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Use Cases: How Are They Different From User Stories & How To Create Them

I could have used the word, “write” instead of “create” use cases. But I didn’t. If you know why, then you are already expert on this topic, so please do share your opinion and knowledge by adding some comments at the end of this article. If you don’t know why I consciously mentioned “create” instead of “write” then worry not. I will share my thoughts  with you and you can tell me what you think and let’s create a dialogue around it. In my previous article, I had written about user stories, and how they came into extensive usage, how they help develop better products and how they represent users’ voice at forums users don’t have access to. If you have not read that article then I would sincerely request you to read that article first as it will immensely help you in getting the right perspective about this topic at hand. Use cases in simple words are exact statements written in informal manner depicting the specific action that the user is expected to do while dealing with a particular functionality of the product. If you compare this with the definition of user stories I gave in my previous article, you will notice that here I have defined use cases as “exact statements” whereas I had defined user stories as “generic statements” written in informal manner. Why? This is because user stories set a foundation upon which great use cases are created or developed. While user stories try to explain to the engineering team about the environment, goal, role, intention of the user while he/she is going to deal or work with the software; use cases clearly define what the user is going to do here and what result is expected in crisp 2-3 lines. Use cases are one level above requirements. Below is a simple table for quick reference on differences between user stories and use cases. A simple example of creating use cases from user stories: Let us take a very simple example of a toothpaste and let’s create use cases out of it. If you want to see how to develop user story then please read my earlier article on user stories. Always remember, while it will seem easy to create use cases directly from user needs; it is full of pitfalls that might lead to missed functionality and user dissatisfaction later on, after shipping the product. So a user story would look somewhat like this: Actor  :    John, a working professional who wants to keep his teeth health and shiny Role    :    The direct consumer of this product but can influence others by his reviews of a product on his website. Expected results: After brush, John expects his breath to be fresh and teeth and gums to be health for the whole day. Now as you can see, John is a very high impact user for us [The toothpaste company] because he can affect our sales by his review of our product on his website. So meeting his needs are very critical for us. Hence the product manager, should create following user story for this scenario. Sample User Story: It is 6:30AM in the morning and John has started his morning rituals to be ready for work. Daily, his first routine after waking up is to brush his teeth with his favorite toothbrush so that he gets the refreshing feel to do remaining chores around the house and leave for work on time. He likes the way toothpaste, smoothly oozes out of the tube and rests firmly on this toothbrush without spilling anywhere. Also he likes that somehow, every time he brushes, the exact right amount of the paste comes out of the tube. It is never too much and never too little. It’s just right. He feels energized after a refreshing brush ritual and likes the feeling of freshness in his mouth after brushing his teeth. His gums feel rejuvenated, breath feels fresh as he tests it out on his palms. After spending whole day at office, where he had multiple cups of coffee, some food and some sugary items, he comes back home. While refreshing himself, he notices that his breath is still fresh and the taste in his mouth is still neutral without any traces of coffee or cheese pizza he had before. He is so pleased with the product that he has bought for himself, that he decides to write about it in his blog tonight. Now let us create some use cases out of the above user story. Use case 1: User wants to have a premium quality feel when he/she takes the toothpaste tube in their hand before brushing. Use case 2: User gently squeezes the tube and he is pleased with the smoothness of the paste flow out of this tube. Use case 3: User is able to notice the right amount of paste coming out of the tube every time, he/she brushes. It is never too much nor too little. One gentle squeeze always gives out the right amount of paste required for brushing. Use case 4: User feels an air of freshness in his mouth after brushing and that freshness lasts for minimum of 24 hours. The feeling of freshness is neither overwhelming nor un-noticeable. It is just mild   enough to provide a feeling of freshness while not interfering with user’s culinary habits. Use case 5: The user is pleased with the fact that the teeth and gums feel very smooth and non-scratchy after every brush. Use case 6: User is happy about the fact that even after 12 hours of intense work day routine, his breath still feels fresh And so on and so forth.  Can you think of some more use cases? If yes, do leave your comment below so that we can discuss on their validity and applicability here. Is the concept of use cases starting to make itself clear to you now and how they are different from user stories? Let us try once more. This time let us try to create use cases of this same product but for different customer base. Sample 2 of creating use cases for a product: This time, instead of a working professional, John. Let us consider Alayah, a teenage girl in high school. Actor :    Alayah, a 16 year high school student who is interested in experimenting new things with regards to body hygiene for better well-being and feeling. Her opinion is slightly influenced by the           feedback of her friends and her own personal experiences as she too likes to share her feedback with them. Role :    A direct consumer of our product and her feedback can motivate others in her circle of influence to try out our product. Expected Results: While healthy teeth and gum are the most basic of her requirements, she is bored with the same tasting toothpastes on offer these days. She wants to try out a new toothpaste that     not only provides her with best dental protection but also convinces her Mom of her ability to choose different but a better product by herself. Here, our engineering team’s task is clear. They need to create a product [toothpaste in this case], that not only impresses Alayah but also provides her with the best dental protection that she needs at her age. Her feedback carries the possibility of our product’s adoption by her immediate family members and her close friends, hence opening the market for us. The product should be unique in itself while being the best in terms of quality at cost effective price, since Alayah is not an earning member of her family. A product manager in this case, will have lot of options to think of a product here and specify to the engineering team. Let us go with one of them. Do share your versions of user stories in this case. User story: It’s morning time and Alayah’s alarm is ringing she had set last night to wake her up on time, if she needs to make it to the school without being reprimanded. She quickly jumps into the shower with a toothbrush having toothpaste on it, while her favorite song is playing out on her personal stereo. While she is freshening up, she is delighted with the fact, even after so many days, her toothpaste continues to give out the same wonderful strawberry flavor that she loves so much. And to add to her delight, her dentist gave her a big thumbs up yesterday on her teeth and gum health. Alayah has been using this toothpaste for a month now and she loves the way, the tube feels like new everyday even after so many uses. She never has to squeeze hard to get the paste out of it. One gentle squeeze and strawberry colored toothpaste gently but firmly oozes out of the tube and rests on the bristles of the brush. Earlier, she used to get lot of scolding from her mother on spilling the paste around the sink, while jumping into shower with toothbrush and paste on it. But ever since, she switched to this new toothpaste, there has not been a single spill ever since. Today, she is definitely going to tell her Mother to make permanent switch to this paste. She will recommend the butterscotch flavor to her Mom because she loves it. Wow! A wonderful experience of morning ritual for Alayah’; isn’t it? Let us create use cases for this one. Use case 1: User is delighted with the fact that tooth paste comes in a flavored version and the flavor of the paste is consistent throughout till the last drop in the tube. Use Case 2: User is experiencing a natural growth in well-being of her gums and teeth due to the regular usage of toothpaste and is certified by her dentist also. The noticeable difference comes out in 1 month of regular usage. Use case 3: The user is happy about the quality of the product and feel of it. The flow of the paste is smooth, uniform and consistent. It is firm yet soft to the right degree and grips the bristles of the       brush firmly without leaving behind any residue. Use case 4: The user is happy with the non-slipperiness of the paste as it holds wells on the toothbrush without spilling on to the floor. Use case 5: The user is going to recommend the product to her family members owing to its cost effectiveness, quality of results and number of flavored options available to choose from. In this case, the product manager’s diktat was clear. The toothpaste should be premium feeling with right amount of firmness, variety of flavored options to choose from, health improving and certified. And how did we learn properly? Because we were able to create user stories and use cases properly depicting the right user environments, their interactions with the system and their expected goals from these interactions. This is how use cases add value to the development of right product whether it is software based or manufacturing based or service based. So next time, when you want to ship to the customer, make sure you have all the right user stories targeting the right audience with complete use cases and your product will be a smash hit. This is why, I said, a product manager “creates” use cases and does not merely “write” them. Because while creating use cases, the product owner gets the feel, intent of the product that will surely be missed out if he/she is merely jotting down the requirements or use cases. In my next article, I will share with you on how requirements come out of use cases. Until then, happy creating user stories and use cases and do share your experiences with me on my email or in the comments’ section below. Thank you for your time!  

Use Cases: How Are They Different From User Stories & How To Create Them

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Use Cases: How Are They Different From User Stories & How To Create Them

I could have used the word, “write” instead of “create” use cases. But I didn’t. If you know why, then you are already expert on this topic, so please do share your opinion and knowledge by adding some comments at the end of this article.

If you don’t know why I consciously mentioned “create” instead of “write” then worry not. I will share my thoughts  with you and you can tell me what you think and let’s create a dialogue around it.

In my previous article, I had written about user stories, and how they came into extensive usage, how they help develop better products and how they represent users’ voice at forums users don’t have access to.

If you have not read that article then I would sincerely request you to read that article first as it will immensely help you in getting the right perspective about this topic at hand.

Use cases in simple words are exact statements written in informal manner depicting the specific action that the user is expected to do while dealing with a particular functionality of the product.

If you compare this with the definition of user stories I gave in my previous article, you will notice that here I have defined use cases as “exact statements” whereas I had defined user stories as “generic statements” written in informal manner. Why?

This is because user stories set a foundation upon which great use cases are created or developed. While user stories try to explain to the engineering team about the environment, goal, role, intention of the user while he/she is going to deal or work with the software; use cases clearly define what the user is going to do here and what result is expected in crisp 2-3 lines. Use cases are one level above requirements.

Below is a simple table for quick reference on differences between user stories and use cases.

A simple example of creating use cases from user stories:

Let us take a very simple example of a toothpaste and let’s create use cases out of it. If you want to see how to develop user story then please read my earlier article on user stories.
Always remember, while it will seem easy to create use cases directly from user needs; it is full of pitfalls that might lead to missed functionality and user dissatisfaction later on, after shipping the product.

So a user story would look somewhat like this:
Actor 
 :    John, a working professional who wants to keep his teeth health and shiny
Role    :    The direct consumer of this product but can influence others by his reviews of a product on his website.
Expected results: After brush, John expects his breath to be fresh and teeth and gums to be health for the whole day.

Now as you can see, John is a very high impact user for us [The toothpaste company] because he can affect our sales by his review of our product on his website. So meeting his needs are very critical for us. Hence the product manager, should create following user story for this scenario.

Sample User Story:

It is 6:30AM in the morning and John has started his morning rituals to be ready for work. Daily, his first routine after waking up is to brush his teeth with his favorite toothbrush so that he gets the refreshing feel to do remaining chores around the house and leave for work on time. He likes the way toothpaste, smoothly oozes out of the tube and rests firmly on this toothbrush without spilling anywhere. Also he likes that somehow, every time he brushes, the exact right amount of the paste comes out of the tube. It is never too much and never too little. It’s just right.

He feels energized after a refreshing brush ritual and likes the feeling of freshness in his mouth after brushing his teeth. His gums feel rejuvenated, breath feels fresh as he tests it out on his palms. After spending whole day at office, where he had multiple cups of coffee, some food and some sugary items, he comes back home. While refreshing himself, he notices that his breath is still fresh and the taste in his mouth is still neutral without any traces of coffee or cheese pizza he had before. He is so pleased with the product that he has bought for himself, that he decides to write about it in his blog tonight.

Now let us create some use cases out of the above user story.

Use case 1: User wants to have a premium quality feel when he/she takes the toothpaste tube in their hand before brushing.
Use case 2: User gently squeezes the tube and he is pleased with the smoothness of the paste flow out of this tube.
Use case 3: User is able to notice the right amount of paste coming out of the tube every time, he/she brushes. It is never too much nor too little. One gentle squeeze always gives out the right amount of paste required for brushing.
Use case 4: User feels an air of freshness in his mouth after brushing and that freshness lasts for minimum of 24 hours. The feeling of freshness is neither overwhelming nor un-noticeable. It is just mild   enough to provide a feeling of freshness while not interfering with user’s culinary habits.
Use case 5: The user is pleased with the fact that the teeth and gums feel very smooth and non-scratchy after every brush.
Use case 6: User is happy about the fact that even after 12 hours of intense work day routine, his breath still feels fresh

And so on and so forth. 

Can you think of some more use cases? If yes, do leave your comment below so that we can discuss on their validity and applicability here.

Is the concept of use cases starting to make itself clear to you now and how they are different from user stories?

Let us try once more. This time let us try to create use cases of this same product but for different customer base.

Sample 2 of creating use cases for a product:

This time, instead of a working professional, John. Let us consider Alayah, a teenage girl in high school.

Actor :    Alayah, a 16 year high school student who is interested in experimenting new things with regards to body hygiene for better well-being and feeling. Her opinion is slightly influenced by the           feedback of her friends and her own personal experiences as she too likes to share her feedback with them.
Role :    A direct consumer of our product and her feedback can motivate others in her circle of influence to try out our product.
Expected Results: While healthy teeth and gum are the most basic of her requirements, she is bored with the same tasting toothpastes on offer these days. She wants to try out a new toothpaste that     not only provides her with best dental protection but also convinces her Mom of her ability to choose different but a better product by herself.

Here, our engineering team’s task is clear. They need to create a product [toothpaste in this case], that not only impresses Alayah but also provides her with the best dental protection that she needs at her age. Her feedback carries the possibility of our product’s adoption by her immediate family members and her close friends, hence opening the market for us. The product should be unique in itself while being the best in terms of quality at cost effective price, since Alayah is not an earning member of her family.

A product manager in this case, will have lot of options to think of a product here and specify to the engineering team. Let us go with one of them. Do share your versions of user stories in this case.

User story:

It’s morning time and Alayah’s alarm is ringing she had set last night to wake her up on time, if she needs to make it to the school without being reprimanded. She quickly jumps into the shower with a toothbrush having toothpaste on it, while her favorite song is playing out on her personal stereo.

While she is freshening up, she is delighted with the fact, even after so many days, her toothpaste continues to give out the same wonderful strawberry flavor that she loves so much. And to add to her delight, her dentist gave her a big thumbs up yesterday on her teeth and gum health. Alayah has been using this toothpaste for a month now and she loves the way, the tube feels like new everyday even after so many uses. She never has to squeeze hard to get the paste out of it. One gentle squeeze and strawberry colored toothpaste gently but firmly oozes out of the tube and rests on the bristles of the brush. Earlier, she used to get lot of scolding from her mother on spilling the paste around the sink, while jumping into shower with toothbrush and paste on it. But ever since, she switched to this new toothpaste, there has not been a single spill ever since. Today, she is definitely going to tell her Mother to make permanent switch to this paste. She will recommend the butterscotch flavor to her Mom because she loves it.

Wow! A wonderful experience of morning ritual for Alayah’; isn’t it?

Let us create use cases for this one.

Use case 1: User is delighted with the fact that tooth paste comes in a flavored version and the flavor of the paste is consistent throughout till the last drop in the tube.
Use Case 2: User is experiencing a natural growth in well-being of her gums and teeth due to the regular usage of toothpaste and is certified by her dentist also. The noticeable difference comes out in 1 month of regular usage.
Use case 3: The user is happy about the quality of the product and feel of it. The flow of the paste is smooth, uniform and consistent. It is firm yet soft to the right degree and grips the bristles of the       brush firmly without leaving behind any residue.
Use case 4: The user is happy with the non-slipperiness of the paste as it holds wells on the toothbrush without spilling on to the floor.
Use case 5: The user is going to recommend the product to her family members owing to its cost effectiveness, quality of results and number of flavored options available to choose from.

In this case, the product manager’s diktat was clear. The toothpaste should be premium feeling with right amount of firmness, variety of flavored options to choose from, health improving and certified.
And how did we learn properly? Because we were able to create user stories and use cases properly depicting the right user environments, their interactions with the system and their expected goals from these interactions.

This is how use cases add value to the development of right product whether it is software based or manufacturing based or service based.

So next time, when you want to ship to the customer, make sure you have all the right user stories targeting the right audience with complete use cases and your product will be a smash hit.

This is why, I said, a product manager “creates” use cases and does not merely “write” them. Because while creating use cases, the product owner gets the feel, intent of the product that will surely be missed out if he/she is merely jotting down the requirements or use cases.

In my next article, I will share with you on how requirements come out of use cases.

Until then, happy creating user stories and use cases and do share your experiences with me on my email or in the comments’ section below.

Thank you for your time!
 

Abhinav

Abhinav Gupta

Blog Author

PMP, has 12+ years of experience working in Information technology sector and has worked with companies like Infosys and Microsoft in various capacities. He started his career as a manual tester for a world renowned software product and grew on to become automation champion in both functional as well as UI. He has worked with Healthcare units providing various software solutions to companies in North America and has worked with search engine based groups to enhance their experience and provide more bang for buck to their customers.

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In such cases, there are higher possibilities that bugs will be found in the development, making it much more expensive to fix.  Limitations of the Agile:An expert is required to make important decisions.The project can go off track if the vision and mission of the project are not clear.The cost of implementation of the agile method is a little more as compared to other methodologies.Difference between Waterfall Method and Agile Methodologies.AgileProject Trait or FactoWaterfallHas an incremental approach.ApproachThe process is divided into distinct phases.Customers are preferred throughout the project.Customer AvailabilityCustomers are involved only after the product has been developed.Small teams with good coordination and synchronization.TeamTeam coordination and synchronization are limited.It has a flexible methodology.MethodologyIt has a structured process, so most of the times it can be quite rigid.Can be considered as a collection of many projects.Final ProductOne single project is completed after the software development.It is a flexible method which allows changes to be made as per requirements, even after the completion of the initial planning.ProcessThe requirements cannot be changed once the process of project development starts.Works well when the scope is not known in advance as changes can be made in the process.ScopeWorks well when the scope is known in advance or when there are limitations to changes in the process.Test Plan is reviewed after every sprint.Test PlanTest Plan is not discussed during the test phase.Follows an iterative approach. Planning, development, prototyping and other phases may occur more than once.Software Development PhasesThe project development phases like designing, development, testing, etc take place once, only after the process is done with.During the project, requirements are prepared every day by the Product Owner along with the team.RequirementsRequirements are prepared at the beginning of the project by the business analysts.Testing is performed simultaneously with the software development process.Testing of the productThe testing phase comes only after the Build has been prepared.Agile process flowThe following is an outline of the flow of the process from creating a product to the completion of a sprint in the Agile Development application.Step 1: Create a product.A product is a set of features that are offered to users. It can either focus on a few user stories or many users, which can contain many tasks.Step2: Create an agile group.A group of Agile team can be formed, defining the number of tasks that a member can complete in a sprint to define the capacity of the group.Step 3: Create a release.Create a release which has a start date and an end date, in which the development iterations will be completed.Step 4: Create a personalised background.It can be created by defining the filter criteria. It can be a combination of stories, incidents, defects, etc.Step 5: Create a sprint.It is the time frame within which a development team delivers one or more stories. A release can have multiple sprints. A team is expected to complete all the assigned stories within a sprint.Step 6: Planning the sprint. Before starting a sprint, decide on the stories from the backlog that can be committed to complete within a sprint. Stories to be worked on in a sprint should be selected on the basis of priorities.,Step 7: Track the progress of a sprint.Team members should update their tasks and story records on a daily basis to communicate regarding their progress.Step 8: Track the progress of the release.This is done to make sure that the team is completing stories and is on track to achieve the goal.Characteristics of Agile:The process of Agile Software Development involves cross-functional teams working concurrently on various phases like planning, designing, requirement analysis, etc. A working model becomes available at the end of each iteration. The following are the salient characteristics of Agile:Small sized, co-located,  self-organized teams work together in cross-functional ways to deliver business value.Management supports redistributed decision making.Face-to-face iteration replaces temporary documentation.The process supports full transparency, inculcating trust.Makes improvement in a continuous process, making it a part of the culture of the company.Short loops of feedback help in delivering high quality of products.Functions in small, cross-functional teams, which has proven to be more productive than larger teams.The process of continuous testing measures the progress as well as prevents defects.The transition of the project from one phase to another is smoother as the team has a proper, balanced distribution of tasks.All members act as leaders in the project as they lead and take responsibility in their respective project phases. A project is not complete if one member does not do their part.Working with Agile in a distributed team environmentFor a team working together, communicating in person is more sought after than being distributed over multiple locations. It is recommended to co-locate your team, but many times teams are unable to do so for critical business reasons. There’s more to the challenges faced by the distributed software team:Coordinating across different time zones.Building a good rapport when everyone is not present in the same officeCollaborating with different development cultures.Scheduling meetings when both teams are online for a short period of time.Under such situations, teams need to learn to follow Agile principles and practices in a distributed environment. This section discusses this in detail.Additional Communication responsibilities:Each team member needs to put in extra effort when working with remote team members and communicating with them, emphasizing more on the importance of being available and open.Dedication:All team members should be committed and dedicated to making Agile work in a distributed environment. The management must support the processes and tools required to do so.Even Distribution of Work:All team members should have a good understanding of their roles and responsibilities, along with an equal distribution of work. If there is an imbalance in the workload and it is being ignored, then it might risk the schedule of the project delivery.   Pair Programming:In pair programming, two members of the team sit side by side and work on the same code. It is a challenging task for distributed teams. This can be replaced by a virtual experience, like having a video-conferencing as a solution.Understand the Time Difference:Teams face a lot of communication problems if their team members work in different time zones. You can help your team across the world by making them aware of the different time zones in which the team members are working. Using a  physical map with pushpins depicting how the team is distributed, is an example for the same.Use the right tools and training:Identify the tools that will help your team. Get consents from your team members and see if the tool will be helpful for the team or not for that project. Most importantly, train your team on the tools. Don’t expect the team members to know about the new tools and how to use them without any practice.  Train them for the same.With many organizations going global, distributed teams are becoming a common culture to work in. Agile, along with additional efforts by the team, will work well with the distributed teams.Different Agile FrameworksThere are various methods and frameworks that are used by businesses and organizations in the world of development and manufacturing. To name a few:Extreme Programming(EX)ScrumFeature Driven Development (FDD)Dynamic Systems Development Method(DSDM)Crystal MethodologyKanban Method (Lean or Agile)Pragmatic ProgrammingLean DevelopmentUnified ProcessRational Unified ProcessScrum at a glanceScrum is a framework which is used by teams to help them manage their work. It implements Agile principles as a set of artifacts, roles, and practices.Scrum Roles: Scrum has specified three important roles, namely Product Owner, Scrum Master, Scrum Team.Product Owner:A Product Owner holds the responsibility for the product that the team is building and why they are building it. Moreover, he is responsible for keeping the backlog up-to-date and in the order of the priority.Scrum Master:He holds the responsibility to ensure that the team is following the scrum process. They are in the continuous look out for the team’s improvement, while at the same time work on resolving the backlog issues that arise during the sprint.  Scrum Team: The individuals who comprise the team with the responsibility of building the product. They are the engineer of the product and its quality.Scrum Events: Scrum events are used in order to create regularity. All the events are time-boxed, that is it cannot exceed the fixed maximum duration. The elements of Scrum Events are Sprint, Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum Meetings, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective.Sprint: A product incremental is developed in a Sprint. It is usually of a duration of one month or less. The main motive is to provide a pattern to work for the team and the business.Sprint Planning: The work to be performed in a Sprint is discussed and planned in a Sprint Planning meeting.Daily Scrum Meetings:It is a 15-minute meeting held for the team which is conducted on a daily basis. The main motive is to understand the work done since the previously held scrum meeting and to create a plan for the day. It is often referred to as the Daily Stand-up Meeting.Sprint Review: A Sprint Review is held at the end of every Sprint. The team sits along with the stakeholders to discuss what was done in the Sprint. The main objective of this meeting is to obtain feedback for further progress.Sprint Retrospective: It occurs after a Sprint Review and prior to the next sprint planning. The main goal is to introspect and improve in order to make the next Sprint even more effective.Scrum Artifacts: It is like a logbook which provides the Scrum team and the stakeholders with the information that they need to be aware of, like the understanding of the project under development, the activities done and being planned in the project. The Scrum Artifacts are Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, Product Increment.Product Backlog: It is a prioritized list of values that a team can deliver made available by the Product Owner to the Scrum Team. The Product Owner adds, changes and re-prioritizes the product backlog as needed.Sprint Backlog:It is the list of items that a team plans to deliver in the sprint. The sprint starts when all the members of the team agree that the Sprint Backlog is achievable.Product Increment: This is the most important Scrum Artifact. The product of a Sprint can be known as an Incremental if the produces product is potentially shippable. It should meet all of the quality criteria that are set by the Product Owner and the team.  What is Scaled Agile Framework SAFe®?Scaled Agile Framework provides a simple, lightweight experience for the software developing team, where they can apply lean-agile practices at the enterprise level. It can handle the needs of large value streams and complex system developments, despite being simple and light in weight. Its framework is divided into three segments: Team, Program, and Portfolio.SAFe® allow teams to do the following:Implement Lean-Agile software at an enterprise levelIt is based on the principles of  Lean and AgileIt is designed to meet the needs of all stakeholders within an organization.DevOps Vs AgileUsing Agile and DevOps are considered to be the best approach for bringing change within a team or an organisation. One of the most common questions that come across people’s mind is how are Agile and DevOps related to each other. In this regard, it must be noted that DevOps did not emerge as a response to Agile; rather these two are discrete approaches. DevOps slowly grew as a means to plug the communication gap in Agile development.Let's have a look at what this actually means and how Agile and DevOps are related.What is DevOps?DevOps is a culture which promotes collaboration between the Development and Operation Team. It helps in deploying code to production in a faster and automated way., increasing the organization’s speed to deliver applications and services.Difference between Agile and DevOps.AgileProject Trait or FactoDevOpsIt is an iterative approach that focuses on the collaboration, customer feedback and small releases of the product.DefinitionIt is an approach that brings together the practice of development and operations team.It focuses on constant changes.TaskFocuses on constant testing and delivery.Manages complex projects.PurposeManages end-to-end engineering processes.Provided by the customers.FeedbackProvided by the internal team.Agile doesn’t emphasize on automation.AutomationDevOps primary goal is Automation.Can be implemented with a range of frameworks like sprint, safe and scrum.ImplementationDoesn’t have any commonly accepted framework. Its primary goal is focusing on collaboration.Smaller the team, even a few people will work on the project, meaning they can move faster.Team SizeThey have a relatively larger team size as it involves stack-holders.Emphasizes on getting all of its members trained so that they can be familiar with the skills.Skill SetDevelopment and operation teams divide and spread the skill sets between themselves.Agile targets Software DevelopmentScopeDevOps targets end-to-end business solution and faster deliverySoftware DevelopingImportanceDeveloping, testing and implementation all are important.Application of Agile outside SoftwareThe end result after an agile application is a product or a project that will meet best with the customer needs, while at the same time deliver it with minimal cost and time, enabling organisations to attain results earlier as compared to the results obtained via the traditional approaches.The roots of Agile Software Developments are lean, agile manufacturing and organizational learning. Looking at these roots, one can realise that they did not originate in the world of software. Many practices of Agile like Stand-up meetings, prioritization, and visual management originated outside software.These techniques are applied in the development sector of non-software products as well, such as computers, medical devices, computers, food, clothing, etc. Principles of Agile Software Development have found applications in general management platforms, like finance, governance, risk, etc.Common Myths about AgileMyths and misunderstandings are common to spread over any method or framework. With time, it becomes a belief and people start to accept it as common knowledge. Read along to know some of the most common myths that have been growing around Agile.Implementation of Agile is easy:Teams should not just learn the best practices of Agile, but should also be able to judge if the selected project is the right fit for agile. They should evaluate if the organization can adopt the values and principles of agile. It is very important for the organisation to invest the time, effort and resources to institute and establish the expectations, culture, and infrastructure to hold up the implementation of Agile methodology. Practice and commitment are very much required as well.Agile Practice is New:Agile has been in practice since the greater part of the last century. The frameworks which are now collectively known as Agile mostly evolved during the late 1980s and 1990s. Hence, many people are familiar with Agile.  Reading is enough to know about Agile:Reading a book to understand Agile is not enough. It is a good idea to read a book to get a good understanding, but it cannot replace practical experience, which is very important to enable an agile mindset and to transform an organisation to become agile.Agile doesn't need any planning:Planning is very vital with any approach, that is if not carried out properly, it will diminish the effectiveness of performance. Although, Agile plans the activities more evenly throughout the project life cycle. Planning starts right from the beginning of an agile project and is continuously iterated throughout the project as new information is gained. Working in this manner makes the project team more effective and help them adapt to changes in an easier way.Agile is not the same as anarchy:Managers feel that self-organisation is identical to anarchy and hence, fear losing control over their agile team. Dues to Agile, the role of management may change but managers play an integral role in their company. They have the responsibility to define visions and goals, as well as help the team to gain full potential.Agile gives prompt results: Agile transformations always go through a learning curve, but they mostly deliver huge benefits. The delivered results might go downwards before it changes to going upwards in the process before it begins to enhance its delivery capabilities.Agile is possible only with small projects:Agile development is composed of small groups, who are cross-functional and collaborative throughout the process of development. This motion is equally effective for larger projects as multiple teams can be formed where they can focus on separate components.Agile is applicable only for software deliveries:The Agile manifesto describes agile in the context of software delivery. But Agile can be used in businesses which are not software-related as Agile is suitable for any dynamic business which experiences variability.Agile Transformation vs. Agile Adoption A strong majority of organizations are already defaulting to Agile. But there is one common barrier. The lack of understanding of the differences between Agile transformation and Agile adoption. A clear perception of these differences is necessary to realize which is the best fit for your team or organization ー Agile Adoption or Agile Transformation.Agile Adoption: The word Adoption is used to describe the action of taking up or putting something into action or effect. Similarly, Agile Adoption can be referred to as the act of “doing Agile”.Agile adoption makes the process of software development simpler, faster and better.Agile Transformation: Agile Transformation refers to the process of converting a business or an organisation from its previously followed methods to ‘Agile’ methods, which will help them in continuous delivery of software in a fluid manner. The process involves a change in the mindset of all the people working in the organisation, which might not be acceptable by all.An effective Agile transformation is usually seen to happen in three stages-Organizational transformation: This entails setting up teams, defining processes, and finally, deciding how the teams will work in close collaboration.Workflow transformation: This is intended to establish a culture of “self-organization” and empower team members to effectively carry out Agile-specific ceremonies and activities.Personal transformation: This phase aims at developing a collective “Agile mindset” which fosters continuous improvement and enables team members to deliver continuous value.  Agile AdoptionFactorAgile TransformationAgile adoptions are fast. Can be measured in days or weeks.Speed of ChangeAgile Transformations take a long time. Can be measured in years.Short TermPlanning TimeframeLong TermAgile Adoption has a very rare impact.Impact on the Structure of the organization.Directly impacts the power and controls in an organisation.The team and the stakeholders might feel that has changed to become more self-organized.Change in Culture.It has a widespread impact as the whole culture is being transformed.Agile will make all the difference The future is ripe with endless possibilities for Agile, and companies across the globe are already realizing it.Various organizations around the globe are now adopting different approaches to software development according to their needs and demands.Agile has got a promising future in particular for the teams making the best use of it.In the long haul, the same teams will help their organisations by delivering products at less cost. With AI and big data becoming a core part of decision making, data-driven Agile will soon become a major focus.On a closing note, Agile and its practice do not commit to resolving each and every problem faced by an organization. But they do guarantee to establish an environment which will help them solve problems through learning, continual planning, and collaboration.The motto remains the same: to deliver a high-quality product in a shorter period of time.
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The Definitive Guide to Agile Framework

In present times, nearly all software development ... Read More

Must-have tools for Seamless Agile Management

For a long time, developers did not have a lot of freedom with their projects when it came to product development. Expected to work within the restraints provided by the top management or the sponsor of the project, and creatively limited by locked plans, developers craved to think out of the box and unleash their intuition and skills to develop a much more productive system.  This led to the rise of Agile development, a methodology that allows developers to be flexible and creative in delivering exactly what users demand. Agile management took over a whole new system of development. This management system has come a long way since its birth and has now become one of the best manifestos for project management.   However, with such a heavy structure in place, there were strenuous tasks and methods involved. To get accustomed to this manifesto, you should invest in a good Agile and Scrum certification to get well versed with the different Agile tools given below: Agile Manager This tool helps organize and guide teams from the start as they work towards developing working code for an Agile model. At the beginning of this process, the manager will gather important user stories and contemplate on how to attack the problems addressed by them.  During each code sprint, the developers record their progress on user stories and their problems. The entire progress is plotted on a dashboard so that everyone is up to date with their work. Agile Manager dashboardThe Agile Manager offers many features: Creates epics and map them to releases, features and stories Uses story points for estimation Analyses sprint performance with help of dashboard and scrum Uses templates and custom statuses for process management JIRA The JIRA tool is one of the best tools for project management. The team first makes a list of project tasks with the help of a tool called Confluence. Then they track the tasks on an interactive Kanban board that developers can update as they finish each task.  This Agile tool is integrated with other tools. Bamboo is a tool that offers continuous integration that pre-builds the code before evaluating it. Discussions take place through HipChat, and these revolve around the tasks and probable solutions.  Jira dashboardMain features offered in JIRA include: Issue tracking Boards Epics Bug tracking Custom fields Planbox Planbox is a hierarchical tool. It offers four specific levels of organizational power, thus allowing many teams to simultaneously work towards a single goal. The topmost level is called the initiative, which is broad and abstract. They contain various projects, which are filled with tasks. Planbox creates these projects and evaluates them to form a report. This report is prepared for the shareholders.  There are various amazing features like looping customer reviews and time tracking. This tool is integrated with Github for storage and Zendesk for tracking customer satisfaction.Planbox dashboardLeanKitLeankit is a very unique tool. It aims to create a conference room type of whiteboard where most projects start from. This lets members post virtual notes on it that represent tasks, user stories or glitches, which should be addressed later.   The board has a fast update feature and lets multiple teams work together in separate spaces while still coordinating together.  Leankit dashboardThe key features offered by Leankit are:Board view templates Track issues and bugs Manage project portfolios Lean metrics and reporting Proggio This is a next generation project management tool which focuses on and around the team instead of the task. It has a good visual representation that allows managers to create a full-project blueprint. This promises team clarity and increased planning capabilities.With the powerful task management tool, every team member is sure to be on track, and the virtual portfolio is an added accessory that helps tabulate developer progress.  Now, chasing around team members for every update is no longer necessary! Any and all progress report by the team members will clearly be reflected in the project timeline.  Proggio dashbarodThey main features offered by Proggio include: Board and List views Visual tracking Better timelines Choose the Agile tool best suited for your business In this vast market, there are unlimited tools created for Agile, but the above-mentioned are the ones which yield the best results. This will help you evaluate and find the tool that functions best for your context and is comfortable for your team. With every team applying their unique approach to the Agile methodology, choosing the right tool may appear to be a rather difficult task. However, once the Agile manifesto is in place, things are sure to run quite smoothly and profitably.  Be sure to check our latest course schedules for Agile and Scrum and take strides ahead with your professional growth in Agile.
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Must-have tools for Seamless Agile Management

For a long time, developers did not have a lot of ... Read More

How to Use Scrum Board for Agile Development

What is a Scrum Board?A Scrum Board or an Agile Board is a visual representation of the work planned, progressed, and completed by a scrum team in a sprint or iteration at any given point of time. The board is comprised of columns that represent various successive states of the workflow progressing from left to right. The work items appear in the column as per their current state in the development workflow and then move across the board from one column to the next till they reach completion or last stage.The “To Do / Ready” and “Done” states appear in almost every Scrum Board, the “In Progress” items can be further categorized into various states e.g. – Analyse, Design, Code, Test etc. These states are solely created as per the needs of the Scrum Team and Project.Image 1: Simple Scrum BoardWhy is a Scrum Board needed? The Scrum Board visually represents the amount of work along with their current states in a Sprint.  The Board speaks to the team everyday about the holistic progress made by the entire team towards their Sprint Goals and provides a sense of accomplishment and achievement when work items are completed. It avoids creation and progress of “Hidden Work” or “Shoulder Tap” injected work that may not be prioritized. In the event of an interruption (like production issue, any new or changed requirements, changed priorities), it helps Business to reprioritize the work items quickly looking at the current state of the planned items in the Sprint.   It also keeps reinforcing road blocks and impediments faced by the team to all the major stakeholders. Any number of written and verbal communication may not be able to visually represent the state of the entire sprintas a whole as effectively as this visual radiator.Scrum board allows teams to manage the flow of work across the sprint as it helps in avoiding multi-tasking, overloading one person because everything is visible and traceable. How to organize a Scrum Board Physical and Virtual Scrum Boards Teams that are entirely collocated can benefit from physical boards that caneven just be a whiteboard placed near their work cubicles. A physical board could also be on a wall having coloured tape for columns and sticky notes for cards.  Team members typically swarm around the board /agile wall/task wallduring their daily stand up or whenever there is a need. Image 2: A typical physical scrum boardImage 3: A typical Jira scrum boardDistributed teams on the other hand find virtual boards easy to use. There are many tools available in the market to set up Scrum Boardssuch asJira , Rally , Monday.com etc.  In some companies, the Scrum boards are displayed on giant monitors placed near the teams work cubicles. Cards and Columns are the two basic entities on the scrum board.Card is the entity on the board that represents a “Work Item”. A Card can be a User story /Production Bug/Technical Task. During the course of the Sprint these cards travel through the board from left ,“To-Do” to right “Done”.  A Simple Scrum Board for Beginner Teams The Scrum Board below is an example of a typical team board in a software project. Image 4: Typical scrum board for a software projectThe items on the Product Backlog are discussed and as per priority and their readiness, pulled into the “To Do” or “Ready” column during Sprint Planning. At the beginning of a Sprint all items in the “To Do” or “Ready” column comprises the Sprint Backlog of the team. As the Sprint progresses, the items move into the downstream columns until “Done” is reached. A clear “Definition of Done” helps to conclude if the story / task is completed. Usually beginner teams build the board translating the current workflow of their work items into columns on the board. As the teams evolve, they adjust the board accordingly. Effective Visual Representation of data  Information on the Cards Physical Cards usually are post-it notes or sticky notes that carry the User Story/Description, Acceptance Criteria and the Story Points as a minimum. Using post-it notes is a deliberate attempt to keep the story small and avoid loading a lot of work into one story.  In a Virtual board, cards can have exclusive fields to carry information like Project Name/Assignee/Reporter/Created Date etc. These might serve multiple purposes like metrics/reports. Colour-Coded Cards Colour coding is an excellent technique used to convey important information to the audience at the first quick glance.Cards can be colour coded based on their work type like User Story/ Technical Task/Production Bugs. Cards could also be flagged (in the case of a Virtual board) or overlaid with a (preferably) Red coloured card to convey a risk/dependency that needs attention. Swim lanes Defining Swim lanes is a very useful mechanism to categorize the work items on a Scrum Board. They are horizontal rows on the board that carry a specific type of work that is different from the normal/ work categorized by a certain parameter. For e.g. a team that has to resolve emerging high priority production bugs would prefer to use a “Fast Track” swim lane to progress the bug and then continue with their original Sprint work. A team that works on hardware, firmware and software components in a sprint might want to use different swim lanes for each component.  Swim lanes are for the teams. Creating a swim lane for each team member may not be a good idea since the basic guideline for scrum is to work as a team and this representation might affect a team’s mindset. In the board below blue cards are User Stories and green Cards are tasks. Red cards are Production bugs. Some cards are flagged red indicating risks or impediments. Image 5: Example of scrum board with colour-coded cards and swim lanesAspects of Kanban in Scrum BoardA common challenge encountered in projects is when tasks accumulate or pile up in a phase or stage of the workflow. There could be several reasons why that happens. But identifying them is the key to solving that challenge and the Scrum Board effectively helps in this. Assume that Cards D, E, F, G have completed development and ready for testing. Cards B, C are being tested. It is day 6 of a 10-day Sprint.  Developers might now bring in H, I from the Ready Column to start development work, creating a bottleneck at Testing. Image 6: Scrum Board without WIP LimitsConcepts of Kanban can be borrowed into a typical Scrum board to address this. One of the techniques that can be used is to split the column into “In Progress” and “Ready”. This will set the stage for a “Pull” mechanism at every stage in the workflow of a story.  Introducing “WIP Limit” or “Work in Progress” Limit at the columns ensures multiple work items do not pile up at one stage of the process, do not get “pushed” downstream but rather gets “pulled” by downstream process and there is a steady flow created in the system. Considering the team is at day 6 of the iteration, it is recommended the team “stops starting and starts finishing”.  If the team swarms and completes the testing of D, E,F,G there could  be more business value delivered rather than starting development of H and I and having only few of the Development complete cards partially tested. In this scenario, a WIP Limit of 4 at development prevents the team from bringing in more work items into the development phase. The team can now swarm to complete the testing of the developed items taking them to completion.  Image 7: Scrum board with WIP limits and columns split into “In progress” and “Ready”Effective use ofthe Scrum Board  Updating and maintaining the Scrum Board Scrum board is owned by the team and it is the team’s responsibility to update the board to reflect the reality.The team also has the responsibility to evolve the board to suit the need of the project by experimenting on concepts of WIP Limit. How best to use the information on the Board Scrum Board can be used to identify bottlenecks in the flow of work. If bottlenecks are identified in one stage of the workflow, the team can resort to Swarming or enforcing WIP Limits. Seeing the work items move through the Scrum board and reach “Done” during the Sprint provides the team a sense of accomplishment. Challenges and ways to overcome them Easier said than done, updating the board is one of the biggest challenges faced especially in beginner teams. Not every team member will be prompt in updating the board. To overcome this challenge, updating the board could be one of the team ground rules with non-compliance attracting fun consequences decided by the team, such as the defaulter treating the team with chocolates/coffee or updating everyone’s scrum board the next day. The Scrum Master can immensely help the team realize the power of the board by using it during agile ceremonies like planning, stand up and retrospectives. Facilitating the scrum by traversing the board from right to left (i.e.“Done” to “To-Do”) is another tactic to keep reinforcing the value of the board and motivating the teams.Having conversations in stand-ups by traversing the board from right to left will first bring up cards that are done or almost done and helps see what has been accomplished in the sprint.  What a Scrum Board is not A Scrum Board cannot replace the conversations and interactions that are always encouraged in Agile projects. Flagging a card on the scrum board / posing queries on a card should not solely replace the conversations around these. A Scrum Board is not for executives to monitor the team’s progress and efficiency, but it is for the team to monitor their sprint items as a whole. Key takeaway A Scrum Board is an excellent tool for the team to visualize their work, look at everyday progress, identify bottlenecks, make immediate course corrections, so that they can meet their Sprint goals. Used rightly, it will serve the team and benefit them. However, if it is used by management to monitor the team or if the team members consider it as a tool to update management then it loses its purpose and becomes just another overhead. 
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How to Use Scrum Board for Agile Development

What is a Scrum Board?A Scrum Board or an Agile Bo... Read More

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