Making Agile work Better with Scaled Retrospectives

The Agile movement continues to mature as companies gain more experience with the software development methodology. We previously talked about the Agile Tribes organizational innovations implemented by the music streaming company, Spotify. In short, it allowed the company to improve their overall efficiency to better meet the goals of the business.

Scaled Retrospectives (or “Scaled Retros”) is another recent Agile innovation aimed at handling the various problems that crop up outside of the normal scope of a development team. Let’s take a closer look at this concept to see if it makes sense implementing it in your shop.

Scaled Retrospectives – What are They?

During any software project – Agile or not – a variety of issues come up impacting a team’s ability to complete a task on time. In an older methodology like the Waterfall, the entire project might be delayed, while in Agile, a Sprint completion date might be missed. Some problems, like a slow developer, are within the team’s area of influence. Scaled Retrospectives, on the other hand, identify any adverse issues happening beyond the team’s control.

The blog, Agile Uprising, identifies Scaled Retros as items meeting three different criteria. First off, the issue is outside the team’s sphere of control. Secondly, it is impeding their ability to complete work in a timely fashion. Finally, the underlying problem is one that needs to be fixed.

Software development shops that implement a process to identify Scaled Retrospectives are seeing a noticeable increase in efficiency provided an effort is also made to deal with the noted problems. Properly cataloging the items and analyzing any patterns affecting an entire enterprise is a key factor in the success of a Scaled Retros program.

The Benefits of a Scaled Retrospectives Program

While a formal Scaled Retros program benefits big development shops with multiple teams, even smaller groups gain an advantage from identifying any large-scale problems impacting the software engineering process. The author of the Agile Uprising blog post noted above describes a scenario where he cataloged retro items from 100 different teams. This quickly became a process that would require a few full-time employees.

Instead of trying to do everything himself, he engaged the different development teams to communicate with each other. Any serious problems affecting everyone in the shop quickly bubbled to the surface. A cataloging effort was still required, but the amount of repetitive data entry and analysis became smaller. This final process allowed a small list of major problems to be delivered to the senior executives able to fix the issue.

The most notable output of their first Scaled Retro process highlighted the need for an automated build server. This issue was identified by 70 percent of the enterprise’s development teams. The voice of a singular programmer carries more weight when combined with many others.

As noted earlier, even smaller shops would benefit from an informal Scaled Retrospectives program. It is especially vital at large businesses where company-wide issues may not be identified without the effort. The most significant point is to realize the importance of finding any large-scale issues impacting the efficiency of your software development teams.

Put Scaled Retrospectives to work for you!

Stay tuned to the Betica Blog for future insights from the worlds of software development and QA. Thanks for reading!

StopLight makes API Development an Easier Process

Modeling applications have assisted programmers in architecting software for years. So it stands to reason the process of API design and development would also benefit from the use of models during the SDLC. StopLight is one such application, offering shops a full visual API modeling suite, including documentation and other useful features.

The best applications used for software development stay out of the way, while making the entire architecting, coding, and testing processes easier. With that said, let’s take a closer look at StopLight to see if it needs to be part of your team’s API tool arsenal

The Need for a Better API Design Tool

Like many other innovative technology products – Ruby on Rails comes to mind – StopLight was developed by software engineers wanting a better tool to make their work easier. Company founder Marc MacLeod commented on how the need for a better API tool led to StopLight’s genesis. “I’m an engineer, and StopLight is the solution to problems I faced repeatedly. Before StopLight, best practices were very manual — with no easy way to document and test APIs in an accessible, collaborative setting. StopLight changes this paradigm,” said MacLeod.

StopLight first became available in February of 2016. The designer tool is free to use for singular developers, while team subscriptions are also available – starting at a monthly rate of $8 per person. At those prices, downloading the application to test drive its features and functionality is a smart call for any API shop. The app is available on the Mac, Windows, and Linux platforms.

StopLight – Features and Functionality

The StopLight application suite includes three main modules. The API Designer is the heart of the tool, providing a way for developers to collaborate on model design leveraging open standards. A documentation module automatically generates API documentation every time the model changes – a boon for public API shops.

Prism Proxy gives developers a way to validate and mock API requests. Users can either install the proxy on a local server, or use StopLight’s Cloud-hosted version for up to 20,000 requests per month. One useful feature provided by Prism Proxy is the ability to reverse engineer an API – simply run traffic through the proxy and StopLight automatically generates end point and model definitions.

An Easy to Use API Design Tool

StopLight’s easy to use API Designer module lets everyone work together on API designs, no matter their level of technical expertise. Even business stakeholders with little to no programming experience are able to use the tool. This is one feature attractive to DevOps and Agile development teams where collaboration and interaction are vital to the success of a project.

Version 2 of StopLight entered a public beta phase in July, with a new module used for testing APIs, including the debugging of HTTP requests. Better collaboration features are also part of the new release. A new pricing model adds flexibility to shops of all sizes.

StopLight is worthy of further exploration for any API development shop. This product continues to garner a lot of buzz in the industry.

Keep coming back to the Betica Blog for additional insights into the world of QA and software development.

Postman brings Flexibility to API QA and Development

With the myriad of API development and QA tools in the marketplace — we’ve covered many examples, most recently, SOAtest — finding one to meet the needs of your shop seems like a daunting task. Postman positions itself as an application able to plan, develop, build, test, and document APIs. Not surprisingly, it is known as the “Swiss Army Knife” of API tools.

Let’s take a closer look at Postman to see if it makes sense in your team’s toolbox. It just might be the API development application with the flexibility to supercharge your productivity.

Build APIs more Quickly with Postman

As an integrated suite for the entire API development lifecycle, Postman offers the promise of building APIs faster and more efficiently. The Postman is app is available at no cost for the Windows, Mac, and Chrome platforms, while Cloud and Enterprise versions with more collaboration features cost only a nominal monthly fee.

The application’s UI facilitates the creation of HTTP requests, while integrating unit testing features to validate both response data and response time. Different requests are able to be grouped into Collections for better management. You can organize these collections into folders to mimic an API’s online structure. Sample responses are stored with each request to better explain its functionality and expected output.

It is important for developers to enter descriptive information into the request and response metadata, as the Postman UI leverages this information to describe the functionality of each request and the entire API. Developers can use the powerful search engine to find a specific request to meet their needs. This same metadata is used to automatically generate the API documentation, which becomes publically sharable with a button click — a boon for shops developing their own public APIs.

An Application Architecture to add even more Flexibility

Postman supports a variety of add-ons to make the application even more flexible. Newman provides automated testing features, including integration with your build app and the ability to kick off testing in a cron job. Chrome users need to check out Interceptor which leverages the Chrome window to easily view cookies and to capture and import requests into the Postman app.

Both add-ons are available as free downloads.

Enterprise Collaboration Features

As mentioned earlier, the regular Postman app is a free download, but development teams can upgrade to either the Cloud or Enterprise versions of the app, providing additional collaboration features for an inexpensive monthly fee.

Postman Cloud is priced at $4.99 per user per month (billed annually), and includes access to Postman’s Cloud API along with real-time collaboration features. Enhanced team management functionality is also part of the Cloud feature set, in addition to support for admin and billing roles — another plus for public API development shops.

All the features of Cloud are also available in Postman Enterprise, with the inclusion of invoice-based billing. Enterprise is priced at $21.99 per user per month billed annually.

Considering the basic version of Postman is simply a free download, it makes perfect sense to grab a copy and give the app a test run. You may find it becomes an invaluable part of your API development arsenal. The Cloud and Enterprise editions add useful functionality for shops specializing in public API development.

Keep an eye on the Betica Blog for additional dispatches from the worlds of software development and QA. Thanks for reading!