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VersionOne Spring Release

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VersionOne has released the latest version of its Enterprise Agile Platform.  The Spring 2015 release adds features which expand upon the platforms’s capabilities at the portfolio and program level.

InfoQ spoke to Lisa Hagin, senior product marketing manager, and Mark Crowe, director product management, about the features in the new release and the future direction of the platform.

InfoQ: Thanks for taking the time to talk to InfoQ.  How frequently does VersionOne introduce new releases, and what are the key features of the Spring 2015 release:

Lisa:  We release every quarter, linked to the seasons so this release is Spring 2015.  Two important features in this release are Performance Scorecards and Communities. 

We are very excited about Performance Scorecards as they provide the ability to aggregate information which is available in the product into a single place where anybody can access and see the overall state of an entire portfolio or program.  It’s aimed at portfolio and program leaders who need an at-a-glance view of what’s happening, and it’s  a dynamic view – so you can drill down into areas where you see there may be an issue in the portfolio, program, project and even down to the individual team level. 

Communities are another important feature – they are intended to give people a view of common best practices which can be shared across many teams.  Until now organisations have kept this type of information separately in repositories such as wikis or SharePoint.   Now they can store and access it right inside the platform the teams are working in every day.  The information is presented front and centre in the context of the task being undertaken at the time.  If someone is working on defining new initiatives (for example) and they want to know the standards for SWAG estimates, the information is right there for them. 

InfoQ: Where does this content come from – does the customer organisation provide it or does VersionOne provide it as well?

Lisa: We do both – we will prepopulate with a start on best practices content to help people understand the type and level of information that is useful, but the focus is on having a Centre of Excellence in the organisation provide their local content.  We see the organisations using Centres of Excellence to help scale agile adoption.  Easy access to this content helps each team perform well and also scale agile up through the levels of organisation.

InfoQ: How does this fit with the idea of teams self-organising and choosing their own practices?

Mark: We see two models with our customers.  One example is the new organisation that is transitioning to agile and they have many teams, perhaps spread across different locations.  They want to say to the teams “this is our way”, some of our customers want to have a common process that we can teach to many people across the organisation. 

Then we have customers who are more advanced, who have been practicing agile for some time and there we often see team-level autonomy.  Executives understand and allow teams to work in the way that works best for them in the specific context and environment.  There is a need to centralise some of the higher level planning reporting so it is important that teams provide the data in the right format, but the teams are free to use whatever practices work best for them.  These are generally more advanced or mature agile organisations who get people to a basic level of skill and then let experimentation and adaptation happen.

The concepts and implementation of Communities can still apply because a Community can be a team, so the team can use the structure to record their own team norms and practices. 

InfoQ: Coming back to the Performance Scorecards, what are some of the metrics that are shown on the scorecards, how would a portfolio or program manager know that their initiatives are on track or not?

Mark:  There are basic agile metrics which are a starting point – burndown, story points completed over time, proportion of effort working on new features/stories vs working on defects.  We use these basic metrics to determine if a release is on track.  In addition, within teams there are some interesting metrics which can be made visible such as the makeup of the team and how that changes over time – cadence, how many people on the team.  In the future we are considering extending these metrics so that organisations can look at trends over time and how they correlate with outcomes – such as level of team stability, skills and experience on teams. 

InfoQ: Where is the VersionOne solution heading – what is in the roadmap?

Mark:  We plan to do more on the Performance Scorecards, such as adding more reports and areas to track.  We are also looking at how the VersionOne platform can further support DevOps. DevOps is becoming more and more important, since many organisations are bringing their development and delivery activities closer and closer together. DevOps is becoming a pipeline rather than two separate silos.

In addition, we are continuing to focus on portfolio planning overall, there are some aspects in this release around pulling portfolio planning out in the product menus , as well as a Portfolio Kanban board, feature trees and higher-level planning rooms.  We will continue expanding the capabilities to support portfolio and program level planning and reporting.  Furthering the executive-level visualisation and reporting; the Performance Scorecards are an example of this.

Teams have become good at using agile and the product supports team-level activities very well. We are now working on bringing the higher-levels into the fold, and providing portfolio & program leaders with the information they need to steer organisations effectively by applying the same basic principles that many teams have mastered and scaling them to the higher levels of the organisation.  This is what we see as the next frontier.

InfoQ: Thanks very much for talking to InfoQ today.



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