Delivering and Presenting a Project

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     The delivery phase is the phase in the project life cycle in which the changes executed are presented to the audience and more importantly, to the client. Just like handing off a project to the client, delivering a project also requires thorough planning and communication. Delivery must be checked and reviewed to ensure that it will be on time. Along with that, the project manager must evaluate time and risks properly, as mentioned in my previous blog.

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    Cervone (2011) emphasized the advantage of using agile in project management: its simplicity. In agile, features can be developed and tested in the cycles. If a team is implementing agile correctly, the process of product delivery should get simpler. Procter et al., (2011) added that the team’s frequent interaction play an important role in delivering value quickly to client (p. 222).  Evidently, agile is a methodology that requires detailed communication and participation. If each team member follows their assigned task, it results to better productivity. With higher productivity, meeting the deadlines is guaranteed. It is better to meet the deadlines than wait last minute to finish everything. However, if the project is not completed as you desired it to be, do not worry because you can use the deliverable from the previous sprint.

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      The key to a good delivery is preparation. One must first identify who their audience is. For my team, our target audience are not just students who we want to utilize the College of Science website. Our audience includes potential employers who might be interested in hiring a person who had experience with agile or other software methodology. If you recall in my post about hard skills and soft skills, I mentioned that soft skills are as important as hard skills. Having a previous experience with agile means that one knows how to plan, work with a team, and document data. Once the team presents the project, they should be able to easily answer any question that comes up. But even if you know everything there is to know about the project, it is a good reminder to have a short elevator pitch for yourself. Delivery is not only dependent on the final project but also on the team member’s presentation of themselves. In fact, delivery of the project is not about the project but about the team who put all their effort to produce useful outcome. Remember to remain positive and just be authentic.

References

Cervone, H. (2011). Understanding agile project management methods using Scrum. OCLC Systems & Services, 27(1), 18-22.

Procter, R., Rouncefield, M., Poschen, M., Lin, Y., & Voss, A. (2011). Agile project management: A case study of a virtual research environment development project. Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), 20(3), 197-225.

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Risks and Challenges in a Project

       In the world of technological industries, a team will not be assigned to work on a single project in their lifetime. Whether you completed the project or not, the team must hand off the project when a deadline is set for a final sprint. This is why it is important to consider the future maintenance of a product during planning. In order to successfully hand off a project to a client or to a new project manager and team, careful guidelines must be followed. Knowing the most common risks and challenges that may arise during this phase of the agile methodology is beneficial to avoid unwanted circumstances.

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      In a typical lifecycle of a project, a risk plan, list of all potential risks, is expected to be created. The most common risks in agile are scheduling error, budget risk, requirement error, and security risks. For smaller projects such as the one in which I was assigned to work on, scheduling error and requirement error are the most common risks that teams can encounter. According to Conboy et al. (2001), most of the challenges encountered in agile are “people” challenges, meaning that it is caused by the team working on it or sometimes the client (p. 48). Common causes are lack of customer involvement, setting up unrealistic expectations, lack of motivation, and unfamiliarity with processes and tools. For example, my team missed a couple meetings with our client and we got our access to edit the website late. For these reasons, our progress was delayed. From what I have observed, communicating with the team and the client was probably the biggest challenge. My team had to learn the hard way; our sprints somewhat turned into mini-waterfalls instead of being a continuous activity. Because of the lack of continuous integrations, we weren’t able to adapt to changes in the user stories, which then eventually delayed some of our deliverables.

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      To avoid these risks and challenges, Smith & Pichler (2005) suggested ways to implement risk-driven methodology (p.50). The importance of communication and proper management is emphasized. Having all the risks listed, the team must analyze and prioritize the list based on its expected impact on the project. To find solutions for the risks, the team needs to collaborate and execute the plan. The team also needs to set goals for each sprint and manage expectations. If the team communicates with each other frequently, planning out will be easier and handing off a project will be smooth.

References

Smith, P., & Pichler, R. (2005). Agile Risks/Agile Rewards. Software Development, 13(4), 50-53.

Conboy, K., Coyle, S., Wang, X., & Pikkarainen, M. (2011). People Over Process: Key People Challenges In Agile Development. IEEE Software, 28(4), 48-57.

Hard Skills and Soft Skills that Will Get You Employed

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       When looking for their potential employees, employers take into consideration two main things: hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are abilities acquired through learning and practice and are often task specific. On the other hand, soft skills are personal attributes that mostly involve interaction with other people. Although hard skills appears good in your resume and can get you an interview, soft skills are necessary to obtain and keep a job.

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     For aspiring computer scientists such as myself, five technical skills that employers look for are proficiency in technical writing, data documentation and analysis, project management, branding, and public speaking. Technical writing is essential because it provides a framework for any process or product. Similarly, data documentation and analysis provides a foundation for a written report. Project management is as vital since computer scientists work with different types of project that requires thorough planning for utilizing resources well and avoiding risks. Both branding and public speaking is required since it is the key to marketing and expanding the client’s audience.

      Currently, I am able to apply and improve these skills as my team and I use the agile methodology in our project. Enhancing your technical writing skills is simple and easy. For instance, by posting a blog about agile every week, not only am I introducing a new concept to my audience, but I am also able to exercise my writing skills. In my current project, we have weekly reports to analyze and evaluate our progress. These reports are also used for us to improve the project management for the following iterations. We also recommended other students to check the clients’ websites and utilize the available resources. As we get done with our final sprint, we will need to apply our public speaking skills when presenting our product.

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      Both hard skills and soft skills are required to be successful in a job.  In fact, a survey conducted by TD magazine (2014) shows result indicating that majority of managers value soft skills over hard skills (p. 19). Working in retail for over a year now, I have developed soft skills that I highly believe put me on top. Recently, my department leader complimented me for my optimism and how my coworkers enjoy working with me. This optimism is also what helps me adapt to changes easily. Along with my positive attitude and flexibility, the other soft skills that I am proud of are flexibility, good communication skills, being a great team player, and time management. By helping different customers every day at work, I learned how to change my communication style depending on what best suit the situation. Before responding to anything, I make sure that I listen to what the customer have to say. Once I evaluate the situation, I word my statements in a way that helps me develop a good relationship with them. My job department also have a monthly goal, which is hitting revenue and obtaining a certain number of repairs. My team works together to achieve these goals by offering and receiving constructive suggestions. Additionally, since I have tasks assigned each day for work and the client coming in is unpredictable, I have learned to prioritize the more important tasks. As Burstein (2014) mentioned in her articles, there are many college graduates who lack soft skills preferred by employees and that’s why I believe that my soft skills make me exceptional.

References

Burstein, R. (2014). Here are the crucial job skills employers are really looking for. Time. Retrieved November 2, 2014.

Personality is more important than hard skills, managers say. (2014). T D, 68(7), 19-19.

Social Media and Branding for You and Your Client

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      As discussed in “Why Get a LinkedIn Profile,” the development of the web made the job searching easier and faster than ever. Through the use of social media, brands become more visible to their target customers and are able to interact with them on a more personal level (U.S. Patent No. 705/14.72, 2014). Social media provides us a platform to broadcast our intended message to attain certain goals. Every company, whether local or global, now relies on social media as a core component in business expansion.

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      In order to successfully brand your client, you must first know how to brand yourself. A good way to start this personal branding is to discover the characteristics that make you authentic. According to Dutta’s “What’s your personal social media strategy? (2010),” your social media strategy’s success depends on the quality and authenticity of your message (p.128). Remaining authentic and passionate of what you do will make you stand out from the crowd. But also keep in mind that when something is posted online, that online footprint will be nearly impossible to delete. Personally, I keep my Facebook and Twitter profile professional. I don’t put status and comments with vulgar words and rude tone. The settings of social networks can be customized so control what your friends can post on your profile and be careful about certain social situations.

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     Once your personal brand is built, you can start building a brand for your client. There are several social media branding tips that must be followed to ensure that a business grows successfully online. Among these tips is to be consistent in all aspect, by doing this, memorability is built. If using different platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, use the same username and upload the same profile information. Add social media activities in your to-do list because being active is the only way the business can earn stronger relationships with your clients. Dutta (2010) added that this also aids the business to get feedback from their audience and find room for improvements (p.127). Every post counts and the choice of words have a big impact so proofread before uploading. As a Facebook user, I frequently notice businesses blooming with fresh ideas and enthusiasm. One example of a fun marketing activity to get more clients and promote services is to give out prizes. This kind of energy present in their posts entices audiences like me to get involved in the industry.

References

Elimeliah, C. A., and J. C. Cruz-Smith (2014). U.S. Patent No. 705/14.72. Social Media Branding. Rapp Worldwide Inc, assignee. Patent US.
Dutta, S. (2010). What’s your personal social media strategy?. Harvard Business Review, 88(11), 127-130.

Why Get a LinkedIn Profile?

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       Since the development of the web, job searching has vastly changed to the point in which job seekers have to incorporate social media into the job hunting in order to reach success and land on their desired job. Job recruiters are now using different social media where they can easily check publicly posted resume of registered users. LinkedIn is a leading online professional network in which vast job boards and abbreviated curriculum vitae are posted (Skeels & Grudin, 2009, p.97). Currently, around 313 million people from different parts of the world are registered to LinkedIn.  The following image shows how LinkedIn has grown over the years:

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       Since there are so many LinkedIn profiles created up to this day, competition is very high and thus, making your profile stand out is a must. Choosing a professional photo is the first on the list, it needs to be a good headshot and preferably nothing else on the background. Making an eye-catching headline is the second thing you must focus on since that’s what potential employers first see as they conduct searches on the LinkedIn database. It is important to take time to brainstorm for the headline because you can only make a first impression once. But remember, according to Kaplan and Haenlein (2010), to remain humble, honest, and respect the social media rules (p. 66). It is also highly recommended to add different elements such as videos, blogs, presentations, and other media that tells more about yourself. Whatever you upload on your profile, make sure it addresses what your target audience care about. Remember, a LinkedIn profile is not just a resume, but also your online presentation that gives you your cyber reputation.

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       Just because employees conduct their own research for potential workers, you shouldn’t fully rely on it but instead, start marketing yourself! You should follow your target companies so that you will remain updated on how the industry is doing and if there’s any new job openings or other opportunities. Set your status on a regular basis to let people know what activities you’ve had participated in and post meaningful thoughts regarding events pertaining the industry. Additionally, use the “Advanced People Search” feature with your chosen companies to find who the hiring managers are and to learn what causes they care about. Make an effort to interact with them and post questions or even better, answer questions they have on their profile. By doing this, they will get to hear your perspective and discover how smart and clever you are and perhaps, you will get a recommendation.

        Landing a job has never been solely dependent on one’s knowledge and skills, it is also based on your connections. Networking is a very important part of job searching and LinkedIn has actually made it easier. Through LinkedIn, you can find people in the same target field as yours. The trick is to keep your first-degree network fairly big, a friend who has a hundred connections can help expand yours. If colleagues have not yet joined the site, make sure you invite them by simply downloading your address books from any of your electronic mail. Invest in getting to know more people, it will pay off.

References

Kaplan, A., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Business Horizons, 53(1), 59-68.
Skeels, M., & Grudin, J. (2009). When social networks cross boundaries: a case study of workplace use of facebook and linkedin. GROUP ’09 Proceedings of the ACM 2009 international conference on Supporting group work, ACM Publisher, 95-104.

Agile tasks lists, what does “done” mean in Agile?

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     As I mentioned in my previous blog post “The Agile Team and What is a Backlog?,” the sprint backlog is a major components in the agile development methodology. The sprint backlog is the list of the tasks needed to meet the requirement in the product backlog and an estimated completion date for each task. As mentioned by Pikkarainen et. al (2008), a sprint backlog is a necessary tool “for the requirements and task definition (p. 315)” and when planning the sprint, it is important that the tasks are prioritized based on what the product owner wants (p. 317). Once the tasks are listed in order of importance, the team must estimate and vote how much time should be invested in each task. Planning poker is a technique used in software development to aid in estimating.

      For people who are new to agile, like my team, for example, estimating can be quite challenging. New teams tend to be overcautious because of unfamiliarity with the process, which then leads them to overestimate. When my team met with our clients, Bruce Keeler and Gina Ciardella, both SJSU College of Science advisors, we were asked for an estimate for our upcoming deliverables. The main task needed for our current sprint is to provide a new layout for the College of Science Advising Center website. Since we are all new to this sort of project, we informed our client that it will be ready in two weeks. Although we all know that we can finish the said task for a couple days, we overestimated “just to be safe.” Playing planning poker helps eliminate this kind of common mistakes in the estimation. The team votes for a time and also explains why they vote for that specific time frame. Hence, they will hear everyone’s insight and can better come up with a close estimate in the following rounds.

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      The meaning of “done” in Agile is defined and agreed upon by the team and depends on what tasks are voted on the sprint.  Usually, a sprint is considered done when the features listed in the user stories are developed and tested. Some groups may consider a sprint done if the functionality of the highest importance is completed. Just like how a product backlog changes over time, the definition of done also changes throughout the sprint. According to Begier (2010), the product owner’s analysis of the deliverables on each sprint allows to specify improvement (p. 390). The team will need to adjust to any modifications made by the product owner. A project is considered entirely done if and only if the product owner accepts the final demonstration and stops making revisions to the latest product backlog.

References

Pikkarainen, M., Haikara, J., Salo, O., Abrahamsson, P., & Still, J. (2008). The impact of agile practices on communication in software development. Empirical Software Engineering,13(3), 303-37.

Begier, B. (2010). Users’ involvement may help respect social and ethical values and improve software quality. Information Systems Frontiers, 12(4), 389-97.

What is an Agile Sprint Retrospective?

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        After each sprint review, a sprint retrospective must be started. A sprint review and a sprint retrospective tend to be misconceived by those who are just learning about agile. As shown in the table below, these two are different in terms of its purpose. A sprint review is a meeting to demonstrate the finished user stories during the sprint. The whole agile team is involved and anyone can provide feedback on what the team has completed; the focal point is the product itself. On the other hand, a retrospective does not only monitor the project’s progress but also the team’s interaction (Bennett & Bennett 2008, p. 161). It is a more critical part of the agile process wherein the team, the scrum master, and the product owner discusses what went right, what went wrong, and what needs to be changed in the previous work cycle.

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        A sprint retrospective focuses on collecting feedback to examine and to learn from the last sprint. The feedback must be from each member’s own point of view; otherwise, having the meeting would be pointless. A common technique to get feedback from each member is to set a couple minutes for the team to write on post-it notes what they think went well and things they want changed. Once a list of ideas is completed, everyone will vote on an item to concentrate on for the next sprint. By doing this, the crew can identify the biggest shortcoming and commit to fix it. Fitzgerald et al. (2013) found that this process mitigates risk since the group tackles the most significant risks first (p.871). In the next work cycle, time would not be wasted since the team will have a main task in mind as they continue to work on the project. Hence, an agile retrospective is the biggest factor for improving the performance of the team.

        A sprint retrospective fulfills one of the twelve principles in which the Agile Manifesto is based on: “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.” Regardless of how good an agile team is, there will always be a room for improvement. By looking back on the past completed tasks, the team is given time to reflect and find necessary enhancement. Having these constant individual reflections and group interactions is what makes agile effective.

References

Bennett, B., & Bennett, M. (2008). Preparing for project retrospectives. Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges, 24(2), 157-63.

Fitzgerald, B., Stol, K., O’Sullivan, R., & O’Brien, D. (2013). Scaling agile methods to regulated environments: An industry case study. ICSE ’13 Proceedings of the 2013 International Conference on Software Engineering, 863-72.