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What is sprint zero in agile?

Sprint Zero - Intro

The Sprint Zero idea, like many things on planet earth, is often used and abused. So, what is Sprint Zero in agile? Sprints are agile's way of breaking down project management processes into smaller manageable parts in order to simplify the entire procedure in general.

Sprint zero is what is usually known as "project before the project".

This concept is proving to be so effective until large organizations are starting to apply these agile principles across all project management departments.

With that said, as agile demand grows, so does the mystification around the Sprint Zero term. In its most simplified meaning, it's basically the application of Scrum Sprint frameworks to pre-planning procedures for a project.

This pre-planning procedure manages to become a project within itself during the course of the Sprint. 

The Scrum school of thought is of the belief that every sprint should produce potentially viable value.

What's the Sprint Zero Concept?

Sprint Zero's main goal is to produce some viable value that can be utilized by the team that follows suit. However, the question of what the concept of the entire procedure is can be a very tricky one to answer.

Most software and management leaders tend to demonstrate how much they understand agile scrum concepts and will usually want to run all their other systems under Sprint from day one, however, they're probably going to be unable to produce even a single releasable feature.

The name zero comes from the failure to produce this feature which is used to tell stake holders to expect nothing from the sprint as it is a Zero Sprint.

Zero Sprints are generally required to keep designs minimal, create project skeletons (including all the research spikes), developing a tiny number of stories until completion and be lightweight as well as low velocity.

A small number of stories should already be in the backlog before the beginning of the Sprint Zero process if you want this approach to be a success to you. This few number of stories will act as catalyst for the Sprint to produce results that can be demonstrated.

How to Get the Most Out of Sprint Zero

If you want to know how to get the most of Sprint Zero you first have to know how to conduct the procedure effectively.

The best way for you to understand this process is to know that for you to have a successful Sprint Zero process you'll have to be ready to begin from Sprint One.

"Ready" in this context is a bit of a vague term because readiness does not mean the operation procedures that are in place are available. However, this aspect has hopefully been taken care of. What readiness basically means is that development can occur in the said environment. A few do's and dont's if you want to conduct a successful Sprint Zero procedure:-

  • Don't take more than a week
  • Do keep your systems lightweight and stay clear from big design principles
  • Don't do more than what is required of you in the first stage just so you can produce a successful kickoff
  • Do emphasize a team building culture and always try as much as possible to get all your team members involved in the work.

Common Pitfalls of the Sprint Zero Process

Here are some of the common pitfalls of sprint zero:

  1. Harried designers with rushed designs:
    When developers and designers start at once, in agile projects, it sort of almost has the feeling of starting a run on a treadmill when it's already on the highest level without even warming up first.

    You'll constantly be at the risk of making a fool out of yourself by falling off. This "everybody begins at once" format places huge pressure on developers and designers to simply just complete their work.

    In such scenarios they'll most likely tend to rush their decisions without thinking about them too critically. This will, in turn, result in the production of unpolished, uninspired designs.
  2. Unvalidated Design:
    Software consultants and practitioners always have to validate their designs with 2 different groups. Their clients have to approve them and its testing needs to be done using their target users.

    This often leads to iteration within designs and the production of cycles of feedback. Normally, in agile approach, the softwares are built way before stakeholder validation or before it's been put in front of the software user. This generally leads to loads of reworking cycles for the software development team.
  3. Unnecessary Cost and Rework:
    Unvalidated designs and bad architecture will eventually lead to large amounts of rework cycles which help inflate costs of production.

    If designers can't take a step back and critically assess the product, then they lose the ability to be able to develop libraries of design patterns that are extensible and that can be effectively used throughout the agile project.

Does Sprint Zero Help With Sprint Planning?

For any project to be executed effectively, pre-planning must be involved. The project preparations that are standard for most software developers include gathering the right equipment and people required in order to complete the job. However, these don't characterise a Sprint Zero process.

Sprint Zero, unlike pre-planning, is not a requirement for agile projects. Quick and efficient Sprint teams may not have any use for Sprint Zero procedures.

However, for those organisations that may never have used Scrum before, if you want your regular operational business culture to be ingrained with principles used in agile software development then you will have to start with the concept of Sprint Zero as your tipping off point.

Final Words on Sprint Zero

There are many alternatives to Sprint Zero in agile, however not many are as effective than this process can be when properly executed.

Before businesses and organisations start using Sprint zero they will first need to put in place organisation level processes with the main goals and objectives of sharing as well as crafting a vision, Scrum Team familiarisation and formation, initial product backlog creation, Definition of Ready (DoR) initial version, and Definition of Done (DoD).

An organization that intends to be successful with sprint in agile must fully understand all these processes mentioned above.

Before you go, lets look at another related topic...

What is an iteration backlog in agile?

What is an  iteration backlog in agile?

What is a an iteration backlog? In basic terms, it is smaller portion of the product backlog, it is a collection of activities that are expected to be completed in the next iteration. Ever since its incorporation into many companies, Agile has seen a huge cultural shift with support forums sprouting. It’s a methodology unlike no other, that mainly focuses on splitting of a workforce into several blocks for a more flexible output.

These building blocks, known as Iterations are fixated on a specific time frame for optimum productivity depending on the context of the business. Occasionally, a team may fail to deliver forcing the agenda to be carried forward and hence constituting an Iteration backlog. Here is a more detailed look onto Agile and its Iterations.

What are Iteration goals?

Iteration goals form the core of a business mission statement. In simple terms, a team is tasked to accomplish a set of targets within a specified duration of time. 

These goals may sometimes be demanding and even include backlogs that require prompt completion. Achieving these goals comes directly from the self-driven and organized set of Agile teams.

The drafted set of goals to be accomplished is both beneficial to the Project Management as well as the Agile Release-Train (ART). These constitute a series of teams that deliver solutions to benefit the end user.

Its beneficial to the team in that it will provide a context to be familiarized with, paving way to understanding objectives and cross-referencing with other teams if need be. Furthermore, it directly links the teams with the stakeholders allowing for managing dependencies and approved custom improvements during a program’s execution or update.

In as much as the self-organized teams are responsible for most of the work, Management is still mandated to oversee the course plan. As such, the management will be held accountable the teams value delivery outcomes.

Is Iteration Planning another word for Iteration Backlog?

Iteration Planning is a strategized gathering of the responsible teams to determine ways on how deliver the iteration goals as well as any backlogs that may be due. It is purely based on the team’s capacity as well as the Iteration’s complexity.

Its general purpose is to serve as determined estimation of the Iteration goals. It is much broader and focuses on the past backlogs as well as the upcoming issues. As such, it is a totally different entity.

As part of the management, you are not allowed to interfere with the team’s planning. The scope of the entire operation belongs to the capable team of individuals.

As a matter of fact, the members allowed into the meeting constitute:

  1. The capable team of developers
  2. The scum master whose basic objective is to spearhead the meeting.
  3. The owner of the product under development as well as any other important stakeholder

What is an Iteration Planning Meeting?

This refers to an organized preliminary gathering prior to the Iteration meeting. It is a very crucial gathering as the acceptance criteria and methods of delivery would be discussed.

Before conducting this meeting, you as the product owner are required to ensure the backlog has been assigned a story value. High-story values will be given first priority.

The stories may then be broken down into tasks which are assigned to the most capable members of the team. Sometimes, members may find themselves overtasked while others completely idle.

As such, a further review is recommended to evenly distribute the work. The iteration backlog may be too complex to be successfully delivered in one sitting. It is therefore recommended to solve backlogs by analysis of their story value instead of distributing it among the members.

As a reminder, the split backlog will have to be re assembled and hence it’s advisable to allocate a time frame to achieve this. Here is detailed approach on how to split a complex story value.

What is the goal of this meeting?

While the meeting is geared towards achieving the Iteration goals, you may want to understand its importance and of its other vision and missions. The goals of this meeting are purely specified in the meeting’s agenda and may include:

Complete scrutiny of the available Agenda Released Train tasked with completion of the backlogs and iteration goals.

Drawing out a rough estimate of the time required to analyze each story value and dig deeper into the seeded acceptance criteria.

Reiteration of the products’ vision and roadmap through reminding the members of anything in the foreseeable future.

Addressing new issues and concerns that may influence their overall productivity. These may include timeboxes and working hours required to complete a project.

Record Keeping – This requires precision and concentration on key topics such as the Iteration name, scope and theme of operation.

The stake holders in complete collaboration with the product owner will finally agree on whether to commit to these terms and estimates depending on the team’s capacity. As such budgets get drawn out and the work begins.

What is a “User Story” in Agile?

A user story is an Agile based feature that is able to adapt and create an outlook according to the requirements of the end-user. In simpler terms, it describes the user’s objectives, when he wants to do them and the reasons behind it. 

A good example would be:

  • As a user, I can file a list of orders into related subfolders.
  • As an Administrator, I can choose to authorize transmissions based on customer privileges and modify them if need be.

They are usually short and very descriptive of the task at hand. Preciseness is a valuable key feature in making a user story and it’s usually written from the perspective of the person intending to accomplish something.

They are often written throughout the agile project and added to the product backlog at any time to fit into an Iteration.

Conclusion - Iteration Backlog

Iteration techniques are crucial to the overall success of a business. The Agile software development tool has enabled smoother and more flexible facilitation of story values.

If you really want to get a return value for your money’s worth, it is important to purely base your investment by adhering to the Agile features. Iteration Backlogs can pose a huge threat if not properly addressed. A more capable team should be tasked with simpler tasks to ensure less backlogs.

How Do You Split User Stories in Agile Scrum like a Ninja?

Intro - How to Split User Stories

In the last 16 years, the Agile Scrum methodology has established itself as the top gun in the software development industry. About 71% companies today rely on Agile instead of the older techniques to get things done.

With its streamlined & meticulous processes and emphasis on modularization (User Stories), it has made the software development a more organized task.

Each User Story consists of a feature or functionality that the development team works to implement, in order to address a need of the client.
Let’s look at a few questions that most people are curious about when it comes to splitting the user stories:

What is splitting User stories in Agile Scrum?

Splitting of stories is very much like breaking down a big task into several small tasks. One big story is broken down into several smaller child stories that each play a role in the overall development.

Splitting should be done with the intent of delivering value to the client & making the development process relatively easier.

This is best achieved by writing child stories which target a capability of a feature. A feature is in itself a working unit that can function on its own, and as part of the bigger product. This translates to real and tangible progress for the product and the team. It also means that the team can quickly develop and test, and get feedback on it from the client.

From the development team’s perspective, the thumb rule is to split stories in a way that every sprint has a piece of feature/functionality that can be developed and tested properly.

2. What is Horizontal Splitting?

This approach involves splitting the story in terms of architectural layers. This implies that the entire story would be split on basis of work belonging to different teams: D.B, Front-end/U.I, Back-end, Security, etc.

This kind of splitting results in a situation where the customer can’t have anything useful or worthwhile to go with until everyone working on the different layers finish their respective share of work.

Development involves coordination of different teams (and people) handling different architectural layers. This approach jeopardizes the value& the process, if one team delivers their share of work, but the other doesn’t.

A working feature or functionality requires all layers to be working in tandem. If development is done layer by layer, there is an increase in the overall complexity. Unless one layer is ready, integrated and working fine with the other layer, testers can’t really test anything, thereby creating latency.

What is Vertical Splitting?

This approach to splitting revolves around splitting the entire story into several doable features or functionalities.This results in child-stories which when implemented, work to deliver some tangible result that’s valuable to the client.

A sprint’s worth of work creates substantial value to the client and helps the team in form of feedback that they can use to improve the functionality.

This is argued to be the best way to move ahead, since it implies that with time, the development team is creating usable functionalities or features. These work independently to get something done, and eventually integrate into the system to work with other such functionalities.

This improves the cohesiveness between different members of the development team, because they are all working on things that together contribute to the output. Also, it’s easier for them to coordinate in terms of how their respective share of work integrate.

What is splitting by business rules?

This approaches the splitting exercise based on the business motives/results that a client wants to achieve.

It works as a function of how much time it would take to get something done, and how important it is to the business of the client to get it done. This helps in deciding what’s the most important & urgent requirement, and what can be handled later.

Example: A web-store owner who ships cutlery will have different business rules needed to be implemented, such as:

  1. Customers should be able to pay through different payment options: Credit card, E-wallets, etc.
  2. Every order should automatically create a dossier with shipping information of the customer that can just be printed and attached to the parcel.


Out of these, the more vital need of the business is to be able to accept most payment methods. This ensures that customers wouldn’t be deterred from making a purchase just because their payment method isn’t listed. 
Meanwhile, the slip of the shipping details can easily be created manually.

What is splitting by data Types?

The parameters being accepted and the data types being returned drive the splitting process in this case. Depending on the priority of the data types and parameters that are being handled by the system, the priority of the child-stories is decided.

Thus priority is decided by evaluating which datatype is the most value-deriving in nature and hence most important to the client. 

A story that does similar operation using different data types can be divided into child-stories that individually address each datatype. This way, features can be built-up incrementally to work with more and more kinds of data.

A highly-preferred approach in this splitting strategy is to first integrate data types that are the easiest to process and are used most often, and then with time, build out to include the more complex ones.

Conclusion - Splitting User Stories

We’ve discussed few of the most important & widely used splitting techniques in the industry. You have been presented with some different techniques to make this happen.

It now comes down to you, to decide which method is best for you. Before you go, lets tackle another related topic that has many Agile fans attentions:

Agile User Stories vs Use Cases: Which one is Better?

Agile User Stories vs Use Cases: Which one is Better?

So, Agile User stories vs Use Cases: Which one is better?

Before we answer this, we'll discuss and explain a little bit more about what these approaches entail as well as the difference between the two. First and foremost, User stories are not the same as Use cases

User stories and User cases are not interchangeable. Both have their identified users and both have their own described goals, however, they serve very different purposes.

A User Story largely dwells on the results and benefits of the certain thing you're describing while Use cases are usually more granular and are centered on describing how the entire system will act. 

User stories usually start off pretty similar to Use cases in the sense that they are goal oriented, each has its way of describing how the system is to be used, designed with the user's perspective in mind and uses the businesses natural language.

User Stories In Agile

A User story is basically a small note that records what a user needs or does while they are at work. Each User story usually contains a written short description derived from the user's point of view in their natural language.

The main focus of a User story is to concentrate on the user's needs and not the expected results of the system.

It runs on a 3C's concept. The 3C's is a reference to the three vital aspects of what make up a good User story. These days when people are talking about User stories they're basically referring to a User Story that is made up of these 3 critical components mentioned below.

  • Card: User Stories are usually written as cards. Each card consists of a short sentence that has just enough content to remind all concerned what the stories are all about.
  • Conversation: Continuous conversations between development team members and customers throughout the whole agile software project are how requirements are found and then refined. Important decisions and ideas are usually recorded and discovered during stakeholder meetings.
  • Confirmation: This is the User stories' acceptance criteria. During the requirements discussion, the customers confirm to the analyst under what circumstances and conditions the software would be rejected or accepted.

What is a Use Case

Ivar Jacobson introduced Use Cases more than twenty years ago. Their main goal is to capture the point of view of the user while describing the system's functional requirements. 

This basically means that it describes all the ways the end user wants to use the system. Use cases capture and record all the ways the system and user can interact in order for them to achieve their goals as well as capturing all the variables that could go wrong.

There are various model elements that make up a Use case model system. The most important of them being the Actor, the Use case, and the relationship had between the two.

Use cases normally have detailed specifications. A specification in Use case is a textual description of the systems' functionality. It records Actor-System interaction. This means that it records system responses to user interactions.

The Acceptance Criteria In User Stories

A User story isn't all just about a single sentence affair. An Acceptance Criteria is also drafted by the product owner with the objective of defining User story boundaries as well as the confirmation of when a successful story has been completed and is working as it was intended to. 

Let's take this as your user story example: "As an attendee to the conference, I want to be allowed to register online, so that I can cut down on paperwork and register quickly ". The Acceptance Criteria could probably include:-

  • Registration databases have stored the information found on the form
  • Mandatory fields must be completed before a user can submit their form
  • Spam protection is working
  • Credit card payments can be made
  • Users receiving acknowledgment emails after successfully completing and submitting their forms.

Pros and Cons of User Stories

The Pros: Future of CIO state that a User story is an informal process kick-started by a simple sentence. Those of you that have the desire to add small increments of value, sooner rather than later, in agile, will find user stories to be extremely helpful.

It's not mandatory that the Use story be simple. Using Use stories that operate at a high level will add a little more to your productive planning sessions as well as a different way of adding last-minute functions to your software project.

The Cons: One of the most obvious disadvantages when using User story in Agile is that they usually leave out a ton of details because they rely too much on the conversational method of relaying time and details of development. The documentation is normally not complete upfront which can prove to be very time consuming

Pros and Cons of Use Cases

The Pros: The Agile Machine believes that formalized concepts are slowly phasing out Use cases. Some of the concepts provided when using Use case in agile include; ability to break down problems into subdomains and identifying actors. 

In addition to all this, Boost notes, upfront research that is sometimes required in Use cases can prove to be very helpful to the entire project in general.

The Cons: The fact that Use cases provide such formalized outlines of the project means that they often don't offer much room for project additions and negotiations. This is one of their biggest disadvantages.

Conclusion - User Stories vs Use Cases

All in all, they are both quite impressive. Having knowledge of both these systems may prove invaluable. When you start getting the sense and begin to understand the difference between

Use cases and User stories, you will know what purpose each of them, individually, can serve on your agile project. If your the type that only works with User stories or the one that only uses Use cases, maybe when the next project comes along, after you have completed your planning and risk poker, you can use both of them and see how that works for you.

The better one really depends on what you're working on as well as what you're really planning on achieving.

Best 4 agile Testing Certifications to Slap Your Competition

Best 4 Agile Certifications - Intro

In the agile domain, gaining credentials couldn't have been made easier recently. Why? you ask. Well, there's a large pool of certifications one can choose from in the market at the moment. 

It's even gotten to the point where it can get a bit confusing. Which bring us to the following point, we know when one has to invest time and money on something, anything for that matter, that individual will probably put in a lot of research before he dives into it.

It's no different with certifications and this is why we're here. We want to make things a little easier for you. Agile has basically revolutionised the whole face of project management and software development. This section of the article is mainly about 4 of the best agile testing certifications. below is a list of the certifications you should concentrate on.

01. ISTQB Agile Tester Foundation Level Extension

This is a new certification that has been introduced by the ISTQB. Software testing and development has taken a completely new approach in agile projects as compared to your typically regular software projects. Agile project testers need to now have sufficient understanding of Agile software development processes, testing methodologies and the techniques and tools used in the projects that involve Agile.

Before your eligible to take this exam you must have already acquired ISTQB Foundation Level Certification. The certification exam structure is basically a set of forty multiple choice questions that need to be completed in one hour. For you to pass the exam you'll need to score a minimum of 65 percent.

At the moment, some countries may not have access to the certification, however, you're advised on checking the certification board found in your country.

Taking this certification course will provide you with thorough knowledge of Agile Methodology. Most industries today follow agile processes. Getting this certification will confirm your Agile procedural know how to potential employers in the industry.

02. Certified Agile Tester (CAT) by QA

The Certified Agile Tester course is prepared by the International Quality Software Institute (IQSI) in Germany. It's a five-day course. You train for four days and on the fifth day you take a practical and written exam. 

The ISQI prepares all the training material going to be used for the duration of the course. The course material that is given basically includes; a comprehensive Agile Methodology introduction, comparisons to the traditional methods and the relevance of Agile. It attempts to cover as much as it can in depth.

Its certification examination structure is based on a written and practical exam. In the practical exam, they make you the customer, the team, and the tester. You have to do Iteration planning, take builds, do the retrospective and testing as well as preparing session charts. Kind of what you do in SCRUM

What follows is a theory exam that's quite subjective and no, it's not multiple choice.

For all three assessments, the minimum passing grade is 65 percent. However, candidates are required to get at least 50 percent in all the three individual elements of the exam. Delegates with disabilities or one that doesn't speak English as their first language is usually awarded a fifteen-minute extension.

03. Fundamentals of Agile Certification by ICAgile

If organisations and teams want to be successful in Agile, their foundation and main focus should first be on "being agile". ICAgile's key fundamental learning objectives comprise of vital concepts such as value-driven development, adaptive planning, frequent feedback for continuous growth and team collaboration. 

It also covers Agile's history, the Agile principles, the Agile manifesto and several other of its widely used practices and frameworks. Candidates that take this course come out understanding the core concepts of what Agile is all about.

The broadcast target audience has its eyes on ICP. This is because ICP is not only foundational but is a gateway to many other ICAgile tracks as well. For those of you that may be new to Agile or you"re practitioners who recognise they need to both "do" and "be" agile, then this course is perfect. ICP courses usually include 2 full days of activities and instructions.

04. Certified Scrum Master by Scrum Alliance

Scrum is basically an empirical method management framework that uses frequent inspection junctures to implement changes based on feedback and experience. Scrum has been used and has proved successful since 1994. The dot-com boom that was known to be highly competitive was its stomping ground. Many companies that have experienced tremendous growth during this time such as Salesforce and Google, have still continued using Scrum.

It all revolves around simple process framework that empowers individuals to higher performances where management takes a more leadership based school of thought rather than a directive approach, supporting multi-disciplined teams that are small in nature and removing any obstacles that prevent them from achieving their goals.

When you successfully complete the two-day course you'll be eligible to take Scrum Alliance's CSM assessment. Once you successfully complete this test you become a Certified ScrumMaster by Scrum Alliance. This is accompanied by a Scrum Alliance 2 year membership. Real examples are used in the course to discuss approaches, options and implications a ScrumMaster needs to always have in mind when dealing with development team members, stakeholders and product owners that are not well versed with Scrum.

Conclusion - Best Agile Certifications

All in all, Agile practitioners look to have a bright future ahead. There is literally no better time than right now to get started with your journey into the Agile realm. All the critical certification options mentioned above can place you on the road to success along the Agile career path.

There's no doubt that there are numerous other certification courses other than the ones highlighted in this article, however, the ones mentioned above are some of the best money can buy, that are available on the market at the moment. However, it goes without saying that as a professional you'll still need to make a wise call and have a slight idea of what you're looking for. It generally all starts with you.

If you decide to focus on the ISQTB Agile Certification extension to start with, we have some further tips for you here:

Where to Unlock the best ISTQB Agile Tester Extension Certification Dumps?


Unlock the best ISTQB Agile Tester Extension Certification Dumps

Where to find these dumps

If you are looking for the best Agile exam dumps or mock exams, you can find some here:

Almost every decent software development company today follows the Agile methodology to get things done. While the weekly sprints impart all the practical knowledge, there’s still a growing emphasis on certifications to get the theory right. 

ISTQB provides the option for taking the widely accepted certification for Agile Testers. This certification is considered de facto in terms of knowledge & reliability and opens doors to go for more advanced levels of expertise in the domain.

However, most people may be left with a bad taste in the mouth, since there’s hardly any time left to study after an entire day of work in the office. For addressing the same, the concept of Agile Tester Extension-Certification Dumps was introduced.

The relevant material is available in the form of books authored by people who’ve been in the Testing industry for many years, and courses that cover the nuances of the topics concerning the Agile methodology.

Let’s look at a few basic questions that are frequently asked by people who are pursuing the certification:

What is the entry criteria for the Agile-Extension Course?

  1. The Agile Extension course requires a person to be certified in the Foundation level course by ISTQB.
  2. The Foundation level certification itself requires that a person should have at least 6 months of experience working as a professional tester.
  3. While there is no hard and fast criterion relevant to this, there are two camps of people who typically take the extension course:
    • People looking to learn about Agile from scratch:
      If you are starting out from scratch, the entire course proves a boot-camp, since you discover everything from the very beginning. These are people who have started out new in the industry, or a looking to add to their expertise.
    • People with prior experience with Agile:
      This provides leverage in making the best out of this course. This is because the practical implementation of Agile in your work methodology sets you up for a better understanding of how things are supposed to be done.

Are there any books that can help me prepare?

Yes, there are. A very comprehensive document prepared by ISTQB is where you can start your preparation from.

This is a pretty solid resource since it covers all the boundaries of Agile. Right from the basics of Agile testing – terminologies as well as explanation, their importance, it moves to skills, methods, and lists down tools which come handy in the process of Agile testing.

People who have cleared the exam have recommended books like:

  • Agile-Testing & More Agile-Testing by Janet Gregory and Lisa Crispin. The authors have substantial experience working in the testing domain and have provided insights that the textbook documents and syllabus may have missed.

If you are looking for alternate means of learning, there are online courses & videos which provide this knowledge, like this one:


Further, there are other books that are favoured greatly by users. They’ve been discussed below in detail.


Is the Agile Testing Foundations-Book by Rex Black & Gerry Coleman any Good?

By popular opinion, Yes. Most readers of the book have agreed that the book serves as a one-stop solution for anyone pursuing the Agile Tester-Extension Certification.

The book is neatly divided into sections that address all the concepts. Further, all the concepts are elucidated in a language that’s both easy to follow and effective.

Definitions and important concepts are highlighted, and this makes visiting specific parts according to the need of the hour a walk in the park.

The concept of Continuous evaluation and assessment is thoroughly practiced throughout the book, in form of sample questions at the end of each chapter. You get to pit your knowledge of concepts against the questions very often and this helps in tracking your progress.

Is the Sample Exam-Questions Agile-Book by Chhavi Raj-Dosaj any Good?

Chhavi Raj Dosaj is considered a reliable name in the world of literature concerning the Software Testing. His experience of over 17 years working with Fortune 500 has been consolidated into a single book. 

The book features questions that impart knowledge beyond the confines of the syllabus. This proves to be a boon for anyone who is looking not just to clear the exam, but also to extract maximum knowledge on the subject.

One of the highlights of the book is that each question is accompanied by the answers and the explanation behind the right answer and the wrong ones. Deviation of the interpretation of concepts from reality can prove fatal to your attempt at the certification exam. This approach taken by the author takes the guesswork and speculation out of the equation. Hence, you can understand the subtle details of concepts.

Can you take this ISTQB Agile-Testing Course Extension Online?

Yes, you can. ISTQB doesn’t directly provide these certifications. Instead, they’ve authorised training companies to provide these certification training and conduct the examinations.

You can take the certification training both in physical attendance and online, depending on the facility provided by the training company you choose to go with.

Every geographical location has certain companies that have been authorised to provide these certifications, and you can take the certification &examination with them.

Conclusion

In the pursuit of knowledge, we come across many such questions. Hence, we understand the importance of having the right and reliable advice on these matters. We hope that whenever you appear for the Agile Tester Extension Certification exam, you ace it.

However, it’s important to realise and understand that in the pursuit of betterment and progress, one shouldn’t be limited to books & syllabuses surrounding a certification. It’s important to look for forums where discussions related to Agile methodology’s implementation happen. That’s where you’ll find the most relevant and updated advice after you’ve exhausted the books.

As always, we’re open to discuss our points and answer any questions that you may have. If you got the answers you are looking for, and know someone who could use these answers – share this page with them! 


What is the Agile Burndown Chart Used For?

So, What is the Burndown Chart Used For?

A burndown chart is a representation of work to do versus the time. It is often used in scrum, which is an agile software development methodology. People always ask the difference between the burnup and burndown the chart. 

A burndown chart will show you how much work is left to be done for the project while a burnup chart will show you the amount of work that has already been done and the total amount of work left. In a burndown chart, the X represents the number of days while the Y represents the remaining effort.

A burndown chart will show a team its performance on a project nada to show how each individual is contributing towards it. It is simple to create and use hence very effective.

It also provides you with the time that the project might take and the amount of work that the team needs to do in order to achieve their goal. I decided to take through the agile burn down chart because I believe so many people are in need of understanding how it works. It is also advantageous to those who use it hence maybe you can grasp a few tips from here.

The 8 Components of the Agile Burndown Chart 

  1. Time (Horizontal Axis)
    This is the X axis which represents the number of days and therefore this is time used. The graph could either show twenty-one days or three 7-days sprints.

    Burn down charts are capable on reflection information of the entire project or even a single sprint( run at full speed over a short distance). Depending on your team, create a good plan showing the number of days available for the sprint to be released.

  2. Work Remaining (Vertical Axis)
    Tasks are estimated by the amount of work that is left to do. If you wish to learn more about time used by tasks in an agile burndown task using a technique called Fibonacci sequence, you can go to http://elearningindustry.com/charts and get all the information there.

    Estimation of time can also be in story points and there should be a start and ending point. Also for easy interpretation, you can plan in dates instead of days.

  3. Starting Point
    The overall number of points in a project is what we call starting point. In case you want to calculate the overall estimated effort, you can simply do so by adding up the column of the estimated effort.

    In this stage, you can decide the effort you want to be used during the project per day hence ensuring the effectiveness of the plan.

  4. Finishing Points
    For example, you plan on running your day for 52 days and you have 4 IT personnel who should give you at least 80% efficiency of their work hence the work should be over in 52 divide by 4 then divide by 0.8% hence the work should be over in about 16 days.

    The end of a project is acquired by the division of the number of tasks, a number of members and estimated factor.

  5. Tasks Remaining
    This is a line which shows the time when the sums began to be done up to the time when the members finished the project.

    It is not necessarily based on the expectation but the tasks required to be executed per day. If your team is keen on this, then go ahead and calculate the sum of estimated effort total efforts of the project.

    For instance, 52 tasks which are expected to be done in 16 days come down to an average of 3 per day by the end of the project

  6. Actual Tasks Remaining
    With time, you will be able to tell the actual tasks that a team can do. This can vary from time to time as you keep doing tasks daily. You can estimate actual effort again to get the accurate time needed to complete a task.

    If your estimation gave you 10 hours for a single task then you work 8 hours in a day it means only 2 hours of effort remaining. So now you actually realize that you need 4 hours for a task to be completed hence, the remaining actual effort for a task is 4 hours.

  7. Ahead of Schedule
    When actual work is below the estimated time, it means that your team is ahead of the schedule because they are completing more tasks. If more efforts are added then there will be a change in the actual effort.

  8. Behind Schedule
    Being behind schedule means that your team is doing less work than what was estimated. This is evident if the actual work completed is below the estimated.

    However, the agile burndown chart is meant to help you plan and estimate and not an accurate outcome. Although if your team is too slow you can always go back and plan again in order to get results that are close to accurate.

Common Mistakes

  • Confusing actual remaining effort and actually spent effort - this may happen sometimes to new members. Make sure you clarify.
  • Using Too Big Tasks: If a task is big, break it down into small tasks in order to achieve more accurate results. Do not estimate large tasks.
  • Unrealistic remaining effort: Be honest with yourself when estimating actual remaining effort.

Another relevant topic is the Niko-Niko calendar, heard of it? Well, here is a break down of it:

What is a Niko-Niko Calendar in Agile?

niko-niko calendar agile

So, What is the Niko-Niko Calendar?

Many people have been asking lately, what is a Niko-Niko calendar in Agile? Well, it's a practice in the Agile industry which aims at monitoring patterns of change of your team's mood over time.

The technic used is really not that hard. All it requires is that daily, after work, every team member should paste a sticker on designated calendar to highlight how their day went while they were at work. Whether it was good, or whether it was bad.

What this will basically mean, for those days when you might have had a bad day and felt really unproductive, you are to place a red faced sticker on that date.

After a while, you will begin to notice some colours being more dominant than the others. This will give you a little insight of the mood your team is generally in.

Expected Benefits of the Niko-Niko Calendar

Most experts will tell you that besides providing you with a little extra evidence and confirmation of how some certain employees, you may have suspected of being miserable feel, it's not really that much helpful beyond that.

Some will go as far as saying that the NIko-Niko Calendar promotes a detrimental effect to your employee morale.

Truth is though, the Niko-Niko Calendar can sometimes prove to be a great opportunity for reflection and at amazingly fast rate at that, too. You'll get immediate feedback from small changes you've made like altering the workplace environment and so on.

In case the change was good, you'll notice the mood of your team lightened up. In case the change was bad, well, you'll get to know that too, as painful as that might be sometimes.

Another special thing about this technic is that the team will also get the immediate feedback concerning matters of the work environments general mood. Basically, they will also get to know how the colleagues around them feel.

Another great thing about the Niko-Niko Calendar is that it acts as a good complement to other metric systems you might be already using around the workplace such as lead time, bugs, velocity and so on. They help make you aware of the mood your team is in for better reflection. They happen to be extremely fast when it comes to

indicating problems, are easy to set up and ready for use within no time. Aside from all this, they are a good way of making your employees feel valued as well as recognized.

Common Pitfalls of the Calendar 

As with all activities that include retrospectives whereby employees are requested to report their personal subjective feelings, it's unfortunate, but self-censorship will always prove to be a very big risk you'll have to account for.

One example is where an employee is being blamed for "whining" if they so happen to report poor days, eventually deciding not to record their true feelings. Below are some of the most common disadvantages of the Niko-Niko Calendar:

  1. The Kindergarten Feel To It: This is sort of self explanatory, right? Asking an adult to indicate how they feel by drawing faces on a chart daily will, inevitably, make them feel like they are kindergarteners.

    While some will most likely not have a problem with it, they will certainly be a few members of your team that will have a major issue with it. They already have a lot to do. Making their responsibilities more trivial than they need to be could certainly have a negative effect.
  2. People Have More Than 3 Emotions: This technic gives tools that allow its users to report one of three possible feelings. In a perfect world, this might just work, but unfortunately that's not the case.

    We all know life is nowhere that simple. The tools provided are just not versatile enough to give managers completely accurate emotional data.
  3. Employees Experience Emotions Differently: Emotions are usually more or less intangible. No two people experience the exact same emotions. They may indicate they're happy for two completely different reasons and the managers have no way of knowing what these reasons are.

Origins of the Niko-Niko Calendar

The "Project Retrospective" by Norman Keith, released in 2001, described many kinds of visualisations. Among them was the "Energy Seismograph", which can be taken as the forerunner for what is now known to everyone as the Niko-Niko Calendar.

Akinori Sakata, in 2006, became the first to officially describe this sort of calendar in his web article. He first referred to it as Nicocare where the tools to be provided were meant to measure both the safety and morale of your employees.

They tried everything and then finally decided that they will use sticker faces on a calendar to help measure one's moods, and thus, the Niko-Niko calendar was born.

Is It an Effective Way of Tracking Your Team's Mood?

With all that's been said and done, the Niko-Niko technic can be a way for managers to effectively track their employees moods. It may not produce the most accurate results, however, it can still provide more than enough information nonetheless.

This method makes tracking moods a little easy and can tell you what makes your employees happy so you can continue to do more of the same.

By checking the moods of your team members regularly, using this process, you will eventually manage to establish a calendar track of your employees' moods.

This information can prove priceless to manager, especially those handling agile projects. Niko-Niko happens to be the Japanese idiophone of a smile. Tracking metrics that affects productivity and performance is vital in the Agile industry.

Final Words on the Niko-Niko Calendar

A lot of things are tracked during the course of an Agile project. These include such things as lead time, bugs, velocity etc. Finding a way to effectively track those metrics will help you and your team identify problems early and much faster. Without them, you might find it very hard to improve the standards of your work environment.

The faster you're able to identify that information, the quicker you'll be able to analyze it, look to the future and steer your project operations in the right direction. It's all to do with tightening your feedback loop.

5 Ways to Use LinkedIn for a Killer Contractors Profile

Intro

I receive a lot of requests for advice on how to create profiles that will increase your visibility, connections, and ultimately, the chances of scoring more contracts. As a contractor myself, I know how hard it can be when you lack connections or if you don’t know how to highlight selling points.

I got to thinking about how I present myself. I haven’t updated any of the information on my LinkedIn profile for at least two years. After doing research to improve my online business profile, I realised that a lot of other people could use the help. So here are 5 ways to use LinkedIn for a killer contractor’s profile.

01. Building Your Connections Increases Your Business Prospects 

Building connections through networking is time well spent. You must connect online as well as face-to-face, because those two vehicles are interconnected. LinkedIn is one of the best platforms in which to start.

Searches

Do you know exactly how much building relationships within social media matters? As you use LinkedIn, work to increase the number of your first level connections. Because of the associations, your second and third level connections will always include your name in searches.

Trust 

Connections provide leads. If I need advice or help, I go to people I can trust or the people they trust. Make yourself available to referrals. Work on establishing trust with others too. Connections are more than just stepping stones to success. They’re give and take relationships without hidden motives.

Contact 

Make a list of your business friends and relationships. Which ones are you taking for granted? Do something that shows them you remember the connection, whether that means offering a discount or providing a shining review of their services.

2. Keeping Your Profile Up to Date 

Updating your LinkedIn profile requires more thought than I suspected. You want to demonstrate what new skills you’ve acquired recently, but there are other items to consider.

SEO Optimisation 

Using keywords in your profile is a given, but search engines are keenly aware of the overuse of words to drive up a company’s visibility. Use them intelligently and strategically, particularly in your headline.

Instead of “Information Technology Specialist,” go for “Expert IT and Linux Professional.” It’s more precise.

Complete Content: 

LinkedIn asks members a lot of questions about ourselves, our work experience, our hobbies, and our goals. Take advantage of every opportunity it gives you to share information about you and your work.

Involvement: 

Add professional groups to your profile. It shows you stay current within your line of work. When you receive a new certificate, update your profile. Ask for endorsements from people who are familiar with your work. Give then one or two keywords to use. Specific endorsements raise your visibility.

3. Socialise with Other LinkedIn Users

Don’t worry, I don’t mean meeting up at a local coffee shop. It’s about posting to millions of people and posting to the ones who are interested in hearing from you. You’re creating your brand.

Links: 

Most people appreciate information that is practical, well-written, and provides tools or tips of some sort. When you read through online trade magazines or see an interesting article, share the link. Comment on what you found useful. Ask for opinions. This engages people.

Comment: 

Comment on the articles other people post on LinkedIn’s News Feed. Share your opinion on the information. One thing you’ll notice in doing this is other people will respond to your comments. When that’s the case, ask to connect. The worst they can say is no.

Read about what your connections are doing. If someone has a work anniversary, congratulate them. It’s a great, unobtrusive way to reconnect to somebody with whom you haven’t spent time.

Articles: 

One effective way to tell the world about your skills is by contributing articles. LinkedIn allows you to publish your own articles on their forum. Writing about your abilities isn’t enough, though.

People are always asking “WIIFM?” (What’s in it for me?) Offer useful advice in your article or a tip on how to do something more easily. Give yourself props at the end, including your contact information. If you act like an expert, and sound like an expert, people will go to the expert.


4. Update Your Status When You are Available 

Everyone knows how to share your status on other social media platforms. You take pictures, you send funny memes, or say a few words about your day. LinkedIn is different.

News Feed: 

News Feed is a simple way to give and receive all types of information. The drawback is that the information can often be too general or unrelated to your field of interest or those who want to know about your work. Posting articles will get you attention, but there’s a way you can narrow down your target audience.

Groups: 

Update your status within your groups. The groups you list on your profile should be related to the work you do and your various business interests. If you’re in marketing, become a follower of marketing companies and join groups associated with marketing.

When you update your status and share it with people in these specific groups, they’re more likely to be interested in what you have to say than other people reading the News Feed. If you ask an opinion, people respond more quickly, and it can even result in a quick chat via IM.

5. Maintain a Very Visible Profile 

Keeping a highly visible profile on LinkedIn can feel like a full-time job, but it doesn’t have to be.

Schedule: 

Set aside time specifically for connecting through LinkedIn. Spend an hour on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays commenting on posts and articles, updating your status, and posting your own articles.

Analytics: 

Use LinkedIn’s analytic tools to find the best times to post. It will tell you when to limit your activity and when your post is likely to get the most traffic, readers, and responses.

Face Time: 

If you want people to take you seriously, be serious about yourself. Invest in getting a professional photograph. A good one won’t cost more than $100, if that. Wear the type of clothing that would inspire you to hire yourself and smile.

Summaries: 

Make sure you complete the summary field within your profile. Many people skip doing this, because they believe just attaching a resume will say everything. Providing a resume is smart but using the summary field to list five of your biggest achievements makes people take notice.

Final Words on Setting Up Your Killer LinkedIn Contractor Profile

I used to think I’d done everything I could to make my CV and Linked in Profile shine. I know now that there’s more to it than a good heading and a nifty picture. If increasing the visibility of your LinkedIn profile sounds like a lot of effort, remember that it does produce results. Right now, there are over 11 million jobs.

What Does IR35 Mean?

Intro: So, What Does IR35 Mean to Me?

Before April 2000, as a self-employed worker, you could receive direct payments, and you were allowed to use your company revenue as any small company would do. 

In addition, company profits were not subjected to National Insurance payments; hence, profits could be distributed as dividends.

Moreover, you could set up a family business by splitting ownership of your company with family members and you would be able to save tax in all these cases. Due to the introduction of IR35, all these privileges were aborted.


Why Was IR35 Introduced?

IR35 was legislation introduced by HMRC (Her-Majesty’s Revenue & Customs) with the ultimate goal of stamping out any form of tax evasion, which was considered as fraud or abuse of the tax system. It was designed to tax the workers referred to as "disguised employees". Therefore, under IR35, they were considered as being employed. For instance, if you were receiving payments via an intermediary and you are being paid directly by your client, you would be considered as an employee.

IR35 was established to prevent workers from evading tax by setting up limited companies through which they would work effectively. Hence, to correct this anomaly, HM Revenue and Customs was set up to scrutinize any contractual arrangement between the worker’s company and the client’s so as to ensure that normal employment rules are applied.

This was so that every payment made to the worker’s company would be appropriately taxed. In addition, setting up family companies was also countered by the IR35 legislation. Consequently, company profits were subjected to National Insurance payments, hence, profits could not be distributed as dividends.

What Does It Mean To Be Outside IR35?

If you are running your own business and you heard about IR35, I know you would like to know if the IR35 legislation applies to you. The IR35 legislation applies to any worker, who supplies services through a registered private limited company or in partnership, receives payments directly from the client and pays himself dividends. Therefore, if you fall into this category of workers, IR35 applies to you so you are inside IR35. Otherwise, you are outside IR35.

Being inside IR35, you would be paying taxes as an employed worker. If you are outside IR35, you are not liable to paying tax as an employed worker pays it. Therefore, you are free to choose your payment method, either in form of salary or as dividends. Else, you may choose to be paying yourself a combination of salary and dividends.

Perhaps, you are outside IR35 if you registered your business on your own person but not the company account. However, this question may be difficult to answer explicitly. Therefore, try to consult HMRC guidance(https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-employment-status-for-tax) to determine whether you are outside or inside IR35.

What Is Mutuality Of Obligation In IR35?

While addressing Employment Status disputes, the term Mutuality of Obligation is a common phrase that is always considered. If it is established that there is Mutuality of Obligation between an employee and the employer, the employer is under obligation to provide work for the employee.

On the other hand, the employee is also obliged to accept the work. Therefore, the employee is entitled, under obligation, to be expecting and accepting work from the employer until the contract is made redundant or they both agree to end the contract.

Under this condition, IR35 is being challenged and failing because the IR35 legislation can only be effective if there is Mutuality of Obligation between the contractor and the client, i.e. if a contract of service exists, the contractor is considered employed. If contract of service agreement cannot be established, the contractor is considered to be self-employed; and hence, outside IR35.

Therefore, if there is no Mutuality of Obligation between you and your client, you are outside IR35. Establishing this status is so complex as a result of this complexity, you are advised to seek professional legal advice to review your contract reviewed for IRS before entering into any contractual agreement.

What Is Substitution In IR35 And What Does It Mean?

The right of substitution is a major factor used to establish IR35 employment status. The right of Substitution is a legal term which gives a contractor the ability to send someone with the same skill or service experience to complete a contract. For instance, once you are providing a service and you are not employed, you can send another contractor with the same experience, who is able to provide the same service, to take your place.

Once you include the clause, “Right of Substitution”, in your contractual agreements, you may be helping your chances of remaining outside of IR35. Conversely, if the clause is not in your contractual agreement, there is a strong chance you are inside it.

However, this may not be valid in some contract cases. However, for this clause to be considered valid, the following key factors must be present in the contract:

  • The client agrees to it.
  • The contractor must be ready to pay for the substitute.
  • It must be an unrestricted right.

What Is Control in IR35 And What Does It Mean?

According to HMRC, as a contractor, you are inside IR35 if you are deemed to be subject to control if your client is instructing you on what work you should do and how you should perform the task. In addition, you are under IR35 Control, if they also have the power to transfer you from one job position to a different job.

However, this rule is ambiguous. For instance, as a building contractor, a client gives you a building plan design which you cannot do but follow to the letter or a client set up a rendezvous for the contract agreement, and you must be present at the location and at the given time. Therefore, are you under control?

However, if you will be found by the HMRC to be under control you will have to be under the supervision, direction and control of your clients, then you are inside IR35. For further clarification on the term “control”, you will have to consult HMRC IR35 Guidance.

Once you understand all of the above-stated IR35 rules, conditions and terms, you will be able to figure out whether you are under IR35 or outside IR35, and you will know what to do if you are under IR35 so as to avoid facing any legal sanction.

In addition, as a contractor, you will know how to approach your lawyer for professional legal advices while you are setting up a contract agreement with a client. Nevertheless, we are here to help you out.

Another important rule to consider, is the 24 month rule...

What Is The Contractor 24 Month Rule That Affects Subsistence?



Contractor 24 month rule subsistence


As a contractor, while you are setting up a contractual agreement, there are some contract rules you need to be conversant with and understand before you seal the deal. One of the most important aspects of the contract rules you need to clarify is the Contractor 24 Month Rule.

For instance, if you are incurring travel expenses in moving from your place to your client’s site, you need to know what the 24 Month Rule means, if it applies to you and if you can legitimately claim any travel cost.I hope you have some questions. Here, we have covered the ground for you.

Does this affect me if I leave and come back?

If you are travelling to your workplace and coming back, for you to know if the rule affects you or not, you have to understand the following:

01. The Meaning of the 24-Months Rule

This rule determines whether a workplace will be considered as a permanent or temporary workplace. So if you are working for your client in a temporary workplace, this rule applies to you.

According to HMRC’s EIM32075 a temporary workplace is defined as a workplace that a contractor visits for a limited period of time to perform a task or any other temporary purposes.

However, if the employee visits the place for a continuous task that lasts for, at least more than 24 months, the workplace will be considered a permanent workplace. Hence, in this case, the Contractor 24-month Rule is not applicable; see Section 339(3)ITEPA 2003 of HMRC’s Rule.

02. Workplace Transition Rule

In addition, if you are working continuous and there is a change of workplace in the course of the contract but it has no substantial effect on your journey to work; such a workplace will be taken as the same workplace. 

For instance, if a client changes the workplace of a contractor from Edinburgh to London, there will be a deduction in the cost of travelling from home to the new workplace. Conversely, if the workplacesare is treated as one, no deduction will be done (see EIM32280 and EIM32089).

However, in most cases, it is difficult to establish a change of workplace but the basic principle is that a change in a workplace is only recognised if the change has a very minimal effect:

  1. On the journey of the contractor has to make to get to the new workplace,
  2. more importantly, on the cost of that journey.

What happens after 24 months?

If your client’s workplace is a temporary workplace as defined by the Contractor 24-month Rule, you are covered by the rule to legitimately claim your incurred travel expenses.

Otherwise, you have nothing to claim. For instance, if you are living in London and you are working for a client at a workplace in London, and it takes you 25 months to complete the task while moving from your home to the workplace there, you cannot claim any expenses incurred on transport because the site will be treated as your permanent workplace having worked there for more than 24 months.

However, if you worked at the place for less than 24 months, you are eligible to be paid for transport.

Does this also affect accommodation?

Yes, the same rule that covers the travel expenses also covers accommodation cost. 

According to the HMRC’s Contractor 24-month Rule, since you are eligible to claim transport expenses, you may be able to claim accommodation expenses, once your workplace is treated as a temporary workplace. 

Conversely, if your workplace is treated as a permanent workplace, you may not be able to claim any expenses for accommodation. Like in the example above, you may be eligible to be paid accommodation expenses by your employer for travelling to Manchester to work.

As a matter of fact, accommodation claims are not clearly stated in the HMRC Contractor 24-Month Rule, this claim is only being placed on the logic that there will surely be a change in the cost of accommodation due to the temporary change in the workplace. Therefore, a contractor may not be able to win this case if he takes to court.

What is the 40% percent rule?

This HMRC’s rule decides whether a contract will be treated as a continuous work or not. According to this rule, the period of work will be treated as a period of continuous work if you performed your duties to a significant extent. The term “significant extent”is determined by the percentage of time you spent as contractor at a workplace.

If the time you spent at the place amounts to 40% or more of your working time (Section 339(3) I.T.E.P.A 2003), your contract at the workplace is treated as continuous work, hence you cannot legitimately claim any incurred travel expenses.

For instance, you live in London and work for a client at a workplace in London, but at a point, your client begins to send you to work in Manchester for 1 and half days in a week, and this continues for a period 25 months.

Since the time you have spent at the site in Manchester is less than 40% of your working time, the workplace is treated as a temporary workplace.

Therefore, you are eligible to claim your full travel cost from your client but not for the rest of the week you spent working in London because travelling between your home and your workplace in London will be considered as ordinary commuting (see EIM32086).

Can I claim Lunch as a contractor?

Just like the accommodation claim, contractors are also debating that change in the workplace, though temporary, might have a significant effect on the lunch expenses and that they incur more expenses on lunch than working in their permanent workplace.

This claim is also not included in the HMRC’s Contractor 24-Month Rule. Hence, a contractor may not be able to proceed with this case in the court as it could be treated as a void claim.

As a contractor, these are some of the rules you need to understand and put into consideration before you seal a contract with a client so that you may be able to avoid any future misunderstandings. Nevertheless, if you are still incurring travel expenses, you are sure that you are working in a temporary workplace and not working continuously according to the Contractor 24-month Rule, you can legitimately claim your incurred expenses from your client.

Another important thing to consider, to protect yourself is insurance, lets discuss this further in the next section....

What insurance do i need for IT contracting so I can Sleep at night?

what insurance do i need for contracting

As much of an IT expert as you may be, there are always things that are beyond your control and might go awry. Contracts may go wrong for a variety of reasons and you, as a professional, have to be thoroughly prepared in case that happens.

That’s where IT contracting insurances comes into play: with a tiny investment,
you can protect yourself, your business and even your reputation –the core of
an independent contractor-.

And being as important as it is, I’ve found that insurance is sadly one of the most overlooked aspects of our career for several reasons: simply not knowing how insurances works, how expensive are they, if they are legally required, or even believing that insurance implies that you can do a subpar job without nothing really happening.

I’ve thought that myself! But there’s a great peace of mind you have when you can rest assured that nothing bad will happen to you if something fails on the other end of the contract or if the unexpected appears, which on this era of hacking and information leaks is always a possibility. In this article, I’ll run you through the basics of IT insurance and you’ll learn how many types and options are out there on the market, and you’ll certainly find one that suits your needs.

Questions and answers

1. Why should I bother with insurance?


The real question is “why shouldn’t you?”. Far from being a bother or a burden,
insurance companies can cover you for everything you think of: from
unintentional contract breaches, confidence breaches, infringement of
intellectual property rights, defamation from unsatisfied clients or even past
unknown mistakes.

Given our field of work, we are not failsafe –no one truly is at anything, we may work with technology but we’re humans after all– and the cost of giving bad advice or applying not-quite-accurate techniques is way too high for an independent worker.

And as you well know, there are pros and cons of working independently: while you are your own boss and you are ready to face the uncertainty between contracts, all possible mistakes that goes from technical to human ones, or even when clients have only you to blame and not an abstract company you work for should concern you.

Insurance companies provides you legal professional representation, indemnity insurances and even public liability insurance, in case something bad happens and you need them the most.

Trust me: as the saying goes, no one should leave home –or sign a contract– without it.

2. Is insurance needed by law?


While technically not mandatory by law if you work on your own, it quickly becomes obvious that you should put some serious thought into it. If you happen to work alone, you may have faced on the verge of signing a contract insurance is not required by law but is a contractual obligation. So why not think ahead and go for it?

I should say that it doesn’t only feel safe, but it also looks good: most agencies nowadays consider insurance as a quality measure and is slowly gaining the status of best practice.

Ranging from 1 to 10 million pounds of cover, this type of policies are not something to be overlooked. Besides, if you employ people, even if you work from home, there’s a chance you may actually be legally forced to do so. It should be noted that Employer’s Liability Act from 1969 states that there are a few exemptions: if you are the sole employee of a company and own more than half of the shares, and if you run a family business and all your employees are close relatives.

3. What is IR35 insurance?


Let’s start from the beginning: IR35, as discussed earlier in this article, is a specific set of rulings that affects all contractors that HRMC doesn’t qualify as self employed. It should really matter to you, since it can truly cripple your future: it states that you’ll face increased taxes and National Insurance liabilities in an effort to stop contractors from working as disguised employees. 

The truth is HRMC is unclear, to say the least, as to which contractors could fall under IR35 hammer. With this level of ambiguity, IR35 insurances are special and handy policies that will assure you that you won’t be facing a potential investigation all alone. 

HRMC can be a hard enquirer, so insurance companies thought of two different
insurance policies you should absolutely check. The first one is called defence only, which will cover basic tax enquiries and legal management in case that dreaded letter arrives at your door steps: legal experts will handle that matter for you.

The other one is named comprehensive and it doesn’t only cover
legal fees, but also any liability in case HRMC believes you should be held up
to IR35 ruling.​

Since those demands can be in the order of the tens of thousand pounds, in my
opinion it’s better to be safe than sorry, and can also be an indicator of you
actually working on your own business, which a lot of your potential clients
might consider a good sign.


4. What level of cover is really needed?

The answer to this question depends on your contract and the risk assessment. However, working on the IT field and handling sensitive information, I recommend at the very least Professional Indemnity Insurance, Public Liability and some sort of IR35 insurance (defence only or comprehensive).

The first one will protect you if you give advice that results in a financial loss to your client and the second one will cover you in case someone is injured or their property gets damaged as a result of your business. Besides, if you plan to run a company, even the smallest one will require Employers Liability Insurance as a legal obligation.

And why shouldn’t you think about it? If you are working independent you want to growing as much as possible, and being safe and prepared is the best way to do so.

5. What different types of Contractor Insurances are there?

Besides the ones we’ve already discussed, there’s a great variety of insurances to keep you safe from harm. In my opinion, being IT contractors, an IT equipment and laptop insurance should be mandatory: it covers you in case your trusty laptop breaks down and you have to replace it, or even if it gets lost or stolen.

Another interesting choice are Business Interruption insurance covers, that helps you in case you have to stop doing business for unforeseen reasons, such as damages to your equipment or buildings, protecting you from financial losses.

You should also consider Cyber and data risks insurance that protects you in case hackers breach into your system and leaks sensitive information, providing you legal representation and much needed reputation protection. And being an independent contractor, an Income Protection Cover is important to cover you in case you have to take some time off in case of illness or an accident.


Final Words on Contractor Insurance

The way I see it, insurances are an independent contractor’s much needed safety net: you don’t want to fall, but what happens if you do? After all those well-known scandals concerning information leaks and security breaches, IT field of work is in the eye of the public storm, and to make it worst, small companies and independent workers are more likely to be targeted by malicious hackers.

I find extremely useful to have an insurance policy in case unforeseen things go
wrong, and I believe no IT contractor should sign a contract without them. I
hope this article was useful to you and guide you towards making the safest
decision to keep your business running smoothly. What do you think about it?
Let me know in the comments if you liked it and feel free to share it with all
your colleagues.

Why Do IT Contractors Earn So Damn Much?

Why do IT contractors earn so much? The Short Answer

Contractors are seen as a short term investment with no employee benefits and limited rights. If your client wants to get rid of you, within reason you are gone.

Therefore, even though they seem that they are over paid, from a companies perspective, we are disposable assets, that they can bring in and get rid of based on project demand.

More Reasons Why

A question we want to comprehensively tackle in this article. If this is something you've been thinking about lately, well then, lucky for you because you happen to be just at the right place.

The main reason why contractors earn so much is because they charge more for their services than employees do. This is largely because contractors take on more risk due to the fact that they don't have secured full time positions, have other considerations like IR35, and have overheads they need to satisfy because they are self employed. 

These overheads include the likes of income protection, insurance, unpaid holidays, critical illness, sickness downtime, unpaid holidays etc.

Another reason why they cost so much is because they have to consider "Bench Time". This is the period when a contractor has completed one assignment and is looking for another.

Undoubtedly, the most expensive part of the contractors life. Below we'll be determining which option really costs more.

Contractors Lack Of Holiday or Sick Pay

contractors lack of holiday pay

Contrary to popular belief, it seems that the benefits factor doesn't really change much when it comes to permanent and contractual employment. Permanent employees get their dues even when on holiday, however the one with contractual payment doesn't.

Assuming the contractor and employee receives the same amount of holiday time, this eventually cancels out because the company accounts for the same cost yearly when making there payments.

When matters of sick pay are involved, most employers protect themselves by taking out some form of insurance. These costs are normally factored into the salary the employee is paid and accounts for an average risk level.

You, as a contractor, can get the exact same insurance these companies use, of which will align to your risks as you see fit and at a considerably lower fee at that.

General Contractor Expense Claims

A cost that is incurred exclusively and wholly because of your independent contractor business can be written off as a business expense. This basically means getting tax reliefs on these said costs.

Claiming these business expenses, some of which we are going to list for you below, could greatly reduce your tax bill, so you might want to understand them a bit if your thinking of getting into the contracting business.

  1. Occupational Operating  Expenses: The costs incurred for advertising your product, service or yourself will fall under this category. Internet services and web hosting fees can also be included here. The same will apply in business card production, phone line bills and any expense required for the business to function properly.
  2. Material and Supplies: All items and equipment needed to conduct business can be claimed as expenses and are tax deductible. These items include things such as cameras, computers, office machinery and stationary, and so and so forth.
  3. Home Office: For your home to be considered an office and a tax deductible, it must be solely used for business. That office space can't double up as a spare guest room for your out of town visitors. The tax deducted is according to size, for example, if the office takes up 20% of your home then 20% can be deducted off of each utility.
  4. Travel Expenses: This category is usually heavily scrutinised, but, is still a good way to keep a hold of some of your money when the tax-man comes to collect

Who Costs More, Employees or Contractors?

The truth is, it depends on how long a contractor lasts. In the long term and employee is a larger investment for a company, because they cannot get rid of an employee very easy, and a contractor is given a defined end date.

The package given to each employee vastly increases the cost for an employee.  You'll need to remember that the employee will become more and more expensive as time goes by.

The tax considerations involved will also help determine which option may generally cost more than the other. Each option has its own pros and cons when concerning matters of this nature.

Why Do Employees Dislike Contractors?

Something that seems constant in the corporate world is that, more often than not, you will find that the permanent employee generally tends to dislike contractors.

It depends on where you go, and in some cases it can be very subtle. The most common excuse is that the pathological hatred comes about due to the jealousy the employee holds over the contractor. The big pay checks contractors receive is what gives rise to this jealousy.

Employees usually tend to feel that they work much longer and much harder than their contractor counterparts, however, still manage to earn considerably less for the same job as well as the skill sets required to accomplish the tasks involved in the said job.

Permanent employees should consider the fact that contractors have other responsibilities such as overhead costs and insurance policies to worry about. For the employee, these have already been taken care of by their employers

Why Contractors Earn More - Summary

Many businesses, especially the small ones, rely a lot on freelance workers and independent contractors because they usually prove more flexible and because these business owners have the assumption that the costs involved with this option are relatively cheaper than those of permanent employment.

Hopefully, this lengthy article, has led you to the realisation that determining which option is more expensive than the other involves quite a number of mitigating factors.

It will sometimes look like the independent contractor is more expensive to employ, however, you must remember that the permanent employee will inevitably become more expensive as time passes on.

This subject is one that is generally complex in nature and depends largely on individual situations. What most companies should do is to provide solid framework systems that cover everyone, including the independent contractors.

Hopefully, you now have an idea of what really determines the cost of employing independent contractors. If you feel that you might have something more to add, please do not hesitate to share your views. Tell us how you feel and don't forget to share.

But before you head of, lets dig a bit deeper...

Why Do IT Companies Even Hire Contractors?

why it companies hire contractors

Employees have been considered as an essential asset to companies since the begining of time, well not quit, but you get me.

When you start a company, you can run it alone, but soon, ones sales go up, you will run out of time and become the bottleneck. You need some manpower to enable you to run the company effectively. This is one reason why companies need employees and contractors for that matter. 

This is common to all companies including IT companies. Surprisingly, you will find that nowadays, many IT companies prefer to have contractors instead of employees.

But why is that?

I know that the question that is ringing in your mind is, “why would a company opt to hire contractors in place of employees?” this article will help you understand why this is happening and what are the reasons behind it. Read ahead to gain more insights.

Why Do Some Ruthless Companies Sack
Employees to Hire Contractors?


In company finance you have two major expenses, Operating expenditure ("Opex") and Capital expenditure ("Capex"). Employees fall under the Opex category. And as discussed earlier, in the long term, can cost the company more.

If a company is under financial stress, and need to reduce head count, they may consider replacing long term employees with short term expensive contrators. Just so they can do the project, then got rid of.

That is the theory, but in reality, who knows when those contractors will go, IT projects are notoriously delivered late and contractors soon become valuable assets in delivering the project.

How Do Companies Save Money
By Hiring Contractors?


When a company is working with employees, it has to pay higher taxes to the
government. When they hire contractors, the taxes are less. This saves the
companies money.

Employees need medical insurances while working with
companies. The company has to cater for these insurances. When the company hires contractors instead of employees, this expense is evaded. They can simply search on LinkedIn and look for a new potential short fix replacement.

Can a Company Exist With No
Employees and Only Independent Contractors?


It is possible for companies to work with only the CEO, contractor, subcontractor and even interns. With no employees at all. This gives the company flexibility.

The CEO only allocates work to the contractors. Since the company pays the
contractor to do the work, one does not need to stress him/ herself about
infrastructure, and equipment.

The contractor does the work given to him/ her using his/ her equipment. The company does not need to pay taxes for the equipment or the contractors. The only disadvantage would be lack of these contractors due to the location of the company. If a company is located in a cosmopolitan area, then they will get the desired contracting workforce because it will be large and huge.

Do You Need to be an Expert To Work Aa a Contractor?


An IT contractor works in their area of expertise. There no magic button that you can press and all of a sudden you become an IT contractor. If you have no skill in the area you want to have the contract, then there is a big possibility that
you are not going to be contracted by any one company.

You need to be very certain that there are so many people out there who are looking for the skill that you have. There is also need to understand whether or not after two years, your skill will still be marketable.


To be a contractor, you need to be ready to look for jobs on your own and also pay your taxes. You should ask yourself whether or not you are ready for this. Remember that you are hired for your skills. 

Remember that people that are hiring contractors want to get the best skills in their work. They will look at your curriculum vitae to certain that you are worth the job.


As a company hires contractors, they know that they already are familiar with the job, and hence they do not need to be guided in any way. If you are thinking of being a contractor with no expertise, then I assure you are wrong. You need to first work on your skill before you can ever be an adequate contractor.


Do I Need a Liability Insurance as an IT Contractor?


Do I need liability insurance? The answer is yes; you need liability insurance. Liability insurance will protect you against any claims that may be made against you, regarding your employee.

In some contractors, you may find that will not start your contract without it. And, in some cases, only a certain minimum amount of cover is acceptable.

It's good to be safe. If you lack a liability insurance cover and you are supposed to be having it, the penalties are very severe. Instead of taking this risk of having to pay very big fines, why don't you get your liability insurance cover as an IT contractor? 

In Summary - Why Companies Hire Contractors

The question is, is hiring contractors better than hiring employees? Well, it matters with the gap that you want the contractor to fill. If you need some short-term work done, then go for them. If it's a long-term position, this might not be the best idea to make. 

From my experiences, companies usually believe contractors are an excellent "quick fix", to get a project done. But for you and me, this is great. Because we both know, there is a good chance the contract will take a lot longer than what was originally expected.

Is IT Contracting Better Than a Permanent Job?

Is Contracting really Better?

Is IT Contracting better than a Permanent Job, I personally think so, yes. But please understand, it is not for everyone. For me, it is ideal, and there is a good chance it could be for you.

Understanding IT employment is one challenge IT experts face on a daily basis. While employers want to know where to get the right talent that will give them the most out of their bucks, IT experts have to deal with deciding whether IT contracting is better than getting an IT job on a permanent basis.

However, there isn’t a list of roles that IT experts use to choose on whether a contract is better than a permanent role. More often, companies needs and the overall goal is what determines who they need. Still, the question remains, is IT contracting better than a permanent job? Let us talk this through.

Do Contractors Earn More Than Permanent Employees?


IT contractors make more money than those on a permanent basis. The reason behind this is that you get to set your charging rate. The more you charge, the better you earn; meaning you take home more than permanent IT employees.

IT contractors also get to deduct their expenses as well as pay less in taxes. Well, as a contractor, you won’t enjoy the sick pay, pension, holiday pay, maternity pay, and other benefits.

Although there are other additional costs, you still earn more than permanent employees.

There are other things that make a contractor earn more than an employee. Things like claiming expenses for all work-related equipment like laptops, broadband connections, office equipment, and mobile phones and so on. An IT contractor can also offset their input VAT changed, representing more discount compared to employees.

So it’s clear, you can earn more as an IT contractor than what you will make as an employee.

Do I need to save money as a Contractor?

Accepting a job as an IT contractor earns you more money, but challenging at the same time. The primary goal of every person seeking employment, whether on a permanent or on a contract basis is saving money?

Understanding the pros and cons of an independent IT contractor will answer the question whether you need to save money as a contractor or not.

A contractor is usually not paid for certain things. Most IT contractors do not pay for vacation days and 401k matches.

When you call in sick or don’t work because of holidays, you will not be paid. Although you benefit from lower taxes and other things, you have to pay for your health insurance and other insurances.

The payments you cater for leaves you with one option, save money to pay for your insurance as well as pension, and other policies including your vacations and sick days.

Do I pay Less Tax as a contractor?

Does IT contracting involve the payment of taxes? The answer is yes, although there are other things you need to take into consideration. The way you pay your tax matters most.

A contractor is a self-employed individual. According to IRS (Internal Revenue-Service) official website, self-employed individuals must pay a self-employment tax and income tax.

To figure out what you will be required to pay, the websites states that you need to understand your net profit or loss out of your business even before you can determine the extent to which you are subject to the self-empowerment and income tax.

As expected, this is done by deducting expenses from your income. Read through and know your rights.

Despite the above requirement by the IRS, should a contractor pays less than a permanent employee or should they be taxed the same as permanent employees?

When comparing permanent IT employees to contractors using the tax table, a permanent employee is paid $40, 000 as salary. When this is the case, the gross earnings will be $30,480 per month after NI as well as tax deductions. On the other hand, a contractor takes home $35,893 for the same payment.

Can I go back to a Permanent Job if I fail?

A big part of being an IT contractor is making your own decision. It’s a giant step that needs to be taken seriously.

However, sometimes failure is inevitable. As much as we would like to be self-employed, some mistakes and false starts can lead you back to being an employee.

Although coming back to a world of policy after being in a free and more corporate environment can be difficult, it does happen. Most of us strive to become contractors, but getting that ideal permanent position after you fail as a contractor is an option.

For some people, preparation is the key. People who have been contractors have more experience than other employees. If you are a contractor, you most certainly have worked with a lot of companies, different systems, people, and process.

With the experience, you know which process and systems that have worked and the one that flopped. Use the experience to get work as a permanent employee. Also, consider taking a “Bridge job” as part of your preparation.

How long are IT Contract on average?

The life of an IT contractor is alluring. You get to work flexible hours and accept jobs you like. As an IT contractor, there is an opportunity for IT contracts from NGOs as well as government, companies and even individuals.

The period of a contract depends on the person offering them to you. For example, government IT contracts seem to last longer than individual IT contracts. Knowing the average time an IT contract can last is not easy as there are many fields when it comes to IT industry.

Most companies use standard team and conditions when offering IT contracts to contractors. For instance, we have noticed that company’s offer at least 6 to 12 months it contracts on average. The contracts can be less than 6 months or more depending on the nature of work, your skills and experience and the company offering them.

Is IT Contracting Better - Summary

The answer to the question, "is IT contracting better than a permanent job?’’, in my opinion, yes. But it is not for everyone.

The fact that you manage yourself and your finances is the reason why being an IT contractor is better than a permanent job. 

Sometimes failure is inevitable and going back to full-time employment might be your final solution. The dynamics of being an IT contractor has become increasingly popular.

As the market continues to grow, preparing yourself both as a contractor and permanent employee is the best option. If you think there is more that should be added to the list, comment below, like and share with others.

Before you go, lets go a bit deeper, If you decide to make that plunge, you will need some assistance on finding the best contract, lets go into this with more detail....

How Can I Find Manual Testing Contracting Jobs?

find manual testing contracting jobs

There are many people out there who are searching for manual testing contracting jobs. Many are asking the all-too important question, "How Can I Find Manual Testing Contracting Jobs?’’.

If you find pleasure in finding and fixing bugs in coding and programming, you are most suited for manual testing contracting jobs, for the simple reason that these jobs involve the basic testing of software manually. As a tester, you act as an end user where you have to follow a test plan that gets you to a set of other test cases.

Here is what you need to know before applying for a manual test contracting job:

How Much Experience Do I Need To Get Jobs?

As a manual tester of software, your role in the creating and the success of any software system you are testing is integral. You are involved in software development and deployment. The process includes analyzing software and systems in a bid to prevent or avert any software issues.

For instance, software testing is done from requirement specifications to coding, design and all the way to acceptance. The amount of experience you need depends on where you will be based and the company and software requirements.

You need experience in things like:

  • Stress testing
  • Writing bug reports
  • The monitoring software systems as well as application
  • Running of automated and manual tests
  • Performance testing
  • Testing in various environments, that include but not limited to mobile and web
  • Scalability testing
  • Working towards projects as well as departmental deadlines
  • Quality assurance
  • Writing test scripts and then executing them,
  • Designing tests so as to mitigate risk

Smaller organizations may have a central team of testers working on multiple projects while large organization may need a software tester dedicated to only one project.

Depending on the company, you need to have some experience before finding a job

Do I Need Specific Qualifications?

If you are applying for simple testing jobs, the amount of specific qualifications you need might not be a big issue. Since the manual testing contracting job is more about software testing, subsequent development and quality control, you need to have some specific qualification if you are dealing with complex software structures.

Here are specific qualifications you should have before applying for a manual testing contracting job:

  • In-depth analytical and technical skills
  • Knowledge of the coding languages as well as programming for unit-testing
  • Passion for technology
  • Scripting skills required for automation-testing.
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills
  • Problems-solving skills
  • Ability to work individually and as part of a team
  • Ability to honor tight deadlines

You also need to have a degree in IT or computer science. However, the role of a manual testing contraction expects is open to graduates with a degree in the following disciplines:

  • Physics
  • Mathematics
  • Electrical engineering
  • Chemistry

These are just some of the work you will do as a manual testing contracting expert, meaning specific qualifications are needed to accomplish your task.

Will Employers Wait For My 30-Days Notice Period?

Once you have the qualifications and experience needed, there are other things to put into consideration. Knowing if the employer will wait for your 30 day notice period is vital. This is something you need to check before you assign any contracting job and an employer.

According to Graduate Land, it’s important to check notice period before signing a contract.

With that said, for an employer to wait for 30 days before you can join them might seem like an eternity to them and to you as well. This is especially if you already found your dream job.

Many companies have that notice period before you can resign from your position. The period can be one week to 3 months. The chances are that the same company that has employed you having the same policy is high. Since the employer will always choose the best candidate for their positions, they are willing to wait for the 30 day notice period before you can join them.

Shall I Tell My Boss I Am Thinking Of Leaving?

Regardless of whether you have found a new job or not, the question of whether to tell your boss you are thinking of leaving or not is something you should consider.

Here are some questions to need to ask yourself before making a decision:

  • Is my boss understanding?
  • Is the timing of having this conversation right?
  • Is there any reason for me to tell him or her?
  • What will be their reactions and how will I manage the consequences of telling them?

Remember, no one is obligated to tell their boss that they are thinking about leaving. It’s a personal decision that needs to should be taken seriously. However, if the answers to the above questions are positive, then it’s a good idea to speak to your boss.

Tell them what you are thinking to prevent damaging the relationship you have built for many years. Since this is a touchy subject, telling or not telling could hurt or help your career depending on the circumstances and situation.

How Can I Learn How To Create A Good CV?

A good CV is part of the process of how to find manual testing contracting jobs. In today’s software testing industry, writing a good CV is comparable to literally selling your proficiencies, skills, and talents. Learn how to write a good CV from various sourcing on the internet. Also do not neglect setting up a powerful LinkedIn profile.

For instance sites like Wikihow, offer a step to step guide on how to create a good CV. It also provides you with free samples CV you can use to compare with.

Other sites where you can learn to create good CVs include:

These are just some of the sites where you can learn to create a CV that will earn you that dream manual testing contracting job you have been searching for.

Conclusion

Finding a manual testing contracting job is not difficult as long as you have the specific requirement and experience needed. An ultimate manual tester is employed to find issues and bugs with a project before it’s deployed to users.

Also, remember, if you are still wondering if contracting is better than a permanent job, it largely depends on your appetite for risk, such as dealing with IR35 and tax issues, hunger for a higher pay and personal confidence in your skills.

Is there anything you would like to add? Leave your comment below and lets us know what you think.

Which Agile Methodology is Best?

No matter where you go these days, you really cannot escape Agile. It is fast becoming the norm in a lot of companies today. This is also one of the reasons for the increased numbers of Agile Certifications to choose from. This is good and bad. Why bad? Because, in my experience, some companies use "Agile" as a justification for no documentation and testing on the fly!

The important thing is, understanding that, even if the method is "Agile", there are still organised methodologies that are defined. This article is designed to focus on these Agile methodologies to benefit you.

Project management has become much of a science than an art. Different software are being developed for efficient management of projects and in fact, software development in itself has become more efficient by applying the principles of project management.

Agile software development is an approach described as iterative learning technique through the collaboration of cross-functional and self-organizing groups and their end users.

The agile methodology since its birth has proved to bring significant improvements in the field of software development. There are pieces of evidence that support the claim that using agile methodologies for software development would improve the agility of developers and coordination between the teams.

Also, understand there are other methodologies out there, such as Extreme programming, and many others.

However, it gets difficult sometimes to decide which agile methodology is best. It is against that backdrop that I have come up with a guideline that would serve as a checklist when choosing between ideal agile methodologies, so that the choice is made according to your needs.

List of Agile Methodologies

To give you a fair idea about each methodology, we will be explaining each of them separately and would also be providing a comparison between them.

This would be helpful more than simple reviews to determine which agile methodology is going to work out for your project. The list of things that we are going to discuss is provided as under:

  1. What is Agile Scrum?
  2. What is Agile Kanban?
  3. When should you use Kanban?
  4. What is the difference between Agile Scrum & Traditional Waterfall models?
  5. What is Lean Agile?

1. What is Agile Scrum?

Scrum is a brilliant framework, designed for efficient software development when the requirements are volatile. The team of developers can be divided into small groups, each team working separately to reach the common goal.

The smoothness of work is ensured through 'timeboxed’ iterations and short standup meetings between the team members.

Agile Scrum emphasises on collaboration as well as an iterative approach, and flexibility to adapt to change. Each phase of the project is considered as a Sprint.

At first, the teams start with sprint planning in which they decide about duration and goals. This leads the team towards sprint objectives, which typically lasts two weeks and aims to achieve specific set of goals.

During the sprints, daily scrum is maintained through short standup meetings in which members participate and discuss their progress, using burndown charts and other measurement metrics. Finally, the sprint ends with a review session and the team adapts to the changes in requirements and situation as well as learns from its errors.

The product owner lists the product backlog which contains a set of activities need to be done by every team member collaboratively. Each item on the product backlog has a priority ranking as well. Assignment of these items to each sprint of the project takes place during sprint planning subsequently. These items are then moved from product backlog to sprint backlog.

The Role of a Scrum Master

The Scrum Master ensures the goal is achieved promptly and schedules daily meetings to stay updated on the progress of the project. Once a sprint is completed, the team presents the work they have finished in the final sprint review meeting. Based on the product delivered at the end of the sprint, iterations for next sprint are planned. The entire process repeats itself, right from the creation of a new sprint backlog to when the next sprint of the project commences.

Did Scrum pique your interest? Then watch this video of a conversation with Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, the creators of Scrum:


2. What is Agile Kanban?

Kanban is another agile methodology that helps eliminating the mismatch between demand of work and supply of resources. The idea behind Kanban is to provide a visual process feedback to the entire workforce.

With Kanban, you can visualise the process along with each work passing through that process.

It is a lean method which is quite useful for improving the workflow across human systems. It provides the opportunity to manage the entire workforce single handedly.

You use Kanban board to visualise the entire workflow, progress of each work, assess work capacity and its impact on the whole team.

This assessment allows you to rectify the situation in case a team member or an individual unit has over-committed and may fail to deliver what they committed within the allocated deadline.

What is a Kanban Board?

Kanban board is the typical tool used to inform workers regarding how, what and when to produce. The methodology helps in providing a broad overview of the workflow to the entire team.

The board also consists of columns that define the “status” of the work in progress as it passes through different stages of the workflow. For example, the status of a product can be “in development”,it can be “testing”, or “Ready-to-Release” and “Released” during the entire workflow.

Kanban allows you to identify potential bottlenecks quickly in the process and fix them to enable passage of work through the workflow in a cost-effective and optimised manner.

This way, multitasking and context switching wastes are reduced drastically and the timespan of project is also reduced. Top management can easily reiterate the goals to the developers using Kanban board efficiently.

Did you know that you can trace the origin of Kanban framework to the factories of Toyota? Watch here:


3. When should you use Kanban?

Kanban is a universal methodology and can be used with scrum together. To be specific, Kanban emphasizes more on the work states rather than iterations. The focus of Kanban is on work, rather than time and predictability.

You can use the Kanban board to visualize the work processes in different work states and can place a limit on the work in progress. This is a proven technique used to equate the demand with supply.

Kanban can be a preferred methodology if the focus is on good work flow and throughput. If you do not have a list of backlogs and you want to burn small issues immediately as they raise, using Kanban would be more efficient than scrum.

There is certainly no planning involved at all and you can direct the team through visuals to attack the problems in sequential manner to maintain a good flow of work.

4. Difference between Agile Scrum & Traditional Waterfall models

Broadly speaking, traditional waterfall model allows the work to fall like water from one team to the other without any option of turning back. This is the reason which differentiates the two models i.e.

Scrum methodology allows inter as well as intra departmental communication and devotes more time to planning, whereas traditional waterfall model only have intra departmental communication. Therefore, traditional waterfall model may backfire in case of a dispute between two work teams or departments.

Another major difference is related to the progression of work. Agile scrum divides the work into iterations and allows both backward and forward movements; however, this flexibility is not available with Traditional waterfall methodology. Moreover, this flexibility allows Scrum methodology to complete the project sooner than waterfall model.

5.What is Lean Agile?

The ideology behind Lean Agile is to make an agile process further lean by eliminating wasteful processes. This can be done using the Generally Accepted Agile-Principles that provide a broad framework to eliminate non-value adding processes.

The following are the additional practices that can be adopted in order to convert an agile process into Lean Agile:

  • Backlog Grooming: The component of backlog is added into daily scrums and ways are developed to get rid of backlogs.
  • Acceptance Criteria-Driven Developments: Using the daily scrums, all possible test scenarios are developed to reduce defect rates and to deliver high quality product to the customer.
  • Code Refactoring: The idea is to restructure the logic of the code without affecting its functionality. This provides an easy way to improve the efficiency and runtime of the code. Continuous refactoring is used to add a new feature, remove the defect and for the code review.

Agile Methodologies Summary

We have tried to compile a short manual for you regarding the common agile methodologies prevalent in software development. The criteria for choosing the best methodology depend chiefly upon the needs of your project.

A large project may be well managed using a mix of Kanban and Scrum or Large-Scale Scrum methodology. It is your creativity that makes these methodologies efficient for your project. With the guidelines provided above, a checklist can be developed to identify the suitable agile methodology for your project.

We hope that you enjoyed going through our list and we recommend you to analyse the circumstances at your end first before deciding which agile methodology is best. But before you go, lets look deeper into two of these methodologies: 

Agile Scrum vs Kanban: What Is The Big Difference?

There are many project management frameworks available in the market. Choosing which framework is right for your project is not an easy decision. Scum? Waterfall? Kanban? They all have their pros and cons. The key is to identify which methodology is best suited to your project.

Agile methodology is considered highly suitable for complex projects. According to PWC, Agile projects are 28% more successful than the traditional ones.

Scrum and Kanban are the two methodologies, belonging to the Agile family, that have been trending lately. Let’s look at both the frameworks and understand the critical differences between them, which in turn will help you choose the right framework for your project.

Scrum Vs Kanban: 3 Key Segments

The fundamental differences between Scrum and Kanban can be categorised into three segments:

#1. The Iterative Process


As you read above, the scrum is provided with a prioritised list of items that need to be completed within a sprint to deliver a product. The team must decide on the number of things they can finish within one sprint. Anything outside the scope has to wait until the next sprint. Ideally, a capable scrum team will identify their capabilities over a period leading to optimised estimates in each sprint and improved performance.


Thus, the scrum team produces a shippable product every two weeks (ideal time of each sprint; may vary based on project complexity), and dedicate their focus on continually optimising the process, eventually moving to the next sprint. This iterative practice enables constant improvement and effective management of multiple projects.

For Kanban team, there are no iterations. Though Kanban methodology is iterative in nature, the continuous optimisation occurs in an evolutionary manner as each work is executed in the process. A limitation is set on various conditions by the organisation (or teams) to prevent the bottleneck from occurring in the process. The workflow is thereby, regulated until an optimal set of limits is reached, making the workflow efficient and steady.

#2 Team Roles

For scrum teams to perform efficiently, there must be at least three roles assigned to the group. They are Product Owner, the sprint team members, as well as a Scrum Master. Each team member has their own set of responsibilities and must operate collaboratively to maintain organised balance. The sprint team must be cross-functional and be equipped with all the necessary resources and skills to complete the sprint’s assigned tasks.

No fix roles are assigned to a Kanban team. It does not make sense to have a project manager or a supervisor in the Kanban team. In fact, the roles evolve within the organisation, theoretically speaking, depending on the need and progressfor the Kanban project and organisation. Like Scrum team, the Kanban team need not be cross-functional as Kanban workflow is utilised by all the teams participating in the project. You can have a group of specialists or an entirely different squad of generalists working on various aspects of the same project using the same Kanban board.

#3 The Board

Both Kanban and Scrum board model consist of three primary columns: “To do” as well as “Doing”, and “Done”.While the fundamental board model has similarity, both scrum and Kanban boards are entirely different.

The Scrum board consists of columns that reflect periods in the workflow commencing with the sprint backlog and the period ending it. The things that are needed to be done at the start of the sprint are mentioned in the last column marked as successful or unsuccessful at the end of the sprint. The completed sprintis assessed, after which the board is cleared,and new sprintis prepped for the project.

A Kanban board has columns labelled to present workflow states as well. However, the critical difference lies in the number of tasks/stories allowed in each column at a time.

The team members are presented with limitations for each condition of the workflow. Like in scrum board, there is no sprint length,i.e. time boxes, which negates the need to rest the Kanban board as the project progresses. New tasks are added,or completed tasks are re-assessed based on project progress and needs.

Scrum vs Kanban Summary

Both Scrum and Kanban are one of the best frameworks that can vastly improve your project management needs.

The best plan of action is to get familiar with both the frameworks and test their aspects in your production environment. You can also build a hybrid framework if it serves your project in the best manner.

I hope that the above-listed differences will help you identify which framework suits your project most.

Which framework have you been using for your projects? What are your thoughts on these frameworks? Maybe you've dabbled with TDD?  Let me know in comments below. Hit the Like and Share button below if you found this article helpful.

How Do I Transition From a Permanent to a Contract Testing Job?

A permanent job offers a sense of safety, comfort and a secure future. Nevertheless, we see people constantly taking the plunge into contract jobs, leaving their permanent position behind. So why do people do that?

Leaving something so safe and swimming into something perceived as an abyss of the unknown!

According to ITContractorsUK , the number of self-employed professionals has increased by around 43% in the UK.

Well, as someone who has been working as a contractor for over ten years, I can tell you that it had its rewards. As a contractor, I have been rewarded with higher pay, a network of clients, flexible work hours, and much more challenging work. The decision wasn’t easy, nor was it made in haste, but it was worth it.

So, you are ready to leap into the contracting world? The first step is to understand and plan the transition. Ask yourself this question: “how do I transition from a permanent job to a contract job?”

If this is waht you are looking for, you have come to the right place! Here are few tips that will help you make the transition successfully.


01. Preparation

Polish your CV as much as possible with insights and advice from people willing to help you. Here is one thing that I learned the hard way: loads of people will be willing to give you free advice, but advice from people who have done it before extensively will help you most.

Honestly, the best thing you can do is get an example CV from a couple of established contractors, who have actually got contracts and have had regular work. Easier said than done, I know. But if you can, make that your plan A.

Talk to experienced contractors and learn from the success and horror stories they are willing to share. Growing a network of like-minded people at the start is key to preparing for the contracting world.

Most importantly, do your research on the current scenario in the market. Sharpen your skills. Get yourself acquainted with all the latest practices, standards, techniques, and technologies.

02. Know How to Find and Secure Contract Jobs

You need to be armed with a polished CV that is short, focused, and highlights your strength. You may even need to customise it for a more targeted approach towards specific clients.

Promote your profile on the contract job boards available in the market. You can make use of agencies or professional networks to get this done. You’ll need to follow-up with agencies and clients regularly to secure an interview.

Once you have secured the client interview, research what they do, what they need, and all the latest news related to them.

Be proactive in the meeting. Take time to understand the issues they are facing and show them how your skills can help tackle these issues successfully. The right pitch will help you come to an agreement on the rates with the client and close the deal swiftly.

03.Time Your Notice Period Right

I won’t recommend quitting the permanent job impulsively without a proper base. Lay a strong foundation and secure your position setting up as a contractor as you plan your exit.

Now the client may (or in most cases, will) not wait for you for three long months of the notice period, or even 30 days. Also, you don’t want to put yourself in a bad light in front of your employers.

You may need a positive reference from them. Talk to your boss, come up with a plan in which you can wind-down professionally with a phased handover, resulting in a shorter notice period.

Handing over notice period without any contracts in hand may be risky, but if you have done your research and preparations correctly, you will have no problems securing contracts after job.

Think of it this way, worse comes to the worst, you can go back to where you came from before or get another permy gig.

One cheeky technique I used, which minimises risk, but might upset a few agents, is I secured a perm position first, handed in my months notice, then kept looking for contract roles.

I actually landed a contract offer in that month window and took that offer instead. I figured worst comes to the worse, I will take the permanent role. 

04. Consider Setting Up a Company

You don’t need to go all solo here! You can use an umbrella company or set up a Private Limited company. In fact I started out with an umbrella. Then later on I moved to a company.

Using an umbrella company will take away the headache of taxes, payroll, accounts, and VAT returns from you. Another vital benefit that an umbrella company offers is it might free you from IR35 worries as well. Less financial and administration annoyance will allow you to focus more on getting the work done, and rake in more money.

Setting up a limited company has its own benefits as well. A limited company will help you gain credibility with new clients, help you claim more expenses (compared to umbrella company).

It will also offer limited liability protection in case things don’t work out as planned. The only downside to this is you’ll be loaded with lots of paperwork and administrative responsibilities as well.

Choose your company set up based on your circumstances and requirements. Contractors prefer limited company for a long-term plan. If you don’t want to take too many risks in the initial stage, an umbrella company offers a viable short-term solution.

Limited Company Vs Umbrella Company. Who Wins? 


05. Get Your Business Insured

No contractor is perfect. When you start out as a contractor, mistakes are bound to happen. Don’t you agree with me when I say that it's better to be safe than sorry?

A professional insurance adviser can help you with a policy tailored to your business needs. Sound business insurance can provide financial protection as well as liability cover, and ensure IR35 compliance.

In fact you may find that it is mandatory before you are allowed to start some contracts.

06. Don’t let Failure Get You Down

Whatever you do, do not procrastinate on if you may or may not fail. Consider the possibility that you have worked as a contractor for three months, and you are out of contract. What do you do next? One option that can be considered is getting back to the old permanent job, simple.

That is a viable option, for the time being at least if you are out of resources and investment. Accumulate the resources and capital required over a period and then come back again. If money is not an immediate issue, it’s time to reflect on the following:

  • Reflect on the daily activities performed over the last three months.
  • Assess your approach with measurable KPIs.
  • Ask yourself if the targeted goal is realistic?
  • Ask yourself if a change in approach is required or the change in goal?

It’s easy to get discouraged when things don’t work out. The key is not to get frustrated.

I often find motivation by studying entrepreneurs who failed spectacularly before becoming successful


Final thoughts on Transitioning from a Permy to an IT Contractor

I’ll be honest! I was worried about failure in my first contract! I actually got lucky and started with a really nice contract with great people, in fact if it wasn't for the location, I would of stayed a lot longer.

The key, for me, to a successful transition from permanent job to a successful contract job was a measured, an organised, and a customer-centric approach.

If your question before reading this article was “how do I transition from a permanent job to a contract job?’’, I hope this article answered that question. Just remember you stand a good chance of earning a lot more as a contractor.

Before you go, lets go a bit deeper, with sone Contacting best practices:

5 Software Testing Contracting Best Practices


software testing contracting best practices

Working as software testers, we all can benefit knowing the best software testing practises. If we ask ourselves what the best practises are, the answer is not very clear, and in some cases subjective. 

The truth is that there are many and many practises which can be easily used for testing software. Also, it depends on a certain project.

Naturally, every project is different and unique, therefore we cannot always
apply the same set of software testing practises. Luckily, there are few
practises which we can apply as transferable no matter what project we try to
resolve.

In this article we will give you the insight into 5 software testing contracting best practises which will make you be a successful IT contractor in demand.

01.  Understanding a project and communication is the key

To understand a whole project sounds super simple, but is the most important practise you need to do as the first step of your software testing.

You will notice that the most valued workers, permy or contract, are the ones that have the most knowledge. If you are most valued you can set your own day rate and last a lot longer than any other tester, simply because you can become a valuable asset to the business, or as they say, "The Guru".

You also have to see the project from different perspectives (e.g. business or technical) to be able to get the right idea what exactly is expected from you. Do you have any question? Ask right away at the beginning.

The overall project objective understanding is crucial when you work in a team. Every team member has to their role and what part they take in a project but it is also absolutely necessary that you understand others’ job too.

Why? Because when there is any defect ascertained, you can
actively refer to this problem and help solve it out a lot faster.

When you are  a part of bigger testing team, don’t hide behind the walls and proactively communicate with other team members on daily basis.

Why is communication within a testing team so crucial? Imagine a situation when there is a defect repaired by someone who works in a different department.

You can help triage and resolve an issue faster, by having that in-depth knowledge.

2. Good planning is not a big deal

Basically, this practise you can apply on anything, really. If you want
to be a successful IT tester, you need to have a good plan. The right
planning and timing of tasks is everything. 

You can make notes on paper, type them down on your laptop and make a time schedule which helps you finishes your project on time. It is important to know what sources and tools you will use.

Have a test schedule ready to use. Moreover, you have to identify all risks you might come across. Identifying all possible risks will prevent you from slowing down your workflow and will keep your healthy work pace. 

The last but not least thing you have to do before you start working on your project is to find a suitable strategy and define it in details step by step how you will deliver a project in the best possible way. Planning strategy will help you
avoid unnecessary mistakes.

3. The importance of stakeholders and business reviews

Now, when you have defined your work plan and work strategy, you might
know about a project scenario.

You barely can skip this step as it is crucial to test scenarios and several reviews. Do you remember I previously mentioned how good when you look at an overall project from different perspectives is?

So, this is exactly what I was trying to say by that. It is very useful and
practical when you have reviews from business perspective. Stakeholders often
see project scenarios from different point of view than a testing team. Reviews
boost your confidence with testing scenarios and ensure the tester´s
understanding.

4. Getting data sets identified before the test execution

We are sure that as an IT expert you understand that every project is
unique in its own way. There are non-transferable universal tests you can apply
anytime. Unfortunately, software testing does not work this way.

In order to deliver the best project you have to develop many different types of tests. That includes positive and negative tests. When you start the test execution, you have to test data, too. When you identify the data, you might use several sources to get the data from, transform them or deliver them in different
systems.

This situation can cause few problems and slows down your workflow.
Thus, it is more than useful to identify data clearly even before the test
execution phase is started and get all the data ready for the
identification.

5. Make a template or try to get automatisation for your next project

You know very well how much time you spent on each project. You tried to
finish them smoothly according to your time schedule while still keeping your
workflow and quality pretty high.

You know how much effort and energy you put in every project. So, what if we tell you that in your next project you can save some time and energy by using a template or trying to apply the automate script.

First of all, try to find what causes you the biggest pain and consumes
the most of your time and secondly, have a think about the automation of this
area. How would you make it easier and quit the manual? What do you have to do to make it work? Sometimes you are lucky enough to find the automation during the execution part and that is pretty sweet, isn’t it?

If you really want to be a top IT expert, you better keep our 5
practises in your mind.

Of course, there is no need to use all of them in one project but they surely will make your life much easier, save you time and energy which you can devote to other activities such as relax, building your portfolio or searching for new clients.

Transitioning from a permanent employee t a contractor is challenging, but when you do get there, you need to make sure you become a great contractor so you can have a long career in the game.


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