Interview with Atlassian Expert – Agile Velocity

Interview with Atlassian Expert – Agile Velocity

1. What are the core services of Agile Velocity as an Atlassian Expert?

We help clients setup and/or configure JIRA to meet their needs and process.

2. How has Agile methodology changed the world of Project Management?

Agile has had a huge impact and created a substantial shift in the world of Project Management. In the old world we fooled ourselves into thinking we could know everything up front. We wrote up extensive requirements documents outlining every tiny little detail, then we funneled that information into a timeline that prescribes how every single hour will be spent for sometimes years. Then we signed the contract that locks in all these details with a specific delivery date and makes each change either extremely expensive or next to impossible to enact. And then two weeks into development we found out that one of the fundamental assumptions we made was untrue.

I like to think of software development like home improvement. If you’ve ever watched a show like Flip this House or Love it or List it, in almost every episode they decide to “open up the kitchen by taking out that wall.” What happens every time they open up the wall? Right, mold, a pipe, electric not up to code, or it’s load bearing. That’s software. Especially if you are working in a seasoned code base. You can try to make decisions all day long around a mockup, but once you start building, things change, assumptions are tested. When the customer actually gets the thing in their hands they can see how it truly works and make decisions on the next direction to take. This is what the Agile Manifesto and its principles are all about. Change is going to happen. We need to make sure we set ourselves up with a lightweight process that allows us to make the best decisions with the information at hand and allows us to respond to necessary change easily.

3. What are the main challenges of implementing Agile methodology in large/small organisations?

Change is hard. Helping organizations (large or small) understand that Agile methodologies are all about creating visibility into issues so we can make decisions which means a ton of organizational issues are going to be uncovered. Closets will be opened and rugs will be pulled back. Things will slow down before they can speed up. Moving away from the status quo and becoming an Agile Organization will be uncomfortable at times. Optimizing teams and getting them “Agile” will not get you to a healthy place if the organization isn’t on board to adjusting management styles and the flow of information and product.

4. How are add-ons from the Atlassian marketplace changing the landscape?

As much as we’d like co-located teams and the simplicity and fluidity of creating backlogs on cards, in a ton of companies, that’s not real life for various reasons we won’t get into. The goal, though, as Agilists is to make sure we use tools like JIRA, Confluence and Hipchat to increase visibility and collaboration across teams and organizations.

JIRA is a tool first and foremost. I like to call it “The Great Enabler”. It lets you write 500 word “User Stories” and hides your boards and other artifacts in an Information Refrigerator. Unless you have screens set up that are constantly displaying your information, things are hidden behind logins. If you use it right out of the box and don’t configure it to your process rather conform your process to fit it, you’re sunk.

JIRA has always been insanely configurable, but the power was with admins. Over the past few years the power has started shifting. JIRA has opened up project configuration to project leads in their cloud version and now the latest server version (7.3). Unfortunately, a lot of big companies can’t upgrade that quickly, so there are add-ons that they can turn to to delegate some of that project administration and configuration. Wittified (an Appfire company) makes an add-on called Delegated Project Admin Pro for JIRA (https://marketplace.atlassian.com/plugins/com.wittified.jira.delegated-admin/server/overview) that really supports this concept.

If you ask a team, JIRA or Physical board, the first question they are gonna ask is, “do I have to update it in both places?” Usually the answer is yes. Spartez has come up with a solution. With the use of QR codes on printed out cards, teams can work straight from the wall, and everyday at the end of standup someone can take a photo of the board, upload it to jira and all cards will automagically update to their correct statuses.

There are tons more, but these are a few of my favorites.

5. What do you think of continuous feedback / performance reviews / OKRs using the Agile methodology? How would they help these companies?

The landscape of the performance review and feedback process is changing as we move from tasking out individuals and measuring their throughput/quality to creating self-organizing teams that hold each other accountable for the product they produce. Managers are no longer responsible for tasking rather they have moved into a support role, so one-on-ones are happening more regularly and companies are turning to 360-style review formats to evaluate employees. This is a good shift, but it can be hard for organizations used to a hierarchical flow of information to adapt their processes to fit the way work is actually getting done.


Reese Schmit – Agile Velocity
With over a decade in the software industry, Reese Schmit has had the opportunity to work on hundreds of projects across dozens of teams inside most processes (or lack thereof) imaginable. She has worn many hats including everything from Agile Coach to Product Owner, Quality Assurance Associate to Project Manager, and User Experience Designer to Technical Writer. This has given her a unique perspective and empathy into the needs and problems faced inside most of the SDLC. Reese loves jumping on to a new team, figuring out how they tick and giving them the tools to excel. She’s so passionate about Agile that she Scrummed her last move and her own wedding.

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