From Chaos to Order using OneNote – Part 1

~ managing a Microsoft Dynamics project using Agile and OneNote to capture and bring order to your brilliance ~


Microsoft’s OneNote has saved me from myself.  I am slightly ADD and have brilliant moments at inopportune times.  I manage my self-induced stress with order and structure, and this blog series will detail how I’ve done it using OneNote on my laptop.

Here’s a quick overview of the process; details to come later:

During requirements gathering …

customer input explodes into a fireworks burst of more questions, ideas, and things I need to remember to do.  Dear G_d, the chaos and the sleep loss.

After requirements gathering …

the chaos (er — details) are brought to order into a product backlog of stories and tasks I need to accomplish.  The priority of the items are managed on a regular basis both with and without my customer by simply dragging and dropping to re-order.

Along the way, if order can’t quite be achieved, items  (stories, tasks, random notes in no particular place) are tagged for follow up with other resources, as needed.  When a resource is in front of me — either by invitation or accident — I quickly locate all tagged items needing their input. How sweet it is.

When a story is Done …

it’s status is changed and it’s moved to the Demo area.   As Demo Day approaches, the stories in the Demo area are combined into a cohesive set of business scenarios grouped by User Role. Momentum rules. Distractions distract.

During the Demo …

another round of chaos begins (er — feedback) and everything is documented in a “scratchpad” area.  Once the Demo is done, each story’s status is changed to Done and it’s moved to the Done area.

After the Demo …

the recent round of chaos is processed back into order by transferring from the scratchpad area to the backlog and reordering priorities accordingly. Pick up next on the list and keep moving forward.  The cycle continues and sleep prevails!

Ah, the beauty of order and structure brought about by OneNote.

The back story:

This series is focused on how I use OneNote to bring order to a ridiculous yet exhilarating Microsoft Dynamics project managed using pieces of the Agile methodology.  I perform in the roles of business analyst, project manager, scrum master, and Dynamics configuration specialist (with no prior Dynamics knowledge or training).  That’s the ridiculous part.  The exhilarating part is seeing the final solution come to life and delight the customer.

Agile purists would argue this isn’t Agile done well; and it’s not. It fails on many of Agile’s principles, including establishing a sustainable pace.  Not many could sustain the pace I’m working at for any length of time, but I have tons of flexibility with when I can work both from my personal and work life perspectives.

It is what’s working for now to get feedback early and often given my unique circumstances; my time with the customer is limited; funding is limited; tolerance for change is limited; and technical understanding by the customer is limited.  My customer (and employer) is a US governmental agency, so I either I jumped in and took it on or it wasn’t going to get done — for a very long time.

Given these circumstances, one either figures out a way or comes to their senses and bails out when presented with such a challenge.  I chose the former, and am blessed to be supported by an incredibly awesome manager who stands back and steps in, as necessary.   As well as a husband who gets it when I’m in the zone and has become quite the “Call of Duty” warrior as a result.

Oh, and the Microsoft Dynamics Community.  Go there — early and often as they say in testing circles.  The resources are gracious with their time and swift in their responses.

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