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August 2016

Scrum.org vs Scrum Alliance: How to Train in Scrum

By Agile, Development, Leadership, Organizations

Introduction

Agile methodologies have gained significant traction since the 2000’s.  Scrum is an Agile methodology that promotes bottom up leadership by utilizing self-organizing teams, not top down direction.  To understand why Agile is such an effective development strategy or how to transition your difficult team to agile, check out our other Blog post: Corporate Agile & How do I Transition my Difficult Team to Agile? 

The big question is you are most likely having is what is the best company to certify with: Scrum.org or ScrumAlliance.org?

History

During the early 1990’s Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland jointly presented a paper at the Business Object Design and Implementation Workshop in Austin, Texas. This gained more publicity in the 2000’s and led to the birth of what we now know as SCRUM. Schwaber and Sutherland formed the Scrum Alliance and the CSM (Certified Scrum Master) certification. In 2009 Schwaber left and created his own certification, PSM (Professional Scrum Master), at Scrum.org.   One of the best articles that we have read is from .  If you haven’t read this article about the fragility of the scrum certification process, you should.  Below is our take on each program.

If only we could settle this with an epic of rap battle between Ken and Jeff.  Sigh… this topic most likely won’t reach the high ERB entertainment threshold,  lets take a quick look at the different ways people can become certified.

Scrum Alliance

The Scrum Alliance alliance offers certification to become proficient in Scrum, whether as a Certified Scrum Master (CSM), Product Owner (Certified Product owner) or even Developer (Certified Scrum Developer). The test’s only requirement is a two day Scrum course (approximately $1,295, depending on the instructor). Once you have completed your training, you can take your test online. The pass acceptance score is 24/35 questions (65%). Obviously, this is not particularly difficult to pass, but it’s not meant to be. You have gone through the rudimentary training, and you understand the basics. To become truly accomplished at Scrum it takes experience. For training courses to receive certification via the Scrum Alliance, you can find a searchable list of available trainers/ courses on the home page of their siteSample of a course

Scrum.org

 

For those who do not have the flexibility for a 2-day course, or for those who have their team spread geographically, Scrum.org has you covered. Scrum.org offers certification straight up with no mandatory training. You will however need to motivated and pull your own training courses together.  Obviously, it is best to train before taking the test as it has an acceptance score of 85%. The courses are named differently than those of the Scrum Alliance (e.g. CSM is PSM (Professional Scrum Master)) but they cover the same material. Scrum.org offers 2/3 levels of certification with varying prices according to the certification. For example, a PSM certification is typically $150 for the first tier, $250 for the second and $500 for the third. A Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO) only has two tiers ($200 and $500).  For all of the certifications, you do not need to take the lower tiers. If you feel you are capable, you can go straight to the top!  Don’t worry however, there is a pricey class you can attend as well for $1,495.

Failing the Scrum.org Test

Here is a story about failure and success with the scrum master certification.

Summary

Cert Type Scrum Alliance Scrum.org
Certified Scrum Master/Professional Scrum Master ~ $1000 $150/$250/$500
Certified Scrum Product Owner/Professional Scrum Product Owner  $1200 – $1500 $200/$500
Certified Scrum Developer/Professional Scrum Developer $1800 – $3000 $200

Scrum certification isn’t required, but it is a nice to have.  Because of the pricing and convenience, we enjoy scrum.org’s model thoroughly.

Note: Both sites offer various other forms of Scrum certification which are worth taking a look at, but these are the three core ones.

Additional Resources

The internet provides many free resources for Scrum training. My favorite is the Scrum Training Series by Michael James (shout out to Michael, thank you for your impressive training via your site!!)

Regarding books, if you want a quick page turner you should try ‘Scrum: A Breathtakingly Brief and Agile Introduction‘ by Chris Sims and Hillary Louise Johnson. For a more in depth look into Scrum ‘The Elements of Scrum’ by the same authors will provide you with all you need to know.

If you have any questions feel free to comment below or shoot us an email at info@bytelion.com 

Agile development

Corporations Moving To Agile

By Development, Innovators, Startup

Introduction

It’s 2016, and the software industry is booming. Every other day there is a new start-up rearing its head and surprising us with applications we never knew we couldn’t live without. However, many more are failing, and this is not only applicable to start-ups. More and more, corporations are adopting software management techniques to gain the advantages of rapid delivery that their start-up counterparts have been using against them. Let’s take a quick at why Agile is so much better than Waterfall for most SAAS products.

Waterfall

Older project management methods will typically use the Waterfall method or something similar. In the Waterfall method, the project is broken down into several aspects: Requirements, Design, Implementation, Verification, and Maintenance. Relatively straightforward, you tackle each problem individually, in steps, as seen in the diagram. (Its shape is what has dubbed this process as ‘Waterfall’)

Waterfall model

Detailed View of the Waterfall Delivery Model

Any mistakes made earlier in the line are extremely costly. Let’s pretend that Facebook was built using this technique. Mark Zuckerberg would have gathered all of his requirements for college students. Then, he would have carefully designed all of the data models to support the requirements. With the data models in hand, he would have designed the User Interface to determine exactly how users would use it.  After two months in the design phase, he would have then jumped into three months of the implementation carefully building what he thought was right. After the product was complete, he walked through a complicated verification process to ensure that the application worked and was valid.  Then, once the users were using it, the product went into maintenance mode, and the application blew up overnight to be a success.  This is not what happened in reality though.

Agile

If he made a mistake, it would take weeks to correct. If you are familiar with Facebook’s development process, it was hacked after hack… which meant, version after version of the product was put in place to help Mark learn about his customers and make adjustments on the fly.  Whether he realized it or not, he was using the Agile development methodology. What makes Agile different is that the steps involve all of the categories at once. The following analogy is taken from the Scrum Training Series by Michael James.

 

Imagine we take the diagram above and put it into a blender.

Dropping Waterfall steps into blender

The Waterfall Approach

SCRUM Blending Waterfall into Sprints

The Sprint Approach

We then serve out several ‘cups’. In Scrum, these are called ‘Sprints’. Regarding our Facebook example, this means that Mark would design each feature individually. If there is an issue, it can immediately be identified and corrected first time round. So if the idea was faulty that day, it would not be as catastrophic! He can stop the development process and fix the issue before the Facebook app upsets too many users, and most importantly, this method minimizes waste.

Why Corporations Struggle With Agile

Corporations struggle with Agile development because it requires a cultural shift. One of the biggest problems with this shift is that it exposes poor software developers in companies or as contractors. Building software requires you to be nimble and deliver on a routine basis. Developers who enter larger companies can become complacent and lose their edge. One of the biggest hurdles is taking a poor performing team and getting them up to speed so they can, on a routine basis, deliver gold. There is no magic bullet here. It takes leadership, focused effort and at times, the backbone to move people off projects to get them going. The best developers will love it; the worst developers will hate it.

How to Make the Agile Transition

Training your team is critical. No matter how talented, smart, or seasoned they are, getting your team on board with the same training information is the fastest way for the team to coalesce around an accountable system to track their achievements on a daily basis.  The training is often disregarded because Scrum seems like such an easy topic, but investing in a basic certification for your team members is invaluable. While we don’t like certifications, there are times when it makes complete sense. We looked at some of the certifications and were shocked at the pricing difference. Our comparisons and recommendations can be found here: Scrum.org vs. Scrum Alliance or How Can I Transition My Difficult Team to Agile? 

Conclusion

Agile is definitely worth investing the time and effort in for your company. It does not take too long to study, and it can be surprisingly easy for some to incorporate it into an existing company framework. You should expect to have a bumpy road with some developers, and it may signal a period of shake up for you and your company. It is definitely worth the investment.

PillBox API icon

Pillbox API. Does it Have Commercial Use?

By Health, Industry Verticals, Innovators

“Working with innovators in the medical space, we are always looking for an edge we can give our clients when it comes to data sources. The PillBox API looks to really be innovative regarding this.” – Mark Majer @Bytelion

Introduction

Pillbox.nlm.nih.gov is a drug ‘cross referencing’ site. You can fill out certain aspects of a drug you have seen, for instance, color, shape, imprint, size, etc. and the site will (potentially) identify it for you. Pillbox’s API is publicly available for developers to build medication-related applications and services.  

Why does this matter to medical innovators?

The biggest problem we are trying to solve is helping people understand what their medications look like.  It doesn’t sound like a big problem, but it actually is.  As the world population ages and the numbers of medications increase, tools like this are going to be sought after.  So far, no one is using this API to build a product on.

 

Who is Responsible for Pillbox?

The primary organization that is responsible for Pillbox, is the National Library of Medicine. David Hale has worked tirelessly over the years to ensure that data fidelity is as high quality as possible. In addition to the National Library of Medicine, the National Library of Medicine works with The Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs and pharmaceutical companies to make sure that drug labeling is accurate.

How it Works

Query Example:

                               Imprint: 3759
                               Shape: Triangle
                               Color: White

Returned Result:
                               {Image of example pill}

                               Name: Lisinopril – Lisinopril 10 MG Oral Tablet
                               Ingredient(s): LISINOPRIL
                               Imprint(s): 3759; I

Potential Issues

The first thing on Pillbox’s developer page is the following disclaimer: “Pillbox’s source data is known to have errors and inconsistencies.” The problem arises: how can developers build anything reliable/trustworthy with this API?

As stated above, the Food and Drug Administration, National Library of Medicine, and pharmaceutical companies are working on improving the reliability of the product. As they develop the API so too shall the products built on them evolve.  For now, the companies which have employed the use of the API have created workarounds for issues that may arise from the damaged areas of the API.

Is the project dead?

We have reviewed the source for several repositories.  While we have seen fits and spurts, we have not seen a public facing focused effort to deliver working software.

GitHub Project HHS

GitHub has a project dedicated to creating a Pillbox engine, a “local web-based application for downloading and management of DailyMed SPL Data.”

Although a significant amount of work was accomplished, the project fizzled out at the beginning of 2015. You can reference it here. https://hhs.github.io/pillbox/

No one is using this data in a commercial product from the Pillbox API.

Possible Innovators

Home Nursing

Looking after the elderly/sick is a difficult task, which is much easier with a knowledge of medicine. If one were seeking to savvy up the Home Nursing industry, it would be worthwhile looking into Pillbox. Using the API, any confusion involving mixed up medicines or which drugs may be taken simultaneously etc. can easily be resolved.

Law enforcement

Law Enforcement is a difficult task, but hey, that’s what software is for! Cops that may have found suspicious drugs would have use of an app/device which utilizes the API to verify whether the suspicious pill they have found is actually ‘medication.’

Medical adherence systems

Drugs do not tend to get mixed up frequently for those at home because they are labeled and organized in containers. But who knows what you may take with those drugs? Can you take ibuprofen with it? Maybe you did mix up your containers, and you need to verify if you need to take the small white rectangular one or the small white circle one! Once again, Pillbox API to the rescue. A relatively straightforward app could verify all of this information. A more complex app may even be able to create a schedule with reminders based on the logged drugs.

Have any questions or comments? Feel free to email us at info@bytelion.com 


Tracking Late Tickets On JIRA + Slack

By Tips & Tutorials, ToolsNo Comments

Sprints are short for a reason. With that said, it is easy for tickets to pile up in the testing column. Actually, tickets can pile up in any JIRA column quite easily. If the QA team is small, this is even more likely to happen. A simple daily report/scrum can help avoid the chaos of a crowded JIRA column.

Reasons For Monitoring JIRA Columns

  • Allows the QA team to test the tickets that have been ready to test the longest.
  • Shows the Product Owner what is ready for approval.
  • Allows the team to see what is in progress.

With a simple Python script, it is easy to post into Slack the tickets in any column on the JIRA board. The report is easy to modify, and can include many features. Utilizing AWS Lambda, and the Bytelion sample code, https://github.com/Bytelion/JiraChecker/blob/master/how_long_ticket_been_ready_to_test.py, will provide a very easy report setup.

 

How To Setup The JIRA Monitor

Download the sample code, and then replace the values found inside the curly braces {}, with the string you desire. Example: {your team name here}.atlassian.net changes to bytelion.atlassian.net

  1. First, create a Slack webhook integration. If one does not already exist, visit our first article on integrating Slack. Then, see step 1 of that article to learn how.
  2. Then, set up an AWS Lambda, and then paste the modified sample code into said lambda.
  3. Finally, using AWS CloudWatch, create a daily schedule for when the report should be run.

Sample Features

  • How long has the ticket been there.
  • Who moved the ticket.
  • What is blocking that ticket.