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Categories: Development

Scrum Overview Diagram

February 27, 2012 6 comments

It is challenging to find a good, high-level summary of Scrum that you can share with your team.  One that visually describes the core concepts of the methodology in a way that anybody can understand. After having produced the new Scrum in 10 Minutes video, we decided to take a stab at this using the visuals from the video. What do you think?

Download the Scrum Overview Diagram PDF

We are releasing this Scrum Overview Diagram under the Creative Commons 3.0 license so you can share it or put it on your own blog.

Categories: Development, Team, Tools Tags: , ,

New Scrum in Under 10 Minutes Video

February 23, 2012 1 comment
Shane

Shane the Videographer

Late last year, I felt it was about time to update the now 3-year old “Scrum in Under 10 Minutes” video. The video has been immensely popular having been viewed over 600,000 times. In that time I have received a tremendous amount of great feedback for improvements to the video. I had a few ideas of my own too, so I wanted to see if we could redo the video and still keep it under 10 minutes.

For nearly a year I’ve also had the pleasure of working with Shane, Axosoft’s resident videographer. Shane is an amazing artist and he helped make the new scrum video visually unbelievable. We’ve been working on the new version of the video for nearly 3 months (actually mostly Shane has been working on it and I just keep bugging him), and it’s finally ready for its debut.

Here it is:

Intro to Scrum Video

OnTime 11.2: Undo, Quick Add, Tutorials and More

December 17, 2011 12 comments

It’s been less than 45 days since I wrote about the great new features in OnTime 11.1, and we already have another substantial release with lots of new features. I want to highlight some of my favorites.

Confirmation and Undo

With the new drag-and-drop functionality that was introduced in 11.1, we made it a lot simpler to make changes to a large number of items at the same time. For example, just select a bunch of items, drag them to a team member, project or release and instantly those items are reassigned. Drag one item(s) onto another item, and you’ve just created a subitem with a parent / child relationship. It’s a wonderful time-saving feature, unless of course you drop the items you’re dragging onto the wrong parent item, team member, project or release.

In 11.2, the new confirmation system will inform you of what you just did and when possible, it will give you the option to undo it for 30 seconds:

Ooops! You just reassigned 9 items to Joe instead of John? No problem. Undo.

Ooops! You didn’t mean to drop 4 items onto another item, making them into subitems? No problem. Undo.

It’s great knowing it’s there, even if you never use it.

Quick Add

Sometimes, when you want to add several features (or user stories) into OnTime at once, all you want to do is add the title of each item successively — getting all of the features out of your head and into OnTime. You can later assign them to the appropriate team member and provide additional details.

Quick Add is your new best friend:

When you use the keyboard shortcut [C] to add a new item, the new Quick Add form immediately opens up giving you the ability to quickly add the title, hit [ENTER] and be on your way. But for those times when you want the full add form to open, no sweat! Just hit [TAB] and the full add form will open. What makes the Quick Add form really great is that all of the default values from your field template are preserved, even for fields that you can’t see. So if your field templates defines new items to be assigned to the {CURRENT USER} by default, they will be automatically assigned to the user who is creating the new item. Additionally, the Quick Add form will even show required fields. It’s another amazing time saving feature that I no longer can live without.

We realize that this could be a love-it or hate-it feature, so users can optionally turn off the quick add of new items from User Options. I wasn’t crazy about having the ability to turn it off because it’s such a wonderful time saver, especially when combined with field template default values and required fields. But, of course, not everyone uses OnTime the same way I do.  I still encourage everyone to give it a try for at least a few days.

Internally, we like Quick Add so much that it is inspiring us to improve and speed up other process, like adding Releases and Team Members (Users).

This is how Quick Add looks when adding Releases:

And this is the quick add screen for adding team members:

The new Quick Add form for Team Members has also reworked how new users are added. Now, new users will receive an email with a link for login and on their first login, they’ll be asked to set their own password. You no longer need to choose a password for new users.

A New Tutorial System

You’ve added your new team members to the OnTime system, but now what? Each time you add a new user, they need a little introduction to how things work. So we built a new Tutorial System that does just that.

When new users logs in, OnTime will give them a quick introductory lesson so they know how to get around. It should allow your new users to get the most out of the system.

There are also new tutorials for brand new databases to show new OnTime administrators how things work. Building the new tutorial system was the hard part. Now that we have it, we’ll be improving it and adding more tutorials in future releases.

Improved Appearance

You’ll find a lot of areas in OnTime that have been improved with a slightly refreshed look. The new view form is much more sleek as are the new add/edit forms:

The attachments section has been revamped:

So has the comments section:

Even the dialog buttons have changed for the better:

And now you can use [Ctrl][Shift] S to save your changes in the add/edit windows without having to pickup your hands from the keyboard.

Using Agile/Scrum Terminology

When you create a new OnTime database, the first time you log in, you will be given the choice of using Traditional or Agile/Scrum terminology.

This dialog simplifies the setup for scrum and agile teams. For example, rather than referring to items as Features, it will refer to them as User Stories. The flexibility to do this has always been in the OnTime system, but it wasn’t always easy to figure out. The new terminology setup simplifies the setup process and you can always customize it further through Tools -> System Options.

Note: If you are currently evaluating OnTime, you can reset your database in order to access the “Choose Terminology” option and the new Administrator Tutorial. Resetting the database will also delete all existing data from the system. You can reset your database from the Tools Menu -> Other -> Reset Data.

Lots of Minor Improvements Too

There are a lot of other improvements. Little things like the ability to type “8h” in a time field to represent “8 Hours” as opposed to having to type “8[space]h”. Or the new keyboard shortcuts [Z], [/] and [Ctrl][Shfit]+S to Undo, Search or Save and Close without moving your hands off the keyboard. Or the ability to quickly collapse all subitems and only view the parent items using the Parent indicator triangle in the header of the grid.

What’s Coming in 2012?

It’s rare for us to talk about what we plan to do in future releases of OnTime, but with our re-write of the OnTime Web in V11, there were a few things that were left out. So I thought it might be appropriate to candidly talk about some of the things that we hope to improve in 2012:

  • Improvements to Administrative Features – The OnTime Web V11 re-write didn’t include all the administrative UIs. In other words, we’ve got some left over ‘look and feel’ issues to address —  things like managing security, workflows, field templates, etc. In 2012, we hope to gradually re-write and re-think each of these management areas to make them easier to use, consistent with our current UI standards, and we want them to deliver an unprecedented user experience.
  • OnTime Customer Portal – we are long overdue for a major rewrite of the Customer Portal. While the current customer portal provides a nice feature set, the user experience is not even remotely close to Axosoft’s new standards.
  • Visual Studio Integration – We’ve had OnTime as an add-in for Visual Studio since 2004, and this component can also benefit from an overhaul. I think our OnTime Windows client users who also use Visual Studio will be pleased with what we are going to do in this area.
  • Updated APIs – We have an awesome API set under the hood in OnTime and we hope to expose that for other developers before the end of 2012.
  • Dashboards & Charts – You’re going to get more charting than you ever thought you wanted.

There are a lot of other great things planned for 2012, but this should give you an idea of the functional areas that are high on our list. Just because it’s not in the above list doesn’t mean we’re not working on it. As you can see in the 11.2 release, we are now pumping out a ton of new functionality which includes both major and minor improvements.

Axosoft Acquires SlickUpload (our first acquisition)

November 22, 2011 Leave a comment

SlickUpload .NET Upload ComponentI’m proud to announce that last week, we completed Axosoft’s first acquisition (of hopefully many more to come). We purchased the SlickUpload .NET upload component. As part of the transaction, we also added the exceptionally talented Chris Hynes as the newest member of the fast-growing Axosoft development team.

SlickUpload is a leading component for allowing .NET developers to incorporate fast, memory efficient and scalable uploading into their software projects. We’ve been using the component in Axosoft’s Transfer Big Files offering for more than a year. The component is used to upload more than 1,000,000 MB of data and more than 30,000 files per day on the TransferBigFiles.com web site alone! It scales amazingly well.

With this acquisition, we’re making a few important changes. First of all, we are introducing a new SlickUpload Community Edition that will be 100% Free for personal use, non-profit organizations, open source projects and educational institutions. We are also reducing the price of the SlickUpload Redistributable license for a single application (unlimited servers) from $599 to $499.

Lastly, we will be dropping the Single Server $149 license effective November 30th, 2011. After that, there will be only 3 editions (see below). To purchase the single-server license now, visit the SlickUpload purchase page.

The 3 editions of SlickUpload will be:

  • SlickUpload Community Edition (Free!) – Restricted to personal use, non-profit organizations, open source projects and educational institutions. Will contain branding information with link to the SlickUpload web site.
  • SlickUpload Redistributable License ($499) – Use on an unlimited number of servers for a single application. You can also redistribute the product with one commercial application without any royalties. All branding information is removed on this version.
  • SlickUpload Source Code License ($2,499) – For those who need the additional peace of mind of holding the source code. License allows for the modification of source code for use on an unlimited number of servers for a single application or for redistribution inside of your own applications.

To learn more about SlickUpload, visit the SlickUpload page.

OnTime 11.1: Subitems, GitHub and Drag-and-Drop

November 7, 2011 35 comments

Today, we are announcing the release of OnTime 11.1. Even though this is a .1 release, it contains some of the most important and useful enhancements that we’ve ever added to OnTime. The top new features are:

Subitems

The best way to discuss the new Subitems feature in OnTime 11.1 is using an example. And what better example than showing you what the “Subitems” feature itself looked like in the OnTime instance our own dev team uses:


(screenshot of the new Subitems feature in OnTime as used by the OnTime team)

In the screenshot above, you can see the “Subitems” parent feature.  Below it, indented and marked using a subitem icon, there are 7 subitems listed. These are the subitems that the OnTime team added after they had the ability to add subitems in OnTime. What’s great about subitems is that it lets you easily break down larger features into a number of smaller items, each with its own status, workflow, assignee and work remaining. The parent item consolidates the data, showing the total amount of work done and remaining.

Subitems make managing large features much, much simpler. You can track them as individual units by collapsing all the subitems, or you can expose all the details and still have roll-up information. Once you start using this feature, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it. Our own teams now heavily rely on Subitems as part of the day-to-day development of OnTime. Even our marketing team uses subitems heavily breaking down larger tasks (such as “Update axosoft.com web site for OnTime 11.1 launch”) into a number of smaller items assigned to different team members.

GitHub Integration

Over the past couple of years, as distributed version control systems (DVCS) such as Git have gained popularity, one particular “Git-in-the-cloud” provider has emerged as the leader: GitHub. When you use GitHub, you immediately realize why: they’ve done an amazing job of simplifying Git. They’re now hosting millions of repositories. Git is the new standard for DVCS systems and GitHub is the new standard of hosting Git in the cloud.

But one area that isn’t a GitHub core strength, is tracking defects and features for software development teams or managing their products from inception to completion. Fortunately, the GitHub folks were smart enough to build integration hooks, which means Axosoft can provide you with seamless integration between GitHub and OnTime.

To set up the integration, you start by going to the OnTime System Options in the GitHub Integration section. There, you will see a screen that looks like this:

Once you enable the GitHub integration, the OnTime APIs that allow for GitHub and OnTime to talk to each other will start to work. The API key, which should be kept secure, will be needed for the API calls. This API key will need to be provided to GitHub in GitHub’s service hooks section (where you’ll need to find the OnTime service hook):

Once the setup has been done, all of your GitHub users will be able to relate code commits to specific items in the OnTime system using a special syntax in the comments of the commit. The special syntax is in the following form:

[otX: # wl:# TIMEUNIT]

 Where “ot” refers to OnTime and “X” is one of:

– d for Defect
– f for Feature
– i for Incident
– t for Task

and # refers to the item number.

Then the optional “wl” tells the system to add a work log entry where # refers to the amount of time and the word “TIMEUNIT” is replaced with whatever time unit you happen to use (hours, days, story points, etc.).

An example of a commit comment would look like:

 This GitHub commit would communicate with OnTime and connect this change set to Defect #98 in the OnTime system. So inside of OnTime, the above commit will show up in the new GitHub tab:

From there, users can see the associated files and open them directly from the OnTime system.

Furthermore, with a single GitHub commit, users can connect a change set to multiple OnTime items, create work log entries on those items (so that OnTime can track the amount of work done and remaining) and even move the items automatically to another workflow step.

We think GitHub users are going to love the new OnTime/GitHub integration. We’ve also built in a system to import your existing GitHub issues as a one-time importer into the OnTime system.

If you’re a startup company using GitHub and don’t yet have an OnTime account, this might be a great time to start using OnTime for your bug tracking and project management needs. We’ve made the OnTime Express product FREE for 1 year for new startups with 10 or fewer employees. Learn more about this here: Free OnTime for Startups.

Drag-and-Drop

You might be thinking, “Really? Drag-and-drop is your big new feature?” Well, yeah! First, it’s rare to see drag-and-drop in web-based applications. But even if you’re used to some drag-and-drop capabilities, what you get in OnTime 11.1 is nothing like you’ve ever seen in a web-based application.

Drag-and-drop is now a core functionality of OnTime’s grid and Organization sections. You can drag-and-drop one or more items on the grid to create parent/child relationships…or to move items to a different project…or to plan out releases and sprints…or to assign items to team members. It’s incredibly powerful, extremely efficient and most of all: a HUGE time saver.

The only way to demonstrate the new power of the drag-and-drop feature is to do so using a video. Take a look at this:

Large Project Tree Performance Improvements

For some of our customers who have been using OnTime for a number of years, the projects (and subprojects) that they have in the OnTime system have exceeded the thousands. If you are one of those customers, you may have also been frustrated with the amount of time that the project tree took to load. For example, if you had 5,000 projects, OnTime might take 10 or more seconds to load the project tree.

Not anymore.

Previously, even if only 20 projects were visible, all 5,000 were being rendered by the system. In OnTime 11.1 we’ve changed the behavior so that only the projects that are visible on the projects tree are the ones that render. As such, loading the project tree is now a sub-second activity that you’ll rarely if ever notice. It just works…and damn fast!

Where is Subitems in OnTime for Windows?

The short answer is: it’s not supported.

Here is a slightly longer answer: While users can add subitems in OnTime for Web, those subitems will show up like any other parent item in OnTime for Windows. They will be shown without any information about the parent/child relationship.

There is no way to sugar coat this, so here it goes: I seriously doubt we will continue to make OnTime for Windows for more than another year. In fact, even a year might be optimistic. You see, we had to make a decision about the future of OnTime and with limited resources, it was slowing us down to continue to make the same enhancements to two different products. So as I was reminded of a quote from Steve Jobs (and Wayne Gretzky), we decided to go where the puck is going, not where the puck has been. Web applications are our future. I believe all desktop applications’ days are numbered. We decided to focus the vast majority of our development efforts on the future. Our goal for OnTime for Windows is to make sure we don’t break it…at least for a while.

If you are an OnTime Windows user, I want to urge you to take a look at OnTime 11.1 for the web. It is absolutely amazing! It’s faster than OnTime for Windows. Yes, it’s faster! It’s better in virtually every way and it doesn’t require an installation on every single user’s machine. Try it and see what you’re missing. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Just to be clear, you can still install OnTime locally and use the web version or run the web version in our hosted environment, which we call OnTime Now.

Here is a walkthrough video of the new OnTime 11.1 features that will show you how powerful the new OnTime 11.1 is especially now that it supports drag-and-drop:

So there you have it. OnTime 11.1 is out. We hope you love it as much as we do.

Categories: Development, Team, Tools Tags: , , ,

Axosoft at the Agile 2011 Conference

August 22, 2011 1 comment

Earlier this month we spent a few days in Utah at the Agile 2011 conference as “Gold Sponsors” of the event. It was a very fun show. We met a lot of great people and gave demos of the new user experience of OnTime 11. We also gave away quite a bit of swag, including these popular Tego Audio Portable Speakers.

Here is a quick video compilation of the highlights:


Watch Axosoft’s Agile Conference Video on YouTube

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