Google Analytics


To search for specific articles you can use advanced Google features. Go to and enter "" before your search terms, e.g. CSS selectors

will search for "CSS selectors" but only on my site.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ways to facilitate communication

One of the most important things on a team is communication. I have worked on teams were everything was put into a document. Unfortunately, as the project progressed, time became more and more precious. People needed to be more efficient and far too often, the documentation suffered. Decisions would be made between two individuals and the rest of the team would miss out.

So how do we make sure everything is well communicated? The simplest answer is to talk to each other.

In scrum you have sprints and planning meetings. What I would do is at the end of the week look at the back log (features and defects in the tracking system) and decide what I could get done be the end of next week. I might add a few notes to the defect report and assign it to myself.

On Monday morning we would have the planning meeting for the week. Everyone would decide what features and bug fixes should and could be completed that week. If there was anything which would take more than one week to complete, it need to be broken down into multiple, smaller tasks. No task should take more than one week. This means implementing and testing the feature/bug fix should happen the same week.

Everyone would pick the defects they were going to work on and give estimates for how long each would take. Every day we would meet and go over the status of the team. Have things changed? Did sales land a new contract but promise a feature we need to complete this week? Or is that feature multiple tasks and we want to start on one of those tasks this week? If yes, we reassess the plan and change priorities.

The key to all of this is that developers, business analysts, testers, project stakeholders all meet and decide what will be done each week and continue to track progress on a daily basis. Most people who do scrum understand this.

What about the time between each scrum? What if you need clarification on the feature you are working on? Whether you are a developer or a tester you might need further clarification. If everyone is in the same room you could just shout to the people involved. This could be disruptive to the other people in the room.

So how do you deal with it? We could create teams and partition the rooms. Each room would have a tester, a developer and a business analyst. What about the project manager? There will usually be one project manager and multiple developers. We cannot have one manager to each developer. Additionally, I have never worked on a team were the developer to tester ratio was 1:1. So this idea is not going to work.

What has worked for me in the past is everyone is on MSN Messenger or Google Talk. These tools let you talk with one or multiple people at once. You can set up aliases for the different groups you need to talk with. This is really helpful if you are working in an open concept office or a distributed team. In the case of an open concept office, shouting to all interested parties might work for you but it is disruptive to the people in the room who are not involved in the conversation. By using chat software I can ask quick questions of just the people who need to be involved. The same is true for people at remote locations. I can chat with everyone involved without having to book a conference room and have everyone call in.

An added benefit is the ability to opt out of a conversation. If I am working on something which requires my full concentration I can log out of chat. This send a signal to everyone that I cannot be disturbed. The danger of this is forgetting to log back into chat but hopefully, you will just get into the habit of remembering. Everyone checks email after they have been working hard on a feature which required their full attention. If someone is not logging back into chat and you need to talk with them, send them an email. When they are done it will be a gentle reminder to log back into chat.

If you find that chat is becoming too tedious and requires too much typing, switch to a meeting. Book a conference room and invite everyone to a 30 minute or 1 hour meeting. If the team is distributed you can use Skype or VOIP to get everyone calling in.

No comments: