STC Summit 2012 - How Writers Can Thrive in Agile Software Development


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Presentation delivered at the 2012 STC Summit by Gavin Austin.

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  • Before I begin I’d love to see a show of hands of how many people here use Agile? Okay, how many people here are planning an Agile implementation? Okay, how many people here cringe and feel pain when they hear the tech industry buzzword of Agile? Okay, I’ll discuss what Agile is, why uses it, and strategies and benefits for writers.
  • But before I begin, here’s a page from’s lawyers that lets us let you know that anything you see or hear in this presentation is subject to change and may not appear in future versions of the product… We are a publicly traded company…
  • First of all, I’m not a professional Agile consultant. I am a technical writer. I love technical writing, I’ve worked at various publishing and technology companies as an analyst, editor, production editor, and technical writer. I write UI text, release notes, online help, implementation guides, developer guides, API guides, and have created various forms of user assistance. In 2007, I helped transition to Agile software development—walked through the fire—and learned a tremendous amount from that experience. I’ve spoken and shared this experience with BlueShield of CA, San Francisco State University, STC San Francisco Chapter, WritersUA in Seattle, GroupOn, ServiceNow, VMWare, and I’ve published a whitepaper via the ScrumAlliance on how writers can survive writing in an Agile environment.
  • Agile is Is a flexible framework of common values. The most popular are Scrum, XP, and Lean. A common-sense approach. Takes change into account, understands that change interrupts the flow of linear development. Focuses on incremental releases, self-determining actions, expects changed and illicits feedback.
  • Agile is not: “ Cowboy” coding No planning Poor quality Compressing the schedule Explain each item and how practices the scrum “flavor” of agile.
  • We have our own agile named ADM. It differs from scrum because due to system testing we have an extra month to catch up on writing, etc.. Yet, this may change to two weeks, then no extra time.
  • Don’t have to be a business whiz to learn that when the number of features you can deliver goes up in fewer days that you’re on to a successful strategy.
  • ADM (agile) at was here to stay whether the writers liked it or not.
  • When researching agile for writers, we discovered there weren’t many resources. Discovered this quote and figured out why… Oh, no!
  • Describe these challenges.
  • Describe these challenges too.
  • This is R&D (Devs, QA) vs. Development Services (writers, UE, UI)
  • Strategies for writing within an agile environment Implementation
  • Daily strategies
  • Team strategies
  • Why vegetables? Because they benefit you even if you don’t like to eat them: like Agile.
  • Why fruit? Because it benefits you and people tend to like it after a while: like Agile.
  • STC Summit 2012 - How Writers Can Thrive in Agile Software Development

    1. 1. How Writers Can Thrive in AgileSoftware DevelopmentGavin AustinLead Technical Writer
    2. 2. Safe Harbor“Safe harbor” statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995: This presentation and the oralremarks that accompany it contain forward-looking statements the achievement of which involves risks, uncertaintiesand assumptions. If any such risks or uncertainties materialize or if any of the assumptions proves incorrect, ourresults could differ materially from the results expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements we make. Allstatements other than statements of historical fact could be deemed forward-looking, including any statementsconcerning new, planned or upgraded services or technology developments, any projections of subscriber growth,earnings, revenues or other financial items and any statements regarding strategies or plans of management forfuture operations, statements of belief and statements about future customer contracts or future customer use of ourservices.The risks and uncertainties referred to above include - but are not limited to - interruptions or delays in our service orour Web hosting; our ability to complete and successfully release new and improved versions of our on-demandplatform and development environment; our new business model; problems integrating, launching or operatingservices based on newly acquired businesses or technologies, breach of our security measures; possible fluctuationsin our operating results and rate of growth; the emerging market in which we operate; our relatively limited operatinghistory; our ability to hire, retain and motivate our employees and manage our growth; competition; our ability tocontinue to release and gain customer acceptance of new and improved versions of our CRM service; unanticipatedchanges in our effective tax rate; fluctuations in the number of shares outstanding; the price of such shares; foreigncurrency exchange rates and interest rates.Further information on these and other factors that could affect our financial results is included in the reports onForms 10-K, 10-Q and 8-K and in other filings we make with the Securities and Exchange Commission from time totime, including our Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended January 31, 2009 and our Form 10-Q for the fiscal quarterended April 30, 2009. These documents are available on the SEC Filings section of the Investor Information sectionof our website at unreleased services or features referenced in this or other press releases or public statements are not currentlyavailable and may not be delivered on time or at all. Customers who purchase our services should make purchasedecisions based upon features that are currently available., inc. assumes no obligation and does notintend to update these forward-looking statements, except as required by law.
    3. 3. About me: I’m a writer who likes to talk
    4. 4. Agile is… Sprint Sprint Sprint 2-4 weeks 2-4 weeks 2-4 weeks
    5. 5. Scrum 101 Daily Stand-up Sprint 2-4 weeks Sprint Plan Commitment Potentially shippable Backlog Retrospective
    6. 6. Why we went Agile 2000 2005 & 2006  3 employees R&D  200+ employees R&D  4 product releases  1 product release a year  Releases on time  Releases not on time
    7. 7. Days between Major Releases Features Delivered per Team2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
    8. 8. ADM (Agile) results Features Delivered per Team Days between Major Releases 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
    9. 9. Acceptance “ ADM has delivered total visibility, total transparency and unbelievable productivity… a complete win! ” Steve Fisher Executive Vice President, Technology
    10. 10. Challenges “ Originally,organizations havedid not include documentation, the methodology but many figured out how to use it… ” Alyssa Fox & Meredith Kramer Mobile and Agile: The Floating Writer’s Survival Kit © 2008 WinWriters, Inc.
    11. 11. Heartburn 1. Done! 2. Fiction! 3. Meetings! 4. Estimates! 5. Tracking tools! 6. Multiple teams!
    12. 12. Indigestion 1. No time! 2. No specs! 3. Terminology! 4. Team loyalties! 5. Context switching!
    13. 13. Unhappy Writers 80 80 78 70 66 60 52 50 42 40 30 31 30 R&D 23 DS 20 10 0 Are you Is agile Agile will Since the satisfied with making your maintain or rollout, Im the rollout of team more improve the having a good agile? effective? quality of our time. products.
    14. 14. Implementation Strategies • Class • Patience • Templates • Tracking tool • Pad estimates • Clear definitions • Hire more writers • Extend doc deadlines
    15. 15. Daily Strategies • Ask • Email team • Write fiction • Revise fiction • Skip meetings • Doc “office hours”
    16. 16. Team Strategies 2. Barter 3. Doc “blitz” 4. Volunteer 5. Be wrong 6. Speak up 7. Self organizing 8. Shared service 9. Last line of defense
    17. 17. Benefits • Features less complex • Easier to document • Clearer communication • Know who does what • Know whom to ask • Fixed deadlines • Fewer surprises
    18. 18. Benefits • Doc has more impact • Doc is more visible • Learn what to expect • Retrospectives fix problems • Self determining • More personable • Team spirit
    19. 19. Happy Writers 70 62 60 50 46 40 Mar-07 30 30 Mar-08 24 23 20 14 10 0 0 0 The best time A good time Not much fun A terrible time
    20. 20. Questions? Whitepaper: