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Trust your tools


Jonathan Wallace

As relatively new parent, my oldest is about to turn five. I’ve attended enough young kids’ birthday parties to develop a standard rating system for a
successful party. My rubric is simple and effective.

  1. Do they serve adult beverages?

  2. Do they serve adult food? (burgers = good. steak = better. no food? it better be a short party)

  3. As an adult, do I get cake?

  4. What about ice cream?

Its a simple system and it has helped me plan my own kids parties.

Good projects work the same way. A simple set of guidelines, when followed, insure success. Of all project guidelines, effectively managing scope is the most important. Pivotal tracker, our agile project management software of choice, keeps us on the straight and narrow when it comes to delivering value to our clients. This point was driven home for our recent work on a client’s project.

It was the last iteration before the super duper ultra important beta test. We had but three days to wrap the project and go live! In Pivotal, each story represents a super simple feature and we assign each story a point value that represents its relative difficulty. Each iteration lasts for a week and according to Pivotal we’d been on track to hit our average of thirty to thirty-two points an iteration or about five to six points a day.

Somehow, for the remaining two days of the project, we had over three days worth of work. Oh boy, did our client want all three days worth of work. So did we! A cool project with excellent design and an elegant feature set, we wanted to
knock out each and every pivotal story. We even explained that we would do our very best to complete all remaining stories. Only twenty-two points remained! Surely we could make the extra effort, ignore Pivotal’s estimation of our iteration velocity average, knock out all twenty-two points, exceed our client’s expecations and win!!


My youngest daughter Callie celebrated her second birthday yesterday evening. (Rubric results: Yes, yes, yes and yes!) We invited only close family but oh boy, the presents. Oh, so many presents! Cheap presents and expensive presents but all new presents. Each present was like a feature.

As the next present was opened, Callie found her attention diverted again and again. Each successive present was cooler than the last. As I languished in
my sugar-induced coma, I couldn’t help but think back to our recently wrapped project.

No matter how much Callie wanted to give each and every gift her undivided attention, she had to prioritize. She had to focus on just a few toys.
Just like we had to prioritize our stories in Pivotal.

In the end, Pivotal prevailed. Our iteration average remained unchanged and we completed two days worth of work. Just as Pivotal had indicated. Thankfully, since we had prioritized the most important stories, the beta launch was a success.

Lesson learned? Trust your tools!


Jonathan Wallace

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