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Essential Clients' Guide to Agile Development Methodology

How do software developers do their job? Whenever you turn to software developers, you expect to receive the detailed information about what they are going to do and how they are going to do it. All these information is a basis for a software development methodology the company adheres to. The most common one is Agile methodology which has pushed others off the scene. Those who are outside the developers’ community usually have a very vague idea about how Agile actually works. So, let’s dispel all misunderstandings around the concept and define roles in Agile, common risks and core activities. Agile methodology has brought new principles to the software development process. Unlike Waterfall methodology, which was popular before Agile advent and adhered to sequential project delivery, Agile has suggested a few key concepts: Flexibility - changes can take place anytime during project development; Collaboration - people are more important than instruments; Communication is vital Minimization of documents allows to devote more time to much more important things. Roles in Agile Agile methodology, in general, can be based on various frameworks and tools. That’s why the roles can also be different. However, there are a few basic roles that are essential for any Agile approach. Product Owner initiates development and has a clear view of the desired outcome. So, it’s their responsibility to supervise the development process and discuss details with the team. Stakeholders have a genuine interest in project success. They are end users, sponsors, and anyone who is involved in the project delivery process.   Development team actually builds a product. The lead of the development team is the Project Manager who oversees the workflow and ensures that it goes as it was supposed to. Main Agile frameworks The most common project management frameworks that are based on Agile methodology are Scrum and Kanban.  The point of Scrum Agile methodology is in dividing large tasks into small ones and fulfilling them by the end of Sprint. Sprint is a fixed time unit which can vary depending on the project. Usually, it’s 2 weeks, by the end of which product owner receives a working prototype with complete tasks that were assigned for this particular Sprint. Then, a new Sprint with new tasks starts.  The key player in Scrum is a Scrum Master who links Product Owner and a Development team. The list of his duties is enormous. Organizational, controlling, communicative and retrospective tasks are under Scrum Master’s responsibility. Kanban Agile methodology has made an extensive use of a particular instrument known as Kanban board. It allows teams and product owner to visualize the development process. The board is divided into several columns and has cards with tasks that can be easily moved into different parts of the board (“to-do tasks, in progress, and done” is the most popular division type) depending on their status. Such visualization lets team leads make predictions and optimize the workload. Agile methodology isn’t limited to these two, there is more to it. However, these have proved themselves as the most efficient ones. By the way, Scrum and Kanban can be unified to take the best features of the both. This methodology is known as Scrumban, which is also very popular. Tools for smooth Agile-based workflow Efficient flow is impossible without proper tools, even in case the development team shares one room, which is often not. So online tools are essential to provide great in-team cooperation and management. Let’s check out just a few of the many existing. The functionality of some tools is limited. They can deal with only a few Agile tasks successfully. Trello is a great tool for a pure Kanban approach. Anyone involved can gain access to the virtual board with sorted and prioritized tasks. Easybacklog is a tool to manage project’s backlog (tasks to be done and tasks that are already done). Scrum master or Product Owner create user stories and order them in the backlog. EasyBacklog tool, however, doesn’t allow to assign tasks unlike the two tools below. Other tools are multifunctional. They can be used for entire project management: manage few projects at the same time, count hours and workload, assign tasks and track bugs, create forums, wherein all involved can discuss the details of the task, make reports and Kanban boards. Jira and Redmine are the most popular representatives. They allow not only project management but also bugs tracking, simultaneous management of several different projects, hourage counting, creating group discussion forums, etc. Risk management in Agile Every software development is exposed to various risks.  Technical risks: Will the required feature or product be delivered in a way it was supposed to? Business risk: Will the product be able to generate revenue? Social risk: Do end users really need this product? Deadline risk: Will the product be ready in time? Cost risk: Will I have enough money to sustain? Agile methodology suggests ways on how they can be counteracted. First of all, transparent interaction within the team and with Product owner ensures collective awareness about the project flow, expected terms and issues. Online tools that we discussed above make the process easier. Secondly, the key practice in Agile development methodology is communication. Daily meetings, Sprint planning meetings, Sprint review and retrospective meetings help to ensure that anyone involved is informed and makes management easier and more efficient. Thirdly, follow core activities established by Agile principles. Specification document that is created at the very beginning lets both Product Owner and Project Manager have a documented benchmark and eliminate unnecessary risks. It’s also a good idea to visualize the delivery plan with optimistic and pessimistic trends.             Pre-Sprint activities such as planning, prioritization, and tasks assignment, and ‘Done‘ criteria are extremely important. Sprint reviews and retrospects help to detect weak points and avoid some of the problems in future. There are many project management practices for you as a product owner to choose or you can even invent your own and apply it. Yet, we want to draw your attention that despite seemingly complicated roles and concepts, the Agile methodology provides the simplest solutions for the successful delivery of your projects.  

Essential Clients' Guide to Agile Development Methodology

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Essential Clients' Guide to Agile Development Methodology

How do software developers do their job? Whenever you turn to software developers, you expect to receive the detailed information about what they are going to do and how they are going to do it. All these information is a basis for a software development methodology the company adheres to. The most common one is Agile methodology which has pushed others off the scene.

Those who are outside the developers’ community usually have a very vague idea about how Agile actually works. So, let’s dispel all misunderstandings around the concept and define roles in Agile, common risks and core activities.

Agile methodology has brought new principles to the software development process. Unlike Waterfall methodology, which was popular before Agile advent and adhered to sequential project delivery, Agile has suggested a few key concepts:

  • Flexibility - changes can take place anytime during project development;
  • Collaboration - people are more important than instruments;
  • Communication is vital
  • Minimization of documents allows to devote more time to much more important things.

Roles in Agile

Agile methodology, in general, can be based on various frameworks and tools. That’s why the roles can also be different. However, there are a few basic roles that are essential for any Agile approach.

  • Product Owner initiates development and has a clear view of the desired outcome. So, it’s their responsibility to supervise the development process and discuss details with the team.
  • Stakeholders have a genuine interest in project success. They are end users, sponsors, and anyone who is involved in the project delivery process.  
  • Development team actually builds a product. The lead of the development team is the Project Manager who oversees the workflow and ensures that it goes as it was supposed to.

Main Agile frameworks

The most common project management frameworks that are based on Agile methodology are Scrum and Kanban. 

The point of Scrum Agile methodology is in dividing large tasks into small ones and fulfilling them by the end of Sprint. Sprint is a fixed time unit which can vary depending on the project. Usually, it’s 2 weeks, by the end of which product owner receives a working prototype with complete tasks that were assigned for this particular Sprint. Then, a new Sprint with new tasks starts. 

The key player in Scrum is a Scrum Master who links Product Owner and a Development team. The list of his duties is enormous. Organizational, controlling, communicative and retrospective tasks are under Scrum Master’s responsibility.

Kanban Agile methodology has made an extensive use of a particular instrument known as Kanban board. It allows teams and product owner to visualize the development process. The board is divided into several columns and has cards with tasks that can be easily moved into different parts of the board (“to-do tasks, in progress, and done” is the most popular division type) depending on their status. Such visualization lets team leads make predictions and optimize the workload.

Agile methodology isn’t limited to these two, there is more to it. However, these have proved themselves as the most efficient ones. By the way, Scrum and Kanban can be unified to take the best features of the both. This methodology is known as Scrumban, which is also very popular.

Tools for smooth Agile-based workflow

Efficient flow is impossible without proper tools, even in case the development team shares one room, which is often not. So online tools are essential to provide great in-team cooperation and management. Let’s check out just a few of the many existing.

The functionality of some tools is limited. They can deal with only a few Agile tasks successfully. Trello is a great tool for a pure Kanban approach. Anyone involved can gain access to the virtual board with sorted and prioritized tasks. Easybacklog is a tool to manage project’s backlog (tasks to be done and tasks that are already done). Scrum master or Product Owner create user stories and order them in the backlog. EasyBacklog tool, however, doesn’t allow to assign tasks unlike the two tools below.

Other tools are multifunctional. They can be used for entire project management: manage few projects at the same time, count hours and workload, assign tasks and track bugs, create forums, wherein all involved can discuss the details of the task, make reports and Kanban boards. Jira and Redmine are the most popular representatives. They allow not only project management but also bugs tracking, simultaneous management of several different projects, hourage counting, creating group discussion forums, etc.

Risk management in Agile

Every software development is exposed to various risks. 

  • Technical risks: Will the required feature or product be delivered in a way it was supposed to?
  • Business risk: Will the product be able to generate revenue?
  • Social risk: Do end users really need this product?
  • Deadline risk: Will the product be ready in time?
  • Cost risk: Will I have enough money to sustain?

Agile methodology suggests ways on how they can be counteracted. First of all, transparent interaction within the team and with Product owner ensures collective awareness about the project flow, expected terms and issues. Online tools that we discussed above make the process easier.

Secondly, the key practice in Agile development methodology is communication. Daily meetings, Sprint planning meetings, Sprint review and retrospective meetings help to ensure that anyone involved is informed and makes management easier and more efficient.

Thirdly, follow core activities established by Agile principles. Specification document that is created at the very beginning lets both Product Owner and Project Manager have a documented benchmark and eliminate unnecessary risks. It’s also a good idea to visualize the delivery plan with optimistic and pessimistic trends.            

Pre-Sprint activities such as planning, prioritization, and tasks assignment, and ‘Done‘ criteria are extremely important. Sprint reviews and retrospects help to detect weak points and avoid some of the problems in future.

There are many project management practices for you as a product owner to choose or you can even invent your own and apply it. Yet, we want to draw your attention that despite seemingly complicated roles and concepts, the Agile methodology provides the simplest solutions for the successful delivery of your projects.
 

Nataliia

Nataliia Kharchenko

Blog Author

Nataliia Kharchenko is a Technical Writer at Cleveroad. It is web and app development company in Ukraine that successfully implements various projects of any complexity. The main goal of the company is to provide clients with quality and exceptional software.

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How To Define Features in Agile Methodology?

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Read on to find out!Agile projects are known for their simple, iterative approach to cutting through the complexity. Even the most ambitious of Agile projects is taken one step at a time and breaks down complex work packages and tasks into low-level subtasks. Features and capabilities that are needed in the finished product are listed out, and then broken down to manageable chunks which are taken up and completed, one at a time.In this article, we will talk about Features in an Agile project. What are the characteristics of features and how are they applied? How do you build a feature list, and what are the advantages of breaking down features into user stories? Read on to find out!What is a feature in Agile methodology?A feature is a service or function of the product that delivers business value and fulfils the customer’s need. Each feature is broken down into several user stories, as it is usually too big to be worked on directly. A user story is an informal, short description of a part of a software feature that is written from the user’s perspective and talks about how this particular bit of the feature will offer something of value.Why use features in Scrum and not only user stories?A feature is something that is sizeable enough to deliver measurable value to customers and creates a large chunk of functionality. Features are used to describe the functionality at a macro level, and they are required to create schedules and plan the high-level release of the product.Scrum works on the premise of short development cycles called Sprints, which usually last between 2 weeks and a month but not longer. One feature is typically completed over several sprints. 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Epics come into the picture for large projects with multiple teams who are working over a duration of several years.Who writes the features in Scrum, and what are the steps involved?The Scrum Guide, considered to be the Bible for all things Scrum, does not lay out any guidelines for the use of features.However, Scaled Agile, Inc. indicates that the Product Manager is the owner of the Features, which is to say, he or she finally decides what goes into the feature and what is its priority on the Backlog. The features are not necessarily written by the Product Manager, however, and this could be done by others on the team.On many teams, the Product Manager and the Product Owner are one and the same.There are several steps in the definition and writing of features. Define the WHY, or the benefit hypothesis: What is the functionality that the users gain from the feature? What are the benefits to be gained from implementing this feature? Calculate the business value: Keep in mind the number of users, how often each of them uses the feature, what is the timeframe within which the feature must be released for it to be useful, and how much effort goes into developing this feature. All these together will help to determine the ROI of the feature and ultimately whether it is worth the effort and cost. Features that bring in the most benefit at least cost will be prioritised. Describe the feature: What is the context and how will it be used? What is the need for the feature? Try to include technical details and any information that is important from the Product Manager’s point of view. Write down the acceptance criteria: What are the conditions under which the feature can be deemed to be done? 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They are the same as story points, but in the context of a feature rather than a user story.What are features called in different Agile Methodologies?A feature, while essentially having the same definition, could be called by different terms in different Agile methodologies. In Scrum, a feature is often referred to as a Backlog Item.   In XP, features are called Stories. DSDM terms a feature as a requirement. This could club together several system features. 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What Is a Safe Product Owner?

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Scrum Software for the Ultimate Project Management

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More involved with the business side of the software development process, the PO represents the customer and can be considered as their proxy.  The Product Owner defines the product vision, and, along with the Scrum Master and the development team works towards delivering a product that matches stakeholder needs.The Scrum MasterThe Scrum Master is the servant leader whose main responsibility is to ensure that the Scrum team can perform to the best of its abilities. They do this by overseeing the day-to-day activities of the Scrum team and removing any impediments that may hinder the productivity of the development team. The Scrum Master facilitates stakeholder collaboration along with the product owner and ensures that teams can handle complex environments and deliver projects successfully.The Scrum development teamThe development team generally consists of three to nine people, according to the Scrum Guide. These would include developers, testers, designers and more. 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There are plenty of Scrum tools available that fit the bill and provide interfaces that help teams seamlessly follow Scrum processes and reap its benefits. These tools help:Increase productivityIn task management, daily scrum management  Increase team collaborationIn progress tracking and risk managementScrum Software for the Ultimate ProjectThere are several Scrum software tools that aid in project development using Scrum; not just in technical environments, but in non-technical sectors as well. Software like JIRA, Infinity, TargetProcess, QuickScrum, Wrike etc provide:User friendly GUICompetitive pricingProduct backlog managementTime tracking and calendar tools for schedulingScrum metrics and chartsSprint planning toolsThird party tools for integrationUser story mappingBurnup and Burndown chartsand many more features that will help Agile teams serve their customers better, improve return on investment, reduce costs, enhance collaboration and ensure stakeholder satisfaction. These tools help team uphold the values of Agile and make implementing the Scrum framework easier.Best Scrum ToolsHere are some of the best Scrum tools available in the market:1. JIRAJira is a popular tool used by large organizations to manage their Scrum projects. It has numerous features including customizable scrum boards, reporting features and more. Here’s how teams benefit from this toolCustomizable Scrum and Kanban boardsRoadmaps to communicate with team and with stakeholdersAccess to tools for Agile reportingView of code and deployment statusEnd to end DevOps visibilityEasy scalabilitySecure deploymentDeveloper tool integrationRich APIs to automate processes2. TargetProcessThis tool has been especially designed for teams that want to scale agile. It offers a number of customizable features that make it easy to work with scrum and agile.  Here’s how teams benefit from this tool(Source: Targetprocess Agile Portfolio and Work Management Tool)IdeationBuilt in reports to analyse data and uncover trendsGather ideas across sourcesCloud hosting and on-premise hostingEnterprise grade securityCollaborate across the enterprise  Collaborate with DevOps tools including GitLab, Azure DevOps, GitHub etc3. VivifyScrumThis tool is marketed as an all-in-one solution to manage projects, collaborate and track. Here’s how teams benefit from this tool (Source: Agile Project Management Software - VivifyScrum)Tools to manage agile projects—organize, manage, track and deliverCollaboration boards to effectively collaborate with team and stakeholdersCreate invoices to track and manage business and clientsManage teams and track tasks4. InfinityThis tool is among the most popular in Agile and Scrum organizations due to the many customizations and features it provides. Its various tools help reduce time to market, ensure better quality, improve collaboration and enable customer satisfaction.Here’s how teams benefit from this tool Source: Infinity | Customizable Work Management Platform (startinfinity.com)How Can Scrum Apps Benefit Your Team?The number of Scrum apps and software available in the market for Scrum projects is mind boggling. Which one you choose depends on the requirements of your team and project, and each comes with its own benefits. 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. Teams can organise, review, plan and discuss everyday tasks, meetings, impediments and more.How to Pick the Best Tool for Your Team?With so many options available, choosing the right Scrum tool for your team can be a tricky task. What you need to do is go through the features of the best tools and see which one best fits your requirements. While the number of features you get will be directly proportional to the money you are ready to pay for the tool, there are some basic requirements your tool must satisfy.Backlog creation:  The very basic format of a Scrum project lies in the creation of a product backlog which sets the pace for the entire project. The backlog is primarily created by the Product Owner with assistance from the Scrum Master and the development team. The tool you choose should help you create the product backlog so that you can prioritise items, define the sprints and identify sprint goals.Implement feedback:  Scrum projects are based on the Agile values of continuous feedback. Your scrum tool should have features which will make your customer’s feedback and requirements easily accessible to you. This will help you implement these changes at the earliest. This continuous feedback loop will help keep customers happy.Sprint creation:  Scrum is iterative and adaptive and works by breaking down projects into small sized sprints. Your tool must aid you in the creation of sprints and burndown charts. These help you keep track of your progress on the project and are essential components of a Scrum project.The other things your tool should be able to do include:Plan and trackCustomise process templatesCustomise dashboards and reportsHelp in time managementHelp create epics and storiesProvide collab and reporting toolsProvide review toolsAnd just like you will create a product that is user friendly, the tool you use also needs to be user friendly for the team. If your team is happy using it, and it makes your life easier and your projects better, then you have the right tool!
Scrum Software for the Ultimate Project Management

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