The fools with the tools make the rules

Posted on October 18th, 2010 in Agile, Tool by siddharta || 2 Comments

An extremely funny cartoon courtesy the folks at Geek and Poke. Though the joke is on MS Project, the same could be said of many agile project management tools too. Is your team a slave to a tool?

Agile PM Tools: Per-user pricing considered harmful

Posted on June 1st, 2009 in Silver Catalyst, Tool by siddharta || 1 Comment

If you look around the agile project management tools landscape – and it is now a rather big landscape – you’ll notice something strikingly odd. What I’m talking about is the pricing model for most of these tools. Almost all the tools follow a per-user pricing model. In other words, if you add more users into the system, the cost goes up.

Why is this odd? Because the primary purpose of an agile or scrum project management tool is to increase visibility through the organisation. But per-user pricing actually does the opposite – it encourages companies to reduce the number of users who have accounts in the tool.

Companies know that they need to pay for every single person that gets added in. The natural response is to figure out the absolute minimum number of people who need to be involved in the tool. Everyone else gets information outside the tool through emails or meetings.

At the extreme end, you could have a situation where a few users proxy the entire team – one account for all stakeholders to use,  one for all the testers and so on – all to reduce the number of live accounts in the system.

I understand the need for agile tool vendors to scale the pricing as usage increases. After all, we are an agile tool company too. But the per-user model is actively harmful for agile teams.

There are other ways to scale pricing.

A per-project pricing model is one of them. That’s what we decided to use for Silver Catalyst. We wanted a situation where teams could add users to the system without thinking twice about it

Another model is to charge extra for additional features. Many of the larger vendors do this too in the form of different editions aimed at small teams and large enterprises. We do this through hosted and on-site versions.

These and many other models are fine for agile teams. But per-user pricing can cause side effects that are especially bad for agile teams.

SilverMock : Open Source Mock library for Python

Posted on December 19th, 2007 in Agile, Mocks, Tool by siddharta || 1 Comment

A new release! SilverMock is a python mock object library that was developed for internal use at Silver Stripe Software. It is now being released under the MIT License. If you are looking for a simple, lightweight mock object library for Python, then check out SilverMock.

I first did a demo of SilverMock during the 2nd Chennai Agile User Group meet earlier this month to demonstrate writing unit tests with mock objects. In the discussion, we though it might be useful to create a screencast of the demo. While preparing the screencast, I though why not release SilverMock under an open source license? So thats where we are now.

If you go to the SilverMock page, you’ll find the first part of the screencast showing how you can use mock objects during unit tests. Since the screencast uses SilverMock, it doubles up as a bit of documentation as well :)

The idea behind SilverMock is to make mock objects as simple as possible. The whole library is under 200 lines of python code (under 400 is you include the unit tests), so it’s very lightweight. The API is as straighforward and readable as it gets. IMHO, you read a line like ShouldBeCalled(“count”).with_args((“abcd”,)).and_return(4) and you immediately know what is expected to happen. If you find all this intriguing, then head over to the SilverMock page, where you can download SilverMock, check out the screencast and see an example of a typical unit test that uses SilverMock. Hope you find it useful!

Silver Catalyst v1.3 Released

Posted on September 6th, 2007 in Catalyst, Tool by siddharta || 1 Comment

A new version of Silver Catalyst has been released. The latest version is now v1.3. Get the latest release from the download page. A free 3 team member version is available from the download page, while paid members can upgrade their installation of Silver Catalyst to this version for free.

The main feature addition is this version is support for CSV import and export. Most popular spreadsheet programs allow you to save and load data in this format, so the new feature allows you to import your spreadsheet data into Silver Catalyst, or export project data into the spreadsheet. This feature is especially useful if you are currently using a spreadsheet to manage your agile project and you want to move the data over to Silver Catalyst.

To import data from Microsoft Excel, create a spreadsheet with a column containing task descriptions, and optionally, the priority, person assigned to, estimate, status and notes. Save this file in the Unicode Text format and upload the saved file through the CSV Import/Export plugin (Click the Excel icon next to the project name). If you use OpenOffice Calc you will need to save the data in Text CSV format.

Version 1.3 also contains a number of UI enhancements. The status update area has been made more prominent and there is more feedback when submitting forms and editing tasks.

Check it out. Download Silver Catalyst v1.3 and see how you like the new enhancements.

Getting into the agile mindset

Posted on July 31st, 2007 in Agile, Catalyst, Tool by siddharta || No Comment

I’ve said before that more than practices or techniques, agile is often about a mindset. It is about understanding the values and principles behind the practices that really enable you to be ‘agile’.

I often discuss Silver Catalyst with managers who are interested in an agile tool, and often there are some feature requests. Some feature requests are holes in the functionality of the tool and these are carefully noted down and scheduled for a future release. Some features, however, stem from bringing in a traditional mindset to an agile project.

Continue reading ‘Getting into the agile mindset’ »

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