Friday, 23 October 2009

Lean/Agile Project Control on Sharepoint

Looking back over October's "Personal Kaizen", I see that I've somewhat succeeded in making Lean/Agile project status and control more visible on our development Sharepoint and am feeling a great benefit from applying the core values from our "Vision Box". I've airbrushed out lots here to protect the innocent and removed our benchmarks and current status from the value gauges, but here's how our project Sharepoint now looks (and I'll tell you how I did it further down):

The main focus of this is to allow the interested parties and stakeholders to be able to do three important things:
  • Find out what this project is all about (clear vision statement and core values)
  • Check at a glance where we are (value gauges and task list)
  • Make project planning decisions (value gauges and task list)
These fundamentals rely on a couple of things that you can't see, which are:
  • Links in the task list (a Kanban board really) to a set of lightweight documentation that can be edited in-place (OK, it's a wiki: what else would it be on Sharepoint?!)
  • Cross referencing of the features in the task list to the core values
  • Estimated costs of the features in the task list
You can probably see that the task list is divided into a few sections, allowing features to flow through the development process:
  1. In Backlog
  2. In Elaboration
  3. In Development
  4. In Testing
  5. Signed Off
(There's a couple of legacy categories in there from before this little re-work too: don't worry about those). As work flows through, it is assigned to different people and (if the Sharepoint hasn't crashed...) everyone gets nice little updates to tell them tasks have been assigned, have changed or that the feature specification and tests have been added to or modified.

One of the things I'm loving about this shift in focus of the project planning information is the way the core values have changed the way I think: I no longer see the work to do as a pile of features (or code points, story points, whatever's your fancy) to chew through, rather a concerted effort to push the value gauges to the right! We're "done" when we're in the green (or could grudgingly ship with them in the amber). Of course, we have deadlines to deal with and have to come up with sensible project planning data such as when we think we're likely to finish and we can do this, so long as we continually evaluate how much "value" there is in the backlog and whether it will be sufficient to hit the targets.

All in all, I'm reasonably pleased with progress. OK, it's not a fully integrated, all-singing, all-dancing approach, but it's doing a decent job with the tools to hand and the existing project data. More to the point, this feels like just enough improvement from little effort, rather than an enormous integration/porting job or costly migration to a new tool.

If you fancy trying this yourself, then the key is publishing parts of an Excel spreadsheet within your Sharepoint document library: that way you get html, gifs, pngs inside your site that you can display as content. If you want to go the whole hog, you could integrate things like the task list (and perhaps a project calendar for tracking holidays, significant dates, out-of-office periods and so on) with your Excel calculations using an Access database.

Of course you probably can do all of this on a Google site too...

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