Showing posts with label user stories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label user stories. Show all posts

Friday, 10 October 2014

Scrum Product Owner Role And Sprint Planning Meeting Agenda

In many ways, in a Scrum project, the sprint planning meeting agenda plays a very significant part in determining the success of delivering shippable product increments through the sprint iterative cycles. The product owner is very closely involved in the sprint planning agenda, and is responsible for the outcome of the sprint cycle, since he or she is primarily responsible for taking the initiative and “designing” the sprint – the PO decides which user stories should be ideally taken up for development purposes based upon their business values. Moreover, the product backlog needs to be refined on a regular basis. The PO may invite and seek the help of Agile team members to keep the backlog refined so “granular” and developable user stories are available at the time of Scrum planning meeting.
The main issue with Agile Scrum today is that the role of a PO cannot be “standardised” based upon assumptions as to how Scrum ought to be implemented in a project, and what the PO should ideally do to make the project a distinct success. In addition, while considering Scrum sprint planning, the same thoughts might be applicable to it as those associated with the PO’s – it is difficult to create generalised rules regarding how a sprint should be ideally designed. The primary reason is products and requirements change as per fluctuating market conditions, and stakeholders too are liable to change their thoughts as and when end user demand user-specific requirements and development. However, after considering the fact that scaled Scrum versions are likely to “dominate” the Agile scenario over the coming years, it is worthwhile thinking that “some” of the duties of a PO and certain sprint planning “characteristics” are likely to remain common – irrespective of which scaled version is used, and the manner in which Scrum should be, or can be, implemented in a project. In addition, while the sprint planning meeting was traditionally conducted in two parts, the Scrum event has now evolved to be conducted as a whole – as a single event – and include two topics in it, rather than two parts:
  • What can be done in this (currently being planned) sprint – the “What” aspect
  • How should the chosen “work” be ideally “done” – the “How” aspect
It is interesting to think about how the product owner’s role is likely to modify itself in the future, and what features the sprint planning event is likely to include. The suggestions are open for debate, and the reader is invited to present his or her viewpoints.

Scrum product owner role and responsibilities likely to remain “common”

  • Creation of the product backlog based upon the vision as seen by the stakeholders. Defining user stories having high business values so the project “worth” is maintained at all times.
  • Monitoring all Scrum related activities in project. Even if the PO’s role may be demanding and “difficult to play”, the PO still has to deal with changing market conditions, stakeholders requests, and negotiate with the development team with regards delivering shippable stories and maintaining team velocity... Read more at Scrum Product Owner Role And Sprint Planning Meeting Agenda

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Scrum Product Owner’s Role

Agile professionals have often discussed what the exact role of a product owner should be in Scrum. What virtues should a product owner possess to be considered a “good” PO? The answers are many. And this is not surprising because Scrum is a framework, and its implementation in a project depends upon the requirements specific to the project. When requirements change, the role of the PO also changes. Therefore, it may not be possible to standardise the exact role a PO should play in a Scrum project.

A certain process flow remains common to almost all Scrum projects. The role of a product owner can be thought about in terms of what POs actually do in a typical Scrum project. Here are a few suggestions:

 Scrum Tool
Common role or activities of a Scrum product owner

· Creating the product backlog as per the product vision seen by the stakeholders. Defining user stories having high business values in the backlog so the project “value” is constantly maintained.
· Monitoring and tracking all Scrum activities. The role of a product owner may be difficult to act since a project might be demanding, and the product owner may have to cater to market related issues and still monitor the work carried out by the team. Balancing both the aspects can prove to be trying.
· Make sure that the product backlog is kept refined at all times. Moreover, the product backlog should be accessible by the entire team.
· Each product backlog item “PBI” should be properly stated and defined in the product backlog. The story description, appropriate business value, and the acceptance criteria should be stated precisely in the story card and explained to the entire team so the team members can develop effective stories and develop shippable product features.
· To be available whenever needed, to remain present, and share information, knowledge, as well as expertise with other team members.
· The PO responsibility should also include defining productive sprint goals just before a sprint commences.
· A product owner’s responsibility should also include... Read more at Scrum Product Owner's Role

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Is Agile Scrum suitable For Software Development?

The scope of development in the software/IT field
People and individuals associated with software development and the IT field like to use the term “software development” to describe their particular field of work and professional involvement. The term “development” is very widely used to describe a host of activities catering to the IT field. It can range from developing code for applications and systems, to developing mobile applications for mobile operating systems such as Android, iOS, Symbian, Windows OS, etc. (visit, “manufacturing” gaming software using scripting languages like Ruby, AGSScript, Lua, Marathon markup language, Ada, C++, C#, D, Lisp, Mercury, Pascal, Perl, Python, Scheme, JavaScript, Java, VBscript, EDL, etc., (visit carrying out web development using HTML, CSS, PHP, Joomla, DotNetNuke, Java, etc., and even developing entire operating systems for tablets and PCs  (visit, to know more about operating systems). The fact is as on today, the terminology “software development” is extensively used to mention almost any type or activity associated with the programming and development of “computerizable” code of any type, in any way, or manner. When a particular methodology or framework is used to develop computerizable code and create software projects, it is important to ascertain whether the scope of development includes the specific activity you’re currently involved or associated with. Software development and projectmanagement frameworks such as Agile have the potential to develop successful IT related projects involving the vast majority of development platforms and operating systems.

While explaining Agile in a simple and straightforward manner, it can be best understood as a collection of project development methodologies and frameworks, of which any framework or methodology can be used in a successful manner to dynamically develop projects of almost any type and nature, including software development projects. The framework is based upon iterative and incremental development, in which self-organised and self-managing development teams understand, plan, and develop projects under the supervision of a project leader, and offer productivity in the form of short bursts of development cycles (iterative development) known as sprints. A unique feature of all Agile frameworks is that the development carried out by the team is “shippable” in nature i.e. the code developed during the product development cycle is independent, testable, verifiable,  documentable, and ready for deployment after it is stringently checked for any “manufacturing” defects.

A second, highly important feature of Agile development is that individuals “owning” the project are closely linked with the approval of development carried out by the team. A particular “code” or “piece” of functionality is checked for regression after it is developed, and subsequently presented to the stakeholders and project owners. They ascertain the development carried out, and clear it as “OK” for future integration into the actual product. This leads to a successful development of software projects, since the management is always aware about what functionality is currently being developed by the team, and up to what extent it satisfies the project objectives. If the project owners feel the productivity offered by the team is not up-to-the-mark, or fails to satisfies them in terms of business value (how much important the code or functionality is from the market point of view, and how much it is worth from the financial point of view) offered by the functionality, they can reject the entire functionality and instruct the project manager to redevelop the particular script or code, based upon a new set of inputs and requirements recommended by them. This ensures that the software project always “maintains” its business value at all times, even while the product is being currently developed.     

A third important feature of Agile framework is that all activities in the project are “time boxed”, and therefore, have to be completed within a predetermined time period. In an Agile project, each activity is time bound. All development related activities are “configured” to suit the unique project needs, and a duration “affixed” to them so they can be completed within a stipulated time. This ensures that the project does not “drag-on” and extend indefinitely. The development costs incurred while the project is being developed can be properly and “profitably” controlled, so that the project does not become “too” expensive and difficult to afford financially.

Agile framework differs drastically when compared to traditional linear or Waterfall methodology. In Agile, project development is carried out in short bursts of activities rather than in stages that have to be “completed” one after the other.

The main Agile features include:
·  Cross-functional development teams consisting of developers, programmers, testers, QA personnel, technical writers, system analysts, etc. all work together as a single composite team through collaborative efforts, offer and share ideas, and help each other during the development process.
·   Working in short, fast-paced development cycles, with focused objectives – Iterative development.
·  Shippable productivity at the end of iterative development cycles – Incremental development. The functionality keeps on “growing” through development cycles until the entire application, system, or product is developed.
·   Human communications and involvement takes precedence over management authority and delegation of work.
·   Total transparency and visibility of the team progress to project owners, stakeholders, and end users.
·    Feedback and suggestions help to self-correct and offer new ways and means to carry out quicker, more efficient, and reliable development.

An important feature of all Agile frameworks is that the frameworks are independent of the nature of project to be developed i.e. the framework is not dependent upon the platform or environment used to develop the particular software project. The architecture or design can vary, and could be anything. The important aspect is that an Agile framework has to be implemented in the project first, and its benefits availed subsequently. Please visit

Scrum, briefly, is a “light weight” Agile framework, used extensively for developing and delivering “workable” software products, very often, and on a consistent basis. The software products can range from the development of new web processes and systems, gaming solutions, plugins, mobile apps, ecommerce websites, corporate portals, development of WordPress themes, RAD (Rapid Application Development) projects, OOPs (Object Oriented Programming) projects, CAD/CAM drafting solutions, port programming and configuration utilities, web development and platform interfacing solutions, etc. Scrum adheres to all Agile principles and features discussed above since the framework is “inherited” from Agile itself.

Scrum offers a new, and a better way of managing software projects. There are many technical reasons why Scrum is popular and why many Fortune 500 companies prefer to use the framework for their project development purposes. While being introduced to Agile Scrum, a question that inadvertently comes to one’s mind is why is Scrum so popular? Why is there so much “hype” about Scrum? Does Scrum offer a magic formula, which can work wonders for your project and software development? Why should an organisation that has been following a particular development methodology, and feels comfortable doing so, should change over to Scrum? There is a separate article which deals entirely with why you should opt for Scrum. The point is, this article focus upon explaining Scrum to individuals who are new to the topic, and have absolutely no idea what the framework is all about, and what it can “do” for you. Efforts have been made to explain that Agile Scrum is applicable to almost any kind of software development, and possesses certain features which make the framework very popular as well as “powerful”.    

The actual Scrum process can prove to be difficult to understand, at first, for Scrum beginners. Even though Scrum implementation is not difficult, people need to understand and familiarize themselves about what is product increment, and how it actually occurs during the Scrum process. The second aspect is getting to know about Scrum events. The special meetings, known as “events” are important for monitoring the development activity, and analysing the reliability and effectiveness of the functionality developed by the team. They also help to solicit feedback from the team members as well as the project owners so that the business value of the project is not affected, and maintained at all times – even while the product is being developed. It is worthwhile to get an “overview” of the process first.  

Quickscrum- Scrum tool

1.    Project conception - An idea!
All projects, whether involving software development, or otherwise, start with an “idea”. Projects are developed out of needs. A project is planned to fulfil a particular requirement or achieve a certain objective. Moreover, each project results into “something” within a specific time frame – a project cannot extend indefinitely. It is important here to differentiate between a “project” and a “program”. Programs are generally long termed, and can even last for years, unlike projects which have a relatively short life span and last for a brief period, ranging from a couple of months to even a year.

Typically, a person, or a group of individuals realise it is worthwhile to put in efforts and resources, and develop “something” so that “another thing” can be easily fulfilled or availed. The “something” is the product, and the “another thing” is the solution that the project is supposed to provide. This stage of project development involves a lot of discussion and brain storming sessions, where the product is envisioned and “though over”.

Scrum does not figure during this stage. However, the vision seen by the project owners, can, or may, affect the manner in which Scrum is implemented in theproject, in the future. This is because the nature of product to be developed may require Scrum to be configured in a certain manner to obtain positive results from the project. 

2.    Project release – Getting started with the software project
Once the project is “thought about” the next logical step is to work out the nitty-gritty concerning the project dynamics – the objective of the project, the product definition, how the project should ideally deliver the product, in what manner, what should be the “strength” of the team, how many team members, etc.

Scrum development process does not come into the picture even during this stage. The documentation pertaining to the project is created and “everything” concerning the product to be developed is finalised – in black and white. Scrum does not advocate extensive documentation. You do not have to prepare detailed system flow diagrams and extensive design structures to get started with Scrum development. A basic idea will suffice, and you should only spend that much time and efforts which can get you “started” with the actual development activity. Just enough information and specifications to develop some of the most important product features.     

The project release is attended by the “Product Owner” – the person who functions as a project manager in the Scrum project, the Scrum Master who overseas that Scrum is properly implemented and followed by the team while the project is being developed, and the stakeholders or project owners who actually sponsor the project. 

3.    Creating the product backlog (Product Features List) – Defining the product features and functionality
The Scrum development process starts with the creation of a master list containing all features and functionality required to create the product in totality. In simple terms, the entire product, currently existing on paper as “imagined” by the stakeholders and project owners, is “broken down” into its constituent parts, consisting of individual features and functionality. The product is thoughtfully, and systematically, broken down such that each individual component can be individually developed, tested, and eventually integrated with other software components or functionality developed by the team over the days. Individually developed features and functionality can eventually “give birth” to a working product when integrated or assembled later on.

Each individual feature or list item is known as a “Product Backlog Item” or a “user story” in simple language. Therefore, the product backlog or the master list is fundamentally composed of product backlog items or user stories. The user story represents a product feature, and is individually developed by the team members during the development process – the daily sprints. Each story can be minutely defined. The description, acceptance criteria (Points which need to be “fulfilled” or satisfied before which the story can be considered as successfully developed), its importance in the project, and the manner in which it is supposed to be integrated into the final product, etc. are mentioned for each user story.

Once the feature list is created, it is arranged depending upon the importance of each user story in the product backlog. Important user stories are arranged in the “top” portion of the list, lesser important stories in the middle, and the least important features and functionality in the bottom portion.    

4.    Sprint planning meeting – Planning how to develop the product features
The product backlog functions as the main “backbone” of all development related activities in Scrum. Once it is “developed” by the product owner and the stakeholders, the actual development activity can start. A special meeting known as a “Sprint Planning” meeting is held to initiate the development activity. The meeting is attended by the entire development team, in addition to the product owner “PO” and the scrum master “SM”.

The meeting is held in two parts. In the first part, the product owner selects some of the most important user stories or product features from the top of the product backlog, and transfers them to a temporary list known as a “Sprint Backlog” for development purpose. During the meeting, the product owner takes the opportunity to explain each user story in details to the team members – how user stories should be ideally developed, and what activities the team should carry out so that each story can be marked as successfully completed.

During the second half of the meeting, the development team analyses the sprint backlog and distributes each story to individual team members. In practise, the team members unanimously decide as to who should take up which story depending upon their development skills and experience levels. Simple and easily developable items are given to less experienced or “fresher” while difficult, or more complex stories are taken up for development by more experienced and senior programmers or developers.         

5.    The daily sprints – Developing the product features
This is the main area of activity in Scrum. The entire product is developed in “bits” and “pieces” through the daily sprint cycles. A sprint cycle is nothing but a collection of working or “development” days during which the team members actually sit in front of a PC and develop the functionality or product features. The sprint cycle is time boxed and should not extend its deadline.

Each item included in the sprint backlog during the sprint planning meeting should be developed while the sprint is currently underway. A brief meeting known as a “Daily Scrum Meeting” is held for a maximum of 15 minutes each day before the team members start with their work. The purpose of the meeting is to get an idea regarding how much work has been completed by each member the day before, and what each member proposes to do “today”. If a team member is facing any issues or problems, it can be mentioned during the meeting, and the scrum master will ensure that the issue is quickly resolved.   

In Scrum, the daily sprints can typically last from 2 weeks up to a maximum of one month. The duration of the sprint is decided during the second stage - the project release - and it should not be extended under any circumstances - even if any of the user stories in the sprint backlog have not been developed, or whose development is incomplete.  

6.    Sprint review – Checking and verifying productivity (Is the development OK?)
Scrum emphasises upon the development of “shippable” functionality at the end of daily sprint cycle. Each user story developed during the daily sprint is checked by the product owner and verified for its reliability, acceptance levels, and whether it is “bug free”. In Scrum, it is very important to deliver error free features – each user story should be properly tested for any regression, and whether it satisfies the acceptance criteria linked with its development. 

Just after the daily sprint cycle ends, a meeting is immediately held to review the development carried out by the team. It is important to differentiate between the daily sprints and the sprint cycle. The daily sprint is the development activity carried out by the entire team on one particular working day. Many such “daily sprints” combine to form the “Daily Sprint Cycle”, also known as the “product incremental cycle” in Agile. The meeting is held at the end of the product incremental cycle – the daily sprint cycle. It is primarily attended by the product owner, the scrum master, and the team members. It is not mandatory for the stakeholders to attend this meeting. They can chose to attend it if they so desire.

The main objective of this event, or rather the meeting, is to check whether the features have been developed by the team as per the production plan, and if the functionality has any “manufacturing” defects. Each feature should be fully tested for any flaws by the team before presenting it in this meeting. The product owner verifies if the feature is error free and checks if it satisfies the acceptance criteria linked with it. It is a kind of “final” check carried out before presenting the development to the stakeholders and the project owners in the subsequent sprint retrospective meeting. During the meeting, the product owner instructs the team how it can improve its working and offer even better productivity by employing more efficient programming practices and standards.

7.    Sprint retrospective – Finalising product functionality and contemplating about further improvement
Agile Scrum advocates client participation. The client is a very important entity in Scrum, and has the final say as far as the development of product features is concerned. The Agile manifesto primarily stresses upon client participation and delivery of time bound product increments because these two aspects are very important for developing successful projects. A “satisfied” client often “comes back” to develop more projects since successful projects help the client to earn higher profit margins.

The retrospective provides an opportunity for the entire team to demonstrate its productivity in front of the stakeholders and clients. In addition to the product owner, scrum master, the development team, the meeting may also be attended by end users, technical staff personnel, vendors, distributors, and even other employees since the main purpose of the meeting is to avail feedback from individuals and entities closely linked with the market, and who have sound knowledge regarding what product features are likely to “score” in the market once the product is launched, and what can aid the product in “selling”.

The retrospective also offers a chance for the entire team as well as the client to reflect upon the development process, and discover what more could be done to make the product better. Discussions are carried out to ascertain the rate at which user stories are currently being developed by the team, and what new processes or methods need to be introduced to quicken the process.

Monday, 14 July 2014

What Is Sprint Planning And What Do The Sprint Planning Meetings Actually Consist Of Or Include?

The primary objective of a sprint planningmeeting is to discuss and plan about what the development team intends to build or develop in the upcoming sprint, and how the individual members of the team are prepared to go about with their development activity. Though most experts refer it to as a “single” meeting, it is in fact segregated into two unique parts. The first part concentrates upon what the team is actually asked to build or develop, and is attended by the team members as well as the product owner. The second part of the meeting focuses upon how the team members will proceed with the actual development work. The team members are to mandatorily attend both the parts of the meeting, while the product owner is committed to attending the first part only. He or she can however attend the second part if he or she wishes to do so.   

The first part of the sprint planning meeting
During the initial part of the meeting, the product owner has an opportunity to explain in depth about the set of user stories to be developed during the sprint. It is a rapid-fire type of discussion in which the product owner initially explains the user stories, and subsequently the team members start asking questions regarding the points they are not clear about. The product owner has many responsibilities and roles to play. The person represents the client’s interests, explains how the stories are to be linked up in the future, and keep tabs during the entire development activity carried out by the team members. The objective of the meeting is to provide enough information, or brief the team members regarding the development activity required so that each member can carry out his or her part without any confusions or problems.

The questions typically asked during this stage of the meeting are: 
·       What is the acceptance or “passing” criteria of all the stories?
·       What kind of data sources need to be used? Where will the data originate from, and where will it go?
·       How should the developed component look like once it is fully developed?

The second part of the sprint planning meeting
During the second part of the meeting, the team further analyses the user stories and focuses upon creating the sprint backlog which includes the user stories, or the set of requirements and functionality to be developed by the team members during the sprint. The team typically segregates the user stories into individual tasks, and links up, or associates each task with a certain time scale i.e. the duration in which the particular task is to be developed. Generally the tasks are planned to be completed on an hourly basis, however, the time period can be more depending upon the complexity and the levels of functionality to be incorporated into the given task. Another main objective of this part of the meeting is to accept the user stories as practical and “doable”, and to reject those stories which cannot be catered to, owning to various reasons.

The duration of the entire sprint planning meeting can range from two hours up to eight hours depending upon the number of user stories involved, and the levels of complexity. The rule of the thumb is to spend one hour of discussion for each week of sprint.   

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Thursday, 10 July 2014

What to Consider Before Writing User Stories in Scrum So They Can Be More Effective and Meaningful

User stories in scrum

A user story is the main functional unit in scrum methodology. When any project is taken up for development using scrum, the specific requirements for that particular project is stated by creating a set or development requirements, which are termed as user stories in scrum. Usually the product owner creates the product backlog – the list of requirements needed to develop the project. The product backlog items are referred to as user stories by scrum professionals. Once the product requirement list is created, a small set of the requirements (user stories) are transferred to the sprint backlog during the sprint planning meeting for development purposes. The stories are explained to the team members in the first half of the sprint planning meeting. During the second half, team members distribute the stories after breaking them down into development tasks. A sprint backlog is prepared in this way. Subsequently, the team starts developing the functionalities of the user stories during the daily sprint. In scrum, the entire project is governed on the basis of the user stories.

The official scrum guide does not attempt to provide a specific definition that can describe the “structure” of a particular user story. The guide actually explains what a user story is, and what part it is supposed to play in the project. It fails to provide a standard format which can explain as to how a user story should really look like. Maybe, the reason why the guide fails to provide a structural definition is because development requirements can vary from one particular project to another.  So, it becomes difficult to standardize a specific format compatible to all types of projects.  The guide, however, states that the user story should ideally be composed of three constituent parts, or include there main aspects:

1.     A written description or a graphical representation of the entity which forms a part of the project
2.     A detailed conversation, or an explanation which additionally describes the functionality in greater details
3.     The acceptance criteria or “Done” meaning which specifies what the entity should include, how it should function, and the particular manner how it should migrate or integrate into the project

What should be considered while writing or creating user stories
While writing the user stories, certain points are important, and should be adhered to for the user stories to be effective and developmental:

·       Stakeholders should create or write the user stories
The investors and the stakeholders are funding the project for financial gains. Each project has a financial value attached to it in terms of how much the project will be worth in the market. The stakeholders know which user stories are important, and which functionalities will increase the value of the project. Therefore, they are the ideal individuals to define and create the list of requirements or the user stories. The product owner carries out the work on their behalf, and represents their interests while the project is being implemented.

·       Using simple tools to represent user stories
In the manual system, stories are written down on index or story cards specially designed for scrum. The scrum index cards are very convenient to work with, and are generally pinned on the scrum board while the sprint is underway. It is important to use a tool that is small in size, so it can be easily stored and pinned on the scrum board. It should be easily readable, simple to understand, and effective. The more simple and effective the tool is, the easier it would be for the team to understand and use it.

·       Time to be allotted to the user story
Scrum advocates time bound activities. Each activity in scrum has a certain duration associated with it, and is “time boxed”. It is important not to exceed the time limit to get the most out of scrum. Each user story is allotted a certain duration within which its development should be completed. It is essential that each user story is completed in the time allotted to it since it has a certain importance value (story points) attached to it. The project turns out to be cost effective only when the right duration of time is allotted to each user story, and each story is completed in the time allotted to it. If the time limit is not allotted, the project becomes expensive and its ROI decreases.

·       Describing and stating important non-functional aspects
Certain user stories need to be explained in further details so the team members can properly understand them. The user stories may be very important in terms of how they provide a solution for a particular end-user related requirement. They may or may not be technically complex, but it may be important for the team members to know what part the user stories are likely to play, and how much important they are as far as the overall project development is concerned. Such non-technical aspects of user stories should be explained properly so a better overview and understanding of the project related requirements is availed.  

·       Fixing the story priority
Each user story has a certain level of importance attached to it development. It is important to prioritize the user stories, so the correct time can be fixed for its development. Important user stories, or those which have more importance attached to their development, should be assigned a higher priority, and sufficient time should be allotted for completing them. On the other hand, less important stories ought to be assigned less time and priority because they do not carry much financial value with regards the functionality they offer. .

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Seven Unique Ways To Breath In New Life In Your Sprint Retrospectives

Sprint retrospectives are an important part of scrum methodology. For Agile practitioners, retrospectives hold a special significance, and offer an insight into the self-learning capabilities supported by scrum.

The primary objectives of a sprint retrospective meeting are:
·       Display the user stories to the stakeholders, which have been developed by the team during the daily sprints  
·       Have the user stories accepted by the investors as “shippable”
·       Discuss and review the entire sprint, and analyze it to find how the sprinting process can be improved upon
·       Find what lessons can be learnt from the sprint, and how the team can benefit from prior findings and experiences
One of the issues faced by the scrum team is the team members end up discussing the same issues and problems in most of the retrospective meetings. The team feels it is discussing the same topics again-and-again, and therefore it is redundant to hold retrospectives. In all aspects, the retrospectives seem to be going “stale” and the team might be just holding it because scrum advocates it. The learning and self correction process stops in such cases, and the retrospective loses its importance and functionality.

So how can you pump in new life in the retrospectives? A few pointers may help you improve your meetings.

1. Rotating the leadership
Instead of the scrum master facilitating the meeting, invite the team members to temporarily assume the role of a scrum master and conduct the meeting. Each member takes turns and facilitates the meeting in his or her own particular way and manner. The members can be asked to experiment with newer adaptations and ways of holding the meeting.

2. Changing the questions
The two standard questions most commonly asked during the meeting are:
1.     What did we do well this time?
2.     What can be possibly improved upon in the next sprint?
Instead, try asking the question:
·       What actually happened during the sprints, and how did it occur?
Individuals tend to look at things from their own perspectives, and at times, they might fail to comprehend the true situation if they are forced to look at issues from a different point of view which they are not familiar with. Asking questions which they find easy to answer can go a long way in making the retrospective more interesting and useful.

3. Varying the process
Each scrum team has its own method of conducting the meeting. While some teams prefer group discussions during the retrospectives, a few of the teams follow the traditional pattern of having one member demonstrate his or her work to the stakeholders. Whichever process you follow, try to change it by including variations into the meeting pattern. A recommended method is to use histograms indicating member satisfaction levels. The survey can be conducted anonymously and the findings presented to the entire team. Suggestions can be availed from the team members as to what new aspects ought to be incorporated to make the meeting interesting. 

4. Thinking about unique perspectives
Individuals and people who are not directly connected with the scrum project, but are still attached to the project somehow can be invited to attend the meeting. Vendors and system deployment personnel have different insights to offer since they are directly connected with the market and have a “working knowledge” about consumer psychology and requirements. Their participation can help the scrum team to avail a broader perspective regarding how the development of user stories should be ideally carried out.

5. Changing the focus
Every team has a certain focal point, which it concentrates upon while developing the project. Switching the focus can also prompt the team to come up with new ideas about how the scrum process can be improved upon. If the team is concentrating too much upon the engineering practices, the focus could be changed to collaborative working and solving technical issues by sharing out the problems.Read more on

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Thursday, 3 April 2014

Agile Values in Scrum: The Important Principles and Values of Scrum Explained

Scrum is perhaps the best known Agile method of implementing successful projects. Scrum projects complete on time, and result into higher ROI for the stakeholders. This makes Scrum an ideal, and the most preferred choice while implementing projects, in which the product definition is liable to change with the changing market conditions. The Agile values and principles apply to scrum.   

Individuals and interactions more important than processes
Scrum, just like other Agile frameworks, relies much upon putting trust in teams and individuals connected with the project. The manner in which the team interacts is important. The team should take a proactive interest in determining what is to be done, and figure out how to achieve the aims and objectives associated with the project. Self correction and self learning is an integral part of scrum methodology, and the team should put in efforts to identify potential issues and problems which can act as impediments and hamper the project. The individuals should also take the responsibility to resolve the issues – they can take the help of the scrum master or the product owner as and when required, since these individuals are usually senior members, and have the required knowledge, as we as the expertise to find a way out and solve the problematic issues. For issues concerning the stakeholders and the investors, the product owner should take a proactive approach in availing the clarifications regarding the acceptance criteria, and guide the team in proceeding with the user stories. In scrum, it is essential that the team feels responsible, and undertake the responsibilities in a proactive manner.

Working and shippable software takes precedence over documentation and marketing concerns
The main purpose and objective of scrum is to produce shippable products through iterations know as sprints. The entire development of the product occurs in sprints. At the end of each sprint, the product owner verifies the quality of the development carried out by the team, and adjudges the completed user stories, whether they comply with the acceptance criteria. It is imperative that sprints deliver shippable products which fulfill the stakeholder’s vision of a successful marketable product. The documentation required to “manufacture” the product, such as the project analysis report, project design, testing and documentation of the results, creating user manuals and technical specifications etc. are important too, but the actual development through the sprints, and churning out shippable products at the end of sprints is more important and precedes the documentation associated with the development.

Collaborating with the customers more important than contracts and legal documentations
The product owner is the main entity which functions as the main point of contact between the team and the stakeholders, as well as the end users of the product. The product owner collaborates with the team, and determines what needs to be done next to make the project a distinct success. A primary responsibility is to ensure that the product maintains the highest possible market value at all times, even while it is being developed. This is the most critical aspect of scrum.

Transparency and taking proper decisions at the right time and the right manner
Scrum stresses heavily upon transparency and sharing information. The entire scrum process is designed to facilitate the flow of information and increase the transparency. Each team member should have access to the required information. They should have access to proper data and important information, so they can make informed decisions and fulfill their responsibilities in a proper and effective manner. Each aspect associated with the scrum process – including the product backlog and user stories – should be made available at all times so that the product increment through sprints is availed as per production plan and schedule.

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Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Core Role and Responsibilities of a Product Owner in Scrum

One of the commonest mistakes that people make while considering the product owner’s role in scrum is to consider him or her as either actually owning the product, or functioning as a decision maker while developing the product for the stakeholders. This is far from true, since the product owner is actually employed by the stakeholders to represent their interests while scrum is implemented in a project. A product owner can own a product, but is not necessarily its owner in most cases.

The core job of the product owner, or rather the main responsibility, is to:
·       Figure out how to “make” the product
·       Ensure that the sprints are successfully completed during the project
·       Shippable products are delivered at the end of sprints
·       Ensure that the scrum project is successfully completed

The product owner’s job is a difficult one, and a full-time one.

The product owner as the core determinant of a successfully completed scrum project
It is essential to deliver value, and the scrum method requires an efficient, reliable, and an accurate mechanism, which can help to determine the product vision and create an effective pipeline which has the capability of distilling the product vision into shippable, concrete, and deliverable product backlog items that can successfully demonstrate the tangible benefits as a part of the longer project vision. It is because of this reason that the role of a product owner becomes a very important one while implementing scrum.

While the product owner can participate in each Scrum ritual, his or her main function, parallel to that of the scrum master, is to act as a facilitator for the entire team, and be available when problems and issues arise in the project. The main tasks of a product owner are:
·       Envisioning the product and facilitating its development
·       Creating an iterative or sprint release strategy which can incorporate the changing market conditions and product requirements
·       Distilling the high-level product related requirements into developable and deliverable user stories linked with acceptance criteria
·       Prioritizing the product backlog
·       Communicating difficult and complex system architecture issues to the clients
·       Negotiating all client-sided disputes and concerns associated with the product design, development, and user story priorities

Responsibilities of a product owner
The person is mainly responsible for:
·       Representing the interests of, and acting as the voice of stakeholders and customers
·       Understanding project profitability and delivering high ROI
·       Managing the stakeholders
·       Maintaining communications and promoting collaboration amongst the team members
·       Undertaking on-the-spot tactical decisions and ensuring that the product development cycle is not affected
·       Participating in the release meetings and planning
·       Writing effective user stories
·       Maintaining and updating the product backlog
·       Helping the team in estimating the development time for each scrum scenario
·       Participating in the sprint review meetings, accepting the user stories as “Done”, and providing effectual feedback

·       Monitoring the project progress and suggesting constant adjustments based upon important strategic objectives

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Thursday, 27 March 2014

Types Of Burn Down Charts In Scrum – What And Why They Are Used For

In scrum, a burn down chart is used to provide a graphical representation of the total work remaining, or left to do, versus time. The pending or outstanding work is generally represented along the vertical X-axis, while the time is plotted against the horizontal Y-axis. A “burn down” chart should ideally be understood as a “run down” chart i.e. how much of total work is still pending and needs to be completed. Even though burn down charts are synonymous with Agile framework and scrum methodologies, they can also be used in other non-Agile frameworks. Basically, burn down charts can be used in any project in which the progress can be measured with respect to time.
Scrum supports several types of burn down charts, and they can be effectively used to measure the progress right from the macro level. At the project level, burn down charts can be effectively used to estimate and depict the progress made. When the project is segregated into its fundamental components at the product level, and when small sets of requirements in the form of user stories taken up for development at the sprint level, the progress can still be measured using burn down charts – even at the micro level.

Product Burn down Chart
The product backlog, created by the product owner at the onset of the scrum project, forms the backbone of all product related requirements in the project. It is the main list which constitutes the product. As the product items, or the user stories, are taken up for development during the sprint, certain stories in the product backlog get marked as “Done” as the sprints keep on progressing. At the end of each sprint, the items successfully developed by the team are accepted as complete by the product owner and flagged accordingly in the product backlog. Therefore, at any given instance of time, the product backlog can consist of complete or pending items. The chart explaining the pending product items and those that have been completed over time is known as the product burn down chart.

Sprint Burn down Chart
During the first half of the sprint planning meeting, the product owner transfers some of the unfinished user stories from the product backlog into the sprint backlog. The stories contained within the sprint backlog are taken up for development by the team members during the daily sprint activity. Each day, as per plan, certain user stories are taken up for development by the programmers, and efforts are made to complete them by the end of the working day, or the “sprint” day. As the sprint proceeds each day, certain stories are completed, while the pending ones start reducing in numbers. The chart, which represents how many user stories have been completed, and ideally how many stories should or ought to be finished each day, while the sprint is underway is known as the sprint burn down chart.Read more on

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