Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What do you think about using Planning Poker with the CMMI?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser, Planning Poker sounds like a fun way to collaborate with our customers when trying to figure out sizing. What do you think about using Planning Poker with the CMMI? ~ David (from a conversation at SEPGNA)

Dear Readers,

Several weeks ago, at SEPGNA in Pittsburgh, I had many conversations with software engineers from organizations that were either using or looking into agile. In one of those conversations, I was asked what I thought about Planning Poker, and whether it could be used by a company that uses the CMMI.

My reply was that Planning Poker can be a fun, collaborative tool that is highly useful. The real question is "will it work with your company?"  I have no problem with it if it does - whether or not you use the CMMI.

But here’s what I do have a problem with: Teams that don’t know WHY they are using techniques like Planning Poker. Management tells them they want to “be agile,” but gives little thought to their agile values, methods and techniques. In my opinion, these companies are dealing themselves a bad hand.

Estimating and sizing is a business challenge, and the great thing about the CMMI is that it is all about solving business challenges. Think of the CMMI as a framework that provides guidance about how great organizations perform.

So, in this case, you want to be great by having an environment in which you collaborate with your customers. That’s a value worth striving for. To get there, you want to be agile, so the method you’re going to use is XP, Scrum, or both (or any number of other choices). And the technique you heard about is called "Planning Poker."

Why start with the value? A lot of times, agile and non-agile teams will adopt a technique like Planning Poker or Wide Band Delphi, or something else. That’s fine, but they make a mistake in not tying the technique to a business value. They are essentially choosing their techniques ABSENT any traceability to the value.

This is a problem. If we don’t have our values, methods and techniques well defined and aligned, we run the risk of having our customers roll over us and tell us how to do our work. That’s the last thing we want. And if you think about the state of the Waterfall methodology today, that’s exactly what happened.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that to happen to the agile community. There’s only one way to stop that, and that’s for us to get resilient about how we do our work.

How do we get resilient? It goes back to alignment of the values, methods and techniques. What value do we stand for? What is the method we are going to use to execute on that value? What are the techniques that can help us get the value that we’re looking for?

Questions like these – I call them “CMMI questions” – help us be resilient. They help us create traceability to the value that runs through the methods and continues all the way down to the tools we choose to support the techniques.

Here’s why this is important. I was working with a customer the other day who told me that Planning Poker was their desired technique. I said, “No problem – the CMMI is designed to help you get better at what you are already doing, and if you are already using Planning Poker, you should keep using it…. just make it better.”

But there was one small problem. Nobody had any Planning Poker cards! They didn’t have the right tools to do their jobs (for you nerdy CMMI-types, this is PP GP2.2 - Provide Resources for performing the process).

When you look at great companies, everything is aligned: the values, methods and techniques, along with the appropriate tools. The CMMI helps you establish and strengthen that alignment. It helps you be the winning company you’ve always wanted to be.

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, ScrumMaster, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff pioneered agileCMMI, the leading methodology for incremental and iterative process improvement. He has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Visit www.broadswordsolutions.com for more information about engineering strategy, performance innovation , software process improvement and running a successful CMMI program.

To download eBooks about CMMI, including the complete “CMMU Users Stories,” visit Jeff’s Author Page on Amazon.

1 comment:

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