Blog

3 months ago

Open Allocation Experiment

In June 2016, we switched most of the people inside our company to open allocation. They have the freedom to start their own initiatives that are aligned with the central goal of providing a better user experience and fixing critical problems in Targetprocess product.

10 months have passed, and we can now analyze the experiment results. In this post I'll share my opinion about the experiment and mix it with the opinions of the people who participated.

Deadlines

Here is the current initiatives Roadmap. A very good thing is that almost all initiatives were implemented on time. It means people respected their commitments and did their best to keep promises. A bad thing is that some of the implemented features were still not deployed to production servers due to huge infrastructure changes caused by the microservices approach. Basically, you can't give a promise to release something when the infrastructure is not ready.

initiatives_open_allocation

Another trivial observation is a struggle to fit R&D activities into the Initiatives model. If a team doesn't know how to attack the problem, it created "Research initiative", thus we timebox research. Then, when a solution is found, the team starts a usual Initiative with the results.

Overall, we wanted to solve the problem of speedy delivery, and we got mixed results. Yes, most features were implemented on time, but the infrastructure held them back.

Small Lesson #1. People don't like deadlines, but... deadlines work (when you have no problems with infrastructure).

Deadlines lead to cut corners, worse quality, and poorer solutions. In my personal opinion, this is not a huge problem, since you always have to balance quality and time. Estimates are not forced and, overall, teams have enough time to complete features with good quality.

Freedom of choice

Freedom boosted motivation. People were more enthusiastic to fix some old problems and work on things they wanted to improve a long time ago. Here are some feedback quotes:

#1

On its own, the idea is great and summarizes the essence of any modern social science since it gives freedom to choose your work, stimulates an individual's initiative, pro-activity and creative potential

#2

It inspires people to take ownership of our product. A good practice for freedom, responsibility, and trust.

#3

People feel more passionate and responsible about what they build, I guess. We finally have kind of deadlines, that we stick to. We have a clear definition of done for features, with clear deliverables such as product demo, blog post, working piece of software etc. It seems we deliver better quality, faster and more often.

Focus

Initiatives force you to focus on a single task. It improves timely delivery, but hurts mutual help. You might think twice to dedicate several hours of your time to help someone from another team. Sometimes it is good, but sometimes it can lead to local optimization. Sure, you will have your feature delivered on time, but from a company level your help may be extremely valuable.

I think this trade-off is OK. If you like to help other people, you can act in the Free Agent role rather than join an initiative. Or, you become more creative and try to teach people quickly instead of doing everything yourself.

Company alignment

This got worse. Ideas are quite diverse and I hoped to have an emergent vision as a result. I don't think it happened though. We indeed fixed several important problems, but some of the top problems are still there, like extremely poor notifications. I defined a wide goal to improve UX and increase NPS, but this goal was too broad and almost all features can be stretched to fit this goal. In my opinion, this lead to a slight feeling that our direction is unknown and the product has no vision.

Small Lesson #2: Define a bold goal for the year and quite narrow goals for the quarters.

And a quote:

The scope we do is driven by someone's desire but not by market demand. Sure, there is a filter which guarantees that useless feature won't pass. But this filter doesn't guarantee that necessary feature will go into development (because nobody would like to take them and HEADs cannot force). Important items can be in a backlog for years.

Initiative Reward

One of the worst decisions we've made is a reward for successful Initiative completion. Teams that complete an Initiative got several Orange Days (which can be converted to Days Off). This immediately downplays the contribution of all people outside Initiatives.

#1

Initiatives violate our core value: trust. A company should trust that their people will do their best to get a job done. Initiatives might give off the impression that "we don't trust you will do great work without a reward, so we give you a bonus that will stimulate you to complete work on time". It is assumed that development speed is low due to lack of deadlines, but in reality, complexity of integration and some external blockers are the cause.

#2

Some one still needs to do the "dirty jobs" and I don't think that it's fair that this work is not rewarded with orange time.

We wanted to stimulate the Initiatives practice with an additional reward, but it was a bad idea. In fact, freedom of choice and regular intrinsic motivation is enough to make great things.

Small Lesson #3: Don't underestimate intrinsic motivation.

Lack of Training

Another mistake we've made is poor guidance. Yes, I wrote about the practice, ran clarification sessions, and answered questions. But after this initial kickstart, I did a poor job of supporting and promoting it.

I should have worked with key people and ran educational session about how to define top problems, how to do UX, how to test results, etc. Self-organization requires good skills and great understanding of the business context. I relied on cheap self-organization, but this doesn't work in the complex environment of a B2B SaaS company.

Huge lesson #4: Adaptive self-organization demands high energy costs.

Overview

In general, people liked the idea, but implementation was far from perfect. Can this model replace traditional Product Managers and Product Owners? Yes, it can. However, make sure that you do the following to avoid our mistakes:

  1. 20% of people should be highly experienced, have deep understanding of business context and good understanding of product development practices. If you don't have it, run training programs and maybe in a year people will be ready.
  2. Education should not stop.
  3. Information transparency is extremely important. You should have a process to collect requests from customers using various channels, aggregate their feedback and help people to distill top problems to focus on.
  4. Be careful with bonuses and rewards. By default it is easier to not have them at all.
  5. Implement freedom gradually.

#5 demands clarification. Imagine, you have a completely strict process where people got all assignments from managers. Here is an example of gradual freedom:

Choose own tasks from a story > Choose own stories from a backlog > Choose large features from backlog > Participate in backlog creation > Choose anything you believe is right.

If you jump to complete freedom from the typical Scrum practice of "Choose own stories from a backlog", people will feel frustration. Help them one step at a time.

Will we stick to Initiatives model?

I think we will go one step back and let people choose features from a backlog and participate in backlog creation, running required training programs for product development in parallel. With more experience we will restart the Initiatives practice. It is fun and works quite nice, but we were unprepared for it as a company, and I was unprepared for it as a leader.

3 months ago

Targetprocess v.3.11.2: Undelete Projects and Users

Restore deleted projects or users

You can now easily "undelete" Projects and Users from the "Deleted items" menu in Settings. Previously, it was not possible to restore deleted Projects and Users without using the API.

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Please find more info in the guide.

Visual Reports Improved

We recently made some nice improvements to the Visual Reports Editor. Read about them at this dedicated blogpost.

We really appreciate your feedback on our reports editor. What do you like about it? What could be improved? Let us know what you think at ux@targetprocess.com

Fixed Bugs

  • Fixed incorrect effort calculation in Burn Down charts when a Feature is removed
  • Added support for decimal values in custom fields on the Timesheet
  • Fixed: Contributors could not create Releases for Projects that they were not a member of
  • Fixed an exception that would occur when Test Plans and Test Cases on the same Board had different tags
  • Deleted Users will now have a strikeout through their name if someone tries to @mention them in comments
  • Processes are now sorted alphabetically in the Quick Add menu
  • Fixed an exception ('Oops...Something's wrong') that would occur when adding an 'Effort' custom unit to cards in a Person/State view
  • Fixed an inability to delete a Process that is used by deleted Projects
3 months ago

Visual Report Improvements

Period scale for date axis

Dates are now scaled as continuous axes by default. If you need to use periodic scales for dates, you can switch scale type from the field popup.

2017-04-13-15-40-23

Legend

Legend filtering has been improved. Now, several categories in the legend can be selected, and changes will be reflected on the chart.

2017-04-13-15-24-42

 

Tooltip

The mechanics of tooltip have been improved. Projection to axis was added for stacked bars and areas to see the total value of the stacked items.

2017-04-13-15-33-27

We will really appreciate your feedback on our reports editor. What do you like about it? What could be improved? Let us know what you think at ux@targetprocess.com

3 months ago

Targetprocess v.3.11.1: add/edit permissions separated, expand all in List views

'Expand All' in List views

You can now expand and collapse all of the first and second List hierarchy levels. If you hold Ctrl (Cmd) and click '>' then cards from both levels will be expanded. This works for the first two hierarchy levels of a List view and doesn't affect the third level of cards in terms of List setup.

Permissions to create users through the API for non-admins

Previously, only admin users could post Rest API requests to create and delete users. Now, non-admin users with 'add user' / 'delete user' permissions can create/delete users via API calls.

Add and edit permissions separated for user roles

Starting with v.3.11.1, user roles have separate permissions for adding and editing.

screen-shot-2017-04-11-at-3-32-00-pm

Request email notifications settings updated with "Requesters" check-box

You can set up a 'Request' workflow so that requesters get email notifications every time a specific event event occurs.

screen-shot-2017-04-11-at-4-29-23-pm

Visual Encoding improvements

It’s possible to create a predefined set of global Visual Encoding rules that can be applied to all views and all users. To do this, simply select the corresponding checkbox in the Visual Encoding tab and add the global rules that you want applied to every view in the system:

ve-global2

This setting can only be managed by Administrators; other users can see it in read-only mode.

Fixed Bugs

  • Visual studio add-in supports VS2015 now
  • It wasn't possible to delete a test plan if it had test cases that were run already
  • Fixed occasional improper results when searching by ID in a Relations tab
  • Fixed Project-Team assigments for Observer users according to their permissions.
  • Obsolete Tp.v2 option 'Show in lists/enable for filtering' removed from custom fields setup
  • Fixed User Story progress calculation when converting a Task with time records into a User Story

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