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User Stories and User Stories Examples

In this article, you will learn about User Stories, 3 C’s of a user story, who writes it, how to write it, how to INVEST in user stories and different types of user stories with examples  What is a User Story? User Story is a tool in which requirements are captured in an easy to understand plain language, and is written from the perspective of an end user. “In software development and product management, a user story is an informal, natural language description of one or more features of a software system. User stories are often written from the perspective of an end user or user of a system” In Agile software development, user stories are used to express the requirements from an end user perspective.  The format of the user story is: As a < user >  I want to < perform an action >  So that < I expect…. > <User> - is the end user or the role of the user in the application software – “As a net banking customer” <perform an action> - the action the user is performing on the application software – “I want to add beneficiary in my account” <I expect..> - outcome, desired value, the user expects out of the action performed – “so that I can transfer money to the added beneficiary”The larger sized stories are called as “Epics” which are then decomposed to “Features” and then further decomposed to a “User Story”.  Epic example: As a Bank, I want to provide net banking to customers, so that they can perform various transactions. The above Epic can then be decomposed into multiple features: few examples: As a Bank, I want to provide funds transfer feature to customer, so that they can transfer funds from one account to another account As a Bank, I want to provide account summary for all the customer’s type of accounts. As a Bank, I want to provide credit card details to customers. Now each feature can be decomposed further into multiple user stories. User stories, based on the estimate size, are taken for implementation in an iteration. User stories should be granular enough that they can be completed within an iteration and cannot be continued in the following iteration. If a story cannot be completed within an iteration, the same should be split logically. User stories are prioritized by the product owner based on business priority and are available at the top of the product backlog. The dev team pulls the stories into an iteration backlog and implements them. The Definition of Done(DOD) for user stories are decided by the team which includes acceptance criteria, processes that need to be followed like unit testing, regression testing, code review etc. The story is said to be “done” only when it meets the preset Definition of Done. Who writes user stories? So, whose responsibility is to write user stories in an agile team?  Generally, the notion is that only the Product Owners should write user stories as they are the ones who elicit requirements from the stakeholders. However, in practice, any member of an Agile team may write user stories, though the overall responsibility is that of a Product Owner. The product owner should go through the stories and prioritize them in the product backlog. Over the course of an agile project, every team member is encouraged and expected to write user stories. When are user stories written? Are user stories written at the beginning of the project in a traditional way?  User stories are written throughout the lifecycle of the project. At the start of the project, user stories are written in Sprint '0', also called as pre-sprint. Initially the product owner elicits the requirements from the stakeholder and they are stored as EPICS, Features and User Stories in the product backlog. The requirements in agile software development are progressively elaborated and hence the need for writing user stories will arise throughout the project. These are written mainly during the backlog grooming session where the product owner decomposes epics/features into granular stories. Dev team writes stories along with the product owner during this session and also gets  involved in the 3 C’s (the next section describes this). confirmation in the 3C’s of user stories “Card”, “Conversation” and “Confirmation” is a model that captures the components of a user story.  This is popularly known as the 3Cs model that helps in planning and estimating the user stories by the Agile team. Card – denotes a Post It note or physical card, typically 3”x5” size, where the important information of a user story is captured. The card should contain enough information (not too less or too much) that the team is able to understand in order to plan & estimate on the story. “Conversation” – this is the conversation that happens between the product owner and the dev team to discuss on the story and get into the details. This may also be a conversation with the users of the system. This conversation also brings out the creativity of the dev team and uncovers any unstated needs of the users. “Confirmation” – this brings out the acceptance criteria for a story based on the above conversation.  This criterion will be used to evaluate the story by the stakeholders when the user story is implemented by the dev team.  The 3 C’s of the user story generally unfold during the backlog grooming session when the dev team and the product owner discuss the stories that needs to be groomed. The user stories are written during this time as well on the card by the dev team and product owner. Just enough information is captured in the story that enables the team to discuss and get into the details, uncovering any hidden or explicit information in the process. The team then negotiates with the product owner and arrives at the acceptance criteria for the user story.  Next, the dev team estimates the user story with the available information. The conversation continues between the dev team and product owner until a consensus is reached with respect to the details and acceptance criteria and until the team can size the same. This round of conversation may happen again during the iteration/sprint planning session. The dev team then implements the story in an iteration which is reviewed by the product owner or stakeholders at the end of the iteration. They will then accept the story based on the acceptance criteria defined for the story. Why create user stories? What are the benefits that a team will get by documenting the need of the stakeholders in the form of user stories? It enables the team to understand the requirements from a user perspective. The focus is on the user to provide value to them; the user story clearly describes the expected outcome of every action performed. This manner of capturing requirements provides opportunities for the team to collaborate more with the product owner and business users. By having conversations (in 3 Cs), the team is able to uncover the hidden requirements and also come up with creative solutions. Provides a shared understanding of the requirements to the team so that everyone is aware of the outcome/goal of the story and is on the same page. User stories help the team to achieve smaller product increments. User stories are more understandable by all stakeholders (technical/non-technical/business/operations). User stories help the team to implement features in smaller iterations ranging from one week to one-month durations. User stories enable the team for progressive elaboration, where they can defer the story until more clarity is obtained. User stories help create transparency of the priorities defined by the product owner and the customer. User stories help the developers, product owner and business owners to reach a mutual consensus as they discuss the details and agree on the acceptance criteria. This helps prioritize the product features by the stakeholders and also helps to take the right decisions at the right time. INVEST in User StoriesThis is an acronym for a set of attributes or criteria that helps us to assess the quality of the user story. If any of the attributes falls short in a story, it means that the team may want to consider rewriting the user story. Independent – User stories should be independent of other stories. There should be no overlap between them. They can however follow one after the other in a sequence, in a way that makes it easy to schedule and implement them.  This is one of the challenges that the team faces especially when they have just started adapting agile ways of working. They may have a story which is dependent on something else which may be done by another team. The teams may hope that they can run the two stories in parallel and by the time the first team is done, the dependent team will also complete their part of the story.  This is not the right way of running user stories, as it can result in a lot of confusion and blame. The advantage of having independent stories is that there is no blame game across teams. It also allows to consider the dependencies and come up with innovative ways of removing them to become independent. Negotiable – The story should not be written in so much detail that it becomes a requirement document. If it is in too much detail, it does not give an opportunity for the dev team to have any conversation with the product owner or the business. The story should be written with just enough detail so that it paves the way to open discussions with the product owner or business, and helps to elicit details or come up with creative solutions. By negotiating on the story with the relevant stakeholders, teams can come to a common understanding. Valuable – The story should be valuable to the customer. It should clearly state why we are doing this? How is it going to produce value to the customer? What value will the customer realize by implementing this story?  The only reason why user stories should be part of the product backlog is that they add value to the customer, right? Estimable – The user stories should have sufficient detail for the dev team to understand and estimate them. The conversation in 3 C’s helps the team to uncover the details with the product owner and stakeholders, so that they can size the story. If the story is too big and not sizeable, then the story should be refined or decomposed further. Whatever information the team may require should be available in the story for them to estimate it. In case there is a part of the story where the team has to do research, then a “spike” story may be created while the rest of the story can be estimated and taken for implementation. Small – Good user stories should be small. This does not refer to the size or number of words written in a story. A small story is of the right length so that the implementation team can complete the story within an iteration. It should be small enough that the story is “fully delivered” during an iteration.  A small user story helps the team to develop and test quickly and easily.  Testable – A good user story should be testable in order to be “Done”. This is supported by the “Confirmation” in 3 C’s where the team comes up with acceptance criteria for every story after the detailed conversation with the stakeholders.  The customer should be clear about what he should test during the review. If he is not clear, then the story is not good enough to be implemented. The team works together in a collaborative way to INVEST in good stories. The team learns to write good user stories as they work together and also proactively think about the values and criteria that are laid out in INVEST. Types of User Stories We can classify user stories into functional and technical types: Functional – Normally, a user story is written based on the functional aspects of the application software, while focusing on the user and the value of the functionality provided to the user.  Functional stories concentrate on the product features which the customer will be testing at the end of an iteration based on the acceptance criteria defined for the story. Technical – Technical stories are written to be able to support the functional stories. Technical stories can be classified as Infrastructure stories – any infrastructure addition/modification that may be required to support the functional story Refactoring – this type of story is written to maintain the code and address technical debts. This can be used for designing and automation needs as well Spikes – stories that require research on architecture and design which may in turn help achieve the functional need of the customer. Examples of user stories Let us see some examples of user stories (Epics, Features and User Story) in this section. IDEPICSE1As a Sales Professional, I want to generate reports so that I can take a decision on the marketing strategy for the upcoming quarterE2As a Banking Customer, I want to access net banking, so that I can access my account and make transactionsE3As an Administrator of the software, I want to access master records so that I can make changes to customer dataIDFeaturesE2F1As a Banking Customer, I want to access Savings account so that I can view/make transactionsE2F2As a Banking Customer, I want to access Credit Card page, so that I can view and make transactionsE2F3As a Banking Customer, I want to access Loans page so that I can view my loansE2F4As a Banking Customer, I want to transfer funds, so that I can move my funds to different accounts within my bank and other banksIDUser StoriesE2F1U1As a Banking Customer, I want to access/view summary of my savings account, so that I know my balance and other detailsE2F2U1As a Banking Customer, I want to Login to Net banking so that I can view credit card detailsE2F4U1As a Banking Customer, I want to transfer funds within my own accounts so that I can move some balance across my accountsE2F4U2As a Banking Customer, I want to transfer funds from my account to another account in another bank, so that  I can send money to my family and friends who have accounts in other banksE2F4U3As a Banking Customer, I want to add beneficiary to my account, so that I can transfer funds to the beneficiaryTechnical StoriesE2TU1As a Net Banking Administrator, I want to have the customer’s data backed up so that I can restore it any time in case of issues  E2TU2  As a Net Banking application, I want to shake hands with another bank using a specific formatted XML so that funds can be transferred based on the customers’ needs  ConclusionTransformation of documentation on user requirements in a Functional Requirements Document (FRD) or Software Requirement Specification (SRS) in a traditional project management, towards User Stories in Agile project management, is a massive step. It helps  shift the mindset of how teams can understand and collaborate with the customer in a better way, by shifting their focus of implementation towards value that the customer may realize from the story. This shift has worked very well in terms of meeting the requirements and expectations of the customer. 

User Stories and User Stories Examples

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User Stories and User Stories Examples

In this article, you will learn about User Stories, 3 C’s of a user story, who writes it, how to write it, how to INVEST in user stories and different types of user stories with examples  

What is a User Story? 

User Story is a tool in which requirements are captured in an easy to understand plain language, and is written from the perspective of an end user. 

In software development and product management, a user story is an informal, natural language description of one or more features of a software system. User stories are often written from the perspective of an end user or user of a system 

In Agile software development, user stories are used to express the requirements from an end user perspective.  The format of the user story is: 

As a < user > 
I want to < perform an action > 
So that < I expect…. > 
  • <User> - is the end user or the role of the user in the application software – “As a net banking customer 
  • <perform an action> - the action the user is performing on the application software – “I want to add beneficiary in my account” 
  • <I expect..> - outcome, desired value, the user expects out of the action performed – “so that I can transfer money to the added beneficiary”
  • The larger sized stories are called as “Epics” which are then decomposed to “Features” and then further decomposed to a “User Story”.  
  • Epic example: As a Bank, I want to provide net banking to customers, so that they can perform various transactions. 
  • The above Epic can then be decomposed into multiple features: few examples: 
  • As a Bank, I want to provide funds transfer feature to customer, so that they can transfer funds from one account to another account 
  • As a Bank, I want to provide account summary for all the customer’s type of accounts. 
  • As a Bank, I want to provide credit card details to customers. 
  • Now each feature can be decomposed further into multiple user stories. 

User stories, based on the estimate size, are taken for implementation in an iteration. User stories should be granular enough that they can be completed within an iteration and cannot be continued in the following iteration. If a story cannot be completed within an iteration, the same should be split logically. User stories are prioritized by the product owner based on business priority and are available at the top of the product backlog. The dev team pulls the stories into an iteration backlog and implements them. The Definition of Done(DOD) for user stories are decided by the team which includes acceptance criteria, processes that need to be followed like unit testing, regression testing, code review etc. The story is said to be “done” only when it meets the preset Definition of Done. 

Who writes user stories? 

So, whose responsibility is to write user stories in an agile team?  

Generally, the notion is that only the Product Owners should write user stories as they are the ones who elicit requirements from the stakeholders. However, in practice, any member of an Agile team may write user stories, though the overall responsibility is that of a Product Owner. The product owner should go through the stories and prioritize them in the product backlog. Over the course of an agile project, every team member is encouraged and expected to write user stories. 

When are user stories written? 

Are user stories written at the beginning of the project in a traditional way?  

User stories are written throughout the lifecycle of the project. At the start of the project, user stories are written in Sprint '0', also called as pre-sprint. Initially the product owner elicits the requirements from the stakeholder and they are stored as EPICS, Features and User Stories in the product backlog. The requirements in agile software development are progressively elaborated and hence the need for writing user stories will arise throughout the project. These are written mainly during the backlog grooming session where the product owner decomposes epics/features into granular stories. Dev team writes stories along with the product owner during this session and also gets  involved in the 3 C’s (the next section describes this). 


confirmation in the 3C’s of user stories confirmation in the 3C’s of user stories 

  • “Card”, “Conversation” and “Confirmation” is a model that captures the components of a user story.  This is popularly known as the 3Cs model that helps in planning and estimating the user stories by the Agile team. 
  • Card – denotes Post It note or physical card, typically 3”x5” size, where the important information of a user story is captured. The card should contain enough information (not too less or too much) that the team is able to understand in order to plan & estimate on the story. 
  • “Conversation” – this is the conversation that happens between the product owner and the dev team to discuss on the story and get into the details. This may also be a conversation with the users of the system. This conversation also brings out the creativity of the dev team and uncovers any unstated needs of the users. 
  • “Confirmation” – this brings out the acceptance criteria for a story based on the above conversation.  This criterion will be used to evaluate the story by the stakeholders when the user story is implemented by the dev team.  

The 3 C’s of the user story generally unfold during the backlog grooming session whethe dev team and the product owner discuss the stories that needs to be groomed. The user stories are written during this time as well on the card by the dev team and product owner. Just enough information is captured in the story that enables the team to discuss and get into the details, uncovering any hidden or explicit information in the process. The team then negotiates with the product owner and arrives at the acceptance criteria for the user story.  

Next, the dev team estimates the user story with the available information. The conversation continues between the dev team and product owner until a consensus is reached with respect to the details and acceptance criteria and until the team can size the same. This round of conversation may happen again during the iteration/sprint planning session. The dev team then implements the story in an iteration which is reviewed by the product owner or stakeholders at the end of the iteration. They will then accept the story based on the acceptance criteria defined for the story. 

Why create user stories? 

What are the benefits that a team will get by documenting the need of the stakeholders in the form of user stories? 

  • It enables the team to understand the requirements from a user perspective. 
  • The focus is on the user to provide value to them; the user story clearly describes the expected outcome of every action performed. 
  • This manner of capturing requirements provides opportunities for the team to collaborate more with the product owner and business users. 
  • By having conversations (in 3 Cs), the team is able to uncover the hidden requirements and also come up with creative solutions. 
  • Provides a shared understanding of the requirements to the team so that everyone is aware of the outcome/goal of the story and is on the same page. 
  • User stories help the team to achieve smaller product increments. 
  • User stories are more understandable by all stakeholders (technical/non-technical/business/operations). 
  • User stories help the team to implement features in smaller iterations ranging from one week to one-month durations. 
  • User stories enable the team for progressive elaboration, where they can defer the story until more clarity is obtained. 
  • User stories help create transparency of the priorities defined by the product owner and the customer. 
  • User stories help the developers, product owner and business owners to reach a mutual consensus as they discuss the details and agree on the acceptance criteria. 
  • This helps prioritize the product features by the stakeholders and also helps to take the right decisions at the right time. 

INVEST in User Stories
INVEST in User Stories

This is an acronym for a set of attributes or criteria that helps us to assess the quality of the user story. If any of the attributes falls short in a story, it means that the team may want to consider rewriting the user story. 

  • Independent – User stories should be independent of other stories. There should be no overlap between them. They can however follow one after the other in a sequence, in a way that makes it easy to schedule and implement them.  

This is one of the challenges that the team faces especially when they have just started adapting agile ways of working. They may have a story which is dependent on something else which may be done by another team. The teams may hope that they can run the two stories in parallel and by the time the first team is done, the dependent team will also complete their part of the story.  This is not the right way of running user stories, as it can result in a lot of confusion and blame. 

The advantage of having independent stories is that there is no blame game across teams. It also allows to consider the dependencies and come up with innovative ways of removing them to become independent. 

  • Negotiable – The story should not be written in so much detail that it becomes a requirement document. If it is in too much detail, it does not give an opportunity for the dev team to have any conversation with the product owner or the business. The story should be written with just enough detail so that it paves the way to open discussions with the product owner or business, and helps to elicit details or come up with creative solutions. By negotiating on the story with the relevant stakeholders, teams can come to a common understanding. 
  • Valuable – The story should be valuable to the customer. It should clearly state why we are doing this? How is it going to produce value to the customer? What value will the customer realize by implementing this story?  

The only reason why user stories should be part of the product backlog is that they add value to the customer, right? 

  • Estimable – The user stories should have sufficient detail for the dev team to understand and estimate them. The conversation in 3 C’s helps the team to uncover the details with the product owner and stakeholders, so that they can size the story. If the story is too big and not sizeable, then the story should be refined or decomposed further. Whatever information the team may require should be available in the story for them to estimate it. In case there is a part of the story where the team has to do research, then a “spike” story may be created while the rest of the story can be estimated and taken for implementation. 
  • Small – Good user stories should be small. This does not refer to the size or number of words written in a story. A small story is of the right length so that the implementation team can complete the story within an iteration. It should be small enough that the story is “fully delivered” during an iteration.  

A small user story helps the team to develop and test quickly and easily.  

  • Testable – A good user story should be testable in order to be “Done”. This is supported by the “Confirmation” in 3 C’s where the team comes up with acceptance criteria for every story after the detailed conversation with the stakeholders.  

The customer should be clear about what he should test during the review. If he is not clear, then the story is not good enough to be implemented. 

The team works together in a collaborative way to INVEST in good stories. The team learns to write good user stories as they work together and also proactively think about the values and criteria that are laid out in INVEST. 

Types of User Stories 

We can classify user stories into functional and technical types: 

Functional – Normally, a user story is written based on the functional aspects of the application software, while focusing on the user and the value of the functionality provided to the user.  Functional stories concentrate on the product features which the customer will be testing at the end of an iteration based on the acceptance criteria defined for the story. 

  • Technical – Technical stories are written to be able to support the functional stories. Technical stories can be classified as 
  • Infrastructure stories – any infrastructure addition/modification that may be required to support the functional story 
  • Refactoring – this type of story is written to maintain the code and address technical debts. This can be used for designing and automation needs as well 
  • Spikes – stories that require research on architecture and design which may in turn help achieve the functional need of the customer. 

Examples of user stories 

Let us see some examples of user stories (Epics, Features and User Story) in this section. 

IDEPICS
E1As a Sales Professional, I want to generate reports so that I can take a decision on the marketing strategy for the upcoming quarter
E2As a Banking Customer, I want to access net banking, so that I can access my account and make transactions
E3As an Administrator of the software, I want to access master records so that I can make changes to customer data


IDFeatures
E2F1As a Banking Customer, I want to access Savings account so that I can view/make transactions
E2F2As a Banking Customer, I want to access Credit Card page, so that I can view and make transactions
E2F3As a Banking Customer, I want to access Loans page so that I can view my loans
E2F4As a Banking Customer, I want to transfer funds, so that I can move my funds to different accounts within my bank and other banks


IDUser Stories
E2F1U1As a Banking Customer, I want to access/view summary of my savings account, so that I know my balance and other details
E2F2U1As a Banking Customer, I want to Login to Net banking so that I can view credit card details
E2F4U1As a Banking Customer, I want to transfer funds within my own accounts so that I can move some balance across my accounts
E2F4U2As a Banking Customer, I want to transfer funds from my account to another account in another bank, so that  I can send money to my family and friends who have accounts in other banks
E2F4U3As a Banking Customer, I want to add beneficiary to my account, so that I can transfer funds to the beneficiary

Technical Stories
E2TU1As a Net Banking Administrator, I want to have the customer’s data backed up so that I can restore it any time in case of issues  
E2TU2  As a Net Banking applicationI want to shake hands with another bank using a specific formatted XML so that funds can be transferred based on the customers needs  

Conclusion

Transformation of documentation on user requirements in a Functional Requirements Document (FRD) or Software Requirement Specification (SRS) in a traditional project management, towards User Stories in Agile project management, is a massive step. It helps  shift the mindset of how teams can understand and collaborate with the customer in a better way, by shifting their focus of implementation towards value that the customer may realize from the story. This shift has worked very well in terms of meeting the requirements and expectations of the customer. 

Krishnakumar

Krishnakumar Kuppusamy

Author

Krishnakumar Kuppusamy is one of the highly experienced Agile Coaches and SAFe Program Consultant (SPC 5.0). He has 24+ years of experience in information technology industry handling both traditional and agile projects. He has worked with companies like Citibank (USA) & Polaris Software at various capacities in project & program management. 

He has worked for ANZ and Ford India, coaching multiple Agile teams in their transformational journey. He is also a freelance trainer, conducted trainings in SAFe/PMP/PMI-ACP/ITIL/CBAP for over 2000+ professionals helping them getting certified and excel in their respective areas. 

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1 comments

Umadevi 10 Feb 2021

It’s good user stories . Thank you so much

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This makes it lightweight and apt for software development in the modern world.  Easy to Understand: With just three roles, three artifacts, four ceremonies and 12 Agile values, Scrum is pretty easy to understand. Scrum is a collection of practices and concepts that teams use to build processes around. The Scrum Guide which is the Scrum bible is also easy to read and understand. The three scrum roles are: Team, Scrum Master, Product Owner The ceremonies are:  Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Retrospective and Sprint Review The three artifacts are: Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, Burndown chart  Difficult to Master: So, if Scrum is so easy to learn about and understand then why is that it’s difficult to actually implement and master? Let us look at this from the perspective of a Scrum Master. A Scrum Master is a critical part of the Scrum team and is in effect a microcosm of Scrum upholding the Agile values and focusing on creating a self-organizing, highly motivated and collaborative team. Scrum is a not a one-size-fits- all framework. Perhaps that is what makes it difficult to master. It has to be tailored to suit the needs of each project, team and organization. There are several factors that need to be considered before adopting Scrum. The Scrum Master’s role, similarly, needs to be learnt and there are several skills a professional must have or needs to cultivate in order to be a successful Scrum Master. The Scrum Master’s Role in a Successful Scrum Adoption:There are many Scrum teams that have started out in the right way, but soon fall by the wayside as they do not follow Scrum in principle. This is where the Scrum Master plays a very critical role in the success of the team. Despite Scrum being ‘simple to understand and difficult to master’ the Scrum Master is considered to be the expert on all things Scrum.As a coach, guide and mentor, the Scrum Master should facilitate the successful adoption of Scrum, and help others to gain mastery over Scrum principles and values.A Scrum Master must mandatorily follow certain core values and inspire the team to follow them as well. These core values that include openness, commitment, focus, courage and respect bring the team together and promote better work ethics and practices.Besides inculcating Scrum principles and values and guiding a successful adoption, a Scrum Master should also have these attributes:  An Unbiased and Open Mind:  An unbiased and open mind is key to being a good Scrum Master. As part of their portfolio, Scrum Masters have to work with different teams and team members having different personalities. Having an open mind will help the Scrum Master to not look at every team with the same lens and treat each team differently. Solutions that work for one team may not work for other teams or situations. Having an open mind will help you realise this and tweak your decisions based on teams and situations.   Transparency:  Transparency and open communication are the pillars of Scrum. As a Scrum Master your intentions should be open and transparent to everyone including your team and the product owner. The team must at all times know your reasons for doing certain things or taking certain decisions. Being upfront with the team members will help in trust building and lead to better work ethics.   Metrics to Map Progress:There are several tools available to track a team’s progress and the Scrum Master must ensure that these metrics showing the team’s progress be made available to the entire team. This will help the team better plan sprints, work collaboratively and improve working practices in order to ensure better output and value.   Motivation for Team Members: Keeping your team members happy and motivated is a Scrum Master’s main job. This includes removing obstacles that may impede the team from performing and helping them work according to Scrum values and techniques. The development team develops the product, and a happy team means a well-built product and satisfied customers. Assistance to the Product Owner:  As a Scrum Master, aiding the Product Owner is a major part of your responsibility. The Product Owner is a major stakeholder in the Scrum team and the Scrum Master aids the product owner in backlog management and by facilitating Scrum events, product planning and by helping the team to identify backlog items. Aiding the Product Owner in issues that they may face with regards to the project, stakeholders or the team will create a positive environment and will make things between the team and the product owner smoother.   Focus on the Challenges: Every Scrum project comes with its set of issues. But an effective Scrum Master will be aware of every challenge or impediment that comes in the way of the development team and takes these problems head on. Focusing on these challenges early on and resolving them is paramount to the success and progress of the team and the project. Appreciation for Achievements:  The focus of daily sprints and retrospectives is often to celebrate achievements and give the development team proper appreciation. A Scrum Master encourages and motivates and this they also do by respective current achievements. While giving advise on how things should be done is necessary, appreciating the team on its achievements is equally important.   Respect for Others: Your team members all have different personalities and each brings their own uniqueness and expertise to the team. No one team member is less or more important than the other. An effective and efficient Scrum Master will recognise this early on and treat every team member with the same amount of respect.  Understanding of Situations in the Right Context:  Not all things are as what they appear. The sooner a scrum master understands this, the better. Situations in context to teams, individuals and even the organization are not always black and white and the Scrum Master must consider the baggage of organizational culture, current systems, internal politics, etc before coming to a conclusion about a team or a team members. Instead, one must attempt to form close relationships with the team and understand the workings of the team and the organizations before passing judgement. Ability to Have Tough Conversations :  You as a Scrum Master are often seen as a problem solver, friend and mentor. But don’t let this image of yours come in the way of making tough decisions or having tough conversations. As a Scrum Master you must have the courage to do the right thing and if this means having difficult but necessary conversations with either the team members, the product owner or the stakeholders, then you must do it.    Courage to Protect the Team:  More often than not, there are unreasonable demands made on the development team. The Scrum Master should have the courage to protect the team and say an emphatic ‘no’ to the Product Owner or the stakeholders.  Accountability: You are accountable for your team’s success as you are for its failures. If as a Scrum Master you want your team to be accountable then the best way to get them to do that is to be accountable yourself. You can do this by being more invested in the day-to-day activities of the team and considering yourself to be a part of the team as well.  Support for Team Members: As a Scrum Master you are not just invested in the project but also in the growth of individual team members. You should motivate, encourage and support your team members to grow and reach heights in their careers.   Deep Commitment: If the team feels that the Scrum Master is committed to the project, committed to the team and committed to the team members, then they are more likely to be open and transparent with the Scrum Master. This trust with the team has to be built so that team members can be open about the challenges they face. The Scrum Master is the voice of the team and must support them at all stages.   Focus on Improvement:  Scrum is all about continuous improvement and the success of the Scrum Master is also tied to the continuous improvement of the Scrum team. If your team is getting better with time then you are doing well as a Scrum Master. From daily sprints to retrospectives, the Scrum Master provides avenues for the team to improve itself, identify problems and suggest solutions to work better.  Conclusion Scrum is the most used Agile framework, yet there are several lessons that organizations need to learn about Scrum before they embark on a transformation journey. This lightweight and easy to use framework can turn around the fortunes of companies if implemented in the right way. It’s important for an organization’s culture to be ready to accept and implement Scrum for project and organizational success.  
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Why Scrum Is Lightweight; Simple To Understand; Di...

85 percent of respondents say Scrum continues to... Read More

Scrum Master – The Scrum Team’s Servant-Leader!

The term servant leader is synonymous with a Scrum Master. But what does it mean? The Scrum Master is a servant leader in Agile projects, but servant leadership goes far beyond Agile, and Scrum Masters serve more than just the team.In this blog we attempt to look at the Scrum Master’s role as a servant leader, what the role entails and the responsibilities of the Scrum Master beyond the team, in context to the organization. What is servant-leadership?The term servant leadership was first coined by Robert Greenleaf in his article “The Servant as Leader”, in which he defined a servant leader as: The Servant-Leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That leader significantly differs from one who is leader first, may be due to the need to acquire power, material belonging, control and authority within the organization. Servant leadership is something very different from traditional leadership, which places the leader at the top of the hierarchy and the employees in the lower rung. Servant leadership, in a sense, is the opposite of traditional leadership, as it places the leader at the bottom of the hierarchy while employees are on the higher rungs. The leaders, in this case, are serving the people above them. Servant leadership refers to leaders who believe in serving people and the community that they are a part of, rather than accumulating power for themselves. This style of leadership emphasizes on helping subordinates better themselves, empowering employees and helping others perform to the best of their abilities.Servant leadership does not prescribe telling employees what to do, instead it helps the workforce find their sense of ownership and unlock their potential to reach their goals. Servant leadership is all about empowering others, which when consistently done can raise morale, enhance productivity and reduce employee attrition.Servant Leadership and ScrumScrum, in a way, is the very essence of servant leadership. Unlike traditional project management methodologies, it does not follow a top-down, hierarchical approach. Instead, decisions are lateral and happen with the involvement of the whole team. Scrum is the perfect approach in which to practice the concept of servant leadership. The 5 Scrum values of Openness, Respect, Commitment, Courage, and Focus, adhere to the philosophy of Servant Leadership. The Scrum Master plays a key role in the development of the product, the team and the organization. The Scrum Guide defines the servant leadership a Scrum Master’s role has to perform in context to the roles mentioned above. The Scrum Values that a Scrum Master practices have a ripple effect throughout the organization. The Scrum Master is seen as an evangelist for practicing and promoting Scrum in the enterprise.The Agile Manifesto and servant-leadershipThe Agile Manifesto states that one must value: Individuals and interactions over Process and tools Working software over Comprehensive documentation Customer collaboration over Contract negotiation Responding to change over Following a plan These again align with the values of servant leadership, which is all about putting people or employees first. The Agile Manifesto describes focusing on building projects around motivated individuals and giving them an environment of support, trust and collaboration—all characteristics of servant leadership.Who Are These Servant Leaders?The Scrum Guide defines the service provided by the Scrum Master as servant leadership. The Scrum Master selflessly provides servant leadership to the development team, product owner and the whole organization. By serving these entities, the Scrum Master can create a high performing team, a valuable product and an efficient organization that is able to meet business objectives and keep customers happy.  Though the term Scrum Master may be deceptive, the Scrum Master is not a master of the team but in fact serves the team in order to ensure smooth functioning and productivity.Servant Leadership and Scrum Master Roles of Servant LeadershipServant leadership:The day-to-day activity of a Scrum Master involves servant leadership. Servant leadership in a scrum team involves performance planning, coaching, helping the team self- organize, resolving conflicts through conflict management, removing obstacles that hinder progress and serving the team. The Scrum Master, while practicing servant leadership, helps the team grow and mature and become independent enough to make their own decisions. Servant leadership in Scrum is all about making the team self-reliant, so they can cope with the pressures of the role. As a servant leader the Scrum Master creates a high performing team, helps them become collaborative and high performing in order to achieve goals and meet the requirements of the customer.  Service to the Scrum Team: As a servant leader, the primary responsibility of the Scrum Master is to help the development team perform. They help the team perform to the best of their abilities by giving them an environment that is conducive to work in, encouraging them, guiding them and removing obstacles that may hinder progress. As a coach, the Scrum Master will guide the team on scrum processes and help them adhere to Agile values during the development of the product. The Scrum Master is responsible for the scrum team’s effectiveness, and they work tirelessly to ensure that the team is motivated, encouraged, creative and innovative. The Scrum Master through servant leadership helps the team improve Scrum practices which helps them become more productive and generate value. The Scrum Team’s role in motivating and helping the team comes through in the daily stand-up meetings that are arranged as part of the sprint. The Scrum Master encourages team members to share their grievances and progress made through the sprint. Team members can talk about obstacles that may be hindering their work and due cognizance will be taken up by the Scrum master to ensure that these obstacles are removed.  According to the Scrum Guide, the Scrum Master helps the Development Team by: Coaching the team in becoming self-organized and cross-functional Helping the Scrum Team focus on creating high-value increments by removing impediments Helping the team deliver within the timeframe of the sprint Service to the Product Owner: The Scrum Master is a servant leader not just for the development team but also the Product Owner. While the Product Owner is primarily responsible for the product backlog, they cannot do this alone. The Scrum Master aids the development team and the Product Owner with effective product backlog management.The Scrum Master is involved at every stage of the product backlog grooming, helping the product owner with Scrum events, product planning and to identify backlog items along with the development team. The Scrum Master helps the Product Owner define the product vision to the team.   According to the Scrum Guide, the Scrum Master helps the Product Owner by: Helping in Product Goal definition and Product Backlog management Helping the Scrum Team understand manage the Product Backlog items Setting up empirical product planning in complex environments and, Managing and facilitating stakeholder collaboration.Service to the Organization: The Scrum Master is a coach and motivator not just for the development team but goes beyond the team to spread the awareness of Scrum in the entire organization. Scrum Masters coach and help teams and departments understand Scrum and develop an Agile mind-set. Besides servant leadership to the team a Scrum Master is also involved in promoting the ideas and values of Scrum. An organization can get an agile mind-set only if the entire organization adopts Scrum and not just a few teams. This is where the Scrum Master comes in, helping other teams not involved with Scum to gain the Agile mind-set, through training and coaching. The Scrum Master is an Agile evangelist and promotes Scrum enterprise-wide.According to Scrum.org the Scrum Master serves the organization by: Leading, training, and coaching the organization in adopting Scrum Planning and advising Scrum implementations within the organization Coaching employees and stakeholders in the way Scrum works Helping stakeholders work with Scrum TeamsSome Servant-Leader Behaviours for every Scrum MasterBeing empathetic: This is the foremost personality trait required for anyone wanting to become a Scrum Master. Your empathy will shine through in your interactions with the team members and your dealings with the stakeholders. You should be able to see problems from the point of view of each party and work towards solving these problems. Caring: As a caring and empathetic Scrum Master, your team will feel free to approach you and share their concerns. Providing a listening ear will make you more approachable. You will be able to more clearly understand the impediments that are stopping project progress and work towards providing a solution.  Managing Conflicts: Not all team members will get along with each other and this can cause disruptions and problems within the team, lowering their productivity. As a Scrum Master you need to be great at conflict management, help others solve their problems, work with each other and create a high performing and harmonious team. Building relationships: You need to build a rapport with your team, the product owner and the stakeholders. This will help you communicate freely and help others approach you with their problems and issues. You need to build that relationship of trust and take everyone along on the journey of success.  Being ethical: Ethics play an important role in software development, especially since software now controls every aspect of our lives. The product created should be free of malice and fraud. The Scrum Master should guide the team in delivering the product at a value and standard that is expected and agreed upon with the stakeholder. There should not be any shortcuts or concessions made on the quality of the product delivered as this will affect not just the Scrum Master and the team’s reputation but will cause a dent in the reputation of the organization.   Conclusion  Servant leadership and the Scrum Master’s role is the backbone of Scrum. The Scrum Master as a servant leader re-emphasizes the values of Scrum and helps to enhance teamwork, collaboration, motivation and value. Under the able servant leadership of the Scrum Master, individual members and the team will grow, become more confident and help in delivering value.  
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Scrum Master – The Scrum Team’s Servan...

The term servant leader is synonymous with a Scrum... Read More

A Guide to Scaling Scrum

Scrum has been proven to work well for small teams. But the true benefits of Agile can only be reaped if Agile and Scrum are scaled at the enterprise level. However, this is easier said than done. According to statistics, 47% of Agile transformations are not successful. While this is a worrying trend, there are still hundreds of organizations who have got it right and are able to survive the competition by innovating faster, delivering value and adapting to changing markets. How are they doing it? By using scaled Scrum.There are several tools and frameworks available for scaling Scrum at the enterprise level. In this blog, we attempt to look at a few of these.  Scaling Scrum with NexusNexus is among the most popular frameworks for scaling Scrum. According to the Nexus Guide, “Nexus is a framework for developing and sustaining scaled product delivery initiatives. It builds upon Scrum, extending it only where absolutely necessary to minimize and manage dependencies between multiple Scrum Teams while promoting empiricism and the Scrum Values.” How is Nexus different from Scrum? Scrum defines three primary roles: The Product Owner, the Scrum Master and the development team. These three roles work together in one team.The Nexus framework consists of several Scrum teams that work together toward a common product goal and defines the Nexus Integration Team as an additional accountability.  Nexus helps to build on the values of Scrum and also solves the collaboration and dependency challenges that tend to occur between teams in Scrum.Benefits of using Nexus Nexus extends Scrum in the following ways:  Accountabilities: Nexus introduces the Nexus Integration Team, which consists of the Scrum Master, Product Owner, and members. This team is accountable for delivering a workable product at the end of each sprint.  Events: Nexus events aim to add to or supplement Scrum events and serve not just individual teams but also the Nexus Integration Team. The objective of a sprint is to achieve the Nexus sprint goal. Artifacts: Although the teams are different, within the Nexus framework they all work towards a single goal and follow a single product backlog. There’s a high amount of transparency and work is allocated to each team. The Nexus Integration TeamAccording to the Nexus Guide, “the Nexus Integration Team exists to coordinate, coach, and supervise the application of Nexus and the operation of Scrum so the best outcomes are derived.” The Nexus Integration Team or NIT comprises of the Scrum Master, the Product Owner and Nexus integration team members. There are generally three to nine Scrum teams working together in Nexus. All of them follow a single product backlog and work towards delivering a single product. The Nexus Integration Team forms an essential role within Nexus and is tasked with providing transparent accountability among the teams in Nexus.Product OwnerThe Product Owner is accountable for maximizing the product value and the work carried out in Nexus. Their primary task is to order and refine the product backlog. Being a member of the Nexus Integration Team, the product owner will work with all the Scrum teams in the Nexus Integration team. The product owner and the teams work towards better defining and refining the product backlog.Scrum MasterJust like in regular Scrum, the Scrum Master in the Nexus Integration Team is also responsible for ensuring that the Nexus framework is understood by everyone on the team as prescribed by the Nexus Guide.   MembersThe members of the Nexus Integration Team are the Scrum team members who aid the Scrum teams in adoption of tools and practices that will help the team and members deliver value at the end of each sprint that meets the definition of done. Nexus Integration Team membership should be considered more important than the individual Scrum Team membership and members should work towards first fulfilling their Nexus team responsibilities.What are the Events in Nexus?Nexus adds or augments the events as defined by Scrum. The Nexus event durations are like Scrum event durations and are guided by the Scrum Guide.  Nexus events consist of: Sprint- A Nexus sprint is the same as in Scrum, at the end of which a single increment is delivered.  Cross team refinement- The aim of Nexus is to enhance collaboration and reduce cross team dependencies. Cross team refinement helps to make dependencies and responsibilities more transparent. This makes it easier for Scrum teams within the Nexus to clearly identify and deliver their allocated tasks.  Nexus Sprint Planning- Nexus sprint planning will involve the participation of the Product Owner and concerned teams' members from each team. The purpose of the Nexus Sprint Planning is to assign and co-ordinate activities for a single sprint.  Nexus Daily Scrum- This is like the daily stand up in Scrum. Nexus daily scrum is used to identify any issues and track progress. Any issues are immediately prioritized and solved so that they do not hinder the work of the developers.  Nexus Sprint Review- This event is held at the end of sprints to provide feedback on the increment that has been built and on any future updates that have to be made. Nexus Sprint Retrospective- Like in Scrum, Nexus retrospectives are an important part of the project and are used to reflect on how quality and consistency can be improved.  Some Nexus ArtifactsNexus artifacts are the same as Scrum artifacts and when implemented correctly ensure transparency and value maximization. Every artifact is designed to give a commitment. For example, the product backlog is the artifact and its commitment is the product goal. Other artifacts and their commitments include: Nexus Sprint Backlog-Nexus Sprint Goal Integrated Increment-Definition of Done Along with Nexus, LeSS is another popular framework for scaling agile.  Scaling Scrum with LeSS The Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS) framework is an offering from Atlassian and is a framework for scaling Scrum to multiple teams that are working on the same product. The idea behind LeSS is to start with a single Scrum team as defined in the Scrum Guide and then replicate it to multiple teams who are working on a single product. LeSS has earned the label of being “barely sufficient” as it is a simple framework to apply and uses the basic concepts of Scrum to scale.  How do Sprint Planning meetings in LeSS work?  LeSS generally carries out sprint planning in two stages. Sprint Planning One focuses on selecting items that are of topmost priority, solving unanswered issues and defining the sprint goal. The Sprint Planning Two is like the sprint plan of regular Scrum and focuses on creating a plan of action for getting things done.  Daily meeting  The daily Scrum meeting in LeSS is similar to how it is done in normal single Scrum teams and involves team members discussing the work accomplished and the work to be done during the day. It is a time-boxed meeting and helps teams address any issues that may be hindering work.   Sprint Delivery Meeting (Review) The sprint review meeting is an essential part of LeSS and helps teams and stakeholders review the product built during the sprint and suggest changes and new ideas.   Retrospective The retrospective for LeSS is similar to one team Scrum. These retrospectives held at the end of the sprint will help teams to reflect on the progress of tasks, and identify the obstacles that may hinder or impede the overall project.  Let’s take a look at some of the other frameworks that are used for scaling agile. Scaling Scrum with SAFe®The Scaled Agile Framework, SAFe in short, follows the principles of lean and agile and helps in scaling Scrum to the enterprise. It helps to manage alignment, collaboration, and delivery from multiple agile teams to ensure enterprise success. It systematically focuses on applying Scrum at each level of the enterprise, to maximize value and ensure a successful agile transformation.A successful SAFe adoption ensures end-to-end business agility with significant improvements in strategy, delivery, execution and business competencies. It helps organizations overcome competition and ensure innovative business solutions to gain customer trust and partnership. The SAFe framework is continuously improvised in order to help organizations cope with the digital age and ensure that business outcomes are delivered.Scaling Scrum with the Scrum@Scale frameworkAnother framework that allows organizations to implement Scrum at scale is the Scrum@Scale framework. This framework expands on the core principles of Scrum and helps to scale Scrum over a wide range of industries and sectors, ensuring customer satisfaction and creation of successful products. It promotes communication across all teams and departments, and optimizes resources, removes roadblocks and ensures creation of innovative products.A Final Word By driving Agile at the organizational level, companies can gain all the benefits of team-level Scrum at scale. More often than not the principles of team level Scrum are not sustainable at the enterprise level and the transformation fails. Tested and proven Agile scaling frameworks are now able to turn this around, and help organizations scale up the principles and practices of Scrum to become more adaptable, flexible and responsive. Professionals can master these frameworks and help their organization adopt the culture, mind-set and principles of Scrum and agile.  
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A Guide to Scaling Scrum

Scrum has been proven to work well for small tea... Read More