What Does a Scrum Master Do?
By Susan MayThe three roles of Scrum include the Product Owner, the Scrum Master and the developers. Each of these roles is significant and one cannot do without the other. While the Product Owner and the developers have tangible proof of their productivity, it is the Scrum Master who quietly works behind the scenes to ensure that the project goes on smoothly and without any glitches.In this blog, we attempt to look at this important yet often overlooked role of the Scrum Master and understand: what does a Scrum Master do?Scrum Master—who is that?The Scrum Master is an indispensable role, especially when it comes to managing Agile projects and in guiding organizations that are on the path to Agile adoption. A Scrum Master is not just an agile coach but also a motivator, facilitator, problem-solver, thinker and mentor. Their primary responsibility is to serve the team along with the product owner and stakeholders.What Does a Scrum Master Do? The Scrum Master is accountable for establishing Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. They do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory and practice, both within the Scrum Team and the organization—Scrum Guide Primarily, the Scrum Master has to ensure that the project is being implemented in the right way using Scrum and that the team is able to reach sprint goals. In short, they aim to improve the effectiveness of the Scrum team. And how do they ensure that? They do this by making sure that the team is following the right Scrum practices and there are no hindrances to their work. If there are, then the Scrum Master works immediately to remove the obstacles and create an atmosphere that is free of distractions for the team.The Scrum Master Role The Scrum Master is among the three roles or accountabilities, as defined by the Scrum Guide. A person in the Scrum Master role is expected to be an expert in Scrum values, practices and the Scrum framework. While the role does not have any actual authority like a project manager, it is needed to help create teams that are self-organized and are able to influence the team members.Scrum Master Responsibilities. The Scrum Master has responsibilities, not just towards the developers but also towards the Product Owner and the organization as a whole. Let us look at the responsibilities of the Scrum Master towards the other roles in the team.Responsibilities towards the developers:In order to help the developers, the Scrum Master ensures that they can perform in an environment that is free of impediments or roadblocks. Scrum Masters aim to create high performing teams by coaching teams and helping them become self-managed and cross functional. The Scrum Guide lists the following ways in which the Scrum Master serves the team: Coaching the team members in self-management and cross-functionality; Helping the Scrum Team focus on creating high-value Increments that meet the Definition of Done; Causing the removal of impediments to the Scrum Team’s progress; and, Ensuring that all Scrum events take place and are positive, productive, and kept within the timebox. Responsibilities towards the Product Owner:The Scrum Master helps the Product Owner in ordering and maintaining the product backlog, an important activity in the Scrum sprint. The Scrum Master also helps the Product Owner in managing and facilitating stakeholder collaboration. Another area where the Scrum Master helps the Product Owner is in with setting up empirical processes. Scrum Masters use their past experiences to plan projects. The Scrum Guide lists the following ways in which the Scrum Master serves the PO: Helping find techniques for effective Product Goal definition and Product Backlog management; Helping the Scrum Team understand the need for clear and concise Product Backlog items; Helping establish empirical product planning for a complex environment; and, Facilitating stakeholder collaboration as requested or needed. Responsibilities towards the organization:The Scrum Master’s major responsibility towards the organization is in promoting and helping in Scrum adoption through training and coaching. The Scrum Master spreads the awareness of Scrum in the entire organization and helps customers and stakeholders understand Scrum. The Scrum Master also leads implementations and scaling of Scrum at the organizational level. The Scrum Guide lists the following ways in which the Scrum Master serves the organization: Leading, training, and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption; Planning and advising Scrum implementations within the organization; Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact an empirical approach for complex work; and, Removing barriers between stakeholders and Scrum Teams. How is the Scrum master different from a project manager?There is often a lot of confusion between a Scrum Master’s role and that of the Project Manager. But what most organizations and HR personnel who try to fill these two positions do not understand is that the Scrum Master is more of a leadership role while a Project Manager is a management position. Let’s look at some of the differences in these two roles:Scrum MasterProject ManagerResponsibilitiesSolves team conflicts with good communication skillsMotivates the teamRemoves impediments that may stop team from workingOrganizes daily ScrumEnsures project completion on time and within budget Helps team work together and without distractions Involved in risk management, change management, quality control, documentation and vendor management Management approachBottom-up, decentralized approach to software developmentTraditional command and control, top-down approachInteraction with Organizational Management Seeks management approval to scale and implement ScrumWorks with upper management to ensure a scope and direction of a projectRole in projectWorks with Scrum team to make sure project is on track and effective Is the authority and a sole point of contact for the project Interaction with teamMotivates team and helps the work effectively Focuses on product development rather than people and processes Interaction with stakeholderThe Product Owner and not the Scrum Master is the main point of contact for the stakeholdersHas to frequently interact with stakeholders and customersTeam SizeWorks best in small teamsCan handle large teamsSalaryScrum Masters can earn a salary of up to $118,353 a year Project Managers can earn salaries up to $111,000 on an average The path to becoming a Scrum Master According to Indeed.com, Scrum Master certifications, especially the gold standard Certified ScrumMaster®, were the 9th most-requested certification this year. CSM was the only agile certification to make the Top 20. CSM® even beat out the PMP, which as the only other certification in the product and project management space to make the Top 20, came in at number 13—Scrum Alliance.While there is no compensation for experience and knowledge and skills gained on the job, a certification is a great way to start your Scrum learning journey and get a foothold in this competitive Scrum industry. Certifications given by world renowned accreditation bodies like Scrum Alliance, Scaled Agile Inc., Scrum Inc. etc are highly recognized world over and help certification holders to effectively apply Scrum and drive value.CertificationLearning ObjectivesTraining durationCertifying bodyCertified ScrumMaster® (CSM®) Getting familiar with Agile & Scrum The three roles in Scrum Scrum ceremonies and artifacts Sprint execution Daily Scrum and Retrospectives Agile estimation 2-day training from a Certified Scrum Trainer. Scrum Alliance® Professional Scrum Master™ I (PSM I) Understanding and Applying Scrum Developing People and Teams Managing Products with Agility Developing and Delivering Products Professionally Evolving the Agile Organization2-day training from a Professional Training Network (PTN) member of Scrum.org Scrum.org™Scrum Master by Scrum Inc.™ Learn about the Scrum Framework and the origins of Scrum Define and understand the Scrum roles Learn about Events and Artifacts Understand Lean principles and creating a high- performance team Understand the Agile Manifesto and about Scrum@Scale 16-hour training from an ATP of Scrum Inc. Scrum Inc.Certified SAFe® Scrum Master Get introduced to Scrum in SAFe Understand the role of a Scrum Master Program Increment Planning Facilitate Iteration execution Finishing the Program Increment Coaching Agile teams2-day course conducted by SAFe Program Consultant (SPC) Scaled Agile, Inc Once you gain these entry-level certificates, you can further increase your skills and career opportunities by going for more advanced certificates like Advanced CSM from Scrum Alliance. Conclusion The best way to ensure a successful Agile project or a successful Agile implementation is to get on board a Scrum Master. World over, organizations are going Agile and Scrum Masters are more in demand than ever. If you wish to capitalise on this demand then gaining one of the popular accredited credentials is a great way to go about it.
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The Scrum Process Explained
By Susan MayScrum, the iterative and incremental Agile methodology focuses on delivering large projects by breaking them into smaller iterations or sprints. This method of delivering results incrementally has several advantages including quick rollback in case of failure, frequent testing and releasing, quick adaptation to changing requirements and customer satisfaction. In this blog, we attempt to describe the Scrum processes involved in the product development lifecycle.Scrum processes: The Basics There are eleven basic elements that make up the framework. There are: Three roles Scrum Master Product Owner Developers Three artifacts Product backlog Sprint backlog Potentially releasable product increment Five events/ceremonies Sprint Planning Daily Scrum Sprint Review Sprint Retrospective The Sprint Those implementing the Scrum framework must have a thorough understanding of how each of these works. While the responsibilities of the scrum roles are quite fluid it is important that each team has members with a collection of diverse skills. Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective are called the inspect and adapt events within each sprint. These events or ceremonies give the team an opportunity to inspect and adapt the product and the processes on a regular basis and lead to better quality work and efficiency. The artifacts add a lot of value to the product development and should be managed by the roles in the Scrum team. The Product Backlog is owned, refined and managed by the Product Owner in order to ensure that the team knows what to work on next and the priority of delivering sprint goals. The Product Owner takes up ownership of the product backlog and refines and orders it with help from the Scrum Master and the developers.The amount of work to be undertaken in a sprint is estimated by refining the product backlog. During product backlog refinement, the items listed in the backlog are broken into smaller and definite items. As items are broken down, more details may be added to make it easier for developers to understand what must be built.Visualizing tools: Scrum offers several visualization tools, and the team must know how to leverage these tools in order to ensure that work is properly allocated and completed on time for the next sprint. Once such tool is the Burndown chart that helps developers estimate the amount of work that has been completed in an epic or sprint, and the total work remaining. They also help to predict if the team can finish the work on time and to be aware of any scope creep that may occur during the sprint. Another popular visualizing tool is the Scrum Kanban board, used to identify items that have met the definition of done and those under progress. Visualizing the work completed is a very important part of the sprint as it helps developers understand where they stand with respect to the progress of the work undertaken and helps the product owner understand the same.How the Product Owner is involved:The Product Owner is actively involved in all the artifacts. As the main value enabler, the Product Owner must ensure that the increment that is released satisfies all the requirements of the stakeholders. The PO (Product Owner) updates the backlog and the prioritized list of tasks based on customer feedback. This includes not just any new requirements but also changes made to existing features or requirements. While the Product Owner is responsible for the Product Backlog, they are not solely responsible for it.The Product Owner ensures that the developers to spend quality time in refining the Product Backlog as this makes Sprint planning more effective. Frequent ordering and refining of the product backlog ensure that maximum value is delivered.Let’s look at the artifacts, ceremonies and roles in depth1. Living documents/artifacts: The artifacts are also called living documents as they are constantly evolving and are not static.Product BacklogThe Product Backlog is owned by the Product Owner and is an ordered list of tasks that are needed to be completed to attain the final product. The product backlog is continuously updated to reflect new features, bug fixes or tasks that need to be carried out as the product development progresses. The practice of product backlog refinement is carried out by the Product Owner with help from the Scrum Master and the developers.Sprint Backlog The sprint backlog is an ordered list of tasks that need to be completed in the duration of the current sprint. The items on this list are decided at the time of the sprint planning meeting. The developers own the sprint backlog and receive help from the product owner in populating it with tasks taken from the product backlog.The developers may break up the tasks into smaller units and estimate the effort associated with each task. The sprint backlog may change or evolve during the sprint as new tasks may be added or some tasks may be removed to ensure that the right amount of tasks are done to achieve the goal within the sprint duration. Every sprint has a sprint document.Burndown chart“A burndown chart shows the amount of work that has been completed in an epic or sprint, and the total work remaining. Burndown charts are used to predict your team's likelihood of completing their work in the time available. They're also great for keeping the team aware of any scope creep that occurs.”—Atlassian Agile Coach Burndown charts give the following information: Total estimate: This is the total effort in work hours that the team has committed to completing. This includes user-stories and issues that may need to be addressed Work left to be done: The burndown chart also shows the total work that is still left to be done. Total working days: This represents the total working days in a sprint or the sprint duration. Based on this information the team can estimate how much time they must complete the story. Ideal effort: The ideal effort is the exact amount of effort remaining which needs to be burnt. It helps the team to measure performance. Actual effort: This is the total sum of all the remaining effort that is left at the end of each day.2. Ceremonies or eventsSprint:Sprints are the heartbeat of Scrum, where ideas are turned into value. They are fixed length events of one month or less to create consistency. A new Sprint starts immediately after the conclusion of the previous Sprint--Scrum Guide All the other events happen within the sprint. At the end of each sprint, the developers have to deliver a sprint goal that is a Potentially releasable Product Increment, in other words an increment that meets the requisite “definition of done”—a set of mutually agreed upon items or standards that a completed task or user story must reflect. Sprint Planning:This lays the foundation for the work to be carried out during the sprint. The Scrum team justifies the need for the sprint in terms of the value it would deliver to the Product Owner, what has to be done in the sprint, and how the work should proceed in order to deliver the sprint goal.Daily Scrum:The Daily Scrum is an event that is carried out every day of the sprint. It is conducted by the Scrum Master and is conducted at the same time and place every day of the sprint in order to keep it uncluttered and less time consuming. The daily meeting is a time when problems are discussed, work completed is evaluated, work is allocated and the tasks for the next day are planned. It aims to enhance collaboration and communication within the team.Sprint Review:In the sprint review, the team presents the product increment to the stakeholders and explains how it helps the overall product goal. This is also the time when future adaptations of improvements to the product are discussed, and changes are made to the product backlog to reflect the same.Sprint Retrospective:A retrospective is a chance to look back on the sprint that got completed and see how future sprints can be improved. The team identifies what went wrong or what were the roadblocks that impeded work and based on these learnings tries to improve the quality and efficiency of upcoming sprints. 3. Roles:Let’s look at the responsibilities of the three Scrum roles:Product Owner:Order and refine the product backlog Describe the vision to the team Help generate value Ensure that agility is practiced Facilitate scrum events Guide the team on Scrum values and practicesScrum MasterEncourage self-management in a team by being a facilitator Remove impediments that halt the progress of the project Ensure that Scrum practices are followed Protect the team from internal and external distractions Be the go-between the product owner and the team and external stakeholders Help the team perform more effectively Arrange daily scrum and other events Plan Scrum implementations within the organizationDevelopers Manage the sprint backlog Build and test the product Deliver a potentially shippable product at the end of each sprint Give cognizance to customer requirements Work with Product Owner to prioritize backlog Conclusion The Scrum processes implement the empirical Scrum pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation. They help to reduce waste and focus on essentials that bring in value and effectiveness. The adherence to Scrum processes helps bring in quality and commitment along with customer satisfaction and team motivation.
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CSM vs PSM: Which Certification To Choose
By Susan MayAgile roles like the Scrum Master are seeing a sharp rise in hiring. This demand has been fuelled by the popularity of Agile and the advantages it brings into organizations including sustainability, adaptability, satisfied customers, lower costs, more efficient processes and teams. Organizations are keen on capitalizing on the expertise of certified individuals to drive their Agile and Scrum transformations and reap the benefits of Agile.In this blog we attempt to look at two of the most popular Scrum certifications PSMTM and CSM® and the difference between the two.What Does CSM Stand For?Source linkCSM stands for Certified ScrumMaster® and is a credential offered by the Scrum Alliance. This is an entry level certificate for those who want to grow in the field of Agile and Scrum by mastering the Scrum framework and understanding all about team accountabilities, events, artifacts and methods of implementing Scrum and guiding teams. The CSM credential proves the holder’s expertise on Scrum practices and their ability to successfully lead projects through their collaborative, organizational, and communication skills.According to the State of Scrum 2017-2018, CSM is the most popular and sought-after Scrum credential. The CSM is given to professionals who attend the training given by a Certified Scrum Trainer and successfully clear the CSM exam.The learning path to CSM includes the following topics: Agile and Scrum Overview The three roles in Scrum Scrum Ceremonies Scrum Artifacts Sprint Execution Daily Scrum and Sprint Retrospective Definition of Done (DoD) and Acceptance Criteria Definition of Ready Release Planning Sprint Burndown Chart Release Burn-Up Chart Product Planning User Stories Agile Estimation Planning PokerWhat Does PSM Stand For?Source LinkPSM stands for Professional Scrum MasterTM and is offered by the world renowned Scrum.org. There are three levels to the PSM depending on complexity—PSM I, PSM II and PSM III. Based on a curriculum derived from the Scrum Guide, the PSM credential validates a professional’s ability to implement the Scrum framework and drive value. The PSM I credential is given to practitioners who can demonstrate a fundamental understanding of Scrum by passing the exam. The learning path for PSM I, includes the following topics The Scrum Framework Scrum Philosophy and Principles Scrum Planning Quality and Definition of Done Cross-functional, Self-organizing Teams Coaching and Facilitation6. The Scrum MasterLet’s Understand Both the Courses CSM® vs PSM™ I:DetailsCSMPSMPath to gaining the certificateProfessionals are required to complete a 16-hr live online or in-person CSM course conducted by a Certified Scrum Trainer. On successful completion of this Certified ScrumMaster® training process, and after clearing the exam, you will be awarded the designation of Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM®) by Scrum Alliance.Professionals are not required to attend a 2-day training session, but it is highly recommended. Professionals with a high knowledge of Scrum and its application to teams and in driving value, can directly appear for the PSM I exam and clear it to gain the credential from Scrum.orgExam PatternOpen book, Online exam. Multiple Choice QuestionsOpen book, online exam. Multiple Choice, Multiple Answer, and True/FalseNo of questions5080Duration60 minutes60 minutesExam LevelEasyDifficultPassing score74%85%Exam Re-takeThe Scrum Alliance allows you to take the CSM exam at no cost for the first 2 attempts within 90 days after you receive your welcome email. You will be charged a minimum of $25 each from the third attempt or after completing your 90 days.The Scrum.org allows you to retake the Professional Scrum Master exam if you fail. Two attempts are permitted within 14 days after you receive your key, at no additional cost.Certification CostExam fee included in the workshop fee$150 USDRenewalCSMs are required to earn 20 Scrum Educational Units (SEUs) within the past two years, in addition to the $100 renewal fee that has to be paid.Valid for lifetime. No renewal required.Education UnitsParticipating in a 2-day training program can help you gain 14-16 Professional Development Units and Scrum Education UnitsOn completing 14 hours of training, you can gain 14 Professional Development Units and 14 Scrum Education UnitsReliability of course contentCSM requires a 2-day training that is taken by a CST. Different CSTs may have their own interpretation of the content and hence learners will also have different interpretations based on what they learn.Since there is only one body that decides the exam content and curriculum, the content remains consistent.What nextAfter obtaining Certified Scrum Master® Certification, one can pursue advanced certifications like Advanced Certified Scrum Master® Certification (A-CSM®) and Certified Scrum Professional® – Scrum Master Certification (CSP®-SM).After obtaining Professional Scrum Master™ I Certification, one can pursue advanced certifications like Professional Scrum Master™ II (PSM II), and Professional Scrum Master™ III (PSM III) certification courses.Conclusion: In this post-pandemic world, Agility and Scrum are the only things that can help organizations survive. Having Certified Scrum Masters and Professional Scrum Masters in the workforce can help teams deliver quality products, reduce risks, ensure stakeholder collaboration and raise the profile of the organization. Pursing any one of these credentials will put your career on the roadmap of success. You can aim for lucrative positions and prove your expertise in delivering value.
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What a Sprint Burndown Chart Reflects in Agile & Scrum
By Susan MayVisualization is a key part of Agile projects. It supports transparency and collaboration and helps as an aid to visually measure progress and success. There are several tools available for visualization of agile projects and the most important among them, undoubtedly, is the burndown chart.In this blog, we attempt to understand more about burndown charts and what the sprint burndown chart reflects in Agile projects.What Is a Burndown Chart?“A burndown chart shows the amount of work that has been completed in an epic or sprint, and the total work remaining. Burndown charts are used to predict your team's likelihood of completing their work in the time available. They're also great for keeping the team aware of any scope creep that occurs.”—Atlassian Agile Coach In other words, a burndown chart in Agile Scrum Methodology is a metric that helps to visually measure the amount of work completed in a day against the projected rate of completion for the existing sprint or release. Since it shows the daily progress, teams can gauge if they will be able to reach their milestones and deliver the required solution in the allocated time.What Information Do Burndown Charts Convey?Burndown charts give the following information in agile scrum projects: Total estimate: This is the total effort in work hours that the team has committed to completing. This includes user stories or closing tickets or issues. Amount of work left to be done: The burndown chart not only shows the amount of work completed but also the total work left to be done. Total working days: This represents the total working days in a sprint or the sprint duration. This is necessary to be shown in the burndown chart as the team would need to calculate how much work is yet to be completed and how much time they can dedicate to the committed item. Ideal effort: The ideal effort is a yardstick against which the team can measure its performance. It is represented by calculating the exact amount of effort remaining which needs to be burnt. Actual effort: This is the total sum of all the remaining effort that is left at the end of each day. Reading a Burndown Chart in Agile ScrumThe burndown chart consists of X Axis: Indicates time, usually in days Y Axis: Indicates remaining work to be done in a sprint and can be represented by either number of tasks or remaining Progress Line: Indicates the team progress through the sprint Guideline: The projected estimate that is drawn downwards from top left to bottom right on the graph. The burndown char must be read by comparing the progress line with the guideline. The team can come to different conclusions based on how close the two lines are to each other. If the progress line is above the guideline, it infers that the team is behind schedule. If the two lines are very close together it means that they are on track and will achieve their target if they maintain this velocity. If the progress line is below the guideline, it means that the team is well ahead of its schedule and may achieve targets even before the sprint ends.How the Scrum Team Uses the Burndown ChartThe sprint starts with the Scrum team selecting the user stories that need to be completed in that sprint. The team refers to the product backlog and selects the tasks based on priority. The team then makes an estimation on when the task will be completed. The estimations are all added up to arrive at the cumulative amount which is called the effort remaining.Effort remaining is then divided into the number of days that are still left in the sprint. Effort remaining is generally represented as story points on the Y-axis. By calculating the effort remaining, the team can zero in on how many hours have to be dedicated to a task.How Burndown Charts Help in Agile Project ManagementBurndown charts are a great tool for planning and visualising work as well as for allocating tasks. Let’s look at how it helps in these areas: Planning: The burndown chart is a great planning and tracking tool and helps the Scrum Master and the Product Owner allocate tasks based on effort estimate. They can also identify if the project is on schedule or behind. Scope Management: It helps teams understand if there has been a scope creep somewhere along the path of the sprint. Schedule management: With a daily update of effort spent and effort remaining, the team can track if they are on schedule or not. Risk analysis: With the daily feedback that it provides, a burndown chart helps to assess risks and catch and rectify them early on. Communication: This is a great tool to communicate project and team progress to stakeholders and management. It is simple to understand and allows third parties to gauge the progress and productivity of the team.How Does the Burndown Chart Look?Let’s look at an example of a burndown chart: In the above example, the X-axis represents the time while the story points have been represented on the Y-axis. From the graph the team is on track as depicted by the red line, which is very close to the projected estimate depicted by the blue line. Other Types of Burndown ChartsLet’s look at some other types of burndown charts: Sprint Burndown Chart in Agile Scrum:This is like the normal burndown charts; the difference being that it represents the work remaining in the sprint. This is shown on the X-axis, as the measurement of time in time units of a sprint or in other words the time duration of a sprint. The sprint burndown chart has the following uses: Helps to track team’s progress through the sprint Helps track how much work is still left to do Helps understand by when the goals can be met Let’s look at an example of a Sprint burndown chart:This graph represents a sprint which is of one month duration. The red line shows the progress of the team as opposed to the estimated or predicted effort shown by the blue line. In this instance, the graph shows that the team is behind schedule and may not be able to complete the task within the projected date of July 1st.Release Burndown Chart:This helps to track the team’s progress over the period of release. The X-axis represents the time duration over the release.The release burndown chart helps teams to track how much time is remaining in the release and how fast the team is working through the product backlog. Let’s look at an example of a Release burndown chartThe red line represents the work being completed by the team and the blue line shows the ideal or projected timeline. The team represented in this graph is very close to the projected timeline and is likely to reach its target. Updating the release burndown chart: The release burndown chart is usually updated by the Scrum Master at the end of the sprint. While this is a great way to track the progress of the team through the sprint, it’s not the best alternative for projects that have constantly changing requirements.Burndown Bar Chart:A burndown bar chart has bars. The height of the bars represents the amount of work remaining in the sprint or release. There are a few things to be considered when creating burndown bar charts: The top is lowered every time any work is completed The top is moved up or down each time work is re-estimated The bottom is lowered when new work is added The bottom is raised when work is removed SAFe Agile Burndown ChartThe Scaled Agile Framework is a scaling framework that helps to scale Agile to the enterprise level. The SAFe burndown chart also called the PI burndown chart also represents the effort remaining over a period of time. By showing the progress that is being made towards the program increment timebox, this tool helps to track the work that has been planned for a PI against the work that has been accepted.The horizontal X-axis in this chart shows the sprints while the vertical Y-axis shows the amount of work remaining at the start of each sprint.The graph shows two lines. One is the planned line that is the sum of story points from all the teams and sprints and the other is the actual line that is the total of ‘done’ story points by all the teams.Burn Up Chart Like the burndown chart, a burnup chart is also used to track the progress of the project. But unlike the burndown chart, the burnup chart shows how much work has been completed and the total amount of work. The burnup chart also shows information like work done in the previous increments and scope creep.The X axis on the burnup chart represents the time and the Y axis represents the story points or any other unit of work. Here’s an example of a Burnup chart:This graph above represents a typical burnup chart. The red line shows the work that has been completed and the blue line shows the ideal line. This graph shows that the team was behind schedule but ultimately reached the target by removing some work from the sprint. Release Burnup Chart Similar to the release burndown chart, the release burnup chart shows the work completed in the release till now. The X axis represents the dates until the release and the Y axis shows the amount of work, which could be story points or any other unit. The release burnup chart is a great visual tool to check if the release scope will be achieved.Here's an example of a Release Burnup chart:The red line represents the team’s progress while the blue line is the ideal or trend line. The red line is tapering down and shows that the team is unable to meet the deadline.Iteration Burndown ChartThe iteration burndown chart shows the work remaining in the iteration. It is a great tool to be used at the tie or retrospective meetings as the team can identify bottlenecks and pain points that may have caused problems during the iteration and try to fix them for the next iteration.What Is Velocity in Agile?At the end of each iteration, the team adds up effort estimates associated with user stories that were completed during that iteration. This total is called velocity—Agile Alliance Velocity helps the team to estimate how long it would take to complete the project. It’s a metric that provides a relative estimate and may not be a 100% accurate, but is a useful tool to identify how much work is yet to be done to complete the project and how long it will take for the team to move through the backlog and assign tasks effectively.Agile Velocity FormulaVelocity is calculated by using the estimates on the remaining user stories and with the assumption that velocity will remain the same over the coming iterations. Velocity can be measured at different levels: At the individual task level At the team level At the sprint level At the epic or release levelVelocity of the team is calculated as:Velocity of the team in Scrum = Number of total story points completed / number of sprints Sprint Velocity ChartUnderstanding how much value your team can deliver in a sprint is a useful metric as it allows you to gauge productivity and figure out how much work can be accomplished by the team in future sprints. The Sprint velocity chart helps the product manager to do exactly that by showing the amount of value delivered by the team in each sprint.Wrapping Up There are several types of burndown charts available and they are all geared towards helping teams and managers understand how much work is completed, and estimate when the work allocated will be accomplished. Most burndown charts are fairly easy to understand and are a great tool for communicating team productivity and project status.
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Visualization is a key part of Agile projects. It supports transparency and collaboration and helps as an aid to visually measure progress and success. There are several tools available for visualizat...Continue reading
Scrum at Scale to Increasing Agility of Organizations
By Susan MayOne of the myths of Agile frameworks like Scrum are that they work only for small teams and small organizations or start-ups. But as more and more organizations have realized the advantage of going Agile, scaling Scrum is no longer an option, but a necessity. By scaling Scrum, organizations can ensure sustainability, competitive advantage, early adaptability, and reduce time to market. Enterprises are all about happy customers, and this can be achieved by scaling Scrum to respond to changes, address requirements, and continually improve processes and practices. The Need for Organizational AgilityAgile is the ability to create and respond to change. It is a way of dealing with, and ultimately succeeding in, an uncertain and turbulent environment. —Agile Alliance The pandemic was an eye-opener for many of us. Economies hit rock bottom and organizations unprepared to handle the change had to shut shop. According to McKinsey & Co, an April 2020 survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics found that 30 percent of businesses in the United Kingdom reported they had less than three months of cash reserves, 24 percent paused trading, and many more turned to government support.Why did this happen? Because they were not ready to handle change or could not adapt to new ways of working, including remote working, which has now become the norm. As opposed to that, there were organizations that were able to ride the tide and prove their adaptability and resilience by making quick decisions, adapting to change and ensuring that there was business continuity even when teams were distributed. These were organizations that had adopted Scrum and were able to reap its benefits to become high performing and profitable.We are living in an increasingly disruptive world, where technology changes at breakneck speed. A part of being more responsive and adaptable is the ability to adopt these technologies and train the workforce to become competitive. Organizations also have to ensure that the changing requirements of stakeholders are addressed. Customer and stakeholder patterns are rapidly changing, and they demand quick responses and action. Non-agile organizations will find it difficult to accommodate these demands and lose the goodwill of customers.Here are some of the benefits that Scrum organizations stand to gain: A more responsive culture More adaptability Nimbleness and collaboration Easier to get things done Free flow of information Quicker decision making Empowered teams Satisfied customers Faster learnings from failures Increased business value and product quality Better alignment between DevOps and business Faster decision making Faster accommodation of stakeholder needs Scaling Scrum To Increase Agility of OrganizationsWhile organizations may start implementing agility on a small scale through team level and agile project implementation, the ultimate goal of every organization would be to scale Scrum throughout the enterprise. A fully Agile organization with Scrum teams across all departments is empowered to make quick decisions giving it a strategic advantage over its competition and the ability to capitalize on new opportunities.Agile organizations have the strength and power to shorten delivery times and respond to customer demands at speed, all qualities that will help them survive the digital age and ensure long lasting achievement of business goals and objectives. But scaling Scrum to the enterprise level is easier said than done. Many large organizations have gone down the route of enterprise-wide agile transformation only to fail miserably. How can organizations ensure that they scale effectively? By following these three dimensions of organizational agility: Lean-Thinking People and Agile Teams Lean Business Operations Strategy Agility Let’s look at each of these in-depth.Lean-Thinking People and Agile Teams: This dimension, which states that everyone in the solution delivery pipeline needs to be trained and well versed with Lean Agile methods including their principles, values and practices, is important for all activities that continually support the business including software applications, digital systems, and supporting activities like security, privacy, support, availability etc.This dimension deals with scaling Scrum in the enterprise and requires the agile mind-set and principles to transcend teams and extend to the enterprise. Scrum teams are high performing, and it is important that all technical domains including network, operations, hardware etc adopt agile to ensure high performance and motivated teams.Besides helping technical teams adopt agility, teams that support the development and delivery of business solutions should also become agile. These include: Marketing teams Supply chain management teams HR teams Customer service and support teams Operations, Finance, Compliance teams Another important aspect of ensuring enterprise-wide agility is to provide teams the right environment, especially physical spaces to allow teams to support and practice Scrum processes and artifacts like daily stand-up meetings, boards, the right infrastructure to conduct meetings and more.Information should be always accessible. There has to be a high degree of transparency and teams should be able to visualize customer requirements, the flow of work and strategy.Lean Business OperationsIn order to ensure implementation of appropriate lean business operations, enterprises should take care of Operational Value streams and Development Value Streams. Operational Value Streams suggests the sequence of activities that are needed to deliver a product or service to the customer. Development Value Streams is the sequence of steps needed to convert a business idea into a solution that is supported by technology and delivers customer value. By taking care of these two aspects, end to end solutions can be delivered to the customer.Value stream mapping that identifies the operational and Development Value streams is an essential task to be carried out as it helps to analyse and improve business operations.These value streams can be visualized on boards like Kanban boards, that help to further visualize the value stream and identify any bottlenecks or risks and improve the operational flow.Companies that have successfully scaled Scrum have now started using automation tools to further enhance the efficiency of operational value streams. Agile Lifecycle Management solutions, Content management and translation management systems, Workflow management systems etc help supported distributed teams and make work more efficient.Strategy AgilityThe third dimension of organizational agility is Strategy agility. This is an important aspect of going agile, which means becoming flexible and adaptable. Strategy Agility defines the ability of the organization to mould themselves according to changing market conditions and implement new strategies quickly and effectively.Organizations that have adopted strategy agility and are competent in it, display the following characteristics: 1. Market Sensing: This is the ability to identify and sense changes in the market. It is based on the following: Market research Analysing quantitative and qualitative data Getting direct and indirect customer feedback Directly observing customers in the marketplace 2. Bringing Innovation Like a Lean Organization:Once the market opportunity has been identified it is time to implement this. This requires visualizing the flow of processes and investments. These initiatives may be completely new or may require making changes to existing processes or solutions. In order to reduce the risk, most organizations test their hypotheses by creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) before committing fully to new initiatives.3. Implementing Changes in Strategy:Once new strategies are identified it is time to implement them, communicate it to the entire team and the stakeholders and customers. New strategies are often difficult to implement as they may affect several linked processes downstream. Hence there has to be a high degree of co-ordination between teams and processes in order to ensure that the strategy is implemented successfully.4. Accounting Innovations:Traditional accounting systems and metrics like Profit and Loss (P&L) and Return on Investment (ROI) are carried out too late in the process to identify any risks or value additions. Instead, Agile organizations should have innovative accounting strategies that use actionable metrics that offer quick and efficient analysis of data.5. Being Organized Around Value:The goal of the organization should be to deliver value to the customer. Their entire operational hierarchy should support this. This could mean using the existing operations and making them lean to minimize delays or creating new value streams. The organization should assemble teams that can collaborate and understand the needs of customers and deliver business value and enhance quality. As new and new technologies and strategies are adopted there may be a need to completely overhaul or re-organize Agile teams and ARTs around business value. Scaled Scrum ContractsEvery large-scale system has to align with third parties such as customers and stakeholders and other contracts. These alignments of an enterprise with suppliers, partners, vendors etc are safeguarded through contracts for the value delivered. Considering that there is continuous change owing to new requirements, changing market conditions or new technology innovations and decisions, there also must be provision to ensure that contracts are flexible. This is where Scrum contracts come in. By being flexible and adaptable, these contracts benefit all parties in the short and long term.Conclusion Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, implementing Scrum at scale is a huge undertaking; one that most organizations get wrong! But with systems like the Scaled Agile Framework SAFe®, that provides principles, practices and competencies that are aligned to business agility, organizations can scale Scrum and reap the benefits of going fully Agile.
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One of the myths of Agile frameworks like Scrum are that they work only for small teams and small organizations or start-ups. But as more and more organizations have realized the advantage o...Continue reading
What is Agile Infrastructure
By Susan MayRapid change is all around us. Technology, businesses, products, economies and even our lives are in a constant state of flux. How do businesses compete and stay relevant in this complex and ever-changing world? By making sure that they too change rapidly and adopt technologies at the pace that is needed for growth and innovation. This is only possible with a framework like Agile, which emphasizes on moving things fast while maintaining quality and focusing on customer happiness.In this article we talk about the kind of infrastructure that is needed to pull off Agile projects and how it can benefit organizations.Agile Infrastructure: What Is It? First let’s start with understanding about Agile. Globalization has made our world smaller but has also brought in a lot of volatility. Enterprises that seek to flourish in this new environment, grow their business and retain customer loyalty must adapt to this changing pace and support newly evolving technologies. Agility enables an organization to cope with change. This iterative and incremental model supports flexibility and change and helps organizations adapt to change faster. But Agility is not just about changing processes, rather it is about a change in culture and change in the mind-set of the entire organization. Agile came into existence in the 1990s as an alternative to traditional, legacy systems that do not support rapid change. The Agile Manifesto, which is the Agile bible, outlines these four values that make it different from the traditional project management methods: Individuals and interactions over Processes and tools Working software over Comprehensive documentation Customer collaboration over Contract negotiation Responding to change over Following a planAgile is the ability to create and respond to change. It is a way of dealing with, and ultimately succeeding in, an uncertain and turbulent environment.—Agile Alliance Agile involves carrying out product development using an iterative and incremental approach. So, large projects are broken into smaller chunks and the team concentrates on one chunk at a time, also called iterations. The end goal of each iteration is to release a functional product or feature. Agile also focuses on the creation of a “MVP” or ‘minimum viable product’ which releases the product with very basic of minimum features and is used to gauge performance and customer reactions. This reduces the chance of risks and helps in accommodating any customer changes or additional requirements.Let’s Look at Some of the Advantages That Agile Brings In:Allowing software to be created in short iterations Ensuring rapid delivery of working software Reducing documentation Implementing a regular feedback mechanism Incorporating testing into development to ensure bult-in quality Helping to create superior quality products Enhancing ROI Reducing waste Reducing associated risks Enhancing team productivity Increasing customer satisfaction Any organization that needs to go Agile, also needs to have an infrastructure that supports rapid deployment and continuous improvement based on feedback. Implementing the right infrastructure helps to optimize operations and enable agility. Agility is applied to every aspect of an organization’s IT infrastructure including its physical, network, and software components. Adopting Agile infrastructure helps organizational teams to collaborate better, be transparent, adapt faster to newer technologies like the cloud, deploy releases through lightweight frameworks, streamline processes and update components in an easier manner by using a modular approach, build modern web applications and much more.Agile Infrastructure: Why?Faster Deployment: Agile’s philosophy of incremental and iterative development helps teams to roll out products faster. Unlike the traditional project management methodologies, where the customer would have to wait a long time to be able to see the product, Agile ensures quick releases of products and features, which the customer can see, experience and give feedback on to improve. This not only keeps the customer happy but also helps the team to identify and rectify any mistakes or design issues in subsequent releases. This reduces costs of roll backs and saves time. More Flexibility: Agility is all about flexibility and Agile infrastructure accommodates this change. The traditional legacy infrastructure on the other hand is very resistant to change and any new implementation or adoption takes a long time. Agile helps organizations adopt changes at any time and whenever required, not just before the project commences but even at the time of project development. Continuous Feedback: A huge reason for the popularity of Agile is because of its continuous feedback model. The customer is taken along the journey of development and feedbacks are incorporated as and when they are given. As opposed to this, the legacy infrastructures take feedback only at the end of the project when the product is ready. This might make the feedback irrelevant as it would again take a long time to implement the feedback, by which time customer requirements would have changed. Agile infrastructure on the other hand ensures that teams get feedback during the time of project development, which then gets incorporated and leads to product improvement, better value and satisfied customers. Continuous Improvement: Agile infrastructure not just supports fast deployment but also on a continuous basis. So, with each release, Agile infrastructure ensures an improvement from the previous release. When features are products are released frequently, customers get an immediate feel of how the product look and can review it in phases. They then suggest feedback which is again implemented in the next release. This ensures a continuous feedback cycle that brings about continuous improvement in product development.How the Agile Infrastructure Is Benefiting CompaniesAgile infrastructure brings in the much-needed structure, flexibility and adaptability to organizations, and these in turn help to: Drive new business value Reduce costs and time to market Open new opportunities for growth Lead to sustainable growth and practices Ensure easy scaling of Agile services Reduce and mitigate risks Make an enterprise more capable Shortcomings of Agile InfrastructureWhile Agile infrastructure has brought in a host of benefits, it comes with its share of shortcomings which organizations need to manage. Some of these are: Any project requires estimation to be done early on so that the process of allocating tasks and deciding budget and time considerations are made easier. But this approach falters when it comes for large Agile projects and large implementations, since the process of estimating for complex projects right at the beginning can often be arduous and unsuccessful. Agile infrastructure is best implemented by resources who are well experienced and know what they do. But in a day and age where resources are difficult to come by, this becomes a bottleneck. To keep up with the demands of the market, customers may continuously change their requirements or maybe unsure of how they want the final product to shape up. Often there is many a slip between the cup and the lip and the customer may not like what is being created. Although Agile infrastructure is provisioned to handle exactly these kinds of situations, it can become a hindrance in project progress. Agile infrastructure encompasses both the software and the hardware. While software may be changed and made to adapt fast, it is not always easy to change the hardware at such a quick rate, which again hinders the agile process. While small iterations and short release cycles work great with software development, these may not be viable when it comes to dealing with hardware releases. Agile infrastructure has not proven to be successful in the more conservative sectors of medicine and military systems. Conclusion Agile is here to stay and by bringing in agility to IT infrastructure we are looking at potentially renovating entire processes to make organizations more capable and powerful. While there are still many who debate the efficacy of Agile infrastructure, there is no denying that it helps an organization to significantly boost its ability to evolve and adapt to a fast-changing world.
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How To Become A Scrum Master
By Susan MayIn today’s world, competition is rife, and businesses are becoming increasingly dependent on innovation in software to get an edge over their peers. Agile methodologies have been lauded as the most popular innovation engines, and among all the various frameworks under the Agile umbrella, Scrum is the most widely used. The 15th State of Agile Report states that over 66% of the respondents who participated in the survey follow Scrum as their preferred Agile framework. Key Scrum activities such as the Daily Stand-up and retrospectives are adopted even by other Agile approaches and in hybrid methods of project management as they have been proven to work well. And in all Scrum teams, the role of the Scrum Master is one that is key to ensuring team success. It is the Scrum Master who works as a leader, coach, guide, mentor and facilitator to ensure that the principles and practices of Scrum are followed to best advantage. All this makes this role one that is much in demand across industries, and with Agile adoption accelerating like never, this is the best time to explore a career as a Scrum Master. What exactly does this entail, and how can you become a Scrum Master? We bring you the how toes.What Is a Scrum Master? The Scrum Master is accountable for establishing Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. They do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory and practice, both within the Scrum Team and the organization.- Scrum Guide A Scrum Master can be described as the captain of the Scrum team, who navigates the team through uncertainties and helps them to iron out obstacles in their path. As the team coach, the Scrum Master is the expert and the go-to person on all things Agile, and ensures that the team lives, breathes and follows the Agile mindset, values and principles. Some of the accountabilities of a Scrum Master include: Smoothening out impediments to progress Facilitating team dynamics Establishing an environment that nurtures an Agile mindset Coaching the team on Scrum processes Setting up Scrum events Protecting the team from any distractions Ensuring that there is good communication and transparency between team members Helping the Product Owner define product goals and manage the backlog Enabling communication with stakeholders as needed Leading and guiding the organization through the Scrum adoption While the Scrum Master’s role was initially one of servant leadership, the 2020 Scrum Guide has revised this stance and now positions a Scrum Master as a true leader who leads by example.Scrum Master Certifications: CSM® If you’re looking to make a start in your Scrum Master journey, an industry-acclaimed certification should be the first step. Holding a certification increases your employability, as it validates your knowledge and competencies in the eyes of potential employers. The Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM®) from Scrum Alliance® is the gold standard of certification, and offers a solid understanding of Scrum, with the toolkit and skillset you need to apply Scrum on your team and across the organization. As a future-proof career, the CSM is the certification to earn if you want to coach teams to respond to change and adapt to complex, volatile needs.How To Become a CSM?The CSM is a foundational course and does not require any prior knowledge of Scrum. To get certified…. You’ll have to undertake a 14 to 16 hour in-person or live, interactive training led by a Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST®). Complete the course Activate your account with Scrum Alliance, using the login credentials given by your CST. Pass the online CSM test by answering at least 37 out of 50 questions correctly, within one hour. Once you have received your CSM credential, you should maintain it in good standing. You will have to pay the renewal fee of $100 and login 20 SEUs (Scrum Educational Units every two years to keep the certification active. SEUs can be collected through activities that are related to continuing education, which can include reading articles, volunteering, taking courses or attending events. What Is the CSM Course?The CSM course is a 14-16 hour in-person or live interactive training that is led by a Scrum-Alliance approved CST. Anyone who is new to Scrum will find this course invaluable as a primer to the world of Scrum, but even experienced Scrum team members who have not undertaken any formal training will find immense value from attending this course and getting certified. The Learning Objectives are based on the Agile Manifesto, and include: Lean, Agile and Scrum Scrum values and principles Scrum events and artifacts Product backlog, Sprint backlog and Definition of Done A study of the Scrum Guide Core competencies of a Scrum Master Role and responsibilities The Scrum Master’s service to the Product Owner, the team and the organizationWhat Is the CSM Exam?The CSM exam is an online, closed book assessment which must be completed in one hour. The questions are MCQs, and you must get at least 37 out of 50 correct to get the passing score of 74%. On getting the minimum passing score, you can immediately download your certificate from the Scrum Alliance portal.How Long Does It Take To Become a CSM?While the CSM training is for 16 hours, you will need to familiarise yourself with the course material and the Scrum Guide before you attempt the exam. Having prior knowledge of the Scrum Guide will help you grasp the concepts taught during the training much faster. CSM Salary Glassdoor reports that the average salary of a Scrum Master in India is INR 13.2 lakhs, and a senior Scrum Master can make INR 19 lakhs a year. As you gain experience in your role as a Scrum Master, you will be able to command a proportionally higher salary. With a CSM certification, you stand to earn considerably more than others in the same role who are not certified. Conclusion The CSM credential is considered to be one of the most sought-after Scrum Master certifications in the world. With the global adoption of Agile at an all-time high, and a vast majority of IT enterprises following Scrum as their preferred framework, the demand for expert Scrum Masters who can help organizations to glean its benefits is on the rise.
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A Step-by-step Guide to Implementing Scrum in Organizations
By Susan MayThe pandemic has changed our lives and our businesses for ever. The need of the hour is for systems that can support and operate in distributed environments and show quick adaptability and flexibility in adopting new changes and new technologies while addressing customer issues at the earliest. Recent times have shown that organizations that are able to meet these needs are those that have adopted Agile software development with Scrum. Agile is not just a methodology but it is a mind-set that demands a change in the very culture of the organization and its workforce. In this blog, we attempt to investigate Scrum and how it helps in achieving organizational goals.Scrum—What Is It?Agile is a philosophy that lays down certain values and principles, and the methodologies that are encompassed under the Agile umbrella follow these values and principles. These methodologies include Scrum, Kanban, XP and others, and they all follow the Agile principles of tight feedback cycles and continuous improvement. For most of us, Agile is synonymous with Scrum, given that Scrum is the most popular Agile methodology. The State of Scrum Survey 2017-2018 states that 94% respondents used Scrum as their preferred Agile methodology. So, What Is Scrum?The Scrum Guide states that: Scrum is a lightweight framework that helps people, teams and organizations generate value through adaptive solutions for complex problems. In a nutshell, Scrum requires an environment where: A Scrum Master nurtures and fosters an Agile mindset and implements Scrum correctly. A Product Owner orders the work for a complex problem into a Product Backlog. The Scrum Team turns a selection of the work into an Increment of value during a Sprint. The Scrum Team and its stakeholders inspect the results and adjust for the next Sprint. Repeat Scrum is based on these five values: Commitment Focus Openness Respect Courage Scrum follows incremental and iterative development by splitting work into sprints that are timeboxed. Early testing ensures that defects are caught early on. Customers are happy with Scrum because they get frequent releases, and their requirements are better addressed.The reason Scrum is so popular is because it can be tailored to suit the needs of your organization and can be applied to product development irrespective of industry. This flexibility makes it easy to grasp and implement.The Benefits of Adopting ScrumScrum benefits not just the organization but also the workforce and the customers.How Organizations BenefitMore streamlined processes and better efficiency Shorter time to market Better quality end-products More satisfied and loyal customers Happy and motivated team members Faster and better return on investmentHow Customers BenefitRapid and continuous delivery of product The high level of transparency and collaboration ensures that customers become part of the development journey of the product Customer requirements are given utmost priority, even if the requirements come in late Open interaction with development team Continuous improvement in design ensures that customers can get a high-quality product Agile business model is cost and time savingHow the Scrum Team BenefitsRoles and responsibilities are clearly defined More accountability as teams is encouraged to be self-managed An environment which helps individual members grow Team members are highly motivated and empowered Full transparency with the client Get to be innovativeHow Scrum Helps in Achieving the End Organizational GoalsAt the organizational level there are benefits that Scrum offers that help to achieve business value and meet organizational goals.Satisfied Customers:Customers are the king in today’s world, and they have high expectations. Technologies are rapidly changing and so are end user preferences. The only way to stay ahead of the competition is to ensure that products are released faster into the market.Short sprints and short release cycles in Scrum ensure that features are created and ready for testing in a couple of weeks. These short iterations also keep in line with the ‘fail fast, fail safe’ idea of Agile where, identifying failures earlier helps to rectify them sooner and reduces overheads that may be associated with late identification of defects.When your customer is involved in the entire process of development, they know that their product is taking the right shape, making them happier and more satisfied.Lower Production Costs:Story pointing, and estimating is an approach in Scrum that helps to determine the complexity of each task in terms of the time, effort and cost that may be consumed by each task. This early estimating helps product managers identify tasks that are more complex and prioritise them to enhance efficiency and subsequently reduce production costs. The process of ideation, creation, testing and release of product is more streamlined, quicker, and hence lower in production costs. Better Communication and Collaboration:A striking feature of Scrum is the amount of transparency it provides, not just for team members, but for all those involved in the project including stakeholders, management, and investors. Various metrics and visual tools allow to share project status, scope, costs, and time with anyone. There is better allocation of resources and the strong focus on collaboration helps to create better teams that are more motivated and productive.Implementing Scrum Projects in Organizations1. The Scrum Elements:he start of any Scrum project first requires the Scrum elements to be decided upon. This includes building the team composed of the Product Owner, Scrum Master and Developers. The Product Owner represents the business side of the product and has a clear vision of the product to be built. The Scrum Master must take care of the team and display leadership skills in helping the teamwork its way through Scrum and deliver the expected goal at the end of each sprint. Scrum Masters ensure that there are no impediments that block progress of the team, and the team is always highly motivated and productive. The Product Owner and the Scrum Master together select the developers of the team. Four to nine in number, the developers are expected to be multi-disciplinary, and the team should be collaborative and self-organized. Once the team is fixed, it is time to fix the sprint durations. While generally this depends on the organization or the project, sprints are usually between 1 to 3 weeks long. Once fixed the same duration is used for all the sprints.2. Product Backlog:The Product Backlog is possibly the most important artifact of a Scrum project and is an ordered list of the tasks that need to be accomplished. The tasks are listed in order of priority. The Product Owner owns the product backlog but takes the help of the team in ordering and prioritizing the tasks. Estimation of the tasks is an important activity to be carried out as it gives all those involved in the project an idea of effort, time and cost considerations.3. Sprint Planning:Sprint planning is the event that kicks off the sprint. The whole team is involved in sprint planning and decisions are made on what tasks will be taken up, what will be delivered and how. The necessary allocations are made, and estimates are drawn up by taking into consideration the speed of the team. 4. More Transparency: There is a need to make the work of the team and progress of the project more visible. Also, developers should be able to communicate if they are facing any issues during the development. This is done during the daily meetings that are held. Scrum boards offer a ready visual aid to define the status of tasks and daily scrum meetings help the team members answer questions like: What did I accomplish yesterday that helped the team reach the sprint goal? What will I do today to help the team reach the sprint goal? Are there any obstacles that will impede my work? 5. Sprint Review:Once the sprint goal has been achieved it is important to demonstrate its workability to the Product Owner and to the stakeholders and get their feedback and suggestions. This helps in the continuous feedback and continuous improvement cycle and helps the product owner understand if the product delivered meets expectations.6. Retrospectives:It’s important to look back and reflect on what went wrong and what could have been done better and take these learnings to the next sprint. This is what exactly is the purpose of a sprint retrospective where all those involved in the sprint get together and reflect upon the progress made, any impediments that slowed down work and how things can be made better in the upcoming sprints.7. On to the Next Sprint:There is no time to rest as the team must immediately start working on the next sprint following the same processes and procedures.Scrum Team Accountabilities There are primarily three accountabilities involved in the Scrum team: These include: Product Owner Scrum Master DevelopersConclusion In order to survive the post-pandemic economy, organizations have no choice but to go Agile. Agile Scrum aids in product innovation, adaptability, productivity and reduces time to market. The road to creating high performing Scrum teams may not be an easy one, but with practice and time can be done.
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The pandemic has changed our lives and our businesses for ever. The need of the hour is for systems that can support and operate in distributed environments and show quick adaptability and flexibility...Continue reading
What is Definition of Done in Agile?
By Susan MayLet’s assume you are working on developing a user story. At which point can you wrap up and heave a sigh of relief, considering that you have finished with it? When an Agile product is continually evolving, it’s hard to agree upon the exact moment when you can consider that your work on a particular user story, epic or feature is completed, and you can move on to the next one. Therefore, it’s very important that the team must agree on what can be ‘done’, and the Definition of Done is key to arriving at this consensus.Defining the Definition of DoneThe Definition of Done is a formal description of the state of the Increment when it meets the quality measures required for the product. The moment a Product Backlog item meets the Definition of Done, an Increment is born. — Scrum GuideEveryone on the team must be on the same page when it comes to what, exactly, qualifies as ‘done’ in different scenarios. To avoid any ambiguity, the team agrees on the Definition of Done— a set of items that must be satisfactorily completed for the user story, feature or even the whole project to be wrapped up. Once these criteria are ticked off, the item moves from being ‘in progress’ to ‘done’. Each team will have their own list of criteria that should be checked off, and these will differ from project to project. What is important is that these criteria must be clearly documented so that there is no confusion as to whether something is completed or not. This also increases transparency across the board. When one or more boxes are still left unchecked, the team knows what’s left to be done.How Is the Definition of Done Created?While it is the technical department or the Scrum Master who is the lead on creating the Definition of Done, it cannot be defined unilaterally, and must be a collaborative exercise in which the entire team participates. Not just the team, but the product team, quality control team and other stakeholders will also have to give their approval of these criteria. Once created the team will display this Definition somewhere in the room so that everyone can see it and know the criteria, they must work toward accomplishing. The image below shows what a team’s Definition of Done could look like, as an example.Why Product Managers Should Care About the Definition of DoneProduct Managers, even the non-technical ones, realise that the Definition of Done creates transparency and accountability, as it offers a clear understanding of the work that has been completed during the Increment. For a Product Manager the Definition of Done means that every bit of incremental value created performs within specifications and to expectations and is stable. It also means that code has been peer-reviewed, has been verified with the users and is in a shippable state. Teams could also have listed out their own variants for ‘done’ that include completion of release notes and user documentation, among others. If there are any open issues at all, then the item does not meet the Definition of Done and is set back to the backlog, to be taken up again in an upcoming sprint. It cannot even be discussed during the Sprint review, and it certainly cannot be released. Such open items will affect the team’s velocity as they cannot be complete.What Are the Benefits?The Definition of Done is like a To Do checklist that can be used to guide the implementation of code. It helps define the estimates and forms a structure for the design activities. It cuts through any ambiguity, limiting any rework that could potentially be needed if the team is not clear about what constitutes ‘done’. As a result, costs due to such rework are curtailed. It adds explicit clarity and articulates the idea of what is considered ‘done’, thereby reducing any confusion and misunderstandings that could otherwise crop in between team members and the PO or stakeholders.Be Wary of These Pitfalls!The team should not keep arguing over the list of criteria as it can be counterproductive. It can be agreed upon that the list will have the minimum criteria required for a product increment to be shipped. Additionally, a feature or story could have its own specific ‘done’ definition, which might be adding something to the general criteria. A common pitfall is if the Definition is vague and not an explicit contract that is clearly documented. In such cases, team members could start to argue about their own understanding of what ‘done’ meant and the whole concept could turn out to be ineffectual.How Did the Term Originate?As long back as 2002, Bill Wake wrote an article that brought public attention to inconsistencies that arise when the team was not clear about what constituted ‘done’, and each team member used their own terminology for the same. The very next year, in 2003, Scrum training materials had a slide that was titled “The story of Done”. Later versions of these training materials had exercises that asked trainees to consider about what the definition of done meant for them. By the year 2007, the “Definition of Done” had been established as a best practice and from then on, the use of the term spread.Signs That the Definition Is in UseA team should, under ideal conditions, look to the Definition of Done at the end of every sprint to see if a unit of work can be counted towards the calculation of Velocity or not. If it is yet to be completed, then it cannot be used for this calculation. On stakeholder request, the team should be able to show that all the criteria listed out in the definition have been met. Conclusion The Definition of Done gives the required confidence to the team to wrap up and sign off on an increment as being completed in all respects. However, in Agile projects you’re never really done until the final Ts have been crossed and is have been dotted. If there is any change necessitated due to user feedback or are any changes in business models, the team must be prepared to revisit the definitions set earlier and accept the changes wholeheartedly. After all, that’s what Agile is all about!
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The Guide to Resource Capacity Planning in Agile
By Susan MayAny project manager will agree that planning is one of the most important stages in the project journey. Without proper planning of resources, the goals may not be defined clearly, risks may increase, deadlines will be missed, and budgets will spin out of control. When done right, resource capacity planning delivers successful results and ultimately boosts profits and growth.But in an agile project where requirements are volatile, how is it possible to manage resource capacity planning? While it might seem impossibly complex, it can be broken down into simple actionable techniques.In this blog, we’ll help you understand how to go about resource capacity planning in Agile.Resource Capacity Planning: What Is It, Exactly?In very simple terms, agile resource capacity planning is a matter of scheduling tasks to suit the capacity of the resources you have in hand. To do this, you should be aware of the capacity of your team to perform the tasks in hand. Keep in mind that the pace should be sustainable and should not burn out the team or under-utilise their capabilities.The Right Time To Undertake Resource Capacity PlanningResource capacity planning can be broken down into two, resource planning and capacity planning. In Agile, short-term planning is more important than long -term planning (which is equally important, except that it can be put off to a later date!)Short-term tasks:Also called resource planning, this includes the work that must be done over the next month. Ensure that goals are met, but teams are not pushed beyond their capability. You might need to queue the tasks or delay some work to limit the amount of work allocated to the team, so that they can stay focused and achieve greater quality.Long-term tasks:The work that needs to be done further down the line, say 3 months from now, requires a different planning approach. This is capacity planning, and includes backlog items that are critical, as well as those that can be done at your discretion. Capacity planning factors in your team skills, the timing of work, and the priority of tasks. Capacity planning for the long term is more flexible than resource planning for the near term.Agile Resource Planning ProcessMost teams use a simple excel spreadsheet for their resource planning. This sheet is shared, so that team members can view it in real-time and get on the same page with respect to tasks to be done.Here are the steps to be followed, for your easy understanding! Group Your Resources Into TeamsAgile is all about team collaboration. You’ll need to group together your available resources into teams of between 5 and 9 members, making sure that each team has multi-skilled members who can self-manage the tasks that you will be allocating. Once you’ve grouped them into teams, you no longer have to worry about who will do what, in an individual capacity. That’s for the teams to decide!Calculate Team Capacity in a Fixed DurationTeam capacity refers to the work that your team can complete in a fixed timebox. This could be calculated based on days and hours, or story points. Do keep in mind that people are not productive a 100% of the time. They will take coffee breaks, catch up on office gossip, fall sick or take spontaneous holidays. While calculating the capacity, do reduce it by a small percentage to account for all this. Do Resource Planning for Short-Term Work When starting out, you are already aware of the work that needs to be done immediately, which you can start with. Short term planning can now be done for the next 1-3 months. Think about which team needs to do specific tasks (keep their capabilities and expertise in mind), what is the capacity of each team, and how much quantum of work needs to be completed in the near time. You can use an easy calculator for this. Assume that you are following Scrum, and the sprint duration is 2 weeks. Your team strength is 7, and a typical workday (after factoring in all the breaks!) is 7 hours. Over the 2-week duration, they will work for 10 days as weekends are off. So, this means that their capacity is 7*7*10= 490 hours. If the total quantum of work is 980 hours, they will be able to finish it in 2 sprints, working 490 hours per sprint.Next, Sketch Out the Long-Term WorkLong-term work is planned in a similar way, but of course in much less detail. Instead of getting into the nitty-gritty details, just roughly estimate the work that can be done in all the upcoming sprints. Come up with a total estimate for the remaining work on the project, taking care to ensure that the work planned does not exceed the capacity of the resources. Make Adjustments in the Resources, Tasks, Priorities and Schedules to Finalise the Plan. This is where previous experience plays an important role. What you need to do now, is to tweak the resource allocation, order the tasks and work with the schedules that are already in place to get a solution that is manageable. If you foresee that there will be shortfalls in the resources, plan to hire more resources, or re-allocate resources from other tasks that have a lower priority. Tasks should be prioritized to ensure that product increments of higher value are rolled out first. Lower priority work can always be deferred. Timing of schedules should be adjusted to come up with a plan that will work, instead of being just wishful thinking! And that’s Resource Capacity Planning, in a nutshell! Of course, it takes experience to come up with a plan that can be followed successfully but do rest assured that it will happen over time. Benefits of Capacity PlanningThere are significant benefits to getting your capacity planning right. Most importantly, you will be able to: Allocate suitable resources to each project. Get a high-level view of available resources and what tasks each team is working on at any given time. Stay informed about the overall resource utilization and be able to judge who would be free to take on emergent tasks in the next sprint. For teams working on different projects at the same time (not advised in agile, but this does sometimes happen), you will be in an acceptable position to understand whether it is possible to re-allocate resources as per the requirement for additional projects. Identify any bottlenecks on time and respond in the manner required. Do away with conflicts in allocation of resources, as everything is laid out very clearly. Complete more projects on time and within budget. All importantly, you can create and maintain customer delight! 10 Principles for Agile Resource PlanningReady to get started? Keep these 10 principles in mind, and you’ll be sure to get your agile resource planning right! Be prepared for change. In agile projects, change is the only constant. Work with just enough data and inputs to get started. Since change is inevitable, there’s no need to spend too much time on detailed estimation or planning. Just-in-time planning is what works best. Planning needs to be done at the team level, not at the individual level. Agile is all about teamwork. Plan resource allocation for the short-term and long-term in different ways, using different techniques. Short-term tasks must be fleshed out properly and articulated clearly, while the long-term ones can be handled later. Resource capacity for the short term is fixed, but resources for the long term are fluid and could undergo change. Understand that you cannot do everything. All tasks must be prioritized and put in the Product Backlog queue. Take up the most pressing tasks first and reorder them after each sprint. Calculation of team capacity and velocity is important before planning schedules. If the team is new, it could take a couple of iterations to get this calculation right. More mature teams who have worked together in the past will be able to arrive at these calculations quickly. Agile teams are self-managed and cross functional. Allow the teams to take up the tasks according to their capability, without interference. This will increase their accountability. Wrapping up Regardless of whether you’re new to Agile or a seasoned Agile practitioner, resource capacity planning is something that you should understand and get right, so that your project stays on track and achieves the goals successfully. Strategic planning of the capacity of your resources makes best use of their skills, keeps teams engaged and focused on their goals, and is ultimately the basis of corporate success.
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What are the Three C's in User Stories
By Susan MayThe best way to build software that meets users' needs is to begin with user stories: simple, clear, brief descriptions of functionality that will be valuable to real users--User Stories Applied, Mike Cohn Everyone loves a good story. And in Agile, part of what makes the approach simple, engaging and fun for the team is the concept of working with User Stories. What exactly are User Stories? They are the building blocks of tasks in an Agile project. A user story is a short, concise description of the value offered by a software feature, that is explained from the end user’s perspective. The beauty of a user story is that, however complex the end product is, each user story is simple and clearly articulated, in a way that makes sense even to a layperson. These concise descriptions speak of the ‘how, what and why’ of the product to be built, laying the foundation for the development of the product that ultimately fits user needs. Much has been said about the three C’s in user stories—an approach to writing great user stories that transforms abstract ideas into actionable tasks. What are they, and how do they make a difference? Find out!What Are the 3 C’s of User Stories?Telling an effective user story can be hard, even though it sounds very simple indeed. This is where the three C’s can help. Let’s find out what they are, and how they help to pin down and frame the essence of a requirement in the form of a story.The three C’s had their origins in Extreme Programming (XP), an Agile approach to software development that follows short development cycles with frequent releases. Ron Jeffries, one of the three founders of XP, captured the components of a good user story in the 3C’s: Card, Conversation and Confirmation. Here’s what each of the Cs stands for and why they are important.CardUser stories are written on cards, the size of a Recipe card; approximately 3 inches by 5 inches. While originally the story was actually written on a physical card, this is not always the case now. We can still, however, use this term to refer to the optimal size of the expression of the user story. The user story usually follows the format, “As a [particular user], I want to [perform this action], so that [I can achieve this goal.]” For example, “As a Spotify user, I want to search for 90’s pop songs, so that I can make my own playlist.” The user story as written on the card should accurately reflect the user’s needs, and should contain just enough information and no more. It should always be written in free-flowing, non-technical language that is easily understood.ConversationBefore a user story is used in a sprint, it is important that it is discussed and fleshed out in detail. This constitutes the second C: Conversation. A conversation is a discussion between the product owner and the team. Stakeholders and business SMEs may also be present and can give their valuable inputs as well. Some user stories may be difficult to interpret, and could even require further knowledge or background before they can be implemented. During the conversation, the user story requirement is elaborated upon and validated, and any doubts that the team may have are cleared. Questions are asked about the who, the what, and the why of the story. Thoughts and opinions are discussed, the team brainstorms, and enough detail is added to the user story to be able to prioritize, estimate and start work on it. ConfirmationThe third C is Confirmation, and this comprises the acceptance criteria that must be checked off to confirm that the user story has been interpreted correctly by the team and is successfully delivered. Acceptance criteria must be properly defined and documented even before development begins, so that there is no ambiguity as to whether a user story has been completed properly or not. To minimize rework and reduce wastage of resources, these acceptance criteria are usually noted down just before the user story is pulled into a sprint backlog. Quite often in Agile, requirements change and the details will also correspondingly change. By writing down too many acceptance criteria during the planning stage, the team is leaving itself open to unnecessary rework. Acceptance criteria for confirmation can be written in the format: “Given [precondition], when [action] expect [result].” For example, “Given [an active user of Spotify], when [I choose a set of songs] then I expect [to create a playlist].” Ready To Write Your First User Story?Writing an agile user story is one of the simplest tasks that an Agile team member will have to do, and yet writing a great user story is an art that requires deep understanding and expertise to master. Most Agilists perfect their user story skills over time and with practice. A good user story represents more than just a simple statement. With the three C’s in place, it becomes easy to capture just enough detail of the requirement in the user story, without the danger of making it too complex or difficult to get started with. Now that we’ve given you a basic understanding of the process and the three C’s, are you ready to write your first User Story?
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