Posts Tagged ‘Planning’

Here is the very basics of Scrum methodology; we will start simple for the new year:

* Make a list of the things you need to do (Product Backlog)
* Get someone to decide what’s most important and put the list in priority order (Product Owner)
* Set a fixed deadline in the foreseeable future (Sprint Duration)
* Estimate how much you’ll be able to complete by the deadline (Planning Scrum)
* Work through the list in priority order, completing each thing before moving on to the next (Sprint Itself)
* Check your list every day to see how you’re doing (Daily Scrum)
* Even if you haven’t completed everything on the list, release the software when the time is up, in order to realize some benefits
* Review how it went to see if there’s anything you would do differently in future (Sprint Retrospective)
* Repeat (Iterate)

Sometimes, the jargon gets in the way.

Kelly Waters has a great blog called All About Agile that I have recently discovered that has good, no-nonsense Scrum articles, Here are the 10 Points of Success for Agile Development:

1. Active user involvement is imperative
2. The team must be empowered to make decisions
3. Requirements evolve but the timescale is fixed
4. Capture requirements at a high level; lightweight and visual
5. Develop small, incremental releases and iterate
6. Focus on frequent delivery of products
7. Complete each feature before moving on to the next
8. Apply the 80/20 rule
9. Testing is integrated throughout the project lifecycle – test early and often
10. A collaborative and cooperative approach between all stakeholders is essential

Keeping in the spirit of “no jargon”, just contemplate the meaning of the above list. If you would like to read more, check out the full article here.

Originally published: Tuesday, 12/11/2007

Really good Product Owners always start Planning Scrums with something along the lines of “Once upon a time…” The reason behind this is that one of the least understood but most powerful concepts in Scrum methodology (along with the Squeaky Toy) is the Story. A Story, essentially, is a short description of the usefulness of a feature or product, including vital information such as who is going to use it, why they want it, and what it is supposed to do.

From this trite-sounding invention, you can deduce what is important to who in the Scrum process, the business value, the importance in the grand scheme of the entire project, potential use / test cases, and a whole host of other information within the bounds of a properly-formatted sticky note. Product Owners are the conduit to the customer, or Stakeholders, and as such, they are responsible for translating important pieces of the Product Backlog into Stories. Stories are a bite-sized translation of a feature or client request into terms that the Team can understand, cut up into Tasks, and agree to deliver at the end of the Sprint.

According to Mike Cohn, a properly formatted story is thus:

"As a <some role> I want <something> so that <some value / justification>"

This deceptively simple formula drives Product Owners crazy, because it forces them to get rid of all of the ballyhoo and explain the basic purpose of this feature to the Team. In response, the Team is able to meet the Product Owner halfway and start from the bottom to build a feature or product that the client really wants by describing a series of Tasks that will reach this goal — demonstrable and working — by the end of the Sprint.

Once the Story is told, the Product Owner, the ScrumMaster, and the Team complete the Story by negotiating an Agreement. The Story is usually the top half of the sticky note; the Agreement is the bottom half. In order for the Team to be successful, it must meet the requirements set forth in the Agreement. Agreements are usually a series of bullet points that describe what should be demonstrable to the client by the end of the Sprint.

To put this into perspective, here is a Story with an Agreement from Achieve’s history. Note that Achieve has exercised the First Rule of Scrum: if the rules don’t work for you, throw them out.

STORY:
“This Story allows [the site administrator] to deploy quiz question creation to site users while guiding them to provide these questions in the right format.”

AGREEMENT:
* Exactly four answer boxes, all required
* No title field for users
* No feedback per question
* Auto-generate title field based on taxonomy, question field, and an incremental random number (to prevent repeats in any possible case)
* administrative controls to enable / disable functionality
* show mockups for the way this feature would look to a user

With a Story defined with an Agreement, as long as the Sprint is a reasonable length of time for the Team to perform this work without impediments, there will be a happy ending!