Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Open Government

Here's a quick blurb on Gov.uk - a web-based interface to open goverment that's already up and running in the UK. The video is high level but, for those of us that are trying to help the public service here in New Zealand, extremely aspirational.

Check it out:


An elite team of digital experts has sparked a radical shake-up in the way the government does its business. Some of the UK's best designers and developers are working on building a new single website for all government departments – gov.uk – but their influence has gone much further. Jemima Kiss talks to government digital chief, Mike Bracken, minister Francis Maude and others about how they made it all happen

The too many meetings problem

There are a bunch of questions / comments that, as an Agile coach, I see time and time again. One of them is the "oh my god, why are we always talking about work?!  Can't we just do work instead?!" or some variation that basically boils down to the "Scrum has too many meetings" myth.

You'll note I transitioned from "problem" to "myth"; that's because there is no problem - other than people's perception - and professional Scrum trainer Brett Maytom has done the maths to prove it:

For more information and to see his working, head over to LinkedIn.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Super handy tool: Office Lens

Chances are pretty good that you, like me, spend more than a small amount of time in front of a whiteboard. Whiteboards are, after all, pretty great; if there's a better way to facilitate group-think sessions where outcomes are determined through collaboration, I can't think of it.

But. They have a problem. The content you put on them - unless you hog whiteboard space - can only remain there temporarily. In fact, in many circumstances, you're going to need to nix it pretty much immediately so that the people waiting outside can use the space for their discussion.

So what to do?

The obvious answer is "take a picture" and that's a solution that works - I'm not suggesting it doesn't. What I am suggesting, however, is that it's possible to take a picture using a tool that's specifically designed for the task (taking pictures of whiteboards) rather than generally suitable.

That tool is called Office Lens. Made by Microsoft, it's an app available for Windows PhoneiOS, and Android that is contextually aware of the task (taking pictures of whiteboards) with tools that make it more effective than just using your normal camera app.

Specifically, it will identify the shape of the whiteboard you're snapping and straighten it up when you take the photo - effectively letting you take pictures from any angle and still generating an image as if you were straight on. It also reduces glare and crops out non-whiteboard parts of the image, resulting in a useful record of your meeting that doesn't look silly and won't need any further editing after the fact.

Images from the App Store listing, hilariously featuring decidedly non-Agile project planning


It also works well as a document scanner, making it a great device for adding pictures of receipts to Evernote for later expense tracking (etc).

All in all, for a free app it's pretty great. I suspect it would be even better if you're closely integrated into the Microsoft ecosystem, thanks to its built-in ability to save to OneDrive, but that's not something I've personally ever needed to take advantage of (you can, of course, save it to the local device for utilization however you like!).

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Scrum in 10 minutes

One of the Agile Coaches I work with recently charged the rest of the agilists in our team to come up with our version of "Scrum in 10 minutes". There were no rules; entries could be presentations, videos, stop-motion movies - whatever.

Keen to experiment / expand my skills with the online presentation tool prezi.com, I decided to create my entry there.

You can check it out here or, if you have Adobe Flash installed, you should see it below. If you don't want to install Flash (it's old tech, after all, and prone to security flaws), you can also find it within the Prezi app (Android, iPhone, iPad - Windows and Mac desktop versions are restricted to paying users).

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Is Retrium worth it?

Google seems to have picked up on my Agile proclivities and has begun delivering me adverts that are aimed squarely at that side of my personality.

One such banner I was presented with yesterday was for a tool called Retrium - an online collaboration app that's designed to facilitate retrospectives. Based on the Lean Coffee style of agendaless meeting, the 10,000 foot summary view might read "like post-it notes but online, archived, suitable for remote teams, and all without chopping down trees to make paper" - or something. There's a reason I'm not in marketing.

There's a demo you can try, but without other real people about the only benefit from trying it is that you get to see how it works mechanically; I certainly wouldn't be prepared to handover my credit card based on the simulation alone, but I have to admit the interface is flawless - it's nice and easy to use.

If you do have a team that wants to give it a go, Retrium do allow you to perform two retros at no cost; I haven't taken them up on this offer yet, as I'm not currently in that position, but I'm curious enough to file it away here for consideration the next time that pops up - especially if I'm working with a team that has remote members.

Whether it will prove to be worth the $5 per user per month asking price is something I suspect I'll only be able to assess after giving it a shot.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Welcome to Story Point!

Hi and welcome to my new website!

My name is Alan Bell, and I'm an Agilist. That means I'm a proponent of a methodology called Agile (including a very popular Agile framework called Scrum) and I love to help people learn how to use it.

While I spend a lot of my time on-site as an Agile Consultant, helping and training people directly, I find it useful to have a curated source of information that I can refer people to so that my assistance doesn't end when my contract does. That's what this website is for - that, and so that I have a place to publish my theories on How Stuff Works™ ;)
If you find it useful, great!  Feel free to contribute in the comments, submit new ideas, challenge my theories / assumptions, ask questions, etc. As an Agilist myself, I welcome healthy discussion and debate about any and all of my preconceived notions. I certainly don't consider myself the font of all knowledge, either, so please feel free to correct me if you spot something you think I've got wrong.

Above all, though - thanks for visiting!