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All You Need To Know About The Roles Of A Scrum Master

1. IntroductionHaving worked on Agile projects for a while, I was surprised to find out that “Scrum” came from the process word scrummage, a word used in rugby sports. In rugby, scrummage refers to restarting the game where the players are coming close to each other with their heads down and gaining a possession of the ball. The players work together in a unified manner relying on their strengths in order to overcome and break across their opponents, taking incremental steps collectively as a team.Traditional waterfall approach as a software development methodology is successfully practiced over many years as a structured and proven method. It emphasizes a lot on proper documentation and proper process control. In Traditional waterfall methodology, the entire stage is completed before moving sequentially to the next stage. The method, however, is rigid to changes during the software development cycle.Agile software development methodology, on the other hand, is quite the opposite, it looks into ensuring flexibility and incorporating regularly users inputs as a way to build better user products.Scrum software development methodology is a subset of the Agile methodology. “Scrum” methodology was the brainchild of 2 Japanese Hiro Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka. Who wanted to create “a flexible and holistic product development strategy where a development team works as a unit to reach a common goal.” 2. Who is a Scrum Master?A Scrum Master is a facilitator of the Agile development team. He is not the project manager nor the product owner. A Scrum Master is not a position but a role.However, having said that it doesn’t mean this role is less important than the role of a project manager. In fact, a scrum master is a crucial role in the success of an agile project.3. What does a scrum master do?Scrum Master is “A Servant Leader”.  The roles and responsibilities of the Scrum Master include:Making sure the team follows the agile processes.Shielding the team.Facilitating Scrum Ceremonies.Championing information radiators.Working with stakeholders to get tools and training for the team.4.  What Qualities does a Scrum Master have?A Scrum Master does not need a particular type of qualification to assume the responsibilities.  However, he or she should possess particular qualities necessary for the role.Traits of a good Scrum Master are-a) Influential - able to convince others, have empathy and respect for people and showing by exampleb) Collaborative - seek to collaborate with others in the organization and not for self-gloryc) Observant - alertness to identify issues and problem areasd) Knowledgeable - not only on agile processes but has some technical and project management knowledge5. Roles and Responsibilities of the Scrum MasterSome organization practices rotation of Scrum Master roles among the team members, this is up to each Scrum Team.However, the roles and responsibilities of the Scrum Master are common:SM is the Agile framework custodian and process owner for the team.SM is a facilitator and Servant Leader who never discourage but encourages and expects self-organization from the Agile development team. SM builds close collaboration across roles and functions in the organization, works on matters collectively and is not individualistic.SM protects the team from distractions which includes both external and internal.SM removes impediments, so the team can focus on the development work and tasks.SM is not typically a manager or lead, but he/she is an influential leader who does not do direct command and control.SM is a coach, give the bits of advice to the team and discussed issues encountered.SM is an adviser and is equipped with technical and project management know-how, this is so that he/she understands the problems and be able to provide a proper guidance and advice to the team.6. Scrum master skillsThese are the essential skills a Scrum Master should have:Encourage a self-organising teamRemove barriers and Shield the teamEncourage Collaboration and Resolve ConflictsCoach and Advises the teamEstablish partnerships (team, product owner, stakeholder)Facilitate and is a Servant Leadera) Encourage a self-organizing team - The scrum master needs to know when to hold his views and keep quiet to allow the team to be self-organizing. That said he should be actively listening attentively to the team members inputs and learning points and guide the team to perform better in subsequent sprints.b) Remove barriers and shield the team - The scrum master should shield the development team from outside distractions. At the same time, the job of the scrum master is to remove any project barriers and impediments including resolving resource issues. Allowing the team to focus on their development works and tasks. c) Encourage Collaboration and Resolve Conflicts - The scrum master should have respect for people. He should encourage collaboration among team members and also across teams. He should be a collaborator who is able to resolve conflicts within and across teams by focusing on the scrum values of openness, respect, and honesty.d) Coach and Advises the team - The scrum master should read widely and coaches the team on agile processes. Other than being a teacher to the team to explain scrum processes clearly and enforcing the practice for agile. The scrum master should have technical and project management knowledge. Imagine if the scrum master is not able to understand when a team member raise a project issue how will he provide guidance on the right course of actions? then be able to coach and guide the team effectively and run constructive meetings.e) Established partnerships (team, product owner, stakeholder) - The role of the product owner is to push the team to deliver fast, while the role of the scrum master is to protect the team. However, the scrum master needs to know when to strike a balance and to build partnerships with others.f) Facilitate and be a Servant Leader - The scrum master facilitates the daily scrum, sprint planning, sprint demo, and retrospective meetings. He has no particular authority over the team members and is not their manager. However, the scrum master should put the needs of the team members before himself and serve as a Servant Leader.7. What are the benefits of having a Scrum Master Certification?Why should you be interested in becoming a Certified Scrum Master?According to scrumalliance.org based on a survey with about 5000 people in February 2015, 87% agrees that Scrum improves the quality of work life for their team. At the same time, 81% of Scrum Masters who received certification agree that it has significantly helped to improve their practice.Check our CSM certification training schedules in Top cities of IndiaCertificationPlaceSchedulesCertified Scrum MasterBangaloreView SchedulesHyderabadView SchedulesChennaiView Schedules8.  Scrum master learning path (how to become a scrum master)How to become a Certified Scrum Master (CSM®)?Step 1: Attend a 2-day Certified Scrum Master course or seminarStep 2: In 30 to 90 days, register online for the Scrum Master Accredited Certification ProgramStep 3: Upon successful registration, you will receive your Exam Access Code instantly onlineStep 4: Take the online test anywhere, anytime on the multiple-choice questionsStep 5: Get your lifetime and international valid Scrum Master Accredited Certification Document instantly onlineIn a meanwhile, you can take a glimpse of the Certified Scrum Master (CSM®) training at KnowledgeHut.9.  Scrum Master training and certificationRequirements for CSM® (from scrumalliance.org)The first step toward your CSM® is to familiarize yourself with the Scrum framework.Then, attend an in-person, two-day  (16 hour) CSM® course taught by a Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST®) where you’ll get a comprehensive overview of how to organize and support a Scrum Team. After the course, you’ll need to pass the CSM® exam. After you pass the CSM® exam and accept the License Agreement, complete your Scrum Alliance membership profile and enjoy the benefits of certification.The Certified Scrum Master Exam is conducted online. The exam consists of 35 multiple choice questions and to pass the certified scrum master exam, you need to get at least 24  correct answers. You can take up the exam only after the completion of two days of training. The test takes about an hour to get completed.Scrum Alliance allows a candidate to make two attempts on the exam. This is available at no cost. However, subsequent attempts after the second time will be chargeable.For people who are Certified Scrum Masters, the next step in the Agile journey will attain the Advanced Certified Scrum Master (A-CSM®℠) certification.In order to prepare for the Certified Scrum Master exam (CSM exam), you can refer this Scrum tutorial. This is a complete guide that will help you in preparing for the Scrum Master examination.Requirements for A-CSM®  (from scrumalliance.org)Attend a certified educational offering to get techniques and skills that go beyond the basics and mechanics of Scrum, expanding into interaction, facilitation, coaching, and team dynamics.Successfully complete all educator-designed components of an approved educational offering. This may include pre- or post-course work as deemed necessary by your approved educator to complete the learning objectives.Validate at least one year of work experience specific to the role of ScrumMaster (within the past five years).Hold an active Certified ScrumMaster (CSM®) certification with the Scrum Alliance.NOTE:  You may take the A-CSM® course at any time after completing your CSM® certification, but must have at least 12 months of Scrum Master experience logged into your Scrum Alliance profile before you can receive your A-CSM® certification.You can opt for the Scrum Mock tests which will help you in raising your confidence level of passing the CSM exam with an excellent scope. Click here for CSM practice test online.10. Benefits of a Scrum Master CertificationThere are many reasons why people take the Scrum Master Certifications and here are just some of them:Expand career options across industry sectors using Scrum and Agile methodologyExpand career options across industry sectors using Scrum and Agile methodologyDemonstrate the attainment of Scrum knowledgeMeet like-minded Scrum professionals and networking Continuous learningIf you are ready to encourage your team and advance your  Scrum career, then it is an ideal opportunity to become a Certified Scrum Master (CSM®). Get enroll for the CSM® certification course today and start preparing for the success.Begin your Scrum Master journey today!

All You Need To Know About The Roles Of A Scrum Master

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  • by lorraine ong
  • 10th Dec, 2018
  • Last updated on 11th Mar, 2021
  • 11 mins read
All You Need To Know About The Roles Of A Scrum Master

1. Introduction

Having worked on Agile projects for a while, I was surprised to find out that “Scrum” came from the process word scrummage, a word used in rugby sports. In rugby, scrummage refers to restarting the game where the players are coming close to each other with their heads down and gaining a possession of the ball. The players work together in a unified manner relying on their strengths in order to overcome and break across their opponents, taking incremental steps collectively as a team.
Roles Of A Scrum MasterTraditional waterfall approach as a software development methodology is successfully practiced over many years as a structured and proven method. It emphasizes a lot on proper documentation and proper process control. In Traditional waterfall methodology, the entire stage is completed before moving sequentially to the next stage. The method, however, is rigid to changes during the software development cycle.
Agile MethodologyAgile software development methodology, on the other hand, is quite the opposite, it looks into ensuring flexibility and incorporating regularly users inputs as a way to build better user products.
Agile software development methodologyScrum software development methodology is a subset of the Agile methodology. “Scrum” methodology was the brainchild of 2 Japanese Hiro Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka. Who wanted to create “a flexible and holistic product development strategy where a development team works as a unit to reach a common goal.”

 2. Who is a Scrum Master?

A Scrum Master is a facilitator of the Agile development team. He is not the project manager nor the product owner. A Scrum Master is not a position but a role.
However, having said that it doesn’t mean this role is less important than the role of a project manager. In fact, a scrum master is a crucial role in the success of an agile project.

3. What does a scrum master do?

Scrum Master is “A Servant Leader”.  The roles and responsibilities of the Scrum Master include:

  • Making sure the team follows the agile processes.

  • Shielding the team.

  • Facilitating Scrum Ceremonies.

  • Championing information radiators.

Working with stakeholders to get tools and training for the team.

4.  What Qualities does a Scrum Master have?

A Scrum Master does not need a particular type of qualification to assume the responsibilities.  

However, he or she should possess particular qualities necessary for the role.

Traits of a good Scrum Master are-

Traits of a good Scrum Master
a) Influential - able to convince others, have empathy and respect for people and showing by example
b) Collaborative - seek to collaborate with others in the organization and not for self-glory
c) Observant - alertness to identify issues and problem areas
d) Knowledgeable - not only on agile processes but has some technical and project management knowledge

5. Roles and Responsibilities of the Scrum Master

Some organization practices rotation of Scrum Master roles among the team members, this is up to each Scrum Team.

However, the roles and responsibilities of the Scrum Master are common:

  • SM is the Agile framework custodian and process owner for the team.
  • SM is a facilitator and Servant Leader who never discourage but encourages and expects self-organization from the Agile development team. 
  • SM builds close collaboration across roles and functions in the organization, works on matters collectively and is not individualistic.
  • SM protects the team from distractions which includes both external and internal.
  • SM removes impediments, so the team can focus on the development work and tasks.
  • SM is not typically a manager or lead, but he/she is an influential leader who does not do direct command and control.
  • SM is a coach, give the bits of advice to the team and discussed issues encountered.
  • SM is an adviser and is equipped with technical and project management know-how, this is so that he/she understands the problems and be able to provide a proper guidance and advice to the team.

6. Scrum master skills

Scrum master skillsThese are the essential skills a Scrum Master should have:

Encourage a self-organising team
Remove barriers and Shield the team
Encourage Collaboration and Resolve Conflicts
Coach and Advises the team
Establish partnerships (team, product owner, stakeholder)
Facilitate and is a Servant Leader

a) Encourage a self-organizing team - The scrum master needs to know when to hold his views and keep quiet to allow the team to be self-organizing. That said he should be actively listening attentively to the team members inputs and learning points and guide the team to perform better in subsequent sprints.

b) Remove barriers and shield the team -
The scrum master should shield the development team from outside distractions. At the same time, the job of the scrum master is to remove any project barriers and impediments including resolving resource issues. Allowing the team to focus on their development works and tasks.
 
c) Encourage Collaboration and Resolve Conflicts - The scrum master should have respect for people. He should encourage collaboration among team members and also across teams. He should be a collaborator who is able to resolve conflicts within and across teams by focusing on the scrum values of openness, respect, and honesty.

d) Coach and Advises the team - The scrum master should read widely and coaches the team on agile processes. Other than being a teacher to the team to explain scrum processes clearly and enforcing the practice for agile. The scrum master should have technical and project management knowledge. Imagine if the scrum master is not able to understand when a team member raise a project issue how will he provide guidance on the right course of actions? then be able to coach and guide the team effectively and run constructive meetings.

e) Established partnerships (team, product owner, stakeholder) - The role of the product owner is to push the team to deliver fast, while the role of the scrum master is to protect the team. However, the scrum master needs to know when to strike a balance and to build partnerships with others.

f) Facilitate and be a Servant Leader - The scrum master facilitates the daily scrum, sprint planning, sprint demo, and retrospective meetings. He has no particular authority over the team members and is not their manager. However, the scrum master should put the needs of the team members before himself and serve as a Servant Leader.

7. What are the benefits of having a Scrum Master Certification?

Why should you be interested in becoming a Certified Scrum Master?

According to scrumalliance.org based on a survey with about 5000 people in February 2015, 87% agrees that Scrum improves the quality of work life for their team. At the same time, 81% of Scrum Masters who received certification agree that it has significantly helped to improve their practice.

Check our CSM certification training schedules in Top cities of India

Certification
Place
Schedules
Certified Scrum Master

8.  Scrum master learning path (how to become a scrum master)

How to become a Certified Scrum Master (CSM®)?
Learning path of Certified Scrum MasterStep 1: Attend a 2-day Certified Scrum Master course or seminar

Step 2: In 30 to 90 days, register online for the Scrum Master Accredited Certification Program

Step 3: Upon successful registration, you will receive your Exam Access Code instantly online

Step 4: Take the online test anywhere, anytime on the multiple-choice questions

Step 5: Get your lifetime and international valid Scrum Master Accredited Certification Document instantly online

In a meanwhile, you can take a glimpse of the Certified Scrum Master (CSM®) training at KnowledgeHut.

9.  Scrum Master training and certification

Requirements for CSM® (from scrumalliance.org)

The first step toward your CSM® is to familiarize yourself with the Scrum framework.
Then, attend an in-person, two-day  (16 hour) CSM® course taught by a Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST®) where you’ll get a comprehensive overview of how to organize and support a Scrum Team. After the course, you’ll need to pass the CSM® exam. After you pass the CSM® exam and accept the License Agreement, complete your Scrum Alliance membership profile and enjoy the benefits of certification.

The Certified Scrum Master Exam is conducted online. The exam consists of 35 multiple choice questions and to pass the certified scrum master exam, you need to get at least 24  correct answers. You can take up the exam only after the completion of two days of training. The test takes about an hour to get completed.

Scrum Alliance allows a candidate to make two attempts on the exam. This is available at no cost. However, subsequent attempts after the second time will be chargeable.

For people who are Certified Scrum Masters, the next step in the Agile journey will attain the Advanced Certified Scrum Master (A-CSM®℠) certification.

In order to prepare for the Certified Scrum Master exam (CSM exam), you can refer this Scrum tutorial. This is a complete guide that will help you in preparing for the Scrum Master examination.

Requirements for A-CSM®  (from scrumalliance.org)

Attend a certified educational offering to get techniques and skills that go beyond the basics and mechanics of Scrum, expanding into interaction, facilitation, coaching, and team dynamics.
Successfully complete all educator-designed components of an approved educational offering. This may include pre- or post-course work as deemed necessary by your approved educator to complete the learning objectives.
Validate at least one year of work experience specific to the role of ScrumMaster (within the past five years).
Hold an active Certified ScrumMaster (CSM®) certification with the Scrum Alliance.


NOTE:  You may take the A-CSM® course at any time after completing your CSM® certification, but must have at least 12 months of Scrum Master experience logged into your Scrum Alliance profile before you can receive your A-CSM® certification.

You can opt for the Scrum Mock tests which will help you in raising your confidence level of passing the CSM exam with an excellent scope. Click here for CSM practice test online.

10. Benefits of a Scrum Master Certification

There are many reasons why people take the Scrum Master Certifications and here are just some of them:
Expand career options across industry sectors using Scrum and Agile methodology

  • Expand career options across industry sectors using Scrum and Agile methodology

  • Demonstrate the attainment of Scrum knowledge

  • Meet like-minded Scrum professionals and networking 

  • Continuous learning

If you are ready to encourage your team and advance your  Scrum career, then it is an ideal opportunity to become a Certified Scrum Master (CSM®). Get enroll for the CSM® certification course today and start preparing for the success.

Begin your Scrum Master journey today!

lorraine

lorraine ong

Blog Author

Lorraine Ong is a skilled Strategist, Program and Product Manager, with 18 years of IT Management experience. She holds multiple certifications including PMP, Blackblot Product Management Professional, ScrumMaster, Scrum Product Owner, ITIL, CITPM, and J2EE Enterprise Architect. She has experience in policy writing and successfully lead teams in various large scale projects, products and programs implementations in MNCs and organisations.

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There are plenty of Scrum tools available that fit the bill and provide interfaces that help teams seamlessly follow Scrum processes and reap its benefits. These tools help:Increase productivityIn task management, daily scrum management  Increase team collaborationIn progress tracking and risk managementScrum Software for the Ultimate ProjectThere are several Scrum software tools that aid in project development using Scrum; not just in technical environments, but in non-technical sectors as well. Software like JIRA, Infinity, TargetProcess, QuickScrum, Wrike etc provide:User friendly GUICompetitive pricingProduct backlog managementTime tracking and calendar tools for schedulingScrum metrics and chartsSprint planning toolsThird party tools for integrationUser story mappingBurnup and Burndown chartsand many more features that will help Agile teams serve their customers better, improve return on investment, reduce costs, enhance collaboration and ensure stakeholder satisfaction. These tools help team uphold the values of Agile and make implementing the Scrum framework easier.Best Scrum ToolsHere are some of the best Scrum tools available in the market:1. JIRAJira is a popular tool used by large organizations to manage their Scrum projects. It has numerous features including customizable scrum boards, reporting features and more. Here’s how teams benefit from this toolCustomizable Scrum and Kanban boardsRoadmaps to communicate with team and with stakeholdersAccess to tools for Agile reportingView of code and deployment statusEnd to end DevOps visibilityEasy scalabilitySecure deploymentDeveloper tool integrationRich APIs to automate processes2. TargetProcessThis tool has been especially designed for teams that want to scale agile. It offers a number of customizable features that make it easy to work with scrum and agile.  Here’s how teams benefit from this tool(Source: Targetprocess Agile Portfolio and Work Management Tool)IdeationBuilt in reports to analyse data and uncover trendsGather ideas across sourcesCloud hosting and on-premise hostingEnterprise grade securityCollaborate across the enterprise  Collaborate with DevOps tools including GitLab, Azure DevOps, GitHub etc3. VivifyScrumThis tool is marketed as an all-in-one solution to manage projects, collaborate and track. Here’s how teams benefit from this tool (Source: Agile Project Management Software - VivifyScrum)Tools to manage agile projects—organize, manage, track and deliverCollaboration boards to effectively collaborate with team and stakeholdersCreate invoices to track and manage business and clientsManage teams and track tasks4. InfinityThis tool is among the most popular in Agile and Scrum organizations due to the many customizations and features it provides. Its various tools help reduce time to market, ensure better quality, improve collaboration and enable customer satisfaction.Here’s how teams benefit from this tool Source: Infinity | Customizable Work Management Platform (startinfinity.com)How Can Scrum Apps Benefit Your Team?The number of Scrum apps and software available in the market for Scrum projects is mind boggling. Which one you choose depends on the requirements of your team and project, and each comes with its own benefits. Some of these benefits include:They help teams, organizations and the product being createdThey ensure better quality by providing the right framework, support mechanism and the right processesAllow for continual improvement by putting in place a feedback loop and sprint reviews by stakeholdersHelp solve impediments and daily issues by incorporating daily testing and product owner feedback into the development processEnsure upfront documentation and help prioritise high value items in the product backlog, thus decreasing time to market.  Quick feedback also helps improve the product and thus helps in continuous improvement.The faster marketing of products increases return on investment, helps tap the market demand and ensures long term benefits for the customer and thus earns their trust for the organizationThe primary tenet of Agile is team collaboration. Scrum software tools help in high level collaboration between the Scrum Master, Product Owner and the development team. Teams can organise, review, plan and discuss everyday tasks, meetings, impediments and more.How to Pick the Best Tool for Your Team?With so many options available, choosing the right Scrum tool for your team can be a tricky task. What you need to do is go through the features of the best tools and see which one best fits your requirements. While the number of features you get will be directly proportional to the money you are ready to pay for the tool, there are some basic requirements your tool must satisfy.Backlog creation:  The very basic format of a Scrum project lies in the creation of a product backlog which sets the pace for the entire project. The backlog is primarily created by the Product Owner with assistance from the Scrum Master and the development team. The tool you choose should help you create the product backlog so that you can prioritise items, define the sprints and identify sprint goals.Implement feedback:  Scrum projects are based on the Agile values of continuous feedback. Your scrum tool should have features which will make your customer’s feedback and requirements easily accessible to you. This will help you implement these changes at the earliest. This continuous feedback loop will help keep customers happy.Sprint creation:  Scrum is iterative and adaptive and works by breaking down projects into small sized sprints. Your tool must aid you in the creation of sprints and burndown charts. These help you keep track of your progress on the project and are essential components of a Scrum project.The other things your tool should be able to do include:Plan and trackCustomise process templatesCustomise dashboards and reportsHelp in time managementHelp create epics and storiesProvide collab and reporting toolsProvide review toolsAnd just like you will create a product that is user friendly, the tool you use also needs to be user friendly for the team. If your team is happy using it, and it makes your life easier and your projects better, then you have the right tool!
Scrum Software for the Ultimate Project Management

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Safe Agile Ceremonies - Expert Guide

“Winners take time to relish their work, knowing that scaling the mountain is what makes the view from the top so exhilarating.” ― Denis WaitleyWhat are SAFe agile events (or) ceremonies? – a brief overview:Before we jump into the topic, could I just take you a step back and remind you what SAFe is all about? SAFe is a way of taking any iterative Agile way of working (normally restricted to a team or few teams) and scaling it up at various levels of the organization, whilst applying a mindset of Lean manufacturing. It also deals with scalability at various levels. Beginning from Essential SAFe right up to Full SAFe, the framework caters to all organizational levels of scaling agility. As part of this, it broadens the core idea of agility mindset beyond just projects/development teams right up to executives/CXOs, who must prepare for enterprise level uncertainties. In a sense, it provides valuable enterprise level scaling insights helpful for the executives to tackle any uncertainties/risks associated with a project.As you start applying SAFe in your organisation, it is important for you to understand how each level works in conjunction with the other, depending on how mature your SAFe enterprise is. The key link between these levels is the SAFe specific events which help with smooth value delivery facilitation. The events help with alignment across teams, ARTs etc thus helping in managing risk by providing a level based cadence and synchronization.Essential SAFe - Your First Level of Scaling Using an Agile Release Train (ART). Courtesy © Scaled Agile, Inc. Source: Scaled AgileWhy do we need level-based ceremonies?While it is important to go through your team level events (like the 4 sprint events if you are doing scrum etc.) it is important to have the scaling events that help with bridging gaps and unblocking dependency between teams. The most important part of these SAFe specific events is for ‘Business Stakeholders’ to get a look (demo) at a proper incremental product and thus the value arising out of it. Makes sense? It did for me and let me tell you why.I was once associated with 3 feature teams, who were working towards a common product goal. They all had the same business stakeholders but were working on individual features. Team A was working on developing a Login page, Team B was working on a landing dashboard while Team C was hopping along, trying to provide a search functionality for the user. All of them were applying the Scrum framework and were running their own events. Sprint demos were happening individually and were being represented by the Product owner separately along with his business analysts. All seemed fine but there was a nagging problem. The product owner was worried, because he couldn’t bring any business stakeholder to view the demos, as they were being run in silos and there was no visibility on the incremental product. Well technically there was, but they would have to sit through three or four-hour events individually to get bits and pieces of the product demo. In the real world, it's not a possibility simply because your business stakeholders will not have that much time to spend on multiple demos. It is not a good use of their time either. So, what’s the solution? Simple, it’s SAFe to the rescue! Let’s try and understand how the SAFe specific events help with this.Prescribed PI Cadence for Various Levels of Scaling. Courtesy © Scaled Agile, Inc. Source: Scaled AgileHow do the events (or) ceremonies help to scale up according to the levels in SAFe:SAFe is very relevant and designed to thrive in situations where there are significant cross functional dependencies between agile teams and support / functional teams (infrastructure teams, architect community etc).  Essential Level:   As you start to scale up one level up, you will be working with anywhere between 5-12 agile teams who will all be collectively working towards a common goal which is the program increment or PI. The anchoring catalyst that brings them all together is your ART (Agile release train). Before getting into the events, lets understand the various roles involved at this level because this is the common denominator across all levels of SAFe and across organizations. This is where you need to get it right without which there is not much use in scaling higher. Key Roles involved: Release Train Engineer (RTE) System Architect/Engineer Product Management   Business OwnersPrescribed events on a typical Agile release train (ART). Courtesy © Scaled Agile, Inc. Source: Scaled AgilePI PlanningAccording to me, PI planning (hands down) is THE most significant aspect of executing this framework. This is where all the magic happens. It is sometimes referred to as the heart of the framework as it offers a clear vision of what the program increment needs to be, what the cross-team dependencies are and how they bring together the cultural sustainability much needed within the release trains. It is so important, that if carried out incorrectly it could lead to several ambiguities, development challenges and mostly a disastrous product increment. However, when it works well, the iterative cycle serves to flesh out the crucial elements of the plan and the processes ensure buy in from the stakeholders.Duration: A normal PI planning is a 2-day activity, which is a face to face cultural get together of the various ART teams. However, a new 3-day distributed PI planning has been introduced to help with geographically distributed teams (across various time zones), very apt for the current pandemic situation.“There is no magic in SAFe® except maybe for PI Planning”. – The authors of the SAFe framework.In big organizations with multiple distributed teams across multiple vendors, work streams etc. it is almost impossible to run these teams independently, whilst still having to deliver an incremental program. SAFe via the PI planning exercise mentioned above, helps with sorting out these issues by recognising cross team dependencies upfront, constantly negotiating & visualising them. This doesn’t just stop with the PI planning but the framework also proposes a cadenced way of continuing this via the scrum of scrums. The Program Board is an ideal way to showcase the cross-team dependencies.A sample SAFe Program board. Courtesy © Scaled Agile, Inc. Source: Scaled Agile1. Inspect and Adapt (I&A)An inspect and adapt event is scheduled after every PI. This event is dedicated to aligning to the principles of Kaizen, which simply means to change for the better. The events contain self induced thought processes to revalidate your assumptions that everything is working OK. The I&A event consists of three sub-parts as below:  PI System DemoQuantitative and qualitative measurementRetrospective and problem-solving workshop2. ART Sync Agile release trains tend to apply a cadenced synchronization process to help manage the ability to focus on continuous value delivery. An ART sync will typically comprise of the below sub-events.  Scrum of Scrums: This event is for representatives from all the teams on a release train to come together in a regular cadenced manner, especially on large ARTs. This is normally facilitated by the release train engineer (RTE) and will involve scrum masters of the individual teams and a few selected team members (authorised by the team). The sole purpose of the SoS calls are to understand progress towards the common goal, validate cross team dependencies and unblock impediments that may arise out of them. Duration: The length and frequency of the meeting will depend on a few factors like the size of the ART, the release frequency, type of features being worked on, ability to decouple releases etc. For e.g an ART which releases features into production every 4 weeks might want to have an SoS call every 2 weeks for about an hour. Again, if this doesn’t work for you, just inspect and adapt to what works well for your organizational needs. Just make sure that the SoS is utilised for its sole purpose and not just status updates as depicted in the below comic representation.Scrum of Scrums PO SyncThis event is represented by the Product Owner, business analysts and the product management group. This is used mainly to level up the product backlog refinement and for clarifying PI (Program Increment) scope, reviewing roadmaps and grooming for the upcoming PIs.Duration: Very similar in concept to the SoS, so just follow what works for the group. 3. System DemoAs part of a common understanding towards delivering incremental software, shortly after each iteration in the PI, there is a system demo scheduled. Work completed across all teams from the release train are compiled in a stable environment before it is reviewed by the business stakeholders and other important sponsors who may have a keen interest in the product. This is on top of the individual team level demos that happen after each iteration.Duration: Anywhere between 2-3 hours that will allow time for a demonstration of the program increment in a collative manner, on top of what has been delivered from the previous PIs as well.In case your ART is pretty small, then you may want to have just have some of the events combined into a more generic ART sync, where all roles come together to collaborate towards the program increment. This can sometimes occur if the ART is focusing on a particular value stream, confined to limited business functionality, rather than elaborate features.Solution/Portfolio LevelsAs you scale higher, the processes and events become much less prescriptive. There is a good reason for this because the focus at this level is not just on having repetitive demos that have already happened before but on building thought leadership around business outcomes and enhancing business agility. Which is why we will not be diving deep into that in this blog. But let us look at the events that occur at the macro level.Lean Budget Review  Idea Sharing via Communities of Practice (not a formal event but a collaborative group)Solution DemoPortfolio SyncRoadshowWhat are the benefits of SAFe Agile ceremonies?:The Magic of PI planningWell, the more I talk about this, the more excited I am. A PI planning event when carried out to its truest purpose, gets half the job done. Here is where most of the brainstorming occurs and business value gets determined and, in some cases, gets assigned in a quantifiable manner to user stories and helps with the prioritisation.PI Planning Synchronisation towards a common goalThe events are a constant reminder that all teams are working towards delivering incremental value either on a particular value stream, or feature or program. An RTE and Product Management will help reiterating the need to focus on the larger goal whilst helping sorting out inter team dependencies.Less prescriptiveAs is the framework itself, SAFe events/ceremonies are less prescriptive. An SPC would recommend, apply the principles but inspect and adapt as to what works for your organization. As per the example I provided earlier w.r.t to the duration of the SAFe events, start with something reasonable and then validate its effectiveness. Then leave Kaizen to do the rest.Visualization of incremental value deliveryOpportunity for Business stakeholders and sponsors to have a look at the overall program increment every iteration, thus helping them evaluate the progress and provide timely feedback on market trends. What are the common mistakes?Lack of a shared product visionThings can go wrong if there is not enough representation in the product management group, say for e.g at the PO Sync event. This can lead to a blurred product vision with each team working out of sync. This may ultimately get detected too late, probably at the time of the system demo, and lead to a whole lot of unwanted rework.SoS as a status updateThe Scrum Of Scrum event should be used as an event to unblock cross team impediments or dependencies and not to just update what each team has been doing or is doing in its current sprint. TimeboxingGiven the scale at which these events will be conducted, it is critical that the associated events are facilitated in a timeboxed manner or else the participants could end up sitting and talking for hours. Roles like RTE, SPC Coaches etc will be critical in addressing this issue.Remote facilitationLack of effective collaboration tools could lead to some disastrous situations whilst facilitating the SAFe events. Given that most teams are running virtual ceremonies/events at the moment, its crucial to establish a working distributed model. This will then ensure that the platform is set up for the most effective collaboration and cross-functional work to take place.While you try to scale, as per the implementation roadmap, its essential that you solidify the process around which your ARTs will be functioning. It’s like setting the railway tracks with the correct track gauge matching the configurations of the wheelsets of the trains that will run on them. If not, they will just derail. As your ARTs pass through your set process, they will only benefit by sustaining focus and pace while moving towards a successful incremental product delivery.Thanks for your patience and wish you all the very best in your Agile journey. In case you want me to write about any specific topic, please feel free to comment below and I’ll be more than happy to add them to my ‘Blog Backlog’. If you liked the article, please do share it among your agile community to help spread the word.  Hope to see you soon, with more such interesting topics.
Safe Agile Ceremonies - Expert Guide

“Winners take time to relish their work, knowing... Read More

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