funnel the communication between developers and the customer through the PM: if each team member communicated with the customer directly, the customer could be flooded by duplicate questions or by questions that can be easily answered by the PM. However, team members may also take part in the Scrum. For example, in the case of a complex technical problem, StarSoft's Tech Lead will speak directly to the Enabler on the customer side. Immediately after the Scrum, the PM holds the second stand-up meeting for the day, passing back the answers he received during the Scrum call.
Tools: XP Matrix
Figure 2: Screenshot from StarSoft's XP Matrix
One of the things that stands out about StarSoft's XP projects is the universal use of the tool we have termed XP Matrix (see Figure 2). This Excel-based tool was born from joint efforts of StarSoft's engineers and the customer. It is used for tracking the project on the level of iterations, user stories, and tasks. The tool also keeps track of the team's velocity and load factor, and provides daily extrapolations based on the accumulated data. The stories' completeness is tracked on the daily basis, and color coding of stories and tasks gives the manager a clear at-a-glance view of how far along his or her project is.
On the screenshot above you can see the Iteration Track (bottom left) where the iteration is tracked based on Work Complete (the magenta line), Work Left (blue line), and Instant Team Velocity (green line). The point where the magenta line and the blue line separate indicated the moment when a change request was introduced (little yellow square on the burndown chart, bottom right). The horizontal axis on the track chart represents planned effort. The magenta line (Track Upon Work Complete) running above the axis means that the team exceeded the amount of work initially planned for the iteration. The blue line (Track Upon Work Left) hitting zero at the end of the graph means that the team completed an additional change request without moving the original deadline.
In the recen t months, a group of our engineers has been working on the implementation of a standalone tool that contains all the functionality of the Excel tool and improves on it, such as adding data validation, providing greater usability and advanced budgeting functionality, and shortening the learning curve for new managers
Summary: Key Take-aways
- Face to face communication is important. Over time, we have moved to holding planning games on the phone rather than face to face, for economic reasons: it can be expensive to send a team of three to five managers from Ireland or the UK to Russia for up to four days. Although phone planning games are cheaper, it is still advisable to hold at least the first planning game face-to-face with the client. It's less likely that questions will be asked during telephone planning games than in face-to-face meetings, which can result in more errors, more bug fixing down the line, and ultimately more expensive projects. Another reason why a face-to-face meeting is important (at least once per client - we work with multiple groups and departments within the client company) is because the personal connection made at the first meeting makes subsequent communication much more effective. So in the long run, face-to-face planning games may still make economic sense.
- Separation of roles. Having the Enabler, TIL, and BPM/BA as separate roles really helps with the focus and the efficiency of communication. This requires a certain degree of dedication from the client. In our case, since we have no direct