Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Ruminating on Apple's DEP

Apple's device enrollment program (DEP) makes it easy for enterprises to roll out the deployment of their apple devices to their employees, agents, partners, etc.

DEP helps in automating the registration of the app to a MDM (Mobile Device Management) platform. The enterprise can also streamline the initial set-up process and modify it to suit their needs.

For any organization embarking on a mobile strategy, it is worthwhile to check if the selected MDM platform has support for DEP. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Advantage of using Story Points instead of hours

Using story points for estimating user-stories in helpful because it encourages us to use 'relative sizing' and estimating the 'size of work' and not the real effort required.

Mike Cohn has given a good analogy by relating this concept to running a trail. Two people can agree on the fact that the trail is 5 miles long, but one may take 30 mins and the other may take 45 mins.

During the Planning Poker game, each developer is given cards with numbers 1,2,3,5,8 on them. Then the Scrum Master and Product Owner take the effort sizing from all developers to arrive at a consensus.

The Fibonacci scale is quite popular for estimating the user-story or epic size, as there is sufficient difference between the numbers to prevent confusion. For e.g. If the scale is sequential, then there would be a debate around sizing of 6 or 7 or 8. But a Fibonacci scale, makes it easy to relative sizing. 

Do we need a dedicated Scrum Master?

The need for a full-time Scrum Master is often a topic of hot debate in many Agile projects. Based on the numerous agile projects that we have successfully executed, I would give the following recommendations -

  • If your team is adopting SCRUM for the first time, then it is better to have a full-time Scrum Master. He would be responsible for ensuring that all agile processes are followed and everyone understands the rules of the game. The Scrum Master essentially acts as an evangelist educating teams on all aspects on SCRUM.
  • Once the teams have become comfortable with SCRUM processes, then we can have a part-time Scrum Master. IMHO, the technical architect or tech lead is most suited to play this role.
  • One of the main functions of a Scrum Master is to remove all impediments that the team faces. To be successful in this role, you need someone who can understand the technical complexities, business drivers and has a good rapport with the product owner. Hence architects are a good fit for the role of a Scrum Master. 
  • The Scrum Master also facilitates the daily Scrum and weekly Scrum of Scrums to facilitate collaboration across teams. He also leads the retrospectives and facilitates combined learning. 

Static code analyzers for native mobile app development

Listing down the tools used by my mobility team for static code analysis of mobile apps.

For iOS, the most popular tool is Clang. The default IDE (Xcode) also comes with a static code analyzer in-built in the IDE.

Sonar also provides a commercial plug-in for Objective-C that can be very useful if you are already using Sonar for all other platforms. There is another open-source Sonar plug-in for Objective C available here -

For Android, the most popular static code analyzer is lint. Lint integrates very well with Eclipse and Android Studio.

Facebook recently released a open-source static code analyzer for Android and iOS called as Infer. Facebook uses Infer to detect bugs in its Android and iOS apps. 

Ruminating on Less and Saas

CSS has been a boon to all web developers and allows for the clear separation of presentation from HTML markup. But CSS comes with it own limitations. For e.g.
  • CSS does not have the ability to declare variables. Hence if you want a color to be used across multiple element types, you have to repeat the color. 
  • CSS does not support nesting of properties. Hence we end up repeating the code again and again. 
To counter these limitations, there are new languages that have propped up that are known as 'CSS-Extension' languages. These languages support variables, nesting, etc. and make it super-easy to define themes in CSS.

Two of the most popular extension CSS languages are Less and Saas. These languages can be compiled into pure CSS language before being deployed to production. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Ruminating on the timelessness of the Agile Manifesto

I had signed the Agile Manifesto a decade back (in 2005) and was amazed to realize, how relevant the principle tenets are even today!

It is imperative for any software development project to imbibe the following principles to succeed -
  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Responding to change over following a plan

Applying the Start-Stop-Continue paradigm to Sprint Retrospective

We all know the importance of Retrospective meetings after a Sprint. This is an excellent time to reflect on what worked, what did not work and what areas need improvement.

A simple way to conduct a retrospective with the entire team is to follow the Start-Stop-Continue model. You ask each team member to articulate -

  • what according to him/her should we start doing, 
  • what should we stop doing and 
  • what should we continue doing (with some changes if required). 

Then after collecting everyone's views, the team should brainstorm and debate around all the ideas presented and select the top 3 or 5 ideas that they would implement in the next sprint.

Many teams start skipping the retrospective if their project is running smoothly, but it is important to remember that there is always scope for improvement, no matter how good your team is currently functioning.