Search

The Definitive Guide to Agile Framework

In present times, nearly all software development companies and teams tend to follow Agile in one form or another. But, before committing to Agile, it is very important to understand-What is Agile?How does Agile work?Organizations and project teams should primarily understand “why” they want to adopt Agile. If you are keen on learning more about Agile, you have landed yourself in the perfect place, where you will get to know everything that you need to know about Agile, right from the history to its usage.Here, we will not only discuss what Agile is but also talk about what Agile is not. Once you understand what Agile really means, you’ll not only be able to implement Agile practices at your organisation but also acknowledge situations which can be improved with the help of Agile.  Read along to know what it really means at its root.Understanding AgileAgile is not a methodology, neither is it a specific way of working on software development, nor a framework or process. Agile in actual, is a set of values and principles, as defined by the Agile Manifesto.It is a term which describes the different approaches to software development, highlighting team collaboration, incremental delivery, recurrent planning, and recurrent learning. It is an iterative approach that builds software incrementally, instead of delivering it all at once.Agile doesn’t make any decision for you but provides you with a platform that teams can make use of to make decisions that result in better software development.  How does Agile work?Agile breaks down a project into small scales of user functionality, known as user stories.  These can be compared to a to-do list that you make for the tasks that you have to complete. Developers work on these user stories, prioritise these user stories and group them into iterations, assigning deadlines to each iteration.  Once the iteration is over, developers might have a possible product that users can test. Hence, Agile projects help in creating user stories on which they can work iteratively, depending on the user’s feedback. This way, the software becomes better suited for users according to their needs while at the same time, it minimises complexity. Instead of a pre-set of requirements, developers work according to adapt their software as per the requirements by users’ feedback.Let’s take a step back and have a look at how Agile was discovered and where it came from.Life before AgileIn today’s world, project managers can make a choice out of multiple methodologies addressing the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) for a particular project. The top choice is Agile, which helps teams to work according to the changing requirements through incremental, iterative project work.Before Agile was born, the process that SDLC  followed was very inflexible. The process it followed was:Collecting the requirementsDesigning and implementing the softwareVerifying if the software is still functioningMaintaining the softwareWithout any alteration, the phases were completed in the above-mentioned order. Each phase was first completed and validated before starting the next process. Any changes in the previous phase meant starting the project from the square one until each phase was redone and approved.Though it's unbelievable, such inflexibility of this process didn’t cause any kind of hindrance in the process of software development. This was because technological innovation was very slow at that period of time. There was no problem in spending several months gathering information and requirements, while at the same time design a software program.Origin of AgileIn the early 2000s, seventeen software developers met in Snowbird, Utah to discuss the methodologies that were being used at that time. These seventeen software developers included Kent Beck, Ward Cunningham, Dave Thomas, Jeff Sutherland, Ken Schwaber, Jim Highsmith, Alistair Cockburn, and Bob Martin. They all published the ‘Manifesto to Agile Software Development’ together, which marks the start of the agile movement.According to the Agile Manifesto:The 4 core values as stated by the Agile Manifesto are:Individuals and interactions over processes and toolsWorking software over comprehensive documentationCustomer collaboration over contract negotiationRespond to change over following a planThe four values outlined in the Agile manifesto promotes focusing more on the quality of the software by creating products that meet the consumer’s needs and expectations.The four values and twelve principles of the Agile ManifestoIndividuals and interactions over processes and toolsPeople and individuals respond to the business needs in order to drive the development process, hence people should be valued more than tools or processes.Working software over comprehensive documentationAgile takes user stories as requirements, which a developer uses to begin building new functions.  The Agile Manifesto values working software more than it values documentation.Customer collaboration over contract negotiation According to the Agile Manifesto, a customer can be engaged and can collaborate throughout the process of development. This makes it easier for the team to meet the needs of the customer.Respond to change over following a planWith Agile, priorities can be changed from one iteration to another iteration while new features can be added as well. Agile believes that changes improve a project and provides additional value.The Twelve Principles are the guiding principles for the methodologies which are included in the Agile Manifesto. It describes the way by which changes are welcomed and customers are focused during the process.Highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.The focus is to deliver what the customer wants, not what one has planned. Customers are more happy with receiving working software at regular intervals, rather than waiting for a long period for new releases.Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.Embrace changes, even if it is requested by the customer late in the project. One can try and avoid delays when a new change has been requested.Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to a shorter timescale.Create short periods of time to run tasks and make changes. It ensures a regular delivery of the working software.Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.It is important to build a bridge between developers and the business side of the project so that they can make use of the same tools and work together to make better decisions.Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.Motivate and support your team so that they work in a more dedicated manner. Motivated teams deliver the best of the results that they can.The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.Communication is a key factor for teams in order to deliver information. Communication is possible in multiple ways, like documenting conversations, creating email streams, using collaboration software, keeping the development teams co-located, etc.Working software is the primary measure of progress.Progress is measured by the success of the software (or the product), not by completing the tasks and moving along the timeline.Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.Sprints in activities help teams stay motivated and less burnout, which doesn’t affect the quality of the project.Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.To maintain the right pace and in order to constantly improve the product, the right skill, as well as good design, is very important.Simplicity—the art of maximizing the amount of work not being done—is essential.Cut down the unnecessary complexities and keep things as simple as possible in order to streamline your development process.The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.Team members take ownership, communicate more regularly and share ideas in order to deliver quality products.At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.The process of self-improvement, process improvement, working on their skills and techniques helps a team to work in a more effective manner.Why use Agile?Agile involves the process of continuous planning and feedback in order to deliver business value since the beginning of the project. The whole process encourages user involvement as well as provides visibility and transparency so that the actual progress of the project is visible. Read along to know the key benefits of agile management.Increased project control with early and predictable delivery:Due to regularised sprint meetings, features are delivered in more flexible manners with more transparency. If the demands are met before the planned or predicted date, the software can be Beta-tested or released beforehand.Client gratification:The process involves allowing the client to determine the priority list of the features. This way, the team can understand what is more important to the client and his business, and work accordingly. The client is involved in every sprint review. Moreover, the process helps in delivering the products quicker or by the predicted date, making the clients get early access to the product.Improvement in quality:Since the exercise involves breaking down the project into small units, high-quality development, testing and collaboration come into focus. Moreover, the quality is improved due to frequent builds and testing after each iteration as defects can be identified and fixed during the process.Predictability of Projects:The value of a project is calculated on the basis of cost and ROI. If the ROI outweighs the cost, then the company might carry the project further. But predicting the results of the projects where ROI is not known becomes strenuous. Hence, predictability is very crucial in projects. By using Agile techniques during the planning phase of the project, the cost of a project can be predicted and it can also be concluded if they should continue with the project.Reduced Risk: The chances of project failure are nearly eliminated by the use of Agile methodologies as a functioning product is available from the very first sprint. Since the product is developed in sprints, it is easier to know if the product or the approach will work or not.Analysis, design, coding, and testing happens continuously:For an Agile project, analysing, designing, coding and testing are never done with. As long as there are features to work on and deliveries to make, these activities are a continuous process.Not all developers advocate agile. Some of the developers follow the traditional methodology known as ‘waterfall’, which is also used widely in businesses. Let's have a look at what this traditional methodology is and how it is different from Agile.Waterfall Vs Agile:What is Waterfall methodology?Waterfall methodology is a linear approach to software development. The Waterfall model follows the sequential order, meaning that the project development team moves to the next phase of testing or developing only if the previous step has been completed successfully.This method is also known as the Linear Sequential Life Cycle Model.What is Agile?Agile follows the process of continuous development and testing in the software development process itself. Unlike the Waterfall Model, the development and testing activities are concurrent in this model. Communication between the customers, developers, managers, and testers are possible in this methodology.Advantages of the Waterfall Model:Makes faster delivery of the project.The whole process and the results are documented properly.Works well for small sized projects where there are easy requirements.Each phase has a specific delivery date and a review processBeneficial for managing dependencies.Advantages of the Agile:This process focuses on the client, making sure that the client us involved during all the stages.The quality of the developed product is assured with the usage of this method.The risk in the development process reduces as both the team and the client know the progress of the project.Better results are obtained.Limitations of the Waterfall Model:This model is not suitable for large size projects.One cannot move back in phases to make any changes.The results will be less effective if the requirements are not clear from the starting.In this model, the testing process starts only after the development is over. 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.

The Definitive Guide to Agile Framework

17K
The Definitive Guide to Agile Framework

In present times, nearly all software development companies and teams tend to follow Agile in one form or another. But, before committing to Agile, it is very important to understand-

  • What is Agile?
  • How does Agile work?

Organizations and project teams should primarily understand “why” they want to adopt Agile. If you are keen on learning more about Agile, you have landed yourself in the perfect place, where you will get to know everything that you need to know about Agile, right from the history to its usage.

Here, we will not only discuss what Agile is but also talk about what Agile is not. Once you understand what Agile really means, you’ll not only be able to implement Agile practices at your organisation but also acknowledge situations which can be improved with the help of Agile.  

Read along to know what it really means at its root.

Understanding Agile

Agile is not a methodology, neither is it a specific way of working on software development, nor a framework or process. Agile in actual, is a set of values and principles, as defined by the Agile Manifesto.

It is a term which describes the different approaches to software development, highlighting team collaboration, incremental delivery, recurrent planning, and recurrent learning. It is an iterative approach that builds software incrementally, instead of delivering it all at once.

Agile doesn’t make any decision for you but provides you with a platform that teams can make use of to make decisions that result in better software development.  

How does Agile work?

Agile breaks down a project into small scales of user functionality, known as user stories.  These can be compared to a to-do list that you make for the tasks that you have to complete. Developers work on these user stories, prioritise these user stories and group them into iterations, assigning deadlines to each iteration.  

Once the iteration is over, developers might have a possible product that users can test. Hence, Agile projects help in creating user stories on which they can work iteratively, depending on the user’s feedback. This way, the software becomes better suited for users according to their needs while at the same time, it minimises complexity. Instead of a pre-set of requirements, developers work according to adapt their software as per the requirements by users’ feedback.

Let’s take a step back and have a look at how Agile was discovered and where it came from.

Life before Agile

In today’s world, project managers can make a choice out of multiple methodologies addressing the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) for a particular project. The top choice is Agile, which helps teams to work according to the changing requirements through incremental, iterative project work.

Before Agile was born, the process that SDLC  followed was very inflexible. The process it followed was:

  • Collecting the requirements
  • Designing and implementing the software
  • Verifying if the software is still functioning
  • Maintaining the software

Without any alteration, the phases were completed in the above-mentioned order. Each phase was first completed and validated before starting the next process. Any changes in the previous phase meant starting the project from the square one until each phase was redone and approved.

Though it's unbelievable, such inflexibility of this process didn’t cause any kind of hindrance in the process of software development. This was because technological innovation was very slow at that period of time. There was no problem in spending several months gathering information and requirements, while at the same time design a software program.

Origin of Agile

In the early 2000s, seventeen software developers met in Snowbird, Utah to discuss the methodologies that were being used at that time. These seventeen software developers included Kent Beck, Ward Cunningham, Dave Thomas, Jeff Sutherland, Ken Schwaber, Jim Highsmith, Alistair Cockburn, and Bob Martin. They all published the ‘Manifesto to Agile Software Development’ together, which marks the start of the agile movement.

Origin of Agile

According to the Agile Manifesto:

The 4 core values as stated by the Agile Manifesto are:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Respond to change over following a plan

The four values outlined in the Agile manifesto promotes focusing more on the quality of the software by creating products that meet the consumer’s needs and expectations.

The four values and twelve principles of the Agile Manifesto

Agile Manifesto

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

People and individuals respond to the business needs in order to drive the development process, hence people should be valued more than tools or processes.

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Agile takes user stories as requirements, which a developer uses to begin building new functions.  The Agile Manifesto values working software more than it values documentation.

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation 

According to the Agile Manifesto, a customer can be engaged and can collaborate throughout the process of development. This makes it easier for the team to meet the needs of the customer.

Respond to change over following a plan

With Agile, priorities can be changed from one iteration to another iteration while new features can be added as well. Agile believes that changes improve a project and provides additional value.

The Twelve Principles are the guiding principles for the methodologies which are included in the Agile Manifesto. It describes the way by which changes are welcomed and customers are focused during the process.

12 principles of the Agile Manifesto

Highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

The focus is to deliver what the customer wants, not what one has planned. Customers are more happy with receiving working software at regular intervals, rather than waiting for a long period for new releases.

Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.

Embrace changes, even if it is requested by the customer late in the project. One can try and avoid delays when a new change has been requested.

Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to a shorter timescale.

Create short periods of time to run tasks and make changes. It ensures a regular delivery of the working software.

Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.

It is important to build a bridge between developers and the business side of the project so that they can make use of the same tools and work together to make better decisions.

Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

Motivate and support your team so that they work in a more dedicated manner. Motivated teams deliver the best of the results that they can.

The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.

Communication is a key factor for teams in order to deliver information. Communication is possible in multiple ways, like documenting conversations, creating email streams, using collaboration software, keeping the development teams co-located, etc.

Working software is the primary measure of progress.

Progress is measured by the success of the software (or the product), not by completing the tasks and moving along the timeline.

Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

Sprints in activities help teams stay motivated and less burnout, which doesn’t affect the quality of the project.

Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.

To maintain the right pace and in order to constantly improve the product, the right skill, as well as good design, is very important.

Simplicity—the art of maximizing the amount of work not being done—is essential.

Cut down the unnecessary complexities and keep things as simple as possible in order to streamline your development process.

The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.

Team members take ownership, communicate more regularly and share ideas in order to deliver quality products.

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.

The process of self-improvement, process improvement, working on their skills and techniques helps a team to work in a more effective manner.

Why use Agile?

6 Benefits of Agile Software Development

Agile involves the process of continuous planning and feedback in order to deliver business value since the beginning of the project. The whole process encourages user involvement as well as provides visibility and transparency so that the actual progress of the project is visible. Read along to know the key benefits of agile management.

Increased project control with early and predictable delivery:

Due to regularised sprint meetings, features are delivered in more flexible manners with more transparency. If the demands are met before the planned or predicted date, the software can be Beta-tested or released beforehand.

Client gratification:

The process involves allowing the client to determine the priority list of the features. This way, the team can understand what is more important to the client and his business, and work accordingly. The client is involved in every sprint review. Moreover, the process helps in delivering the products quicker or by the predicted date, making the clients get early access to the product.

Improvement in quality:

Since the exercise involves breaking down the project into small units, high-quality development, testing and collaboration come into focus. Moreover, the quality is improved due to frequent builds and testing after each iteration as defects can be identified and fixed during the process.

Predictability of Projects:

The value of a project is calculated on the basis of cost and ROI. If the ROI outweighs the cost, then the company might carry the project further. But predicting the results of the projects where ROI is not known becomes strenuous. Hence, predictability is very crucial in projects. By using Agile techniques during the planning phase of the project, the cost of a project can be predicted and it can also be concluded if they should continue with the project.

Reduced Risk: 

The chances of project failure are nearly eliminated by the use of Agile methodologies as a functioning product is available from the very first sprint. Since the product is developed in sprints, it is easier to know if the product or the approach will work or not.

Analysis, design, coding, and testing happens continuously:

For an Agile project, analysing, designing, coding and testing are never done with. As long as there are features to work on and deliveries to make, these activities are a continuous process.

Not all developers advocate agile. Some of the developers follow the traditional methodology known as ‘waterfall’, which is also used widely in businesses. Let's have a look at what this traditional methodology is and how it is different from Agile.

Waterfall Vs Agile:

Waterfall Vs Agile

What is Waterfall methodology?

Waterfall methodology is a linear approach to software development. The Waterfall model follows the sequential order, meaning that the project development team moves to the next phase of testing or developing only if the previous step has been completed successfully.

This method is also known as the Linear Sequential Life Cycle Model.

What is Agile?

Agile follows the process of continuous development and testing in the software development process itself. Unlike the Waterfall Model, the development and testing activities are concurrent in this model. Communication between the customers, developers, managers, and testers are possible in this methodology.

Advantages of the Waterfall Model:

  • Makes faster delivery of the project.
  • The whole process and the results are documented properly.
  • Works well for small sized projects where there are easy requirements.
  • Each phase has a specific delivery date and a review process
  • Beneficial for managing dependencies.

Advantages of the Agile:

  • This process focuses on the client, making sure that the client us involved during all the stages.
  • The quality of the developed product is assured with the usage of this method.
  • The risk in the development process reduces as both the team and the client know the progress of the project.
  • Better results are obtained.

Limitations of the Waterfall Model:

  • This model is not suitable for large size projects.
  • One cannot move back in phases to make any changes.
  • The results will be less effective if the requirements are not clear from the starting.
  • In this model, the testing process starts only after the development is over. 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 FactoWaterfall
Has 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 flow

The 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.

Agile process flow

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 environment

Working with Agile in a distributed team environment

For 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 office
  • Collaborating 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 Frameworks Agile Frameworks

There 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)
  • Scrum
  • Feature Driven Development (FDD)
  • Dynamic Systems Development Method(DSDM)
  • Crystal Methodology
  • Kanban Method (Lean or Agile)
  • Pragmatic Programming
  • Lean Development
  • Unified Process
  • Rational Unified Process

Scrum at a glance

Scrum 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 at a glance

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 level
  • It is based on the principles of  Lean and Agile
  • It is designed to meet the needs of all stakeholders within an organization.

DevOps Vs AgileDevOps Vs. Agile

Using 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 FactoDevOps
It 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 delivery
Software DevelopingImportanceDeveloping, testing and implementation all are important.

Application of Agile outside Software

The 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 Agile

Common Myths about Agile

Myths 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 Transformation
Agile 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 Term
Agile 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.

KnowledgeHut

KnowledgeHut

Author

KnowledgeHut is an outcome-focused global ed-tech company. We help organizations and professionals unlock excellence through skills development. We offer training solutions under the people and process, data science, full-stack development, cybersecurity, future technologies and digital transformation verticals.
Website : https://www.knowledgehut.com

Join the Discussion

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

Suggested Blogs

Scrum Software for the Ultimate Project Management

Technology has made our lives easier. The number of tools and devices we have at our disposal has made our lives more productive and our work more efficient. The Agile software development methodology has been adopted by several organizations to improve their adaptability, responsiveness, and productivity.  How can we improve the way we incorporate Agile Scrum into our projects? Scrum tools can be the answer. Just like the other gadgets in our lives, Scrum software and tools help improve the productivity of our teams, keep stakeholders happy and help us deliver better products. Before we jump into the use and needs of Scrum software and tools let us understand more about Scrum roles and how they work.Three essential roles for Scrum successThe Scrum Guide defines three pillars of a Scrum team, which include:The Scrum MasterThe Product OwnerThe Development TeamThe Scrum team is a small unit which is self-organised and works towards achieving the same goal; that is, the development and deployment of the product and customer satisfaction.The Scrum Product OwnerThe Scrum Product Owner is among the most essential roles in the Scrum team and acts as a bridge between the stakeholders and the development team. More involved with the business side of the software development process, the PO represents the customer and can be considered as their proxy.  The Product Owner defines the product vision, and, along with the Scrum Master and the development team works towards delivering a product that matches stakeholder needs.The Scrum MasterThe Scrum Master is the servant leader whose main responsibility is to ensure that the Scrum team can perform to the best of its abilities. They do this by overseeing the day-to-day activities of the Scrum team and removing any impediments that may hinder the productivity of the development team. The Scrum Master facilitates stakeholder collaboration along with the product owner and ensures that teams can handle complex environments and deliver projects successfully.The Scrum development teamThe development team generally consists of three to nine people, according to the Scrum Guide. These would include developers, testers, designers and more. The team is allowed to take decisions and decide the length of the sprint and how they will go about it. The development team collaborates to create a high-quality product increment at the end of each sprint that is as per the expectations of the stakeholders.Scrum ceremonies or eventsScrum has five formal events as defined by the Scrum Guide. These events help to validate the Scrum artifacts and implementing them helps enhance transparency. The events are also called ceremonies and are:Sprint PlanningDaily ScrumSprint ReviewSprint RetrospectiveThe SprintWhat Does A Scrum Tool Do?What would you need a good Scrum tool to do? Make your life easier by making processes more efficient and less cumbersome, help you deliver quality products without making a huge dent on your budget, right?  With Scrum topping the popularity charts for Agile project management methodologies, the need for efficient Scrum tools has risen. There are plenty of Scrum tools available that fit the bill and provide interfaces that help teams seamlessly follow Scrum processes and reap its benefits. These tools help:Increase productivityIn task management, daily scrum management  Increase team collaborationIn progress tracking and risk managementScrum Software for the Ultimate ProjectThere are several Scrum software tools that aid in project development using Scrum; not just in technical environments, but in non-technical sectors as well. Software like JIRA, Infinity, TargetProcess, QuickScrum, Wrike etc provide:User friendly GUICompetitive pricingProduct backlog managementTime tracking and calendar tools for schedulingScrum metrics and chartsSprint planning toolsThird party tools for integrationUser story mappingBurnup and Burndown chartsand many more features that will help Agile teams serve their customers better, improve return on investment, reduce costs, enhance collaboration and ensure stakeholder satisfaction. These tools help team uphold the values of Agile and make implementing the Scrum framework easier.Best Scrum ToolsHere are some of the best Scrum tools available in the market:1. JIRAJira is a popular tool used by large organizations to manage their Scrum projects. It has numerous features including customizable scrum boards, reporting features and more. Here’s how teams benefit from this toolCustomizable Scrum and Kanban boardsRoadmaps to communicate with team and with stakeholdersAccess to tools for Agile reportingView of code and deployment statusEnd to end DevOps visibilityEasy scalabilitySecure deploymentDeveloper tool integrationRich APIs to automate processes2. TargetProcessThis tool has been especially designed for teams that want to scale agile. It offers a number of customizable features that make it easy to work with scrum and agile.  Here’s how teams benefit from this tool(Source: Targetprocess Agile Portfolio and Work Management Tool)IdeationBuilt in reports to analyse data and uncover trendsGather ideas across sourcesCloud hosting and on-premise hostingEnterprise grade securityCollaborate across the enterprise  Collaborate with DevOps tools including GitLab, Azure DevOps, GitHub etc3. VivifyScrumThis tool is marketed as an all-in-one solution to manage projects, collaborate and track. Here’s how teams benefit from this tool (Source: Agile Project Management Software - VivifyScrum)Tools to manage agile projects—organize, manage, track and deliverCollaboration boards to effectively collaborate with team and stakeholdersCreate invoices to track and manage business and clientsManage teams and track tasks4. InfinityThis tool is among the most popular in Agile and Scrum organizations due to the many customizations and features it provides. Its various tools help reduce time to market, ensure better quality, improve collaboration and enable customer satisfaction.Here’s how teams benefit from this tool Source: Infinity | Customizable Work Management Platform (startinfinity.com)How Can Scrum Apps Benefit Your Team?The number of Scrum apps and software available in the market for Scrum projects is mind boggling. Which one you choose depends on the requirements of your team and project, and each comes with its own benefits. Some of these benefits include:They help teams, organizations and the product being createdThey ensure better quality by providing the right framework, support mechanism and the right processesAllow for continual improvement by putting in place a feedback loop and sprint reviews by stakeholdersHelp solve impediments and daily issues by incorporating daily testing and product owner feedback into the development processEnsure upfront documentation and help prioritise high value items in the product backlog, thus decreasing time to market.  Quick feedback also helps improve the product and thus helps in continuous improvement.The faster marketing of products increases return on investment, helps tap the market demand and ensures long term benefits for the customer and thus earns their trust for the organizationThe primary tenet of Agile is team collaboration. Scrum software tools help in high level collaboration between the Scrum Master, Product Owner and the development team. Teams can organise, review, plan and discuss everyday tasks, meetings, impediments and more.How to Pick the Best Tool for Your Team?With so many options available, choosing the right Scrum tool for your team can be a tricky task. What you need to do is go through the features of the best tools and see which one best fits your requirements. While the number of features you get will be directly proportional to the money you are ready to pay for the tool, there are some basic requirements your tool must satisfy.Backlog creation:  The very basic format of a Scrum project lies in the creation of a product backlog which sets the pace for the entire project. The backlog is primarily created by the Product Owner with assistance from the Scrum Master and the development team. The tool you choose should help you create the product backlog so that you can prioritise items, define the sprints and identify sprint goals.Implement feedback:  Scrum projects are based on the Agile values of continuous feedback. Your scrum tool should have features which will make your customer’s feedback and requirements easily accessible to you. This will help you implement these changes at the earliest. This continuous feedback loop will help keep customers happy.Sprint creation:  Scrum is iterative and adaptive and works by breaking down projects into small sized sprints. Your tool must aid you in the creation of sprints and burndown charts. These help you keep track of your progress on the project and are essential components of a Scrum project.The other things your tool should be able to do include:Plan and trackCustomise process templatesCustomise dashboards and reportsHelp in time managementHelp create epics and storiesProvide collab and reporting toolsProvide review toolsAnd just like you will create a product that is user friendly, the tool you use also needs to be user friendly for the team. If your team is happy using it, and it makes your life easier and your projects better, then you have the right tool!
Scrum Software for the Ultimate Project Management

Technology has made our lives easier. The number o... Read More

What Best Describes a Scrum Team?

We are living in an age where speed is the secret to success, and the one who gets the product out first is the winner. In this digital transformation world, organizations that have adopted Agile will succeed; as Agile is all about adaptability, quick delivery and customer focus.  Scrum, the most used Agile framework is all about addressing complex problems through adaptation and value creation. Scrum teams are at the core of a Scrum project. What best describes a Scrum team? Let’s attempt to answer this question.What is Scrum?A term borrowed from rugby; Scrum actually means ‘to huddle’. It signifies how rugby payers huddle together and work as a team in order to gain possession of the ball. Like its namesake in the sport of rugby, Scrum in Agile software development also signifies a process that brings together a team of individuals who work together under complex circumstances to create a product. The term was first used by researchers Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka in their 1986 research paper, "The New Product Development Game."“Scrum is a framework that encourages teams to learn through experiences, self-organize while working on a problem, and reflect on their wins and losses to continuously improve”—Atlassian Agile coachWhat is the Scrum Methodology?Scrum is a framework under the umbrella of agile development methodologies, along with Kanban, Extreme Programming, Feature-Driven Development, Crystal, and Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM).The Scrum methodology focuses on delivering products of the highest quality through effective collaboration between teams involved.  Scrum is based on the three pillars of empirical process control, which are transparency, inspection, & adaptationThe Scrum FrameworkScrum is an Agile methodology framework that follows an iterative and incremental approach for project management, and breaks down large projects into small chunks called epics and sprints.  Each sprint results in the creation of a product and the cumulative effort of all the sprints adds to the improvement of the overall end product. The Scrum framework encourages high level collaboration among team members which comes in handy in tough project situationsWhat is a Scrum Team?Scrum.org is what best describes a Scrum Team by defining it as ‘a framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.’ So, in essence Scrum teams are self-organized and highly productive teams that deliver quality products in a highly collaborative environment.  A Scrum team’s success is based on the Scrum values that they share. These are:Commitment:  Commitment is one of the hallmarks of Agile teams. Teams collaborate and work on a common goal through a high degree of communication and trust between them.Courage: Scrum teams must have the courage to fail. Fail fast is a benefit in Agile and Scrum as this helps them discover hidden faults and recover quickly. Scrum teams must have the courage to try new things, innovate, fail and then learn from their failures to ultimately achieve success.  Focus: Having focus is a mandatory requirement of Scrum teams which ultimately helps them limit the work in progress.  Openness: Transparency and openness is also one of the empirical processes on which Scrum is based. Teams that are open and transparent with one another trust each other more and work better towards reaching a successful end point.Respect: Respect between team members is a must, irrespective of the methodology or framework they use. Respect between Scrum Masters, Product Owners and Development team members will help foster trust and enhance collaboration and co-operation between teammates.What describes a Scrum team?A Scrum team consists of three main roles. These are:Development TeamScrum MasterScrum Product OwnerThe development team consists of five to eleven people including developers, testers, architects and others. The Scrum team has a shared goal and through their collaboration and skills of self-organization and motivation, they reach this goal.What is a Scrum Master?The Scrum Master, also known as the servant leader, helps empower the team and guides them on the use of the Scrum framework. Their main responsibility is to ensure that the development team can perform to the best of its abilities, and they do this by removing obstacles or impediments that may hinder the progress of the development team. The Scrum Master is the agile coach and mentor who helps team members understand Agile and its processes and aids in enterprise-wide agile transformations.The Product OwnerThe Product Owner is the bridge connecting the stakeholders and the development team. They define the product vision and through their skills and intelligence drive the project with help from the Scrum Master and the development team. The product owner maintains the perfect balance between the stakeholder and the development team, helping each understand the other’s point of view. They are also well-versed in agile and scrum values and principles and guide the team and well as the stakeholders on the agile ways of working. Creating stakeholder satisfaction is an important responsibility of the product owner and they do this by ensuring that requirements are met, and the product created meets quality standards expected by the customer.The Development TeamThe development team is the driving force of the Scrum project. This team is empowered by the Scrum Master and the Product Owner to take decisions and be as autonomous and independent as possible. At the same time there is a high level of collaboration and transparency among the team members and between the dev team and the Product Owner. The dev team is balanced and helps the product owner manage the backlog and deliver an acceptable product at the end of every sprint.Why is the Scrum team required for organizations?Any organization that wants to go agile and implement projects using the scrum framework has to do so by getting together an efficient scrum team. Scrum has proven to be extremely successful at team levels and it is the Scrum team that drives the project to success. Scrum teams with their collaboration, self-organization, innovation and collocation are able to drive success and business value.A table that summarizes the Scrum Team’s responsibilities in the various Scrum processesScrum PhaseScrum processScrum Master responsibilityProduct Owner responsibilityDevelopment team responsibilityInitiate1. Create Project Vision------2. Identify Scrum Master and Stakeholder(s)--Identifies Scrum Master--3. Form Scrum TeamAlong with the PO decides dev teamAlong with the SM decides dev team--4. Develop Epic(s)Helps PO in developing epicsDevelops epics and arranges user group meetingsHelps PO in developing epics5. Create Prioritized Product BacklogHelps PO in epic refinementRefines epicsHelps PO in epic refinement6. Conduct Release PlanningHelps PO and dev team with backlog prioritization and determining sprint lengthReviews the backlog and develops release planning scheduleHelps PO with backlog prioritization and determining sprint lengthPlan and Estimate7. Create User StoriesHelps dev team and PO write user storiesWrites user stories and incorporates them into the Prioritized Product BacklogWrites user stories8. Approve, Estimate, and Commit User StoriesEstimates the effort required to deliver the product defined in each user storyApproves user stories for the sprintAlong with the SM estimates the effort for each sprint and9. Create TasksHelps dev team break down the stories into tasksHelps dev team break down the stories into tasksBreaks down the approved stories into tasks and create a task list10. Estimate TasksHelps the dev team create the effort estimated task listHelps the dev team create the effort estimated task listCreates the effort estimated task list11. Create Sprint BacklogHelps the PO create sprint backlogCreates the sprint backlog and lists the tasks that need to be completed in the sprintHelps the PO create sprint backlogImplement12. Create DeliverablesGuides the dev teamHelps dev team if neededWorks on creating sprint deliverables13. Conduct Daily Stand-upArranges and conducts the meetingsMay or may not attend the meetingsAttends the meetings and defines any problems or issues faced14. Groom Prioritized Product Backlog Helps PO to groom the backlogUpdates and maintains the backlog continuouslyHelps PO to groom the backlogReview and Retrospect15. Convene Scrum of ScrumsHelps teams collaborate and notes any impediments that may be hindering work--Mentions their progress or any issues they may be facing16. Demonstrate and Validate Sprint Helps dev team in displaying what it has createdApproves or rejects what the dev team demonstratesDemonstrates deliverables to PO and stakeholders17. Retrospect SprintMeets with dev team to ponder on lessons learnt during the sprint. Documents the recommendations--With scrum master retrospect's on sprint and uses the recommendations for the next sprint18. Ship DeliverablesAlong with other team members ships acceptable deliverablesAlong with other team members ships acceptable deliverablesAlong with other team members ships acceptable deliverables19. Retrospect ProjectGets together with other team members and identifies the lessons learntGets together with other team members and identifies the lessons learntGets together with other team members and identifies the lessons learntSo, what best describes a Scrum team? There are many facets to a Scrum team, but the most relatable description would be a highly interconnected and cohesive unit that works together to solve issues. A well-organized Scrum team can raise the ROI of an organization and ensure long term stakeholder commitment.
What Best Describes a Scrum Team?

We are living in an age where speed is the secret ... Read More

Safe Agile Ceremonies - Expert Guide

“Winners take time to relish their work, knowing that scaling the mountain is what makes the view from the top so exhilarating.” ― Denis WaitleyWhat are SAFe agile events (or) ceremonies? – a brief overview:Before we jump into the topic, could I just take you a step back and remind you what SAFe is all about? SAFe is a way of taking any iterative Agile way of working (normally restricted to a team or few teams) and scaling it up at various levels of the organization, whilst applying a mindset of Lean manufacturing. It also deals with scalability at various levels. Beginning from Essential SAFe right up to Full SAFe, the framework caters to all organizational levels of scaling agility. As part of this, it broadens the core idea of agility mindset beyond just projects/development teams right up to executives/CXOs, who must prepare for enterprise level uncertainties. In a sense, it provides valuable enterprise level scaling insights helpful for the executives to tackle any uncertainties/risks associated with a project.As you start applying SAFe in your organisation, it is important for you to understand how each level works in conjunction with the other, depending on how mature your SAFe enterprise is. The key link between these levels is the SAFe specific events which help with smooth value delivery facilitation. The events help with alignment across teams, ARTs etc thus helping in managing risk by providing a level based cadence and synchronization.Essential SAFe - Your First Level of Scaling Using an Agile Release Train (ART). Courtesy © Scaled Agile, Inc. Source: Scaled AgileWhy do we need level-based ceremonies?While it is important to go through your team level events (like the 4 sprint events if you are doing scrum etc.) it is important to have the scaling events that help with bridging gaps and unblocking dependency between teams. The most important part of these SAFe specific events is for ‘Business Stakeholders’ to get a look (demo) at a proper incremental product and thus the value arising out of it. Makes sense? It did for me and let me tell you why.I was once associated with 3 feature teams, who were working towards a common product goal. They all had the same business stakeholders but were working on individual features. Team A was working on developing a Login page, Team B was working on a landing dashboard while Team C was hopping along, trying to provide a search functionality for the user. All of them were applying the Scrum framework and were running their own events. Sprint demos were happening individually and were being represented by the Product owner separately along with his business analysts. All seemed fine but there was a nagging problem. The product owner was worried, because he couldn’t bring any business stakeholder to view the demos, as they were being run in silos and there was no visibility on the incremental product. Well technically there was, but they would have to sit through three or four-hour events individually to get bits and pieces of the product demo. In the real world, it's not a possibility simply because your business stakeholders will not have that much time to spend on multiple demos. It is not a good use of their time either. So, what’s the solution? Simple, it’s SAFe to the rescue! Let’s try and understand how the SAFe specific events help with this.Prescribed PI Cadence for Various Levels of Scaling. Courtesy © Scaled Agile, Inc. Source: Scaled AgileHow do the events (or) ceremonies help to scale up according to the levels in SAFe:SAFe is very relevant and designed to thrive in situations where there are significant cross functional dependencies between agile teams and support / functional teams (infrastructure teams, architect community etc).  Essential Level:   As you start to scale up one level up, you will be working with anywhere between 5-12 agile teams who will all be collectively working towards a common goal which is the program increment or PI. The anchoring catalyst that brings them all together is your ART (Agile release train). Before getting into the events, lets understand the various roles involved at this level because this is the common denominator across all levels of SAFe and across organizations. This is where you need to get it right without which there is not much use in scaling higher. Key Roles involved: Release Train Engineer (RTE) System Architect/Engineer Product Management   Business OwnersPrescribed events on a typical Agile release train (ART). Courtesy © Scaled Agile, Inc. Source: Scaled AgilePI PlanningAccording to me, PI planning (hands down) is THE most significant aspect of executing this framework. This is where all the magic happens. It is sometimes referred to as the heart of the framework as it offers a clear vision of what the program increment needs to be, what the cross-team dependencies are and how they bring together the cultural sustainability much needed within the release trains. It is so important, that if carried out incorrectly it could lead to several ambiguities, development challenges and mostly a disastrous product increment. However, when it works well, the iterative cycle serves to flesh out the crucial elements of the plan and the processes ensure buy in from the stakeholders.Duration: A normal PI planning is a 2-day activity, which is a face to face cultural get together of the various ART teams. However, a new 3-day distributed PI planning has been introduced to help with geographically distributed teams (across various time zones), very apt for the current pandemic situation.“There is no magic in SAFe® except maybe for PI Planning”. – The authors of the SAFe framework.In big organizations with multiple distributed teams across multiple vendors, work streams etc. it is almost impossible to run these teams independently, whilst still having to deliver an incremental program. SAFe via the PI planning exercise mentioned above, helps with sorting out these issues by recognising cross team dependencies upfront, constantly negotiating & visualising them. This doesn’t just stop with the PI planning but the framework also proposes a cadenced way of continuing this via the scrum of scrums. The Program Board is an ideal way to showcase the cross-team dependencies.A sample SAFe Program board. Courtesy © Scaled Agile, Inc. Source: Scaled Agile1. Inspect and Adapt (I&A)An inspect and adapt event is scheduled after every PI. This event is dedicated to aligning to the principles of Kaizen, which simply means to change for the better. The events contain self induced thought processes to revalidate your assumptions that everything is working OK. The I&A event consists of three sub-parts as below:  PI System DemoQuantitative and qualitative measurementRetrospective and problem-solving workshop2. ART Sync Agile release trains tend to apply a cadenced synchronization process to help manage the ability to focus on continuous value delivery. An ART sync will typically comprise of the below sub-events.  Scrum of Scrums: This event is for representatives from all the teams on a release train to come together in a regular cadenced manner, especially on large ARTs. This is normally facilitated by the release train engineer (RTE) and will involve scrum masters of the individual teams and a few selected team members (authorised by the team). The sole purpose of the SoS calls are to understand progress towards the common goal, validate cross team dependencies and unblock impediments that may arise out of them. Duration: The length and frequency of the meeting will depend on a few factors like the size of the ART, the release frequency, type of features being worked on, ability to decouple releases etc. For e.g an ART which releases features into production every 4 weeks might want to have an SoS call every 2 weeks for about an hour. Again, if this doesn’t work for you, just inspect and adapt to what works well for your organizational needs. Just make sure that the SoS is utilised for its sole purpose and not just status updates as depicted in the below comic representation.Scrum of Scrums PO SyncThis event is represented by the Product Owner, business analysts and the product management group. This is used mainly to level up the product backlog refinement and for clarifying PI (Program Increment) scope, reviewing roadmaps and grooming for the upcoming PIs.Duration: Very similar in concept to the SoS, so just follow what works for the group. 3. System DemoAs part of a common understanding towards delivering incremental software, shortly after each iteration in the PI, there is a system demo scheduled. Work completed across all teams from the release train are compiled in a stable environment before it is reviewed by the business stakeholders and other important sponsors who may have a keen interest in the product. This is on top of the individual team level demos that happen after each iteration.Duration: Anywhere between 2-3 hours that will allow time for a demonstration of the program increment in a collative manner, on top of what has been delivered from the previous PIs as well.In case your ART is pretty small, then you may want to have just have some of the events combined into a more generic ART sync, where all roles come together to collaborate towards the program increment. This can sometimes occur if the ART is focusing on a particular value stream, confined to limited business functionality, rather than elaborate features.Solution/Portfolio LevelsAs you scale higher, the processes and events become much less prescriptive. There is a good reason for this because the focus at this level is not just on having repetitive demos that have already happened before but on building thought leadership around business outcomes and enhancing business agility. Which is why we will not be diving deep into that in this blog. But let us look at the events that occur at the macro level.Lean Budget Review  Idea Sharing via Communities of Practice (not a formal event but a collaborative group)Solution DemoPortfolio SyncRoadshowWhat are the benefits of SAFe Agile ceremonies?:The Magic of PI planningWell, the more I talk about this, the more excited I am. A PI planning event when carried out to its truest purpose, gets half the job done. Here is where most of the brainstorming occurs and business value gets determined and, in some cases, gets assigned in a quantifiable manner to user stories and helps with the prioritisation.PI Planning Synchronisation towards a common goalThe events are a constant reminder that all teams are working towards delivering incremental value either on a particular value stream, or feature or program. An RTE and Product Management will help reiterating the need to focus on the larger goal whilst helping sorting out inter team dependencies.Less prescriptiveAs is the framework itself, SAFe events/ceremonies are less prescriptive. An SPC would recommend, apply the principles but inspect and adapt as to what works for your organization. As per the example I provided earlier w.r.t to the duration of the SAFe events, start with something reasonable and then validate its effectiveness. Then leave Kaizen to do the rest.Visualization of incremental value deliveryOpportunity for Business stakeholders and sponsors to have a look at the overall program increment every iteration, thus helping them evaluate the progress and provide timely feedback on market trends. What are the common mistakes?Lack of a shared product visionThings can go wrong if there is not enough representation in the product management group, say for e.g at the PO Sync event. This can lead to a blurred product vision with each team working out of sync. This may ultimately get detected too late, probably at the time of the system demo, and lead to a whole lot of unwanted rework.SoS as a status updateThe Scrum Of Scrum event should be used as an event to unblock cross team impediments or dependencies and not to just update what each team has been doing or is doing in its current sprint. TimeboxingGiven the scale at which these events will be conducted, it is critical that the associated events are facilitated in a timeboxed manner or else the participants could end up sitting and talking for hours. Roles like RTE, SPC Coaches etc will be critical in addressing this issue.Remote facilitationLack of effective collaboration tools could lead to some disastrous situations whilst facilitating the SAFe events. Given that most teams are running virtual ceremonies/events at the moment, its crucial to establish a working distributed model. This will then ensure that the platform is set up for the most effective collaboration and cross-functional work to take place.While you try to scale, as per the implementation roadmap, its essential that you solidify the process around which your ARTs will be functioning. It’s like setting the railway tracks with the correct track gauge matching the configurations of the wheelsets of the trains that will run on them. If not, they will just derail. As your ARTs pass through your set process, they will only benefit by sustaining focus and pace while moving towards a successful incremental product delivery.Thanks for your patience and wish you all the very best in your Agile journey. In case you want me to write about any specific topic, please feel free to comment below and I’ll be more than happy to add them to my ‘Blog Backlog’. If you liked the article, please do share it among your agile community to help spread the word.  Hope to see you soon, with more such interesting topics.
Safe Agile Ceremonies - Expert Guide

“Winners take time to relish their work, knowing... Read More

Useful links