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How Does the Product Owner Manage Various Stakeholders?

As you know, Scrum has the 3 most important roles, which are Product Owner, Scrum Master, and the Team. Apart from these core roles, we have involved stakeholders. It is very important to manage various stakeholders to let the project go in the right direction. Now, when it comes to the Product Owner, one of the most important roles and responsibilities is to manage stakeholders. Managing their requirements, their areas of interests, areas of conflicts, and a lot more.  This article is going to talk about the Product Owner roles and responsibilities. Furthermore, It gives you insights about who all are the stakeholders, what does it mean to manage the stakeholders, what should be the process, and the further best tips to manage stakeholders. Let’s get started with understanding the basics first. Stakeholder ManagementA stakeholder is anyone interested in the product or we can say who is influenced by the product or involved in the product.This can be anyone who has a certain type of interest in the project, be it financial interest, someone who has invested, or it can be someone who is going to use the product, which could be customers. We will understand the various types of stakeholders in the coming section of this article.Now, coming to stakeholder management. Stakeholder Management plays a vital role in project success. It is basically about maintaining good relationships with the stakeholders, or we can say manage them to make them respond positively towards the project. We will understand various ways to implement this in the coming sections of the article.Let us first understand the roles and responsibilities of a Product Owner before we dive deep into managing stakeholders.Stakeholders and Product Owner Product Owner Role and ResponsibilitiesThe product owner is the most important person, who “owns” the product. This person is responsible for the Product Vision.A key decision-maker and responsible for the ROI of the businessResponsible for understanding the end customers and creating the product backlog requirements accordinglyResponsible for product backlog management (Prioritizing and Managing it)Responsible for reviewing and checking the potentially shippable product increment deliverable at the end of the sprintProviding feedback to the team at the regular intervals to make sure the product development is moving in the right directionRefining the product backlog, based on the feedback and changing market needsAnd not to forget, managing stakeholders!Now that we understand the Product Owner deeply and it’s responsibilities, let us understand the Stakeholders.Understanding the Various StakeholdersStakeholder A famous “Chicken” and “Pig” story in Scrum is one of the very good examples that explain how “Chicken” represents the stakeholders who are merely “involved” and “Pig” represents roles like Product Owner, Scrum Master, and the team, which are not only involved but “committed”. Someone who is not part of the team but still has an interest and involvement in product or project development and it’s progress. However, someone who would be affected by the project or product development.  This can include:Directors, Decision Makers at the organization End Users/End Customers Product Sponsors Marketing team Legal entities Etc. It is very important to take care of these Stakeholders and fulfill all their requirements during and after product development. Now, when we see Stakeholders, this will contain different sets of people and with different roles. This can include some really good stakeholders who would always encourage the team and provide constructive feedback. However, on the other hand, this can include some challenging stakeholders, who don’t support or provide any feedback. This is where comes the need for management of stakeholders. However, if we go with the management, it’s like managing people, because stakeholders would include people with different roles.  However, we will look at the larger picture here and see how to manage stakeholders. Let’s have a look at it by putting our feet into the Product Owner’s shoes.  Reviewing Stakeholder Management Process  As we got an idea that Stakeholder could be someone who would either support or someone who would either oppose. The process of managing these stakeholders is Stakeholder Management Process. It involves managing their expectations, communication, requirements, etc. It involves 4 different steps which will talk about:1. Identifying the StakeholdersIdentifying StakeholdersThe very first step that comes in the Stakeholder management process is “Identifying the Stakeholders”. This can be anyone who is involved in the project or is affected by the project. Let us have a look at different aspects for identifying the stakeholders:Someone who has an impact on the project Someone who has an opinion or a point of view on the project Someone who has a decision making power Someone who would like to see your project successful Someone who would like to see your project fail Someone who has an impact over your team Someone who can help resolve conflicts or remove challenges Someone who simply have an interest in the project Once, we list down and identify the stakeholders, it is easy for us to categorize them based on different aspects. This whole process is identifying the stakeholders. Once we know them, it is easy for us to manage them.2. Analyzing the StakeholdersAnalyzing the StakeholdersThere are several ways to analyze stakeholders. We will have a look at the two most important ones. The first one is Power-Interest Graph. Power-Interest Graph Power-Interest GraphHigh Power, High InterestThese stakeholders are mostly the decision-makers or the key-players. They can impact in a way that can make the project successful or fail. They are very easy to identify. Now, when it comes to communication, they should be actively engaged! These stakeholders are highly powerful, so we must try to meet their each and every requirement, otherwise they can even cancel our project if not satisfied.High Power, Low InterestThese stakeholders again have decision-making abilities but they are not so much interested. A lot of communication can make them disinterested in the project or product. They lack interest and therefore, they should be kept satisfied!   Do whatever it takes to keep them satisfied.Low Power, High InterestThese stakeholders are the ones who have less power over the project but they are keenly interested in what’s going on. They might impact the project, so it is important to keep them informed!Low Power, Low InterestThese stakeholders are the ones who are merely present and don’t expect to be involved much. They might not be interested and might not be expecting any sort of communication. It is important, you just monitor them!Now that we saw the Power-Interest Graph, another interesting way is the Stakeholder SWOT Analysis. Let us have a look at that one as well.Stakeholder SWOT Analysis. Another way is to analyze the stakeholders based on their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. What will be their Strengths and Weaknesses? What will be the opportunities and threats they would bring to the project? This will help analyze them better. SWOT Analysis 3. Prioritizing the StakeholdersFor a product owner, prioritization is like an ongoing activity. Just like they need to prioritize the backlog, a similar way, they need to prioritize the stakeholders. After the successful identification and analysis, once they are prioritized, they can be taken care of accordingly. This way, product owners can develop the communication plan and can further deliver the right message to the right stakeholder at the right time.4. Engaging the Stakeholders This is the last step where execution takes place. Now that we have identified, analyzed, and prioritized the stakeholders, this is where we will implement the communication plan. Determine different action plans, whether are going to have one on one conversations, meetings, or going to communicate through emails. We define and execute our plan accordingly and keep the stakeholders engaged as required. Thus, managing all their expectations.5 tips for the Product Owners to manage stakeholders effectively   By now, we know how to identify the stakeholders, analyse them, and different steps of the management process. Let's have a look at some of the best practices which Product owners can follow to manage stakeholders effectively: Don’t treat Stakeholders same. As we have seen the matrix above on identifying, analyzing and prioritizing the stakeholders. It is very important for the Product Owners to treat them accordingly. Based on our analysis, we categorize them and then based on our categorization, Product Owners need to treat them. Act like an Owner. Being a Product Owner is a great responsibility. It is the person responsible for the ROI of the business. With responsibility comes the authority. It is very important you act like an “Owner”. This not only gives you the power over stakeholders but also helps manage them more effectively. Communicate Upfront. Never hesitate to say “No” to the stakeholders. Being a product owner, you know what is good for the project and what is bad for the project in order to make it successful. As and when needed, for certain decisions and for the benefit of the project, feel free to say “No” to the stakeholders and be upfront in doing so. Set Expectations. It is very important that being a Product Owner, you set all the expectations with the stakeholders. Understanding what they need to know and what they are expecting out of the project. Further, You should be communicating with them in terms of their expectations only. Involve Scrum Masters. We know that Product Owner is responsible for managing the stakeholders, but this is not mandatory that Product Owner should do it all alone. Have your Scrum Master besides you to support you with all sorts of process questions, which can eventually help you manage the stakeholders more effectively.  These were some of the best tips to manage stakeholders effectively and efficiently.   To conclude, we discussed several types of stakeholders and we looked at the process of managing them. The major takeaway from this article is understanding the stakeholders. For understanding and managing them, Remember the 4 key points, which are Identifying, Analyzing, Prioritizing and Engaging the stakeholders. For engaging with the stakeholders, which involves the execution, we have provided you with 5 tips for the product owners to manage stakeholders effectively. Stay tuned for more such articles!

How Does the Product Owner Manage Various Stakeholders?

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How Does the Product Owner Manage Various Stakeholders?

As you know, Scrum has the 3 most important roles, which are Product Owner, Scrum Master, and the Team. Apart from these core roles, we have involved stakeholders. It is very important to manage various stakeholders to let the project go in the right direction. 

Now, when it comes to the Product Owner, one of the most important roles and responsibilities is to manage stakeholders. Managing their requirements, their areas of interests, areas of conflicts, and a lot more.  

This article is going to talk about the Product Owner roles and responsibilities. Furthermore, It gives you insights about who all are the stakeholders, what does it mean to manage the stakeholders, what should be the process, and the further best tips to manage stakeholders. Let’s get started with understanding the basics first. 

Stakeholder Management

A stakeholder is anyone interested in the product or we can say who is influenced by the product or involved in the product.

This can be anyone who has a certain type of interest in the project, be it financial interest, someone who has invested, or it can be someone who is going to use the product, which could be customers. We will understand the various types of stakeholders in the coming section of this article.

Now, coming to stakeholder management. Stakeholder Management plays a vital role in project success. It is basically about maintaining good relationships with the stakeholders, or we can say manage them to make them respond positively towards the project. We will understand various ways to implement this in the coming sections of the article.

Let us first understand the roles and responsibilities of a Product Owner before we dive deep into managing stakeholders.

Stakeholders and Product Owner

Stakeholders and Product Owner

 
Product Owner Role and Responsibilities

The product owner is the most important person, who “owns” the product. This person is responsible for the Product Vision.

  1. A key decision-maker and responsible for the ROI of the business
  2. Responsible for understanding the end customers and creating the product backlog requirements accordingly
  3. Responsible for product backlog management (Prioritizing and Managing it)
  4. Responsible for reviewing and checking the potentially shippable product increment deliverable at the end of the sprint
  5. Providing feedback to the team at the regular intervals to make sure the product development is moving in the right direction
  6. Refining the product backlog, based on the feedback and changing market needs
  7. And not to forget, managing stakeholders!

Now that we understand the Product Owner deeply and it’s responsibilities, let us understand the Stakeholders.

Understanding the Various Stakeholders

Stakeholder

Stakeholder

 A famous “Chicken” and “Pig” story in Scrum is one of the very good examples that explain how “Chicken” represents the stakeholders who are merely “involved” and “Pig” represents roles like Product OwnerScrum Master, and the team, which are not only involved but “committed”. Someone who is not part of the team but still has an interest and involvement in product or project development and it’s progress. However, someone who would be affected by the project or product development.  

This can include:

  • Directors, Decision Makers at the organization 
  • End Users/End Customers 
  • Product Sponsors 
  • Marketing team 
  • Legal entities 
  • Etc. 

It is very important to take care of these Stakeholders and fulfill all their requirements during and after product development. Now, when we see Stakeholders, this will contain different sets of people and with different roles. 

This can include some really good stakeholders who would always encourage the team and provide constructive feedback. However, on the other hand, this can include some challenging stakeholders, who don’t support or provide any feedback. 

This is where comes the need for management of stakeholders. However, if we go with the management, it’s like managing people, because stakeholders would include people with different roles.  

However, we will look at the larger picture here and see how to manage stakeholders. Let’s have a look at it by putting our feet into the Product Owner’s shoes.  

Reviewing Stakeholder Management Process  

As we got an idea that Stakeholder could be someone who would either support or someone who would either oppose. The process of managing these stakeholders is Stakeholder Management Process. It involves managing their expectations, communication, requirements, etc. 

It involves 4 different steps which will talk about:

1. Identifying the Stakeholders

Identifying Stakeholders

Identifying Stakeholders

The very first step that comes in the Stakeholder management process is “Identifying the Stakeholders”. This can be anyone who is involved in the project or is affected by the project. Let us have a look at different aspects for identifying the stakeholders:

  • Someone who has an impact on the project 
  • Someone who has an opinion or a point of view on the project 
  • Someone who has a decision making power 
  • Someone who would like to see your project successful 
  • Someone who would like to see your project fail 
  • Someone who has an impact over your team 
  • Someone who can help resolve conflicts or remove challenges 
  • Someone who simply have an interest in the project 

Once, we list down and identify the stakeholders, it is easy for us to categorize them based on different aspects. This whole process is identifying the stakeholders. Once we know them, it is easy for us to manage them.

2. Analyzing the StakeholdersAnalyzing the Stakeholders

Analyzing the Stakeholders


There are several ways to analyze stakeholders. We will have a look at the two most important ones. The first one is Power-Interest Graph. 

Power-Interest Graph Power-Interest Graph

Power-Interest Graph

  • High Power, High Interest

These stakeholders are mostly the decision-makers or the key-players. They can impact in a way that can make the project successful or fail. They are very easy to identify. Now, when it comes to communication, they should be actively engaged! These stakeholders are highly powerful, so we must try to meet their each and every requirement, otherwise they can even cancel our project if not satisfied.

  • High Power, Low Interest

These stakeholders again have decision-making abilities but they are not so much interested. A lot of communication can make them disinterested in the project or product. They lack interest and therefore, they should be kept satisfied!  

Do whatever it takes to keep them satisfied.

  • Low Power, High Interest

These stakeholders are the ones who have less power over the project but they are keenly interested in what’s going on. They might impact the project, so it is important to keep them informed!

  • Low Power, Low Interest

These stakeholders are the ones who are merely present and don’t expect to be involved much. They might not be interested and might not be expecting any sort of communication. It is important, you just monitor them!

Now that we saw the Power-Interest Graph, another interesting way is the Stakeholder SWOT Analysis. Let us have a look at that one as well.

Stakeholder SWOT Analysis. 

Another way is to analyze the stakeholders based on their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. What will be their Strengths and Weaknesses? What will be the opportunities and threats they would bring to the project? This will help analyze them better. 

SWOT Analysis

SWOT Analysis

 

3. Prioritizing the Stakeholders

For a product owner, prioritization is like an ongoing activity. Just like they need to prioritize the backlog, a similar way, they need to prioritize the stakeholders. After the successful identification and analysis, once they are prioritized, they can be taken care of accordingly. This way, product owners can develop the communication plan and can further deliver the right message to the right stakeholder at the right time.

4. Engaging the Stakeholders 

This is the last step where execution takes place. Now that we have identified, analyzed, and prioritized the stakeholders, this is where we will implement the communication plan. Determine different action plans, whether are going to have one on one conversations, meetings, or going to communicate through emails. We define and execute our plan accordingly and keep the stakeholders engaged as required. Thus, managing all their expectations.

5 tips for the Product Owners to manage stakeholders effectively   

By now, we know how to identify the stakeholders, analyse them, and different steps of the management process. Let's have a look at some of the best practices which Product owners can follow to manage stakeholders effectively: 

  1. Don’t treat Stakeholders same. As we have seen the matrix above on identifying, analyzing and prioritizing the stakeholders. It is very important for the Product Owners to treat them accordingly. Based on our analysis, we categorize them and then based on our categorization, Product Owners need to treat them. 
  2. Act like an Owner. Being a Product Owner is a great responsibility. It is the person responsible for the ROI of the business. With responsibility comes the authority. It is very important you act like an “Owner”. This not only gives you the power over stakeholders but also helps manage them more effectively. 
  3. Communicate Upfront. Never hesitate to say “No” to the stakeholders. Being a product owner, you know what is good for the project and what is bad for the project in order to make it successful. As and when needed, for certain decisions and for the benefit of the project, feel free to say “No” to the stakeholders and be upfront in doing so. 
  4. Set Expectations. It is very important that being a Product Owner, you set all the expectations with the stakeholders. Understanding what they need to know and what they are expecting out of the project. Further, You should be communicating with them in terms of their expectations only. 
  5. Involve Scrum Masters. We know that Product Owner is responsible for managing the stakeholders, but this is not mandatory that Product Owner should do it all alone. Have your Scrum Master besides you to support you with all sorts of process questions, which can eventually help you manage the stakeholders more effectively.  

These were some of the best tips to manage stakeholders effectively and efficiently.  

To conclude, we discussed several types of stakeholders and we looked at the process of managing them. The major takeaway from this article is understanding the stakeholders. For understanding and managing them, Remember the 4 key points, which are Identifying, Analyzing, Prioritizing and Engaging the stakeholders. For engaging with the stakeholders, which involves the execution, we have provided you with 5 tips for the product owners to manage stakeholders effectively. Stay tuned for more such articles!

Ridhi

Ridhi Chhabra

Blog author

Ridhi Chhabra is working in the field of Project Management from last 8 years. She is also a Certified Scrum Master (CSM). She has been implementing Scrum Framework in 80% of her projects which are resulting in Successful Project Completion and Great Customer Experience. She has great Communication skills and got a proven experience in interacting with customers around the globe, across US, UK, Australia and South Africa.
She is currently working as an Executive Assistant Project Manager at KOHLEX Design India Pvt. Ltd., It is US Based Organization which is having main headquarters in California, United States and is handling operations in Hyderabad, India.


She enjoys meeting new people, traveling and writing blogs and articles. Refer to her LinkedIn for more articles.

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

User stories are concise descriptions of a softwar... Read More

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

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

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

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