January 13/14 is the Old New Year holiday. Seems like today is the latest appropriate time to look back and recall the most interesting blog posts by TargetProcess in 2009 :)
Based on visitors count, the posts are ranked as follows (descending order):
1. Lean and Kanban Software Development Digest: In May 2009, this digest came along right on time as Kanban adoption started to grow. We’ve been sifting through the Lean/Kanban buzz and considering if Kanban might be a good tool for our development process, so this post has the most valuable findings we’ve made and shared with agile community.
2. Refactoring vs Rewrite: This post is a real train of thought of a Product Owner trying to make a decision on how to proceed with product development — rewrite or refactor. Can well be used in textbooks for software product management :)
3. Mind Maps: Scrum, Extreme Programming, Lean: Another by-product of our research on agile development processes. The specific value of mind maps is that they help grasp complex things with visual representations.
4. Tale: Deadline and Technical Debt: Once upon a time… Who could ever expect that the fundamental principles of product management can be outlined in a fairy tale ? :) There we go: smart Arthur, the cunning king, quest for princess — the metaphorical expression of the danger of technical debt in software development.
5. 5 Wrong Reasons to Apply Kanban. For some reason (no pun intended), 5 wrong reasons ranked higher than 5 right reasons. Maybe it’s just human psychology — to go from “what’s wrong” instead of ”what’s right” …
6. How We Use Kanban Board. The Real Example: Once we figured that Kanban process is just the right thing for us and put it in action, we shared this experience with our blog readers.
7. 5 Right Reasons to Apply Kanban: There they are :)
8. Zero Defects? Are You Kidding Me? : Can this juicy frog be sure that it swallowed the very last bug? This post is a warning against the so-called “zero defects mentality” in software product management.
9. Simple Rules, Complex Systems and Software Development: Complex systems function at their best when guided by simple rules. Look at ants, birds, space rockets and … software development.
10. BDD and User Story Specification: Examples — This post includes some real user story specs in BDD for TargetProcess product. Enjoy and use.
These are the TOP 10 posts in 2009 from TargetProcess agile blog (click here for more)
Happy OLD NEW YEAR! :)
Everything has its life-cycle. Even stars. Even The Universe. Everything.
It is quite sad for intelligent creatures, but it is just a fact of life. I want to draw some quite obvious parallels to reveal the real danger of Technical Debt for a software product.
Let’s take a human. When we are young, we are overflowed with energy. Do you know how a 7 year-old boy spends his day? I have a son, so I’ll tell you. He wakes up at 7 am (sometimes before 6 am!) and tries to play some quite silent games (it is too early to make much noise). He can restrain himself till about 8 am, then he starts to jump, does somersets, some boxing etc… By 8.30 we have a real “tornado” in our house. It may take him an hour to exhaust and have a breakfast. Such periods of activity can be easily repeated 2-3 times a day. And he literally turns off around 9 pm – sleep is when he recharges his batteries.
An old man is quite the opposite. He saves every movement, everything is hard and slow. He makes many mistakes and health maybe getting worth. Learning new things is also getting harder at times. Yes, wisdom and tremendous life experience is there, but very often there is no energy to move forward.
But what’s next? Years later progress stops. Product becomes old with all the bad and good side-effects. Suddenly it is much harder to add new features. Ages of development make the product more complex. Millions of technical debts rotten its body like cancer . There is no clear architecture anymore and there are so many patches that one small change can produce a totally unpredictable impact and bring along new bugs in unexpected areas. Yes, development team has wisdom. But often no courage and energy to revive the product.
Technical Debt Is a Cancer
How long does this cycle last? It really depends. We all visit doctors. Most of us want to live longer and healthier. Early cancer detection gives good chances to fight and win the disease. We should do exactly the same with software. Here are typical symptoms:
- Velocity has dropped significantly over the last several iterations/releases
- A bug fix triggers one or several new bugs too often
- Nobody knows ideas behind the original software architecture
- Team spends more time fixing bugs than developing/improving features
- Automatic tests are red 80% of the time (if it is 100% — the product is most likely in coma)
If you see at least 2 such symptoms, you’ve just discovered a product cancer — Technical Debt. Technical debt is a true killer when you have deadline (time to market). If you have the symptoms, you should fight the disease right now. You may think that it is OK to wait several months, add some more “cool and highly requested” features and then get back to the real problems. It is a wrong decision, believe me. I used to make it and I used to fail with it. It bogs you down. You lose focus and make stupid mistakes. It leads to fear. And fear is a bad ally. You go from one extreme to another to only increase entropy, nothing else.
If you miss the deadline, all the possible actions will not help. Cancer will win. And then you will have just two options: re-write the product completely from scratch or start a new product.
If you see these symptoms, you should stop and think about the attitude of your development team. If you’ve survived over several years, priorities should be changed. Reset your development team and use chemotherapy.
- Focus on quality. Fix the roots of the problems.
- Teach the original architecture to all, pair program, communicate.
- Introduce “No new code without tests” rule.
- Fight fear. Let the knowledge spread. Knowledge eliminates fear.
- Put the most experienced people on fundamental problems solving.
You have to fight the cancer to bring energy back, to bring courage back, to live and produce a great software product. Otherwise it will be as dead as Lotus Notes.
Once upon a time there lived a very brave and adventurous young man by the name Arthur. He lived in a large kingdom with knights and castles and an extremely cunning king who had a beautiful daughter – Caroline. She was so beautiful, that every morning birds would fly through the open window with fresh roses in their beaks. Birds would drop rose petals near her bed and fill the air with pleasant tweets, every five minutes exactly. Then they would fly away to never come back…they would simply die outside, because they couldn’t live without princess’ beauty anymore.
The king was greedy so he held annual competitions during which the contestants had to pay 10 sovereigns each to participate. The winner would marry Caroline, but missions were so hard, that there were no winners ever!
New competition was announced and brave Arthur decided to win the highest prize! He saw the beautiful princess only once before and fell desperately in love with her.
On a sunny day all the contestants gathered together on a central square. The king said: “Brave men! There will be 3 main missions… and a very easy 4th mission to the winner. Today I’ll tell you about the first mission only. You have to build a house in 10 days. It should have 2 rooms, doors, windows and a roof. That’s all you have to do!!”
Is it possible to build a house in 10 days? Arthur was disappointed. He had hoped to kill a dragon, catch a witch or do something else that a brave knight is supposed to do. But he was smart (and brave). He spent all the day doing nothing but thinking. Other contestants laughed at him: “Look at Arthur! He gave up miserably! Arthur, go home, you are such a loser!” But as you know, our Arthur was smart so he decided to build the simplest house possible. And he did it: the ground became a floor; house had only 2 tiny rooms and the light would enter through the 2 windows near the front doors; the roof was there to simply protect from rain and snow – no more no less! Most importantly, he finished it in 8 days! Many, many other brave men tried but failed. Some started to build a large and solid house and ran out of time. Others started building too quickly and their houses would collapse half way through. However, brave Arthur and a dozen other guys completed the first mission successfully.
“I am proud of you! – said the cunning king. “Now here is the second mission for you all. This time, you should build a basement that will be twice as large as the house itself. Also you should build a fireplace. You all have a total of 12 days to get the job done.”
And again Arthur spent the whole day thinking. “I don’t even have a floor in the house… How can I build a basement? The house will simply break down… If I spend time on the floor, I’ll have no time to do the rest.” Then he found a workaround. He decided to dig deeper than usual. “Deep basement should be safe enough and floor is not required in this case! Fireplace will take 2 days to create, and I can definitely make this basement in 9 days!”
Arthur worked like crazy and completed the mission in 11 days. He slept for the whole 12th day – the last day of the mission. At the end, only 5 other brave men have completed this stage of competition.
“You did a fantastic job!” – the king said. – “Now listen to the last mission. You should build an upper level in your house. An upper level may have only one room, but you have only 5 days to do it.”
All the contestants were quite excited. It looked like an easy task. But Arthur was sad. “If I build another level” – he thought – “my house will crash…” This time he started to work immediately. He brought several large logs into the basement and made props. It took him a total of 2 days. Arthur was not sure that it’d be enough, but he had no more time and decided to accept the risk. Luckily, he had a flat roof and therefore it turned out to be relatively easy to create another level right on top of it. Arthur was tired, but extremely happy. After all, he was the only one who made it through the last mission!
“My boy!” – King happily hugged Arthur. – “You did it! I can’t believe, but you did it! You are just one step away from the Caroline’s hand. Your last mission can’t be simpler – You should live in the house you built during the first 2 weeks. This is it. And then you will have my blessings and the hand of my beloved daughter, Caroline!”
“Wow, so easy!” – said Arthur. “Yes, it is” – answered the king with a smile on his face.
The next day brave Arthur was killed by the crashed ceiling. It was a windy and rainy day…