iPad rollout Phase I: #FAIL

Epic Fail. Let’s consider this our Agile retrospective. A few things went right, but mostly things went wrong.

What went wrong?
– The first iPad launch for Los Angeles (see previous post here) school districts cost $1 billion dollars. Each individual tablet given to each student costs way more than retail price, $678 to be exact. With the Chromebooks costing roughly $250, you can buy two laptops for that price.

– Professional development: training and support for students, teachers and parents was an afterthought, leading to the failure of this launch. You cannot possibly deploy a new product without offering training (and follow-up support) for users, especially the relative size of this audience.

– Let’s give these students the tools they need to become well rounded individuals. Yes that means harnessing creativity and encouraging STEAM exploration. And yes this means giving them a device with a keyboard. Writing skills (even if that includes QWERTY) on the back burner, who would have thought?

What went right?
Isn’t it obvious? Hopefully with this deployment a few kids learned something aside from phishing for unapproved content. The main goal was delivered: technology supplementing instruction for every student.

A fresh perspective on Agile

When first learning Agile, I had many questions, as you always do when learning something new. They were thoughtful questions; for instance, Why Agile? and What is my role as Technical Writer in this process? My colleagues always directed me to the Manifesto and asked, ‘So, you the chicken or the pig?’ Needless to say, my understanding of Agile/Scrum came from researching and most importantly, observing. Retrospectives became a valuable asset in this discovery. A way to discuss what well in a sprint, retrospectives also give valuable insight to what went wrong, information that propels change for the next iteration. Another tool I found particularly helpful was interactive whiteboards to move around ideas. These whiteboards could be tangible with florescent post-its hanging from the backdrop or interactive like Mingle. Sharing ideas in this way also facilitates discussion.

Of all the things I learned, what became most evident in the success of a software development project is the strength of your team. Hands down this is important. There needs to be communication, visibility, and transparency amongst your team. I’ve worked with some really smart people. They are inquisitive. They ask ‘Why?’ They believe, as I do, that software shouldn’t be stagnant, it should evolve.

I got some advice. Do research. For Agile/Scrum ninjas wanting to learn more about new project management tools, check out ThoughtWorks Studios. Better yet, view this table comparing features of ThoughtWorks’ Mingle and Atlassian JIRA. Tell me what you think.

The next generation of wikis

Did you know the origin of the word wiki is Hawaiian, meaning quick, fast? Wikis are website portals that are open for anyone to edit content. I use the word portal precisely as wikis are not static webpages. You can navigate from any one given point and easily be redirected to other sources for PDF files, video links, etc. It is meant to be on the cloud, meaning anyone can contribute, but there are also precautions that can be made in order to manage user’s views and permissions of content.

In tech writing, wikis are replacing the traditional user manual. No longer will you have to print out a ten-page quick start guide for a product, but instead enjoy a much more friendly user experience. Wikis are interactive, intuitive and visible throughout the organization.

Some of the top wiki providers are Mediawiki, Confluence, and Dokuwiki. One company offering an alternative solution to Confluence Wiki, however, is Mindtouch.

There are a few key features that beats the rest:
– Mindtouch’s product is context-sensitive
– Offers a robust reporting feature (aka Google Analytics for Marketing)
– Integrates CRM (Salesforce) data for real-time product feedback
– Bug tracking system that can replace or used in conjunction with JIRA
– More outputs and even offers an easy Flare-to-Mindtouch wiki migration
– and did I mention Agile friendly?

So get on board with Mindtouch, because they are redefining the user manual with a more impressive wiki.