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How Not to be Agile –The Business Case

Is Agile Everything?‘How Not to be Agile’ may seem a strange title for the blogs mentioning about how good Agile is!‘How Not to be Agile’ may seem a strange title for a series of articles about how good Agile is!  However, what I intend to do over this series of articles is to share with you the misinterpretations, omissions and mistakes that people make that significantly reduces the potential benefits for an organisation, or part of it, when it embarks on an Agile Transformation.Agile Transformation is not easy!  Yes, the ‘mechanics’ of all the Agile frameworks are relatively straightforward to implement, given that people are trained adequately.  However, the root cause of just about all the problems that I have come across is inadequate training and/or coaching of everybody involved with the Agile Transformation including the development people as well as the senior and middle management, both business and technical.Last time, I discussed the potential pitfalls of not having a suitable and visible Vision and Objectives for whatever it is that we are trying to achieve, be it a new product, a major change to an existing product or the Agile transition itself.This time, I will cover some of the omissions, misunderstandings and malpractices that I have come across with respect to the Business Case; an overall product development ‘document’ with which we can track whether the ongoing development is likely to meet the business value outlined or specifically stated in the development Objectives for a reasonable cost; it is no use developing a product for $1 million dollars if it will take 10 years of product use before it pays for itself.I will start with a description of an Agile Business Case and then give examples of what has and could go wrong.What is the Business Case?Having achieved an agreed Vision and Objectives, the business stakeholders and development team need to quantify the business value that is expected from the product, in what timescale, and the estimates of how much it will cost to develop so that that the business stakeholders can determine whether the development is justified from a business point of view.These estimates are recorded in the Business Case; a cost-benefit analysis. In the past, in an effort to reduce development business risk as much as possible, some companies produced a detailed, task level, project plan with all the ‘who will do what and when’, factoring in known team member holidays etc.  By this means, they hoped to establish the probable costs of the development with a high degree of accuracy.  However, I have never seen the expected business benefits undergo such a rigorous analysis.Also, I have never seen the Business Case updated periodically during the development so that it can be determined whether the development is still justifiable.This way of producing a Business Plan usually involves a ‘development expert’ to do the technical estimations and takes a significant amount of time during which no business benefit is being accrued.What is an Agile Business Case?“Therefore, ‘experts’ are asked for their opinion about probable or possible costs for different ways of solving the problem:Develop the product from ‘scratch’ – usually the most expensive optionUse an existing product as a ’base’ and modify/configure it – the next most expensive optionOutsource the development – ‘passing risks to some other company’ – the costs can vary significantly depending on the contract type.From these ‘guesstimates’, the development Sponsor can take a decision as to which development option to take.  I will discuss Agile Roles in a later article.There is always another option for the Sponsor to take – ‘Do Nothing’; especially if the probable cost-benefit analysis indicates little Return-on-Investment.If the initial, ‘guesstimate’, Business Case cost-benefit analysis indicates that it may be worthwhile continuing with development,we can start gathering requirements.What is Agile Business Case Lifecycle?Once the initial Agile Business Case has been created it is not ‘set in stone’; like most other things in an Agile environment, it is subject to change as we learn during the development. Indeed, I use a set of development ‘document’ templates, which includes an Agile Business Case, that all have ‘This is Subject to Change’ printed in red at the top and bottom of each page.Post Product Backlog CreationThe Product Backlog, which I shall discuss in my next article, is a list of ‘requirements’ that have been ordered by business value and estimated.These estimates, that have been done by the development team, can replace the costs section of the initial Business Case. The initial Business Case expected benefits can be assessed by a wider stakeholder population and either confirmed or modified.The cost-benefit analysis for the modified Business Case values can be used to, again, assess whether it is advisable to continue the development, modify the Vision and Objectives to obtain a viable Business Case or cancel the development.The time taken from establishing the Vision to achieving this first modified Agile Business Case should be no longer than 2 to 3 weeks; usually, a lot shorter time than is usually taken in a traditional product development environment.At the End of Development TimeboxesA Development Timebox is the short, 2 to 3 week period during which the development team completely develop a subset of the ‘requirements’ and what has been developed demonstrated to the relevant stakeholders.  Most of you will recognise this as the definition of a Sprint from Scrum; other Agile Frameworks use different names; I will use the term Sprint during the rest of this article because it is quicker to type!It is recommended that the Agile Business Case be ‘reviewed’ at the end of each Sprint, during the Sprint Review, for the first few Sprints; it is during these first Sprints that the learning curve is steepest. The estimated costs against the actual costs can be assessed and the Agile Business Case updated if necessary.  Obviously, assessing the actual benefits accrued at this early stage in development is almost impossible.  However, a view can be taken on the new cost-benefit analysis as to whether to continue development.Remember:                                                                                                   ‘Fail Fast’Once the initial learning has been done, most organisations revert to reviewing the Agile Business Case during the Increment Reviews, done just before a group of functionalities is placed ‘live’; probably every 2 or 3 months.Case Study 1:Many years ago, I was asked to help a team who were building a financial products sales system to replace a company’s current system.  The ‘need’ that prompted this development was regulatory in that there had been ‘mis-selling’ of some of the financial products and the government had told the whole sector that they had 6 months ‘to clean up their act’.The company’s current system was based on an ageing mainframe and it was decided that as well as trying to incorporate new regulatory business rules into the sales system, the whole process would be ‘transferred’ to a system using ‘modern’ technology so that additional sales processes could be incorporated, taking advantage of the capabilities of the new technology.The company mitigated some of the huge risks that they were taking on by outsourcing the development on a fixed price basis; the outsource company decided that ‘Managed RAD’ (the precursor of Agile) was the way to go; I was helping the outsource supplier company team.The ‘Vision’ was clear:“To develop a financial products sales system that complies with Government regulation in 6 months so that the company can continue to sell financial products”There was an onsite, senior salesman from the client company to give the requirements for the new system; the equivalent of a Scrum Product Owner.Unfortunately, no one had taken the time to produce a Business Case; it was obvious wasn’t it? ‘New system in 6 months or die’!The prevailing culture within clients and business management at the time was the ‘WISKY’ mentality; “Why Isn’t Someone ‘Koding’ Yet”.That and the 6-month deadline led the team to cut corners on the preparation.  Some rudimentary ‘As-Is’ business process modeling had been done to identify where the sales process needed to be modified to include the regulatory requirements as well as where the new parts of the sales process needed to be inserted.The product Owner insisted that as much of the ‘As-Is’ had to be in the new system as well as the new parts.The team decided to go for the ‘low-hanging fruit’ approach, developing the easy and quick parts first; unfortunately, these did not include the regulatory requirements nor the new sales processes.After 2 months of development, the team released the first prototype to the client company to get feedback.  The client was very concerned that there was no sign of the regulatory requirements or new sales process and that the team had developed ‘As-Is’ processes that had been in the old system that were there because of the limitations of the old technology, such as overnight batch processing of data.It was at this point that the client was considering cancelling the development contract but they were 2 months closer to the important deadline so it was decided to bring someone in that could turn the ‘mess’ around; that someone was me.I started by investigating the Vision and establishing what was the minimum that was needed in the remaining 4 months.  It was decided that a system to support the end-to-end sales process of just one of the financial products, incorporating the regulatory requirements, without any of the new ‘bells and whistles’ would satisfy the regulators and the client company could continue trading.The ‘Product Owner’ was replaced with a less experienced salesman who was not as ‘wedded’ to the old sales process as the previous Product Owner.We established and prioritised the development objectives and put together a Business Plan that was used every week as a means to assess development progress toward the highest priority objective of getting the new regulatory requirements incorporated into the sales process.The new system was ‘finished’ one month early and was demonstrated to the regulators who had high praise and used the new system as a benchmark with which to assess the new systems of other companies in the same sector.During the month left before the deadline other high priority financial products were added to the system; the client deciding that they would suspend sales of the less important products until they too could be added to the new system.Lessons:1.The apparent lack of time always drives people to ‘cut corners’, especially in the preparation.  How many window and door frames have you seen that look ‘rough’ because the surfaces were not prepared adequately before applying the top coat of paint?  In this case study, some of the people were almost paranoid about the ‘New system in 6 months or die’ so that they focused entirely on the time aspect with little consideration about what the original Product Owner was asking them to do.As a consequence, the team produced a less than satisfactory first prototype.2. Don’t leave the requirements set to one person however experienced they are; the question of ‘do we really need to develop the whole of the new system in 6 months?’ would probably have been asked in the early stages if the requirements setting had been done by a group of people including some developers.3.The lack of prioritised development objectives and a Business Case to assess development progress toward the highest priority objective(s) aided the ‘low hanging fruit’ approach adopted by the outsource company enabling them to effectively waste most of the 2 months work in producing the first prototype.4.On a positive note, however, the incremental delivery nature of Agile had allowed the team to ‘fail fast’.  If the team had continued development without customer feedback for all of the 6 months, who knows what sort of system that they may have produced.Case Study 2:I was asked to do an Agile audit in an organisation because one of the senior managers was concerned that he was not seeing the benefits of ‘being’ Agile that were ‘sold’ to him by a chosen ‘partner’ development agency.The development was a programme of work to integrate 12 disparate systems, ‘inherited’ by the organisation by the acquisition of other organisations; the overall aim was to ensure consistency of data across the organisation and allow the use of a data warehouse for decision making.The programme was using an in-house Agile framework based on the DSDM framework. The anti-Agile practices across the programme that I discovered during the audit could make the definitive guide on how not to be Agile.However, I will confine my comments to the consequences of the lack of knowledge on building the Agile Business Case for just one of the projects.The project ‘Vision’ was to automate many business processes that were currently being done manually.  When I arrived, the project had been running, on and off, for about 18 months and had not delivered anything.  I asked what the project costs to date were and was told that they were in the order of £1 million but this could not be verified because cost accounting in the organisation and for the programme was very ad-hoc.The team was struggling with defining the details of some of the User Stories; several attempts had been made during several workshops to finalise these details before development in one or more Sprints.I decided to sit in on one of these workshops to see what was happening.A ‘Systems Analyst’ was sat in front of her laptop, not shared with the rest of the workshop, and asked questions of the business representatives.  They discussed their answers to the questions which mostly were preceded by ‘It depends’.  I asked if any prototypes had been attempted for the User Story under consideration and was told ‘we don’t do prototypes because we do not have any prototypers’.  I then asked the stupid question ‘What is a prototyper?’.  The obvious answer – someone who prototypes!  It became obvious that the organisation believed that prototypes had to be produced in code, rapidly.I went to the whiteboard, drew a large rectangle and asked the business representative what they expected to see on a screen, focusing on the most used path through the User Story.  In 20 minutes we established the ‘core’ data and business rules for the User Story; it had taken 3 months of sporadic workshops not to get that far.This workshop anecdote led me to ask how this ‘analysis paralysis’ situation had come about.  The answer was that the team had ignored one of the basic Agile framework ‘rules’ that development takes place in short, 2 to 3 week, Sprints; the aim of a Sprint is to develop, as fully as possible, a group of User Stories so that they are potentially shippable.  As part of the Sprint or Increment Reviews, the business should assess the Business Case to see if it remained viable.Apart from not running Sprints as recommended, the team had a less than adequate Vision and no Objectives on which to base a Business Case.  For some reason, which I was never able to fathom out, nobody in the programme or the rest of the organisation was questioning the lack of development progress for this project or the amount of money they were spending for no visible benefit.To cut a very long story short, when an adequate Vision and Objectives were created and a Business Case put together, the business realised that what they were trying to achieve was fundamentally flawed and the project was cancelled.Lessons1.Despite the poor workshop processes and abandonment of key Agile development practices, the fundamental problem with this project was a lack of adequate Vision and Objectives with which to construct a Business Case by which assessment could be made of development progress toward realising the expected benefits at a reasonable cost.2. When Vision, Objectives and Business Case were in place, the business realised the futility of the efforts so far and therefore had allowed a waste of £1 million by not having them earlier.ConclusionThese 2 case studies illustrate the worst cases of no Business Case that I have experienced; there are many others.Having tight deadlines or even no apparent deadline does not excuse the lack of sufficient and proper preparation.I discussed the Vision and Objectives issues in the first of this series of articles but these should be used to build a Business Case that can be used to assess development progress toward meeting the expected Objectives for a reasonable cost; developing User Stories is not the aim of Agile; the aim is to develop the right User Stories in the right order.

How Not to be Agile –The Business Case

4496
  • by Steve Ash
  • 31st Aug, 2018
  • Last updated on 11th Mar, 2021
How Not to be Agile –The Business Case

Is Agile Everything?

‘How Not to be Agile’ may seem a strange title for the blogs mentioning about how good Agile is!

‘How Not to be Agile’ may seem a strange title for a series of articles about how good Agile is!  However, what I intend to do over this series of articles is to share with you the misinterpretations, omissions and mistakes that people make that significantly reduces the potential benefits for an organisation, or part of it, when it embarks on an Agile Transformation.

Agile Transformation is not easy!  Yes, the ‘mechanics’ of all the Agile frameworks are relatively straightforward to implement, given that people are trained adequately.  However, the root cause of just about all the problems that I have come across is inadequate training and/or coaching of everybody involved with the Agile Transformation including the development people as well as the senior and middle management, both business and technical.

Last time, I discussed the potential pitfalls of not having a suitable and visible Vision and Objectives for whatever it is that we are trying to achieve, be it a new product, a major change to an existing product or the Agile transition itself.


This time, I will cover some of the omissions, misunderstandings and malpractices that I have come across with respect to the Business Case; an overall product development ‘document’ with which we can track whether the ongoing development is likely to meet the business value outlined or specifically stated in the development Objectives for a reasonable cost; it is no use developing a product for $1 million dollars if it will take 10 years of product use before it pays for itself.

I will start with a description of an Agile Business Case and then give examples of what has and could go wrong.

What is the Business Case?
 Business CaseHaving achieved an agreed Vision and Objectives, the business stakeholders and development team need to quantify the business value that is expected from the product, in what timescale, and the estimates of how much it will cost to develop so that that the business stakeholders can determine whether the development is justified from a business point of view.

These estimates are recorded in the Business Case; a cost-benefit analysis. In the past, in an effort to reduce development business risk as much as possible, some companies produced a detailed, task level, project plan with all the ‘who will do what and when’, factoring in known team member holidays etc.  By this means, they hoped to establish the probable costs of the development with a high degree of accuracy.  However, I have never seen the expected business benefits undergo such a rigorous analysis.

Also, I have never seen the Business Case updated periodically during the development so that it can be determined whether the development is still justifiable.

This way of producing a Business Plan usually involves a ‘development expert’ to do the technical estimations and takes a significant amount of time during which no business benefit is being accrued.

What is an Agile Business Case?
 Agile Business Case

“Therefore, ‘experts’ are asked for their opinion about probable or possible costs for different ways of solving the problem:

  • Develop the product from ‘scratch’ – usually the most expensive option
  • Use an existing product as a ’base’ and modify/configure it – the next most expensive option
  • Outsource the development – ‘passing risks to some other company’ – the costs can vary significantly depending on the contract type.

    From these ‘guesstimates’, the development Sponsor can take a decision as to which development option to take.  I will discuss Agile Roles in a later article.There is always another option for the Sponsor to take – ‘Do Nothing’; especially if the probable cost-benefit analysis indicates little Return-on-Investment.If the initial, ‘guesstimate’, Business Case cost-benefit analysis indicates that it may be worthwhile continuing with development,we can start gathering requirements.

solving problemsWhat is Agile Business Case Lifecycle?

Once the initial Agile Business Case has been created it is not ‘set in stone’; like most other things in an Agile environment, it is subject to change as we learn during the development. Indeed, I use a set of development ‘document’ templates, which includes an Agile Business Case, that all have ‘This is Subject to Change’ printed in red at the top and bottom of each page.

Post Product Backlog Creation

The Product Backlog, which I shall discuss in my next article, is a list of ‘requirements’ that have been ordered by business value and estimated.

These estimates, that have been done by the development team, can replace the costs section of the initial Business Case. The initial Business Case expected benefits can be assessed by a wider stakeholder population and either confirmed or modified.

The cost-benefit analysis for the modified Business Case values can be used to, again, assess whether it is advisable to continue the development, modify the Vision and Objectives to obtain a viable Business Case or cancel the development.

The time taken from establishing the Vision to achieving this first modified Agile Business Case should be no longer than 2 to 3 weeks; usually, a lot shorter time than is usually taken in a traditional product development environment.

At the End of Development Timeboxes

A Development Timebox is the short, 2 to 3 week period during which the development team completely develop a subset of the ‘requirements’ and what has been developed demonstrated to the relevant stakeholders.  Most of you will recognise this as the definition of a Sprint from Scrum; other Agile Frameworks use different names; I will use the term Sprint during the rest of this article because it is quicker to type!

It is recommended that the Agile Business Case be ‘reviewed’ at the end of each Sprint, during the Sprint Review, for the first few Sprints; it is during these first Sprints that the learning curve is steepest. The estimated costs against the actual costs can be assessed and the Agile Business Case updated if necessary.  Obviously, assessing the actual benefits accrued at this early stage in development is almost impossible.  However, a view can be taken on the new cost-benefit analysis as to whether to continue development.

Remember:

                                                                                                   ‘Fail Fast’
the simplest business planOnce the initial learning has been done, most organisations revert to reviewing the Agile Business Case during the Increment Reviews, done just before a group of functionalities is placed ‘live’; probably every 2 or 3 months.

Case Study 1:

Many years ago, I was asked to help a team who were building a financial products sales system to replace a company’s current system.  The ‘need’ that prompted this development was regulatory in that there had been ‘mis-selling’ of some of the financial products and the government had told the whole sector that they had 6 months ‘to clean up their act’.

The company’s current system was based on an ageing mainframe and it was decided that as well as trying to incorporate new regulatory business rules into the sales system, the whole process would be ‘transferred’ to a system using ‘modern’ technology so that additional sales processes could be incorporated, taking advantage of the capabilities of the new technology.

The company mitigated some of the huge risks that they were taking on by outsourcing the development on a fixed price basis; the outsource company decided that ‘Managed RAD’ (the precursor of Agile) was the way to go; I was helping the outsource supplier company team.

The ‘Vision’ was clear:

“To develop a financial products sales system that complies with Government regulation in 6 months so that the company can continue to sell financial products”

There was an onsite, senior salesman from the client company to give the requirements for the new system; the equivalent of a Scrum Product Owner.

Unfortunately, no one had taken the time to produce a Business Case; it was obvious wasn’t it? ‘New system in 6 months or die’!

The prevailing culture within clients and business management at the time was the ‘WISKY’ mentality; “Why Isn’t Someone ‘Koding’ Yet”.

That and the 6-month deadline led the team to cut corners on the preparation.  Some rudimentary ‘As-Is’ business process modeling had been done to identify where the sales process needed to be modified to include the regulatory requirements as well as where the new parts of the sales process needed to be inserted.

The product Owner insisted that as much of the ‘As-Is’ had to be in the new system as well as the new parts.

The team decided to go for the ‘low-hanging fruit’ approach, developing the easy and quick parts first; unfortunately, these did not include the regulatory requirements nor the new sales processes.

After 2 months of development, the team released the first prototype to the client company to get feedback.  The client was very concerned that there was no sign of the regulatory requirements or new sales process and that the team had developed ‘As-Is’ processes that had been in the old system that were there because of the limitations of the old technology, such as overnight batch processing of data.

It was at this point that the client was considering cancelling the development contract but they were 2 months closer to the important deadline so it was decided to bring someone in that could turn the ‘mess’ around; that someone was me.

I started by investigating the Vision and establishing what was the minimum that was needed in the remaining 4 months.  It was decided that a system to support the end-to-end sales process of just one of the financial products, incorporating the regulatory requirements, without any of the new ‘bells and whistles’ would satisfy the regulators and the client company could continue trading.

The ‘Product Owner’ was replaced with a less experienced salesman who was not as ‘wedded’ to the old sales process as the previous Product Owner.

We established and prioritised the development objectives and put together a Business Plan that was used every week as a means to assess development progress toward the highest priority objective of getting the new regulatory requirements incorporated into the sales process.

The new system was ‘finished’ one month early and was demonstrated to the regulators who had high praise and used the new system as a benchmark with which to assess the new systems of other companies in the same sector.

During the month left before the deadline other high priority financial products were added to the system; the client deciding that they would suspend sales of the less important products until they too could be added to the new system.

Lessons:

1.The apparent lack of time always drives people to ‘cut corners’, especially in the preparation.  How many window and door frames have you seen that look ‘rough’ because the surfaces were not prepared adequately before applying the top coat of paint?  In this case study, some of the people were almost paranoid about the ‘New system in 6 months or die’ so that they focused entirely on the time aspect with little consideration about what the original Product Owner was asking them to do.

As a consequence, the team produced a less than satisfactory first prototype.

2. Don’t leave the requirements set to one person however experienced they are; the question of ‘do we really need to develop the whole of the new system in 6 months?’ would probably have been asked in the early stages if the requirements setting had been done by a group of people including some developers.

3.The lack of prioritised development objectives and a Business Case to assess development progress toward the highest priority objective(s) aided the ‘low hanging fruit’ approach adopted by the outsource company enabling them to effectively waste most of the 2 months work in producing the first prototype.

4.On a positive note, however, the incremental delivery nature of Agile had allowed the team to ‘fail fast’.  If the team had continued development without customer feedback for all of the 6 months, who knows what sort of system that they may have produced.

Case Study 2:

I was asked to do an Agile audit in an organisation because one of the senior managers was concerned that he was not seeing the benefits of ‘being’ Agile that were ‘sold’ to him by a chosen ‘partner’ development agency.

The development was a programme of work to integrate 12 disparate systems, ‘inherited’ by the organisation by the acquisition of other organisations; the overall aim was to ensure consistency of data across the organisation and allow the use of a data warehouse for decision making.

The programme was using an in-house Agile framework based on the DSDM framework. The anti-Agile practices across the programme that I discovered during the audit could make the definitive guide on how not to be Agile.

However, I will confine my comments to the consequences of the lack of knowledge on building the Agile Business Case for just one of the projects.

The project ‘Vision’ was to automate many business processes that were currently being done manually.  When I arrived, the project had been running, on and off, for about 18 months and had not delivered anything.  I asked what the project costs to date were and was told that they were in the order of £1 million but this could not be verified because cost accounting in the organisation and for the programme was very ad-hoc.

The team was struggling with defining the details of some of the User Stories; several attempts had been made during several workshops to finalise these details before development in one or more Sprints.

I decided to sit in on one of these workshops to see what was happening.

A ‘Systems Analyst’ was sat in front of her laptop, not shared with the rest of the workshop, and asked questions of the business representatives.  They discussed their answers to the questions which mostly were preceded by ‘It depends’.  I asked if any prototypes had been attempted for the User Story under consideration and was told ‘we don’t do prototypes because we do not have any prototypers’.  I then asked the stupid question ‘What is a prototyper?’.  The obvious answer – someone who prototypes!  It became obvious that the organisation believed that prototypes had to be produced in code, rapidly.

I went to the whiteboard, drew a large rectangle and asked the business representative what they expected to see on a screen, focusing on the most used path through the User Story.  In 20 minutes we established the ‘core’ data and business rules for the User Story; it had taken 3 months of sporadic workshops not to get that far.

This workshop anecdote led me to ask how this ‘analysis paralysis’ situation had come about.  The answer was that the team had ignored one of the basic Agile framework ‘rules’ that development takes place in short, 2 to 3 week, Sprints; the aim of a Sprint is to develop, as fully as possible, a group of User Stories so that they are potentially shippable.  As part of the Sprint or Increment Reviews, the business should assess the Business Case to see if it remained viable.

Apart from not running Sprints as recommended, the team had a less than adequate Vision and no Objectives on which to base a Business Case.  For some reason, which I was never able to fathom out, nobody in the programme or the rest of the organisation was questioning the lack of development progress for this project or the amount of money they were spending for no visible benefit.

To cut a very long story short, when an adequate Vision and Objectives were created and a Business Case put together, the business realised that what they were trying to achieve was fundamentally flawed and the project was cancelled.

Lessons

1.Despite the poor workshop processes and abandonment of key Agile development practices, the fundamental problem with this project was a lack of adequate Vision and Objectives with which to construct a Business Case by which assessment could be made of development progress toward realising the expected benefits at a reasonable cost.

2. When Vision, Objectives and Business Case were in place, the business realised the futility of the efforts so far and therefore had allowed a waste of £1 million by not having them earlier.

Conclusion

These 2 case studies illustrate the worst cases of no Business Case that I have experienced; there are many others.

Having tight deadlines or even no apparent deadline does not excuse the lack of sufficient and proper preparation.

I discussed the Vision and Objectives issues in the first of this series of articles but these should be used to build a Business Case that can be used to assess development progress toward meeting the expected Objectives for a reasonable cost; developing User Stories is not the aim of Agile; the aim is to develop the right User Stories in the right order.

Steve

Steve Ash

Blog Author

Steve Ash has been working with ‘Agile’ since 1993 when it was known as ‘Managed RAD’.  He was an early adopter of the DSDM Framework in 1995 becoming a DSDM Board Member in 2002 and was a DSDM examiner.  He is a DSDM Advanced Practitioner and Accredited Trainer/Coach. Steve has since embraced Scrum, Kanban, the techniques advocated by XP, Lean Software Development and Lean Startup. He joined the Agile Alliance in 2002 and is a Certified Scrum Master (CSM), Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), SAFe® Certified Consultant (SPC4) and certified by APMG International to teach Agile Project Management and Agile Business Analysis courses. Since 1996, Steve has trained, mentored and coached hundreds of people in many public and commercial organisations in 11 countries from the USA, through Europe and India to Asia/PAC.
 

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Once the product vision is created after understanding the requirements of the stakeholders, market research and analysis, the product management team gets on with creating the product roadmap.  Building a product roadmap involves five main stages: Defining the strategy: As the name suggests, the strategy must define the overall goal of the project, the vision and how it aligns to the overall business objectives. The strategy outlines how the team or the company is going to go about achieving the goal or the project mission. Reviewing and managing ideas: There may be several requests from the user, but how do you prioritise these ideas? Ideas may even come from your development team and often such ideas can lead to better and more innovative products. How would you prioritise ideas on the product roadmap? By ranking and assigning values to each idea. Once you find out the value that each idea brings in by considering estimated cost, effort and value it is easy to rank each on the product roadmap. This will help you understand which ideas are to be prioritized and will help you manage better.   Defining features and requirements: Once your strategy is fixed you can identify the features that best support your strategy. You can further split these requirements into user stories that the development teams can use to determine their day-to-day tasks.  Organizing releases and setting timeframes: Once the requirements are set, the development team can define epics and sprints and determine the dates of releases. Releases can be grouped.  Choosing a view that suits your audience: Now that your roadmap and all the elements under it have been defined, you must share it with the others on the team including the stakeholders and the management. For this you would need to choose the view for the roadmap or decide which elements you would want to display and to what detail. You must consider certain considerations while creating a view for your roadmap such as: The purpose of the roadmap The audience for the roadmap The information that will appear The time frame that the roadmap should coverBest Practices for Creating an Effective Product RoadmapWhile creating the roadmap depends on the project and the organization, there are certain best practices that teams need to follow while creating product roadmaps to ensure effectiveness and value addition. The most important prep work, before the creation roadmap, is to ensure that you have your purpose, vision and strategy right. This sets the base for everything that follows. Your roadmaps are tools that you use for communicating the objectives and milestones with different teams and parties. Keeping this in mind ensure that you create different roadmaps for different audiences. The items of your roadmap should focus more on outcomes rather than on features. Keep reviewing and updating your roadmap at the right frequency. The product roadmap should always be current and be transparent to the teams. Make sure that your roadmaps are communicated in the right way. Make sure your roadmap conveys the right timelines; timelines should be flexible while at the same time realistic to ensure accountability. Do not use your roadmap as your product backlog. Remember that the roadmap is a high-level overview of the product strategy or goal and does not need to include everyday tasks like bug fixing user support research etc into it. Make sure you have all the right data to back up the items on your roadmap. You may need this in case you are asked to justify something on the roadmap by the stakeholder, investor, or even the team members.  Web-based Tools to Create a Product RoadmapYour product roadmap is a great communication tool. This said, it also must be visually appealing and tell a story to those who are accessing and viewing it. Gone are the days when people used Excel and PowerPoint to display their roadmaps. Compared to cloud-based tools, creating roadmaps on old technologies is cumbersome and difficult to update. There are several tools available in the market to help you with creating the appropriate roadmap for your needs. Product roadmap examples available include:  Monday.com Productboard Roadmunk Trello StoriesOnBoard and more Types of audience for a product roadmapYour roadmap is a mirror to your project and sharing it will help you maintain transparency and trust with all those involved in the project. You will have to share your roadmap with several people including: Management or leadership: The C-suite of your company may want to know how the project you build aligns to the goals and business objectives of the organization.   Engineering team: The roadmap is a bible for the engineering team as they will know the scope, goal and shape the project needs to take based on the product roadmap. They will know how to go about the development by understanding the releases, features and requirements outlined in the product roadmap.   Marketing team:The marketing team will use the product roadmap to understand the product strategy and goals along with the benefits that each release or feature will bring to the customer.   Sales team:The sales team must sell the product, which is why they would need to know the benefits the product will bring into the customers. The product roadmap will be referenced by them for this purpose.The importance of tailoring your roadmap to the right audienceYou can have different views for your roadmap based on who you are going to show it to and what information you want to communicate. Your audience is primarily of two types: Internal: Members who are part of your team and organization including team members, executives, sales team etc. Each team should be given a roadmap that is specific to their requirements. The executive or managerial team for example would need data that is more strategic and to know how the product aligns with the organizational objectives. The product roadmap for the sales team would concentrate on the product value; that will help the sales team understand the value the product will bring in for the user. The development team would see a roadmap that shows them key technical aspects and deadlines for these. External: members who are not part of the internal team such as customers, investors etc form the external members. The product roadmap shown to external customers often does not include information such as deadlines or any internal process flows. It concentrates more on the advantages that the product would give the end-user. It is less strategic and more visually appealing and easy to understand.Product roadmap types and examplesThere are several types of roadmaps that are used for different projects. These roadmaps may be tailored in terms of looks and content to suit the needs of your project. Some common product roadmap types are: Strategic roadmap: As the name suggests, this roadmap communicates the strategy and the long-term initiatives that align to the organizational mission. This roadmap focuses on long term objectives, timelines and deadlines.  Now-next-later roadmap: As the name suggests, this approach breaks down the roadmap into three parts. Now-which lists the initiatives that are being worked on now; Next-that lists the initiatives that will be taken up next and finally Later that lists the initiatives that will be tackled at a later stage. This product map gives the stakeholders and the team a bird’s eye view of the roadmap and makes it easier to suggest changes or differentiate priorities.Kanban roadmap: This is an excellent roadmap for development teams who want to communicate their plans without committing to exact timelines or dates. It helps teams to group activities into buckets such as what is in the backlog, what is planned and what is in progress. Source: productboard.comRelease plan roadmap: This is typically used as an external roadmap for customers and stakeholders. It displays initiatives such as planned releases etc and does not have much technical detail.Source: productboard.comAgile/Sprint Roadmap Example  Agile is all about flexibility, better responses to customer requirements and fast releases. Agile projects can benefit a lot from creating a product roadmap that communicates the long-term objectives of the project and helps establish a balance between short term and long-term goals. The agile roadmap is a great tool for providing direction to the team to carry out their everyday tasks. There are several tools available to create product plans for agile teams that help promote agility and implement agile values.  Source: Atlassian.comThis is an example of an Agile product roadmap for an Agile product team. The initiatives are in blue, and timelines are indicated by the milestone-markers in red. Conclusion  The Product roadmap is crucial not just in understanding long term goals and objectives but also to set context to everyday tasks and make sure that the product is responsive to competition and changing business requirements. The product roadmap works across industries, organizations and teams and is a must for projects of any size. It’s a tool that can be utilised by product owners and the product development team to ensure successful projects and value delivery.  
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The Ultimate Guide to Product Roadmaps

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What Is User Story Mapping?

User stories are concise descriptions of a software capability, written from the point of view of the customer or end user. A user story is an efficient way of precisely capturing the ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘why’ of a product requirement and can be thought of as a ‘to-do’ list that guides the product development journey.In this article, we will talk about what is user story mapping, why it is important, and how and when it should be done. You will get a high-level view of story mapping, understand the core concepts involved, and learn how to bring user stories to life in your Agile projects so that your team can get the maximum benefit from this technique.What is user story mapping?User story maps are simple, lightweight representations of the product development journey in an Agile project. This method was popularised by Jeff Patton who first wrote about it in his book User Story Mapping, where he outlined how this technique could be used to help keep the focus on user needs without getting tangled up in never-ending product feature requirements.These story maps—which are changeable and keep evolving throughout the journey—enable the team to have meaningful conversations about user needs through the development process, never losing sight of the big picture.Source: nngroup.comUser-Story Mapping DefinedUser story mapping can be defined as an exercise during which product managers and development teams list out the work that will create the most value to end users, maximising customer delight.During this exercise, teams create a dynamic outline of the ways in which the customer is expected to use the product. They try to understand which steps offer the most value and prioritise the stories accordingly. The user story format is an amazingly simple, concise sentence which clearly captures the requirements:“As a [type of user], I want to [action] so that [benefit]. “ Without getting into too much detail, this format holds the essence of product interactions from a user’s perspective.Why It’s Called User-Story MappingIn the user-story map, all the activities are captured as short phrases that represent actual user actions. The first half of the user-story format, therefore, talks about what the user wants to do with the product. Next, the story is elaborated to include the key benefits as the second half of the conversation. So, this mapping method is called user-story mapping because it is cantered on the user and his or her needs. Later, the team fleshes out this simple sentence into detailed user stories that are discussed, with acceptance criteria added on, and then added to the product/sprint backlog for completion during each sprint as per priority. As we can see, the purpose behind user stories is to spark a dialogue around the solutions to user needs, from the viewpoint of the customer who will be using the product. The users are usually laypersons who are likely to be non-technical, and therefore the product must be easy to use, with an interface that is not complex and can be navigated easily. When the entire exercise is cantered on the user, the focus gets shifted to the customer’s perspective and maximises the product value in terms of user satisfaction. When and How to Create a User Story MapThe user story map is created as one of the first exercises in the product development process. It is not a rigid document, and evolves as the journey unfolds, in keeping with the spirit of Agile.  Subsequently, the user story mapping can be carried out whenever the team needs more clarity on how to improve on the first version, how to manage the backlog or when branching out in a new direction with requirements for product extensions. These are the processes involved in creating a User Story Map: 1. Start with the big pictureStart by identifying the big picture. What are the broad user applications that your product must support? Draft these big stories on cards and arrange them in the order of priority for the end user.2. Break down the bigger storiesEach of these big user activities is now broken down into smaller user tasks. Once again, keep the user in mind and prioritise these tasks from the user’s perspective. This is now the backbone of your User Story Map.3. Look for the gapsIt helps to walk through the map with your customers or stakeholders. Is there anything you’ve missed out? They will help you to fill in the gaps.4. Start prioritisingRemember, at this stage it is still a high-level map and is highly likely to get changed down the line. Put the user tasks and subtasks within each activity into the order of importance.5. Select your first releaseFrom all the tasks listed, choose the ones that will go into your first version, which will be the MVP or Minimum Viable Product for your very first release.Once you have the ball rolling, get started on your first release and then keep the momentum alive by planning subsequent releases in the same way. As you go along, you will be re-ordering the user story map, aligning subsequent stories horizontally to match your timeline, and creating order out of chaos.What are some benefits of user story mapping?As we have already seen, user story mapping is a systematic and highly efficient way of working out task priorities. When done right, it offers significant benefits that help teams build products that customers will love. Lays the focus on the userAny product must be built with the end user in mind. User story mapping shines the spotlight on the user’s needs and tells the story from the point of view of the user. It maps out the user experience and helps to emphasize the efforts that will lead to the best outcomes, creating an outside-in approach rather than the traditional inside-out way of working. Sets priorities By breaking down the bigger picture into smaller tasks, while always keeping the vision in mind, teams can decide what is important and what needs to get built first. A holistic visualisation of tasks helps to put priorities in the right perspective. Teams will organize releases around the delivery of maximum value and push items of lower value to the bottom of the backlog. Gives clarity on requirements When requirements are laid out in the form of strong user stories, teams get clarity on what needs to be done. They can get a visual representation of how the larger work items can get broken down into smaller tasks and understand which are the tasks that club together to make one feature. Delivers value quicklyWork gets grouped together into iterations, and releases are planned around delivery of value. By working on the more important tasks faster, teams can deliver product increments more rapidly, get feedback early and maximise customer value. Mitigates risks earlyRisks and dependencies get exposed early in the development journey, and developers can plan to mitigate these risks and iron out potential obstacles to smooth progress of work. Early planning can reduce dependencies and streamline the tasks more effectively. Builds team collaborationIn the end, the project progress will depend on how well the team works together. User story mapping is a team building exercise where the team members get a shared view of the customer experience and work together to map out tasks. Team collaboration is built through meaningful conversations.  Who should participate in user story mapping?User story mapping is one of the most important exercises during the planning stage. It brings cross functional teams into better alignment and helps them work collaboratively toward building the best possible product in the market. It is important that all teams whose work will contribute toward successful delivery should participate in the dialogue.Team members from Engineering, UX/design, Product management, Sales, Customer support, Finance, Ops / IT, Legal and Marketing teams can take part in this exercise and give their valuable inputs. How does user story mapping work?Teams can use planning software like Lucid chart, or even simple physical resources like a chart or a section of wall with sticky notes, to build the story map. Once they have decided on the medium to use, they can work on the following steps:1. Define the problemWhat is the problem that is solved by your product? This is your product goal, and it’s important to clearly define it at the outset. Once the goal is defined, the work that is to be done to achieve this goal can be mapped.2. Understand the target audienceAny user story exercise starts with creating a persona as the end user. There could be several distinct categories of users, and all must be discussed. Each target persona will have a unique way of interacting with your product. Once the personas are understood, the user stories can be built from the perspective of each of these target users. This is an important aspect, as efforts are not wasted in building features that may not be important to any of these end users.  Source: storiesonboard.com3. Map user interactionsEach user will use the product through a series of activities related to the product. Also known as themes, these activities are what will form the structural outline of the user story map. As an example, when buying an online service, users may wish to search a list of service providers, view their online rankings, check prices, and then put the chosen service item into the cart and complete the payment. These will comprise the main stories, and each will then be broken down into smaller tasks.4. Break down the storiesEach of the major stories is then fleshed out into smaller activities, which are then written down in the format: ‘As a _______, I want to _________, so that _______.’ For instance, this could be something like: As a subscriber of Amazon music, I want to search for hip-hop music, so that I can make a playlist. 5. Set priorities and decide the flowOnce your bigger themes and user stories are mapped out, the next step is to prioritise and set the flow. Always rank them in such a way that the most urgent tasks are on the top of the list. The flow of tasks is usually always from left to right, and top to down. The visual representation of the user story mapping is already taking a visual form, helping teams to decide on the sequence and importance of work to be done.6. Look for gaps and dependenciesThis is a crucial step that will help to identify any bottlenecks that could impede progress. For instance, for task C to be completed, task A must first be finished. But for task C to even begin, there might be an interim task B that has not even been listed on the chart. In this way, all the missing gaps can be filled, and dependencies noted. Teams could also discuss workarounds if any if a dependency is found for which they do not have a resource now.7. Schedule sprints and releasesThis is the stage where teams create action plans and schedules. Now that they know the quantum of work that is needed, they can gauge the work that is needed to deliver the most value in the shortest time and group activities together into sprints and releases, always keeping user priorities in the forefront.What are some challenges of user story mapping?While user story mapping can yield great results when done the right way, it comes with its own set of challenges for teams that are inadequately prepared. Look out for these challenges:No personaThere might be instances where there is lack of clarity on who the end user is. In such cases, imagine a persona who represents the most possible end user, and work with this characterisation. Lack of clarity on the end goalThe product goal is the solution to a problem that exists and is the reason for building the product. When there is lack of clarity on the problem itself, then the team could end up building stories on the wrong goals. This will waste time, money and effort and could result in some unnecessary rework and lack of motivation. Not using collaborative software Smaller teams who are co-located might find it makes sense to do their planning using sticky notes on a wall, or markers on a whiteboard. What happens if someone cleans the whiteboard by mistake, or some of the notes fall off and are swept away? All the planning would have been in vain! Repetitions and reworkThe stories in a user story map might need to be rewritten in the form of a product backlog, which involves some rework. Instead, use collaborative tools that map progress and automatically keep records of the work done. An added advantage of using the right tools is that distributed teams can also participate in the planning and tracking of goals. What happens after user story mapping is completed?Once the user story mapping exercise is completed, teams will schedule their list of stories as per priority into sprints and releases. This forms the outline of the product roadmap, which will need to be shared with management and other teams that did not participate to ensure consensus. At this point, any teams which were not able to participate in the planning so far may give their inputs as well. The final user story mapping could be transferred to a shared software tool so that it can be viewed by all teams concerned in real time. Engineering team members will add technical specs and detail out their acceptance criteria, so that the Definition of Done for each story is known to all teams. This story map is never static but is always a work in progress. Estimates could be revised, schedules may be moved up or down, and parallel branches of the product might need to be added. At any time, the story map reflects the work to be done.What agile values and principles does story mapping support?Story mapping is an especially useful and productive tool that helps product managers and development teams to maximise customer value through an adaptive, iterative approach. At each stage, they will find plenty of opportunities to learn and improve themselves and the processes. As such, story mapping supports these values of the Agile Manifesto:  Customer collaboration over contract negotiation: The best results are obtained when many heads are put together to collaborate on the product. Each person will input their expertise, and the collaborative efforts are always far better than efforts of a few. User story mapping is an exercise in team collaboration. Responding to change over following a plan: Any Agile project is, by its very nature, adaptive and is designed to factor in all emerging requirements easily. When a new user story is added, or an existing one is changed, it becomes very easy to visualise the implications on the rest of the stories. User-Story Mapping vs. Customer-Journey MappingWhile user-story mapping and customer-journey mapping sound remarkably similar, there is a subtle difference in the emphasis. A customer journey map takes the perspective of the user and shows their interactions with the product and the steps taken to achieve an objective. It will also think about the user’s thoughts and experiences during this journey. On the other hand, a user story is mapped from the point of view of the product, as the user interacts with it. It will guide the planning of features and functionality, as the product tries to solve the user’s problems.  Both will work very well when combined to achieve all the product goals and create and maximise customer delight. What Problems Does Story Mapping Solve?Story mapping solves the problems that arise due to lack of clarity in defining the requirements and tasks. It helps teams to comprehend user needs, set priorities for tasks, and collaborate with each other effectively. It helps to keep the focus on what is important- the end goals- so that the team does not get side-tracked into doing less important tasks. Once the user stories are mapped, the final set of acceptance criteria can be drawn up, schedules can be created, and a roadmap can be outlined.How Do You Use Story Mapping to Prioritize Roadmap Initiatives?User story maps give all the inputs needed to create a product roadmap. All the features are listed out in detail, broken down into user stories and basic priorities are set. All that remains is to group the features that deliver maximum value in the quickest time together, and schedule releases based on the team’s capabilities.  Here is how to go about this: Arrange the items as per priority and assign each item story points to estimate the effort required for completion. Increase efficiency by clustering items that should be built together as they have dependencies on each other. This will help to determine how much of work will fit into each release, and you can then plan releases and sprints accordingly. You could decide to go with an equal number of items per release, or regroup based on the size, complexity, or importance of items. Once your tasks are decided for each release, map them to successful outcomes. Remember, at the end of each sprint you should have a potentially shippable increment that delivers a measurable amount of product value to highlight to stakeholders. If you have a feature that is too large to be completed in one single sprint, build the bare structure first, fleshing it out in the next iteration. This way, you can quickly get the functionality out, but continue to improve on it and incorporate user feedback.  Try to avoid a sprint where there is no actual value that is delivered to the end user, even though some progress has been made.Conclusion Anyone who has created user stories knows that this takes time and effort, and the best results come with experience. They allow teams to see the bigger picture, keeping the user at the core of all development progress. When done the right way, user story mapping promotes meaningful collaboration, enables quicker feedback and faster deliveries, and results in creating high-quality product features that most suit customer needs. 
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What Is User Story Mapping?

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How To Use T-Shirt Sizing as a Product Owner to Estimate Delivery

The beauty of Agile is that it is not prescriptive. Once organizations have understood the crux of Agile, they can tailor it to suit their needs and define processes that will ensure maximum output. Agile estimation is one such example. These simple, yet effective, techniques set the tone for the entire Agile project and help teams navigate complex projects easily.  T shirt sizing in agile is a relative estimation technique that helps for long term effective planning. In this blog we attempt to deep dive into T-shirt sizing estimation and try to understand its benefits and drawbacks.What is T-shirt sizing estimation?Agile often starts with a high-level estimate or a macro view of the project. This helps teams and stakeholders come to a long-term plan for the project. One of the ways that Agile does this high-level estimate is though T-shirt sizing agile, in other words estimating story points using a relative estimation technique.  T-shirt sizing, as mentioned before, is a relative project estimation technique to estimate what a project will need in terms of time, budget, and energy. It is a good technique for teams that are new to agile and want to perform a relative estimation of the project. T-shirt size planning can be further broken down into story points for sprint planning. Story points can be broken down further into hours for sprint execution. While t-shirt sizing is great for release planning and defining project roadmap, story point estimates are more accurate and better for sprint planning.  What is a story point? A Story point is a unit of measure for expressing an estimate for the overall effort needed to complete a particular user story, sprint, or product backlog item. While in traditional project management  methods the effort is conveyed in a time format like days, weeks or months, Agile uses story points to provide estimates and these can be provided by considering the amount of work, the complexity of work and associated risks. This is where story points differ from estimating in person-hours which may not consider the complexity or risk that may delay the task. Also, story point estimation is more flexible and is perfect for high level estimation.T-shirt sizes for introducing relative estimationChoosing a t-shirt when you walk into a store is simple. You have clearly labelled sizes like S, M, L, XL and all you need to do is pick one. While this may be a relative sizing and each T-shirt size can fit a range of shoulder sizes, it is much easier than having numerical t-shirt sizes like 38, 40, 42 etc.  Similarly, for agile projects, teams can classify items or user stories as extra-small, small, medium, large, extra-large, or double extra-large. This T-shirt sizing estimation eliminates the numerical score associated with story points and helps developers to be more flexible and dynamic about the effort associated with a story. Depending on the size of the task, the developers will assign a t-shirt size. It’s important that all developers arrive at a consensus on the T-shirt size assigned to each task. The stories are all placed in S, M, L, XL buckets and the time taken to complete all the tasks in the buckets is estimated. Teams can get a relative understanding of how big or small the story is.The downside of T-shirt sizing PBIsThe problem with T-shirt's sizing is that it is a relative estimate, so teams would only get a ballpark figure or a range and not an exact estimate of effort needed to complete a user story.Also, since product backlog increments or PBIs are indicated in terms of T-shirts sizes, it would be difficult to estimate or review how much work is done. Like for example, your report may show that for this sprint you have completed 2 small, 4 medium and 3 large PBIs. This may make it difficult to measure the velocity of work.Benefits and pitfallsBenefits:Helps in quick estimates for substantial number of itemsHelps teams new to agile better perform estimationsIs flexible as estimation does not change even if velocity changesGives estimates in relative termsIs easy and effective for first level of estimating and large backlogs.Pitfalls:Relative estimates are not absoluteMay need to be converted to numerical value if velocity needs to be calculatedAre not uniform. One team’s t-shirt estimate may be different from that of another team.Delivery planning with T-shirt estimatesThe t-shirt sizing is a great way of providing initial estimates and can be used as a first round of estimating, providing stakeholders and the team with a relative or broad idea of time and effort required for the project.As mentioned above, it is often the first round of planning and starts with the project being split into high level epics which may be given t-shirt sizes. You may give an estimate range for epic size in a number of days.For example:Small = 1–4 daysMedium = 5–10 daysLarge = 10–20 daysYou can use this estimate and suppose that your first delivery of the product will take around 26-54 days.The second round of planningOnce you have created a broad estimate it is time to do the second round of planning and develop the product backlog items corresponding to epics. The epics can be further broken down into user stories for sprints. Each PBI can be estimated with story points to get a more accurate estimate for the PBIs.How to use T –shirt sizing to determine project scopeT-shirt estimation is a great way to understand the overall scope of your project. For example, a shopping list that is a small t-shirt size would mean buying a couple of items like a toothbrush and a cola, whereas a large t-shirt size idea would be buying fifty or more items from a shopping list. So, slotting these various tasks into t-shirt sizes will help the team understand the overall scope of the project and what must be accomplished. It helps to understand the effort required by each team member to accomplish the task.Getting the Right Fit: The Do’s and Don'tsT-shirt sizing, just like Agile, is not a one-size fits all method. Teams must figure out how to use it depending on their project and keeping in mind past projects and retrospectives.There are some do’s and don’ts for t-shirt sizing that must be followed for success:Get the bigger picture: You can think big and dream during this process. Your result will be a rough estimate so you can let yourself go.Make sure to stick to the scope: It is easy to get derailed with so many ideas coming in from so many people. But make sure to keep your eye on the project goal and ensure that the sizing is getting you closer to the goal.Do not have too many sizes: This exercise is supposed to simplify your decision-making process, so there is no point in complicating it by adding too many t-shirt sizes.Do not get rigid with T-shirt labels: You can get creative with the names if you don’t want t-shirt names. Go for fruit names if you find it better! You can estimate in terms of a grape for the smallest stories and a pineapple for the larger ones. Alternatively, think of animals if your team likes them better. You can have everything from rabbits to giraffes to define your epics and sprints.Assigning velocity for product backlog itemsDevelopment teams work around this by assigning each size a numerical value such S=1, M=3, L=5, XL=8. Assigning numerical values makes it easier to calculate the velocity. So, if team has completed 2 Small, 4 Medium and 3 Large PBIs then the velocity can be calculated as:Velocity= S+M+L= (2*1)+(4*3)+(3*5)=29T-Shirt sizing is fastT-shirt estimation allows an extremely fast, almost instant estimation with basic information. Compared to more absolute types of estimation that require more information from stakeholders and users and can result in considerable time consumption and effort, t-shirt sizing is quick and saves close to 80% times in some cases.How does T-shirt sizing work?T-shirt sizing starts off with the portfolio management team defining the size of the project, and they categorize the project as being extra small, small, medium, large, extra-large etc. The product owner first gets together with the stakeholders and defines a few high-level epics. The epics are given t-shirt sizes based on their perceived complexity. The development team also uses historical data from previous projects to classify tasks into different sized buckets.T-shirt sizing is a great option for teams new to the whole estimating business. It is fast and simple, and teams can use it till they learn the ropes of the more accurate forms of estimation. Splitting projects into generalized buckets helps the team to break down complex tasks, helps in communication and allows the team to look at a long-term roadmap for the project. When done correctly, t-shirt sizing can boost productivity and save the team a whole lot of effort.
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How To Use T-Shirt Sizing as a Product Owner to Es...

The beauty of Agile is that it is not prescriptive... Read More

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