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How to be an Agile Customer?

In this dynamic and ever-changing scenario today, a lot of customers want to make their vendors follow Agile Project Methods. Be it in an IT or Non-IT environment, continuous integration is the most practical way to achieve continuous and visible results.Hence, a lot of companies who look for vendors/partners for accomplishing some goals are keenly interested in finding partners/vendors who can work in Agile methods of delivery.Working on continuous integration is as much as the task of a vendor as it is applicable for a client as well. Now, a lot of clients are unaware of these Agile methods in the first place and find it difficult to follow it sometimes. And also will understand the Use of Agile to Deliver Customer Success.Characteristics of Agile Customer:Joins the initial estimation of the Product BacklogSupports Agile contractingCreates the product vision & backlog togetherAttends the Sprint ReviewRespects team stabilityBeing a part of the rigorously delivery-oriented software world, I can summarize my experience with a lot of clients who wish to run their projects in Agile, but often have very limited to minimal knowledge of a working Agile environment. With this constraint, the vendors/partners are required to work in absolute sync to run the Agile Machinery in a well-oiled and productive manner.As a Scrum Master who has had the opportunity to run multiple projects in a client/vendor/partner model of products with teams scattered to multiple locations across the globe, I can say that educating and collaborating with the clients and their partners is not as easy and seamless as it sounds in a theoretical manner.We must understand the core values of Agile thoroughly to handle such situations and scenarios and also to improve customer experience with Agile. Many teammates, managers, and leadership have very limited knowledge of Agile Practices and what they are about, and often try to put restrictions on the processes which are not part of Agile Values and Principles.Core Values of Agile that one must understand The Agile Manifesto has Four Values, each Agile methodology applies the values in different ways. These Four Values are people-centric and results driven. That is why there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left.As an example, I will quote a situation that I faced during a project execution. Our client in this scenario was completely unaware of the Agile practices and Values. The client was mostly dependent on us as a vendor to teach them and follow the Agile Values and Methodology. Our leadership roped in an Agile Enablement team internally, so that the client could be educated and workshops were held with our team and client-side personnel to make sure that everybody learned to be Agile together.At this point, we had knowledge that a 3rd partner will create some precedents to start our project. Our team would never have to collaborate with the 3rd partner once the preceding requisites are handed over to us and we would work without any dependencies. Our team started preparing to begin the development in full force and was fully prepared to take over the Agile challenges.What challenges does Agile team come across?Days before development, our leaders got notified that the whole project schedule got bumped because the partner company had not prepared the prerequisites for us to start the development. After multiple discussions and workshops, we came down to the below solution:Now, in a situation like this, the whole Agile school of thought comes under the scanner. In this scenario, not only us, but all the three entities must be in sync to follow Agile methods and to get any real work done.Being a client/partner in an Agile ecosystem means contributing the same amount of Agility, thought and work in the process. If the client wants the vendor to be Agile, the client also should be Agile educated and willing to follow the right process to get their work done in time and with the expected quality. Usually, in these situations, the client is the required to be the oil to the whole Agile machinery between vendors and partners.A client who wants a continuous delivery should keep the following points in mind:Clear Vision – For a client to work with an Agile team it is important that they have their vision for their product/software and the way they want to build it to serve their purpose bestProduct Owner – The client party should appoint a product owner who is concurrent with their visionAgile Ceremonies – The clients should understand the importance of all Agile Ceremonies and should be willing to attend and participate the ones required for themA partner in an Agile enforcement should also be willing to enhance the Agile practices by delivering their owned work on time to avoid the cost to the client and time to the vendor.Collaboration: The key to success!In a corporate structure where collaboration is the key to success, it is very important to understand and follow common processes as important it is to understand their requirements to succeed and create meaningful and successful product/software.                                          “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win a championship”                                                                                                                                        - Michael Jordan

How to be an Agile Customer?

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How to be an Agile Customer?

In this dynamic and ever-changing scenario today, a lot of customers want to make their vendors follow Agile Project Methods. Be it in an IT or Non-IT environment, continuous integration is the most practical way to achieve continuous and visible results.

Hence, a lot of companies who look for vendors/partners for accomplishing some goals are keenly interested in finding partners/vendors who can work in Agile methods of delivery.

Working on continuous integration is as much as the task of a vendor as it is applicable for a client as well. Now, a lot of clients are unaware of these Agile methods in the first place and find it difficult to follow it sometimes. And also will understand the Use of Agile to Deliver Customer Success.

Characteristics of Agile Customer:
Characteristics of Agile Customer:

  • Joins the initial estimation of the Product Backlog
  • Supports Agile contracting
  • Creates the product vision & backlog together
  • Attends the Sprint Review
  • Respects team stability

Being a part of the rigorously delivery-oriented software world, I can summarize my experience with a lot of clients who wish to run their projects in Agile, but often have very limited to minimal knowledge of a working Agile environment. With this constraint, the vendors/partners are required to work in absolute sync to run the Agile Machinery in a well-oiled and productive manner.

As a Scrum Master who has had the opportunity to run multiple projects in a client/vendor/partner model of products with teams scattered to multiple locations across the globe, I can say that educating and collaborating with the clients and their partners is not as easy and seamless as it sounds in a theoretical manner.
We must understand the core values of Agile thoroughly to handle such situations and scenarios and also to improve customer experience with Agile. Many teammates, managers, and leadership have very limited knowledge of Agile Practices and what they are about, and often try to put restrictions on the processes which are not part of Agile Values and Principles.

Core Values of Agile that one must understand
 
The Agile Manifesto has Four Values, each Agile methodology applies the values in different ways. These Four Values are people-centric and results driven. That is why there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left.
Core Values of Agile that one must understand
As an example, I will quote a situation that I faced during a project execution. Our client in this scenario was completely unaware of the Agile practices and Values. The client was mostly dependent on us as a vendor to teach them and follow the Agile Values and Methodology. Our leadership roped in an Agile Enablement team internally, so that the client could be educated and workshops were held with our team and client-side personnel to make sure that everybody learned to be Agile together.

At this point, we had knowledge that a 3rd partner will create some precedents to start our project. Our team would never have to collaborate with the 3rd partner once the preceding requisites are handed over to us and we would work without any dependencies. Our team started preparing to begin the development in full force and was fully prepared to take over the Agile challenges.

What challenges does Agile team come across?

Agile Testing Challenges
Days before development, our leaders got notified that the whole project schedule got bumped because the partner company had not prepared the prerequisites for us to start the development. After multiple discussions and workshops, we came down to the below solution:

Now, in a situation like this, the whole Agile school of thought comes under the scanner. In this scenario, not only us, but all the three entities must be in sync to follow Agile methods and to get any real work done.

Being a client/partner in an Agile ecosystem means contributing the same amount of Agility, thought and work in the process. If the client wants the vendor to be Agile, the client also should be Agile educated and willing to follow the right process to get their work done in time and with the expected quality. Usually, in these situations, the client is the required to be the oil to the whole Agile machinery between vendors and partners.


A client who wants a continuous delivery should keep the following points in mind:

  • Clear Vision – For a client to work with an Agile team it is important that they have their vision for their product/software and the way they want to build it to serve their purpose best
  • Product Owner – The client party should appoint a product owner who is concurrent with their vision
  • Agile Ceremonies – The clients should understand the importance of all Agile Ceremonies and should be willing to attend and participate the ones required for themThe Agile train

A partner in an Agile enforcement should also be willing to enhance the Agile practices by delivering their owned work on time to avoid the cost to the client and time to the vendor.

Collaboration: The key to success!

In a corporate structure where collaboration is the key to success, it is very important to understand and follow common processes as important it is to understand their requirements to succeed and create meaningful and successful product/software.

 Collaboration
                                          “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win a championship”

                                                                                                                                        - Michael Jordan

Shreeti

Shreeti Bhattacharya

Blog Author

Shreeti is an Agile enthusiast with 7+ years of experience in IT  industry and is currently working as a Scrum Master.She believes once you become Agile, you can always achieve it in time.

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1 comments

venkey 13 Nov 2018

The article is very intresting and very infromative.

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How To Define Features in Agile Methodology?

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!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. In one sprint, only several user stories can be completed and not, perhaps, an entire feature.What’s the difference between features and epics in Agile?The product backlog is usually detailed into three levels of complexity with respect to tasks. Epics are large quantities of related work that can be broken down into features. A feature, as we have seen, is a service or function that delivers value to the end user. Each feature is broken down into a number of smaller and simpler tasks known as user stories. Do note that for a smaller project, with only around 8 to 10 people on the team, the product backlog may be divided into just features and user stories. 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? This will help to reduce any ambiguity and mark work progress. How big should the product features be?While there is no hard and fast rule on this, and it is left largely to the convenience of project teams, it is generally agreed that it should be possible to complete a feature within a maximum of three months. When using SAFe, a feature is released in one single program increment. Teams that are working with investor funding and are getting the funds at regular cycles should be able to showcase a completed feature during each investment cycle, in order to demonstrate that they are progressing on track. What are feature points?Feature points represent the amount of the work complexity, effort taken, and knowledge required to complete one feature. 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. Agile UP defines features in the form of requirements and use cases.What are the characteristics of features?To be effective, a feature should always Offer measurable business value,   Contain enough information to allow for estimation of the work involved, Be small enough to be completed within a program increment or maximum of three months,   Be testable by the scrum team and the product management team.Feature breakdown structure (FBS)When getting into the nitty gritty of detailed planning, agile development uses a feature breakdown structure (FBS) approach that breaks down each feature into smaller, more manageable units of work. This allows easier communication between the customer and the development team, where both can understand each other well in a way that leaves no room for ambiguity. It also helps to track the progress of work against the value that is created. Over time and as the work progresses, the larger features can be broken into smaller features, instead of doing this breakdown all together in the beginning. This way, details are not fleshed out until the time when they are actually needed for design and delivery. Building an initial feature listAt the very start, before the release planning and iteration planning can happen, the team must sit together and list out as many potential features for the system as possible at this stage. Feature requests can come from many sources, and one person should be allocated to collate all these requests. While this could be the product manager, it could also be a customer proxy, a business analyst or someone who is responsible and accountable to the team. The team should refine these requirements, weeding out duplicate items, features that are not possible to implement, and requests that are very vague. 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Scrum Software for the Ultimate Project Management

Technology has made our lives easier. The number of tools and devices we have at our disposal has made our lives more productive and our work more efficient. The Agile software development methodology has been adopted by several organizations to improve their adaptability, responsiveness, and productivity.  How can we improve the way we incorporate Agile Scrum into our projects? Scrum tools can be the answer. Just like the other gadgets in our lives, Scrum software and tools help improve the productivity of our teams, keep stakeholders happy and help us deliver better products. Before we jump into the use and needs of Scrum software and tools let us understand more about Scrum roles and how they work.Three essential roles for Scrum successThe Scrum Guide defines three pillars of a Scrum team, which include:The Scrum MasterThe Product OwnerThe Development TeamThe Scrum team is a small unit which is self-organised and works towards achieving the same goal; that is, the development and deployment of the product and customer satisfaction.The Scrum Product OwnerThe Scrum Product Owner is among the most essential roles in the Scrum team and acts as a bridge between the stakeholders and the development team. 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. The team is allowed to take decisions and decide the length of the sprint and how they will go about it. The development team collaborates to create a high-quality product increment at the end of each sprint that is as per the expectations of the stakeholders.Scrum ceremonies or eventsScrum has five formal events as defined by the Scrum Guide. These events help to validate the Scrum artifacts and implementing them helps enhance transparency. The events are also called ceremonies and are:Sprint PlanningDaily ScrumSprint ReviewSprint RetrospectiveThe SprintWhat Does A Scrum Tool Do?What would you need a good Scrum tool to do? Make your life easier by making processes more efficient and less cumbersome, help you deliver quality products without making a huge dent on your budget, right?  With Scrum topping the popularity charts for Agile project management methodologies, the need for efficient Scrum tools has risen. 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. 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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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