Tag Archives: Projects

Yammer: Transparency in Enterprise Project Communication

Recently I attended the Gartner Infrastructure and Operations conference in Orlando, and one of the main points they kept bringing up was “social” in the enterprise, how your IT Ops groups can use it to communicate, Yammer was at the forefront here (and SharePoint).

I have been a proponent of Yammer for some time. At work, I actually created our Yammer instance back in September 2008. Although it hasn’t taken off as I’d hoped, it has made some people think. Coming from a tech company in MN to a bike manufacturer, you can’t expect leading edge technical things to take off too fast, have to set expectations, was just kind of waiting for the right time to see how we could really use it.

Recently, on a software project we have, I was thinking on how to “up” the level of communication between team members, but also keep things transparent so everyone who wanted to could “drink from the firehose” so to speak. Tons of communication happens on IM and Email, phone, face to face. All those have their place and are needed, but they are all mediums in which people are left out.

Face to Face, usually is more personal and unless it is a huge conference or meeting, not everyone can hear or be there, and things get lost or no notes are taken. Same with phone. Email, things get saved, but people are left off and not everyone is included. Many small questions or items to communicate aren’t even sent to avoid email overload. IM is good for one on one quick questions and information sharing, but once again, it gets lost and isn’t saved for anyone else to see.

In comes Yammer. Create a group, and then say “everything to do with the project, communicate it here”, and see what happens. Well, tons of info comes pouring out. Things that were maybe a conversation or IM/Email between two people are now open for the group to see and other people can add their voice to the conversation, or just be aware of the issue. Things you might previously emailed or IM’d, throw them on Yammer. Is there really any reason any project based communication that isn’t of a personal nature can’t be there for the group?

Start using #hashtags, and you start building a knowledge repository. Upload images, files for more info.

Now, you might say, “Well I am going to get Yammer overload!” yes, that may happen. Turn it into a daily digest instead of emails on every post. Hit the site now and then throughout the day. If you really want to get someone’s attention, @ them and make sure you/they have the setting to get alerting on a @ to them, either through IM/SMS or email.

Things to watch out for? Gotta make sure you dump messages to your group, not the main feed, or you end up clogging up people’s feeds. Also, install the desktop app for a better experience.

Can using Yammer lead to more transparency on your project? I believe it can. Try it out, and see what it does for you.

I find this.. exhilarating.

Agile: Projects vs Support

One big questions that comes up ALWAYS when doing Agile is: “How do we deal with support requests (or issues, or helpdesk or operations)?”

Well, the answer, as you figured, is … It Depends.

First, it depends on what kind of project or team you have. Are you Development? Or Business Intelligence? or Creative/Design? or Infrastructure? Or XYZ?

One thing to think of as well is how is your organization structured? I went into a dev group and the developers couldn’t get anything done because customer service/support was constantly hitting them up with issues. What do you expect to happen? Magic? You need a buffer. 2nd Level support. Filter the issues so that there is just a trickle into “3rd Level” or Development.

You could even assign one dev to “3rd Level” for a sprint and reduce their velocity. But it always depends on how much is coming though. You want to reduce, reduce, reduce the noise coming into developers. Buffer.

What happens when there are issues that NEED to be looked into (server down, etc, etc). Well. Your “do’ers” need to look into it. You may have to pull out stories if it takes too long. Reduce the velocity. That is just the way it goes. If support issues continually cause you to pull out stories and reduce velocity, you should assess your organization structure, and get a support structure in place.

Big thing with support is this: YOU NEED TO TRACK STUFF. I can’t stress this enough. Bottom line is I have rarely or if ever seen stuff tracked well. This is a killer for your process. Issues need to be tracked for multiple reasons. Why?

Well, let’s look at a scenario or two.

1. Customer Calls Support
2. They work on issue for hours but never track anything
3. They go to 2nd level with the issue but since they didn’t track anything, who knows what was done already and what was changed, etc
4. 2nd level fumbles around for 3-4 more hours doing the same thing, but again, not tracking anything.
5. The issue gets handed off to 3rd level and it is a complete mess since nothing was tracked.
6. In the end, the issue might route back to 2nd level or whatever
7. In the very end, nothing was tracked at all. Even a Category or Sub Category, who the issue was for, what system, how much time, who worked on it, etc.

Now look at that scenario and think if everything was tracked. What if you could pull in all your support issues and Pivot them, slice and dice, see trends. Well, then you can figure out what you need for resources. Pretty simple actually. But harder in reality. People start working on something and run around like crazy and not tracking anything. It is a big problem.

Back to our main problem. Projects vs Support. Another thing everything depends on is this: Who is prioritizing your work? It is a main driver on what you work on. Someone needs to make a decision and say “This is a support issue, do it NOW, or.. This is not an issue, do it LATER, or.. this is part of our project, do a STORY” or something like that.

If the person who should be your main prioritizer doesn’t buffer or learn how to say NO, then everything because #1 top priority and everything you try to accomplish from a project perspective is worthless. Your prioritizer (if it is the Product Owner, your Manager, the Project Manager, whatever) can learn to buffer, and only let through the extra critical support issues to work on now, then you can dedicate 90-95% of your teams time to project (agile) work.

I think the main question of Projets vs Support really throws people off when it comes to Agile. Some groups are doing nothing but support so they are in a death spiral. They need a 2nd level support structure, or hell, even a 1st level support structure.

Teams that are trying to do Agile but feeling the pain of too many support issues, well they need a 2nd level support buffer.

Teams that are doing Agile but have 1st/2nd level support that isn’t tracking a ton are in need of some process control. (more so for resource management than anything).

As you can see, there are always ways to do things no matter what situation your team might be in, but definitely something you need to asess and figure out before you jump into a process.

Amazon S3 and WordPress Video Site – 2 Hour Project – What A Debacle

About a month ago, I wanted to test using Amazon’s S3 service, for storage. I couldn’t think of any quick, easy projects to use it for, then it hit me, how about video/photos?

I decided to see how long it would take for me to make a video site, with comments, views, etc, on a small budget.

My first thought was maybe to use a hosted WordPress.com blog, and just redirect the domain, which is about 10 dollars a year, and then use S3 for the video/photo hosting. That idea was nixed because hosted WordPress.com blogs can’t embed flash, javascript, or iFrames, etc.

My next idea was just getting a WordPress hosted blog at HostMySite, which is what I went with (which eventually I will move to my own server). This was 45$, and the domain was roughly 10$, so 55$ so far.

Now, to get videos working, and a cool theme. First the theme. I just searched free WordPress theme sites, and found one that looked cool. I set it up, slapped up some Google AdSense and Google Analytics, and changed the logo, rearranged a few things.

As for getting video to work. I was having issues embedding jscript (for the flash video embeds) in WordPress. It would work, but then screw up the formatting of the rest of the page, etc. I knew iFrame would work, so I went that route. Since I am a .NET dev at heart, I made a page where it will take some params on my www.stevienova.com site, and grab the file from S3 and play it. So on WordPress, I just iFrame that site with the right params. I suppose later I could make a PHP page to do the same thing and keep it all self enclosed. Probably will do that once I move it to my server.

For video I found a nice little flv embed, which has a ton of options, even can do pre and post roll ads if I want. What is nice with the setup I have is that there really isn’t and bandwidth being eaten by my webhost. Just the theme images. Everything else is on S3. The videos, thumbnails, etc.

Pricing for Amazon S3 is pretty good.

  • Storage Used: $0.15 per GB-Month of storage. This fee applies to all object data and metadata stored in buckets that you created under your account.

    It does not matter who created the objects in your buckets, so think twice before you give somebody the right to write objects to your bucket!

  • Network Data Transferred: $0.20 per GB of data transferred. This fee applies anytime data is read from or written to one of your buckets. It does not matter who is reading or writing the data, so consider this when you give public access to one of your objects that may become popular.

With the site just starting, the storage and transfer is really low. Less than a dollar.

So, in about 2 hours and less than 60 dollars later, I created a self managed Funny Video site, from the ground up. I can now use Windows Live Writer to post to it, and I use a S3 tool to upload files to S3.

I also have other people putting videos on it, so that is cool as well. I am not sure where it will, because it really was just an experiment to see how fast I could get a video site up, and for how cheap.

Not sure how funny the videos are or will be, but if you want something up, I will put it up. Once nice thing, is that I can just iFrame YouTube as well, so if there is something there that might be Copyrighted by a YouTube uploader, I don’t have to worry about that, since its just the YouTube player which you can embed legally.

Fun stuff :)

Check out the site.

whatadebacle

http://www.whatadebacle.com

 

New @Home Project: VehicleInfoTracker

I decided to start a new project at home, VehicleInfoTracker. I swooped up the domain, and started building a class library to support what I want to do. Using VS2005, C#, TDD, SQL2005. Have some basic parts done already – registering as a user, registering a vehicle(s) to a user. Working on adding a GasFillup/GasStation object model now. Since I bought my new car, I have been tracking my fillups and saving info on them so I can track my gas milage. We will see where it goes from here.. :)