Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Green is the color of my parachute

Green, it is the color of the Greenback, the currency of United States of America, my adopted country. It is the predominant color on the flag of the land of my ancestors, Nigeria (Green White Green). I live in the Evergreen state of Washington, USA. Most especially it is my color, the color of my parachute.

I never gave my color much thought, other than in the contexts above, until I read Your Favorite Color: What it Says About You from greenliving. The greenliving piece was the first result on MSN’s A-List Search “What your favorite color says about you”. Below is what green says about me:

Green: The color of harmony and balance, Green symbolizes hope, renewal, and peace, and is usually liked by the gentle and sincere. Greens are generally frank, community-minded people, fairly sociable but preferring peace at any price. Green people can be too self-effacing, modest and patient, so they may get exploited by others. They are usually refined, civilized and reputable.

Is this even close? Your guess is as good as mine. What does your color say about you? Find out and let me know.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Coming to America

Eleven years ago today, I arrived at JFK to my first winter weather. I still remember it like it was yesterday, it was harmattan season when I left Lagos, Nigeria's old capital city, with dry dusty desert wind blowing through the country. The temperature ranged from a low of about 75 degree F to a high of 90 degree F and the low of 75 was considered cold!!! So you can imagine how laughable I was in my warm wool suit standing outside, waiting to catch a connecting bus, from JFK International terminal to the local terminal, which seemed to take forever to show up. My final destination was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

I didn't really have an American dream, at least not in the stereotypical way. The opportunity to relocate to the US came when I got married to a Nigerian-American and her desire was to relocate. I figured it couldn't be a bad deal for me, I had start programming while in college and never looked back. My first job, after the government mandated National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) program, was as a Programmer/Analyst at a start-up, Baseman Systems. Baseman Systems developed software for the banking industry, after Baseman I went on to do my own thing. I founded PetFund Soft, developing software for processing multi-choice examination answer sheets for some of the National Entrance Examinations conducted in the country. I however always wondered what it will be like to play with the big boys, the best of the best in the software industry.

Therefore after my relocation, my goal/dream was to work for Microsoft someday. Working for Microsoft, for me, would be like playing Football in one of Europe's premier leagues or Basketball in the NBA, it was about playing with the best of the best in the business. A year and half later, that dream came true I got my first job at Microsoft as a Support Engineer. I was working for the #1 software company in the world, alongside all the other smart software professionals, the best of the best in the software industry.

Happy Anniversary to me!!!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Working with Partners Not Using Scrum

The reality is that managing OEM (your software ships under another company’s brand) relationships/executing these contracts can be extremely challenging especially for the 'weaker' partner in the relationship. The teams executing the contract have two main goals/objectives (1) Delivering value to customers and (2) executing the OEM Contract. One would expect that if you get the first goal right the second should take care of itself; This, however, is not the case. You stand a better chance if you have agreement on what value needs to be delivered to the Customer.

If you find yourself involved with one here are some things to consider/discuss upfront:

- Who is the Product Owner?
- How do you conduct Sprint Planning/Review meetings?
- How do you conduct Daily Scrum meetings?
- What is your Release sprint going to look like?
- How do you align processes to get your work done?

Some Scrum artifacts that I consider a 'must have' include (1) Product Vision, (2) Product Roadmap and (3) Release Plans

It might be difficult getting agreement on the Product Vision/Roadmap, these are however worth the upfront pain, you should proceed cautiously without then. These relationships are a constant struggle and needs careful handling, get the items identified above resolved early in the process (especially during contract negotiation or during your kick-off meeting) it might save a headache or two later.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Six Sprints Later: A retrospective

After six sprints (five + a release sprint), we released three products, two of which were sim-shipped with nine language packs (including one that was thrown in during the ship sprint). These were the first language pack releases for these products.

Delivering Value
Along the way we accepted and delivered a feature for a customer (an Oil Producing Company), something that would have been difficult to pull off prior to adopting Scrum. We delivered software for the customer to integrate with their solution and give us feedback. Although the customer did not move ahead with the solution (for reasons I will talk about at a later date), Scrum allowed us to be agile in our response to this request from the sales team and therefore delivering value to the company/customers.

We also passed a third party review of our software development process conducted by Construx Software - Steve McConnell's company. This was of course a big deal for us since it was part of a process we had to go through on a deal (it was the largest deal ever done by the company) we were working on with a large software company.

Sprint Retrospective
The sprint retrospective meetings were definitely the most valuable postmortem meetings I had ever attended. The team discussed what went well and what didn't in a very candid matter and people took personally responsibility for what did not go well and what they will do better next time. I thought I would never see the day but it did happen, holding yourself personally accountable in front of your team mates and making a commitment to do better, how powerful is that.

Project [Progress] Visibility
The feedback I received about the sprint review meetings were probably the most telling that we had done a great job with visibility. This meeting is attended by everyone in the company, outside of the Product Development team, as well as Program Managers who do the demos. We get feedback about the products as expected and we also get comments especially from the CEO about how the sprint review meetings give everyone a peak into what is coming and allows the sales and support teams to set customer expectations appropriately since they've had an opportunity to get clarifications on upcoming product features.

Our Scrum roll out was not all smooth sailing, I'll talk about the bad & the ugly and what we are doing to resolve them in my next post.