Willy's Reflections - Visual Studio ALM Rangers

| Willy-Peter Schaub | Visual Studio ALM Rangers | In search of IT simplicity, quality and tranquility |

FAQ (3) Why does it take so long to ship a Rangers Guidance project?

FAQ (3) Why does it take so long to ship a Rangers Guidance project?

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The Ranges Build Customization Guide project has been feature complete for weeks, yet it has still not shipped. Why?

Answer / Explanation

The Build Customization Guide and Lab Management Guide projects were the first to dog food the Ruck process and the first to introduce the new get feedback early and strive for quality objectives. Looking at the diagram above, we take note of the <1> Feature Complete and <2> Review Complete milestones, after which the projects typically shipped in the past. Instead of shipping to the community, we now ship a BETA to all Rangers, MVPs and ALM Champs, giving all the subject mater experts a final opportunity to have an influence on the content and message of the guidance and associated material.

The new process include a <3> technical review by User Education (UE) which has proven top introduce a spike in overall quality and readability of the guidance. Once this review is complete and the team has revised the content, the <4> product owner is asked to do the final quality check and gives the “ship it” signal:

The last milestone is the <5> Codeplex signoff, which involves a final check of legal and licensing requirements … phase that can unfortunately take a while. So, overall we can see that we have introduce new quality and review phases and checkpoints, which introduce unfortunate delays, but increase the overall quality of the deliverables.

What can also be seen in the illustration is that the initial delay applies only to the guidance documentation. The Hands-on lab (HOL) manuals are shipped together with the guidance and in parallel enter a <6> technical review by UE review. The HOLs are then updated as and when they are revised, incrementally increasing the quality over time, but not delaying the initial shipment date. During this “in parallel” review and revision phase, the team is also able to rake community feedback into consideration, which we believe is another huge bonus.

Once everything has ben reviewed and revised, we reach the <7> Done milestone, which signals the end of the project and project team.

Disadvantages of this new process?

  • The time it takes from feature complete to shipment is increased dramatically, which is frustrating to the team and potentially confusing to the community.

Advantages of this new process?

  • The scope of reviewers, feedback and influence is increased
  • The quality of the guidance is improved with the initial shipment
  • The quality of the hands-on labs is improved with the subsequent revisions
  • The impact on the team in terms of post-shipment support is decreased, allowing teams to focus on the next adventures

So, what are your thoughts on this new process? Is the initial delay worth it? Your candid feedback will be highly appreciated!

  • Hi Willy

    I’ve gone through waves of ups and downs since we were Feature Complete. I love getting feedback and I hate waiting for it. I must admit that being Feature Complete and having the weekly stand-ups with the leads and then my feature team seems a distant lifetime away. It’s a bit disheartening that we still have nothing to show. I know that’s not strictly true, but I recently had someone asking for help and I honestly did not have time to help , nor could I could share any of our work. I simply had to request patience. So in terms of a publicly visible deliverable, we have nothing to show.

    When I saw your post below, I decided to put emotion aside and look at the figures. A lifetime away is not measurable, so let’s look at the facts (I’m going to assume LCA  signoff on Monday 13th):

    Feature Complete: 185 days (72%)

    Review Complete: 18 days (7%)

    UE Review Complete: 30 days (12%)

    PO Signoff: 12 days (5%)

    Estimated LCA Signoff: 10 days (4%)

    I think that 72% spent on being Feature Complete is a perfectly healthy figure. Let’s remember that there was valid and significant feedback during the Reviews, so I think we can say that ~79-91% was spent on producing a solid deliverable. Any product owner is going to be pressed for time, + it’s been a  busy end of year stage at MS (bad timing for us), so 12 days for PO review is totally acceptable in this case. We have to keep in mind that this is a volunteering effort, not our day job! If LCA signoff soon, then I think that that’s acceptable too.

    Analysing these figures has calmed me and I think we are still doing ok with the new approach, however I do see room for improvement.

    My dream is Feature Complete to Public Release in 45 days.

    Given our better understanding of the tighter UE requirements now, I think ALM Rangers can deliver better quality to UE which will hopefully reduce their time to say 15 days.

    Given that we bank on peoples spare time and that the review feedback was so critical, I’m wary of  but will still suggest a tighter Review period of 14 days (HAMMER THE REMINDERS APPROACH)

    I think we were unlucky with end of year timings and believe it would be fair to ask for PO feedback within 7 days *

    I also think that LCA should target 7 days *

    That would bring us into the 45 day range.

    * I’ve marked the last two items above with a * as I’m not totally aware of the expectations and deliverable of the parties involved. It would be great if you could clarify these black boxes and maybe we could investigate how to optimise those areas if possible.

    I’d also like to suggest a revision to your chart as I don’t think it’s fair to say that at the end of Feature Complete we had 5% Quality. It was more like 60%. I’m guessing you don’t really intend people  to interpret the graph like this, however to clarify the situation I would invert the graph and mark the y-axis as % content change remaining. I also think that we have a better understanding of producing HOL content, so hopefully future projects can be more efficient in this area.

    I’m not aware of the costs involved with involving UE and LCA, however I would like to look at the possibility of a faster release to CodePlex overall and then a V1.1 release with community feedback incorporated within another 60 days (would that have to involve UE / LCA again? PO?). I’ve not thought a lot about the implications of this, but thought I would throw it into the discussion.

    It’s been an amazing adventure and thanks for allowing me to be involved.

    Mike Fourie

    Feature Lead – Custom Activity Guidance

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