Category Archives: tools

Nominal Group Technique For Working Agreements

A group using nominal group techniqueNominal Group Technique (NGT) is a facilitation tool that helps a group quickly build a comprehensive list of ideas, issues, options or solutions, and then select the best one(s). NGT works faster than traditional brainstorming, yet generates more complete and higher quality results. NGT prevents the quieter voices from being overwhelmed and allows each participant to contribute to their full potential.

The Nominal Group Technique was developed in the 1970’s by Andre Delbecq and Andrew H. Van de Ven. The effectiveness of NGT has been validated by subsequent research.

Let’s see how NGT can be used by a scrum team to create working agreements for their scrum events and other meetings. Such agreements are often called meeting ground rules.
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Customer Interview For Product Discovery

Conducting customer interviews is a great way to validate, or invalidate, your product idea. Interviewing potential customers is almost always a cheaper and faster way to learn what your customers’ needs are, compared to building the product first and then discovering that you built the wrong thing. Even with an existing product, you can discover which new features will be most valuable through customer interviews. Here’s a great video that explains how to do it.

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InfoQ: Estimating Business Value

Chris' lastest InfoQ article surveys several other writers' methods for bringing business value to bear on Agile Estimation. Pascal Van Cauwenberghe points out, usefully, that Agile estimation techniques that put the user story first may be putting the cart 10 or 15 degrees askew of the horse: "Pascal proposes that a better starting point is with the question: 'How do we find the User Stories that deliver the Business Values?'" My favorite, however, is Brandon Carlson’s application of Thin Slicing, a concept he discovered while reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. Carlson writes:

The book cites an example of how doctors at Cook County Hospital improved patient care and throughput using the technique. I thought to myself, if doctors at Cook County Hospital can use a small subset of relevant attributes to effectively prioritize patients in life or death situations such as an ER, it could certainly be applied to even more important decisions such as the prioritization of features, right?

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Innovative SWOT

Tonight I will be presenting my SWOT analysis workshop to the East Bay Innovation Group’s Software Development Best Practices SIG. The event is free and they will feed you!

Tonight at 5:30 PM

Communications Technology Cluster
300 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Suite 210
Oakland, CA 94612

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I occasionally still get calls to do software development. Recently, a potential client indicated that they would like a Windows shell extension created in C#. I’ve never built a shell extension, nor done any C#. Before meeting with the client, I decided I should take an hour or two to see how hard it would be for an old-school C++ and COM guy like me to get up to speed.

I downloaded the ‘Express’ version of C# and started playing with it. Pretty quickly, I had a command line app that worked like Eliza, but got the response text from Google searches. Fun!

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My First Week at Geekaplex: Integrating a New Hire

My friend Peter started working at EvilEmpireSoft on the same Monday that I started at Geekaplex. That Friday, over beers, he told me that he had spent most of his first week waiting for his laptop to show up. When it finally showed up, it had an outdated version of the development environment installed which couldn’t compile the code he was supposed to be working on. On top of that, Outlook was misconfigured and wouldn’t even think about connecting to the mail server. He spent an afternoon figuring out the configuration only to discover that his email account hadn’t been activated yet! “It’s as if they were surprised when I showed up for work on Monday. Maybe they forgot that they hired me? I spent the first morning waiting in HR until someone was available to give me paperwork to fill out. After that,” he went on, “I spent the afternoon wandering around looking for an empty cube to claim.”

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Paper Prototyping

LinkedIn has a cool feature that let’s you ask a question of your whole network. This morning, someone in my network asked this question:

Tools for visualising interactive prototypes? What do you prefer?

Powerpoint, ConceptDraw, Omnigraffle, Flash, Ruby on Rails?

We are reviewing the tools we are using to help visualise interactive storyboards and concepts for our clients. What are other people using? How important is it that the tool supports experimenting with real data and conditional branching in order to explore with the development team the consequences of their design decisions?

My reply:

Consider Paper Prototyping.

It is low cost, easy to do, and will quickly teach you how a real user will react to the system. With a paper prototype, a human acts as the computer, so your prototype can support some very sophisticated logic without the need to create code. Modifications are trivial, encouraging experimentation, discovery and improvement. I was skeptical at first, but after using it a few times I have become impressed with the power of this tool.

Photo courtesy of

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