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Effectively Utilize Agile Reports and Charts For Better Project Outcomes

Here is a question for youWhat is the one thing that Test Managers, Project Managers, Scrum Masters, and program Managers, are attentive of?Yes, the answer is Reporting.Why do we need Agile Reports?Most organisations go for annual or half-yearly planning cycle for achieving targets. But in case of IT, all the finalising and approving backlogs are carried out at the beginning of a year.The top management does not have the time to track the progress or program from close quarters. They do not even monitor progress day-to-day. They just want a snapshot of their department’s performance, and check if all the projects that roll under them are performing at a given point of time. This helps in absorbing, approving, managing funds, better allocation of resources, and finally to track against annual plans at enterprise, department, programme-level.Obviously, reports are necessaryA few quick and interesting facts for you-If you are into an important initiative, you use reports to broadcast how well your project or programme is doing.When you are facing challenges, risks, issues, then you use reporting to bring this to the management’s attention, so that you will get the help you need.You need to manage your team/project better, in such cases reports can help you.Metrics for tracking progressAgile project managers have a different set of Metrics to choose, and that shows the progress of the project at different levels. Say, at iteration and release levels, the following is the diagram which speaks about various metrics used to track or address the progress of the project.The following tweet reveals an interesting fact about the importance of Agile metrics.Why is it so important to have Reports and Charts?In any project, work being done is always complemented with Reports and charts. It provides a clear picture of the team's progress against the expected deliverables. It has been most essential for stakeholders and are usually prepared by Project Managers for them to determine where they are in the project at any given time. It actually helps them figure out how soon a project can be completed.Transparency is the keyThe reports and charts also provide them a signal if there were any deviation from what was expected. In Agile, when Product Owners loop information back to stakeholders and Scrum Master to Project Managers we also need to show reports and charts. But one great thing about Agile is that reports and charts are far simpler than in the traditional project management. ‘Simple but accurate’ is one of the key characteristics of Agile reports and charts.But given its simplicity, do we really get the most out of it? Do we really know what it means? Do we know how to act on it if ever? As they say, the devil is in the details. We have to figure out what is really happening even with the slightest deviation. Insignificant as it may seem, we should be wary on these scenarios.Reports should be reflect what is ‘real’To ensure that the Agile reports and charts are effectively utilized, we'll have to break that mindset that reports and charts should always be positive and should always look good to stakeholders or even to Project Managers.Transparency and on-time deliveryIn Agile, when we collaborate or do the feedback loop from Scrum Team to Product Owner, it is important to be transparent and timely.Clear analysis of deviationsWe have already mentioned that transparency is actually the key ingredient for all Agile reports. When a Product Backlog item did not get into any of the Sprint, stakeholders are informed outright on why it never committed. It could be due to the lack of time, incomplete acceptance criteria or vague requirements.If these are common, then it should lead to the question if the Product Backlog Refinement meeting is facilitated properly. We have to take note that Product Backlog items do evolve. It should be set as a goal that during Product Backlog refinement, you have clear items, they are expanded (more user stories) and with complete acceptance criteria. Strategically themed and high-valued product releases can then be efficiently planned and delivered.The relevance of Sprint VelocityIf you encounter questions on when you can deliver the project, make reference to your Scrum Team's Velocity.Velocity is the average amount of work that a Scrum Team can perform during a sprint. This particular metric is commonly used by product owners to forecast how quickly the team can work through the sprint backlog. It is important to monitor the velocity as it changes over time. A decrease in average velocity can be an indicator of an inefficient process implemented by the development team. Thus it needs to be highlighted during the Sprint Retrospective.Velocity is useful in estimating or forecasting the number of iterations to release a set of product backlog items, and can also be a great indicator for process inefficiencies as well as changes in the team capacity. It is not, however, a valid measure of productivity.The following video will highlight the rules for calculating your team’s velocity with precision-Scrum task board:When a Project Manager or anyone in the Agile team asks for the daily progress of the Scrum Team, the Scrum Task Board is enough to supply this information.What is a Scrum Task Board?The Scrum Task Board is the visual representation of the tasks committed by the development team in a sprint. The tasks are placed in swim lanes that correspond to the progress of a task i.e. to do, in progress, for testing or completed. These are pretty much visible to anyone especially to the Agile Team so that anyone can easily assess the team's progress at any given time in the Sprint.Visibility is another characteristic of Agile reports. Having too many items staying in the ‘To-Do’ swimlane could only mean that there are some issues that are blocking the implementation. It's another story if the Sprint is about to end and there are still a lot of To-Do items. This should pose as an alarm.Sprint burndownAs another supplementary chart to define the Scrum Teams daily progress, the Sprint burndown is used.A sprint burndown chart is a linear graphical representation of how much work has been performed in a sprint. All forecasted work is to be completed by the development team.Should it then hit zero at the end of the sprint?No, not necessarily. But you'll need to trust your team that they have committed enough work in the sprint which gets done within the sprint. Not hitting near zero could also mean that some additional requirements have been included and this will consequently affect the time the developer needs to complete it. These additional requirements can be due to a poor definition of the acceptance criteria.Reporting in Agile, that you'll use against the Scrum Team in delivering the committed items in the Sprint or in the release should not flog. It should focus on how you'll need to improve the processes in place. Agile reports and charts should have the following characteristics: simple, accurate, transparent, timely and visible. By recording and reporting, it actually helps in managing expectations, promote collaboration and sustain the team's Agility.What do your stakeholders look for in an Agile Report?What single question you will have to answer with all your reports?Are you on Track?Each and every one that consumes your report, wants to know the progress, Can be Agile or Waterfall, whatever metrics you use, remember as long as your reports provide a clear answer to the above question, your job is almost done.Basic tips on how to use Metrics or Reports in an Agile projectSuppose you are new to the Agile, and confused to define the progress of the project using different metrics or reports:First thing, don’t try to use new metrics as soon as you move to Agile, instead it is better to go with the other one and use it within an iteration.Create metrics around pain points. “Pain points” are those identified by looking at what customer/stakeholders are unhappy about.It’s better to display the reports and charts in the visible area in an Agile development environment.Reports and Charts or Metrics plays a vital role in tracking the progress of the businesses and teams. Be sure to only choose the metrics that are highly  applicable and which can yield you better results.
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Effectively Utilize Agile Reports and Charts For Better Project Outcomes 224
Effectively Utilize Agile Reports and Charts For Better Project Outcomes

Here is a question for you

What is the one thing that Test Managers, Project Managers, Scrum Masters, and program Managers, are attentive of?

Yes, the answer is Reporting.

Why do we need Agile Reports?
Most organisations go for annual or half-yearly planning cycle for achieving targets. But in case of IT, all the finalising and approving backlogs are carried out at the beginning of a year.

The top management does not have the time to track the progress or program from close quarters. They do not even monitor progress day-to-day. They just want a snapshot of their department’s performance, and check if all the projects that roll under them are performing at a given point of time. This helps in absorbing, approving, managing funds, better allocation of resources, and finally to track against annual plans at enterprise, department, programme-level.

Obviously, reports are necessary

A few quick and interesting facts for you-

  • If you are into an important initiative, you use reports to broadcast how well your project or programme is doing.
  • When you are facing challenges, risks, issues, then you use reporting to bring this to the management’s attention, so that you will get the help you need.
  • You need to manage your team/project better, in such cases reports can help you.

Metrics for tracking progress

Agile project managers have a different set of Metrics to choose, and that shows the progress of the project at different levels. Say, at iteration and release levels, the following is the diagram which speaks about various metrics used to track or address the progress of the project.

The following tweet reveals an interesting fact about the importance of Agile metrics.

Why is it so important to have Reports and Charts?

In any project, work being done is always complemented with Reports and charts. It provides a clear picture of the team's progress against the expected deliverables. It has been most essential for stakeholders and are usually prepared by Project Managers for them to determine where they are in the project at any given time. It actually helps them figure out how soon a project can be completed.

Transparency is the key

The reports and charts also provide them a signal if there were any deviation from what was expected. In Agile, when Product Owners loop information back to stakeholders and Scrum Master to Project Managers we also need to show reports and charts. But one great thing about Agile is that reports and charts are far simpler than in the traditional project management. ‘Simple but accurate’ is one of the key characteristics of Agile reports and charts.

But given its simplicity, do we really get the most out of it? Do we really know what it means? Do we know how to act on it if ever? As they say, the devil is in the details. We have to figure out what is really happening even with the slightest deviation. Insignificant as it may seem, we should be wary on these scenarios.

Reports should be reflect what is ‘real’

To ensure that the Agile reports and charts are effectively utilized, we'll have to break that mindset that reports and charts should always be positive and should always look good to stakeholders or even to Project Managers.


Transparency and on-time delivery

In Agile, when we collaborate or do the feedback loop from Scrum Team to Product Owner, it is important to be transparent and timely.


Clear analysis of deviations

We have already mentioned that transparency is actually the key ingredient for all Agile reports. When a Product Backlog item did not get into any of the Sprint, stakeholders are informed outright on why it never committed. It could be due to the lack of time, incomplete acceptance criteria or vague requirements.

If these are common, then it should lead to the question if the Product Backlog Refinement meeting is facilitated properly. We have to take note that Product Backlog items do evolve. It should be set as a goal that during Product Backlog refinement, you have clear items, they are expanded (more user stories) and with complete acceptance criteria. Strategically themed and high-valued product releases can then be efficiently planned and delivered.

The relevance of Sprint Velocity

If you encounter questions on when you can deliver the project, make reference to your Scrum Team's Velocity.

  • Velocity is the average amount of work that a Scrum Team can perform during a sprint. This particular metric is commonly used by product owners to forecast how quickly the team can work through the sprint backlog. It is important to monitor the velocity as it changes over time. A decrease in average velocity can be an indicator of an inefficient process implemented by the development team. Thus it needs to be highlighted during the Sprint Retrospective.
  • Velocity is useful in estimating or forecasting the number of iterations to release a set of product backlog items, and can also be a great indicator for process inefficiencies as well as changes in the team capacity. It is not, however, a valid measure of productivity.

The following video will highlight the rules for calculating your team’s velocity with precision-

Scrum task board:

When a Project Manager or anyone in the Agile team asks for the daily progress of the Scrum Team, the Scrum Task Board is enough to supply this information.

What is a Scrum Task Board?

The Scrum Task Board is the visual representation of the tasks committed by the development team in a sprint. The tasks are placed in swim lanes that correspond to the progress of a task i.e. to do, in progress, for testing or completed. These are pretty much visible to anyone especially to the Agile Team so that anyone can easily assess the team's progress at any given time in the Sprint.

Visibility is another characteristic of Agile reports. Having too many items staying in the ‘To-Do’ swimlane could only mean that there are some issues that are blocking the implementation. It's another story if the Sprint is about to end and there are still a lot of To-Do items. This should pose as an alarm.

Sprint burndown

As another supplementary chart to define the Scrum Teams daily progress, the Sprint burndown is used.

A sprint burndown chart is a linear graphical representation of how much work has been performed in a sprint. All forecasted work is to be completed by the development team.

Should it then hit zero at the end of the sprint?

No, not necessarily. But you'll need to trust your team that they have committed enough work in the sprint which gets done within the sprint. Not hitting near zero could also mean that some additional requirements have been included and this will consequently affect the time the developer needs to complete it. These additional requirements can be due to a poor definition of the acceptance criteria.

Reporting in Agile, that you'll use against the Scrum Team in delivering the committed items in the Sprint or in the release should not flog. It should focus on how you'll need to improve the processes in place. Agile reports and charts should have the following characteristics: simple, accurate, transparent, timely and visible. By recording and reporting, it actually helps in managing expectations, promote collaboration and sustain the team's Agility.

What do your stakeholders look for in an Agile Report?

What single question you will have to answer with all your reports?

Are you on Track?

Each and every one that consumes your report, wants to know the progress, Can be Agile or Waterfall, whatever metrics you use, remember as long as your reports provide a clear answer to the above question, your job is almost done.

Basic tips on how to use Metrics or Reports in an Agile project

Suppose you are new to the Agile, and confused to define the progress of the project using different metrics or reports:

  • First thing, don’t try to use new metrics as soon as you move to Agile, instead it is better to go with the other one and use it within an iteration.
  • Create metrics around pain points. “Pain points” are those identified by looking at what customer/stakeholders are unhappy about.
  • It’s better to display the reports and charts in the visible area in an Agile development environment.

Reports and Charts or Metrics plays a vital role in tracking the progress of the businesses and teams. Be sure to only choose the metrics that are highly  applicable and which can yield you better results.

TeofiloTed

TeofiloTed FloresII

Principal Business System Analyst/ Agile Scrum Master

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Product Owner Anti-Patterns You Should Be Aware Of

Product Owner plays a very critical role in the success of Agile/Scrum implementation in an organization. The entire effort of transforming teams with Agile ways of working is bound to fail if the role of a Product Owner is not understood clearly. Listed below some of the anti-patterns seen while the person is playing the role of a Product Owner in a team- Busy or Missing Product Owner, not being part of the development team Working software demo to the PO during Sprint Review Expressing the backlog in Technical user stories instead of focusing on business-related user stories Writing detailed user stories (no scope for negotiation) Questioning the estimates given by the Dev Team Not having a clear acceptance criteria for every story Too large user stories Not questioning the customers while collecting the requirements Not allowing the Dev Team to work on Technical Debt Not validating the customer’s idea before implementing the idea Not allowing Development Team members to talk with the Stakeholders directly Not empowering the Proxy POs Lack of vision on the product being developed Delivering more features than valuable features Not having well-defined prioritization mechanism in delivering user stories Changing priorities or requirements during the Sprint No single Product Owner, required governance missing in case of multiple POs Missing in Scrum Ceremonies Relying on mail communication for answering queries from Dev Team No emphasis on Quality Treating estimates as deadlines Instructing team on what needs to be done, acting as a Manager Expecting user stories to be created by team, considering SM and PO to be there only to review the stories Pushing team to do extra work for finishing everything forecasted during Sprint Planning Holding the team responsible for any rework post feedback from stakeholders during Sprint Review  Not showing interest in answering team queries for clarifications after Sprint planning Task monitoring Not coachable by Scrum Master Unable to prioritize the work Consistently changes priorities during the Sprint Accepting partially completed PBI’s Allowing dev team to change the Story points of a user story post implementation Not saying “No” to the stakeholders and allowing the product backlog to grow in size   There's nothing more paralysing than a Scrum team with a bad Product Owner! The characteristics stated above lead to nothing but a Product Owner “Fishbowl” where new ideas and innovative thoughts pertaining to Scrum processes find no entry at all.  The Product Owner  is... The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product and the work of the Development Team. It’s a one-person role that brings the customer’s perspective of the product to a Scrum Team.  The Product Owner is responsible for:  Developing and maintaining a product vision and market strategy Product management  Ordering and managing the Product Backlog  Involving stakeholders and end-users in Product Backlog refinement and backlog management  Alignment with other Product Owners when needed from an overall product, company or customer perspective.  #MostPopular in 2017: "Product Owner Anti-Patterns — 31 Ways to Improve as a PO" https://t.co/sryCdoxVKu pic.twitter.com/q5Sxj9kF6F — Stefan Wolpers (@StefanW) 22 December 2017 A GREAT PRODUCT OWNER…  Grasps, shares and spreads the product vision: A great Product Owner acts as the client's voice (also called a proxy-client at times) and makes a product vision together with the stakeholders. Each choice is taken on account of the product vision. This guarantees sustainable product improvement, gives clearness to the development team and expands the chances of product success definitely. Understanding the customer’s goals: A great Product Owner truly understands the customer’s goals with the product and is able to outpace its expectations. After all, pleasing the customer is the ultimate goal. Is a good decision maker: A great Product Owner is an authorized person to take product-related decisions. It may take some time to support his/her decisions, but this is an essential condition for an economical pace of the development team. Manages the product backlog: A great Product Owner comprehends that the product backlog should be in sequence. Priority, risk factor, quality, getting to learn and dependencies are all considered and balanced with each other. Prefers one-to-one communication: A good Product Owner believes in one-to-one communication to convey information. User stories are used as a medium of conversation. Knows modeling techniques: A great Product Owner has a knapsack full of worthful modeling techniques. Actually, the PO has an idea about when to apply a specific model. Based on the model application he/she drives the project success.  Shares experiences: A great Product Owner offers experiences with peers. This may be inside the organization, and outside it. Additionally, courses and meetings are the great approaches to share experiences and garner information. Furthermore, recording your lessons can be significant for other Product Owners. Claims user story mapping: A great Product Owner should ace the idea of user story mapping. It is a method that enables you to add a second dimension to your backlog. The visualization empowers you to see the master plan of the product backlog. Keeps an eye on functionality: A successful Product Owner keeps an eye on functional as well as on the non-functional aspects of the product. The motto of the Product Owner is to exceed the quality expectations the customer and enabling functionality that provides value to the product. So, the functionality is the main focus of the Product Owner.  Is knowledgeable: A great Product Owner has a deep product knowledge and comprehends the technicality. Larger products might be difficult to understand and scale. In this case, the PO should know the formula to solve the large queries.   Comprehends the business domain: A great Product Owner knows the ins and outs of his domain. A product should be built with a clear idea of every aspect being dealt with. This not only entails understanding the organization and paying for the development but also being aware of the current market trends. No matter how great your product is, shipping it after the window of opportunity closes is a waste of time and barely of any value.  Acts on different levels. A great Product Owner is capable of acting on different levels. These levels are popularly denoted as- strategic, tactical and operational. At the board level, a PO should know how to demonstrate the product strategy. Thereafter, he should create a strong support at middle management and facilitate the development team to cope with their daily challenges.  Knows the 5 levels of Agile planning. Within Agile, planning is done continuously. Every product needs a vision (level 1) which will provide input to the product roadmap (level 2). The roadmap is a long-range strategic plan of how the business would like to see the product evolve. Based on the roadmap, market conditions and status of the product the Product Owner can plan releases (level 3). During the Sprint Planning (level 4) the team plan and agree on Product Backlog Items they are confident they can complete during the Sprint and help them achieve the Sprint Goal. The Daily Scrum (level 5) is used to inspect and adapt the team's progress towards realizing the Sprint Goal.  Is available. A great Product Owner is characterised by his availability to the stakeholders, customers, development team and most important, the Scrum Master. This helps important questions to be answered quickly and valuable information to be provided on time. The Product Owner always makes sure that his availability never becomes the bottleneck of the progress of the development team.  Is able to say 'no'. A great Product Owner knows the best time and way to say “no”. This indeed is a difficult trait to master. While it is easy to give any new idea or feature the nod, there is a flip side. Good backlog management necessitates creating a manageable product backlog with items that will mostly get realized. Appending non-productive items to the backlog will only create false expectations.  Acts as a "Mini-CEO". A great Product Owner basically is a mini-CEO for his product. He has a sharp eye for opportunities, focuses on business value and the Return On Investment and acts promptly on all possible risks and threats. Every growth aspect such as size, quality, market share of the product is taken into consideration.  Knows the different types of valid Product Backlog items. A great Product Owner can clarify the fact that the Product Backlog consists of more than only new features. For example, technical innovation, bugs, defects, non-functional requirements and experiments, should also be taken into account.  Takes Backlog Refinement seriously. A successful Product Owner spends sufficient time refining the Product Backlog. Backlog Refinement is essentially the act of adding detail, estimates and order to items in the Product Backlog. The result should be a Product Backlog that is granular enough and easily understandable. On an average, the Development Team spends no more than 10% of their capacity on the refinement activities. There is no such prescribed approach. The Product Owner can also involve stakeholders and the Development Team in backlog refinement. Each for a valid reason. The stakeholders are given the opportunity to state their expectations. The Development Team can clarify functional and technical implications. This will ensure a holistic understanding and enhance the quality of the Product Backlog considerably. Consequently, the opportunity to build the right product with the desired quality will also increase.  Concluding Thoughts: A Product Owner is indispensable for a functional Scrum team. He not only bridges the gap between the development team and the client but also ensures a streamlined product delivery. Ill-defined Product Owner roles and some of the critical PO anti-patterns are some of the impediments many of the Agile organizations are battling at present. The only long-term solution to such persistent issues is a clarity of PO roles and a proper understanding of the end-to-end Scrum processes. 
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Product Owner Anti-Patterns You Should Be Aware Of

Product Owner plays a very critical role in the success of Agile/Scrum... Read More

Project Manager Vs Product Owner

Traditional waterfall projects had the Project Manager unquestionably at the helm of the ship. Today, as more companies migrate toward agile, the role of the Project Manager has become redundant. Agile advocates team work — wherein there are self- organizing teams, and much of the responsibility that was earlier shouldered by the Project Manager is shared by the group. In an agile environment, the Product Owner owns the product, the Scrum Master owns the process and the team works together toward fulfilling the tasks. In a traditional project, the Project Manager holds all the cards and owns the entire project. Today, Project Managers need to redefine their responsibilities in the agile context, and depending on their inclination frequently take on the mantle of the Product Owner or ScrumMaster. There has been much heated debate on this topic in many online Scrum forums, with differing results … but research shows that there is no definitive answer that squarely references the PM to the PO. While Scrum rejects the role of a Project Manager per se, there are many who believe that this role has been reframed to include the two roles of a Product Owner and a ScrumMaster. The ScrumMaster is by definition a servant leader. The Product Owner, by definition, is the person who represents the business stakeholders and keeps the team focussed on the product itself. As a Product Owner, his or her job is to tell the team what to do…but not how to do it. The ‘how’ is decided by the team members themselves. And that, in a large part, sums up the difference between a Project Manager — who needed to spell out the Hows, Whats and Whys — and the Product Owner, for whom only the definition of the problem…or the What… is all-important. In Scrum, there is no single management position. And that’s where the beauty of Scrum, and perhaps its efficacy, lies. Scrum teams are self-managing, and when each member of a Scrum takes on some responsibility, the project has a much higher chance of success.
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Career Path Of A Scrum Product Owner

A scrum product owner has the dual capability of foresight and the decision-making power to make a project successful. A Scrum Product Owner will work on the product for its entire life-cycle and hence will have an idea of how things need to be prioritized, managed and executed. This decision-making and communicating power capability can be obtained by undergoing a CSPO certification program and the experience will enable the candidate to access a wide range of career opportunities. Listed below are some of the great career paths that await a Scrum product owner. 1. Business Analyst: Product Owners are well-suited for a business analyst profile as they have adequate knowledge on how to handle the business requirements and supplement with analysis and thus enable better decision-making. This knowledge can be used to improve the business and hence being a business analyst would be a great career path out there to choose from, after being a product owner. 2. Project Manager: The role of a Project Manager is another great career path that is available to a product owner. The candidate will be involved with project planning and management. This role is usually available after being a business analyst, and there are many companies out there who look out for Project Manager Candidates with the Scrum certification. 3. Product Manager: The other direction you can choose is the product management side where you will get to focus on expounding requirements for a product based on strategic requirements and product-market fit. The path to this position can be prolonged as it requires you to be a business analyst first and also have a Master of Business Administration Degree (MBA). But once pursued, this will work on to be one of the best career paths. 4. Chief Executive Officer (CEO): Senior Product Owners have a great probability of becoming the CEO of a company. Though this requires a lot of experience, perseverance and demands lots of time. The experience gained from being a product owner is a valuable asset as you get to learn about how to make the product successful, how to enliven the team, how to be dedicated, how a high return on investment can be achieved, how to engage the customers, etc. All these qualities are what is being looked for in a CEO, for managing the whole company and for taking it towards a great success path. So the product owners have got a great career prospect here! So go ahead! Take a course in CSPO (Certified Scrum Product Owner), become a great product owner and expose yourself to a wide range of sumptuous career paths.
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