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Product Owner Anti-Patterns You Should Be Aware Of

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

Product Owner Anti-Patterns You Should Be Aware Of

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Product Owner Anti-Patterns You Should Be Aware Of

Product Owner plays a very critical role in the success of Agile/Scrum implementation in an organization. The entire effort of transforming teams with Agile ways of working is bound to fail if the role of a Product Owner is not understood clearly.

Listed below some of the anti-patterns seen while the person is playing the role of a Product Owner in a team-

  • Busy or Missing Product Owner, not being part of the development team
  • Working software demo to the PO during Sprint Review
  • Expressing the backlog in Technical user stories instead of focusing on business-related user stories
  • Writing detailed user stories (no scope for negotiation)
  • Questioning the estimates given by the Dev Team
  • Not having a clear acceptance criteria for every story
  • Too large user stories
  • Not questioning the customers while collecting the requirements
  • Not allowing the Dev Team to work on Technical Debt
  • Not validating the customer’s idea before implementing the idea
  • Not allowing Development Team members to talk with the Stakeholders directly
  • Not empowering the Proxy POs
  • Lack of vision on the product being developed
  • Delivering more features than valuable features
  • Not having well-defined prioritization mechanism in delivering user stories
  • Changing priorities or requirements during the Sprint
  • No single Product Owner, required governance missing in case of multiple POs
  • Missing in Scrum Ceremonies
  • Relying on mail communication for answering queries from Dev Team
  • No emphasis on Quality
  • Treating estimates as deadlines
  • Instructing team on what needs to be done, acting as a Manager
  • Expecting user stories to be created by team, considering SM and PO to be there only to review the stories
  • Pushing team to do extra work for finishing everything forecasted during Sprint Planning
  • Holding the team responsible for any rework post feedback from stakeholders during Sprint Review 
  • Not showing interest in answering team queries for clarifications after Sprint planning
  • Task monitoring
  • Not coachable by Scrum Master
  • Unable to prioritize the work
  • Consistently changes priorities during the Sprint
  • Accepting partially completed PBI’s
  • Allowing dev team to change the Story points of a user story post implementation
  • Not saying “No” to the stakeholders and allowing the product backlog to grow in size
     

There's nothing more paralysing than a Scrum team with a bad Product Owner!


The characteristics stated above lead to nothing but a Product Owner “Fishbowl” where new ideas and innovative thoughts pertaining to Scrum processes find no entry at all. 



The Product Owner  is...

The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product and the work of the Development Team. It’s a one-person role that brings the customer’s perspective of the product to a Scrum Team. 

The Product Owner is responsible for: 

  • Developing and maintaining a product vision and market strategy
  • Product management 
  • Ordering and managing the Product Backlog 
  • Involving stakeholders and end-users in Product Backlog refinement and backlog management 
  • Alignment with other Product Owners when needed from an overall product, company or customer perspective. 


A GREAT PRODUCT OWNER… 

Grasps, shares and spreads the product vision:

A great Product Owner acts as the client's voice (also called a proxy-client at times) and makes a product vision together with the stakeholders. Each choice is taken on account of the product vision. This guarantees sustainable product improvement, gives clearness to the development team and expands the chances of product success definitely.

Understanding the customer’s goals:

A great Product Owner truly understands the customer’s goals with the product and is able to outpace its expectations. After all, pleasing the customer is the ultimate goal.

Is a good decision maker:

A great Product Owner is an authorized person to take product-related decisions. It may take some time to support his/her decisions, but this is an essential condition for an economical pace of the development team.

Manages the product backlog:

A great Product Owner comprehends that the product backlog should be in sequence. Priority, risk factor, quality, getting to learn and dependencies are all considered and balanced with each other.

Prefers one-to-one communication:

A good Product Owner believes in one-to-one communication to convey information. User stories are used as a medium of conversation.

Knows modeling techniques:

A great Product Owner has a knapsack full of worthful modeling techniques. Actually, the PO has an idea about when to apply a specific model. Based on the model application he/she drives the project success. 

Shares experiences:

A great Product Owner offers experiences with peers. This may be inside the organization, and outside it. Additionally, courses and meetings are the great approaches to share experiences and garner information. Furthermore, recording your lessons can be significant for other Product Owners.

Claims user story mapping:

A great Product Owner should ace the idea of user story mapping. It is a method that enables you to add a second dimension to your backlog. The visualization empowers you to see the master plan of the product backlog.

Keeps an eye on functionality:

A successful Product Owner keeps an eye on functional as well as on the non-functional aspects of the product. The motto of the Product Owner is to exceed the quality expectations the customer and enabling functionality that provides value to the product. So, the functionality is the main focus of the Product Owner. 

Is knowledgeable:

A great Product Owner has a deep product knowledge and comprehends the technicality. Larger products might be difficult to understand and scale. In this case, the PO should know the formula to solve the large queries.  

Comprehends the business domain:

A great Product Owner knows the ins and outs of his domain. A product should be built with a clear idea of every aspect being dealt with. This not only entails understanding the organization and paying for the development but also being aware of the current market trends. No matter how great your product is, shipping it after the window of opportunity closes is a waste of time and barely of any value. 

Acts on different levels. A great Product Owner is capable of acting on different levels. These levels are popularly denoted as- strategic, tactical and operational. At the board level, a PO should know how to demonstrate the product strategy. Thereafter, he should create a strong support at middle management and facilitate the development team to cope with their daily challenges. 

Knows the 5 levels of Agile planning. Within Agile, planning is done continuously. Every product needs a vision (level 1) which will provide input to the product roadmap (level 2). The roadmap is a long-range strategic plan of how the business would like to see the product evolve. Based on the roadmap, market conditions and status of the product the Product Owner can plan releases (level 3). During the Sprint Planning (level 4) the team plan and agree on Product Backlog Items they are confident they can complete during the Sprint and help them achieve the Sprint Goal. The Daily Scrum (level 5) is used to inspect and adapt the team's progress towards realizing the Sprint Goal. 

Is available. A great Product Owner is characterised by his availability to the stakeholders, customers, development team and most important, the Scrum Master. This helps important questions to be answered quickly and valuable information to be provided on time. The Product Owner always makes sure that his availability never becomes the bottleneck of the progress of the development team. 

Is able to say 'no'. A great Product Owner knows the best time and way to say “no”. This indeed is a difficult trait to master. While it is easy to give any new idea or feature the nod, there is a flip side. Good backlog management necessitates creating a manageable product backlog with items that will mostly get realized. Appending non-productive items to the backlog will only create false expectations. 

Acts as a "Mini-CEO". A great Product Owner basically is a mini-CEO for his product. He has a sharp eye for opportunities, focuses on business value and the Return On Investment and acts promptly on all possible risks and threats. Every growth aspect such as size, quality, market share of the product is taken into consideration. 

Knows the different types of valid Product Backlog items. A great Product Owner can clarify the fact that the Product Backlog consists of more than only new features. For example, technical innovation, bugs, defects, non-functional requirements and experiments, should also be taken into account. 

Takes Backlog Refinement seriously. A successful Product Owner spends sufficient time refining the Product Backlog. Backlog Refinement is essentially the act of adding detail, estimates and order to items in the Product Backlog. The result should be a Product Backlog that is granular enough and easily understandable. On an average, the Development Team spends no more than 10% of their capacity on the refinement activities. There is no such prescribed approach. The Product Owner can also involve stakeholders and the Development Team in backlog refinement. Each for a valid reason. The stakeholders are given the opportunity to state their expectations. The Development Team can clarify functional and technical implications. This will ensure a holistic understanding and enhance the quality of the Product Backlog considerably. Consequently, the opportunity to build the right product with the desired quality will also increase. 

Concluding Thoughts:
A Product Owner is indispensable for a functional Scrum team. He not only bridges the gap between the development team and the client but also ensures a streamlined product delivery. Ill-defined Product Owner roles and some of the critical PO anti-patterns are some of the impediments many of the Agile organizations are battling at present. The only long-term solution to such persistent issues is a clarity of PO roles and a proper understanding of the end-to-end Scrum processes. 

Sandeep

Sandeep Kshirsagar

trainer

Sandeep is an Agile mentor with more than 12 years of experience as a Developer, Test Engineer, Automation Engineer, Scrum Master and an Agile Coach. He is presently working as an Agile Coach at Knowledgehut Solutions Pvt Ltd. Up until this point, he has prepared 800+ programming experts and trained more than 450+ programming experts in Agile journey at different organizations.
 

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The following are the salient characteristics of Agile:Small sized, co-located,  self-organized teams work together in cross-functional ways to deliver business value.Management supports redistributed decision making.Face-to-face iteration replaces temporary documentation.The process supports full transparency, inculcating trust.Makes improvement in a continuous process, making it a part of the culture of the company.Short loops of feedback help in delivering high quality of products.Functions in small, cross-functional teams, which has proven to be more productive than larger teams.The process of continuous testing measures the progress as well as prevents defects.The transition of the project from one phase to another is smoother as the team has a proper, balanced distribution of tasks.All members act as leaders in the project as they lead and take responsibility in their respective project phases. A project is not complete if one member does not do their part.Working with Agile in a distributed team environmentFor a team working together, communicating in person is more sought after than being distributed over multiple locations. It is recommended to co-locate your team, but many times teams are unable to do so for critical business reasons. There’s more to the challenges faced by the distributed software team:Coordinating across different time zones.Building a good rapport when everyone is not present in the same officeCollaborating with different development cultures.Scheduling meetings when both teams are online for a short period of time.Under such situations, teams need to learn to follow Agile principles and practices in a distributed environment. This section discusses this in detail.Additional Communication responsibilities:Each team member needs to put in extra effort when working with remote team members and communicating with them, emphasizing more on the importance of being available and open.Dedication:All team members should be committed and dedicated to making Agile work in a distributed environment. The management must support the processes and tools required to do so.Even Distribution of Work:All team members should have a good understanding of their roles and responsibilities, along with an equal distribution of work. If there is an imbalance in the workload and it is being ignored, then it might risk the schedule of the project delivery.   Pair Programming:In pair programming, two members of the team sit side by side and work on the same code. It is a challenging task for distributed teams. This can be replaced by a virtual experience, like having a video-conferencing as a solution.Understand the Time Difference:Teams face a lot of communication problems if their team members work in different time zones. You can help your team across the world by making them aware of the different time zones in which the team members are working. Using a  physical map with pushpins depicting how the team is distributed, is an example for the same.Use the right tools and training:Identify the tools that will help your team. Get consents from your team members and see if the tool will be helpful for the team or not for that project. Most importantly, train your team on the tools. Don’t expect the team members to know about the new tools and how to use them without any practice.  Train them for the same.With many organizations going global, distributed teams are becoming a common culture to work in. Agile, along with additional efforts by the team, will work well with the distributed teams.Different Agile FrameworksThere are various methods and frameworks that are used by businesses and organizations in the world of development and manufacturing. To name a few:Extreme Programming(EX)ScrumFeature Driven Development (FDD)Dynamic Systems Development Method(DSDM)Crystal MethodologyKanban Method (Lean or Agile)Pragmatic ProgrammingLean DevelopmentUnified ProcessRational Unified ProcessScrum at a glanceScrum is a framework which is used by teams to help them manage their work. It implements Agile principles as a set of artifacts, roles, and practices.Scrum Roles: Scrum has specified three important roles, namely Product Owner, Scrum Master, Scrum Team.Product Owner:A Product Owner holds the responsibility for the product that the team is building and why they are building it. Moreover, he is responsible for keeping the backlog up-to-date and in the order of the priority.Scrum Master:He holds the responsibility to ensure that the team is following the scrum process. They are in the continuous look out for the team’s improvement, while at the same time work on resolving the backlog issues that arise during the sprint.  Scrum Team: The individuals who comprise the team with the responsibility of building the product. They are the engineer of the product and its quality.Scrum Events: Scrum events are used in order to create regularity. All the events are time-boxed, that is it cannot exceed the fixed maximum duration. The elements of Scrum Events are Sprint, Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum Meetings, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective.Sprint: A product incremental is developed in a Sprint. It is usually of a duration of one month or less. The main motive is to provide a pattern to work for the team and the business.Sprint Planning: The work to be performed in a Sprint is discussed and planned in a Sprint Planning meeting.Daily Scrum Meetings:It is a 15-minute meeting held for the team which is conducted on a daily basis. The main motive is to understand the work done since the previously held scrum meeting and to create a plan for the day. It is often referred to as the Daily Stand-up Meeting.Sprint Review: A Sprint Review is held at the end of every Sprint. The team sits along with the stakeholders to discuss what was done in the Sprint. The main objective of this meeting is to obtain feedback for further progress.Sprint Retrospective: It occurs after a Sprint Review and prior to the next sprint planning. The main goal is to introspect and improve in order to make the next Sprint even more effective.Scrum Artifacts: It is like a logbook which provides the Scrum team and the stakeholders with the information that they need to be aware of, like the understanding of the project under development, the activities done and being planned in the project. The Scrum Artifacts are Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, Product Increment.Product Backlog: It is a prioritized list of values that a team can deliver made available by the Product Owner to the Scrum Team. The Product Owner adds, changes and re-prioritizes the product backlog as needed.Sprint Backlog:It is the list of items that a team plans to deliver in the sprint. The sprint starts when all the members of the team agree that the Sprint Backlog is achievable.Product Increment: This is the most important Scrum Artifact. The product of a Sprint can be known as an Incremental if the produces product is potentially shippable. It should meet all of the quality criteria that are set by the Product Owner and the team.  What is Scaled Agile Framework SAFe®?Scaled Agile Framework provides a simple, lightweight experience for the software developing team, where they can apply lean-agile practices at the enterprise level. It can handle the needs of large value streams and complex system developments, despite being simple and light in weight. Its framework is divided into three segments: Team, Program, and Portfolio.SAFe® allow teams to do the following:Implement Lean-Agile software at an enterprise levelIt is based on the principles of  Lean and AgileIt is designed to meet the needs of all stakeholders within an organization.DevOps Vs AgileUsing Agile and DevOps are considered to be the best approach for bringing change within a team or an organisation. One of the most common questions that come across people’s mind is how are Agile and DevOps related to each other. In this regard, it must be noted that DevOps did not emerge as a response to Agile; rather these two are discrete approaches. DevOps slowly grew as a means to plug the communication gap in Agile development.Let's have a look at what this actually means and how Agile and DevOps are related.What is DevOps?DevOps is a culture which promotes collaboration between the Development and Operation Team. It helps in deploying code to production in a faster and automated way., increasing the organization’s speed to deliver applications and services.Difference between Agile and DevOps.AgileProject Trait or FactoDevOpsIt is an iterative approach that focuses on the collaboration, customer feedback and small releases of the product.DefinitionIt is an approach that brings together the practice of development and operations team.It focuses on constant changes.TaskFocuses on constant testing and delivery.Manages complex projects.PurposeManages end-to-end engineering processes.Provided by the customers.FeedbackProvided by the internal team.Agile doesn’t emphasize on automation.AutomationDevOps primary goal is Automation.Can be implemented with a range of frameworks like sprint, safe and scrum.ImplementationDoesn’t have any commonly accepted framework. Its primary goal is focusing on collaboration.Smaller the team, even a few people will work on the project, meaning they can move faster.Team SizeThey have a relatively larger team size as it involves stack-holders.Emphasizes on getting all of its members trained so that they can be familiar with the skills.Skill SetDevelopment and operation teams divide and spread the skill sets between themselves.Agile targets Software DevelopmentScopeDevOps targets end-to-end business solution and faster deliverySoftware DevelopingImportanceDeveloping, testing and implementation all are important.Application of Agile outside SoftwareThe end result after an agile application is a product or a project that will meet best with the customer needs, while at the same time deliver it with minimal cost and time, enabling organisations to attain results earlier as compared to the results obtained via the traditional approaches.The roots of Agile Software Developments are lean, agile manufacturing and organizational learning. Looking at these roots, one can realise that they did not originate in the world of software. Many practices of Agile like Stand-up meetings, prioritization, and visual management originated outside software.These techniques are applied in the development sector of non-software products as well, such as computers, medical devices, computers, food, clothing, etc. Principles of Agile Software Development have found applications in general management platforms, like finance, governance, risk, etc.Common Myths about AgileMyths and misunderstandings are common to spread over any method or framework. With time, it becomes a belief and people start to accept it as common knowledge. Read along to know some of the most common myths that have been growing around Agile.Implementation of Agile is easy:Teams should not just learn the best practices of Agile, but should also be able to judge if the selected project is the right fit for agile. They should evaluate if the organization can adopt the values and principles of agile. It is very important for the organisation to invest the time, effort and resources to institute and establish the expectations, culture, and infrastructure to hold up the implementation of Agile methodology. Practice and commitment are very much required as well.Agile Practice is New:Agile has been in practice since the greater part of the last century. The frameworks which are now collectively known as Agile mostly evolved during the late 1980s and 1990s. Hence, many people are familiar with Agile.  Reading is enough to know about Agile:Reading a book to understand Agile is not enough. It is a good idea to read a book to get a good understanding, but it cannot replace practical experience, which is very important to enable an agile mindset and to transform an organisation to become agile.Agile doesn't need any planning:Planning is very vital with any approach, that is if not carried out properly, it will diminish the effectiveness of performance. Although, Agile plans the activities more evenly throughout the project life cycle. Planning starts right from the beginning of an agile project and is continuously iterated throughout the project as new information is gained. Working in this manner makes the project team more effective and help them adapt to changes in an easier way.Agile is not the same as anarchy:Managers feel that self-organisation is identical to anarchy and hence, fear losing control over their agile team. Dues to Agile, the role of management may change but managers play an integral role in their company. They have the responsibility to define visions and goals, as well as help the team to gain full potential.Agile gives prompt results: Agile transformations always go through a learning curve, but they mostly deliver huge benefits. The delivered results might go downwards before it changes to going upwards in the process before it begins to enhance its delivery capabilities.Agile is possible only with small projects:Agile development is composed of small groups, who are cross-functional and collaborative throughout the process of development. This motion is equally effective for larger projects as multiple teams can be formed where they can focus on separate components.Agile is applicable only for software deliveries:The Agile manifesto describes agile in the context of software delivery. But Agile can be used in businesses which are not software-related as Agile is suitable for any dynamic business which experiences variability.Agile Transformation vs. Agile Adoption A strong majority of organizations are already defaulting to Agile. But there is one common barrier. The lack of understanding of the differences between Agile transformation and Agile adoption. A clear perception of these differences is necessary to realize which is the best fit for your team or organization ー Agile Adoption or Agile Transformation.Agile Adoption: The word Adoption is used to describe the action of taking up or putting something into action or effect. Similarly, Agile Adoption can be referred to as the act of “doing Agile”.Agile adoption makes the process of software development simpler, faster and better.Agile Transformation: Agile Transformation refers to the process of converting a business or an organisation from its previously followed methods to ‘Agile’ methods, which will help them in continuous delivery of software in a fluid manner. The process involves a change in the mindset of all the people working in the organisation, which might not be acceptable by all.An effective Agile transformation is usually seen to happen in three stages-Organizational transformation: This entails setting up teams, defining processes, and finally, deciding how the teams will work in close collaboration.Workflow transformation: This is intended to establish a culture of “self-organization” and empower team members to effectively carry out Agile-specific ceremonies and activities.Personal transformation: This phase aims at developing a collective “Agile mindset” which fosters continuous improvement and enables team members to deliver continuous value.  Agile AdoptionFactorAgile TransformationAgile adoptions are fast. Can be measured in days or weeks.Speed of ChangeAgile Transformations take a long time. Can be measured in years.Short TermPlanning TimeframeLong TermAgile Adoption has a very rare impact.Impact on the Structure of the organization.Directly impacts the power and controls in an organisation.The team and the stakeholders might feel that has changed to become more self-organized.Change in Culture.It has a widespread impact as the whole culture is being transformed.Agile will make all the difference The future is ripe with endless possibilities for Agile, and companies across the globe are already realizing it.Various organizations around the globe are now adopting different approaches to software development according to their needs and demands.Agile has got a promising future in particular for the teams making the best use of it.In the long haul, the same teams will help their organisations by delivering products at less cost. With AI and big data becoming a core part of decision making, data-driven Agile will soon become a major focus.On a closing note, Agile and its practice do not commit to resolving each and every problem faced by an organization. But they do guarantee to establish an environment which will help them solve problems through learning, continual planning, and collaboration.The motto remains the same: to deliver a high-quality product in a shorter period of time.
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The Definitive Guide to Agile Framework

In present times, nearly all software development ... Read More

Must-have tools for Seamless Agile Management

For a long time, developers did not have a lot of freedom with their projects when it came to product development. Expected to work within the restraints provided by the top management or the sponsor of the project, and creatively limited by locked plans, developers craved to think out of the box and unleash their intuition and skills to develop a much more productive system.  This led to the rise of Agile development, a methodology that allows developers to be flexible and creative in delivering exactly what users demand. Agile management took over a whole new system of development. This management system has come a long way since its birth and has now become one of the best manifestos for project management.   However, with such a heavy structure in place, there were strenuous tasks and methods involved. To get accustomed to this manifesto, you should invest in a good Agile and Scrum certification to get well versed with the different Agile tools given below: Agile Manager This tool helps organize and guide teams from the start as they work towards developing working code for an Agile model. At the beginning of this process, the manager will gather important user stories and contemplate on how to attack the problems addressed by them.  During each code sprint, the developers record their progress on user stories and their problems. The entire progress is plotted on a dashboard so that everyone is up to date with their work. Agile Manager dashboardThe Agile Manager offers many features: Creates epics and map them to releases, features and stories Uses story points for estimation Analyses sprint performance with help of dashboard and scrum Uses templates and custom statuses for process management JIRA The JIRA tool is one of the best tools for project management. The team first makes a list of project tasks with the help of a tool called Confluence. Then they track the tasks on an interactive Kanban board that developers can update as they finish each task.  This Agile tool is integrated with other tools. Bamboo is a tool that offers continuous integration that pre-builds the code before evaluating it. Discussions take place through HipChat, and these revolve around the tasks and probable solutions.  Jira dashboardMain features offered in JIRA include: Issue tracking Boards Epics Bug tracking Custom fields Planbox Planbox is a hierarchical tool. It offers four specific levels of organizational power, thus allowing many teams to simultaneously work towards a single goal. The topmost level is called the initiative, which is broad and abstract. They contain various projects, which are filled with tasks. Planbox creates these projects and evaluates them to form a report. This report is prepared for the shareholders.  There are various amazing features like looping customer reviews and time tracking. This tool is integrated with Github for storage and Zendesk for tracking customer satisfaction.Planbox dashboardLeanKitLeankit is a very unique tool. It aims to create a conference room type of whiteboard where most projects start from. This lets members post virtual notes on it that represent tasks, user stories or glitches, which should be addressed later.   The board has a fast update feature and lets multiple teams work together in separate spaces while still coordinating together.  Leankit dashboardThe key features offered by Leankit are:Board view templates Track issues and bugs Manage project portfolios Lean metrics and reporting Proggio This is a next generation project management tool which focuses on and around the team instead of the task. It has a good visual representation that allows managers to create a full-project blueprint. This promises team clarity and increased planning capabilities.With the powerful task management tool, every team member is sure to be on track, and the virtual portfolio is an added accessory that helps tabulate developer progress.  Now, chasing around team members for every update is no longer necessary! Any and all progress report by the team members will clearly be reflected in the project timeline.  Proggio dashbarodThey main features offered by Proggio include: Board and List views Visual tracking Better timelines Choose the Agile tool best suited for your business In this vast market, there are unlimited tools created for Agile, but the above-mentioned are the ones which yield the best results. This will help you evaluate and find the tool that functions best for your context and is comfortable for your team. With every team applying their unique approach to the Agile methodology, choosing the right tool may appear to be a rather difficult task. However, once the Agile manifesto is in place, things are sure to run quite smoothly and profitably.  Be sure to check our latest course schedules for Agile and Scrum and take strides ahead with your professional growth in Agile.
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Must-have tools for Seamless Agile Management

For a long time, developers did not have a lot of ... Read More

How to Use Scrum Board for Agile Development

What is a Scrum Board?A Scrum Board or an Agile Board is a visual representation of the work planned, progressed, and completed by a scrum team in a sprint or iteration at any given point of time. The board is comprised of columns that represent various successive states of the workflow progressing from left to right. The work items appear in the column as per their current state in the development workflow and then move across the board from one column to the next till they reach completion or last stage.The “To Do / Ready” and “Done” states appear in almost every Scrum Board, the “In Progress” items can be further categorized into various states e.g. – Analyse, Design, Code, Test etc. These states are solely created as per the needs of the Scrum Team and Project.Image 1: Simple Scrum BoardWhy is a Scrum Board needed? The Scrum Board visually represents the amount of work along with their current states in a Sprint.  The Board speaks to the team everyday about the holistic progress made by the entire team towards their Sprint Goals and provides a sense of accomplishment and achievement when work items are completed. It avoids creation and progress of “Hidden Work” or “Shoulder Tap” injected work that may not be prioritized. In the event of an interruption (like production issue, any new or changed requirements, changed priorities), it helps Business to reprioritize the work items quickly looking at the current state of the planned items in the Sprint.   It also keeps reinforcing road blocks and impediments faced by the team to all the major stakeholders. Any number of written and verbal communication may not be able to visually represent the state of the entire sprintas a whole as effectively as this visual radiator.Scrum board allows teams to manage the flow of work across the sprint as it helps in avoiding multi-tasking, overloading one person because everything is visible and traceable. How to organize a Scrum Board Physical and Virtual Scrum Boards Teams that are entirely collocated can benefit from physical boards that caneven just be a whiteboard placed near their work cubicles. A physical board could also be on a wall having coloured tape for columns and sticky notes for cards.  Team members typically swarm around the board /agile wall/task wallduring their daily stand up or whenever there is a need. Image 2: A typical physical scrum boardImage 3: A typical Jira scrum boardDistributed teams on the other hand find virtual boards easy to use. There are many tools available in the market to set up Scrum Boardssuch asJira , Rally , Monday.com etc.  In some companies, the Scrum boards are displayed on giant monitors placed near the teams work cubicles. Cards and Columns are the two basic entities on the scrum board.Card is the entity on the board that represents a “Work Item”. A Card can be a User story /Production Bug/Technical Task. During the course of the Sprint these cards travel through the board from left ,“To-Do” to right “Done”.  A Simple Scrum Board for Beginner Teams The Scrum Board below is an example of a typical team board in a software project. Image 4: Typical scrum board for a software projectThe items on the Product Backlog are discussed and as per priority and their readiness, pulled into the “To Do” or “Ready” column during Sprint Planning. At the beginning of a Sprint all items in the “To Do” or “Ready” column comprises the Sprint Backlog of the team. As the Sprint progresses, the items move into the downstream columns until “Done” is reached. A clear “Definition of Done” helps to conclude if the story / task is completed. Usually beginner teams build the board translating the current workflow of their work items into columns on the board. As the teams evolve, they adjust the board accordingly. Effective Visual Representation of data  Information on the Cards Physical Cards usually are post-it notes or sticky notes that carry the User Story/Description, Acceptance Criteria and the Story Points as a minimum. Using post-it notes is a deliberate attempt to keep the story small and avoid loading a lot of work into one story.  In a Virtual board, cards can have exclusive fields to carry information like Project Name/Assignee/Reporter/Created Date etc. These might serve multiple purposes like metrics/reports. Colour-Coded Cards Colour coding is an excellent technique used to convey important information to the audience at the first quick glance.Cards can be colour coded based on their work type like User Story/ Technical Task/Production Bugs. Cards could also be flagged (in the case of a Virtual board) or overlaid with a (preferably) Red coloured card to convey a risk/dependency that needs attention. Swim lanes Defining Swim lanes is a very useful mechanism to categorize the work items on a Scrum Board. They are horizontal rows on the board that carry a specific type of work that is different from the normal/ work categorized by a certain parameter. For e.g. a team that has to resolve emerging high priority production bugs would prefer to use a “Fast Track” swim lane to progress the bug and then continue with their original Sprint work. A team that works on hardware, firmware and software components in a sprint might want to use different swim lanes for each component.  Swim lanes are for the teams. Creating a swim lane for each team member may not be a good idea since the basic guideline for scrum is to work as a team and this representation might affect a team’s mindset. In the board below blue cards are User Stories and green Cards are tasks. Red cards are Production bugs. Some cards are flagged red indicating risks or impediments. Image 5: Example of scrum board with colour-coded cards and swim lanesAspects of Kanban in Scrum BoardA common challenge encountered in projects is when tasks accumulate or pile up in a phase or stage of the workflow. There could be several reasons why that happens. But identifying them is the key to solving that challenge and the Scrum Board effectively helps in this. Assume that Cards D, E, F, G have completed development and ready for testing. Cards B, C are being tested. It is day 6 of a 10-day Sprint.  Developers might now bring in H, I from the Ready Column to start development work, creating a bottleneck at Testing. Image 6: Scrum Board without WIP LimitsConcepts of Kanban can be borrowed into a typical Scrum board to address this. One of the techniques that can be used is to split the column into “In Progress” and “Ready”. This will set the stage for a “Pull” mechanism at every stage in the workflow of a story.  Introducing “WIP Limit” or “Work in Progress” Limit at the columns ensures multiple work items do not pile up at one stage of the process, do not get “pushed” downstream but rather gets “pulled” by downstream process and there is a steady flow created in the system. Considering the team is at day 6 of the iteration, it is recommended the team “stops starting and starts finishing”.  If the team swarms and completes the testing of D, E,F,G there could  be more business value delivered rather than starting development of H and I and having only few of the Development complete cards partially tested. In this scenario, a WIP Limit of 4 at development prevents the team from bringing in more work items into the development phase. The team can now swarm to complete the testing of the developed items taking them to completion.  Image 7: Scrum board with WIP limits and columns split into “In progress” and “Ready”Effective use ofthe Scrum Board  Updating and maintaining the Scrum Board Scrum board is owned by the team and it is the team’s responsibility to update the board to reflect the reality.The team also has the responsibility to evolve the board to suit the need of the project by experimenting on concepts of WIP Limit. How best to use the information on the Board Scrum Board can be used to identify bottlenecks in the flow of work. If bottlenecks are identified in one stage of the workflow, the team can resort to Swarming or enforcing WIP Limits. Seeing the work items move through the Scrum board and reach “Done” during the Sprint provides the team a sense of accomplishment. Challenges and ways to overcome them Easier said than done, updating the board is one of the biggest challenges faced especially in beginner teams. Not every team member will be prompt in updating the board. To overcome this challenge, updating the board could be one of the team ground rules with non-compliance attracting fun consequences decided by the team, such as the defaulter treating the team with chocolates/coffee or updating everyone’s scrum board the next day. The Scrum Master can immensely help the team realize the power of the board by using it during agile ceremonies like planning, stand up and retrospectives. Facilitating the scrum by traversing the board from right to left (i.e.“Done” to “To-Do”) is another tactic to keep reinforcing the value of the board and motivating the teams.Having conversations in stand-ups by traversing the board from right to left will first bring up cards that are done or almost done and helps see what has been accomplished in the sprint.  What a Scrum Board is not A Scrum Board cannot replace the conversations and interactions that are always encouraged in Agile projects. Flagging a card on the scrum board / posing queries on a card should not solely replace the conversations around these. A Scrum Board is not for executives to monitor the team’s progress and efficiency, but it is for the team to monitor their sprint items as a whole. Key takeaway A Scrum Board is an excellent tool for the team to visualize their work, look at everyday progress, identify bottlenecks, make immediate course corrections, so that they can meet their Sprint goals. Used rightly, it will serve the team and benefit them. However, if it is used by management to monitor the team or if the team members consider it as a tool to update management then it loses its purpose and becomes just another overhead. 
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How to Use Scrum Board for Agile Development

What is a Scrum Board?A Scrum Board or an Agile Bo... Read More

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