The Top 5 Books On Embracing The Agile Mindset & Method

Ready to transform the way you do business? In the spirit of learning something new, we thought we'd share our favorite agile reads! In no particular order, these books are chalked full of professional insights on how to embrace the agile mindset and workflow in order to reap the benefits of a fully agile organization.

1. Doing Agile Right: Transformation Without Chaosagile method

While many businesses aspire to operate in an agile manner, the reality of their day to day work often flies in the face of this goal. In Doing Agile Right, authors Rigby, Elk and Berez are keen to dismiss the popular misconception that the agile method can be a quick cure for all. Instead they argue that the key to success is balance, stating that "Agile has the power to transform work--but only if it's implemented the right way." Included in their road map to success is the importance of understanding the method fully and applying the agile principles at scale.

2. The Agile Enterprise: Building and Running Agile Organizations

Mario Moreira's The Agile Enterprise offers practical ways to implement agile methods at every stage of business, from innovation to delivery. As an experienced agile coach, Moreira demonstrates how to adapt to micro changes in the market, arguing that in order to be truly successful, every employee must operate from an agile mindset and be focused on meeting the needs of the customer.

3. Agile Transformation: Structures, Processes and Mindsets for the Digital Age

agile mindset In today's digitally driven world, Neil Perkin's Agile Transformation illustrates just how the traditional structures of the past no longer fit the current rate of change. New operating models must be embraced, and Perkin's encourages business leaders to think big but start small. This deeply insightful read includes case studies from disruptive tech companies like Amazon and Netflix and proposes that going agile is not an excuse to fail to plan.

4. Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time

scrum Those familiar with the agile manifesto will surely recognize Jeff Sutherland for his efforts in helping to cultivate it. He is also responsible for building the first scrum team and fathering the movement that drives most of the world's top tech companies. All that aside, who couldn't benefit from being more efficient in all areas of their life? In this book, Sutherland sets out to solve our dysfunctional way of operating and offers solutions to increase productivity as much as 1200%.

5. Scrum Mastery: From Good To Great Servant-Leadership

scrum leader In Scrum Mastery, Geoff Watts draws from his vault of knowledge and decade long experience coaching scrum teams to offer valuable leadership skills for those looking to increase the performance of their team. Watts philosophy to leadership stems from that of a servant-leadership model in which the primary goal of the leader is to serve and therefore enable their team. By embodying the principles of a servant-leadership role, Watts outlines how one can better foster creative collaboration and generate long lasting engagement. As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call at 502-212-0978 and we can get the conversation started.

Tips For Transitioning To An Agile Approach To Software Development

The agile software development lifecycle is often considered one of the best approaches by industry experts. Studies show that this approach ensures software development teams are 37% faster in delivering products and 16% more productive, which can benefit your company significantly.

Many software development teams follow the traditional waterfall approach, which is fairly straightforward while also being very rigid. With this approach, the design tends to happen all at once up front, with the final product being unveiled at completion.

Such an approach isn’t very suitable for modern markets, especially if you need to develop a complex, large-scale application. Follow along for some tips to help teams that are intimidated by the prospect of transitioning to an agile approach.

6 Tips To Help Your Software Team Become More Agile

1. Make Sure Everyone is Onboard

Agile relies on collaboration between different teams. it will only be successful after a comprehensive implementation involving all departments from executive and management levels to ground teams. That's why it is important to make sure everyone is on board and agrees to adopt the agile approach. Program sponsors must get management commitment in particular to ensure success. Make sure both business and IT sides of your company agree to get involved before working on the transition.

2. Train Staff

The Waterfall and V-Shaped software development approaches don’t require much formal training, but agile is different. It is a little more complex and flexible, which means training can help developers adopt it completely. A few training sessions will ensure your team is familiar with the system and knows how to use it well. It will also ensure your staff doesn’t feel confused or overwhelmed by agile’s more complex workflow. Making the transition easier for a development team ensures your end-product isn’t affected by the change.

3. Maintain Communication

Communication is an important aspect of Agile because different teams working on different phases of the product must remain on the same page. Communication is especially vital when you're transitioning from other systems like Waterfall or V-Shaped to agile.. Teams should work from the same location and report their progress on a consistent schedule to team leaders. This will help you notice any issues with adaption and clogs in the machine early on.

4. Collaboration is Important

Agile places a lot of emphasis on collaboration during software development. Teams that were traditionally isolated from one another must communicate regularly to ensure they move through all phases smoothly. That can only be possible if you encourage a collaborative atmosphere. Agile requires team members to contribute their thoughts, opinions, and ideas to the project. It encourages people from different teams to identify mistakes and share them, which helps improve the quality of the end-product.

5. Create a Plan and Road-Map

Experts recommend creating a plan and road-map for agile adoption. This ensures the process isn't as intimidating for your team. Developers transitioning from Waterfall or other methodologies are accustomed to a rigid, straightforward project structure. Agile is more flexible so creating a plan or road-map can help. This plan will change during the project if needed, but it will still provide some direction.

6. Ensure the Transition is Gradual

Shifting to the agile model abruptly will do more harm than good. A gradual transition gives your team and stakeholders some room to adjust and adapt their work habits accordingly. This also ensures team members don't develop bad habits that may hamper the quality of their work later. 

It is a good idea to bring in an experienced agile coach to guide your team and establish a foundation for the system. This ensures you have a good plan in place and the transition is as smooth as it can be.

At Number8, our philosophy is to empower our clients to produce better software, faster. We are experts in augmenting scrum teams with senior consultants that can help increase team velocity immediately. I f you’re interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, give us a call at (502) 890-7665, or check out our information page.

An Overview Of Software Development Lifecycles

A software development lifecycle is a term that describes all of the tasks and activities involved in developing an application or program. A lifecycle includes everything from initial planning and consultation to final launch as well as ongoing maintenance.

There are different approaches to software development and every approach has some advantages. Many development teams choose lifecycle systems based on their benefits and their particular requirements. Here’s a brief overview of some of the different software development life cycles used today.

4 Popular Software Development Life Cycles

1. Waterfall

This is one of the most commonly used and popular software development cycles because it is so simple. It works like a waterfall, consisting of a linear sequential flow with one phase of development following the other. Developers only start to work on the next phase after the first phase is complete.

This approach to software development offers several advantages. It is easy to explain to other team members so there’s little room for miscommunication. The structured approach ensures the project remains on track more easily. All stages and activities of the project are clearly defined so all of a team’s members are on the same page. Verification at the end of every phase reduces the chances of error.

Unfortunately, this approach has several disadvantages as well. It is rigid and inflexible so developers are more likely to assume that all requirements are locked in. There’s little room for adjusting the scope or requirements of a project. The waterfall approach is much less unsuitable for large or complex development projects.

2. V-Shaped

The v-shaped model is similar to the waterfall model, with an added advantage of an early unit test phase. The model follows the Waterfall process until software plan implementation, after which it moves upward from unit testing to maintenance. Like the waterfall model, this approach is fairly straightforward and easy to understand.

The biggest advantage of the v-shaped model is that it has specific deliverables at every phase. Developers create test plans early during the lifecycle, which reduces the room for error and improves flexibility.  The v-shaped model is ideal for small, straightforward development projects with clearly defined goals and expectations.

However, this model is still very inflexible and it is difficult to adjust its scope once a project has launched. It is not possible to generate early prototypes using this model and there is not a clear structure for correcting errors.

3. Spiral

The spiral model or SDM is a great solution for large-scale and complicated projects. This model combines design and prototyping systems, making it more flexible. It still uses the main elements of a waterfall approach as the foundation, assigning different sections for planning, risk assessment, prototyping, and simulations, but offers more options to move backward or forward in the project.

The SDM system has several advantages like more realistic estimates, early developer input, and better risk management.

However, this approach to software development has some disadvantages as well. It can be very expensive and time-consuming. Developers need specialized training to utilize this approach effectively and the system has limited re-usability across different kinds of projects.

4. Agile

The agile approach has become very popular because it offers maximum flexibility and is suitable for all kinds of projects. This approach requires collaboration and movement between different teams as well as phases during the development process. Developers can go back to earlier phases after learning from their mistakes to optimize an application.

This approach has several advantages like decreased development time, time to take input from the team, customers, and stakeholders, and no guesswork. You get high-quality software that fits a customer’s requirements perfectly at the end of the process.

However, agile requires special training and skill which can involve an investment of time and money.

Choosing the right development lifecycle is essential to keep a project on track and ensuring the result lives up to the original specs. A successful software development lifecycle can produce software with the highest quality and lowest cost in the shortest time.

At number8,  our measure of success is delivering working software faster. That's why when it comes to meeting a project's full potential, we believe in embracing the agile development model. As an information technology company with many years of experience, we can help any team adopt the practices, processes, and tools needed to deliver with more agility. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call and we can get the conversation started.

5 Stakeholder Questions To Ask Before Starting the Software Development Process

Software development is an intricate process that requires skill, planning and team effort. There are several stakeholders involved in the project, from company executives to various departments within the company. It isn't possible to satisfy all of them completely, but you can take their concerns into account before working on the project by asking the right questions. Doing so can help you understand their priorities and plan the development process accordingly. Here's a list of 5 questions to ask before starting a software development process:

  1. What is the Product?

    Projects tend to get out of hand if you don't have a clear vision in mind. Software developers need to understand what the end product should look like before they even start planning for it. For example, does the company want an app that will help users find the best online deals? Does it want a software program for its HR department? Stakeholders can provide a list of features or ideas for the end product to make things easier for a development team. If there's any dispute about the final product, this will be the best time to resolve it. Make sure everyone is on the same page before proceeding.
  2. What is Not a Part of the Product?

    Developers can sometimes go overboard and add features or elements that aren’t necessary. That happens if they don’t know what should be excluded from the final product. For example, if a website is only delivering to the US, there’s no need to include a feature to convert prices to other currencies. In many cases, stakeholders assume their development team is going to deliver something, but the latter is unaware of it. It is essential to establish what you will and won't deliver.
  3. What is a Successful Product?

    Software programs are tools designed to achieve a specific goal or purpose. A company creates a website if they want to establish a presence online. They design an app if they want to build a robust and long-term customer base. They develop a software application to make daily processes easier. If the product fulfills these goals, it is considered successful. The end goal isn't to deliver a good product; it is to provide a product that succeeds in the market. There's a clear difference between these two goals. For example, a website can be beautiful and functional but still not provide all the services the target audience needs. Stakeholders should define what a successful product means to them at the start of the project.
  4. Do We Have a Single Point of Communication?

    This is one of the most challenging aspects of project management. The project starts with one team and one client, but eventually, a large number of people start becoming part of the process. The IT guy must approve one aspect of the design, the other should please the marketing expert, and so on. If these people start offering suggestions or requesting changes, the project can quickly get out of control. It is crucial to establish a single point of communication between stakeholders, clients, and development teams. You can maintain a smooth flow of information while keeping track of numerous requests.
  5. What are the Potential Roadblocks or Problems?

    No one likes to discuss problems before they work on a project, but you need to address it. Gather all stakeholders together and ask them about possible hurdles. Can the project run out of money? What happens if some temporary contractors don't live up to expectations? What if the client changes their mind in the middle of the project? If you know about possible hurdles, you can develop systems to counteract them. These questions will help a team start their project on a firm foundation. Don't hesitate to ask questions to stakeholders; the answers will help improve the quality of your end product.
At Number8, our philosophy is to empower our clients to produce better software, faster. We are experts in augmenting scrum teams with senior consultants that can help increase team velocity immediately. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, give us a call at (502) 890-7665, or check out our information page.  

The 12 Principles of the Agile Manifesto

The agile methodology started in the software development industry in response to the limitations of traditional software development principles. Eventually, companies realized that it could be used to improve project management, team management, and other such processes. Agile focuses more on individuals and interactions between different teams than processes or sophisticated tools. There are 12 core principles of the agile manifesto.

  1. Customer Satisfaction – Providing Early & Continuous Delivery

    The Agile Manifesto states that developers and companies can achieve customer satisfaction by delivering products early for testing and feedback. Teams can continuously share their progress with the clients and incorporate their input into the product. The focus is on fulfilling client priorities and then focusing on other aspects of the project. This allows developers to adjust to the client's changing requirements during the development process. Customers get a more refined product at the end of this process, and they're more satisfied.
  2. Responding Positively to Change – Even During the Later Stages of Development

    The modern business environment is fluid, and customer requirements change frequently. Traditional working models don't adapt well to change, especially during the late stages. The agile methodology adapts to change quickly at every stage. Agile offers a simplified model for requesting and making alterations in the product design. There's no formal documentation or approval required, which can speed things up.
  3. Frequent Delivery of Product Elements

    Rather than forcing the clients to wait for several months, the development team can deliver the project in stages. You need to make sure every aspect is finished, tested, and styled appropriately. This gives customers quick fulfillment and offers assurance that their project is progressing as planned.
  4. Communication Between Developers & Executives

    There's often a communication gap between developers and executives. People who work on the project have more technical skills and knowledge about the product, while executives understand the business side of things. This can lead to miscommunication, delays, and other such issues. Agile requires everyone to be on the same page and maintain open communications.
  5. Trusting Developers & Teams to Do Their Job

    Many executives don't trust their workers to choose the right job, which results in micromanagement. Such micromanagement can hamper productivity and place unnecessary pressure on the team. Projects should be built around motivated and passionate professionals who understand their strengths. Self-organized teams are more efficient and content to work on every aspect of their projects.
  6. Face to Face Conversations

    Essential instructions and project requirements can become lost in endless chain emails, which is why face-to-face communication is necessary. Executives should obtain feedback from the source and work with the team on the project. Virtual communications like video conferences can help in this process.
  7. Collocation & Pair Programming

    Collocation is the process of making a team work from the same open area. Pair programming is when two programmers are assigned the same workstation. One programmer is writing the code while the other looks at the bigger picture. Both swap roles every few minutes. Both of these processes improve product quality and make teams more productive.
  8. Sustainable Development

    No one can work continuously or at a demanding pace without experiencing some form of burnout. Agile methodologies focus on improving work-life balance and making sure everyone in the team is healthy. Product development is only sustainable if workers are allowed to get adequate rest.
  9. Self-Reflection to Improve Overall Performance

    The agile manifesto is focused on the human aspect of development. The best designs come from teams who are committed, passionate, and happy to work. They also come from teams that are willing to look back at their past work and improve.
  10. Simplicity

    The Pareto Principle says that you get 80% of the work done with 20% of the effort. Professionals should focus on the 20% and make sure that 80% of the work reaches the customer on a priority basis. You can then focus on the nitty-gritty and refine the project later.
  11. Self-Organizing Teams

    Executives should give their teams some room to flex their creative muscles. The team has skilled employees who are experts in their field. Allowing them some independence will help product development and improve overall work culture.
  12. Adapting to Change

    Agile means fluid and adaptive. You can only be agile if you're willing to accept changing demands and requirements during a project. Everyone can plan for a perfect product, but you can only develop something substantial through trial and error. Adopting agile principles can help improve your team’s performance and productivity significantly.
At Number8, our philosophy is to empower our clients to produce better software, faster. We are experts in augmenting scrum teams with senior consultants that can help increase team velocity immediately. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, give us a call at (502) 890-7665, or check out our information page.  

“Automated QA: Save time, use a web calendar handler!”

Number8's very own Derick Arzu was recently published on Medium. Read the article on automated QA processes below.

Text boxes, check boxes, radio buttons, and other elements of forms are fairly simple to deal with when it comes to developing UI functional tests for a web application. But what happens when you want to write a test that verifies that the UI for a web calendar is working?

You are probably thinking that it can be easily achieved with a couple of clicks and validations, which is not only true but also the approach that led to the idea of a handler.

Before you discover how to make your automated QA team very happy, here are some reasons why writing a simple function or just a segment of code that deals with ONE specific calendar is not as scalable. Imagine you are a QA Developer at a company who is developing the websites for airlines A and B and your team is requested to create the automated test suites. Sounds quite easy, you will use the same code in both projects, nothing will need to be changed; until someone shows you the designs of the two web calendars each airline uses in their website.

Beginning with the obvious differences, airline A uses two windows while airline B uses only one; that surely represents a significant change in the code of that first approach. Another difference you might not have noticed is that airline B has a dropdown to change the year of the calendar, so that would mean a slight change in the method used to get the text of the displayed year. Those are two visual differences that will affect the way your bot interacts with the calendar and the DOM will surely surprise you with more.

Now that you are interested, the coding begins!

This handler was implemented in Node.js and uses WebdriverIO as the test framework that interacts with the browser.

You will find out that the framework has two functions ($ and $$) to fetch web elements. However, a hierarchy of classes will be created to manipulate elements, later on you will learn this is so that the handler can easily be able to cover many web calendar designs.

The main class is Element. Here is where, the method to obtain the fetch function is implemented, it has two parameters:

    1. selectorObject (required) which refers to an object with two properties; the first named selector , is a string that specifies the selector that will be used to fetch the element. The second is index, which is an integer that must be assigned to the object if the fetch result wants to be treated as a single element and not as an array of elements.
    2. additionalProperties (optional) is an object with any property that wants to be added to the fetch result. The subclasses of the hierarchy use this to manage how some data is obtained from the web elements, you will learn this later on.

Read More...

Q & A Best Practices

On top of delivering a project on time and within budget, developers must test for quality assurance upon completion to ensure stakeholders' expectations have been met. However, testing for quality after a product is built, usually results in far too little, too late. The agile model of software development encourages practicing quality assurance throughout every phase of the project. The agile way also prioritizes quality by making it the responsibility of every team member, not just the QA testers. As a result, the QA team coordinates efforts with the development team at each iteration, providing continuous testing. Implementing a feedback loop is a fundamental step in the quality assurance process. In order to guarantee that the product meets all of the requirements (feature functionality, design, reliability, usability and efficiency), it can be helpful to enlist the perspectives of those with varying backgrounds. This can include those proficient in testing, business and or development. Quality assurance testing can be both manual and automated. While both approaches are proficient at mitigating bugs, automated software testing is often more beneficial in that it is quicker and more effective at checking for code correctness. It's important to remember that the goal of Q & A testing is to find faults within the software so that an error-free application can be delivered to the client.

The following are integral software testing methods when best practicing quality assurance:

Test Driven Development (TDD)

TDD works by building a project's code around the QA tests. The programming team first designs and builds tests for functional code, and then creates code that will pass them. This development method helps everyone gain an understanding of the code's purpose before development; guaranteeing the initial functionality of the code and effectively building in quality.

Behavior Driven Development (BDD)

Similar to TDD, in that the test is written before the code, BDD tests the behavior of an application under specific conditions. This is done with the end user in mind. As development progresses, BDD often proves to be more reliable than TDD. BDD is also written in English instead of code, allowing for a more streamlined feedback loop.

Acceptance Tests

Acceptance tests are simple pass or fail tests that check whether or not a feature behaves as it should. These are often automated to meet customer and business requirements.

Regression Tests

Once one feature is functional, regression tests ensure it's stability throughout the software's other modifications. As more features are built, these automated tests check that the others aren't being negatively affected as a result.

Exploratory Tests

Exploratory tests are usually manual, in that a human operates the software looking for unknown unknowns. These tests are meant to identify new situations that the development or QA teams haven't thought of. Once a product thoroughly meet's it's intended purpose and performs well under pressure, the QA testing is complete. At Number8, we believe in developing software that is user-friendly, reliable and completely functional. As a result, we are always recruiting talented QA professionals for quality assurance jobs on our team. To learn more about how we can help you complete and successfully launch your software project, contact us at 502-890-7665. 

10 Agile Project Management Terms You Should Know

Whether you're planning on managing a project the agile way, or just want to stay up to date on the latest developments in the field, here are 10 agile project management terms you should know:

1. Agile Manifesto

The agile manifesto is a great starting point for anyone looking to familiarize themselves with the agile methodology. The manifesto outlines the 4 values and 12 principles of agile software development and was actually created by a group of software developers in an effort to provide a clear and alternative set of processes for developing software. The agile way of doing things prioritizes individuals and interactions over processes and tools, working software over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and responding to change over following a plan. 

2. Scrum

A scrum is a daily stand up meeting with the sole focus being to review each team member's progress on any given project. Scrums help to keep everyone accountable and on the same page, ensuring no one falls too behind or gets too far ahead in the development of a project.

3. Scrum Master

A scrum master oversees the development process and acts as a problem solver for the team; preventing roadblocks and enforcing the agile way of doing things.

4. Stakeholder

A stakeholder refers to anyone with a vested interest in the product. This can be the client, the end user, sales people, legal representatives etc. Stakeholders have an informative role in the development phase, and are critical in defining the project's requirements.

5. Backlog

The backlog is the ever changing list of the software's requirements. It's not to be seen as a to do list so much as a prioritized list of desired features of the product provided by the stakeholders.

6. Story

The story tells the software system's requirements from the consumer's point of view. For example, as "a <type of user>, I want to <perform some task> so I can <achieve some goal.>"

7. Burndown & Burnup Charts

A burndown chart visually measures the progress of a project over time (the vertical axis is made up of the backlog while the horizontal axis represents time). A burnup chart displays completed work (the vertical axis shows the amount done over the horizontal axis, time). These charts are essential to inspiring the team as they work and help provide a realistic time frame for the project's completion as well as a working scale of the project.

8. Feature Creep

While changes are expected, and certainly embraced in the agile way of doing things, the phrase "feature creep" refers to features that are added after development has begun. Adding too many features during the development phase can result in feature creep and software that is too complicated or difficult to use.

9. Timeboxing

Timeboxing is kind of like time blocking in that it assigns a specific time frame to accomplish a goal. The definitive feature of timeboxing however, is that the work stops at the end of the timebox, instead of when the work is complete. This is extremely helpful in terms of productivity, and controlling the scale of a project.

10. Sprint

A sprint is a short development phase usually lasting anywhere from 1 week to a month. Sprints help prevent projects from feeling overwhelming and allows feedback to be given at appropriate junctures. At Number8, we help project managers connect with highly trained and efficient IT support to help reach company goals. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, give us a call at(502) 890-7665, or check out our information page!

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