Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: Agile

Leveraging Lean Startup and Design Thinking Startup Sac Event Recap

Agile, Conferences, Event Recap, Government, Leveraging Lean Startup and Design Thinking event, Project Management, Sacramento, Small Business, Startup Company, Technology, Waterfall


Picture Credit: Startup Sac

By Terry Daffin

The Death of the Traditional Product Development Lifecycle

When we think of innovation, we typically think of product innovation. The tangible things we use on a daily basis go through massive change in one’s lifetime.

For example, the smartphone: Does anyone remember using a rotary phone that had to stay plugged into the wall? What about music? Does anyone still buy or play LPs? Maybe the historians, a few collectors, and the staunch laggards of society still have these items around, but they have almost totally been forgotten.

Process and methodology also experiences periods of innovation. The assembly line revolutionized the manufacturing industry over 100 years ago. Kaizen was introduced in the 1980s as an innovative improvement for manufacturing and beyond. The tech industry has certainly seen its fair share of technology products.

The process for developing those products is also changing. The traditional methods for product development is far too laborious to keep up with demand and often does not meet the needs of users once the product is complete. Private industries and even some public sector departments have move to more innovative processes and methodologies to meet the demand.

I recently attended an event sponsored by Startup Sac. The event, Leveraging Lean Startup and Design Thinking, featured presenter Jake Elia, Bamboo Creative’s Head of Products and Technology.

Jake delivered an impressive presentation and provided many examples of his own startup experiences, as well as example of other startups to accentuate points along the way. I was intrigued by his description of his own life path as a “lean startup” and pivoting when needing to do so.

I started to think my own career path and compared it to the product lifecycles I’ve used over my 30-year career in the industry. Has my life/career mirrored a traditional waterfall development lifecycle? Maybe to a certain degree, but here is what I’ve come to know about life: It doesn’t follow any set process or plan. You have to be ready to make a change when the plan falls apart.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all plans fall apart, but even a minor deviation in the plan creates some sort of change that may alter the direction of the original plan. That is also the case with product development. The big difference between the traditional development lifecycles and today’s more agile or lean lifecycles is the speed in which product builds, feedback, and changes in direction occur. The increase in “speed” can be attributed to several changes/innovations in the traditional development lifecycle process itself:

  1. Clarity of the problem being solved
  2. Frequent customer involvement and feedback
  3. Simplify the minimum viable product (MVP)

In their own way, Lean Startup and Design Thinking both take into account these three factors. So, how can you use them in your next product development project? Here are my takeaways of the presentation:

Lean Startup

The Lean Startup is a methodology and book written by Eric Reis about his experiences with startup companies. Through his experiences, he saw the need to develop and document a methodology to share with others. I recommend The Lean Startup be on the reading list of anyone who has vision with a solution to a problem and a notion to engage in a startup.

According to Reis, the lean startup “provides a scientific approach to creating and managing startups and get a desired product to customers’ hands faster. The Lean Startup method teaches you how to drive a startup … and grow a business with maximum acceleration.”

The model is simple: Build, Measure, and Learn. Here’s how it works:

  • Starting with a vision or an idea for how to resolve a problem, you create a hypothesis on how the solution might resolve a problem. This step is the clarification of the problem to be solved.
  • Then you build a minimum viable product (MVP). Your MVP should focus on the main or most important problem to be solved. Know that there may be many problems to solve which means many build iterations. Resist the urge to solve all problems with your MVP.
  • Next, you must develop measurable metrics,present to customers who have this problem, record customer feedback, and use the data to learn something about your solution.

The key is using the data to make sound decisions about the path forward. Be brutally honest with yourself and the problem you are trying to solve. The data should provide you with the information to either continue down the path you are on or pivot with a different idea. You don’t want to waste time building something no one needs or wants.

The model looks like this:

Picture credit

Think of your solution to a problem as an experiment. Experiments are valuable not only to prove your hypothesis was correct, but to prove your hypotheses was incorrect as well.

Design Thinking

According to Stanford Graduate School of Business, Design Thinking is a “user-centered way to conceive and create a successful product.”

The Design Thinking model is similar to Lean Startup, however the customer interaction is at the beginning and may be a more beneficial method to use when your customer has known problem.

The model is simple and is meant to be more expedient than a traditional model because it is also iterative.

The phases of Design Thinking include Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test. The model looks like this:

Picture credit

  • The Empathize and Define steps are critical to making crystal clear the problem to be solved. The interviewer should probe the customer for pain points. These steps are to get to the root cause of the problem.
  • The Ideate and Prototype steps are to come up with solutions and to build an MVP. Problems are prioritized and prototypes are simplified focusing on the most important problems to resolve first.
  • Finally, Test your solution by presenting to customers and collecting feedback to be used in making the next decision on what to move forward with. Rinse and repeat!

Unlike traditional develop lifecycles, the Lean Startup and Design Thinking methodologies are highly iterative to simplify build cycles and involve frequent customer interaction and feedback to provide data for plan adjustments.

These and other innovative process improvements are becoming more and more the norm. Even the Federal government has recognized this is true in order to meet the demands of the general public. Case in point, the Federal General Services Administration created an office known as 18F to deliver “digital services” in response to the failure of the website that was developed for the Affordable Care Act.

California is also beginning to ramp up its own digital service methodologies as evidenced by the recent contract award by the California Child Welfare Digital Services project to CivicActions for development of the Department’s new system.

The traditional development lifecycle is not dead yet, but it may be on its last leg. How are you pivoting to these innovations and changes in development?

About the Author: Terry Daffin is an Executive Consultant within KAI Partners. He has worked in the IT industry for more than 30 years and has over 25 years of project management experience. As a public sector consultant in the health care industry, Mr. Daffin has assisted in the development and implementation of Project Management Offices that include project management, service management, lean agile and traditional product development lifecycles, and governance processes. He has been an innovation advocate and evangelist for 15 years and has implemented innovative processes for projects that he has been engaged on since 2001. He has worked with the California Medi-Cal Management and Information System (CA-MMIS) division of the Department of Health Care Services, California Franchise Tax Board, Commission on Teacher Credentialing, California Department of Consumer Affairs, California Board of Equalization, and California Department of Water Resources. Mr. Daffin is currently working on a project for KAI Partners to expand an existing co-working organization into an innovation incubator/accelerator focused on connecting innovative start-ups and the public sector.

KAI Partners is Hiring!

Agile, Business Analysis, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Communications, Cyber Security, Hiring, Human Resources, Information Security, Information Technology, Issues and Risks, KAI Partners, Onboarding, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Risk Assessment, Sacramento, Small Business, Technology, Training

KAI Partners is thrilled to announce we are once again expanding our stellar team! Interested in joining our growing company? Take a look at the following positions for which we are currently hiring!

Business Analyst
The seasoned, motivated, and client-focused Business Analyst should be a highly organized, self-directed, and engaged individual. The Business Analyst will be responsible for a diverse set of responsibilities including, but not limited to:

  • Requirement elicitation and facilitation
  • Business process improvement
  • Business process and narrative modeling
  • User testing
  • Training
  • Organizational change management and communication
  • Process standardization and improvement for ongoing operations

We are looking for four (4) Business Analysts who are enthusiastic problem-solvers who thrive on aligning the client’s business needs with technology solutions. Click here for more information or to apply for one of our on-site, Sacramento-based Business Analyst roles.

IT Audit Consultant
The seasoned, motivated, and client-focused contract IT Audit Consultant will engage with a number of stakeholders in client IT support infrastructures to ensure appropriate processes, procedures, and controls are adequately designed and implemented to meet key control requirements for clients, and will mitigate significant risks that clients deem appropriate. To be successful, the IT Audit Consultant should be a dedicated professional who possesses the analytical, feasibility, relationship, and executive IT audit skills needed to identify and test risk and control management strategies to meet various client requirements, along with compliance and regulatory requirements. The IT Audit Consultant will be responsible for providing IT risk management advice and control solution alternatives as the client needs.

The IT Audit Consultant can be based from anywhere in the U.S., but must have a valid U.S. passport and the ability to travel. Click here or for more information or to apply for the IT Audit Consultant role.

IV&V (Independent Verification & Validation) Consultant
The experienced, motivated, and flexible IV&V Consultant will be an enthusiastic problem-solver who thrives in a fast-paced environment. The IV&V Consultant will be responsible for performing IV&V assessments including, but not limited to:

  • Quality Management
  • Training
  • Requirements Management
  • Operating Environment
  • Development Environment
  • Software Development
  • Systems and Acceptance Testing
  • Data Management
  • Operation Oversight
  • Assessing Program risks

Click here for more information or to apply for the on-site, Sacramento-based IV&V Consultant role.

Scrum Master
The Scrum Master should have experience setting up teams for successful delivery by removing obstacles, constantly helping the team to become more self-organizing, and enabling the work the team does rather than imposing how the work is done. The Scrum Master will manage one or more agile projects, typically to deliver a specific product or transformation via a multi-disciplinary, high-skilled digital team. Adept at delivering complex digital projects, breaking down barriers to the team, and both planning at a higher level and getting into the detail to make things happen when needed, the Scrum Master will define project needs and feed the needs into the portfolio/program process to enable resources to be appropriately allocated.

Click here for more information or to apply for the on-site, Sacramento-based Scrum Master role.

Senior Technical Lead

The experienced, motivated, and flexible Senior Technical Lead should be an enthusiastic problem-solver who thrives on aligning business needs with the technology solutions. The Senior Technical Lead will work with a team of people to deliver the following tasks:

  • Task Accomplishment Plan (TAP)
  • TAP updates
  • Monthly written status reports
  • Requirements Management Plan
  • Project Schedule
  • Weekly Project Schedule Updates
  • Conduct JAD sessions
  • Code Assessment
  • Documentation Review and Assessment
  • Process Analysis
  • Data Analysis
  • Validate Requirements
  • Business Rules Extraction and Analysis
  • Knowledge Transfer

Click here for more information or to apply for the on-site, Sacramento-based Senior Technical Lead role.

Systems Analyst

The experienced, motivated, and flexible Systems Analyst should be an enthusiastic problem-solver who thrives in a fast-paced environment and has SharePoint experience. Some responsibilities of the Systems Analyst include, but are not limited to:

  • Determining operational objectives by studying business functions; gathering information; evaluating output requirements and formats
  • Designing new computer programs by analyzing requirements; constructing workflow charts and diagrams; studying system capabilities; writing specifications
  • Improves systems by studying current practices; designing modifications.
  • Recommending controls by identifying problems; writing improved procedures
  • Defining project requirements by identifying project milestones, phases, and elements; forming project team; establishing project budget
  • Monitoring project progress by tracking activity; resolving problems; publishing progress reports; recommending actions

Click here for more information or to apply for the on-site, Sacramento-based Systems Analyst role.

Technical Lead

The experienced, motivated, and flexible Technical Lead should be an enthusiastic problem-solver who thrives on aligning business needs with the technology solutions. The Technical Lead will work with a team of people to deliver the following tasks:

  • Task Accomplishment Plan (TAP)
  • TAP updates
  • Monthly written status reports
  • Requirements Management Plan
  • Project Schedule
  • Weekly Project Schedule Updates
  • Conduct JAD sessions
  • Code Assessment
  • Documentation Review and Assessment
  • Process Analysis
  • Data Analysis
  • Validate Requirements
  • Business Rules Extraction and Analysis
  • Knowledge Transfer

We are looking for three (3) Technical Leads. Click here for more information or to apply for one of our on-site, Sacramento-based Technical Lead roles.

We look forward to receiving your application today!

KAI Partners Staff Profile: The PMP

Agile, Business Analysis, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), General Life/Work, KAI Partners, KAI Partners Staff Profile, Managing/Leadership, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Sacramento, Scrum, Small Business, Technical Writing

staff-profile

There are many paths to success and while not everyone takes the same path, we often manage to arrive at the same destination. In our KAI Partners Staff Profile series, we share interviews and insight from some of our own employees here at KAI Partners. Our staff brings a diversity in education, professional, and life experience, all of which demonstrate that the traditional route is not necessarily the one that must be traveled in order to achieve success. Today, we bring you the journey of one of our Project Managers, Jamie Spagner, Project Management Professional (PMP)® and Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM).

KAI Partners, Inc.: Jamie, how did you get into project management work?

Jamie Spagner: I got into Project Management by default. In college, I wanted to be a lobbyist. I wanted to influence the actions, policies, or decisions of elected officials. But, life had a different plan. I was blessed with a beautiful little boy my last semester in college. Because of this new addition to my life, I was unable to attend The Washington Center program I was slated for in Washington D.C. Being a mother forced me to explore other career options that would allow me to provide a decent life for my son as a single mom. At the time, the IT industry had higher-paying jobs out of college, so I looked for a ways to get into that field.

In college, I worked part-time for the Money Store, which later became First Union, then Wachovia, and is now Well Fargo. I held many positions, but I always watched the job boards to see the various positions being offered and the qualifications needed. One day I stumbled on a Senior Technical Writer position.

While I ultimately didn’t have the experience for the Senior Technical Writer role at the time, I did establish a relationship and mentorship with the hiring manager. She told me the books I should read for learning, encouraged me to join the Society for Technical Communication (STC), and invited me to different events with her team. Within 6-8 months of establishing that relationship, she hired me as a Technical Writer.

Through natural progression, I worked as a Technical Writer, then transitioned to a Business Analyst. From Business Analyst, I advanced into Project Management.

KAIP: Some people may not realize the difference between being a Project Manager and being a Project Manager with a Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification. Can you explain why you decided to pursue your PMP®? How has it helped you?

JS: I decided to pursue my PMP because it’s a respected certification in the field. The test is not an easy test, so it shows a level of dedication to employers to see a potential candidates who has gone the extra step to obtain those three letters.

It also opens doors professionally. Many employers require a PMP certification for Project Management positions; the project I am currently working on requires it.

KAIP: What is your favorite part about your line of work and why?

JS: My favorite part about my job is collaborating with people to deliver a product or service. Ninety percent of a Project Manager’s job is communication. What I enjoy most is building relationships,

collaborating, influencing directions and decisions, and successfully delivering products and services to the client’s satisfaction.

KAIP: What is one of the most common project management questions you receive from clients and what counsel or advice do you give them?

JS: “What is project management?” is the most common question I get from people. The advice I give to clients is to be transparent and always be able to defend their “Why.” In this profession, you have to make quick decisions and sometimes they are not always the right decisions. However, it’s important to always be able defend why you made the decision you made.

JamieAbout Jamie: Jamie Spagner is an Executive Consultant for KAI Partners, where she works as a Project Manager for a public sector health care client. She graduated from California State University, Sacramento with the Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies/Public Relation. She is a loving mother of a teenage son named Wyatt. In her spare time, she enjoys shopping, spending time with family/close friends, and working out.


Quick Q&A with Jamie:
Daily, must-visit website: Pinterest
Preferred genre of music or podcast to listen to: Hip-hop and R&B
Best professional advice received: Be courageous; do not be afraid to fail
Book you can read over and over again: “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle
Most-recent binge-watched show: New Edition Movie. This was a movie about the pop group New Edition that aired on BET…I loved it!

KAI Partners is Hiring!

Agile, Backend Web Developer, Communications, Corporate Training, Government, Hiring, Human Resources, KAI Partners, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Sacramento, Scrum, Small Business, Technology, Training

kai-partners-is-hiring

A new year typically brings some introspection, the setting of goals and aspirations, and the shifting of priorities. Along with the typical “lose weight” or “go to yoga,” maybe you’ve also been feeling the desire to change an aspect of your career. Luckily, KAI Partners is currently hiring! Take a look at the roles for which we are hiring—maybe your dream job is waiting here! Note: All positions are on-site positions based in the Sacramento, California region.

Communications Consultant
The Communications Consultant will play a key role in planning, coordinating, and developing communication and messaging for a large organization. The focus of the Communications Consultant is to act as a single point of contact for all external division communications, which are both written and oral. The Communications Consultant will provide full-service communication services, new media, public awareness, educational outreach, communications strategy, stakeholder, sponsor and program research, and more.
Click here to apply or to view the job posting in its entirety (via ZipRecruiter)

Delivery Manager (Scrum Master)
The Delivery Manager (Scrum Master) shall work to resolve or remove impediments within the team, help manage the team’s relationships with outside stakeholders, facilitate team continuous improvement, and coordinate solution implementation and delivery with other Delivery Managers. This individual should have the ability to develop relationships with all levels of the organization and have outstanding political savvy. We are looking for enthusiastic problem solvers who thrive on being engaged at all levels of the project.
Click here to apply or to view the job posting in its entirety (via LinkedIn)

Backend Web Developer
The Backend Web Developer engages with a number of stakeholders to act as a bridge between current compliance requirements and the new compliance requirements. The success of the Backend Web Developer requires a dedicated professional who possess analytical, programming, and data architecture skills. The Backend Web Developer will need to have experience using modern, open source software to prototype and deploy backend web applications, including all aspects of server-side processing, data storage, and integration with frontend development.
Click here to apply or to view the job posting in its entirety (via LinkedIn)

Training Consultant
The Training Consultant will work across a number of stakeholders, both state and vendor, who collaborate to design, develop, and deliver training solutions to impacted end users within the organization. The Training Consultant should have the ability to develop relationships with all levels of the organization and have outstanding political savvy. The Training Consultant should have in-depth knowledge of training design methodologies. Knowledge of business process and OCM methodologies are preferred.
Click here to apply or to view the job posting in its entirety (via ZipRecruiter)

We look forward to receiving your application today!

How to Achieve the Power of Commitment in the Agile Sprint Process

Agile, Best Practices, Communications, Project Management, Scrum

Agile Commitment

By Tim Cleary

Performance management and the collaboration of team members during the software development life-cycle are essential to software solutions when quality and speed to implementation is the goal. Certain Agile best practices are used to facilitate management and collaboration, and ensure a rapid software development, testing, and implementation process.

During the Agile process, a critical step to achieving team collaboration and successful performance management is Release Commitment Meetings. It’s in these Release Commitment Meetings that Product Managers, Scrum Masters, Solution Architects, and System Developers collaborate and reach agreement and commitment to move the scope of a release into the rapid development, testing, and implementation phases.

The following are the high-level steps that need to be completed in advance of the commitment for each release:

  • Product Managers work with Business Analysts / the Client to ensure user stories, acceptance criteria, priorities, and return on investment are understood. Functionally is documented and completed during this time, as well.
  • Business Analysts work with Solution Architects and Developers to come up with the scope of a release.
  • Sizing includes architectural complexity and is estimated on a story point basis for each user story.
  • User stories considered feasible are based on development capacity and marked as “Release Candidates.”

Release Commitment Meetings are facilitated by project management commitment experts to review and obtain approval of user story release candidates. User stories are then be tagged to the release after alignment, approval, and commitment by the Product Managers, Solution Architects, and Developers. In the final scope control process, the committed scope is communicated back to the business / client and moved into the development, testing, and implementation phases.

While it’s tempting to jump right into the software development process and get to work, it’s important not to skip the step of these Release Commitment Meetings to ensure all parties are involved and collaborate on the Agile process. Commitment from the team will only help set your next project up for success!

KAI Partners, Inc. staff consists of Certified Scrum Masters and other Agile approach experts. Thinking about going Agile for your next project? Contact us today at info@kaipartners.com.

About the Author: Tim is an Executive Consultant with project management, consulting, business development, and sales experience spanning business transformation, technology adoption, change management, shared services, knowledge management, learning and development, and enterprise cost reduction. Tim has more than 30 years of business system development and implementation experience focused on Energy – Utilities/Oil & Gas, Technology, Media & Entertainment, Financial, Federal, State, and Life Sciences (Disability, Medicare Claims Management, and Conservation) organizations. Tim has lectured at the university level and at business conferences focusing on technology adoption, change/knowledge management, and business issues and solutions.

next page »