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How to Check Whether Your Agile Process is on the Wrong Track

Today, Agile is a real buzzword and every person involved in software development knows what it means. The Agile project management methodology has literally revolutionized software development, making it faster, better, and more cost-effective. The key principles of Agile bring benefits to investors (better ROI), development teams (streamlined workflow), and end-users (high-quality products). The majority of software development companies in the world practice Agile. There’s a good reason for that: according to the “11th State of Agile” report made by VisionOne, the success rate for the projects delivered with the help of Agile stood at 98%! Yet, some projects still fail despite the adoption of Agile. Apparently, Agile isn’t a magic wand that performs miracles on its own. This software development methodology must be applied properly. Several grave mistakes in the implementation of Agile, and your project is likely to end up behind the eight ball, which means financial and reputational losses for your company. So, how can you check whether something goes wrong with your Agile process? 9 Signs That Your Agile Process Goes Wrong The Agile methodology seems to be clear and simple in terms of theory, but there are many challenges companies face when implementing Agile practices. According to the pre-cited report, 47% of respondents said the lack of skills and experience was a serious difficulty. If you wish to avoid a failure, make sure your Agile process goes well and your team’s performance is high. Here’s a list of 9 most common signs that your Agile process is on the wrong track. Sign #1 No Sprint Retrospectives Retrospectives are crucial for Agile software development methodology and they must never be skipped. Sprint retrospectives allow Agile teams to look behind and analyze what went okay and what went wrong during a sprint. All team members can share their opinions and suggest some improvements to the workflow. Retrospectives help teams learn from their own experience and hone their workflow to perfection. Sign #2 Long Stand-up Meetings The vast majority of Agile teams (particularly those who use Scrum) hold daily stand-up meetings that help team members synchronize and plan their activities. Typical stand-up meetings mustn’t last longer than 15 minutes, but many teams spend far more time on them. As a result, stand-ups become nothing but a waste of time. Also, make sure to manage daily stand-ups correctly. That’s what team members have to tell during a stand-up: What they accomplished during the previous day; What they’re planning to do this day; What difficulties (if any) they faced. A stand-up meeting shouldn’t be turned into a discussion of irrelevant topics. Sign #3 Improper Product Backlog Management The product backlog must be properly managed and it’s the responsibility of a Product Owner (PO). A PO is an intermediary between a stakeholder and a development team. A PO has to define the tasks in the backlog and prioritize them according to their business value. If there’s no PO and your product backlog is managed by the team, the collaboration between your team and a stakeholder will be insufficient. Consequently, the stakeholder might not like the final version of the product. Sign #4 Failure to Deliver Product Increments After Each Sprint Incremental development is the core of Agile methodology. At the end of each sprint, your team should deliver a potentially shippable increment (fully coded and tested) of a product. Actually, a shippable increment is a measure of success for Agile teams. If your team fails to deliver a shippable increment at the end of a sprint, it means that your Agile process doesn’t work properly. The solution to this problem is a complete restructuring of your workflow and team. Sign #5 Story Points Treated as Goals Story Points estimation is, probably, the most popular technique for measuring Agile team’s velocity. During sprint planning meetings, team members collectively decide how many points each task is worth. Therefore, Story Points are informal agreements that help teams estimate the amount of effort required for developing a particular feature. Story Points are subjective: the same task can be given three points by one team but five points by another. However, some teams tend to treat Story Points as measures of success. In this case, team members would be focused on reaching a specific number of points instead of concentrating on delivering value. Your team might end uplooking productive rather than really being productive. Remember that Story Points don’t matter but value does. Sign #6 Incorrect Velocity Tracking In some companies, managers compare individual velocity of Agile team members by counting the number of Story Points each of them achieves. Though this method sounds reasonable, it’s at odds with the essence of Agile, which is all about collaboration. Team members work together and, as it’s been mentioned above, they must be focused on delivering value, not on achieving a certain number of Story Points. Sign #7 Urgent Tasks That Interrupt Workflow Probably, every development team sometimes needs to handle urgent tasks (e.g. adding new features to a product) that aren’t in a sprint backlog. Such interruptions distract the team and make a negative impact on productivity, since the team might fail to reach the sprint goal. Interruptions should be managed by a Product Owner. Once some urgent tasks appear, a PO has to add them to the product backlog and re-prioritize it. Sign #8 Large Number of Uncompleted Tasks Sometimes, development teams seem to fulfill all the tasks in their sprint backlogs, while most tasks aren’t fully done. Needless to say, incomplete tasks will have to be done during the next sprint. Though fulfilling all the tasks in a sprint backlog may be challenging, it’s still better to have 90% of them fully done rather than having 100% of tasks 90% done. Sign #9 Technical Debt Very often, developers need to make changes to their projects. The reasons may be different: bug fixing, refactoring, or redesigning. Accumulating technical debt is a grave mistake that immensely reduces a team’s productivity. Instead, technical changes must be carried out as soon as possible since it’s much easier to handle them within a sprint rather than during the final stages of the development process. Don’t Just Practice Agile, Be Agile A common mistake of many software development companies is treating Agile merely as a methodology. However, this view isn’t quite correct. A person truly dedicated to software development should have an “Agile mindset” that includes the following: Desire to learn; Focus on team success; No fear of mistakes. That’s why the implementation of the best Agile practices isn’t enough. Team members should shift their way of thinking to deliver successful state-of-the-art products.  
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How to Check Whether Your Agile Process is on the Wrong Track

343
  • by Gleb B
  • 04th Jun, 2017
  • Last updated on 19th Feb, 2019
How to Check Whether Your Agile Process is on the Wrong Track

Today, Agile is a real buzzword and every person involved in software development knows what it means. The Agile project management methodology has literally revolutionized software development, making it faster, better, and more cost-effective. The key principles of Agile bring benefits to investors (better ROI), development teams (streamlined workflow), and end-users (high-quality products).

The majority of software development companies in the world practice Agile. There’s a good reason for that: according to the “11th State of Agile” report made by VisionOne, the success rate for the projects delivered with the help of Agile stood at 98%!

Yet, some projects still fail despite the adoption of Agile. Apparently, Agile isn’t a magic wand that performs miracles on its own. This software development methodology must be applied properly. Several grave mistakes in the implementation of Agile, and your project is likely to end up behind the eight ball, which means financial and reputational losses for your company. So, how can you check whether something goes wrong with your Agile process?

9 Signs That Your Agile Process Goes Wrong

The Agile methodology seems to be clear and simple in terms of theory, but there are many challenges companies face when implementing Agile practices. According to the pre-cited report, 47% of respondents said the lack of skills and experience was a serious difficulty. If you wish to avoid a failure, make sure your Agile process goes well and your team’s performance is high.

Here’s a list of 9 most common signs that your Agile process is on the wrong track.

Sign #1 No Sprint Retrospectives

Retrospectives are crucial for Agile software development methodology and they must never be skipped. Sprint retrospectives allow Agile teams to look behind and analyze what went okay and what went wrong during a sprint. All team members can share their opinions and suggest some improvements to the workflow. Retrospectives help teams learn from their own experience and hone their workflow to perfection.

Sign #2 Long Stand-up Meetings

The vast majority of Agile teams (particularly those who use Scrum) hold daily stand-up meetings that help team members synchronize and plan their activities. Typical stand-up meetings mustn’t last longer than 15 minutes, but many teams spend far more time on them. As a result, stand-ups become nothing but a waste of time.

  • Also, make sure to manage daily stand-ups correctly. That’s what team members have to tell during a stand-up:
  • What they accomplished during the previous day;
  • What they’re planning to do this day;
  • What difficulties (if any) they faced.
  • A stand-up meeting shouldn’t be turned into a discussion of irrelevant topics.

Sign #3 Improper Product Backlog Management

The product backlog must be properly managed and it’s the responsibility of a Product Owner (PO). A PO is an intermediary between a stakeholder and a development team. A PO has to define the tasks in the backlog and prioritize them according to their business value.

If there’s no PO and your product backlog is managed by the team, the collaboration between your team and a stakeholder will be insufficient. Consequently, the stakeholder might not like the final version of the product.

Sign #4 Failure to Deliver Product Increments After Each Sprint

Incremental development is the core of Agile methodology. At the end of each sprint, your team should deliver a potentially shippable increment (fully coded and tested) of a product. Actually, a shippable increment is a measure of success for Agile teams.

If your team fails to deliver a shippable increment at the end of a sprint, it means that your Agile process doesn’t work properly. The solution to this problem is a complete restructuring of your workflow and team.

Sign #5 Story Points Treated as Goals

Story Points estimation is, probably, the most popular technique for measuring Agile team’s velocity. During sprint planning meetings, team members collectively decide how many points each task is worth. Therefore, Story Points are informal agreements that help teams estimate the amount of effort required for developing a particular feature. Story Points are subjective: the same task can be given three points by one team but five points by another.

However, some teams tend to treat Story Points as measures of success. In this case, team members would be focused on reaching a specific number of points instead of concentrating on delivering value. Your team might end uplooking productive rather than really being productive. Remember that Story Points don’t matter but value does.

Sign #6 Incorrect Velocity Tracking

In some companies, managers compare individual velocity of Agile team members by counting the number of Story Points each of them achieves. Though this method sounds reasonable, it’s at odds with the essence of Agile, which is all about collaboration.

Team members work together and, as it’s been mentioned above, they must be focused on delivering value, not on achieving a certain number of Story Points.

Sign #7 Urgent Tasks That Interrupt Workflow

Probably, every development team sometimes needs to handle urgent tasks (e.g. adding new features to a product) that aren’t in a sprint backlog. Such interruptions distract the team and make a negative impact on productivity, since the team might fail to reach the sprint goal.

Interruptions should be managed by a Product Owner. Once some urgent tasks appear, a PO has to add them to the product backlog and re-prioritize it.

Sign #8 Large Number of Uncompleted Tasks

Sometimes, development teams seem to fulfill all the tasks in their sprint backlogs, while most tasks aren’t fully done. Needless to say, incomplete tasks will have to be done during the next sprint. Though fulfilling all the tasks in a sprint backlog may be challenging, it’s still better to have 90% of them fully done rather than having 100% of tasks 90% done.

Sign #9 Technical Debt

Very often, developers need to make changes to their projects. The reasons may be different: bug fixing, refactoring, or redesigning. Accumulating technical debt is a grave mistake that immensely reduces a team’s productivity.

Instead, technical changes must be carried out as soon as possible since it’s much easier to handle them within a sprint rather than during the final stages of the development process.

Don’t Just Practice Agile, Be Agile

A common mistake of many software development companies is treating Agile merely as a methodology. However, this view isn’t quite correct. A person truly dedicated to software development should have an “Agile mindset” that includes the following:

Desire to learn;

Focus on team success;

No fear of mistakes.

That’s why the implementation of the best Agile practices isn’t enough. Team members should shift their way of thinking to deliver successful state-of-the-art products.

 

Gleb

Gleb B

Blog Author

Gleb B is a technical copywriter at a RubyGarage, a web and mobile development company. He likes writing on topics related to software development and digital technologies. Gleb has been in the industry for over 2 years.
 

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