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Friday, February 26, 2010

Vendor Assessment (Part 1 - Company Background)

In your BA life every now and then you are faced with a decision whether to develop the product in-house or outsource it. I am not going to discuss the in-house- VS outsource in this blog, I am assuming you have come to conclusion with the stakeholders that you are going to outsource the development and that when the main question comes in as to who should we outsource to?.

Outsourcing development is a major investment for any company and requires careful and complete evaluation of the quotes received from the various software development companies.

Start by separating the “must have" criteria from the "would like" criteria. Proposals that do not meet all of the "must have" conditions should not be evaluated further. The final recommendation should be then made via a weighted assessment of the proposals.

Company Background

The first Impression

  • Did the company get back to you on time?
  • Were the people dealing with you were professional?
  • Did the company’s representative asked any questions?
  • Did the company’s representative understand the requirement
Total Employees
  • These criteria will determine the resource available to execute and maintain the project.

Experience and References
  • Experiences will determine if the company has developed a similar project, this is reducing the learning curve and increasing the quality of the product delivered.
  • References will be used to determine if the earlier project they executed were delivered on time, as expected and within cost.

  • How long has the company been in business
  • Will the company be in business in five years?
  • Good market standing
Customer service
  • These criteria will ensure we are dealing with a professional company.

In my next post I will continue talking about software development criteria.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Planning Poker

I have been using planning poker in our planning meetings for a while now and I get many people asking what it is and how does it work so I thought to write my expericence with planning poker.

Planning Poker is a technique used in agile software development for estimation. There are various ways it can be done but the most effective way is to do it with a cross functional team.

Before you start the estimation make sure you create (or bring an existing one) a user story, user story should be very small (possible independent from other functionality) and self explanatory, we do not use any fancy system to record user stories, in fact we use one of the oldest method ... on cards. The goal of this planning meeting is to estimate that user story.

In our work environment we use a cross functional team, we do not start estimation if we do not have at least one person from QA, development and BA team. The advantage of this mixture of skills is to be able to see the user story from each angle. BA usually kicks of the estimating meeting by explaining the user stories, depending upon the story other teams members may have questions like, what technology it will be developed in? Will there be any automated test? Etc.

Each member in the planning meeting is given a series of cards; we use 0.5, 1, 1.5, 2, 3 and 5. You can use any units you want, the units can be related to days, hours or some fictional units (some agile practitioners like to call them relative units of work).

Once the BA has explained the user story and everyone has asked their question, each of the team member picks one card from his/her deck. They do not show the card until everyone has finished picking their number, on one go everyone then displays the card. Most of the time the estimates from all of them will be within a small margin let’s say 2.5-3.5 in this case you can safely assume the estimate to be 3.

If for whatever reason the estimates are very different like one person is 2 and other person is 5, both that person gets the opportunity to explain their estimate, it may happen that the person with estimate 2 has some insight on the problem, it may also happen that the person with estimate 5 raises a very valid problem, based on the argument presented by all the parties you may play the estimate game again.