me an even better coach.

Q: How do you think the Expert-level certification is going to help you at work?

Several of my colleagues will be taking the Coaching Agile Teams class this month. I hope I can help them prepare, study and also pass on the first try! As more people become involved with ICAgile, our transformation will deepen.  It will give our program additional visibility, and people will see the results. This feels like just the beginning for me.  It’s all about the journey and not the destination. I’m 100% confident that I want to stay on the path and keep learning.

Q: Any advice for anyone considering ICAgile certification?

Don’t take it lightly. It’s a serious process.  Let it be serious.  Be open to the possibility that ICAgile will change your life.  For me it is the culmination of everything I’ve been looking for.  

Q: I heard you are the first woman to become an ICAgile Expert. What are your thoughts about women in Agile or software development in general?

I don’t really think in terms of male versus female or that I’m at some disadvantage or a victim because I’m a woman. It never crosses my mind when I enter a room to coach or facilitate that I will be treated any differently because I’m a woman. My attitude is, “This is who I am and this is what I do.” In fact, I think there can be some very strong advantages to being a woman when it comes to Agile coaching. I certainly feel I can tap into my emotional, sympathetic, almost maternal instincts when it comes to helping others.

I’m inspired by this quote from Lysaa Adkins in her book, Coaching Agile Teams, “A friend loves you just the way you are. A coach loves you too much to let you stay that way.” Being a coach takes courage.  The change is about helping someone become who they’re really capable of being, and it comes about by how you cultivate relationships.  When someone calls and asks for my input, they begin to initiate the acceleration of their own process.  I don’t need to do anything for them.  It’s about triggering a different view of the world.

Q: Any advice for women in Agile?

Over the past 20+ years, I’ve had some great female role models in the IT industry. I don’t think we are at any disadvantage, and I hope to see the trend of women in Agile continue to increase. I may be the first, but I’m certainly not the last. 


Web Seminar Recap: Achieving Scrum Mastery – A 1-Hour Coaching Clinic

written by: Tegan Smith on September 11th, 2014

On the surface Scrum and agile practices seem simple — don’t they? At heart, they are. In fact, “doing Agile” is relatively straightforward. So why are so many organizations struggling to effectively implement agility?

There are several culprits. During this hour, ASPE expert and Certified Scrum Coach Bob Galen will address some of these impediments, and take attendees Q and A in a free one-hour coaching clinic. Attendees discussed and learned about:
- Estimation
- Release Planning
- Agile at Scale
- Done-ness
- Investing in Technical Debt
- Engaging Leadership
- Enhancing Transparency
- Effective User Stories
- Team Buy-in
- MVPs
- Distributed Teams

If you’re struggling with various aspects of agility, getting the return on your agile investment or stuck “going at it alone,” with no guide through tough Scrum challenges, this free, one-hour coaching session with a pragmatic and highly experienced agile practitioner is for you! Attendees created the Product Backlog for this workshop, and brought questions and challenges to see what “being Agile” looks like in the wild.
This one hour seminar, Achieving Scrum Mastery – A 1-Hour Coaching Clinic, was held on Thursday, September 4th by Chris Knotts and Bob Galen. If you missed this seminar you can catch up by downloading the slides and recording here!


The Down and Dirty on Scrum

written by: Traci Taylor on September 8th, 2014

An oldy but a goody, this video by ASPE General Manger, David Mantica, gives the down and dirty on Scrum. Find out what Scrum really is, who governs it, the different Scrum certifications, and what kind of Scrum training is available and where to go to get it.

Learn more about Scrum training from ASPE >>> http://www.aspe-sdlc.com/scrum-training/

Click to continue »


Web Seminar Recap- The PMI-PBA Credential: Taking a Look from the PMP’s Point of View

written by: Tegan Smith on August 29th, 2014

With PMI’s announcement of a new Business Analysis credential to be piloted at the end of this year, they have signaled a massive acknowledgement of the importance the BA’s role in the world of projects and project management.

At ASPE, we have always been aware of this critical relationship, but with PMI’s entry into this professional area the conversation takes on larger significance. The PMI-PBA is not just a general business analysis certification. PMI has stated that they are specifically interested in what Business Analysis signifies to their community – a worldwide group of project managers, program professionals, and others who perform project work. Some of these particulars are nuanced, and it can be hard to pinpoint exactly where PMI’s interest ends and the general Business Analysis profession picks up.

In this one-hour web seminar,  The PMI-PBA Credential: Taking a Look from the PMP’s Point of View presented by Chris Knotts on August 26th, attendees examined what the PMI-PBA credential means to those with a PMP. Should we get the credential? What does this new significance of Business Analysis mean to existing PMP credential holders?

Missed this seminar? Download the slides and recording here.