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Standups for agile teams

Communication is the key for any team working closely to deliver a solution. The foundation of Agile is based on frequent interactions that provide multiple opportunities for the team to come closer, daily standup being one of them. There may be varied names for daily standup like daily scrum, daily huddle, quick catchups, daily sync-ups, etc. but the purpose remains unchanged. Going back to the non-agile days or to the teams which are not working in an agile fashion, they too, choose a time to interact, to update, or to check on any new advancements, but, the frequency differs. So, what makes daily scrum different from others? What is a Daily standup scrum ceremony? The daily standup is one of the scrum ceremonies prescribed by Scrum, where the team meets daily; same time, same place, to talk about Sprint goals and also check if they're on track or if there's a need to change the course. Daily Scrum helps the team to track the progress, for which they use the Sprint board. The Sprint board is essentially used to talk about the deliverables, the associated timelines and if there's any impediment that is stopping them from moving forward. The daily standup meeting is not a status update meeting; it is a time when the scrum team collectively discusses and takes ownership for a Sprint goal.  The term ‘standup’ is used because it is meant to be short and precise. It is usually done with team members standing up to discuss the work items, though this is not compulsory. The purpose of standing up is to keep the meeting short and to the point. Daily standup, in a way, provides daily planning for the scrum teams to stay focused on the sprint goal. How to conduct a Daily standup To conduct a good daily standup, everyone in the team should be aware of the agenda and come prepared for the discussion. The scrum master initiates the meeting with a quick warm-up topic (hardly lasts for a minute) that sets the tone for the meeting and serves as the ice breaker. It can be anything general; from the weather to appreciation, or any topic that makes the team comfortable.  For the entire meeting, the team remains focused and involved. They can stand near the Sprint board or any visual board where they're tracking the progress. In case of a distributed environment, the team should be using the screen share with the details of the sprint board/taskboard. 'Three questions' - the core of Daily Standup: What I did yesterday? What is my plan for today? Or before we meet again. Are there any impediments? Time-boxing the daily scrum meeting is vital; it should not go beyond 15 minutes. If there's anything the team wants to talk about apart from 'three' questions, it should be done once the daily scrum is over. Any discussion on the impediment that doesn't require the complete team should be taken as a sidebar.  Everyone in the team gets a chance to talk about the task/work in hand. As a rule, when a team member is providing the inputs, the other members will listen and stay quiet. This ensures that only one person is talking at a time. The scrum master can introduce creative ways of conducting a daily scrum that helps team participation and induces respect for others.  Here’s an example of how team members can respond to the three questions: “Yesterday, I completed writing the test cases for the login screen.” “Today, I will work with John to get it peer-reviewed and will also start testing the authentication part” “No blockers” Swift and short. Sticking to three questions helps in completing the daily scrum on time. Staying with the rules promotes discipline and better work culture.Why is the daily standup important? Transparency and planning are vital for effective delivery. Getting teams on the same platform requires collaboration, communication, and teamwork. Daily scrum provides the team with the opportunity to talk about the daily task, communicate any blockers, and discuss if there's any change in the plan. A short 15-minute sync up helps the team stay focused on the goal. The team members can call out if they need any help with the work items, which is another opportunity to take ownership as a team.  Some of the benefits of a daily standup include: Improves communication Helps to identify blockages or impediments An opportunity to inspect and adapt Improves team accord Helps to keep the team focused Increases the level of accountability  Creates a sense of accomplishment while talking about the done tasks Though it has many benefits, it can only be reaped if the daily scrum is done in a way prescribed in the Scrum Guide. Daily scrum is one among the five key events to be conducted in a sprint and serves a tactful purpose. For most of the teams, daily scrum is one of the first things that happens at the start of the day. It sets the tone and the expectation for the entire day, similar to creating a to-do list before the start of any work.  Who Attends a Stand-up? The daily scrum is one of the scrum ceremonies that is attended by the development team, the scrum master, and the product owner. Anyone else apart from these three roles can join but they'll have to be quiet and stay as an observer till the time meeting gets over. At times people from different areas who are directly/indirectly involved in the delivery may want to check on the progress. They can be a part of the daily scrum, but the rule applies to them as well, which is, only the scrum team will talk. They can ask questions only when the daily scrum is over. What do we talk about? The format of the daily scrum sticks to the three questions: What I accomplished yesterday? What is the plan for today? Are there any impediments in the path of my work? These three questions help the team to stay focused and timeboxed.  With the first question, the team member will talk about what they have completed before the start of the daily scrum. It consists of the task that they had planned and called out in the last daily scrum. Sometimes there might be a certain deviation from what they had mentioned and what exactly they worked on. This should be called out specifically as part of the daily scrum. Talking about the ‘done’ work creates a sense of accomplishment and sets the right tone for starting up with another task. The second question is more about the plan for today or the plan once the daily scrum is over. Here the team member talks about the work items they plan to finish before the next meeting. It is advised to pull only as per the capacity. While answering this question, there might be a need to change the course of action in case there's a dependency or if there's any impediment that blocks the way forward for that task. When the team member is calling out the items they have planned to work on, it creates a sense of ownership as they announce the strategy. The third question focuses on clearing the path and removing any impediments that might come in the way of delivery. The team member raises any impediment or blockages they foresee, or they talk about the blockers that can impact sprint goal. Talking about the impediments helps the team to readjust the course and look for ways to resolve the blocker as early as possible. Identifying blockers early helps to reduce the risk.  Where and when? The daily standup should happen at the same time and same place. Finding a new place every day creates an overhead and it is time-consuming, hence the reason for ‘same place’. The scrum team should use the sprint board to call out the task and the subsequent progress. Ideally, the daily scrum should happen near the Sprint board. This helps in visualizing the flow and to realize where the team stands in terms of the Sprint goal. Setting up the sprint meeting at the same place daily helps in wiring the minds of the team member to follow the same discipline. If the team is sitting alongside several other teams, it might create a noisy environment to run the daily scrum. In such instances, the scrum master or any of the team members can book a meeting room on a recurring basis.  To address the ‘when’ part, the meeting should ideally be the first thing to be done when work starts. Being the first team activity, it helps in planning the entire day which further creates momentum amongst the team members. The start time must remain consistent and one should avoid rescheduling the daily scrum. With flexible work environments, it might not be possible that everyone is present at the same time during the start of the day. In such cases the team should opt for a slot where they can have maximum participation. Working across time zones requires a slot that works for all. The daily standup should not be treated as a kickoff for the day, but as a time to talk about the advancement towards the goal and the issues and any help required with them. Keeping the meetings timeboxed and on time helps the team to create a disciplined work environment. Daily scrum gives an opportunity to self-organize and work as a team towards a single goal. Stand-ups for distributed teamsWith the worldwide pandemic situation and the teams working from home, we are living in a world with an extremely distributed environment. Agile helps here too. In such cases, the teams should be leveraging the online tools available, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc. for video conferencing. The calendars should be updated with the recurring meeting invites that consist of a link to join the video.  Why focus on video? Because humans feel more connected through video calls rather than just audio. Also, video conferencing promotes collaboration and creates a sense of a safe environment. Common Downsides to look for: Impediments are not getting raised – There can be multiple reasons for blockers not being shared across the team. Trust issues can be one of them. The Scrum Master/facilitator should help the team feel safe and provide the team with a platform to voice out the issues. Team Members reluctant to join – In some cases, the team members might feel the daily scrum to be a useless activity or it's just another meeting. In such cases, the facilitator should try to understand the reason behind such behavior and coach the individuals on the benefits. Daily Scrum gets converted to the status meeting – There are subtle signals to watch out for. Timebox not being followed. ConclusionIf you want the Scrum implementation to work for your team, following the prescribed practices and ceremonies helps a great deal. Even more than the process or ceremony, it is important to understand the team and how to make them energized to start the day, you should also learn how to best leverage the scrum ceremonies to get the best benefits and improve the overall productivity and teamwork. Daily standups help to focus on the common goal and raise the overall morale of the team and project.  

Standups for agile teams

9K
  • by Deepti Sinha
  • 18th Jan, 2021
  • Last updated on 26th Feb, 2021
  • 5 mins read
Standups for agile teams

Communication is the key for any team working closely to deliver a solution. The foundation of Agile is based on frequent interactions that provide multiple opportunities for the team to come closer, daily standup being one of them. There may be varied names for daily standup like daily scrum, daily huddle, quick catchups, daily sync-ups, etc. but the purpose remains unchanged. Going back to the non-agile days or to the teams which are not working in an agile fashion, they too, choose a time to interact, to update, or to check on any new advancements, but, the frequency differs. So, what makes daily scrum different from others? 

What is a Daily standup scrum ceremony? 

The daily standup is one of the scrum ceremonies prescribed by Scrum, where the team meets daily; same timesame place, to talk about Sprint goals and also check if they're on track or if there's a need to change the course. Daily Scrum helps the team to track the progress, for which they use the Sprint board. The Sprint board is essentially used to talk about the deliverablesthe associated timelines and if there's any impediment that is stopping them from moving forward. The daily standup meeting is not a status update meeting; it is a time when the scrum team collectively discusses and takes ownership for a Sprint goal.  

The term ‘standup’ is used because it is meant to be short and precise. It is usually done with team members standing up to discuss the work items, though this is not compulsory. The purpose of standing up is to keep the meeting short and to the point. Daily standup, in a way, provides daily planning for the scrum teams to stay focused on the sprint goal. 

How to conduct a Daily standup 

To conduct a good daily standup, everyone in the team should be aware of the agenda and come prepared for the discussion. The scrum master initiates the meeting with a quick warm-up topic (hardly lasts for a minute) that sets the tone for the meeting and serves as the ice breaker. It can be anything general; from the weather to appreciation, or any topic that makes the team comfortable.  

How to conduct a Daily standupFor the entire meeting, the team remains focused and involved. They can stand near the Sprint board or any visual board where they're tracking the progress. In case of a distributed environment, the team should be using the screen share with the details of the sprint board/taskboard. 

'Three questions' - the core of Daily Standup: 

'Three questions' - the core of Daily Standup

  1. What I did yesterday? 
  2. What is my plan for today? Or before we meet again. 
  3. Are there any impediments? 

Time-boxing the daily scrum meeting is vital; it should not go beyond 15 minutes. If there's anything the team wants to talk about apart from 'three' questions, it should be done once the daily scrum is over. Any discussion on the impediment that doesn't require the complete team should be taken as a sidebar.  

Everyone in the team gets a chance to talk about the task/work in hand. As a rule, when a team member is providing the inputs, the other members will listen and stay quiet. This ensures that only one person is talking at a time. The scrum master can introduce creative ways of conducting a daily scrum that helps team participation and induces respect for others.  

Here’s an example of how team members can respond to the three questions: 

  • “Yesterday, I completed writing the test cases for the login screen.” 
  • “Today, I will work with John to get it peer-reviewed and will also start testing the authentication part” 
  • “No blockers” 

Swift and short. Sticking to three questions helps in completing the daily scrum on time. Staying with the rules promotes discipline and better work culture.

Why is the daily standup important? 

Transparency and planning are vital for effective delivery. Getting teams on the same platform requires collaboration, communication, and teamwork. Daily scrum provides the team with the opportunity to talk about the daily task, communicate any blockers, and discuss if there's any change in the plan. A short 15-minute sync up helps the team stay focused on the goal. The team members can call out if they need any help with the work items, which is another opportunity to take ownership as a team.  

Some of the benefits of daily standup include: 

  1. Improves communication 
  2. Helps to identify blockages or impediments 
  3. An opportunity to inspect and adapt 
  4. Improves team accord 
  5. Helps to keep the team focused 
  6. Increases the level of accountability  
  7. Creates a sense of accomplishment while talking about the done tasks 

Though it has many benefits, it can only be reaped if the daily scrum is done in a way prescribed in the Scrum Guide. Daily scrum is one among the five key events to be conducted in a sprint and serves a tactful purpose. For most of the teams, daily scrum is one of the first things that happens at the start of the day. It sets the tone and the expectation for the entire day, similar to creating a to-do list before the start of any work.  

Who Attends a Stand-up? 

The daily scrum is one of the scrum ceremonies that is attended by the development team, the scrum master, and the product owner. Anyone else apart from these three roles can join but they'll have to be quiet and stay as an observer till the time meeting gets over. At times people from different areas who are directly/indirectly involved in the delivery may want to check on the progress. They can be a part of the daily scrum, but the rule applies to them as well, which is, only the scrum team will talk. They can ask questions only when the daily scrum is over. Who Attends a Stand-up?

What do we talk about? 

The format of the daily scrum sticks to the three questions: 

  1. What I accomplished yesterday? 
  2. What is the plan for today? 
  3. Are there any impediments in the path of my work? 

These three questions help the team to stay focused and timeboxed.  

With the first question, the team member will talk about what they have completed before the start of the daily scrum. It consists of the task that they had planned and called out in the last daily scrum. Sometimes there might be a certain deviation from what they had mentioned and what exactly they worked on. This should be called out specifically as part of the daily scrum. Talking about the ‘done’ work creates a sense of accomplishment and sets the right tone for starting up with another task. 

The second question is more about the plan for today or the plan once the daily scrum is over. Here the team member talks about the work items they plan to finish before the next meeting. It is advised to pull only as per the capacity. While answering this question, there might be a need to change the course of action in case there's a dependency or if there's any impediment that blocks the way forward for that task. When the team member is calling out the items they have planned to work on, it creates a sense of ownership as they announce the strategy. 

The third question focuses on clearing the path and removing any impediments that might come in the way of delivery. The team member raises any impediment or blockages they foresee, or they talk about the blockers that can impact sprint goal. Talking about the impediments helps the team to readjust the course and look for ways to resolve the blocker as early as possible. Identifying blockers early helps to reduce the risk.  

Where and when? 

The daily standup should happen at the same time and same place. Finding a new place every day creates an overhead and it is time-consuming, hence the reason for ‘same place’. The scrum team should use the sprint board to call out the task and the subsequent progress. Ideally, the daily scrum should happen near the Sprint board. This helps in visualizing the flow and to realize where the team stands in terms of the Sprint goal. Setting up the sprint meeting at the same place daily helps in wiring the minds of the team member to follow the same discipline. If the team is sitting alongside several other teams, it might create a noisy environment to run the daily scrum. In such instances, the scrum master or any of the team members can book a meeting room on a recurring basis.  

To address the ‘when’ part, the meeting should ideally be the first thing to be done when work starts. Being the first team activity, it helps in planning the entire day which further creates momentum amongst the team members. The start time must remain consistent and one should avoid rescheduling the daily scrum. With flexible work environments, it might not be possible that everyone is present at the same time during the start of the day. In such cases the team should opt for a slot where they can have maximum participation. Working across time zones requires a slot that works for all. The daily standup should not be treated as a kickoff for the day, but as a time to talk about the advancement towards the goal and the issues and any help required with them. 

Keeping the meetings timeboxed and on time helps the team to create a disciplined work environment. Daily scrum gives an opportunity to self-organize and work as a team towards a single goal. 

Stand-ups for distributed teams

Stand-ups for distributed teamsWith the worldwide pandemic situation and the teams working from home, we are living in a world with an extremely distributed environment. Agile helps here too. In such cases, the teams should be leveraging the online tools available, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc. for video conferencing. The calendars should be updated with the recurring meeting invites that consist of a link to join the video.  

Why focus on video? Because humans feel more connected through video calls rather than just audio. Alsovideo conferencing promotes collaboration and creates a sense of a safe environment. 

Common Downsides to look for: 

  1. Impediments are not getting raised – There can be multiple reasons for blockers not being shared across the team. Trust issues can be one of them. The Scrum Master/facilitator should help the team feel safe and provide the team with a platform to voice out the issues. 
  2. Team Members reluctant to join – In some cases, the team members might feel the daily scrum to be a useless activity or it's just another meeting. In such cases, the facilitator should try to understand the reason behind such behavior and coach the individuals on the benefits. 
  3. Daily Scrum gets converted to the status meeting – There are subtle signals to watch out for. 
  4. Timebox not being followed. 

Conclusion

If you want the Scrum implementation to work for your team, following the prescribed practices and ceremonies helps a great deal. Even more than the process or ceremony, it is important to understand the team and how to make them energized to start the day, you should also learn how to best leverage the scrum ceremonies to get the best benefits and improve the overall productivity and teamwork. Daily standups help to focus on the common goal and raise the overall morale of the team and project.  

Deepti

Deepti Sinha

Blog Author

Deepti is an Agile Coach by profession and Freelance Trainer with over 11 years of industry experience working primarily with healthcare & finance clients in delivering business. She has played a wide variety of roles in the graph of her career, whether it be, management, operations or quality. She likes reading fiction, management and loves to write her experiences. Her colleagues mostly describe her as very detail oriented person with a knack of creativity and imagination. And yes, she loves feedback more than her coffee!!

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We will take a deep dive into PI planning in detail in this article and understand its importance in SAFe.What is SAFe®?Before understanding SAFe ,let’s first understand what Scrum is. Scrum is an iterative product creation approach focusing on a regular production cadence. It relies on cross-functional teams, a set of ceremonies, and certain specific supporting roles to help drive these deliveries.SAFe is an extension of Scrum at the larger organizational level. SAFe or the Scaled Agile FrameworkTM is a set of principles and strategies designed to help deliver resilience to all departments and levels of the organization. The system is designed to enhance visibility, coordination and cooperation which will result in improved efficiency , better outcomes and faster delivery.Image SourceIntroduction to Program Increment :PI Planning is particularly useful for agile companies of large scale. Let 's look at some figures, to understand the effect. Some bigger companies , for example, may have 300-400 teams and 5,000 developers. These teams may never have spoken to each other before, in the old way of working until a crucial issue forced them to collaborate.Previously, coordination would have been at the level of the leadership team, and they would have had several levels of managers in between who would trickle down details, but the people on the teams would never speak to each other. There would always be a constant struggle to work on the biggest projects for money, budget, and opportunities.Projects had a habit of overlapping - one team would release something which would then break something in the project of another team. PI Preparation is the first time that many of these very large businesses have joined their teams in a space or on the same call to speak to each other. They are given the opportunity to nut out those crucial talks about who is working on what. When you enter a code or a code repository, you need to know how it can affect another team. You may also need to do some work to allow another team to work first (and vice versa) on their feature.An ART (agile release train) is a shared objective accomplished by the soul of the different teams that work together. In very large companies, there can be three trains working together, and that is the reason why the teams need to step back every eight to 12 weeks and make sure that they continue to work towards the overall vision and company goals.Here’s what PI Planning enforces:CommunicationVisibilityCollaborationAs a result, teams can more easily get work done, deliver more updates in less time, and remain on budget.Executing the PI /Agenda- It is very important to understand the steps involved in executing PI. Let's try to understand the same:1) Preparation: It will cover the prerequisites for successful PI.Organization preparation : PI meetings are supposed to be arranged well in advance, and it is important to call into account all the stakeholders and leaders involved in the program. Usually, large organizations arrange this as a quarterly meeting, which helps to talk about the end of the preceding quarter and to set all in order for the start of the next quarter.Content preparation: For the launch the preparation on the aim and the vision has to be made well in advance. This should be drilled into the team from day one, which is done by the Company owners and the leaders of the projects who are in the best position to do so.  Facility preparation: A spacious room that is twice the size of the amount of people should be prepared, where the employees are able to walk around and ask other employees questions.2) Agenda:Setting the agenda is very important and should be mapped out at the outset. Motivational speakers should be called in, who can take time to remember the successes of the last PI. Always provide some time for introductions through ice breaking games. It is important that the teams get to know each other, so that they can work well together. All these can be helpful in work teambuilding and bringing a social aspect to the case.Here is an example of an agenda from ScaledAgileFramework.com. It outlines the critical steps for a successful case.Day OneBusiness Background – The background of the business is  provided by a senior management member or a company owner who offers insights on business performance and on how they are able to keep up with market demands and customer needs.Product / Solutions Strategy- The Project management will outline the company vision for the next PI. The salient features that will help achieve these targets will be defined by the company management.Architecture Vision & Development Practices – Next, the Systems Architect or IT department will talk about the systems and architectural vision for infrastructure upgrades that will help increase market time and will affect growth during the upcoming PI. Process changes associated with Agile that would improve speed and communication will be discussed.Preparation Background & Lunch – After this, it is the turn of the Release Train Engineer (RTE) to explain the planning process for PI and what the teams and the general meeting are required to do. The planned results for the meeting will be discussed, and any questions from the Team will be addressed.Team breakouts- Teams will meet around the boards (analogue or digital) to measure their pace for each iteration and look at their backlogs and what needs to be progressed to help the functionality outlined in the vision. They will apply their draft plans to review and provide input to all the teams. They'll need to recognize and mitigate possible threats and addictions.Draft Plan Review- During this time-boxed meeting, teams will deliver their draft plans and receive input from product owners, company owners,  stakeholders and other teams. They may use the feedback to fine-tune their drafts before consulting the management. They will also discuss possible issues to be addressed by the management.Review by Management and Problem Solving- Draft plans would also raise problems with design, scale, and people and resource constraints. Only the management renegotiation and future features may often solve these problems. The RTE (Release Train Engineer) organizes this meeting and stakeholders and business owners must come out of the meeting with a new set of goals or features for the teamsDay 2 AgendaProgram Adjustments- At the start of the day,  changes or decisions taken at the problem-solving meeting by management and stakeholders will be considered. Teams are apprised of these changes and decisions and priorities may be revisited. These adjustments will be put on the board of the company so that all departments can take a look and reorganize themselves.Breakouts- During breakouts, teams take the changes back to their discussion meeting and come back to the program board with their PI targets. Company owners may assign values to each of the goals and rate them for execution. At this stage, teams will get a clearer sense of their targets in the context of the iterations ahead.Final Plan Review and Lunch- Finally, each team will carry their plans to the front and present them. Threats and dependencies will be listed out at the finish of the presentation. While this is not the time to try and fix those problems, the various plans are posted to allow the teams to review and get inputs from others.Program Risks-All teams listed their risks and dependencies in the preceding phase. Now that all the goals are written, the teams will tackle each risk in turn and decide whether they can be resolved. The risks fall into one of below categories:Resolved- The teams conclude after discussion that the topic is no longer a problem.  Owned – Someone on the train takes ownership of the item to work on a later resolution of the issue.  Accepted – Certain threats are simply facts or future issues that need to be acknowledged and embraced.  Mitigated- Teams will strategize together to mitigate a risk item's effects. The solution or fix is implemented.Trust Vote – Once all the challenges and targets are discussed and addressed, the teams can vote on their conviction that the target can be achieved in the coming PI. The Trust vote is a quintessential vote, when team members can hold up one to five fingers in a show of hands. Anything that is less than a three-finger ballot should be re-looked at. The team member who has an issue with that particular goal would need to give more clarity, so that the teams can fix it. Once the issue has been resolved, the target of achieving a vote of confidence for the coming PI is again put to vote.Retrospective – The RTE will have a brief retrospective on the PI Planning case at the very end of the meeting to collect input about what was going well for the case, and what needs to be modified or enhanced for the next event.Day 18:00am - 9:00amBusiness context9:00am - 10:30amProduct/solution vision10:30am - 11:30amArchitecture vision & development practice11:30am - 1:00pmPlanning context & lunch1:00pm - 4:00pm Team breakouts4:00pm - 5:00pmDraft plan review5:00pm - 6:00pmManagement review & problem solvingDay 28:00am - 9:00amPlanning adjustment9:00am - 11:00amTeam breakouts11:00am - 1:00pmFinal plan review & lunch1:00pm - 2:00pmProgram risks2:00pm -2:15pmConfidence vote2:15pm - X:XXPMPlan rework (if needed)When readyPlanning retrospective & moving forwordThis plan may be ideal for you or you can change it according to the needs of your team. Distributed teams, very large ARTs, and other factors can require the schedule to be modified in a creative way. You will find some sessions require more time, while others may need to be shortened. If it's your first PI Planning experience, try the regular agenda, get input from your team and play with different formats.PI Output- The output which comes out from PI planning is as follows :Smart goals are set by each participating team.The program manager updates the program board based on PI output. The feature list is accepted by each participating team.The new release date for features is aligned between teams.Dependencies of roles (between teams and other ARTs) are set.Milestones are noted down.Planning for PI offers many business advantages including:  Setting up face-to - face contact with the stakeholders and all team members – It is critical to keep everybody focused on the event.  Establishing the social network depends on the ART – The purpose of icebreakers and team-building games is to help instill trust and collaboration even for remote team members.Matching progress on business goals with the business background, vision, and priorities of the Team and Program PI – Everyone comes together so that they feel like a part of the process and are able to grasp the vision of the organization.Finding similarities and promoting cross-team and cross-ART communication – Many people who have been virtually in touch are now able to put a face to a name. When resolving concerns, dependencies and threats, it's important for everyone to feel comfortable reaching out for support and finding out how the teams can work together.Quick decision making –No need to worry if they have received your text or wait for someone to get back to you when everyone is together. Rather than days or weeks, discussions and decisions take place in minutes or hours.When is PI Planning held?Many businesses think that the correct period of time for an increment is 8-12 weeks (which adds up to 4-6 x 2-week iterations).  Some firms keep PI Planning quarterly, for example:  Q1 PI: December  Q2 PI: March  Q3 PI: June  Q4 PI: September  But timing and duration depend on how long each phase of the program is planned to last. The positive thing about PI Organizing activities is that they happen regularly on a set timetable, so you can plan well in advance for them. That means there is plenty of notice from teams and business owners to ensure they can turn up for the case.What is a pre-PI Planning event and when is it needed?Since the two-day PI Preparation case obviously is just not enough, pre-planning events may be required. These exist for a very good purpose  -to make sure the ART is synchronized before PI Preparation is carried out within the wider Solution Train. It's all about synchronizing with the other ARTs to ensure that the answer moves in the right direction, along with the organization. What normally happens is that key people from the Solution Train, along with members from the ARTs and related suppliers get together. Here are some of the people you'll find at such an organizing event :  Solution Train EngineerSolution ManagementSolution Architect/EngineeringSolution System TeamRelease Train EngineersProduct ManagementSystem Architects/EngineersCustomersThey'll look at the top Project Backlog, Project Goal, Vision, and Solution Roadmap capabilities. It's a lot like PI Preparation, but at a higher level, through the solution as a whole and not just the individual work. The event begins with each ART summing up its previous increment and achievements in order to set the context. A senior executive would then brief the attendees on the current situation before Project Management addresses the new vision of the project and any improvements from what had previously been discussed.Remote Teams must be engaged and accountableThe Agile Manifesto says, "A face-to - face interaction is the most effective and efficient method of conveying information to and within a development team."  Keeping the members of the remote team involved and focused on the planning tasks can be challenging indeed. A range of video conference services are available on the market that allow teams not only to carry out video conferencing with individual members, but also to interact with local teams with cameras. Everyone can see and communicate with one another in the same way as if they were all seated in a conference room together.  Applications like Zoom / Web ex / Google Meet /Microsoft Team offer video conferencing facilities for teams and can be used for group sessions for PI preparation. Remote participants can be asked to keep their cameras on so they can be seen.ConclusionWithin the grand scale of today's development environment, teams are often divided across geographies. Team members who are going to be on-the-spot can attend the PI meeting in person, but entire groups might not be ready to participate from the same location. Remote teams should be able to collaborate and give their feedback, in order for SAFe to develop.In such cases, RTEs and company owners need to think outside the box as online technologies evolve. They must prepare to organize and train teams to use these technology resources for effective collaboration.  The more frequently the teams use the tools, the simpler it'll be to use them for major events like PI Preparation and alternative iteration conferences and ceremonies. For answers to questions, often teams operating within the same building will profit from providing a remote source of knowledge and a common source of truth within the organization. It can also help to encourage team members to know their stakeholders and product managers, so that at the right time the right people can answer the right questions.Teams who are able to meet this challenge will benefit from the largest pool of skills and expertise, and can get set to reap the highest chance of success in this fast-paced industry.
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What is PI Planning and its importance in SAFe®?

PI Planning or Program Increment Planning can be s... Read More

Top 10 Agile Metrics for Successful Projects

A long-standing platitude says: “What gets measured gets done”, and in today’s context the phrase is upgraded to “What gets measured gets improved”. Either way, the emphasis is on measurement. In this article today, we will learn some basic agile metrics that can be used by the development teams to access and improve development, and optimize ways of working. With a strong competitive market, there’s a need to stay ahead of your peers, and provide optimal solutions. Here, we will discuss 10 agile metrics that can help teams carve their path towards success.What is an agile metric?Just going the agile way or adopting agile practices won't help much if the output is not measured. Agile metrics help to monitor productivity and quality across different phases during development. Metrics are standards of measurement that help the team to keep the performance in check and help to expose any gaps in performance early.Why should the teams use agile metrics (Benefits)?  There are multiple benefits of using Agile metrics. Let’s first take a look at some questions that get answered:What are the problems that need to be addressed?Is the team on track?Is the value being generated out of the efforts invested?Is the team improving?Is the team working on the right things?Are the deliverables abiding by the quality standards?Top Ten Metrics  1. Sprint BurndownThis is one of the basic and most popular metrics used to measure the work remaining during the execution of the sprint. The graphical representation through a chart helps to keep a check on the rate of work completion, and how much needs to be accomplished.  The chart comprises of X-axis and Y-axis, where the horizontal X-axis denotes time/no. of days and the Y-axis denotes the total amount of work. The total work can be estimated both in terms of man-hours or story points. The burndown helps in the prediction of whether the team will be able to complete the target sprint goal in the said sprint timeline.Image sourceComponents in the Burndown Chart:Total Estimate – The output of the sprint planning is in the form of work items or user stories that have been broken down further into tasks. Each task has an estimate with the unit in hours. The sum of the estimate from all the work items constitutes the total estimate which is represented in the Y-axis.Remaining Effort – With each passing day in a sprint, the team will be burning efforts on the tool according to the work completed. This creates a slope in the chart as the remaining effort gets decreased towards the end. This is the component that gets tracked in the burndown down the chart.Total Days – When the sprint length is defined, a set number of days are locked as the length. On the chart the total no. of days is represented on the X-axis. If there’s a holiday/weekend, the chart will show a flat line as the team will not burn any effort. This, again, depends on the tool and its customization. Some tools omit weekends and just represent the working days.Ideal Effort – It is represented through a diagonal line cutting across the chart and represents the ideal burning pattern. This is usually an auto-generated line to guide the team.2. VelocityVelocity is one of the powerful metrics in agile which is simple and easily adoptable. It is the sum of units delivered in a sprint, which is usually in story points. For example, if a scrum team commits 30 points in a sprint and delivers 28, then the velocity for that sprint is 28. As the team matures, the average velocity is calculated to predict the future capacity for the sprints. Velocity helps in getting the teams to predict correctly the amount of work that can be completed. If the average velocity of the team is 30, they know they can finish 300 story points worth of work in approx. 10 sprints.Velocity is not the measure of productivity, as it is just an average calculated unit based on the last few sprints. There might be fluctuations in the velocity due to an unstable team, holidays, legacy code, etc. It should be used as a planning tool for defining the work in a sprint. Each teams’ velocity is unique, and no two teams should be compared in terms of velocity.3. Cumulative flow diagram CFDs are stacked area charts that represent the number of work items in each column for a particular period. The lowest layer specifies the number of items in the completed state. The graph provides an essential way to envision project development and supports to visualize any possible difficulties. It represents the count of Backlog items on the Y-axis and maps them according to the state on the timeline represented on the X-axis. The cumulative flow diagram can be customized as per category or as per status.4. Release BurnupThe Release Burn Up Chart shows the current work progress against the total work planned. It also displays the total planned work, and the total work accomplished to date. One of the important aspects of this chart is the scope line which captures the deviation between the release start and the end dates.  The horizontal axis (X-axis) represents the time; it can be sprints, phases, or just the timeline representing the completion of a quarter or the project or just a particular period in discussion.  The vertical axis(Y-axis) represents the total story points in the backlog.  The Burnup charts make it easy to read the total completed work, the scope changes, and their impact on the timeline, and the remaining effort to reach the completion. Along with this, it also helps in forecasting to achieve the release plan.5. Control ChartAs per Wikipedia “Control charts, also known as Shewhart charts or process-behavior charts, are a statistical process control tool used to determine if a manufacturing or business process is in a state of control. It is more appropriate to say that the control charts are the graphical device for Statistical Process Monitoring.” A control chart is used to monitor quality regularly. It helps to measure the impact of process change, or any team composition changes. It supports to evaluate the team’s historical performance and forecast the future work pattern. This helps the teams in setting up the goals. The Control Chart displays the Cycle Time or Lead Time for your project or sprint. It takes the time consumed by a respective problem in a certain status and plots it over a stated period. A Control Chart helps you categorize whether statistics from the existing sprint can be used to govern forthcoming performance.6. Lead TimeLead Time metric originated from the manufacturing method, more specifically from Toyota Production System. It is the total time elapsed from the initial request being made by the customer to the final product being delivered. When talking of software development, it is the movement of a requirement from ‘New’ state to ‘Completed’ state. In simple words, it is the time between the start and finish for any work item.   For example, when you stand in a queue to order a burger, the time between when the order is placed and the time when the burger is received is the Lead Time. In Scrum, the lead time is defined as the time it takes from a requirement being added to the backlog to when it’s ready for delivery.7. Blocked TimeDuring the execution of the sprint, there might be situations that block the way of smooth sprint delivery. For example, an environment issue where the test cannot be performed on the code on the higher environment. Or a case where a technical dependency is blocking the way for the development team. The reasons can be countless, but it is important to capture the total time the team got blocked in the entire sprint. The scrum team can either block the task or raise a block card on the system/tool. The management can pull the real-time report on the blocked cards and help the team move forward. This should also be a part of the retrospective discussion for further improvisation. 8. Escaped DefectsNot every product delivered is error-free, as although multiple rounds of testing are done still some of the defects go unnoticed. They are found by the customers after the release date. These are termed Escaped defects. The cost of fixing a defect increases considerably the later it is found. The appetite for RAG(Red/Amber/Green) count/percentage varies across organizations. Getting more than 3 escaped defects can make the report RED for some. It is measured by the number of issues (bugs, defects, etc.) found in the product once it has been delivered to the user.9. Story Completion RatioWhen the team collectively comes up with the work items committed in a sprint during the sprint planning meeting, they come up with a list of user stories to be completed. The story completion ratio is the percentage of the total no. of stories delivered in a sprint against the committed ones. So, if a team commits 10 user stories in a sprint and delivers 9, the story completion ratio will be 90%. Story Completion Ratio = (Total No. of Stories Delivered / Total no. of Stories Committed) * 100This can also be used in the retrospection as a discussion point to identify the root causes and solutions for better delivery.10. Net Promoter ScoreThe Net Promoter Score is an index that measures the readiness of clients to commend a company’s products or services. To calculate NPS, one can ask, “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?” and score the answers on a zero-to-ten scale. Based on their rating, customers are then classified into 3 categories: detractors, passives, and promoters.ConclusionMetrics help in building up the organization by analyzing the results and striving to make it better. They provide quantifiable awareness into the team's performance and deliver assessable goals for the team. Metrics helps the team to define a way for a better customer experience and a healthy work environment. The organization should opt for only those metrics that support the systems to flourish and not to counter the individuals or the team.  
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Top 10 Agile Metrics for Successful Projects

A long-standing platitude says: “What gets measu... Read More