Search

Top Tools And Techniques For A Better Product Vision and Discovery

Understanding the customer needs and developing a product which helps fulfill those needs, defines the usability of the product. With varied perceptions of the underlying problems, assumptions over customer behavior and cognitive bias for a solution, it may get cumbersome to determine the right product that delivers value.To develop a usable product, it is important for all involved in product discovery to collaborate and develop a common vision, strategic goals and shared understanding. A meaningful product discovery helps to map problems to potential solutions, and potential solutions to expected results.In this article, we will discover ways that can help teams with determining the key objectives and developing a common vision for the product. Opportunity canvasCreated by Jeff Patton; author of book “User Story Mapping” and inspired by Marty Cagan’s work on Opportunity Assessment template, the Opportunity Canvas is an exploration and collaboration tool that brings all related information in a single canvas view. Be it a product idea, a new feature in your existing product or a problem with an unexplored solution, the opportunity canvas enables you to collaborate, discuss and assess the opportunity at hand.When to use it?Opportunity canvas is a useful at the time of product discovery. In your quest to explore and develop an understanding of certain business processes and customer needs, opportunity canvas can be a great starting point. As a product discovery tool, the opportunity canvas could be drawn on a whiteboard or printed on a sheet, as convenient. The ideas could be filled in with sticky notes, pictures, workflow, and text.Who should be involved?Anyone who can contribute to the opportunity and product discovery. In case you are following the Scrum framework, this could be represented as an interaction between the Product owner, development team and any other invited Stakeholders.How to use?Decide a place, a few markers, sticky-notes, papers, whiteboard, and all that you need to express your thoughts. Bring in the people who could contribute or hold a stake in your solution and begin from the first section till the end as indicated in the canvas template. If you have drawn the opportunity canvas on a bigger board, you can paste your sticky-notes.The below infographic shows the product roadmap to deliver a high-quality product successfully.Section 1: Start with a problem or the ideaYou have a problem to solve, that may be impeding your business; manual work, product issues, inefficient processes, customer retention & growth challenges or disruptive competition. Start with it. OR You have an idea that offers something new to your customers, which they haven’t experienced as yet. You believe your solution idea is disruptive and may change how the things are structured. Start with that.Section 2: Users and CustomersIdentify users and customers; describe their challenges that you are trying to address through this opportunity. The user and customers can either be the same group of people or different depending on the product. In general, customers are users who pay a cost for certain desired services e.g. premium accounts; unlike users who may be interested in basic or free offerings.Identify the type of users and their distinct goals. Section 3: What solutions exist today?Discover what happens today. How users are working around the given problem. This will highlight the limitations of the current solution and as you discover this, you may come across more problems that may be hampering your customersSection 4: Business ChallengesThe challenges faced by users and customers are likely to impact your business. Persistent issues may disengage the users from your product and services. They may open opportunities for competition; which is a risk of losing business.In the case of manual and time consuming repeatable efforts to serve customer needs, your staff may be constantly engaged in firefighting and have little opportunity to innovate and improve; it’s a growth risk. Discover how different challenges faced by customers are hurting your business?Section 5. How will users use your solution?As you discuss the problems and challenges or ponder upon an idea, you will discover potential solutions. In this section, think about how the user will interact with this potential solution? How will this solution impact the user behavior? And how do you expect users to benefit from it?Section 6. User MetricsHow do you know if a given solution works well or not? Defining user metrics will help set objectives to measure the usability of the product. Based on the user behavior as gathered in the Section 5 above, think about the indicators that will help measure the degree of acceptance of your solution. How will you know that users find value in your solution?For example:You may want to know if your product is engaging the customers i.e. indicated by how much time they spend on your product and if they revisit or;If the lead time of a customer request will significantly reduce by using your product i.e. time spent to complete a task vs expected time in a future state with your solutionSection 7. Adoption StrategyThink about how customers will discover your solution. What channels may draw customers to your product. For instance, it could be either referral from existing customers or marketing through media. If your solution is for internal usage of the organization, think about how you will help users to migrate from their existing methods to a new solution.Section 8. Business benefits and metricsOnce the users have adopted your solution; what impact is it likely to make to your business? And what are the parameters to measure that? The solution may be expected to generate outcomes like direct revenue growth through an increase in customer base; or remedy a loss-making business process.Section 9: BudgetThis section helps you evaluate and compare the proposed solution to any alternatives, based on economic feasibility. What are the implications of not addressing the problem? If the proposed solution is applied, what benefit it may bring to business in monetary terms? What budget may an organization allocate to experiment, learn and validate any assumptions about the proposed solution?At the end of this exercise, you may expect some of the following outcomesA high-level roadmap for your productA Shared understanding of the problem and solutionStrategic goals for the businessIdentified users and customersAlternative approachesA vision of a solutionOnce you have gathered your thoughts and have developed a shared understanding, it’s useful to summarize it and form a vision that group can stick and look up to in the course of building the solution.Vision statementA concise, compelling and unambiguous vision helps the team to remain focused on its product goals. A vision should define the product objectives, its intended customers, value proposition and differentiating factor from competitor’s product, or a predecessor product or workflow that you intend to replace.The elevator pitch mentioned in Geoffrey Moore’s book “Crossing the Chasm”, is a popular template to define a product vision.TemplateConstituentsTarget customerDefine the target customer for your product. If you have used an opportunity canvas to explore your users and customers, those will go here.ProblemSummarize the core challenges faced by the customer.Product nameWrite the name of the product. You don’t need to spend too much time on choosing a name at the beginning. Just put an identifier codename.Product categoryDefine the type of the product. A website or a mobile application or service, as applicable.Key benefitsMention the key features of your product that align with the value desired by the target customers.AlternativeName and comparable feature of a product that you are competing against. In case your product is meant for internal consumption and replaces either a manual process or a legacy application, describe that here.Key differenceExpress how your product is different from the competition and highlight the benefits.ExampleSummaryIn summary, the tools like Opportunity canvas and Vision statement help all involved in product discovery to identify customers, define key objectives and measurable outcomes through collaboration and shared understanding. The opportunity canvas takes you through a journey to explore and discover the challenges and solutions, and helps you define a product roadmap. The vision statements, on the other hand, lets you summarize your key objectives in a concise, unambiguous way to keep you focused.Hope you enjoyed reading the article. Please share your views and feedback.
Rated 4.0/5 based on 2 customer reviews

Top Tools And Techniques For A Better Product Vision and Discovery

852
Top Tools And Techniques For A Better Product Vision and Discovery

Understanding the customer needs and developing a product which helps fulfill those needs, defines the usability of the product. With varied perceptions of the underlying problems, assumptions over customer behavior and cognitive bias for a solution, it may get cumbersome to determine the right product that delivers value.

To develop a usable product, it is important for all involved in product discovery to collaborate and develop a common vision, strategic goals and shared understanding. A meaningful product discovery helps to map problems to potential solutions, and potential solutions to expected results.

In this article, we will discover ways that can help teams with determining the key objectives and developing a common vision for the product.
 
Opportunity canvas
Opportunity canvasCreated by Jeff Patton; author of book “User Story Mapping” and inspired by Marty Cagan’s work on Opportunity Assessment template, the Opportunity Canvas is an exploration and collaboration tool that brings all related information in a single canvas view. Be it a product idea, a new feature in your existing product or a problem with an unexplored solution, the opportunity canvas enables you to collaborate, discuss and assess the opportunity at hand.

OpportunityWhen to use it?

Opportunity canvas is a useful at the time of product discovery. In your quest to explore and develop an understanding of certain business processes and customer needs, opportunity canvas can be a great starting point. As a product discovery tool, the opportunity canvas could be drawn on a whiteboard or printed on a sheet, as convenient. The ideas could be filled in with sticky notes, pictures, workflow, and text.

Who should be involved?

Anyone who can contribute to the opportunity and product discovery. In case you are following the Scrum framework, this could be represented as an interaction between the Product owner, development team and any other invited Stakeholders.

How to use?

Decide a place, a few markers, sticky-notes, papers, whiteboard, and all that you need to express your thoughts. Bring in the people who could contribute or hold a stake in your solution and begin from the first section till the end as indicated in the canvas template. If you have drawn the opportunity canvas on a bigger board, you can paste your sticky-notes.

The below infographic shows the product roadmap to deliver a high-quality product successfully.
canvas templateSection 1: Start with a problem or the idea

You have a problem to solve, that may be impeding your business; manual work, product issues, inefficient processes, customer retention & growth challenges or disruptive competition. Start with it.
 
OR
 
You have an idea that offers something new to your customers, which they haven’t experienced as yet. You believe your solution idea is disruptive and may change how the things are structured. Start with that.

Section 2: Users and Customers

Identify users and customers; describe their challenges that you are trying to address through this opportunity. The user and customers can either be the same group of people or different depending on the product. In general, customers are users who pay a cost for certain desired services e.g. premium accounts; unlike users who may be interested in basic or free offerings.

Identify the type of users and their distinct goals.
 
Section 3: What solutions exist today?

Discover what happens today. How users are working around the given problem. This will highlight the limitations of the current solution and as you discover this, you may come across more problems that may be hampering your customers

Section 4: Business Challenges

The challenges faced by users and customers are likely to impact your business. Persistent issues may disengage the users from your product and services. They may open opportunities for competition; which is a risk of losing business.

In the case of manual and time consuming repeatable efforts to serve customer needs, your staff may be constantly engaged in firefighting and have little opportunity to innovate and improve; it’s a growth risk. Discover how different challenges faced by customers are hurting your business?

Section 5. How will users use your solution?

As you discuss the problems and challenges or ponder upon an idea, you will discover potential solutions. In this section, think about how the user will interact with this potential solution? How will this solution impact the user behavior? And how do you expect users to benefit from it?

Section 6. User Metrics

How do you know if a given solution works well or not? Defining user metrics will help set objectives to measure the usability of the product. Based on the user behavior as gathered in the Section 5 above, think about the indicators that will help measure the degree of acceptance of your solution. How will you know that users find value in your solution?

For example:

  • You may want to know if your product is engaging the customers i.e. indicated by how much time they spend on your product and if they revisit or;
  • If the lead time of a customer request will significantly reduce by using your product i.e. time spent to complete a task vs expected time in a future state with your solution

Section 7. Adoption Strategy

Think about how customers will discover your solution. What channels may draw customers to your product. For instance, it could be either referral from existing customers or marketing through media. If your solution is for internal usage of the organization, think about how you will help users to migrate from their existing methods to a new solution.

Section 8. Business benefits and metrics

Once the users have adopted your solution; what impact is it likely to make to your business? And what are the parameters to measure that? The solution may be expected to generate outcomes like direct revenue growth through an increase in customer base; or remedy a loss-making business process.

Section 9: Budget

This section helps you evaluate and compare the proposed solution to any alternatives, based on economic feasibility. What are the implications of not addressing the problem? If the proposed solution is applied, what benefit it may bring to business in monetary terms? What budget may an organization allocate to experiment, learn and validate any assumptions about the proposed solution?
At the end of this exercise, you may expect some of the following outcomes

  • A high-level roadmap for your product
  • A Shared understanding of the problem and solution
  • Strategic goals for the business
  • Identified users and customers
  • Alternative approaches
  • A vision of a solution

Once you have gathered your thoughts and have developed a shared understanding, it’s useful to summarize it and form a vision that group can stick and look up to in the course of building the solution.

Vision statement
A concise, compelling and unambiguous vision helps the team to remain focused on its product goals. A vision should define the product objectives, its intended customers, value proposition and differentiating factor from competitor’s product, or a predecessor product or workflow that you intend to replace.

The elevator pitch mentioned in Geoffrey Moore’s book “Crossing the Chasm”, is a popular template to define a product vision.

Template
formatConstituents

Target customer

Define the target customer for your product. If you have used an opportunity canvas to explore your users and customers, those will go here.

Problem

Summarize the core challenges faced by the customer.

Product name

Write the name of the product. You don’t need to spend too much time on choosing a name at the beginning. Just put an identifier codename.

Product category
Define the type of the product. A website or a mobile application or service, as applicable.

Key benefits

Mention the key features of your product that align with the value desired by the target customers.

Alternative

Name and comparable feature of a product that you are competing against. In case your product is meant for internal consumption and replaces either a manual process or a legacy application, describe that here.

Key difference
Express how your product is different from the competition and highlight the benefits.

Example
exampleSummary

In summary, the tools like Opportunity canvas and Vision statement help all involved in product discovery to identify customers, define key objectives and measurable outcomes through collaboration and shared understanding. The opportunity canvas takes you through a journey to explore and discover the challenges and solutions, and helps you define a product roadmap. The vision statements, on the other hand, lets you summarize your key objectives in a concise, unambiguous way to keep you focused.


Hope you enjoyed reading the article. Please share your views and feedback.

Ritesh

Ritesh Mehrotra

Blog Author

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Suggested Blogs

Sprint Backlog and the Scrum Sprint

If you are in Scrum, you will hear the word ‘Sprint’ day in and out! You may have heard this word being used in sports by athletes. But if it is something related to sports, then why are we using it in IT?  Well, even scrum has been derived from rugby! So, what exactly is Sprint in our IT industry? The Scrum framework has various components like events, ceremonies, and artifacts, all these components are tied to a timeline called ‘Sprint’. Sprint is a timebox during which the development team creates and delivers the solution to the client.  Sprint defines a period that is focused on brainstoarming, solutions, and delivering a quality product. The timebox or period can differ based on the nature of work and expected delivery. In this article, we will talk about Sprint backlog and the Sprint. Not only will this help you in creating a healthy backlog,but you will also learn about various techniques for estimating and prioritizing your bucket. What is Sprint Backlog and how to create it? The sprint backlog is a list of items that the team commits in a Sprint. It consists of user stories, bugs, enhancements, or any requirement that is related to the product. The sprint backlog is derived from the product backlog hence you can term Sprint backlog as a subset of the Product backlog.  The development teams can use Excel or any agile tool to create their Sprint backlog. With the timebox, known as Sprint, the scrum team utilizes sometime during the first day of the sprint to plan out the roadmap for the entire sprint; usually, this is four hours for a sprint of 10 working days. The team pulls the high priority item from the product backlog, discusses the solution, the risks and the challenges and comes to an agreement together as a team and makes a commitment. They do this activity till the time backlog fills as per the capacity or the intended velocity. When is the Sprint backlog created? The Sprint is initiated with the Sprint planning meeting. This can be seen askick-off for a new timeline. The Scrum team uses the ceremony called “Sprint Planning” to come up with the Sprint Backlog. Usually, the sprint planning meeting goes on for about 4 hours for a two-week sprint with the team size between 7 to 9 members.  The planning ceremony is divided into 2 parts. The first part focuses on building up the backlog, ordering the items as per the priority, and adding an estimate. In the second part, the team takes care of all the details that would be required to complete the Sprint goal. The sprint backlog is one of the outputs from the Sprint planning meeting, it helps the team to stay focused Sprint.Sprint Backlog connection with the sprint ceremoniesAgile talks about planning at every layer, whether it is the strategy, portfolio, product, release, iteration, or daily planning. Let us look at the connection of Sprint backlog with different scrum ceremonies.Sprint PlanningAgile talks about planning at every layer, whether it is the strategy, portfolio, product, release, iteration, or daily planning. Let us look at the connection of Sprint backlog with different scrum ceremonies.Daily standupThe scrum team uses the daily standup to discuss progress on this sprint goal. In this meeting, they talk about the backlog items, what has been done so far, what backlog items the team will pull next and if there are any blockages in their way. Every day the scrum team meets in front of the Sprint backlog. It can be in the form of a tool or a whiteboard with sticky representing different work items and use this Sprint board as the base for the meeting. This not only helps them to stay on track, but it also helps them to foresee any risk, challenge, or an impediment that can hamper the progress of the sprint.Sprint review This is when the Scrum Team showcases their work to the stakeholders. The team gives the demo on the finished items from the sprint backlog. In other words, whatever work was committed in the Sprint backlog gets demoed in the sprint review meeting. Sprint retrospective During the sprint retrospective meeting the team brainstorms on what went well, what did not, and how can they make it better next time. Here we can talk about the best practices that helped them deliver requirements on time with quality.  They can refer to the Sprint backlog to talk about creating better requirements and even better estimations. In my experience, I have seen individuals applauding their team members for good work done on the sprint backlog.    Creation of the Sprint Backlog Who creates or owns a Sprint Backlog? Creating a Sprint backlog is a joint effort from the team, the product owner, and the scrum master. Together, they come up with a plan, discuss the implementation and the ownership lies with the Scrum team. When the Sprint backlog has been created and the team has committed to a Sprint goal, no one except the development team change the sprint backlog.How often should it be updated? What happens if it isn’t updated properly?Keeping the sprint backlog updated is important for the success of this sprint. It not only provides transparency, but it also helps the team in managing their ongoing work. The development team should update the Sprint backlog continuously as and when the work is done, or if they move to a different requirement or story.Many teams update their Sprint backlog during the daily standup meeting. It is advisable to update the sprint backlog at least once per day. In case the team has not been updating the sprint backlog, the burndown chart gets impacted and it will not reflect the correct picture.The team checks and updates the Sprint Backlog during the Sprint, keeping the Sprint Goal intact. They will thus know whether they will be able to finish the Product Backlog items they picked for the Sprint.What does Sprint Backlog contain?Sprint backlog contains the product backlog items which the team has committed to complete in the sprint timeline. It can include tasks, bugs, research items, and at least one process improvement item which is good to have. If the team comes across any new item that is required to attain the Sprint goal, they can add it to their sprint backlog.Estimating and prioritizing the sprint backlog Keeping the backlog healthy is the utmost priority for the team, this requires knowledge of estimation techniques and prioritizing tools. The scrum master can coach the team with an understanding of Effective an efficient prioritization and estimation. Let us look at the ways of prioritizing and estimating the Sprint backlog.Prioritizing the Sprint BacklogSprint backlog is created with the items from the product backlog, which means they are already ordered and are in line with the priority as per the client or the stakeholder. Pulling items into the Sprint backlog does not mean that the priority will change because the sprint backlog is still tagged to the product backlog. Hence, the Sprint Backlog stays ordered as per the priority as it depends on its parent ‘Product Backlog’. The estimate helps the team to limit the amount of work they can commit in the sprint. Also, recognizing tasks and estimating them during sprint planning assists team members to better organize their work. Below are a few of the widely used techniques for estimation:Planning Poker Here, every participant uses a numbered (Fibonacci) card and estimate the stories. Voting is done anonymous and the team discusses when there is a big difference in the estimates provided. Voting is repeated until the complete team reaches a consensus around the precise estimate. It works well when the team must estimate a comparatively small number of stories, a maximum of 8-10, with a small team.T-Shirt Sizing This is a seamless method to estimate a large backlog of relatively large items. Particularly when you have numerous parallel scrum teams occupied on the same product. Items are estimated into t-shirt sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL.The Bucket System More effective than planning poker, this method is a decent substitute when the team must estimate many items with a big group of members. Here, you form several buckets in the arrangement of planning poker. The group evaluates the items by placing them in these “buckets”.  Dot Voting A highly simple and effective technique to estimate. This technique is more of a decision making and one can use it for estimating. Everyone in the group gets a few stickers and can pick to vote for the individual items. The more dots is an indicator of a bigger size. This method works fine with both small and large teams. In Conclusion The Sprint backlog provides structure to the team and helps them stick to the plan by focusing on the sprint goal. Creating a Sprint backlog is a collaborative effort between the scrum team members, this serves as a runway for the iteration and smooth execution of commitment.  To achieve the Sprint goal, it is important to have a healthy sprint backlog. I hope this article helps you create a good Sprint backlog that serves your sprint goal.
Rated 4.0/5 based on 15 customer reviews
6558
Sprint Backlog and the Scrum Sprint

If you are in Scrum, you will hear the word ‘Spr... Read More

Key Insights from the 2020 State of Agile Report

How are agile businesses changing in 2020?  Digital.ai, the creator of the industry’s first intelligent Value Stream, recently published its 14th Annual State of Agile Report, along with a survey addendum to reflect the current 2020 landscape. The report took a look into the enterprise, what Agile techniques companies are implementing, their benefits, and what’s trending. The report provides the most comprehensive data in the world to benchmark your Agile practice and plan your next wave of expansion. The survey documents the experiences of more than 1,100 business and IT professionals across a range of industries and roles worldwide.  About 40,000 Agile practitioners, consultants, and executives have shared their insights to make this the longest-running and largest report of its kind. For the first time, it revealed insights beyond the general results by filtering the results along the demographic lines. The analysis indicates a correlation between the time practicing Agile, the ability to manage the changing priorities, and improved time to market.  In this article, we give you the complete lowdown on the state of Agile in 2020 including the COVID-19 impact and what’s next in Agile. Agile in numbers Let us explore the top responsesto the survey in numbers. Respondents answered their top reasons for implementing Agile techniques, which techniquesand methodologies they employ the most, what tools they recommend most, and the top benefits of using Agile. Top five reasons for adopting AgileRespondents were asked why their teams adopted Agile methodologies and techniques. These were the most responded benefits: Accelerate software delivery (71 percent) Enhance the ability to manage changing priorities (63 percent) Increased productivity (51 percent) Improve business/IT alignment (47 percent) Enhance software quality (42 percent)  This year, the reasons for implementing Agile were more about reducing project risks as opposed to reducing project costs.Top five Agile techniques employedThese are the five most used tactics that help teams adhere to the twelve principles of Agile.The Daily Standup was the most common Agile technique used in organizations. The most notable changes from last year was a decrease in Release Planning (51 percent this year as opposed to 57 percent last year) and an increase in Product Road Mapping (49 percent this year as opposed to 45 percent last year). Top five benefits of adopting AgileWe see that the top five benefits of adopting Agile are built around speed and adaptability. Project Cost Reduction was last on the list with only 26 percent of the respondents considering it to be the benefit of Agile implementation. Top five Agile methodologies The survey shows that Scrum and its variants are the most common methodologies used for Agile implementation. 3 percent of the respondents didn’t have any idea of the methodology used by their organization.  Top five Agile project management toolsRespondents were asked if they would recommend the tools on the basis of their experience. Atlassian JIRA and VersionOne were the most recommended tools. Five critical takeaways from the 2020 State of Agile Report Many organizations still learning to adopt AgileThe survey showed that only 18 percent of the organizations implemented Agile for all the teams. 77 percent of the organizations had still not implemented Agile in all the company’s teams. With 5 percent of the organizations yet to adopt Agile, there is clearly plenty of area for growth. While 95 percent of organizations have some form of agile process in place, practice maturity and adoption remain a work in progress. Around 50 percent of respondents report that less than half of their teams are using agile, and 84 percent acknowledge that their organizations are below a high level of competencies.  Areas other than software development yet to take advantage of AgileAgile practices are not limited to software organizations. The survey data showed that while Software Development continues to be the major area for Agile adoption, other areas like IT and Operations have also started adopting the methodology. Other areas in the organization are yet to take advantage of everything the Agile approach has to offer. More business outcome KPIs, fewer metrics As per the respondents, accelerated delivery speed is the most critical measure of the success of Agile initiatives. Next is improved quality, followed by reduced risk and increased customer satisfaction. Reduced IT costs is low on the spectrum with just 39 percent considering it as important for measuring success.  How success is measured in Agile transformationsWhen asked how organizations measure success of Agile transformations, the top measures of success were consistent with those reported over the last few years. Outcomes, customer satisfaction and business value, ranked higher than outputs like on-time delivery and productivity. The survey results for this section remain consistent over the past few years. There might be some ups and downs. But overall, Customer Satisfaction and Business Value are at a higher rank than productivity and on-time delivery. How success is measured in individual Agile projectsAs with Agile transformations, business value delivered, and customer or user satisfaction remained the top two cited measures of success within for individual projects.  Scaling Agile faces culture challengesAbout one-third of respondents are applying the Scaled Agile Framework, roughly another third are using other scaling frameworks, and another third stated they didn't know/other. There appear to be several common challenges scaling agile as over 40 percent of respondents cited six different challenges/barriers with adopting and scaling agile practices. These included: resistance to change, lack of leadership participation, inconsistent processes, misaligned organization versus agile values, inadequate management support, and insufficient training.    Enterprises are adopting the framework at a remarkable rate that shows that companies want to get the benefits of a structured framework included in the Lean/Agile BoK of SAFe.  The lack of qualified professionals also remains one of the common challenges with insufficient leadership participation (46 percent) at number 2 and lack of experience or skills with Agile methods (41 percent) at number 6.  The report also shows that culture is at the primary target of change as it affects the thinking and working of the organization. Agile organizations slowly adopting DevOps DevOps practices are a strong partner to agile methodologies, and 69 percent of survey respondents stated that DevOps transformation was either important or very important to their organization. But adoption of DevOps practices lags its important with only 55 percent employing continuous integrations and 41 percent continuous delivery. Only 36 percent practice continuous deployment. The top two benefits targeted are accelerated delivery speed (70 percent) and improved quality (62 percent). But respondents are tackling quality first with 67 percent implementing unit testing and 58 percent coding standards, even higher engineering practices over the 55 percent on continuous integration.  More than half of the respondents reported that their organization was already implementing Value Stream Management (VSM) or have plans to do so. VSM is a combination of people, technology, and processes that maps, measures, optimized, visualized, and governs the business value flow using a heterogeneous enterprise delivery pipeline.  Each level of automation requires investment and additional work to prove its robustness. There are seven prerequisites before improving release frequencies, and that requires investment in aspects of these seven DevOps practices. Even so, there are questions DevOps teams should answer before increasing deployment frequency. Summary of key insights Currently, the Agile approach is predominantly implemented in the software or information technology sector. The benefits an organization can reap once Agile is implemented in other areas as well would be tremendous. Here is a quick summary of key insights from the report: Cost reduction is not anymore one of the primary reasons to adopt the Agile approach. Identifying technical risk before deployment is considered very valuable by 34 percent of the respondents, which was 22 percent last year. Greater Agile maturity is correlated to the time of practicing Agile. The length of time since Agile adoption is also related to the increased ability to manage the changing priorities and improved time market. Organizations that have practiced Agile for more than 5 years have a greater percentage of DevOps initiatives and interest in Value Stream Management.  Companies with 20,000 or more people are more likely to have been using Agile for 5 or more years. Companies with less than 1,000 people correlated to a higher percentage of all their teams implementing the Agile approach.  More than half of the respondents stated their companies are either implementing VSM or have plans to do so.  Risk and compliance increased by 54 percent to be the top value to identify and measure technical risk before the deployment begins. SAFe is the most popular scaling method, increasing 5 percent over the last year. There was a shift in Agile techniques as release planning decreased by 11 percent while product road-mapping increased by 9 percent. This change can be attributed to the increase in CI/CD and better program increment planning. Currently, Agile is mainly confined to software development, operations, and the IT sector. However, it is expected that by next year, the organization will expand agility into areas beyond developing, deploying, and maintaining software solutions. The COVID-19 impact and what’s next in Agile The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a health emergency worldwide. Leaders across industries are moving promptly to protect employees and build resilience, as the impact of the crisis continues to mount. In mid-May 2020, Digital.ai conducted a brief supplemental survey of respondents to learn more about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their Agile adoption. Supplemental findings reveal that: 55 percent say their company plans to increase the use of Agile in the next 12-14 months. This is an increase of 13 percent over the original survey completed just five months ago. 43 percent of organizations say their momentum for Agile adoption has increased over the past 90 days, with 15 percent saying it has increased significantly. 33 percent say they increased or expanded Agile adoption in the last 90 days to help manage distributed teams. In summary, forecasters continue to predict how long the COVID-19 crisis will last, but it seems inevitable that many organizations will be working remotely for the foreseeable future.Implemented correctly, an agile approach can help remote teams function effectively and build resilience for the future.  Following the pandemic, working from home more frequently (perhaps 2-3 days per week) may become an accepted norm for many companies, as this could realize cost efficiencies and prove that an agile, remote working model is productive.
Rated 4.0/5 based on 16 customer reviews
7057
Key Insights from the 2020 State of Agile Report

How are agile businesses changing in 2020?  Digit... Read More

Agile Project Management: Best Practices and Methodologies

Agile is an iterative and incremental solution development methodology that focusses on delivering value to the customer by seeking customer feedback, embracing and adapting to change and striving for improvement continuously.  The Agile Manifesto along with the Agile Principles are at the heart and in the spirit of the various Agile Frameworks which are being adopted increasingly by Enterprises as their Project Management Framework. Agile Project Management Agile Project Frameworks Scrum, Kanban, XP, SAFe are some of the Agile Frameworks that are have replaced traditional waterfall and predictive approaches of Software Project Management. Long standing philosophies such as Lean and practices like TDD, BDD, Pair Programming etc are leveraged into these frameworks.  Scrum and Kanban are the most popular Agile Frameworks used today with Scrum being used in almost 58% of Agile Projects as per the Annual State of Agile Report 2020. Scrum uses a time-boxed iterative approach to develop incremental products and solutions with each iteration spanning 2 /3/ 4 weeks. Kanban does not have time-boxed iterations and focusses on establishing flow of work by controlling WIP (Work In Progress) and is well suited for maintenance, support or Helpdesk projects. In this article we will discuss about Agile Project Management using Scrum. Before looking at the Scrum framework briefly, we need to understand two very important aspects in which Agile Project Management is different from traditional Waterfall – Scope and Estimation. The Iron Triangle Unlike traditional projects, in Agile the schedule and the cost involved for a project is largely fixed. The scope is the variable entity and is adjusted as per the latest information and feedback from customers. The focus is on delivering value rather than following a rigid and detailed plan laid out at the beginning of the project. In Scrum for example, every Sprint runs for a fixed time-box and changes to agile team composition is not recommended. Iron TriangleEstimation – Relative Sizing Agile recommends “relative sizing“of work items that enables predictability rather than complex estimation techniques striving for accuracyAgile EstimationIn the Image 2 above people on the road looking at the buildings would most likely converge on the fact that Building A is the smallest of the three, Building B is twice that of A , Building C is the tallest – almost 3 times that of Building A. This can be done quickly at the first glance. In contrast if they must estimate the actual height of the building in metres it is prone to error and there are going to be a lot of differences. The power of relative sizing lies in the fact that we do not strive for accuracy (in the example the height of the building in metre) but focus on sizing the work and achieving predictability over the course of time. Instead of complex effort estimation in man days/hours, High level Epics /Features are usually estimated by the T-shirt sizes (Small, Medium, Large, X-Large) and Stories are estimated and given “Story Points” that follow the  modified Fibonacci sequence (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40, 100) Brief overview of Scrum Framework The Scrum framework comprises of the roles, events and artifacts and describe how these entities interconnect with each other in order to implement the framework.   Scrum follows an iterative approach where development cycles are 2 /3/4 weeks long. At the end of every iteration an incremental version of the product/solution is ready to be shipped. Each event /artifact/role in the scrum framework serves a purpose and furthers the goal of Agile project development. Let us go over each of them in detail. Scrum FrameworkRelease Planning Although Agile does not recommend detailed rigid plans laid out well in advance, it does not altogether forego planning. There is a high-level Release Planning at the beginning of the release and shorter detailed Sprint planning events at the beginning of every Sprint. Having short planning phases throughout the project implementation helps to adapt to changes and course correct at responsible milestones. For large organizations where multiple scrum teams work towards developing a solution, planning and timing a release is very important. The organization might choose to time the release as per Customer(s) demand or at an established cadence (e.g every quarter) or in alignment with certain events (e.g tradeshow/ compliance deadline etc). The release planning is a look ahead planning with an objective of arriving at the scope of the release considering the schedule and budget as fixed components of the iron triangle. The two important inputs required for this event is a prioritized product backlog and the velocity of the teams participating in the release (historic data for teams running on agile and an informed guesstimate for the new teams.) The teams will roughly plan out their upcoming sprints (if a release spans 12 weeks there can be 5 sprints of 2 weeks each followed by a 2 week “hardening sprint”). At the end of this planning event there is a list of prioritized features that can be accommodated in the release and a high-level plan for each sprint.  Scrum Roles  The Scrum Master, Product Owner and the development team form the “3 Amigos”. There is a good amount of trust and a healthy relationship amongst the people playing these three roles. Healthy conflicts and disagreements between these three entities is expected and bound to occur. At these times the teams are guided by the Scrum Values of Respect, Courage and Openness. At all times the scrum team practices commitment and focus to achieve the Sprint Goals and further the Agile Values and Principles. The Three AmigosResponsibilites of Each RoleScrum Artifacts Product Backlog: A Product Backlog consists of all the new features, changes to the existing features, technical requirements such as infrastructure upgrades or architectural requirements that might become a part of the product. This is continuously refined by the product manager, product owners and the scrum teams. The purpose of the refinement is to prioritize, split and detail the contents of the backlog so that the first set of items in the backlog are ready to be picked by the teams during their Sprint Planning. Sprint Backlog: The items picked from the Product Backlog and committed by the team for a Sprint constitutes the Sprint Backlog. It is unlikely to change during the course of the Sprint/iteration. A product owner could introduce changes in consensus with the team. Multiple changes to the sprint backlog within the Sprint timeframe should be discouraged and root cause analysis has to be performed during retrospective meeting if this happens often. Product Increment: The work items ready to be delivered at the end of a Sprint is a Product Increment. It has to be in a potentially shippable condition and meet the definition of done as defined by the team and has to be accepted by the Product Owner as complete and ready for release. Scrum Ceremonies / Events EventFrequency of OccurrenceDescriptionBacklog RefinementContinuousEpics and features are estimated and broken down to Stories. Stories are broken down and acceptance criteria are added. The Backlog is prioritized and ordered.Sprint PlanningOnce at the beginning of a Sprint lasting up to 4 hours for a 2-week SprintThe top priority stories that are refined and ready for the team is picked. The teams estimate the stories and load the sprint up to their Capacity. The historic Velocity and the current capacity (leaves and holidays adjusted) are taken into account for loading the Sprint.SprintCan be 2 /3/4 weeks longNot recommended to change the Sprint duration often. The cadence once set has to run for at least 3 to 4 Sprints to collect data for becoming predictable.Daily Stand upEvery day for 10-15 minutesThe Scrum Master facilitates the event and the team shares the happenings of previous day, strategize and plan for current day. Impediments /concerns are raised.Sprint ReviewOnce at the end of the SprintThe working software is demonstrated to stakeholders. Based on Sprint Review and outcomes, inputs and changes are done to the Product BacklogSprint RetrospectiveOnce at the end of the SprintThis is the "sacred time of learning" for the entire team. Issues and problems faced during the Sprint are discussed, root cause analysis performed and team arrives at solutions to resolve and prevent in future. The team identifies areas of improvement.Scrum ceremonies or eventsScrum Values  Courage - Every team member feels safe to fail and learn, to seek help, to say ‘no’ and question something that is going wrong. Commitment – Commits to the Sprint goals as a team. Does not overcommit.  Focus - Aims to complete what is started and steer away from distractions and unprioritized / "shoulder tap" work. Limits Work in Progress. Openness - Seeks and values feedback and opportunities to learn. Makes impediments, failures and learnings visible. Respect - Team collaborates and acknowledges the work and achievements of every member. Builds trust. Quantitative Metrics Organizations can collect and measure various metrices. The below metrics are most likely to be captured by most of the projects and add value. Burn Down Chart: The Burn down chart is a run chart of the rate at which the scrum team completes work within a sprint in terms of number of Story points completed per day.  Velocity: Velocity is the number of story points completed and accepted by the Product owner within a Sprint.  Collecting data on velocity enables teams, releases and projects become more predictable. Other than the absolute velocity, another important perspective of velocity data is % of story points delivered against total story points committed by the team. Velocity cannot be used to compare the efficiency of teams since 3 story points for one team is different for another team. Quality related Metrics: Quality related metrics like number of defects reported in production after release, number of defects in Integration testing are captured to understand the level of Quality. Armed with quantitative data the teams can come up with ways to improve Quality.  Agile Projects at Scale While the scrum framework prescribes the guidelines to run an Agile team, the same can be extrapolated and mechanisms can be put in place to scale it to multiple teams. SAFe and Nexus offer frameworks to scale Agile in large Enterprises. Large projects in Enterprises involve multiple teams and dependencies with other functions, divisions and with third party partners, suppliers and vendors. The complexities of large solutions and programs require Governance, Compliance, Stakeholder Management, Streamlined Communication, Conflict and Risk management. The Agile Program Management Office takes care of establishing Agile at scale with the help of Senior Leadership, Agile Coaches and Change Agents (who could be the Agile Project Managers and Scrum Masters). Role of the Agile Project Manager The Agile PM plays an important role when doing Agile at scale in large enterprises. While working towards a seamless project release by interfacing with the multiple scrum teams and various stakeholders, the Agile PM also plays a key role in the Agile transformation journey of the Enterprise.   Agile at ScaleAgile Project ManagerScrum Master and Agile PM Roles Agile Projects at scale requires the role of a Scrum Master for the internal functioning of the team and the Agile PM for aligning multiple teams and orchestrating the activities of a Release. Agile PMScrum MasterTakes care of the facilitation, risk management, conflict management, handling of impediments that span multiple teams and external stakeholders.  Engages closely with Senior Leadership, Product Managers, Product Owners, Scrum Masters to ensure smooth implementation of the current release, forward plans for the subsequent release and co-ordinates the Post production activities of the previous release. Facilitates the Scrum of Scrums synch meetings at a regular cadence (every week).  The Agile PM guides the scrum masters to resolve risks and impediments within the team if and when escalated. Takes care of these activities within the scrum team. The Scrum Master focuses on the current sprint and current release. Facilitates Scrum Ceremonies. Participates in the Scrum of Scrums and updates if the team is on track to meet the Sprint Objectives and if there is any change/ risk foreseen. During this meeting the Scrum Masters raise any impediments /risks/concerns they are unable to resolve and need help with. Release Management Continuous Integration and Deployment: With incremental versions of the product after every iteration from multiple teams early continuous integration is the need of the hour. Investing in an automated Continuous deployment into the Staging or Production environment is encouraged so that the latest version of the product is release ready. Enterprises are increasingly using toggle configurations to switch on/off a set of features so that the release can be done for a particular market segment or can be timed with an important milestone like a tradeshow. By separating the deployment and actual release, there is a lot of risk avoided. The actual product release can be announced at the right time – as per Market demand/ after a robust Beta has been done and feedback incorporated/timed with a compliance deadline or important milestone like tradeshows. Post-production Support: Releasing working software at regular intervals is not the end of the road. Customer Support, training and customer documentation where required is necessary and these activities should also come under the purview of an Agile Working environment.  Beta and Canary Release: Large Enterprises engage with Beta customers to get focussed feedback on the product before a wider market release. Solutions and products can also be released to a particular market segment or a subset of users alone. This is called a “Canary Release”. This phased approach rather than a big bang approach will ensure the risk level is reduced and the quality of the product and credibility of the Enterprise is maintained.  How is an Agile PM different from the Conventional PM  The roles and responsibilities of a conventional Project Manager is now distributed amongst the Scrum Teams, Scrum Master, Product Owner and the Agile Project Manager. But the most important but subtle difference between the Conventional PM and Agile PM is the mindset.  The Agile PM is a Servant Leader who wants to create a self-empowered self-organized team. He/she creates an agile environment where everyone is accountable, there is no fear of failure but the willingness to learn and continuously improve. The Agile PM avoids the traditional Command and Control approach where decisions are taken for the teams. .  There is also a conscious effort to decentralize decision making so that decisions are taken closer to where work is done. There is always an emphasis for visualization of work and transparency. Go-to Traits for a Successful Agile Project Self-Organized Teams: Self-organized teams that are empowered and largely self-sufficient is an important facet of Agile. Teams are used to conventional ways of working where they look up to their superiors for decision making. Decentralized decision making will help largely to create empowered teams Responsive to Change: creating empowered teams enable them to respond to change responsibly with minimum red tape. Quick Feedback Loops: Agile thrives when there are quick feedback loops established so that teams can adapt to change based on informed decisions. Continuous Improvement: Learning from the past and resolving not to repeat mistakes is an important facet of Agile teams. Retrospection at end of every iteration and release is highly recommended. Business Agility: It would not be enough if engineering teams are agile and churn out software seamlessly. “Building the product right “is not sufficient and the teams should “Build the right product”. Solutions and products have to meet the customer needs and solve Customer Problems.  All functions such as product management, marketing, sales HR have to come into the purview of Agile Principles and Values to achieve the kind of Business Agility that is required to be Customer Centric and deliver value. In conclusion, Agile is a paradigm shift from the phased traditional waterfall methods which run on detailed plans laid well ahead. Agile Project Management is the need of the hour considering the rapidly changing market scenario, disruptive technologies and the ever- growing competition.  Before embarking on Agile projects organizations have to invest the time and effort to create a conducive Agile Work environment. The bare basics of Agile training and creation of small Agile teams (5 to 9 members recommended) with the vision to make the teams self-organized need to be in place. Agile Coaches and Change agents have to be identified to ensure the Agile transformation starts and keeps pace with small strides and does not die a natural death with teams, business and leadership falling back to traditional waterfall methods in the name of agile. 
Rated 4.0/5 based on 13 customer reviews
6559
Agile Project Management: Best Practices and Metho...

Agile is an iterative and incremental solution dev... Read More

Useful links