Software Estimation Plan

Microsoft Excel IconIn software development, planning is a necessary component regardless of whether one takes a traditional waterfall methodology or adopts a more agile mindset, such as SCRUM. As a project manager or scrum master, you often have to estimate how long a software release or product will take to develop. Given a set increment, such as a two-week sprint or calendar month, and the number of development units you have, it is possible to plan out a software project and estimate how much work can be completed. This estimation work is one of the many things that Microsoft Project excels at, however not everyone has Microsoft Project. Instead, you can use Microsoft Excel to do this type of work and achieve similar results.

Calculating Development Capacity:

To start with we have Development Units. This is a measurement of dedicated development hours which is what most project managers deal with in Microsoft Project, or you can substitute hours for Agile Story Points. For my example, I will utilize story points, but either hours or points will work.

Next we need to know the number of development resources that we will have available to us by Sprint or by Month. For this example, I am going to use 12 months (January through December).

The next value that we will need is how many units a single developer can complete in a given month.

Inputting these values into a table, will give us an estimated capacity for the project.

Story Planning:

What we need next is the set of stories and their corresponding unit values. For this, we start with 49 sample stories, each with a different unit value, in this case story points. Our stories will be completed sequentially in Excel, and their story points will be totaled as we progress. This summary is used to calculate what month the work will take place in. If we are over the sum capacity of the 12 months, then we would have exceeded our percentage capacity and note this as “Over Capacity”.

We either can remove stories or increase the number of developers for a given month.

Excel Template:

To do this in Excel, I created a Calendar worksheet with a table that listed out by month, the number of developers, the estimated velocity, and incremented story points. The calendar table does simple addition and subtraction. You can change the number of Developers and outside of the table, there is a value of Story Points per Developer that can also be changed.

Excel Software Calendar

In cell A4, we have 32 story points which we have already completed at the beginning of March. For the month of March we have an estimated capacity of 16 story points. Note, I have set the Story Points Per Developer value to 4 for this example. With the Calendar worksheet completed, we have a good overview of what our capacity for the next 12 months will be. We can now move on to story planning.

Next I added a Story Planner worksheet with another table that lists out the planned stories and estimated points. The Story Summary incrementally sums up the story points.

Excel Software Story Planner

For the Estimated Month, a VLOOKUP formula evaluates the story points to the values in the calendar table. The IFERROR is used to display Jan instead of #NA values.

=IFERROR(VLOOKUP(D2,calendar,4,TRUE),”Jan”)

The Capacity column calculates a percentage and if over 100%, displays a warning message, to let me know we are over our story points.

Excel Software Story Planner at Capacity

The formula uses the IF function to display the percentage if it is less than 1, or display Over Capacity message. You can also apply percentage formatting to the column to make it appear like in the example above.

=IF((D2/Calendar!$A$14)<1, (D2/Calendar!$A$14),"Over Capacity")

Summary:

Microsoft Excel is a very versatile tool and this tutorial illustrates some simple planning techniques that can be done using a couple of tables and some basic formulas. I have made a version of the Excel file, to use as a starter template:

Filed under: Project Management

JIRA Scrum Dashboard

JIRA Story IconOver the last year I have utilized Atlassian’s JIRA issue-tracking system for monitoring the progress of various scrum development teams. JIRA is a very versatile tool for Agile software development, however, like any other tool, the more you use it the more you find out about its limitations. In regards to scrum, I find the Active Sprint Board view to be rather cumbersome to use, if you are working with a large number of stories and sub-tasks. What we use instead for our larger teams, is a JIRA Dashboard. This allows us to view all the work in one screen and allows project managers to monitor the sprint progress as well.

Display Current Sprint Overview

To start with you will need to create three filters and share them with the project. The first filter is to retrieve all stories and task tickets for the current sprint. The next filter retrieves all sub-task tickets for the current sprint. The last filter is to retrieve any open bug tickets; this may be optional on how you handle defects in your project.

project = PROJ-X AND issuetype in (Story, Task) AND Sprint in openSprints() ORDER BY Rank ASC
project = PROJ-X AND issuetype = Sub-task AND Sprint in openSprints()
project = PROJ-X AND issuetype = Bug AND status != Closed

Now that we have our filters, we will create a new dashboard. I personally prefer the middle layout which gives you a smaller left column and larger right column; however you can choose whichever layout you prefer.

JIRA Dashboard Layouts

For the right column, add three Filter Results gadgets. Using this gadget, we can display Stories, then Sub-tasks, and then any open Bugs. In the Filter Results configuration, set the following columns to display for Stories:

  • Issue Type
  • Key
  • Sub-Tasks
  • Summary
  • Epic Link
  • Story Points
  • Status
  • ∑ Progress
  • Assignee
  • Linked Issues

For Sub-Tasks and Bugs, you do not have to add as many fields, but you can see what works for you based on the fields listed above.

On the left column of the dashboard, some recommendations would be to add the Sprint Health gadget and Sprint Burndown gadget. I also recommend adding the Issue Statistics gadget to display Status for Stories. Although I am not a fan of the Pie Chart Gadget, you can also add this on the left column to display Sub-tasks and the Assignees.

When complete, this overview dashboard will provide a quick and easy view of the scrum team’s current sprint work. It is great for reviewing before or after standup meetings, or for product owners who need to monitor specific stories.

Filed under: JIRA

Technology Makes You A Target

Lock IconLike most professionals, I have taken countless courses on data privacy and computer security. After a while, the online courses and training scenarios all end up sounding the same. In 2017, the size and scope of technology breaches has increased and at the same time we are learning that our financial and private data is being compromised in more places than we can count. From our local store at the mall, to our financial institutions, the reality is that technology is making everyone a target. By news accounts, you can’t trust anyone. Your bank, your healthcare insurance, your webmail provider, the IRS, your payroll provider, have all been compromised and this all before we even learned about the Equifax breach. Target is a good example of a company that invests heavily in technology and implemented security protocols better than most companies, however they still became a victim and were compromised. The reality is that security is not ever going to be easy. The best way to implement security is by using a layered approach, with multiple levels of restrictions. Secure your network, secure your devices, secure your software with updates, use strong passwords, and backup your data in multiple ways. This becomes a lot of work for individuals. The frustration is that even if you do everything right, you are still going to be compromised. The best possible outcome is that you will not be an easy target and that you limited what was taken from you.

CCleaner

CCleaner is one of my trusted utilities, on Windows computers. I use it quite often and install it on all of my Windows machines. Recently, their security was compromised and malware was added to their installer. Reading carefully through all the reports, I determined that on two machines the version had not been updated and multiple scans by different anti-virus tools came up clean. On a third machine, a laptop, the machine had been compromised. On this particular computer, I did not have any real data that was of importance, and this was the laptop that I had setup with a custom Windows setup that allows me to restore Windows to a fresh state. This allowed me to restore the machine in less than an hour and I no longer had to worry about malware on that computer.

However, this was a wake up call in regards to my other machines. I need to implement a similar setup for my other computers. There needs to be a strategy for my home Windows Server, my kids computers, and what about my Mac computers? This all came about because I trusted an application that I have been using for years.

iOS Devices

For the most part, I have not had to worry too much about the Apple ecosystem, when it comes to iOS. Apple has been pretty good about keeping malware out of the App Store, not perfect by any means, but good. All I have had to do is keep iOS updated with the latest version that is available for the device and not install too many third party apps. I also keep an iTunes backup for my iPhone and iPad. I do not put too much faith in the cloud, so my iCloud data is pretty slim.

Android

There are not any Android devices in my home. We are pretty much Apple, Windows, and Linux. My criticism of Android is that there are way too many exploits and security compromises when it comes to the platform. The devices are not updated very often and prior Android versions are very vulnerable to all types of attacks. This is an area where Apple has managed to do better due to the faster upgrade cycle and walled garden that is the App Store. My best advice for Android users is the same as iOS users: upgrade your OS and do not install too many third party apps.

Linux

I do not use Linux as a desktop, so my concerns with Linux is typically with servers. Linux is becoming a bigger target these days. Part of the problem is that Linux is a collection of software that is patched together from multiple sources. These sources are all vulnerable. The other issue with Linux in general is that it requires a certain level of admin expertise, which is different from most consumer software. For Linux, I keep a backup of an original setup, so if I misconfigure or break something, I can restore to that setup. For the data, I backup separately and keep multiple copies of that. Scanning tools for Linux tend to be free, but there are commercial versions which you can purchase. If you are using Linux for business purposes, Redhat is highly recommended.

Facebook, Amazon, & Clouds

I find it hard to reconcile individual security and Facebook usage. To me the more you use Facebook, the bigger a target you become. I see people updating their Facebook account with their physical location all the time. This is great information to have, if you are a thief and want to break into someone’s house. The problem with Facebook, Amazon, and cloud platforms like iCloud is that these services communicate with your mobile phone and the data that they send back and forth is very susceptible to being breached. Your phone is literally a beacon that keeps signaling all the time. You can prevent some of this by turning off Bluetooth, Wireless, and not installing third party apps, however for everything you turn off or disable, the phone becomes less connected, less functional. A must have is some sort of VPN, that you can enable when connecting to free wireless networks.

There really is not a good way to be private or have layered security when it comes to the mobile phone. The phone is a beacon at this point, and you are the target.

Identity

Since the Equifax breach, I have been reading about what possible avenues people have to protect themselves, now that everyone is compromised, and the only advice that I found that seemed plausible was to change your name. It is possible to legally change your name and to escape some of the repercussions of the Equifax breach. Unfortunately it has come to this.

Filed under: News & Trends