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What is Agile Project Management and Its Phases?

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What is Agile Project Management?

Agile project management is an adaptive method of product development. It takes into account the iterative and incremental approaches of developing and delivering products to the customer. The focus of agile project management is on value creation and customer centricity. The other important aspects of agile project management are: its responsive nature to the changing requirements, its progressive outlook toward software planning, and leadership shift from command & control to servant leadership.

The scope of some of the projects is well-defined and certain. The traditional or waterfall model of managing the projects is used in such scenarios. The scope of some of the projects is uncertain, ambiguous, volatile and complex. The very nature of agile project management makes it complimentary to execute such uncertain projects. Project Management is a vast subject and involves many new concepts, processes, and tools. This PMP Certification Training Program involves comprehensive class activities based on real-life scenarios to help you understand the concepts well so that you can answer the PMP exam questions well as well as use these in your job.

5 Phases In Agile project management

Envision

This phase can be considered equivalent to the initiating process group in traditional project management. It helps create vision for the project. The vision focuses on the customers and the stakeholders involved in the project. It covers the why, what, how, and who of the project. It defines the product vision, scope, constraints, delivery methodology, and the stakeholders. 

Speculate

This phase can be considered equivalent to the planning process group in traditional project management. This phase expands the envision phase and encourages brainstorming, critical thinking, creative thinking, and collaboration to plan the execution of the project. It translates the product vision into product roadmap, to release level planning and iteration level planning. It determines the workload, product features, estimation, risks, and delivery. 

Explore

This phase can be considered equivalent to the executing process group in traditional project management. It focuses on following the release/iteration plan (as prepared in the previous phase 2 called Speculate) and delivering project features; more specifically delivering potentially shippable products. 

Adapt

This phase can be considered equivalent to the monitoring & controlling process group in traditional project management. This phase focuses on inspection, supervising, modifications, changes, and corrections in the project lifecycle.  The phases Speculate, Explore and Adapt are regularly revisited in order to improve the product delivery and project execution in each and every iteration. This means reviewing actual results versus planned results. This phase covers the improvements needed which are integrated into the next iteration. 

Close

This phase can be considered equivalent to the Closure Process Group in traditional project management. Per the definition of a project given in PMBOK, it has a definite start and a definite end. The expectations of the customers are set at the onset of the project about the endpoint of the project. Not doing so would result in the perception issues among the customers which would result in unnecessary fall-outs. Doing it right, would help celebrate the success of the project. However, before the team ends the project, ensure to analyze all the key findings, knowledge gathered, and lessons learned and pass these along to the next team so that they can benefit.

Agile Mindset & Manifesto:

The agile project management methodologies like Extreme Programming, SCRUM, DSDM, Adaptive Software Development, Crystal, Feature-Driven Development, Pragmatic Programming, were already existing before the agile movement was formalized in 2001 with the publication of the agile manifesto for agile software development.

The original seventeen authors signed a manifesto which contained 4 values and 12 principles. The manifesto stated that:

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

Four Values

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Responding to change over following a plan

Twelve Principles

  1. The highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months
  4. Stakeholders and developers must collaborate on a daily basis
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6. Face-to-face meetings are deemed the most efficient and effective format for project success
  7. A final working product is the ultimate measure of progress
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility
  10. Simplicity, maximizing the work not done, is an essential element
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly

As per agile practice guide of PMI, agile is a mindset defined by values, guided by principles, and manifested through many different practices.

Characteristics of Agile Life Cycle for product development

The creation of agile manifesto started to simply product development in software industry. However, the characteristics of agile methodologies have made its impact on almost all the industries. The agile way of managing projects is not restricted to software industry only. It is critical to understand that the following characteristics are intrinsic to all kinds of projects, whether they follow predictive or agile (adaptive) life cycles. The focus here is on the attributes specific to the project characteristics managed in agile manner. These characteristics and their attributes are mentioned below.

  • Requirements: The projects which are managed in an agile manner have an intrinsic characteristic of dynamism. The requirements and eventually the scope change occur often and to incorporate such kind of changes, agile and adaptive methodologies are adopted.
  • Activities: One of the other most important characteristics of agile project management that the activities are repeated until near perfect solution is achieved. This can be referred to as iterative approach of creating product.
  • Delivery: The delivery of products/features in agile methodology is done frequently with incremental deliveries. This delivery is potentially shippable product. This is related to incremental way of delivering product.
  • Goal: The goal of agile project management is to deliver value to the customers via frequent delivery by incorporating early feedback.

In general, agile life cycle uses the project characteristics of both iterative and incremental life cycles, i.e., the project team iterate to create the product incrementally. This ensures that the team gets the visibility of the project and gain early feedback from the customer. 

Agile Roles

There are three major roles defined in the agile way of managing projects.

  1. Cross Functional Team members: The cross functional teams are also called as the development teams and are the most critical. Agile teams comprise dedicated team members. Cross functional teams consist of team members with all the skills necessary to produce a working product. The cross functional development teams consist of professionals who deliver potentially releasable product in time-boxed frame. They deliver finished work in the shortest possible time, with higher quality, without external dependencies. The teams are mostly collocated or the team members have the ability to manage any challenges based on location. The teams consist of generalists and specialists and usually work in a stable environment. Agile teams are self-organizing and they themselves decide how to best accomplish their work for each sprint. 
  1. Scrum Master: This role can also be associated with the role of servant leader. This can also be called a project manager, team lead, team coach, team facilitator, or process facilitator. The basic and foremost responsibility of this role is to remove impediments, blockers and barriers during the project execution. This ensures that the sprint stays on track by monitoring progress and facilitating meetings. The servant leaders become teams’ advocate and help them communicate with the stakeholders. All agile teams need servant leadership on the team. People need time to build their servant leadership skills of facilitation, coaching, and impediment removal. 
  1. Product owner: The product owner represents the voice of customers or users. She helps define the product roadmap, backlog, release plans and goals of each iteration. She ranks the work based on the business value of the features and product. She acts like a lighthouse for guiding the direction of the product. She works with the teams daily by providing feedback and direction of future releases. Sometimes, she requests help from people with deep domain expertise, such as architects, or deep customer expertise, such as product managers. Product owners need to be trained on how to organize and manage the flow of work through the team.

Common Agile Ceremonies

The ceremonies in agile project management methodologies are events. Some of these events are planning-based and some of them are feedback-based events. The ceremonies are:

  1. Backlog Preparation: An ordered list of work in agile methodology is called as the backlog. This backlog is presented in story form so that the teams can understand it. The backlog preparation takes the form of progressive elaboration and in this agile way of managing project, there is no need to create all of the stories for the entire project before the work starts—only enough to understand the first release. Product owners might produce a product roadmap to show the anticipated sequence of deliverables over time. The product owner replans the roadmap based on what the team produces. The backlog preparation is one of the layers of the Agile Planning Onion; it is the third layer in the onion. In this, the strategy forms the topmost layer, followed by portfolio, product, release, iteration and daily.
  1. Backlog Refinement: The product owner works with the team to prepare some stories for upcoming iteration in the middle of the iteration. The reason for such meetings is to refine enough stories so the team understands these stories and compare them with other stories in the backlog. These meetings help the team understand the potential challenges or problems in the story. The teams can use spike to understand the risk.  There is no consensus on how long the refinement should be.
  1. Daily Stand-ups: The ultimate goal of daily stand-up meetings is to ensure that all the members of the team are on the same understanding of the project and its progress. The members use this meeting to commit to each other, share problems, and ensure a smooth workflow. This meeting is timeboxed for no longer than 15 minutes. During this meeting, everyone answers the following questions:
  • What did I complete since the last stand-up?
  • What am I planning to complete between now and the next stand-up?
  • What are my impediments (or risks or problems)?

It is the responsibility of the process owner to not let the daily stand-up meetings become status meetings. Besides this, let this meeting not become a problem solving event.

  1. Demonstrations/Reviews: This ceremony helps periodically demonstrate the working product to the customer. This event helps the team gain early feedback on the features (in the form of user stories) of the product. Since the product owner represents the voice of customers or uses, it is her responsibility to check the demonstration and either accept or reject the user stories. As a general guideline, demonstrations happen at least once every 2 weeks. Demonstrations help the teams to set in the right direction if they are progressing in the wrong direction. This becomes a basic component of agile projects (incremental delivery based on iteration/flow). The ceremony of demonstration/review refers to the principle # 7 of Agile Manifesto.
  1. Retrospectives: Principle # 12 of Agile Manifesto is: “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.” Post demonstration/review ceremony, the iteration asks for a meeting which would help team understand the improvement areas, correction areas, and the behaviours, actions and work to keep for the next iterations. In general, the team looks back to learn, contemplate, improve and adapt to the best practices. Teams need to learn about the product and/or process. The meeting is all about looking at the qualitative (people’s feelings) data and quantitative (measurements) data to uncover the root causes, developing contingencies, mitigation strategies, and action plans.

Conclusion

The management of projects in agile manner reflects non-traditional ways of executing projects. It embodies the 4 values and 12 principles as laid down in the agile manifesto. The 5 ceremonies compliment the effective and efficient ways of delivering values to the stakeholders which in turn takes the holistic approach of 5 phases of agile project management.

About The Author

Techcanvass is an Information Technology certifications training Organization for professionals. It offers internationally recognized certifications in the fields of Project Management and Business Analysis. It is a premier Authorized training partner (ATP) of Project Management Institute (PMI), USA and a premier Endorsed Education Provider (EEP) of International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA), Canada. Founded by IT professionals, Techcanvass is committed to making learning a more structured, practical and goal-oriented exercise. We also provide consulting services in the fields of Project management and Business Analysis.

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A Calm Cat: 5 Ways to Calm Your Furry Feline Friend

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Did you know that around 43 million American households own at least one cat?

While cats are delightful companions most of the time, they can suffer from anxiety on occasion. Watching them get stressed out can be heartbreaking, but cat anxiety can also be dangerous if their energy turns into aggression.

Do you want to learn how to calm a cat if they’re acting worried? Keep reading for 5 tips that will help you keep a calm cat.

1. Understand and Alleviate Their Triggers

An essential part of cat care is learning their personality since cats can’t communicate like humans. Any time you notice your cat starts getting anxious, make note of the cause and see if there are any patterns.

For example, if your cat gets upset when you put them in their carrier to go to the vet, make sure you start planning other trips in the carrier that don’t lead to the vet so they lose this association.

2. Use CBD Oil

CBD is an incredible calming aid for cats and humans alike! Since it’s a natural product, you don’t have to worry about any scary side effects like traditional prescription medications.

Understanding how to apply CBD oil and how often you should give it to them will ensure your cat stays relaxed and healthy.

3. Try a Cat Calming Collar

Cats, dogs, and all kinds of animals have a much stronger sense of smell than us humans. This means that there’s a wide variety of cat pheromone products that are designed to soothe your pet when they need help.

It may sound too good to be true, but putting a cat calming collar on your furry friend can make an immediate difference in their mood.

4. Give Calming Cat Treats

If you don’t feel like fussing with a collar and risk getting scratched, there are also cat calming treats that they can enjoy. These treats often contain soothing herbs that can help your cat wind down just like how tea allows people to relax as well.

Since treats come with different formulas, it’s worth trying a few brands to see which product delivers the best results.

5. Adjust Their Environment

Cats need a dark, quiet, and private space to decompress when they start getting anxious. You can help them feel safe by creating a little cave for them to enter where they won’t be disturbed.

While your first instinct may be to pick up your cat and pet them, most cats won’t react well to touch when they’re stressed.

Now You’re Ready to Enjoy a Calm Cat

Having a calm cat can seem like an impossible feat if yours is known to be skittish. The good news is that this guide is full of great solutions that are bound to make a difference in their well-being.

Do you want to know other ways you can work on becoming the best cat parent? Our site has tons of useful resources for pet owners. Bookmark our blog and don’t forget to visit often so you’ll stay in the loop.

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3 Helpful Tips for Investing in Real Estate

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Did you know that according to the Census Bureau, only 63 percent of Americans own real estate? This number is down from 69 percent in 2004, meaning you have the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the drop in numbers.

Whether you’re looking to retire with a few investments that can generate income or you’re ready for a career change, selling real estate and investing in it can be a great source of income. However, you need to come equipped with the right knowledge in order to make the right investments.

Read on for our top three tips for investing in real estate today!

1. Find a Real Estate Investing Mentor 

One of the most important tips when it comes to real estate investing is to find a mentor. The reason for this is because although you can find dozens of reputable sources online for information, you still don’t know the questions that need to be answered.

Buying real estate blind and without the right knowledge can trap you into investments that aren’t worth the money and effort you spend. Even worse, you may even need to start managing properties without the right experience necessary.

Check out this guide for help with property management.

2. Perform a Market Analysis

Next, you’ll want to do your research on where people are moving as well as the areas where you would like to invest. Although many new investors stick to the local areas they know, it’s also possible to be a remote investor with the right research.

Here are a few details to keep in mind during your market analysis:

  • How will the area look in the future?
  • What are the popular locations people are moving to?
  • What are the total numbers of homes for sale?
  • How long do homes typically stay on the market?

Your analysis also depends on whether you want to flip real estate or hold onto it for short-term vacation rentals or tenants. For instance, short-term rentals are more popular when they’re by the ocean, downtown areas, or other appealing amenities.

On the other hand, you may want to choose areas where lots of companies are hiring or where there are good school districts if you’re looking to purchase a multi-family building.

3. Prepare for Showings

It’s important that as a beginning investor you come to all showings before making a purchase. You’ll be paying attention to how structurally sound the property is and whether it’s in good condition. Try to keep your personal opinions aside about whether you like it or not.

Moisture meters and wall thermometers can also be helpful in order to ascertain whether the property has suffered water damage.

Tips for Investing in Real Estate: Start Your Research First

Although you may be excited and ready to invest in real estate, it’s important that you research tips for investing in real estate beforehand.

For instance, investing in a multi-family building may seem promising, but not when you don’t have any property management experience. Without research of the area, you may also be investing in a home that stays on the market for longer than you desire.

This is why research is so important. Keep reading the blog for more tips!

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How to Get Started Trading Stocks: A Beginner’s Guide

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Investing Investing in stocks can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be.

Stocks are one of the most popular ways to invest due to their growth potential.

But how do you know which shares to buy?

We have the answer for you.

We present them as best stocks to buy now.

What are shares?

Shares are a company’s equity.

The easiest way to understand what action is is to think of actions as individual actions. For example, if you buy stock on a stock exchange, you buy stock in a company.

And the easiest way to understand the company is to think of actions as an action of the company itself.

For example, if you bought Microsoft, you are now a Microsoft shareholder.

Or, if you were the owner of BP, you are now a shareholder in the oil company BP.

What are shares?

Shares are a unit of ownership in a company. It can be purchased as a whole share or fractions. Shares can also be constrained, like debt shares.

Typically, the value of the shares reflects your ownership. Therefore, the value of shares will be greater the more we have

And how do you know the value of the shares?

You can find this information listed in the company’s annual report.

This gives an idea of ​​the company’s financial health. A great example is Amazon.

Many people now turn to Amazon for product reviews and advice. This is great for your business, but it can also be a problem if Amazon’s market value gets too high

If Amazon stock becomes too expensive for other investors, the stock can be difficult to sell

What are dividends?

Dividends can be described as compensation to investors for the risk they took with the stock. The more shares in a company you own, the greater the dividend.

Dividends are normally paid as a percentage of the stock price. For example, if you buy Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) for $100 a share, you will receive $4 in dividends per month. If Apple goes up to $150, you’ll get $5 in dividends a month.

Let’s say Apple goes up to $200 a share. After that, dividend payout will increase to $5 per month

For a long time, dividends were paid monthly. However, in some companies, dividends can be paid up to 10% per quarter! This means that every 12 weeks you will receive a payment for your stock investment.

This is a great way to stay invested

Stock market risk

According to Investopedia, stock market risk is “a measure of the volatility of stocks over time and is determined by estimating the potential future gain or loss of a stock under normal market conditions.

This risk value is known as the Sharpe Ratio and is a mathematical metric used to measure returns over a specified period.

Here is the formula to determine the Sharpe Ratio of a stock:Ratio

Sharpe= Return / (Standard Deviation

The Sharpe Ratio is named after the most famous factor-based model for valuing stock investments. This model was created by Nobel Prize winning Professor Harry Markowitz.

Markowitz’s original formula is as follows

Ratio = (Return (Index) / Standard Deviation

I know what you’re thinking.

Stock Market Basics

Stocks are the highest risk, highest reward investments available.

A share is a contract between a company and an investor.

For example, you buy Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) when the stock is trading at $42 a share.

If the stock drops below $42 a share, you sell your Microsoft stock at a profit.

If the stock rises above $42 a share, you are a happy investor.

Here are some other simple terms you should understand before investing in stocks.

Stock: A piece of a company.

Mkt: an exchange where shares are traded.

Cumulative: A number that measures how much inventory has increased or decreased over a specified period.

Price: The price at which the stock is trading at any given time.

How do I buy shares?

There are three simple steps to investing in stocks:

Identify an industry with high growth potential. Then, search and choose the best actions according to your strategy

Inventories offer greater growth potential than other assets. The reason they do this is that stocks offer higher returns and lower risks.

Some of the best stocks to invest in are listed below.

The only rule for investing in stocks is:

there is no rule. Just do what makes you feel comfortable and keep doing it every day.

This is especially true for beginners. Most people are afraid to invest in stocks and to make any investment.

When you start investing in stocks, you are just starting a new chapter in your life. So make sure you take everything slowly and don’t get carried away

Brokers and Depositorie

Before making your first trade, you will need to open your account with a broker or custodian.

Most brokers are regulated by the federal government and overseen by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Therefore, they must be registered with FINRA and comply with its rules.

Other custodians, such as TD Ameritrade (AMTD) and Scottrade, are not regulated by FINRA and maybe a better choice for some investors.

You will be asked to name the bank, asset manager, and broker you wish to deposit and trade with when opening an account. Some brokers, like E-Trade, allow you to make the change in minutes. Others, such as TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab, will require you to speak with their representatives to confirm that opening an account is a good idea.

How to buy stocks online

It’s a question we’ve received hundreds of times from customers and readers, so we’re on a mission to help you answer it: How do you buy stocks online?

Our biggest lesson: Some of the most important lessons you’ll learn about investing are available for free online.

We’ve compiled our list of favorite features below. We recommend checking the list and flipping through it from time to time.

To get you started, we’ve compiled our favorite features:

The Stock Advisor: Turn your friends’ portfolios into big money. Jeff Gundlach’s Rules for Buying and Keeping. Summary: It says to buy low and sell high.

Turn your friends’ portfolios into big money. Jeff Gundlach’s Rules for Buying and Keeping. Summary: It says to buy low and sell high. Investopedia: 8-page primer on stock investing.

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