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The Personal Agile Transformation: An Agile Journey To Productivity

Much is made lately of the fact that some organizations are making the transformation to Agile, finding the greater emphasis on self-organizing teams, incremental deliverables and maximal business value compelling. However, whenever one reads about this transformation, it’s usually from the perspective of the organization and how Agile impacts it as a whole.  But while from the outside it would appear that an organization is some faceless monolithic structure, we know that it is comprised of living, breathing people who themselves deliver the goods and services that the organization provides. And so, it seems important to consider what the impact is on those who must deal with their own personal Agile transformation.  I have been performing traditional project management for over twenty years. I teach project management as well, and I’ve always been fond of telling my students that project management is, like accounting, a mature profession. Accountants talk about debits and credits and the only thing that really changes periodically is the tax code. The lingua franca of project management is, and for many years has been, artifacts such as Gantt charts and Work Breakdown Structures.  But to a great extent, the ground has started to shift under the feet of traditional (plan-driven or waterfall) project managers, especially in the last few years. This is because the Agile approach, initially defined in a manifesto in 2001, has really begun to establish itself in corporations. Not, I would say, to the extent that it is replacing traditional methods and not everywhere.  But significantly enough that project managers now need to be not only conversant in it but must also begin to consider being trained in it and getting some experience. (Its greater recognition in that bastion of traditional project management, PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge, Sixth Edition, is a fairly significant development).  On a personal level, I got my Certified Scrum Master certification in early 2013 but never used it, at least not initially. It wasn’t so much that I was opposed to Scrum as much as that I was working in traditional project management and hadn’t really witnessed first-hand the revolution under my own feet.  But gradually I began to realize that there was going to be a significant shift in the direction of the use of Agile and that in order to stay conversant – and, I might add employed – it would be necessary to start getting exposed to Agile projects and working in them. And in thinking about it, I realized that perhaps the very first thing I had to contend with in Agile was the fact that not only is the project manager role not quite as significant, in fact, there is no defined PM role as such. In the Scrum variant, there are only three defined roles – Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Development Team. When I got my Scrum certification, I realized even then that it was a different type of role. As a project manager, I might – and should – do all the planning with my team. But when it comes time to decide who did what and when, that was always my job. It is very much of a command and control structure. And not only did I expect to lead the team, the team expected to be led. But in Agile it’s quite different. In that role, I am much more of a facilitator or coach than I am a driver of the team. The team is self-organizing, meaning that while I can help remove impediments for them, it is not my job to tell them what to do as such. It is their job to figure out what to do as a team and for the Scrum Master to facilitate and coach. Find some useful tips on how to succeed with your Agile transformation below- This is a major shift, not only for the project manager but also for the team. For the project manager, he or she must stop being directive and start being facilitative. For a lot of PMs, this is a very challenging transition. They don’t know how not to direct. And as likely as not, if they have been a PM for a long time, they are very much used to using a scheduler such as MS Project. But a Scrum team doesn’t necessarily need such a tool, preferring workflow tools such as Jira to track progress. The challenge is that the traditional project manager must hold back on telling the team what to do when they ask. He or she can remove impediments when they arise. But his or her best advice when asked what a team member should do is “take it to the team.” In a sense, he or she has to rethink what he knows and throw some of his or her training out the window.  Be a Scrum Master, Not a Scrum Manager https://t.co/ohOBBzH5Lb #agile #scrum #dev @HyperRTs @DNR_CREW pic.twitter.com/XrmsCAdzwK — Seth G. (@Nicko_iCorplife) October 14, 2017 And it isn’t just the PM that may have a problem adapting to this new reality. Imagine the team member who is used to being told what to do in a hierarchical situation. Now he or she is faced with, to a certain extent, being self-directed. Some prefer not to go through this experience.  And while Agile can be used for a variety of projects, it still tends to be heavily used in software development environments. And some developers, for example, used to working alone, are now expected to meet every day not only with the team but with the business. For some, this is outside their comfort zone. I spoke to a woman at an Agile conference who advised me that several developers on her team asked to be moved or left the company when Agile came in. I think the main takeaway here is embracing change and adapting. (Ironically, hallmarks of Agile itself.) Some people just prefer to do things the way they’ve always done them. And then when change overtakes them – as surely it is doing in an Agile world – they are unable to make an adjustment and wind up on the outside looking in.  Once I realized that I needed to get into this world, I made this transition not only by getting trained but by adopting an Agile mindset. (Which is what Agile coaches help teams do.) I started reading everything I could get my hands on, networked as much as I could and then when the time came, leveraged that knowledge and my years in project management into a role within a company that, while Agile-ready, still saw the value of both approaches. And when I let go of the need to be in control – and realized I needed to be a coach and facilitator -  I found that things just fell into place.

The Personal Agile Transformation: An Agile Journey To Productivity

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The Personal Agile Transformation: An Agile Journey To Productivity

Much is made lately of the fact that some organizations are making the transformation to Agile, finding the greater emphasis on self-organizing teams, incremental deliverables and maximal business value compelling. However, whenever one reads about this transformation, it’s usually from the perspective of the organization and how Agile impacts it as a whole. 

But while from the outside it would appear that an organization is some faceless monolithic structure, we know that it is comprised of living, breathing people who themselves deliver the goods and services that the organization provides. And so, it seems important to consider what the impact is on those who must deal with their own personal Agile transformation. 

I have been performing traditional project management for over twenty years. I teach project management as well, and I’ve always been fond of telling my students that project management is, like accounting, a mature profession. Accountants talk about debits and credits and the only thing that really changes periodically is the tax code. The lingua franca of project management is, and for many years has been, artifacts such as Gantt charts and Work Breakdown Structures. 


But to a great extent, the ground has started to shift under the feet of traditional (plan-driven or waterfall) project managers, especially in the last few years. This is because the Agile approach, initially defined in a manifesto in 2001, has really begun to establish itself in corporations. Not, I would say, to the extent that it is replacing traditional methods and not everywhere. 

But significantly enough that project managers now need to be not only conversant in it but must also begin to consider being trained in it and getting some experience. (Its greater recognition in that bastion of traditional project management, PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge, Sixth Edition, is a fairly significant development). 

On a personal level, I got my Certified Scrum Master certification in early 2013 but never used it, at least not initially. It wasn’t so much that I was opposed to Scrum as much as that I was working in traditional project management and hadn’t really witnessed first-hand the revolution under my own feet. 

But gradually I began to realize that there was going to be a significant shift in the direction of the use of Agile and that in order to stay conversant – and, I might add employed – it would be necessary to start getting exposed to Agile projects and working in them.



And in thinking about it, I realized that perhaps the very first thing I had to contend with in Agile was the fact that not only is the project manager role not quite as significant, in fact, there is no defined PM role as such. In the Scrum variant, there are only three defined roles – Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Development Team.

When I got my Scrum certification, I realized even then that it was a different type of role. As a project manager, I might – and should – do all the planning with my team. But when it comes time to decide who did what and when, that was always my job. It is very much of a command and control structure. And not only did I expect to lead the team, the team expected to be led.

But in Agile it’s quite different. In that role, I am much more of a facilitator or coach than I am a driver of the team. The team is self-organizing, meaning that while I can help remove impediments for them, it is not my job to tell them what to do as such. It is their job to figure out what to do as a team and for the Scrum Master to facilitate and coach.

Find some useful tips on how to succeed with your Agile transformation below-



This is a major shift, not only for the project manager but also for the team. For the project manager, he or she must stop being directive and start being facilitative. For a lot of PMs, this is a very challenging transition. They don’t know how not to direct. And as likely as not, if they have been a PM for a long time, they are very much used to using a scheduler such as MS Project. But a Scrum team doesn’t necessarily need such a tool, preferring workflow tools such as Jira to track progress.

The challenge is that the traditional project manager must hold back on telling the team what to do when they ask. He or she can remove impediments when they arise. But his or her best advice when asked what a team member should do is “take it to the team.” In a sense, he or she has to rethink what he knows and throw some of his or her training out the window. 

And it isn’t just the PM that may have a problem adapting to this new reality. Imagine the team member who is used to being told what to do in a hierarchical situation. Now he or she is faced with, to a certain extent, being self-directed. Some prefer not to go through this experience. 

And while Agile can be used for a variety of projects, it still tends to be heavily used in software development environments. And some developers, for example, used to working alone, are now expected to meet every day not only with the team but with the business. For some, this is outside their comfort zone. I spoke to a woman at an Agile conference who advised me that several developers on her team asked to be moved or left the company when Agile came in.

I think the main takeaway here is embracing change and adapting. (Ironically, hallmarks of Agile itself.) Some people just prefer to do things the way they’ve always done them. And then when change overtakes them – as surely it is doing in an Agile world – they are unable to make an adjustment and wind up on the outside looking in. 

Once I realized that I needed to get into this world, I made this transition not only by getting trained but by adopting an Agile mindset. (Which is what Agile coaches help teams do.) I started reading everything I could get my hands on, networked as much as I could and then when the time came, leveraged that knowledge and my years in project management into a role within a company that, while Agile-ready, still saw the value of both approaches. And when I let go of the need to be in control – and realized I needed to be a coach and facilitator -  I found that things just fell into place.

Jim

Jim Stewart

Blog author

Since 2003, as a principal of JP Stewart Associates, Jim has been engaged in multiple endeavors including consulting, training and mentoring. A PMP since 2001 and Certified Scrum Master since 2013, he provides PMP Prep training both in public and private in-house sessions. In consulting, he frequently contributes by helping organizations increase their project maturity. He recently consulted to a financial services firm to help them set up a project management office. Jim is on the PM advisory board of MindEdge, Inc. and is co-author of the upcoming book, “Facilitating Project Planning Meetings: A Practical Guide to Ensuring Project Success.”

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How To Define Features in Agile Methodology?

Agile projects are known for their simple, iterative approach to cutting through the complexity. Even the most ambitious of Agile projects is taken one step at a time and breaks down complex work packages and tasks into low-level subtasks. Features and capabilities that are needed in the finished product are listed out, and then broken down to manageable chunks which are taken up and completed, one at a time.In this article, we will talk about Features in an Agile project. What are the characteristics of features and how are they applied? How do you build a feature list, and what are the advantages of breaking down features into user stories? Read on to find out!Agile projects are known for their simple, iterative approach to cutting through the complexity. Even the most ambitious of Agile projects is taken one step at a time and breaks down complex work packages and tasks into low-level subtasks. Features and capabilities that are needed in the finished product are listed out, and then broken down to manageable chunks which are taken up and completed, one at a time.In this article, we will talk about Features in an Agile project. What are the characteristics of features and how are they applied? How do you build a feature list, and what are the advantages of breaking down features into user stories? Read on to find out!What is a feature in Agile methodology?A feature is a service or function of the product that delivers business value and fulfils the customer’s need. Each feature is broken down into several user stories, as it is usually too big to be worked on directly. A user story is an informal, short description of a part of a software feature that is written from the user’s perspective and talks about how this particular bit of the feature will offer something of value.Why use features in Scrum and not only user stories?A feature is something that is sizeable enough to deliver measurable value to customers and creates a large chunk of functionality. Features are used to describe the functionality at a macro level, and they are required to create schedules and plan the high-level release of the product.Scrum works on the premise of short development cycles called Sprints, which usually last between 2 weeks and a month but not longer. One feature is typically completed over several sprints. In one sprint, only several user stories can be completed and not, perhaps, an entire feature.What’s the difference between features and epics in Agile?The product backlog is usually detailed into three levels of complexity with respect to tasks. Epics are large quantities of related work that can be broken down into features. A feature, as we have seen, is a service or function that delivers value to the end user. Each feature is broken down into a number of smaller and simpler tasks known as user stories. Do note that for a smaller project, with only around 8 to 10 people on the team, the product backlog may be divided into just features and user stories. Epics come into the picture for large projects with multiple teams who are working over a duration of several years.Who writes the features in Scrum, and what are the steps involved?The Scrum Guide, considered to be the Bible for all things Scrum, does not lay out any guidelines for the use of features.However, Scaled Agile, Inc. indicates that the Product Manager is the owner of the Features, which is to say, he or she finally decides what goes into the feature and what is its priority on the Backlog. The features are not necessarily written by the Product Manager, however, and this could be done by others on the team.On many teams, the Product Manager and the Product Owner are one and the same.There are several steps in the definition and writing of features. Define the WHY, or the benefit hypothesis: What is the functionality that the users gain from the feature? What are the benefits to be gained from implementing this feature? Calculate the business value: Keep in mind the number of users, how often each of them uses the feature, what is the timeframe within which the feature must be released for it to be useful, and how much effort goes into developing this feature. All these together will help to determine the ROI of the feature and ultimately whether it is worth the effort and cost. Features that bring in the most benefit at least cost will be prioritised. Describe the feature: What is the context and how will it be used? What is the need for the feature? Try to include technical details and any information that is important from the Product Manager’s point of view. Write down the acceptance criteria: What are the conditions under which the feature can be deemed to be done? This will help to reduce any ambiguity and mark work progress. How big should the product features be?While there is no hard and fast rule on this, and it is left largely to the convenience of project teams, it is generally agreed that it should be possible to complete a feature within a maximum of three months. When using SAFe, a feature is released in one single program increment. Teams that are working with investor funding and are getting the funds at regular cycles should be able to showcase a completed feature during each investment cycle, in order to demonstrate that they are progressing on track. What are feature points?Feature points represent the amount of the work complexity, effort taken, and knowledge required to complete one feature. They are the same as story points, but in the context of a feature rather than a user story.What are features called in different Agile Methodologies?A feature, while essentially having the same definition, could be called by different terms in different Agile methodologies. In Scrum, a feature is often referred to as a Backlog Item.   In XP, features are called Stories. DSDM terms a feature as a requirement. This could club together several system features. Agile UP defines features in the form of requirements and use cases.What are the characteristics of features?To be effective, a feature should always Offer measurable business value,   Contain enough information to allow for estimation of the work involved, Be small enough to be completed within a program increment or maximum of three months,   Be testable by the scrum team and the product management team.Feature breakdown structure (FBS)When getting into the nitty gritty of detailed planning, agile development uses a feature breakdown structure (FBS) approach that breaks down each feature into smaller, more manageable units of work. This allows easier communication between the customer and the development team, where both can understand each other well in a way that leaves no room for ambiguity. It also helps to track the progress of work against the value that is created. Over time and as the work progresses, the larger features can be broken into smaller features, instead of doing this breakdown all together in the beginning. This way, details are not fleshed out until the time when they are actually needed for design and delivery. Building an initial feature listAt the very start, before the release planning and iteration planning can happen, the team must sit together and list out as many potential features for the system as possible at this stage. Feature requests can come from many sources, and one person should be allocated to collate all these requests. While this could be the product manager, it could also be a customer proxy, a business analyst or someone who is responsible and accountable to the team. The team should refine these requirements, weeding out duplicate items, features that are not possible to implement, and requests that are very vague. As the features are identified, they are added to the list so that they can become a part of the planning processes. This initial feature list can be considered to be a preliminary outline that can be used as input to chart out the release and first iteration. It is not required to wait until all features are defined before getting started on the actual work, and it is also understood that the original list, descriptions, and priorities will evolve over time. Instead of waiting for everything to get detailed out at the outset, the team can get to work with the initial list without wasting any valuable time. As new features which could be critical get identified, they are simply added into the evolving release plan and will get delivered during a subsequent iteration. As the project progresses, the work adapts itself to accommodate new priorities, additional information from stakeholders, and the changing industry dynamics.Advantages of breaking down features into smaller user storiesUser stories, as we have learnt, represent smaller chunks of work while features represent fully formed functionalities of the product. There are many advantages to breaking down the features into functionalities, and the main ones are these: Stories narrow down the focus: Stories are small, doable portions of the work that do not overwhelm the developer. They represent an entire piece of functionality, however small it is, and so can measure incremental progress. Stories fit into a sprint: Features are too large to be completed within a sprint, but stories can be finished within this duration. This allows more efficient scheduling and planning of sprint tasks. Stories capture both intent and outcome: A product manager (who is not required to be technically fluent) can easily describe the outcome of a story to the developer, so that he or she can understand the intent. Stories mitigate the risk: As big stories come with a lot more complexity, they also involve more risk. When features are broken down into smaller stories, this risk is mitigated. Anny erroneous assumptions can be curtailed within a few days rather than several weeks into development. Feature vs. task planningFeatures come into play at a macro level of planning, and it is essential that at a later point they will need to be broken down into tasks and estimated. This is done during sprint planning and release planning.Feature planning and estimates help to schedule releases and iterations. Task planning and estimates help to allocate resources and plan the tasks within an iteration.Since the nature of agile project plans is always fluid and not very precise, feature estimates need not exactly map to a number of task estimates, but there should be a rough approximation between the two.
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How To Define Features in Agile Methodology?

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What Is a Safe Product Owner?

The Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) is, in the words of Dean Leffingwell, Creator of SAFe: “a knowledge base of proven, integrated principles, practices, and competencies for achieving business agility using Lean, Agile, and DevOps.”  © Scaled Agile, Inc. Using SAFe, the process of scaling Agile across a large-scale enterprise can be streamlined. SAFe details out organizational workflows that enhance productivity and employee engagement and ensure customer delight through quick deliveries of quality products.  A key role on a SAFe team is played by the Product Owner. In this blog, you will understand the role of a SAFe Product Owner, and how it relates to that of a Scrum Product Owner. You will also understand the SAFe Product Owner’s role with respect to that of a SAFe Product Manager.What is a SAFe Product Owner?The SAFe Product Owner is the member of the team who works as the voice of the customer. He or she liaises with Product Management and other POs, besides other stakeholders, to define and list out stories in the Team Backlog and order them as per priority.  In an ideal situation, the SAFe PO is in the same office as the rest of the team. However, with today’s distributed teams, this does not always happen. One PO can support up to two Agile teams, at the most. The SAFe PO works with the SAFe Product Manager, who maintains the overall product vision. Key Role & Responsibilities of a SAFe Product OwnerThe main responsibilities of the SAFe PO extend across the team, and even beyond that to participate in Product Management events, where he or she will help to plan and create the Program vision and refine the Program Backlog. The following are the main responsibilities of the SAFe PO: 1. PI PlanningThe PO plays a significant role as a member of the larger Product Management team and has to participate in the events during Program Increment (PI) planning. The activity of program backlog refinement also requires every PO’s participation and close involvement. Before the event, the PO will keep the team backlog updated and will contribute to creating the vision and charting out the roadmap.When the planning event is in progress, the PO should be at hand to give clarity wherever needed. The entire SAFe team will work to map out the team’s PI objectives for the upcoming PI.2. During the IterationDuring the iteration execution, the PO holds extremely critical responsibilities:The PO builds, updates and maintains the team backlog, with updates from all stakeholders and the team. Reviewing and ordering the team backlog as a precursor to the Iteration Planning event is the responsibility of the PO. For this, they may need to coordinate dependencies with other POs.During the Iteration Planning event, the PO gives clarity of user story details, and is around to ensure alignment and concurrence on a final iteration plan. While the team elaborates on the backlog items and creates stories, the PO keeps track of the flow and maintains priorities. POs work with the team to flesh out each story, adding acceptance criteria and acceptance tests, applying Behaviour-Driven Development (BDD) practices. As the work progresses, the PO will work closely with the team to agree on the completion of accepted stories. and see whether they meet the Definition of Done and quality standards that have been laid down. The PO does not need to be a technical expert but should be able to understand the scope of the work that is coming up. He or she should collaborate with the engineers to assist in making decisions and sequencing the technological infrastructures that will enable the business functionality. During team demos, the PO coordinates between the team and stakeholders who are present.   They also participate in events such as the Iteration Retrospective and the Agile Release Train’s Inspect & Adapt workshop, providing the customer’s perspective on the work progress.3. During the Program ExecutionDuring each PI, the PO will connect with other POs to check and coordinate other dependencies, ensuring smooth work progress without any hiccups. They will sync up typically during weekly events. Additionally, POs play a valuable role in creating the System Demo for all the stakeholders involved in the program value stream. 4. Inspection and AdaptationThe Inspect and Adapt (I&A) workshop is held to address any large impediments to smooth progress. During this event, the PO works across teams to see how best to improve processes and increase team velocity and quality. During the I&A workshop, the PO participates in and holds the PI system demo for program stakeholders.SAFe Product Owner vs Scrum Product OwnerBefore we get into the differences in the roles and responsibilities of a SAFe Product Owner and a Scrum Product Owner, we need to also understand a third and more prominent role on a SAFe team: that of the SAFe Product Manager. The SAFe Product Manager is someone who works with several SAFe teams, typically two to four, and owns the Program Backlog—which gives him or her an overall view of the entire project (or the big picture).  The table below talks about the differences in the roles played by a SAFe Product Owner and a Scrum Product Owner.SAFe Product OwnerScrum Product OwnerBacklog ItemsA SAFe Product Owner undertakes the responsibility for the Team Backlog. This lists all the requirements (Backlog items) for the team.A Scrum Product Owner undertakes the responsibility for the Product Backlog. This is a prioritised list of all the requirements for the product.Number of teams they supportA SAFe Product Owner can serve, at most, two teams.A Scrum Product Owner can work with two or more teams.Vision and roadmapA SAFe Product Manager, not the SAFe Product Owner, defines the features and owns the vision and roadmap. A SAFe Product Manager is someone who works with two to four SAFe Product Owners. He or she will have an overall view of the entire program. As such, the SAFe Product Owner exerts less authority than the Scrum Product Owner.Scrum Product Owner defines the features and owns the vision and roadmap. So, as we can see, the Scrum Product Owner undertakes responsibilities that combine those of the SAFe Product Owner and the SAFe Product Manager (but to a smaller scale as the project is typically smaller).Who has the final say on the product?A SAFe Product Owner does not have a final say on what must be done for a certain Product. This is done by the SAFe Product Manager, who is the final authority and owns the vision and roadmap on a SAFe project.It is the Scrum Product Manager who has the final say on what needs to be done for the product.SimilaritiesJust like the Scrum PO, the SAFe Product Owner is also a core member of the team.  He or she is the customer proxy on the team, ensuring that the vision is always kept in focus.They have the responsibility of the Backlog- the Team Backlog in the case of the SAFe PO, and the Product Backlog in the case of the Scrum PO.Both POs work on prioritising the tasks that the team will take up next, guiding them on the relative importance of the stories.Again, both the SAFe PO and the Scrum PO work toward maximizing the product value.They keep an eye on the goal for the next iteration.They participate in reflections and inspect and adapt during and after each iteration.The two roles take part in the Planning, Retrospective and Review of an Iteration in SAFe/ Sprint in Scrum in a similar way.Can one person do both roles in SAFe; that of the Product Owner and Product Manager?The PO and the PM roles are completely distinct in SAFe, and each comes with its own set of responsibilities.There is a different focus for each role: The PM’s role is cantered on the benefits to the customer and the organisation. He or she is also the person with whom the business owners and members of the ART (Agile Release Train) connect. POs always have the needs of their own Agile team in focus.  Product Owners and Product Managers work together collaboratively to understand the customer’s needs and work toward fulfilling them. The flow of information is from the customer to the PM, and then down to the POs and their team members. The POs and PMs meet up at all ART or PO planning and sync up events and stay aligned with the same set of overarching goals. As we have seen, one person cannot undertake the roles of the SAFe Product Owner and the SAFe Product Manager at the same time. POs and PMs must at all times be connected, and work in tandem to deliver a successful product; however, having one person playing both roles is a sure route to disaster!  The last word… The SAFe Product Owner plays a role that is at the core of SAFe, setting up the product strategy, getting deep into customer requirements, and prioritizing the features as per their importance. They hold the responsibility of ensuring customer delight, even as they keep a pulse on the economic value that is to be derived from the product.  In the end, SAFe is all about giving the larger enterprise a framework for scaling Agile — to build better products, respond to volatile markets, and keep in step with emerging technologies — and without the Product Owner’s expertise, all this will fall short. 
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What Is a Safe Product Owner?

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Scrum Software for the Ultimate Project Management

Technology has made our lives easier. The number of tools and devices we have at our disposal has made our lives more productive and our work more efficient. The Agile software development methodology has been adopted by several organizations to improve their adaptability, responsiveness, and productivity.  How can we improve the way we incorporate Agile Scrum into our projects? Scrum tools can be the answer. Just like the other gadgets in our lives, Scrum software and tools help improve the productivity of our teams, keep stakeholders happy and help us deliver better products. Before we jump into the use and needs of Scrum software and tools let us understand more about Scrum roles and how they work.Three essential roles for Scrum successThe Scrum Guide defines three pillars of a Scrum team, which include:The Scrum MasterThe Product OwnerThe Development TeamThe Scrum team is a small unit which is self-organised and works towards achieving the same goal; that is, the development and deployment of the product and customer satisfaction.The Scrum Product OwnerThe Scrum Product Owner is among the most essential roles in the Scrum team and acts as a bridge between the stakeholders and the development team. More involved with the business side of the software development process, the PO represents the customer and can be considered as their proxy.  The Product Owner defines the product vision, and, along with the Scrum Master and the development team works towards delivering a product that matches stakeholder needs.The Scrum MasterThe Scrum Master is the servant leader whose main responsibility is to ensure that the Scrum team can perform to the best of its abilities. They do this by overseeing the day-to-day activities of the Scrum team and removing any impediments that may hinder the productivity of the development team. The Scrum Master facilitates stakeholder collaboration along with the product owner and ensures that teams can handle complex environments and deliver projects successfully.The Scrum development teamThe development team generally consists of three to nine people, according to the Scrum Guide. These would include developers, testers, designers and more. The team is allowed to take decisions and decide the length of the sprint and how they will go about it. The development team collaborates to create a high-quality product increment at the end of each sprint that is as per the expectations of the stakeholders.Scrum ceremonies or eventsScrum has five formal events as defined by the Scrum Guide. These events help to validate the Scrum artifacts and implementing them helps enhance transparency. The events are also called ceremonies and are:Sprint PlanningDaily ScrumSprint ReviewSprint RetrospectiveThe SprintWhat Does A Scrum Tool Do?What would you need a good Scrum tool to do? Make your life easier by making processes more efficient and less cumbersome, help you deliver quality products without making a huge dent on your budget, right?  With Scrum topping the popularity charts for Agile project management methodologies, the need for efficient Scrum tools has risen. 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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