Scrum and Quantum Physics

In Project Management, if one thing is for sure, it’s that nothing is certain. You can try to plan everything to a ‘T’ and account for every possibility, but there will invariably be things that pop up unexpectedly. Sometimes this leads to project managers thinking, “If only I held more planning meetings and spent more time talking things over with my guys, then their best laid plans wouldn’t go awry“.   Instead of looking back at the project planning as the issue, we can perhaps learn more by better understanding the nature of uncertainty itself. Uncertainty is a very important topic in quantum physics and understanding the nature of the universe. Since Scrum already uses some physics terminology, like velocities and projected values,  I thought it would be fun to run with this idea and take some of the implications of quantum physics and see how they would translate if applied to project management.

Breaking_Bad_logo.svg

 

Before Breaking Bad brought him back, most of us remembered Werner Heisenberg for his uncertainty principle from high school physics. Mostly that you can you can never fully know the position and momentum of a particle at any given time.  This is often misused or confused with the ‘Observer Principle’ meaning that you can’t measure something without actually affecting its outcome.  For example if you have an electron traveling in space, the only way that you would be able to detect it would be by having it react with some other particle or detector that would then relay that information back to you.

observer

When we detect the electron to tell us where it is, we have to transfer or absorb some momentum from the electron, thus changing its momentum.  It’s like if you have an overbearing manager demanding constant status updates. He or she keeps trying to gather information from their developers are consequently affecting the team’s momentum.

So what does the observer effect have to do with uncertainty? Nothing, really, but it’s often misrepresented as a result from uncertainty, so I thought I would address it first.   This principle also has common classical examples, like how you can never accurately take your temperature using a mercury thermometer.  Because the heat from your mouth flows into the thermometer and slightly cools your body, you can never get a truly accurate measurement.

Heisenberg’s actual uncertainty principle is represented by the formula:

Δx · Δp ≥ ℏ/2

Where Δx is the uncertainty of position, Δp is uncertainty of the momentum, and ħ  is Plank’s constant over 2π.   If either of these values were completely knowable, then the right side of the inequality would be 0, rather a constant.  The fact that it is a positive number means the more you know about an object’s position, the less you can know about its momentum.  Again, the more you are checking up on a team’s progress there comes a point where you’re just affecting their momentum and not learning anything new.  But a lesser known relationship is:

ΔE · Δt ≥ ℏ/2

Notice that it has the exact same form as the previous equation.  That’s because these are conjugate variables and also have to abide by the limit of uncertainty.  Similarly, there is an inverse relationship between the uncertainty of position and momentum, the same relationship exists between energy and time.  The more you know about how much work is required for a particular task, the less you know about the time it takes to complete the task.

Many Scrum teams already account for this by using Story Points for estimates rather than using hours.  Story Points removes the rigid constraint of estimating work in hours, and instead allows estimates  based on similar user stories you’ve done in the past.  I’m not saying that one method is better than the other, or would be the best for your team, but you’re not constrained by cosmic forces like uncertainty.

Since Scrum is an iterative process, you can have great success by focusing on things that you can say with a fair degree of confidence, while still allowing for some uncertainty in all planning and estimates. 

Devs on a Diet? The 28 Day Challenge

Axosoft is all about being healthy, from our tower gardens in the kitchen, to our daily workout classes in our office gym. But last month we took it to a whole new level…

THE 28 DAY CHALLENGE

Confused? You should be, I haven’t explained what it is yet.

Let's break it down!

Let’s break it down!

The 28 Day Challenge is a healthy eating initiative that we decided to put into effect at Axosoft. We thought it would be a great way for everyone to start eating right and getting healthy in a supportive team environment.

The challenge involved 3 different steps:

1. For 28 day we would give up one, or all, of the TEN DON’Ts:

1. No wheat
2. No corn
3. No dairy
4. No soy
5. No refined sugar
6. No caffeine
7. No alcohol
8. No dried fruit or fruit juices
9. No artificial sweeteners
10. No fat-free “diet foods”

2. We would eat only the foods from 3 phases, spaced throughout the week:

Phase 1: Eat only Fruit, Veggie, Protein, and Grain
Phase 2: Eat only Veggie and Protein
Phase 3: Eat only Protein, Fruit,Veggie, Grain, and Healthy Fat

3. While eating the foods in these phases, we follow the TEN DOs:

1. You must eat five times a day. That’s three meals and two snacks per day.
2. You must eat every three to four hours, except when you’re sleeping.
3. You must eat within 30 minutes of waking. Every day.
4. You must stay on the plan for the full 28 days.
5. You must stick to the foods allowed on your phase. Religiously.
6. You must follow the phases in order.
7. You must drink half your body weight in fluid ounces of water every day.
8. Eat organic whenever possible.
9. Meat choices must be nitrate-free.
10. You must exercise three times per week.

Our amazing Lawdan Shojaee pitching the diet to the company.

Our amazing Lawdan Shojaee pitching the diet to the company.

I’m not gonna lie, it was tough, really tough. There was a lot of good stuff we were giving up and a lot of rules we had to follow. Many of those DON’T items were in our stocked kitchen and had to be removed… that almost caused a riot. The items were replaced with healthier and phase approved snacks, but they did not have the same sugary, salty goodness we all liked.

The fact that there wasn’t a caffeine deprived murder in the first week, is amazing. Also you have no idea how hard it is to eat every 3 hours while drinking half your body weight in fluids, the combo caused some impressive lines at the restrooms.

Axofit classes with Jake!

Axofit classes with Jake!

But we stuck with it, and at the end of the 28 days there were some awesome results.

  • Mike lost 13 pounds.
  • Mona lost 12 pounds.
  • Allen lost 15 pounds and his wife, who decided to do the challenge with him, lost 13 pounds.
  • Gus started losing so much weight that he had to drop out of the challenge or his wife threatened to divorce him.
  • Lawdan began sleeping better and no longer needed her allergy medicine.
  • James liked having the healthier snack options in the kitchen.
  • Jonathan lost 10 pounds and admitted feeling a little sexier towards the end of those 28 days.
  • Hamid was surprised at how easy giving up coffee was.
  • Sara liked how the plan helped her figure out healthier snacks and meals.

Everyone agreed that having the team environment made the challenge much easier. And probably the best result of all is several people have kept following the healthy eating initiative, even after the 28th day!

GO TEAM AXOHEALTH!!!

 

Upgrading Axosoft Bug Tracker

For those who did not hear, the Axosoft Bug Tracker is currently available for just $1/year for your entire team. It’s hands down the best deal you’ll find for a hosted solution and can still manage your bugs, workflows and team members great.

Bug Tracker!

Bug Tracker!

Now for some teams, our issue tracker will do the trick just fine. However, having awesome bug tracking software is only as good as your ability to find and report bugs. Why not offload that to your customers using the Customer Portal or have their emails become tickets you can track? Axosoft HelpDesk can do all these things.  If you’re new to Axosoft HelpDesk, then check out this previous blog post to learn more.

 

Come with me...

The best place to capture bugs is through Axosoft HelpDesk.

 

If you’ve been using Axosoft Bug Tracker, you probably have a few questions about synergy with our other modules. To help you get an idea of the transition, here are some frequently asked questions:

What happens to my number of users when I upgrade to Axosoft HelpDesk?

The system automatically looks at how many active users you have on the Axosoft Bug Tracker. This becomes your new user count. But do you have users who only log and monitor bugs or incidents? If that’s the case, then they can submit and view items via the Customer Portal. All Axosoft HelpDesk hosted accounts get an unlimited number of Customer Portal users for free.

Customer portal ticket submission.

Customer portal ticket submission.

So for example,  I initially had 100 users on the Axosoft Bug Tracker. However, 75 of those users only need to submit bugs or tickets. If that’s the case then those 75 users can become 75 Customer Portal users. You get unlimited Customer Portal users for free with Axosoft HelpDesk. That means I only need to pay for 25 users of Axosoft HelpDesk and Axosoft Bug Tracker while keeping access to ticketing for everyone else; great way to save money right?

 

Will I keep all my information when I upgrade?

Yep. Your defect backlog (along with all your other data) is preserved and unified with whatever combination of modules you decide to use.

 

What if I don’t want to show all my items to all my customers?

You don’t have to show anyone everything or anything. You have complete control of what is available for Customer Portal users to view thanks to Portal Security Roles.

Fine tune permission with Portal Security Roles.

Fine tune permission with Portal Security Roles.

 

With Axosoft HelpDesk can my customers report defects and incidents?

With the Customer Portal in Axosoft HelpDesk customer contacts can directly add items to your project.  Axosoft HelpDesk also automatically converts emails into tickets, so customers can email inquires as well. More details can be found in a previous blog post here.

 

Does email ticketing and Customer Portal support any item types?

Yes! Whether you’re working with feature requests, incidents, bugs, wiki pages or your own custom items, the email-to-ticket automation and customer portal will work for all.

 

How much is Axosoft HelpDesk?

Axosoft HelpDesk is available for $7/user per month (same for Axosoft Wiki). Axosoft Scrum is available for $10/user per month. You can choose any assortment of modules and each user license will have access to all modules (though that can be limited by security roles). You also get Axosoft Bug Tracker for free with either Axosoft HelpDesk or Axosoft Scrum.

 

Can I have X number of users on bug tracker and Y number of users on HelpDesk?

Sorry, no. Our user licenses contain all the modules you subscribe to. It’s how we’ve chosen to design the product to maximize the synergy between our four modules.

 

Speaking of the other modules, of course there’s also Axosoft Scrum and Axosoft Wiki to consider adding to your system. Axosoft Scrum in particular does a fantastic job providing project visibility with its awesome burndowns, the Daily Scrum, and more.

Here's the dashboard with many of the project management gadgets you need.

Here’s the dashboard with many of the amazing project management gadgets you with Axosoft Scrum.

 

If you have more questions about upgrading, then feel free to shoot us an email at team@axosoft.com. For those of you fond of speaking directly with a human being, you can set up a free 1-1 session to hammer out these queries.

What’s New in 14.2?

We’re delighted to announce the Axosoft Suite Version 14.2 Release. At a glance, 14.2 features include:

  • Daily Scrum- Get a quick snapshot of your team’s progress to add a visual layer to your daily standup.

  • WIP Limits- Limit the number of items inside a workflow step or limit the number of items a user has in a workflow step.

  • Axosoft HelpDesk Improvements-  Send notifications using the [Created by Email Address] option and copy an item to defect, task, feature, etc by changing the workflow step.

  • UI updates- We have improved the user interface for Email Accounts and Archiving page plus more.

You can watch our What’s New  video here, or continue reading below!

Daily Scrum

When it came to our Daily Scrum, it wasn’t uncommon to have team members forget what work they did yesterday or what exactly they were responsible for that day. Sometimes we had team members abuse the 15 minute limit and talk forever. We realized all this information exists in the Axosoft product; so we put together a projector-friendly visual that augments your communication with the team (with a timer for those long-winded individuals). We’ve started using this everyday internally, and now we can’t really remember a time without it!

Daily Scrum Feature

Get all the essential information you need to guide team members through the Daily Scrum.

You’ll notice the Daily Scrum icon is now enabled next to the Tools menu. A new window opens and you quickly see tons of information – so let’s break it down. Your current release selection is located in the top left corner just above today’s date. Clicking on this will give you access to select other releases you may be working on. Over towards the top center, you’ll find the release timeline. If this is one of multiple sprints in a greater release, you’ll see exactly how that fits with your release timeframe. Pretty cool right?

Sprints

We hope all these awesome visuals add even more information to your Daily Scrum.

WIP Limits

For those who love Kanban, we’re happy to introduce WIP limits. Here’s what Card View will look like once you’ve enabled WIP limits:

WIP Limits

There are now WIP limits visible in the appropriate workflow column headers.

WIP is short for work in process, and now within workflow settings you can restrict the number of items inside a workflow step or restrict the number of items a user has in a workflow step (or both!). You also have the option to go over WIP limits depending on your setting preferences.

WIP Limit and Workflow Step Settings

All WIP Limit configuration is accessible from Workflow Step Settings.

Although WIP limits are visible in card view, they are still enforced when changing workflow from list view or when editing an item directly. Give WIP limits a try in to see how it affects your team’s workflow!

 

Axosoft HelpDesk Love

Help Desk Email Manager

Here’s a peek into what the email manager will look like with the 14.2 release.

We’ve made a number of improvements to Axosoft HelpDesk with updates to email and workflow.  In addition to updating the UI for managing email accounts, we’ve added the option to send notifications using the [created by email address] option. Now you can notify any one who sends an email about changes without having to add them as a customer contact first.

manage your notifications

When you manage your notifications, you’ll have access to this new option.

Just to reiterate, this means there’s no need to create a customer contact for every person who emails a ticket (or bug, or feature request, etc) to send them updates. If you have customers who need updating, be sure to try this notification recipient because it will save you time.

This same information can flow to another item type thanks to the second new workflow setting: Copy to [Item Type]. You can now automatically copy an item to defect, task, feature, etc just by changing the workflow step. To do so, edit the desired workflow step and enable the setting.

Copying Items

Select which item type you’d like to copy. We’ve chosen defects for this example.

For example, I get a ticket emailed into the system from Irene. Upon closer inspection, it’s clear this is a bug so I just change the workflow step to Closed-Defect. Irene is then automatically notified of the change to defect and then she’s kept up to date on any changes from that point forward thanks to my [Created by Email Address] setting. This should help things flow much smoother.

Other new updates include:

  • UI Updates for Archive Manager
  • Global Culture setting for language
    • Found under System Options/Localization
  • User preferred time unit
    •  This means each user can select what time unit they want for all their modules.
  • Muliti-item picklist for Burndowns
    • Choose what item type you want included in your Burndown Chart
  • Return of the Dashboard Twitter gadget:
The Twitter gadget returns in full force.

The Twitter gadget returns in full force.

That about sums up 14.2. Stay tuned for our next release!

Camtasia 2 Review: How does it stack up?

Sometimes we need something that just works. Not everyone in development can be a master videographer, yet there has to be a way to boost our marketing and training needs. That’s where videos come into play. At Axosoft, we have been using Camtasia 2 recently and would like to share our experience with a review.

Axosoft

This is our tool of choice for the simpler videos.

Camtasia 2 (as described on Techsmith) is a screen recording and video editing tool. It differs from other solutions like iMovie or Adobe’s Premiere in that it focuses on providing easy screen capture without needing to juggle several media files or get a PhD in videography. While we have enjoyed using it, there are some snags we’ll talk about towards the end.

First off, I have to say that screen capture is pretty easy with Camtasia 2. Before, I used Snapz Pro X to first capture my screen which would then be exported as a .mov file to then be imported into iMovie and then edited. It was a process. With Camtasia however, your recording is immediately ready for editing once you finish capturing. You can set the screen size, use your own mic, and restart recordings.

Recording

You have the option to customize the area you record on screen. I usually go with 1920×1080.

The tool keeps all your recordings and other media in one place. You drag and drop the media onto the tracks to begin editing from there.  Camtasia 2′s learning curve is not that steep, which makes it approachable for folks (like myself) making video series for the first time. Once I learned how to cut, zoom, and transition in the tool, I was able to produce a great rough cut overlaid with music.

Here's the tracks you edit. I like having the music as my foundation when editing.

Here’s the tracks you edit. I like having the music as my foundation when editing.

We got really excited about the effects in Camtasia 2. The annotations, transitions, and animations are pretty easy to use (just click and drag) and they punch up the quality of the content a few notches. Initially, we were sold on the ability to track your mouse cursor. Surprisingly however, I found myself using annotations more than the mouse tracking. You’re given many options in styles and customization, and you can even add transitions to the annotations.

Annotations

Annotations rock! So many awesome options.

Snags: Nothing is perfect, which is great news for developers (yay, job security). Something I did appreciate about iMovie is its ability to freeze frames. It’s easy. You just scrub over to the frame you desire, click freeze frame, and adjust the duration from there. With Camtasia 2, the freeze frame equivalent is “Extend Frame to Playhead” which works…sort of. It does get the job done but first you have to cut, select, extend, and then adjust again (and it took some time to discover). Perhaps I’m being nit-picky, though the feature could be more elegant.

Freeze frame

Freeze frame work-around buried in the menu.

Also, if you ever move the file locations, Camtasia 2 will lose files until you tell it where you put them.  An understandable side-effect that is mostly mitigated if you keep your files in one place initially. If you’re about to get going with Camtasia 2, just be mindful of this in your workflow.

TLDR:

If screen capture is a huge part of your video editing, then Camtasia 2 will do the trick beautifully. If you’re a hardcore videographer, then you’re probably looking for something more robust but otherwise this is a great find.