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    The Failed Product Owner - do you even provide feedback?

    Product owners often get blamed for not understanding Agile and for not providing clear requirements. Is this their fault though, or are you not providing the correct feedback to help them improve? Agile teams often work with the product owner absent, especially in the retrospectives. If that is true for your team, who is actually at fault then?
    I hear this all the time. "The product owner" is absent or "the product owner can't give a straight answer on what I should do, it changes by the minute". This is especially prominent in project based organizations where Agile means that you just remove the requirements phase in your waterfall process to make things fall down to the development team faster. Agile becomes ad-hoc and chaotic and it is all the product owners fault. Right?
    This is a problematic attitude and one that to me clearly means that the team is not really Agile, but still work as a receiver instead of the engine it should be. Although in most organizations there are two processes and the development team always is the receiver of strategic goals, they should not be a passive one.
    Not being passive means that you put demands on what you receive.
    How you receive a new business need, what information you need and how you work together with the product owner is not something that you passively sit around and complain about. It is the core of what the retrospectives are for! I would bet that in most teams where you have issues with the product owner you do not include that person in your retrospectives? Do you even provide feedback or set up activities to help the product owner improve together with you?
    If the product owner is not included, then could the issue be with you and not the product owner?
    The product owner is a part of your team. This means that you are responsible to speak up and ensure that everyone in the team is working in the way that best benefit the team. This means that you should provide feedback if the product owner is absent or if you do not get the information you need. This should be done in retrospective, just like you do it with every other feedback concerning your work process and collaboration in the team.
     
    Easy to say, but our Product Owner does not care.
    I know, this happens all the time. The product owner is tied up in meetings all day and just ignore your feedback. This is where you need to play hardball and provide empiric evidence that the issues you have is not your fault and that you have done your job to try to improve this. The First step is to go above the product owner and point out the issue to the people above. Sometimes that works, but it may not always be an option.
    In the sprint planning you should be very clear on what information need to be present for you to accept a user story. Remember that once you put the user story in the sprint, you have accepted the user story and you are responsible for the consequence for poor requirements. Never accept a user story that is not clear enough for you to work on. It is the responsibility of the product owner to ensure the user story can be accepted by the development team.
    If you use Jira then your next step will be to push back everything that is unclear to the product owner. This is done by assigning the product owner to the issue, put the issue in blocked status, or flag the issue if you do not have a blocked status and then comment saying that you wait for the product owner to respond. Once done, leave the issue and move to another issue. This will effectively remove the priority for the first issue as it will now be done after whatever issue you pickup next.
    This will allow you to move responsibility to the product owner and point out the issues you are having. It also allows you to get statistics on waiting times the team have due to the product owner not doing their job.
     
    Failure is on the team, not the product owner alone
    Just as the entire team is at fault if the scrum master or a team member is dragging the team down, the same goes for product owners. You manage it through the retrospective and constructive feedback. Help the product owner to be the team member you need hem to be. If that fail, then you as a team will fail as well.
    Make demands, just as you would for any other team member. Make sure their calendar have all stand ups booked, all retrospectives should be holy times and if they run around for meetings all the time, have them block time in their calendar for the team. You would not accept a developer to not do their job, so don't accept if the product owner is not doing theirs either.
    At the end of the day, remember that no product owner want to be a bad one. They often get dragged into activities where their role is poorly defined, so they need help to define what you as a team demand of them. This will make it more clear to them how to prioritize their time, or find a replacement to make sure you get the team member you deserve and need.
    Never sit silent with a clenched fist in your pocket.
    Speak up and offer constructive solutions and you will be surprised how willing many are to solve the situation with you. Teams work together and since we still have not developed telepathy we need to verbally communicate and express our need to work better together.
    Product owners are not outsiders, they are valued team members.
    ...or at least they should be.

    Salesforce acquire Slack in a staggering $27.7 billion deal

    Salesforce announced on January 1st that they have entered into a definitive agreement to acquire the very popular communication and collaboration platform Slack. The price tag for this acquisition is a staggering 27.7 billion us dollars. This is the biggest software acquisition of 2020 and it will have a big impact on the communications market for 2021.
    This is no small acquisition by any means and with Slack becoming and integrated part of the Salesforce Customer 360 suite it will make ripples across the communications and collaboration ecosystem for sure. Slack have been loosing ground to Microsoft's Teams in the last years and it will be interesting to see what the future holds for Slack with this acquisition.
    For Salesforce, I think this is a great acquisition as it will add a very popular and useful communication service into their products. They also get a huge customer database with millions of Slack users that they can try to convert into Salesforce customers. Hopefully this will also make their Salesforce Customer 360 suite more attractive because they will need to bring in quite a few customers to cover that price tag.
    For existing Slack users I don't think there will be much that will change in the short term. I assume Slack will still be available as a standalone product, just like for example Trello was when Atlassian purchased them. Speaking of Atlassian it will be interesting to see what this means as Atlassian have been closely collaborating with Slack since Atlassian cancelled their own chat based collaboration  tools Hipchat and Stride that was sold to Slack in February 2019.
    This acquisition surprised me a bit to be honest, but from a business perspective it makes sense from both lack and Salesforce perspective I think. It will be interesting to see what this means and if we might finally see a proper enterprise version of Slack or if Slack will slowly phase into Salesforce products and vanish...
     
     
     

    Vaam.io - the screen recording tool that streamlines communication

    Vaam.io is a Swedish “video as a message” service that was started by Josef Fallesen, Hampus Persson and Gohar Avagyan that I worked with on the H&M project. Vaam is a very easy to use service that has a lot to offer, even though it is still very new and under rapid development.
    I first noticed Vaam.io on LinkedIn and since Gohar is an amazing designer I looked into it. What I found was a service that is incredibly simple to use, yet very powerful. It has a lot of potential and I will make use of it here on the site as soon as I figure out the best way to use it. I have some ideas on how to implement it, but there are some technical issues I need to figure out first. This is on my end though, not with Vaam.
    So, what does Vaam do? Simply put it allow you to record yourself while interacting with whatever you have on your screen. So it can be used as a presentation or as a quick message as you can link directly from your Vaam library.
    Once you have recorded a message, then you have several options already, and more are on the way. You can download the video of course as well as sharing the recording in multiple ways. One interesting feature is to link as a Gif for emails and things like that.
    In order to use Vaam today you need to install an app that is currently only available for Chrome. Once installed you simply click a button and start recording. Once done your recording is automatically added to your library and you can share it or delete it if you did not like it.
    As with all startups the team behind Vaam are very active, and they have invited people to a Vaam slack where the so called Vaambassadors provide feedback and discuss features with the team.
    I think Vaam have a bright future ahead and Vaam.io and the team have secured plenty of funds already.

    Invision Community - building a blog from scratch

    This is a guide series that will go through everything you need to know to set up and customize your own blog using Invision Community from Invision Power Services. This guide will be updated with new articles or new information when new releases are made that affect the guides.
    This guide contains the following articles:
    Introduction (this page) Databases & Custom fields Adding Databases to Pages Adding CSS and JS to Pages Article View Template design Article Listing Template Design Article Category Listing Template Design Article Form Design Article Block Design Database Relationships This guide should give you all the information you need to get a good start with creating your own designs with Invision Community and its Pages application. If you want a quick start however and get a great looking design up and running in 10 minutes, then you can purchase a license for Invision Community and buy the plugin Pages SuperGrid by opentype.
    For this guide you will need a license for Pages, which is the application that allow you to work with Pages and Databases. I will make references to the Forum application as well, but you do not need that if you do not want to. The information in the articles will not go deep into how to make your blog compatible by using standard classes as that is a pretty big topic and I usually just build for myself, so I do not have to worry too much about that.
    If you have any questions or see a topic not yet added here, please drop by the forum and let me know.

    Jira Service Management merges several products into one

    Today Atlassian announced the new package for their ITSM solution. The new package is called Jira Service Management and it is a bundle of Jira Service Desk, Opsgenie. This is a pretty sweet package and it is quite powerful for anyone who want to combine Agile and ITIL4 as a power combo for the future.
    This is quite the change for Atlassian and it is probably to compete with ServiceNow that has had a stronger ITSM solution as their main selling point. This new service package, and especially the new name for it, will probably pave way for more companies to look at Atlassian even for their ITSM solutions.
    This new package, combined with Jira Software, Confluence and Bitbucket now means that you get a complete package for ITSM and Agile methodologies. There will be improved integrations with Insight, the asset management solution Atlassian purchased from Mindville earlier this year. This will greatly improve the usefulness of the Atlassian ITSM package.
    This comes at a pretty good time as I am building this for several clients, and they will be very happy about these new changes.
     

    Color Psychology - not as easy as it may look

    Color psychology is a topic often brought up when discussing conversion rate optimization. It often comes up as a sort of law of what colors to use, which is based on an article online or some generic description in a book. Color psychology however is far more complex than that and a recent article by Talia Wolf at GetUplift is the best introduction to that complexity I think.
    The fact that colors can affect us should come as no surprise to anyone. There are a lot of studies that show that this is true. How they affect us however is still a bit vague and seem less important to a lot of people working with it. This is a big mistake because just like music has an impact on our minds, colors also affect us based on association and everyone has different associations.
    Just as Talia brings up the different association differences in her excellent article, like the fact that white is both purity and death, there is also associations based on age and even personal preferences. You also have a whole science behind the different versions and shades of the colors where for example one shade of green can be seen as healthy and full of life and another will associate with pestilence and death.
    Talia also briefly touch on the fact that color psychology should not be used alone. It should be considered together with other association factors like typography, iconography and overall tonality. In conversion rate optimization it should also be accompanied by other CRO tools like direction of movement, familiarity and the gestalt laws to direct and highlight the actions we want the users to take.
    If you want to know more, then head over to GetUplift and read the full article "Color psychology: The complete step-by-step guide" by Talia Wolf.
    You will not regret it.
     

    Knowit acquire Creuna - becomes the largest digital agency in the Nordics

    The Swedish consultant agency Knowit acquire Creuna, a nordic digital agency and form the largest digital agency in the nordics. The combined work forces will be gathered under Knowit Experience. The acquisition is conditional on approval from the Norwegian Competition Authority, which is expected to be received during the fourth quarter of 2020.
    How this will affect the market is still too early to predict. It will depend on how well Knowit matches Creunas way of working and what support will be provided in the merger. I suspect there will be some Creuna profiles moving on shortly, but in the end I think this should be a good match for Knowit. Just like Fjord was a good match for Accenture when I still worked for Accenture.
    Read the full press release (in Swedish):
    https://www.knowit.se/pressmeddelanden/knowit-forvarvar-creuna-och-blir-nordens-storsta-digitalbyra/
     

    Episerver acquire Optimizely - claim to have industry’s most advanced DE platform

    Episerver invest for the future as they complete their Acquisition of my favorite A/B testing tool Optimizely. With this acquisition Episerver strengthen their platform offer, and they now claim that they have the industry's most advanced Digital Experience Platform.
    Episerver have long been one of the big names in content management and digital experience and Optimizely have been fighting for the title of the king of A/B testing  against VWO for many years. This combination of forces makes sense as it will add value to both companies as they combine their customer bases.
    Will this take Episerver closer to Adobe who sit comfortably at the top of the digital experience market, if for nothing else than revenue alone. I doubt it very much, but it should bring them closer if nothing else. Hopefully though we will see more people start experimenting as Optimizely becomes more accessible and integrated.
     
    Transaction Details
    Episerver is a privately held portfolio company of Insight Partners, purchased in 2018 at $1.16B. Insight Partners acted as the strategic advisor and sponsor for Episerver’s acquisition of Optimizely, as well as the company’s 2019 acquisitions of B2B commerce leader Insite Software and analytics and personalization provider Idio. Now with Optimizely, Insight Partners further advances Episerver’s market-leading product. In the same manner, Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC served as exclusive financial advisor to Optimizely.

    Scrum vs Kanban - what flavor of Agile is king?

    Over the years I have seen many claims to what flavor of Agile is king. In this article we will look at Scrum and Kanban to see if we can determine which of these two flavors are the best for you and your team. I have a feeling you will be surprised at the answer, but I hope you will not be.
    I recently read an article called "Scrum Is Dead. All Hail Kanban, the New King" where the author Emanuel Marques praise the Kanban flavor of Agile as his experience of Scrum have been less positive compared to Kanban. One of the responses to that article was written by Maarten Dalmijn, and he made some good points in his article on how flawed the initial article was.
    To anyone who work with Scrum in multiple projects and multiple companies you probably recognize Emanuel's story. It is in no way a unique experience he has that Scrum, like many other Agile flavors, are misrepresented due to adjustments by the team or the company. Here are some examples from Emanuel's article:
    A common thing that happens way too often. When you are inexperienced with Scrum, estimations and you do not set sprint goals, then this happens a lot. We see that the team is not working properly in the burndown chart as well.

    This is a typical Agile burndown when using story points when you either have issues that are too big or you do not close issues properly. For a team working with story point, which I think is stupid in any case, a burndown chart is completely useless.
    This is again inexperience in making proper estimations and because of that you did not have room for the unexpected. In all processes, methodologies and frameworks you need to be able to make proper work assessments. Agile make that easier by letting you make arbitrary measurements that are more like "guesstimates". If you fail doing that, then you are in real trouble regardless of what process methodology or framework you choose.
    Emanuel's team choose to go to Kanban because of their inability to adjust their way of working away from the production line of thinking to an Agile way of thinking. What was it about Kanban that attracted them?
    So out of all the things that Kanban offer, Emanuel's team choose to focus on these. As you can see all of these are about commitment and responsibility. If you combine this with the reasons Emanuel and his team felt the need to move from Scrum to Kanban you probably can see the same thing as I can and that is that this is a team that no one has taught how to work properly.
    They have been left in a work environment where things are difficult to navigate and control and as a result they feel they are unable to commit to anything. I assume this is because failure, as diffuse as that definition might be, happens frequently. They also seem to be working with a poor scrum master, possibly also inexperienced or limited in his capabilities by the work environment.
    Sadly I think Emanuel and his team will soon find out that Kanban with the focus on escaping accountability and control is a bad choice. Kanban is not going to make failures go away. In fact, it will probably make things worse as the stakeholders will find the Kanban way of working, especially the bare-bones version Emanuel and his team are describing, very annoying as they have little to no control in that flow.
    What does this have to do with what flavor is king?
    Well this has everything to do with what flavor is king. They all are. If you use them properly. Sadly many work places implement Agile in all its forms in the wrong way. They try to make Agile work in a project based organization with an ITIL based steering structure with multiple teams on the same products.
    If you add inexperience and poor coaching resources, then you are setting up all flavors of Agile to fail. With that comes frustration and stress for the teams, and they will naturally try to distance themselves from management and any form of accountability as they are destined to fail regardless off their effort.
    This is referred to as a MOD project by some of us that work with process and methodology design. MOD is short for "March of doom" meaning that the project or the team are already doomed before they start due to the restrictions already placed on them. It is also in reference to how managers often refer to them MODifying the Agile way of working, which often result in a poor experience.
    If you work with Scrum, Kanban, DevOps or any other flavor of Agile, that can be king for you and your team. If you use it correctly and you actually take your findings in retrospective to adjust it to fit your way of working. You can even mix them to find the optimal workflow for your team, because they all come from the same source: Agile.
    You have the power to make your flavor of Agile king
    This might seem strange for anyone who work in workplaces where your way of working is dictated by management, but there is hope. In all organizations you have two ways of working: The Steering and the Operational. If you can find the way to meet the steering, so they can do their job, then what happens in your team should be up to you. If you are sharing responsibilities with more teams, then you should build your way of working together with the other teams. Never work in isolation if you share responsibilities.
    In order to do that you need to figure out what steering need so you can provide that. Usually this is the holy trinity of time, money and quality. Time and money comes through time reporting and proper estimations. Quality comes from requirements and testing alongside prioritization. So no matter what flavor you choose you need the following:
    A handover of translated need - you need to understand what the need is so you can take ownership. A Prioritization meeting - to decide what to do next. A common practice to make estimations - learn to make proper estimations instead of "guesstimations". Log time at least once per day if you have time estimates. Break down tasks as small as possible and close as soon as they are done if using story points. That is usually all you need, regardless of flavor.
    So go out and make whatever flavor you prefer KING today.
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