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3 Stages on Your Way to Agile Start-Up

Running a business using any predetermined methodology can be stressful and quite risky. You are essentially putting all of your faith into someone else’s hands in hope that their way of doing things will work for you.  One such example is the Agile startup business model that helps young and inexperienced digital entrepreneurs begin their corporate journey. But what are some of the distinguishing features of Agile model and how can you implement them into your own start-up? Being Agile One of the main reasons why Agile is considered a hard business model to work with is the fact that it doesn’t only represent a change in work habits. Agile changes your team’s complete mindset, making sure they are focused on more than just their personal goals and look at the bigger picture instead.  The cornerstone of Agile remains in its name – your team, coworkers and executives have to be “agile” in their everyday working routines in order to drive the project home and have a successful client relationship. Some of the more predominant features of Agile include:  Focus on customer satisfaction and collaboration instead of negotiation and direct sales  Ever-changing working environment that welcomes change and embraces new ideas  Software-based workflow that directly measures productivity and progress  Continued workflow simplicity and sustainability  Individuality of teams that work on their projects and personal skills inside the team  Facetime with coworkers and team members instead of web meetings and email correspondences Adapting to Agile Taking your team and internal company workflow into an Agile environment can take some time and patience depending on your current state of affairs. Giving this work model a chance is always a good idea since a lot of your previous bottlenecks will be resolved by a simple team meeting or a change in direction.  Keep in mind that every single member of your team or company will experience a sudden shift in their everyday productivity due to the new Agile working environment. The transformation may take up to several weeks depending on the cooperation and coordination of your HR department. 1. Simplifying goals Agile is there to make your job easier and simpler. That means that long-term goals should be considered visionary and in order to get there, you will have a lot of smaller goals to go through. This is because Agile revolves around small milestones and checkpoints on the way to team success. This gives everyone on the team a chance to do a bit of work that suits their skills and meet on the other side with everyone else.  Try breaking up your team goal into smaller chunks of work that are manageable even if only one person works on them. Once that person is finished they can move onto another milestone or help out a colleague who got stuck with a milestone he/she can’t handle. This sort of job delegation is the cornerstone of Agile, meaning that everyone can and has to do everything in order to finish the project on time. 2. Scrum meetings Now that your goal is broken up into smaller chunks, it’s much easier to handle and write a report on it. While weekly meetings are always going to stay in your schedule, Agile will make sure that they are never as dominant as before. This is because Agile introduces so called “Scrum” meetings into your everyday schedule in order to make sure that everyone knows what they are doing.  A scrum meeting is basically a quick advice and recap session between you and your team. You can gather in your office in a matter of minutes and discuss what everyone has been up to that day and what they plan on doing tomorrow. This is a good example of how Agile can keep everyone in your startup on their feet and focused on the task at hand.  Developing a transition from a weekly schedule into a Scrum environment won’t go unnoticed and many of your colleagues will think they know better. It’s important to communicate the importance of implementing Agile to the fullest if you are to succeed.  3. Productivity and deadlines One of the hardest parts of Agile to align with is the fact that this model revolves around constant productivity. For example, if you have a deadline of four weeks in order to make five posters, you will have to start making them from day one and not wait until the last week to start the production.  This is because Scrum meetings require constant updates on where everyone stands currently and where they are headed. It’s always better to at least show something for the time that passed between your meetings instead of showing up empty handed.  Showing up to a meeting without anything to report can not only be embarrassing but also detrimental to your entire team’s moral. These people count on you as much as you count on them, and Agile is making sure that everyone needs to be productive if the team wants to succeed. Conclusion Your transformation into Agile will never stop – that’s one of the reasons why people opt for this workflow model. Your team dynamics and workflow will constantly shift and no two weeks will ever be the same once you fully adapt to Agile.  Make sure that your team is fully aware of what this model will bring with it and that they are aboard with it. Having to explain yourself after you have made the needed changes can only slow down your progress towards making an Agile startup with a clear direction.  

3 Stages on Your Way to Agile Start-Up

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3 Stages on Your Way to Agile Start-Up

Running a business using any predetermined methodology can be stressful and quite risky. You are essentially putting all of your faith into someone else’s hands in hope that their way of doing things will work for you. 

One such example is the Agile startup business model that helps young and inexperienced digital entrepreneurs begin their corporate journey. But what are some of the distinguishing features of Agile model and how can you implement them into your own start-up?

Being Agile
One of the main reasons why Agile is considered a hard business model to work with is the fact that it doesn’t only represent a change in work habits. Agile changes your team’s complete mindset, making sure they are focused on more than just their personal goals and look at the bigger picture instead. 

The cornerstone of Agile remains in its name – your team, coworkers and executives have to be “agile” in their everyday working routines in order to drive the project home and have a successful client relationship. Some of the more predominant features of Agile include:

  •  Focus on customer satisfaction and collaboration instead of negotiation and direct sales
  •  Ever-changing working environment that welcomes change and embraces new ideas
  •  Software-based workflow that directly measures productivity and progress
  •  Continued workflow simplicity and sustainability
  •  Individuality of teams that work on their projects and personal skills inside the team
  •  Facetime with coworkers and team members instead of web meetings and email correspondences

Adapting to Agile
Taking your team and internal company workflow into an Agile environment can take some time and patience depending on your current state of affairs. Giving this work model a chance is always a good idea since a lot of your previous bottlenecks will be resolved by a simple team meeting or a change in direction. 

Keep in mind that every single member of your team or company will experience a sudden shift in their everyday productivity due to the new Agile working environment. The transformation may take up to several weeks depending on the cooperation and coordination of your HR department.

1. Simplifying goals
Agile is there to make your job easier and simpler. That means that long-term goals should be considered visionary and in order to get there, you will have a lot of smaller goals to go through. This is because Agile revolves around small milestones and checkpoints on the way to team success. This gives everyone on the team a chance to do a bit of work that suits their skills and meet on the other side with everyone else. 

Try breaking up your team goal into smaller chunks of work that are manageable even if only one person works on them. Once that person is finished they can move onto another milestone or help out a colleague who got stuck with a milestone he/she can’t handle. This sort of job delegation is the cornerstone of Agile, meaning that everyone can and has to do everything in order to finish the project on time.

2. Scrum meetings
Now that your goal is broken up into smaller chunks, it’s much easier to handle and write a report on it. While weekly meetings are always going to stay in your schedule, Agile will make sure that they are never as dominant as before. This is because Agile introduces so called “Scrum” meetings into your everyday schedule in order to make sure that everyone knows what they are doing. 

A scrum meeting is basically a quick advice and recap session between you and your team. You can gather in your office in a matter of minutes and discuss what everyone has been up to that day and what they plan on doing tomorrow. This is a good example of how Agile can keep everyone in your startup on their feet and focused on the task at hand. 

Developing a transition from a weekly schedule into a Scrum environment won’t go unnoticed and many of your colleagues will think they know better. It’s important to communicate the importance of implementing Agile to the fullest if you are to succeed. 

3. Productivity and deadlines
One of the hardest parts of Agile to align with is the fact that this model revolves around constant productivity. For example, if you have a deadline of four weeks in order to make five posters, you will have to start making them from day one and not wait until the last week to start the production. 

This is because Scrum meetings require constant updates on where everyone stands currently and where they are headed. It’s always better to at least show something for the time that passed between your meetings instead of showing up empty handed. 

Showing up to a meeting without anything to report can not only be embarrassing but also detrimental to your entire team’s moral. These people count on you as much as you count on them, and Agile is making sure that everyone needs to be productive if the team wants to succeed.

Conclusion
Your transformation into Agile will never stop – that’s one of the reasons why people opt for this workflow model. Your team dynamics and workflow will constantly shift and no two weeks will ever be the same once you fully adapt to Agile. 

Make sure that your team is fully aware of what this model will bring with it and that they are aboard with it. Having to explain yourself after you have made the needed changes can only slow down your progress towards making an Agile startup with a clear direction.
 

Luisa

Luisa Brenton

Blog Author

Luisa Brenton is an educational writer with over 4 years’ experience in brand developing and a regular contributor for topwritersreview.com. Her mission is to help people in finding their own way to balanced lifestyle and coping with everyday assignments successfully.
 

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Scrum Software for the Ultimate Project Management

Technology has made our lives easier. The number of tools and devices we have at our disposal has made our lives more productive and our work more efficient. The Agile software development methodology has been adopted by several organizations to improve their adaptability, responsiveness, and productivity.  How can we improve the way we incorporate Agile Scrum into our projects? Scrum tools can be the answer. 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Some of these benefits include:They help teams, organizations and the product being createdThey ensure better quality by providing the right framework, support mechanism and the right processesAllow for continual improvement by putting in place a feedback loop and sprint reviews by stakeholdersHelp solve impediments and daily issues by incorporating daily testing and product owner feedback into the development processEnsure upfront documentation and help prioritise high value items in the product backlog, thus decreasing time to market.  Quick feedback also helps improve the product and thus helps in continuous improvement.The faster marketing of products increases return on investment, helps tap the market demand and ensures long term benefits for the customer and thus earns their trust for the organizationThe primary tenet of Agile is team collaboration. Scrum software tools help in high level collaboration between the Scrum Master, Product Owner and the development team. 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What Best Describes a Scrum Team?

We are living in an age where speed is the secret to success, and the one who gets the product out first is the winner. In this digital transformation world, organizations that have adopted Agile will succeed; as Agile is all about adaptability, quick delivery and customer focus.  Scrum, the most used Agile framework is all about addressing complex problems through adaptation and value creation. Scrum teams are at the core of a Scrum project. What best describes a Scrum team? Let’s attempt to answer this question.What is Scrum?A term borrowed from rugby; Scrum actually means ‘to huddle’. It signifies how rugby payers huddle together and work as a team in order to gain possession of the ball. Like its namesake in the sport of rugby, Scrum in Agile software development also signifies a process that brings together a team of individuals who work together under complex circumstances to create a product. 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The product owner maintains the perfect balance between the stakeholder and the development team, helping each understand the other’s point of view. They are also well-versed in agile and scrum values and principles and guide the team and well as the stakeholders on the agile ways of working. Creating stakeholder satisfaction is an important responsibility of the product owner and they do this by ensuring that requirements are met, and the product created meets quality standards expected by the customer.The Development TeamThe development team is the driving force of the Scrum project. This team is empowered by the Scrum Master and the Product Owner to take decisions and be as autonomous and independent as possible. At the same time there is a high level of collaboration and transparency among the team members and between the dev team and the Product Owner. The dev team is balanced and helps the product owner manage the backlog and deliver an acceptable product at the end of every sprint.Why is the Scrum team required for organizations?Any organization that wants to go agile and implement projects using the scrum framework has to do so by getting together an efficient scrum team. Scrum has proven to be extremely successful at team levels and it is the Scrum team that drives the project to success. Scrum teams with their collaboration, self-organization, innovation and collocation are able to drive success and business value.A table that summarizes the Scrum Team’s responsibilities in the various Scrum processesScrum PhaseScrum processScrum Master responsibilityProduct Owner responsibilityDevelopment team responsibilityInitiate1. Create Project Vision------2. Identify Scrum Master and Stakeholder(s)--Identifies Scrum Master--3. Form Scrum TeamAlong with the PO decides dev teamAlong with the SM decides dev team--4. Develop Epic(s)Helps PO in developing epicsDevelops epics and arranges user group meetingsHelps PO in developing epics5. Create Prioritized Product BacklogHelps PO in epic refinementRefines epicsHelps PO in epic refinement6. Conduct Release PlanningHelps PO and dev team with backlog prioritization and determining sprint lengthReviews the backlog and develops release planning scheduleHelps PO with backlog prioritization and determining sprint lengthPlan and Estimate7. Create User StoriesHelps dev team and PO write user storiesWrites user stories and incorporates them into the Prioritized Product BacklogWrites user stories8. Approve, Estimate, and Commit User StoriesEstimates the effort required to deliver the product defined in each user storyApproves user stories for the sprintAlong with the SM estimates the effort for each sprint and9. Create TasksHelps dev team break down the stories into tasksHelps dev team break down the stories into tasksBreaks down the approved stories into tasks and create a task list10. Estimate TasksHelps the dev team create the effort estimated task listHelps the dev team create the effort estimated task listCreates the effort estimated task list11. Create Sprint BacklogHelps the PO create sprint backlogCreates the sprint backlog and lists the tasks that need to be completed in the sprintHelps the PO create sprint backlogImplement12. Create DeliverablesGuides the dev teamHelps dev team if neededWorks on creating sprint deliverables13. Conduct Daily Stand-upArranges and conducts the meetingsMay or may not attend the meetingsAttends the meetings and defines any problems or issues faced14. Groom Prioritized Product Backlog Helps PO to groom the backlogUpdates and maintains the backlog continuouslyHelps PO to groom the backlogReview and Retrospect15. Convene Scrum of ScrumsHelps teams collaborate and notes any impediments that may be hindering work--Mentions their progress or any issues they may be facing16. Demonstrate and Validate Sprint Helps dev team in displaying what it has createdApproves or rejects what the dev team demonstratesDemonstrates deliverables to PO and stakeholders17. Retrospect SprintMeets with dev team to ponder on lessons learnt during the sprint. Documents the recommendations--With scrum master retrospect's on sprint and uses the recommendations for the next sprint18. Ship DeliverablesAlong with other team members ships acceptable deliverablesAlong with other team members ships acceptable deliverablesAlong with other team members ships acceptable deliverables19. Retrospect ProjectGets together with other team members and identifies the lessons learntGets together with other team members and identifies the lessons learntGets together with other team members and identifies the lessons learntSo, what best describes a Scrum team? There are many facets to a Scrum team, but the most relatable description would be a highly interconnected and cohesive unit that works together to solve issues. A well-organized Scrum team can raise the ROI of an organization and ensure long term stakeholder commitment.
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Safe Agile Ceremonies - Expert Guide

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In a sense, it provides valuable enterprise level scaling insights helpful for the executives to tackle any uncertainties/risks associated with a project.As you start applying SAFe in your organisation, it is important for you to understand how each level works in conjunction with the other, depending on how mature your SAFe enterprise is. The key link between these levels is the SAFe specific events which help with smooth value delivery facilitation. The events help with alignment across teams, ARTs etc thus helping in managing risk by providing a level based cadence and synchronization.Essential SAFe - Your First Level of Scaling Using an Agile Release Train (ART). Courtesy © Scaled Agile, Inc. Source: Scaled AgileWhy do we need level-based ceremonies?While it is important to go through your team level events (like the 4 sprint events if you are doing scrum etc.) it is important to have the scaling events that help with bridging gaps and unblocking dependency between teams. The most important part of these SAFe specific events is for ‘Business Stakeholders’ to get a look (demo) at a proper incremental product and thus the value arising out of it. Makes sense? It did for me and let me tell you why.I was once associated with 3 feature teams, who were working towards a common product goal. They all had the same business stakeholders but were working on individual features. Team A was working on developing a Login page, Team B was working on a landing dashboard while Team C was hopping along, trying to provide a search functionality for the user. All of them were applying the Scrum framework and were running their own events. Sprint demos were happening individually and were being represented by the Product owner separately along with his business analysts. All seemed fine but there was a nagging problem. The product owner was worried, because he couldn’t bring any business stakeholder to view the demos, as they were being run in silos and there was no visibility on the incremental product. Well technically there was, but they would have to sit through three or four-hour events individually to get bits and pieces of the product demo. In the real world, it's not a possibility simply because your business stakeholders will not have that much time to spend on multiple demos. It is not a good use of their time either. So, what’s the solution? Simple, it’s SAFe to the rescue! Let’s try and understand how the SAFe specific events help with this.Prescribed PI Cadence for Various Levels of Scaling. Courtesy © Scaled Agile, Inc. Source: Scaled AgileHow do the events (or) ceremonies help to scale up according to the levels in SAFe:SAFe is very relevant and designed to thrive in situations where there are significant cross functional dependencies between agile teams and support / functional teams (infrastructure teams, architect community etc).  Essential Level:   As you start to scale up one level up, you will be working with anywhere between 5-12 agile teams who will all be collectively working towards a common goal which is the program increment or PI. The anchoring catalyst that brings them all together is your ART (Agile release train). Before getting into the events, lets understand the various roles involved at this level because this is the common denominator across all levels of SAFe and across organizations. This is where you need to get it right without which there is not much use in scaling higher. Key Roles involved: Release Train Engineer (RTE) System Architect/Engineer Product Management   Business OwnersPrescribed events on a typical Agile release train (ART). Courtesy © Scaled Agile, Inc. Source: Scaled AgilePI PlanningAccording to me, PI planning (hands down) is THE most significant aspect of executing this framework. This is where all the magic happens. It is sometimes referred to as the heart of the framework as it offers a clear vision of what the program increment needs to be, what the cross-team dependencies are and how they bring together the cultural sustainability much needed within the release trains. It is so important, that if carried out incorrectly it could lead to several ambiguities, development challenges and mostly a disastrous product increment. However, when it works well, the iterative cycle serves to flesh out the crucial elements of the plan and the processes ensure buy in from the stakeholders.Duration: A normal PI planning is a 2-day activity, which is a face to face cultural get together of the various ART teams. However, a new 3-day distributed PI planning has been introduced to help with geographically distributed teams (across various time zones), very apt for the current pandemic situation.“There is no magic in SAFe® except maybe for PI Planning”. – The authors of the SAFe framework.In big organizations with multiple distributed teams across multiple vendors, work streams etc. it is almost impossible to run these teams independently, whilst still having to deliver an incremental program. SAFe via the PI planning exercise mentioned above, helps with sorting out these issues by recognising cross team dependencies upfront, constantly negotiating & visualising them. This doesn’t just stop with the PI planning but the framework also proposes a cadenced way of continuing this via the scrum of scrums. The Program Board is an ideal way to showcase the cross-team dependencies.A sample SAFe Program board. Courtesy © Scaled Agile, Inc. Source: Scaled Agile1. Inspect and Adapt (I&A)An inspect and adapt event is scheduled after every PI. This event is dedicated to aligning to the principles of Kaizen, which simply means to change for the better. The events contain self induced thought processes to revalidate your assumptions that everything is working OK. The I&A event consists of three sub-parts as below:  PI System DemoQuantitative and qualitative measurementRetrospective and problem-solving workshop2. ART Sync Agile release trains tend to apply a cadenced synchronization process to help manage the ability to focus on continuous value delivery. An ART sync will typically comprise of the below sub-events.  Scrum of Scrums: This event is for representatives from all the teams on a release train to come together in a regular cadenced manner, especially on large ARTs. This is normally facilitated by the release train engineer (RTE) and will involve scrum masters of the individual teams and a few selected team members (authorised by the team). The sole purpose of the SoS calls are to understand progress towards the common goal, validate cross team dependencies and unblock impediments that may arise out of them. Duration: The length and frequency of the meeting will depend on a few factors like the size of the ART, the release frequency, type of features being worked on, ability to decouple releases etc. For e.g an ART which releases features into production every 4 weeks might want to have an SoS call every 2 weeks for about an hour. Again, if this doesn’t work for you, just inspect and adapt to what works well for your organizational needs. Just make sure that the SoS is utilised for its sole purpose and not just status updates as depicted in the below comic representation.Scrum of Scrums PO SyncThis event is represented by the Product Owner, business analysts and the product management group. This is used mainly to level up the product backlog refinement and for clarifying PI (Program Increment) scope, reviewing roadmaps and grooming for the upcoming PIs.Duration: Very similar in concept to the SoS, so just follow what works for the group. 3. System DemoAs part of a common understanding towards delivering incremental software, shortly after each iteration in the PI, there is a system demo scheduled. Work completed across all teams from the release train are compiled in a stable environment before it is reviewed by the business stakeholders and other important sponsors who may have a keen interest in the product. This is on top of the individual team level demos that happen after each iteration.Duration: Anywhere between 2-3 hours that will allow time for a demonstration of the program increment in a collative manner, on top of what has been delivered from the previous PIs as well.In case your ART is pretty small, then you may want to have just have some of the events combined into a more generic ART sync, where all roles come together to collaborate towards the program increment. This can sometimes occur if the ART is focusing on a particular value stream, confined to limited business functionality, rather than elaborate features.Solution/Portfolio LevelsAs you scale higher, the processes and events become much less prescriptive. There is a good reason for this because the focus at this level is not just on having repetitive demos that have already happened before but on building thought leadership around business outcomes and enhancing business agility. Which is why we will not be diving deep into that in this blog. But let us look at the events that occur at the macro level.Lean Budget Review  Idea Sharing via Communities of Practice (not a formal event but a collaborative group)Solution DemoPortfolio SyncRoadshowWhat are the benefits of SAFe Agile ceremonies?:The Magic of PI planningWell, the more I talk about this, the more excited I am. A PI planning event when carried out to its truest purpose, gets half the job done. Here is where most of the brainstorming occurs and business value gets determined and, in some cases, gets assigned in a quantifiable manner to user stories and helps with the prioritisation.PI Planning Synchronisation towards a common goalThe events are a constant reminder that all teams are working towards delivering incremental value either on a particular value stream, or feature or program. An RTE and Product Management will help reiterating the need to focus on the larger goal whilst helping sorting out inter team dependencies.Less prescriptiveAs is the framework itself, SAFe events/ceremonies are less prescriptive. An SPC would recommend, apply the principles but inspect and adapt as to what works for your organization. As per the example I provided earlier w.r.t to the duration of the SAFe events, start with something reasonable and then validate its effectiveness. Then leave Kaizen to do the rest.Visualization of incremental value deliveryOpportunity for Business stakeholders and sponsors to have a look at the overall program increment every iteration, thus helping them evaluate the progress and provide timely feedback on market trends. What are the common mistakes?Lack of a shared product visionThings can go wrong if there is not enough representation in the product management group, say for e.g at the PO Sync event. This can lead to a blurred product vision with each team working out of sync. This may ultimately get detected too late, probably at the time of the system demo, and lead to a whole lot of unwanted rework.SoS as a status updateThe Scrum Of Scrum event should be used as an event to unblock cross team impediments or dependencies and not to just update what each team has been doing or is doing in its current sprint. TimeboxingGiven the scale at which these events will be conducted, it is critical that the associated events are facilitated in a timeboxed manner or else the participants could end up sitting and talking for hours. Roles like RTE, SPC Coaches etc will be critical in addressing this issue.Remote facilitationLack of effective collaboration tools could lead to some disastrous situations whilst facilitating the SAFe events. Given that most teams are running virtual ceremonies/events at the moment, its crucial to establish a working distributed model. This will then ensure that the platform is set up for the most effective collaboration and cross-functional work to take place.While you try to scale, as per the implementation roadmap, its essential that you solidify the process around which your ARTs will be functioning. It’s like setting the railway tracks with the correct track gauge matching the configurations of the wheelsets of the trains that will run on them. If not, they will just derail. As your ARTs pass through your set process, they will only benefit by sustaining focus and pace while moving towards a successful incremental product delivery.Thanks for your patience and wish you all the very best in your Agile journey. In case you want me to write about any specific topic, please feel free to comment below and I’ll be more than happy to add them to my ‘Blog Backlog’. If you liked the article, please do share it among your agile community to help spread the word.  Hope to see you soon, with more such interesting topics.
Safe Agile Ceremonies - Expert Guide

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