Working at the Kids and Teens department is always interesting; The editors and the drawers of DonaldDuck get their jokes and inspiration from all sorts of places, even around the office. They ‘used’ me to make a character in an actual duck story; I’m a geeky guy who drives around a celebrity – how cool is that! If you want to read it, get a copy of the latest TrosKompas!
If you wanted to watch the Tour de France in the 70s, you had it rough, it was a daily 20 min B&W summary filmed from a single angle. However, my dad did become an avid fan and took up cycling himself. Together with his friends they climbed the famous mountains like Alpe d’Huez, Col de la Madeleine and the steep Mont Ventoux themselves. Their sport bonded the group and they are cycling together to this day.
Moving on to may 2015, my dad was picking a cottage for our yearly family get-together, unsurprisingly he picked one at the foot of that very Mont Ventoux. Our whole family took the opportunity and enjoyed surprisingly good weather, French baguettes and French wine. Then my dad asked me if I wanted to join him up the mountain; I had to consider, I cycled up Col de Madelaine in 2004 but I am totally untrained at the moment. I agreed to a small ascend to halfway point as a first training.
We started off and I felt pretty great, the mood was good, lot’s of “bonjours”, waves and there was an American girl cheering us on and offering cold beverages, that was fantastic! With the 7~10% climb I was cranking energy fast but all was good… until a man dressed like Lance Armstrong rode by and called me to my place “hey, c’est la folie, you are crazy” and carried on*. I yelled something back – too little too late – but actually found a renewed strength; “I’ll show him!” After a good hour we left the forest and we could see the moon-like summit. Breathtaking.
At halfway point I told my dad I wanted to keep on going, as the weather was exceptionally cold that day. But actually, being there with my dad really kept my nose to the grindstone and I didn’t want to let him down. Then I hit my limit. Closer to the top, I got into trouble but I made it! Thanks to my dad staying by my side and motivating me. A lovely Dutch woman with a SLR camera snapped my last meters, seen in the shot above.
At the top, we cheered, took some photos and had a cold drink. Then we turned around and breezing off the mountain, I was carrying such a big smile that I felt embarrassed for the people still climbing but I couldn’t stop. It was an absolutely perfect day.
*note: I did carry a helmet but only wore it during the descent; it was a remark regarding my endurance or my bike. Also; Generally French people are nice!
My uncles treated us on Skeet shooting in the far south of the Netherlands today. At the Eric Swinkels track. Having never shot anything in my life, this was a new experience. A loud bang and some feedback from the shotgun. Not sure if I will do it again but it was an interesting experience!
I made a move within Sanoma from Comparison to the ‘Kids & Teens‘ cluster at the start of the year, and am surrounded with Disney characters ever since! This cluster has a solid foundation, based on traditional publishing since 1951. (the year the first donalduck magazine was published), and is expanding through digital business models currently.
Finishing a title called ‘duckworld.com’ (more on this in a month or so), a touch typing course at ducktypen.nl (Polish version coming soon!) and maintain various content and e-commerce sites like fashionista.nl, donaldduck.nl and duckstadshop.nl.
We setup a development team working scrum at the start of the year. Three months in, to raise awareness throughout the cluster, we’ve organized a day-long scrum training with Zilverline yesterday. We started with a basic explanation about Agile and Scrum and zilverline introduced a number of fun activities to get the message across. According to at least a few participants, the day was a success. I can recommend Zilverline highly!
Not only did we explain scrum in practice, we found new energy to improve our working processes further. I heard that the New York Times is already create their newspapers with Scrum, I’m curious what we can do for the cluster in the coming time!
Whoa, the year passed already?! Check 1 min video below for our year together, long riverside summer days, walks and traveling Shanghai and Korea. All of this, while preparing for Mia arrival in December. At work, a lot of energy went into rewriting the largest comparison website of the Netherlands. Here on the blog, the most popular post was the dramatic sounding “end of my Chinese fashion startup.”
After working with Scrum for some time, I’ve finally became a certified ScrumMaster (SM) at the zilverline course with Marco Mulder en Bas van der Hoek. Addtionally I met one of the inventors of the Scrum software development process. Jeff Sutherland at our company yesterday!
Scrum is like a homing missile
The old school and dreadful IT project style: The customer wants a new website and makes sure to write an extensive project plan beforehand. Better be extra detailed to make sure we’ll get this project right! The customer assumes the project is clear and believes that developers should be able to give a detailed and trustworthy scoping. Planning commences and the project starts. Within no time, unforeseen occurrences happen and the made promises are broken. Both parties eventually become more hostile towards each other and IT has to work overtime to finish and the customer isn’t happy with the final result. Sounds familiar?
The waterfall method described above is like a cannonball. The customer sets a target in the distance and the developers have one shot at hitting it with their cannonball. The shot is taken and is in vain as in fact, the target was moving and there was unforeseen wind, the outcome became clear when it was too late.
An alternative to this is the scrum approach. The empirical approach in which the customer is closely aligned to the developers, releasing software often makes that demands are discovered along the way. Customer happy, developers happy.
Whilst finding roots in software development it’s also applied at banks, healthcare and government around the world, in the Netherlands there’s even a high school applying scrum at a class, where students show increased collaboration!
Epics and roadmaps
I’ve experienced firsthand that trying to scrum a traditional waterfall/Gantt planning can create a lot of friction in an organization. It starts with acknowledgement that Scrum is nice and all but targets are made for an entire year, the ‘business side’ (as apposed to the IT side) should be able to get some commitments over the year.
This doesn’t mean that one should make a roadmap, we’ve learned that roadmaps are too messy of a prediction. A roadmap feels a bit like a large project. The chances of making it are small.
But… when will the project be ready?
You’ve haven’t even started with the project yet but usually the costs need to be made clear in advance, and marketing activities planned. Expectations have to be given. “When will you finish?” is a pesky question without a roadmap. This is where one needs to be clear. Scrum allows you to produce a realistic planning after some time of development. By reducing size of projects and always focusing on the single most important thing, you will deliver something quickly, and more can be said about the time left for the rest. Tasks are put on a backlog, with most important things in top an detailed. Abstract things for the future at the bottom.
Finishing sprint after sprint, you will be able to estimate with more confidence. As you know how many storypoints you burn per sprint. Apposed to a long term development like waterfall, scrum will give quicker insight towards completion with a so called ‘release burndown’, showing how many storypoints are left. Additional tasks are added underneath the chart.
Going wide, not deep
Instead of a ‘island’ culture where one team passes work to the other, scrum teams are multidisciplinary and have full access, responsibility and knowledge of the architecture. Only then they are able to understand the why, how and what of the most important item.
Besides that, there can be only one thing important at the same time. People are terrible at multitasking, for a long time people assumed that if you started more, you’ll finish more. It’s the other way around, the more you finish, the more you’ll finish!
During the training, we made a storymap together. It’s an overview of tasks and time. Our task was to prioritize features. In the Image below, we were building the “bare necessity” row.
At first, we added all basic functions .The coach then challenged us and soon we realized that the bare minimum could be stripped a lot more. This was an eyeopener, as I’ve felt into this trap often in the past, thinking “I’ve started working on this anyway, might as well extend a little bit on this part as well.” NO! Work wide, not deep. Only then you can deliver fast. What is the actual minimal working skeleton? We also sheepishly added cards at every column, another team skipped even skipped columns for their first release. Why not?
Steady teams and performance
I joined the ScrumMaster training with some experience under my belt and a lot of questions regarding scaling and performance. Personally, I had to deal with proving increased output of the team this year and I was seduced to start micromanaging expanding time logging of the team. (Micro) managing isn’t going to get the best out of a team. Jeff Sutherland stressed that simply making work of a team transparent to outsiders is enough to get the team motivated and self steering. When all seems lost, decrease the tickets in one sprint and focus on applying the practices correctly. To increase performance is to keep addressing the next biggest improvement in the team. Dysfunction team members, dependencies on other teams etc. What scrum does is making the process quantifiable so you can break dreadful processes instead of trying to satisfy them more rigorously. Also don’t let the team get disturbed too often, “The door from the business to the IT team is closed, whilst the door to the business from IT is always open”.
A common mistake is of management to assume that adding member to the team will speed up the sprint. It’s usually the other way around. Scaling should always be done slowly. While growing, together with the ScrumMaster (SM), a decision can be made to divide the scrum team in two. Do not simply duplicate the disciplines with new hires in an all- new team. Instead, split the existing team. Make sure the independent teams are still able to complete tickets autonomously. At first, it’s still ok to do backlog refinements together. Later, you can allocate an own backlog and own PO when necessary.
Scrum of scrums
With different scrum teams in place, a scrum of scrum meeting may be implemented, addressing coordination across teams in a simular fashion as the conventional standup. Due to the content nature, it’s not uncommon to send the PO instead of the SM. Alternatively to the group just standing in one room, walk past all the teams and their scrum boards.
With a split team, the chief product owner can keep a scrum-team-per-lane overview with a so called “Epic board”, to helps to see inefficiencies and to plan future sprints together. When there are multiple teams, it’s advisable to plan demo’s after each other and together. Before the training, I read that Spotify implemented so called component teams, in which teams are allocated to various GUI components; one for the music player, another for the login window and so on. To facilitate this, technology needs to change the architecture. Component thinking could lead to double work between the teams but this is ok and a sertain isolated approach on similar things should be encouraged towards the team.
From the Q&A session:
Tips for increasing efficiency?
Let the team do a retrospective round on paper so everybody can give their opinion.
During planning poker, a discussion might occur. Sometimes it might help to end an argument with another round of planning poker instead of a guess from a few people.
‘Fist of five’ for commitment. Count down and raise a range from 1 to 5 fingers when you support the commitment.
Is a ‘research’ ticket a valid approach?
No. A research ticket is not part of work and should not be part of the sprint. A ticket should be completable within one running sprint.
What if you have dependence of a non scrum team?
When you know this in advance, the backlog item simply wasn’t ready and should be marked accordingly and as impediment. This has to be made clear to PO as quickly as possible. It shouldn’t belong at the top of the backlog, as it doesn’t have priority from the business. In that way, the SM is responsible for solving this situation.
Do you count the points of an unfinished ticket?
When a ticket isn’t finished in a certain sprint, do not count points for that ticket in that sprint.
Does the UX’er work in a ‘sprint zero’?
Sprint 0 does not exist. Sprint zero gives the idea that there is a phase where one doesn’t work. This is not the case. The PO and the UX’er have a secret side to the conventional scrum flow. Whilst the team is following the sprint, they already workout the tickets for the coming sprints. In that way they have a ‘secret’ sprint. A UX’er needs to find balance to work within the team, but also work ahead in making the UX foundations for templates before the sprint starts. If the UX’er does everything ahead of the sprint, the team cannot work together for optimal collaboration.
Should I create a second sprint to prioritize non-business things like IT?
get business priority for IT project. Remember to sell the problem, not the solution. Make sure that the BLI isn’t called ‘Varnish v4 upgrade’ but “Get our website to load within 200ms and increase conversion.” be clear about the results.
Tickets & backlog:
A nice way to avoid assumptions on the backlog is to create (abstract) user stories. Avoid assumptions by always asking why. It shouldn’t be possible that multiple items on the backlog are evenly important.
I found that some organizations are completely scrum. At ING bank, they do standups at every level of the organization starting bottom up. When there is an impediment at bottom, it should be answerable within 2 hours when top management has a standup._
I’m a father now! Suna gave birth to a healthy daughter. Her name is Mia Dorresteijn, she was born on 2nd of December 2014. Birth weight 3680 gram and a length of 51 cm. Both mother and baby are doing great!
We’re moving to continuous deployment; What is it, how does it impact the organization and how do we get there?
Early 2010, our DIY fashion company had a ‘heartbeat’, in which every Wednesday, just after lunch, we would release a new version of the website. Although scripted, this climax of a weeks work was always a stressful time for the developers. We had to get the entire staff to agree on the release window and run numerous tests before and afterwards. Due to the hassle of putting things live, some companies release less often, monthly or perhaps every month. Why such a fuss for a release?
Continuous deployment (CD) minimizes the time spent of putting new code to the live users, in production. This is done by automating each step up to deployment, avoiding human intervention where possible. Leading to less stress, which is good :-). In the last years, we’ve gone from ‘waterfall’ method, with an infrequent release, to a bi-weekly release. The next logic step would be to be continuously improving the site, without the ‘overhead’ of releasing software. This is not only a mentality change for the IT department, it also changes the entire organization as idea’s can be implemented in a swiftly (scrum) matter and less ‘project planning’ is involved.
CD leads to a number of advantages:
- * Due to automated testing of code combined with reviews quality will be improved
- * New ideas are realized quicker; as you can deploy an addition the same day!
To achieve this, we had a scan by Xebia which identifies the various ‘levels’ of automatic deployment. I think it’s an insightful overview and thus I wanted to share it here:
|Level 5 Complete||Operations and development are both part of the same multidisciplinary delivery team and share responsibilities.||Monitoring of business level quality metrics. Predictive failure monitoring.
Monitoring data is used actively to improve the system.
|100% fully automated tests all the way to production||Self Service portal for requesting environments.
New environments are created with each new release. Network automatically configured.
|Continuous end-to-end deployments.||End-to-end automated gated builds.|
|Level 4 Advanced||An envoy of operations works along in project, an envoy of development works along with operations.||Application Health and Build/Deploy dashboards available to teams, provides continuous insight into quality, health and performance metrics.||Automated dynamic quality tests like security scans, functional and performance tests guarantee quality of code.||Environments created and torn down by a push of the button. Supporting systems automatically configured||Test-gated deployments of end-to-end applications. Deployments occur over multiple environments.||Central build environment.
Teams actively reuse generic components in a secure and controlled manner.
|Development and operations work together when this is required.||Monitoring of software quality, application performance. Reports accessible through dashboard.||Automated static code and security analysis after code check in.||Environments are identical. Operating System is virtualized. Several tools used to provision and configure an environment.||Environments are identical. Roll out of applications performed by a push of the button. Auto- deployment to D, T, A and P.||Build on commit. Archived components are made available for reuse by other teams.|
|Code accompanied with release notes with which operations should install and manage the application.||Monitoring of application log files for errors. Reports generated on demand.||Automated tests are initiated as soon as code is checked in. Tests are focused on unit /component testing only.||Scripted installations per component for each environment. Supporting systems manually configured.||Self service deployments to development and test.||Automated builds are performed in a central area and activated manually.|
|Operations engaged at the end of the project.||Monitoring of system metrics (CPU, disk, memory, process). Reports accessible to Operations.||All tests require manual activity. Some tests are automated but have to be initiated by hand.||Manual installation and configuration of Network, OS and software for middleware, databases, application servers, etc.||Deployment through execution of separate deployment- and db scripts. Manual configurations and installs / env.||Builds are performed on local workstation by use of one or more separate build scripts.|
Our team scored at level 3 during the scan some time ago. We’re working on achieving level 4 and later 5. For one, we puppetized our servers this year, allowing central management of their configuration, easy deploy of new machines.
At the early stage of the project, we introduced a so called building server (Jenkins) and put a monitor link on a large tv screen (photo) on the workfloor. This had immediate effect, firing hundreds of pre-written unit (code) and regression (tests on the frontend UI) every time a developer commits a piece of code to the ‘default’ (shippable) branch in our code repository. This saved our Quality Engineer a lot of time. It also made the process more visual, our team was able to see who broke the code. Next we’re scripted the deployment up to production. Here, human interference is still required but this is something we can let go once we trust the system more and more.
Write code > commit > pull request, review (manual) > build > package, staging > production > post deploy test
The final result will be a flow where a programmer will work on a new feature or bug in an own environment. (so called branch) Once the work is complete, the code will be pushed to the ‘default branch'; which will initiate a ‘review’ moment where another developer has to approve the change. The code is then on the default branch, which should at all times be ready to go to live. At this time, our build server will perform numerous unit and regression tests, upon which, the code is deployed to production. On production, another test is done to ensure the quality.
We still have some steps to go, but already reap the advantages of this system today.
Originally called Ozakajō, it is one of Japan’s most famous castles, and played a major role in the unification of Japan during the sixteenth century of the Azuchi-Momoyama period. Osaka Castle is situated on a plot of land roughly one kilometer square. It is built on two raised platforms of landfill supported by sheer walls of cut rock, using a technique called Burdock piling, each overlooking a moat. The central castle building is five stories on the outside and eight stories on the inside, and built atop a tall stone foundation to protect its occupants from sword-bearing attackers.
The Internet is beautiful! Sometimes you find a gem that’s just worth sharing.
At myscriptfont.com, everyone can transform ones handwriting to a computer font. The process is simple:
- Print out the template
- Fill it out
- Scan it
- Upload to myscriptfont.com
The result is a TTF, SVG or OTF font which you can install on your computer or even online.
I made one together with Suna and the image above shows her reaction. Still thinking of the practicality of this but it’s interesting nonetheless!