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What Are the Responsibilities of Safe® Scrum Master?

With the steep upward trend in the adoption of agile practices across the IT industry, various frameworks have gained momentum. This has led to an appetite for exploring new ways of working and setting performance benchmarks. More and more organizations are looking for people who can help them effectively run in a new environment comprising of frameworks based on Agile and its variants. The recent survey published by version one clearly points out the Scaled Agile framework as one of the highly preferred models. With such a huge setup, skilled and trained people are required to run the show. Hence, the demand for certified SAFe® Scrum Masters has gained momentum in the last couple of years. The organizations, now, realize the criticality of this role for the implementation of scaled agile and its practices.  What is SAFe®? SAFe stands for “Scaled Agile Framework®”. It helps in scaling the agile practices up to the enterprise level. The organization as a whole works together in delivering a solution to the client. All the layers have their purpose and deliverables. It has been designed to “continuously and efficiently deliver value on a regular and predictable schedule” – scaledagile.com. Over the years, the Scaled Agile framework has evolved as one of the highly appreciated frameworks across the IT industry. The scaled agile framework has different configurations that can be used for the need of the organization. The model is made in such a way so that it can cater to all sizes and complex environments. There are different SAFe roles that are needed to implement the outline across the enterprise. In this article today we will talk about one of the most vital roles that serve the different layers of the organization, that of the SAFe Scrum Master.  SAFe® Scrum Master A Scrum Master in the SAFe enterprise context is a servant leader who helps the teams achieve their goal through constant coaching, mentoring, and smooth facilitation of processes. It is the Scrum Masters who ensure that the team is focused and know the tasks they have to accomplish in the time given. Along with this, when we talk about SAFe, the scrum master is required to interact with different teams such as Product management and Portfolio management teams, or other release trains to ensure alignment. The role calls for the facilitation of Team and Program Level events for effective program execution. Image SourceResponsibilities of a SAFe® Scrum Master Kaizen as the way of delivery – The SAFe Scrum Master helps the team to learn from their mistakes and instills a sense of ownership for their actions and commitment. With the facilitation of the team retrospective, they try to surface hidden emotions and find new effective ways of improvement. Also, they help the team with problem-solving methods to create a better self-organizing team.  Towards achieving sprint/release goals – The SAFe Scrum Master helps the team in creating increments that not only add value but also improve productivity. They help the teams to become more predictable. With effective facilitation, the team comes out with positive outputs after the end of each ceremony. The SAFe Scrum Master helps them through planning their iterations and scaling them up to the release planning level. They help organize the PI events which require certain pre-work for better PI outputs.  Achieving the objective of release train – As part of scaling agile, the SAFe Scrum Master helps in aligning the teams with larger release trains, ensuring the common organization goal is met. Support the product owner for product backlog management and prioritization – The SAFe Scrum Master assists the Product Owner to manage the backlog and helps them with prioritization and estimation methods to define a healthy backlog.  Being a change agent for SAFe adoption – The SAFe Scrum Master serves as a pillar in the implementation of scaled agile and its practices. They coach the different layers in the framework by participating in the Scrum Master Community of Practice and supporting the organization’s coaches.  Manage impediments backlog and remove them – Many times, the implements go beyond the scope of the team's work span, and in such cases, the Scrum Master can reach out to external entities in getting the issues resolved. This helps in the timely execution of the sprint. Endorses SAFe practices – SAFe offers direction to support the teams in continuously improving the quality of their deliverables and adhering to the Definition of Done.  Displays Lean-Agile leadership – Reveals the actions of a Lean-Agile Leader with a Lean-Agile Mindset. Helps the team embrace SAFe Core Values, adopt and apply SAFe Principles, and implement SAFe practices.  Facilitates SAFe ceremonies – Facilitation is yet another activity in the bucket list of responsibilities. Facilitation of events, like the Daily Stand-up, Sprint Planning, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective ensures the optimal team performance and meeting of the timelines. The SAFe Scrum Master comes up with innovative ways to make the ceremonies effective and fruitful. Builds a highly motivated and self-organized team to deliver high business value – This is one of the main responsibilities of the SAFe Scrum Master. The focus is on improving the team dynamics and functioning. The Scrum Master coaches the team on self-organization through coaching/activities. The SAFe Scrum Master ensures the team maintains healthy relationships, by handling internal conflicts and challenges. Conflicts arise but being emotionally intelligent and keeping the dynamics healthy helps the team to move ahead.  Understand team dynamics – Every team in Agile has its own way of working together as a group. They create their working agreements which are usually lightweight, but as they are committed to following certain rules, the SAFe Scrum Master is responsible for emphasizing that work is carried out in accordance with those rules. The rules can be around ceremonies, quality, deliverable timeline, or just around communication. It can be anything that helps the team to stay bonded, transparent, and disciplined. Manage the dependencies with other teams involved in the program – The SAFe Scrum Master helps the development team to constantly expand in terms of interactions and working rapport with other teams. They represent the team in the Scrum of Scrums (SoS) meeting, which helps the team to stay updated on the latest developments in terms of backlog, dependencies, risks, or other concerning areas. It helps them to be ready for any upcoming challenge. The Scrum of Scrums helps the team build active associations with the System Team, Architecture, and Shared Services, etc. Not only the Scrum Master, but the complete team holds the responsibility of creating a working relationship across the teams. ART Ceremonies – In the Scaled Agile framework, apart from team ceremonies, the SAFe Scrum Master has to assist the team in setting the groundwork for Agile Release Train activities, which includes PI Planning, focusing on laying out a plan for an entire release, System Demos, and the Inspect and Adapt.  Facilitates estimation from Feature to story level – The development teams need support in understanding the estimation of the backlog items both at sprint and release level. The SAFe Scrum Master helps them identify models that can be used for efficient estimation of stories and features. Estimation helps the team in planning their work for upcoming sprints, which in turn, helps in the overall commitment.Improves organization agility – Along with working through their teams, the SAFe Scrum Master is required to work collaboratively with other Scrum Masters, management, and stakeholders to help the team stay aligned with the committed goals, and promote improvement towards the overall development of the Value Stream. The SAFe Scrum Master has to focus on both internal and external team activities to ensure effective and timely deliveries.  How SAFe® Scrum Master is different from Non-SAFe Scrum MasterIn a Scaled Agile framework, the teams at the development level follow methods/frameworks that can align with the organization's goals. The team can adopt Scrum, Kanban, XP, etc. or any other framework that works best for their requirement. A SAFe Scrum Master does not specifically have to work on Scrum implementation if the team is following another method.  However, when implementing SAFe Scrum, the Scrum Master has to live and follow Scrum practices and scale them across all teams. A SAFe Scrum Master not only supports the development team with all the responsibilities of a Scrum Master but also helps in running SAFe activities and gets involved in continuous improvement at all layers. In contrast, the Scrum Master in a non-SAFe team focuses only on the development team and its timely deliveries including impediment removal and risk mitigation. In short, the role also gets scaled up! How to become a SAFe® Scrum Master To become a SAFe Scrum Master, you must undertake training through accredited institutes. They not only provide an in-depth understanding of the topics but also teach how to enforce the implementation journey. The participants get to learn how to create high-performing teams. The certification signifies that the person is ready for the role and can help the organizations realize their goals. The course completion is followed by an exam to access the candidates’ knowledge.  The SAFe Scrum Master plays a critical role in scaling Scrum across the enterprise. To achieve success in this role, he or she must have skills in collaboration, emotional intelligence, and servant leadership attributes. It is not about just working with the teams, but with the organization as a whole.
What Are the Responsibilities of Safe® Scrum Master?
Deepti
Deepti

Deepti Sinha

Blog Author

Deepti is an Agile Coach by profession and Freelance Trainer with over 11 years of industry experience working primarily with healthcare & finance clients in delivering business. She has played a wide variety of roles in the graph of her career, whether it be, management, operations or quality. She likes reading fiction, management and loves to write her experiences. Her colleagues mostly describe her as very detail oriented person with a knack of creativity and imagination. And yes, she loves feedback more than her coffee!!

Posts by Deepti Sinha

What Are the Responsibilities of Safe® Scrum Master?

With the steep upward trend in the adoption of agile practices across the IT industry, various frameworks have gained momentum. This has led to an appetite for exploring new ways of working and setting performance benchmarks. More and more organizations are looking for people who can help them effectively run in a new environment comprising of frameworks based on Agile and its variants. The recent survey published by version one clearly points out the Scaled Agile framework as one of the highly preferred models. With such a huge setup, skilled and trained people are required to run the show. Hence, the demand for certified SAFe® Scrum Masters has gained momentum in the last couple of years. The organizations, now, realize the criticality of this role for the implementation of scaled agile and its practices.  What is SAFe®? SAFe stands for “Scaled Agile Framework®”. It helps in scaling the agile practices up to the enterprise level. The organization as a whole works together in delivering a solution to the client. All the layers have their purpose and deliverables. It has been designed to “continuously and efficiently deliver value on a regular and predictable schedule” – scaledagile.com. Over the years, the Scaled Agile framework has evolved as one of the highly appreciated frameworks across the IT industry. The scaled agile framework has different configurations that can be used for the need of the organization. The model is made in such a way so that it can cater to all sizes and complex environments. There are different SAFe roles that are needed to implement the outline across the enterprise. In this article today we will talk about one of the most vital roles that serve the different layers of the organization, that of the SAFe Scrum Master.  SAFe® Scrum Master A Scrum Master in the SAFe enterprise context is a servant leader who helps the teams achieve their goal through constant coaching, mentoring, and smooth facilitation of processes. It is the Scrum Masters who ensure that the team is focused and know the tasks they have to accomplish in the time given. Along with this, when we talk about SAFe, the scrum master is required to interact with different teams such as Product management and Portfolio management teams, or other release trains to ensure alignment. The role calls for the facilitation of Team and Program Level events for effective program execution. Image SourceResponsibilities of a SAFe® Scrum Master Kaizen as the way of delivery – The SAFe Scrum Master helps the team to learn from their mistakes and instills a sense of ownership for their actions and commitment. With the facilitation of the team retrospective, they try to surface hidden emotions and find new effective ways of improvement. Also, they help the team with problem-solving methods to create a better self-organizing team.  Towards achieving sprint/release goals – The SAFe Scrum Master helps the team in creating increments that not only add value but also improve productivity. They help the teams to become more predictable. With effective facilitation, the team comes out with positive outputs after the end of each ceremony. The SAFe Scrum Master helps them through planning their iterations and scaling them up to the release planning level. They help organize the PI events which require certain pre-work for better PI outputs.  Achieving the objective of release train – As part of scaling agile, the SAFe Scrum Master helps in aligning the teams with larger release trains, ensuring the common organization goal is met. Support the product owner for product backlog management and prioritization – The SAFe Scrum Master assists the Product Owner to manage the backlog and helps them with prioritization and estimation methods to define a healthy backlog.  Being a change agent for SAFe adoption – The SAFe Scrum Master serves as a pillar in the implementation of scaled agile and its practices. They coach the different layers in the framework by participating in the Scrum Master Community of Practice and supporting the organization’s coaches.  Manage impediments backlog and remove them – Many times, the implements go beyond the scope of the team's work span, and in such cases, the Scrum Master can reach out to external entities in getting the issues resolved. This helps in the timely execution of the sprint. Endorses SAFe practices – SAFe offers direction to support the teams in continuously improving the quality of their deliverables and adhering to the Definition of Done.  Displays Lean-Agile leadership – Reveals the actions of a Lean-Agile Leader with a Lean-Agile Mindset. Helps the team embrace SAFe Core Values, adopt and apply SAFe Principles, and implement SAFe practices.  Facilitates SAFe ceremonies – Facilitation is yet another activity in the bucket list of responsibilities. Facilitation of events, like the Daily Stand-up, Sprint Planning, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective ensures the optimal team performance and meeting of the timelines. The SAFe Scrum Master comes up with innovative ways to make the ceremonies effective and fruitful. Builds a highly motivated and self-organized team to deliver high business value – This is one of the main responsibilities of the SAFe Scrum Master. The focus is on improving the team dynamics and functioning. The Scrum Master coaches the team on self-organization through coaching/activities. The SAFe Scrum Master ensures the team maintains healthy relationships, by handling internal conflicts and challenges. Conflicts arise but being emotionally intelligent and keeping the dynamics healthy helps the team to move ahead.  Understand team dynamics – Every team in Agile has its own way of working together as a group. They create their working agreements which are usually lightweight, but as they are committed to following certain rules, the SAFe Scrum Master is responsible for emphasizing that work is carried out in accordance with those rules. The rules can be around ceremonies, quality, deliverable timeline, or just around communication. It can be anything that helps the team to stay bonded, transparent, and disciplined. Manage the dependencies with other teams involved in the program – The SAFe Scrum Master helps the development team to constantly expand in terms of interactions and working rapport with other teams. They represent the team in the Scrum of Scrums (SoS) meeting, which helps the team to stay updated on the latest developments in terms of backlog, dependencies, risks, or other concerning areas. It helps them to be ready for any upcoming challenge. The Scrum of Scrums helps the team build active associations with the System Team, Architecture, and Shared Services, etc. Not only the Scrum Master, but the complete team holds the responsibility of creating a working relationship across the teams. ART Ceremonies – In the Scaled Agile framework, apart from team ceremonies, the SAFe Scrum Master has to assist the team in setting the groundwork for Agile Release Train activities, which includes PI Planning, focusing on laying out a plan for an entire release, System Demos, and the Inspect and Adapt.  Facilitates estimation from Feature to story level – The development teams need support in understanding the estimation of the backlog items both at sprint and release level. The SAFe Scrum Master helps them identify models that can be used for efficient estimation of stories and features. Estimation helps the team in planning their work for upcoming sprints, which in turn, helps in the overall commitment.Improves organization agility – Along with working through their teams, the SAFe Scrum Master is required to work collaboratively with other Scrum Masters, management, and stakeholders to help the team stay aligned with the committed goals, and promote improvement towards the overall development of the Value Stream. The SAFe Scrum Master has to focus on both internal and external team activities to ensure effective and timely deliveries.  How SAFe® Scrum Master is different from Non-SAFe Scrum MasterIn a Scaled Agile framework, the teams at the development level follow methods/frameworks that can align with the organization's goals. The team can adopt Scrum, Kanban, XP, etc. or any other framework that works best for their requirement. A SAFe Scrum Master does not specifically have to work on Scrum implementation if the team is following another method.  However, when implementing SAFe Scrum, the Scrum Master has to live and follow Scrum practices and scale them across all teams. A SAFe Scrum Master not only supports the development team with all the responsibilities of a Scrum Master but also helps in running SAFe activities and gets involved in continuous improvement at all layers. In contrast, the Scrum Master in a non-SAFe team focuses only on the development team and its timely deliveries including impediment removal and risk mitigation. In short, the role also gets scaled up! How to become a SAFe® Scrum Master To become a SAFe Scrum Master, you must undertake training through accredited institutes. They not only provide an in-depth understanding of the topics but also teach how to enforce the implementation journey. The participants get to learn how to create high-performing teams. The certification signifies that the person is ready for the role and can help the organizations realize their goals. The course completion is followed by an exam to access the candidates’ knowledge.  The SAFe Scrum Master plays a critical role in scaling Scrum across the enterprise. To achieve success in this role, he or she must have skills in collaboration, emotional intelligence, and servant leadership attributes. It is not about just working with the teams, but with the organization as a whole.
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What Are the Responsibilities of Safe® Scrum M...

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What is Value Stream Mapping and How Does it Help?

Todays’ corporate biosphere isn’t static, it is continuously evolving. In the race for being the best vendors to their clients, organizations are trying new ways (though old) to stay ahead. With Agile and Lean paving the way, the Value Stream is a powerful tool that can help teams in numerous ways. In this article we attempt to help you understand about value stream, its definition, benefits and how you can apply it in your work area.What is a value stream?A value stream is a set of events/actions needed to create a flow of value that can be realized by the customer and contains both value-added and non-value added activities. It contains all the steps from the start (of value creation) to the end (delivery to the client), where ‘Value’ is defined as the tangible or non-tangible benefit that the customer receives for return on investment.As per Scaled Agile Framework, “Value Streams represent the series of steps that an organization uses to implement Solutions that provide a continuous flow of value to a customer.”History of value stream mappingIt is difficult to trace down the history of value stream mapping and to know when it was invented but there's a reference of value stream mapping in several processes of Toyota. The book ‘Learning To See’, co-authored by John Shook and Mike Rother and published by the Lean Enterprise Institute, too talked about the material and information flow extensively reachable and relevant outside of Toyota. Though Toyota never used the term ‘Value Stream’, they did invest a lot in creating flow across processes.Over the last two decades, value stream mapping has evolved and refined its ways through the IT industry. The first introduction to the term “value stream” was done by the authors - James Womack, Daniel Jones, and Daniel Roos, in the book “The Machine That Changed the World”. In the present world, value stream mapping is linked with both Lean and Six Sigma methodologies as they highlight the removal of waste.What is the purpose of value streams?Value Stream helps in identifying each component in the flow by defining a visual that can represent the ‘Start – To – End’ pipeline delivering value to the customer. It helps to define the flow and its counterflow ensuring a complete safety net in deliverables. Value Streams are composed of stages where each stage has a set defined ‘value’ as a deliverable that gets accrued at the end. It is a great method to focus on the benefits that can be attained through efficient effort consumption. Value stream provides a great way of defining the ‘what’ and ‘how’ in delivering solutions to the end customers.Types of Value StreamsWhile defining a value stream, it is important to understand the ‘value’ that is to be delivered. With a clear understanding of the deliverable, it gets easy to define a value stream around it. There is no set standard to create a value stream and it is unique to each organization.There are two types of Value streams:Operational Value Stream - It consists of a series of steps used to deliver products and services to a client. It delivers end-client value or solutions created by the development value streams.Development Value Streams – It consists of steps or phases to build and deliver a solution to the Operational Value Stream and ensure its smooth execution.Value Stream KPIsValue Stream KPIs(Key Performance Indicators) are the measurable actions to assess the performance of a value stream. It helps to check if the Value stream is working in the way it was projected. The KPIs differ for each value stream and serve the individual purpose for every stream. The KPIs form different parameters depending upon the type of value being delivered. Each Value stream defines its own set of KPIs to evaluate the constant venture.How to identify a value streamWith smaller organizations, it is easy to define the value streams as the complexity is quite low as compared to large setups. While defining value streams for larger organizations, everyone involved must understand the ‘why’ or ‘the customer’s need’. Identifying a Value Stream requires an understanding of the flow and how to optimize it for consistent better delivery. As per the scaled agile framework, there are certain steps to identify a value stream:Identify the Operational Value Streams – In a large setup, identifying the Operational Value Stream is not an easy task. It involves an understanding of the business goals and an ability to visualize the value flow to the customer.Identify the Solutions the operational value streams use to provide to customers – With the identification of Operational Value Stream steps, the next action is to identify the solution that can be developed to support the stream and the customer.Identify the people who develop and support the solutions – At this step, the people needed in the stream are identified who will build the solution. The estimate is provided in terms of numbers and the location depending on the value stream type.Identify the Development Value Streams that build the solutions – This step is about identifying the development stream activities and the people involved in creating the solution.Add the people needed to build the full business solutionRealize development value streams into ARTs – The last step is to define the ARTs. There can be multiple smaller value streams running in a single Agile Release Train(ART).What is value stream mapping?A Value Stream Map is an easy yet powerful visual tool that assists in visualizing the flow. It allows generating a comprehensive visualization of all end-to-end steps in the process. A value stream map shows all the significant phases required to deliver value from raw to finished goods. It is a Lean tool that uses flowcharts with boxes, arrows, and process flows to represent the system. It not only provides a real-time update on the flow but also helps in removing the waste and optimizing the flow.How does value stream mapping help?For decades, Value Stream Mapping has been supporting industries to realize ‘value’ both ways. Let’s look at some of the points that make it a ‘go-getter’:Detect waste - Value-stream mapping intends to identify and eliminate "waste" which in turn grows the efficacy. There can be multiple types of wastes in the system such as Overproduction, Waiting, Transportation, excess stock, etc.Identify bottlenecks – One of the very obvious benefits of Value Stream Mapping is the identification of bottlenecks. With Visual flow, one can easily check for the blockages in the system. It helps the whole organization to realize where the bottlenecks are and their impact on the value being delivered to customers.Make processes efficient – Yet again, with visual help, one can know the current state just by looking at it. With reduced waste and bottlenecks, the organizations can perform better.Improve cross-functional collaboration – With both Operational and Development teams working closely, it enhances the overall high-level collaboration. But at the team level, value streams help in building a cross–functional collaborative environment which sets the tone for enterprise agility.Improve end- Product qualityHow to map your first value stream of software development?Creating your very own first value stream can be an exciting task that requires understanding on the value, the need, and the result. Every organization or individual has their way of doing it. Here, I will just lay out a basic format that can help with initial value stream creation: Creating a Value Stream can be a simple task that includes:Identification of all the end-to-end steps in the entire process. Make sure that you cover all the activities and keep it simple. You can begin with scribbling whatever comes to your mind in regard to the process and can rearrange and refine. Data is the Key – Try to Gather data around each step, note the usual time it takes to complete a piece and the typical wait time between each step. Follow by a minimal flow chart that represents the “value add” times for each step and the “wait times” between each step.  Lastly, and most importantly, look for the major holdups in the flow and establish the reason for the delay. Once you have an understanding of the data, delays, and bottlenecks, etc. start creating a plan to decrease the wait.  Act on the plan you just created!Measuring the ResultsWith all the processes and mapping in place, it is all the more important to measure the ROI. Metrics help in continuous improvement. Like for others, Value Stream Mapping(VSM) also has a set of metrics that can be used to identify bottlenecks and waste in the system. Let us look at some of them:Process Time – Total time required by a single step within a process. In simple words, the time it takes to finish a single unit of work.Lead Time – The elapsed time between the task creation and work completionCycle Time – The elapsed time between the moment the team starts its work till the completion. Work-in-Process – Limiting the maximum amount of work that can be done in each status of a workflow. Flow Load – Total Number of work items with the state as active or waitingConclusionIn this article, we talked about value streams being the set of activities one needs to perform to deliver value to a customer. To sum up, value stream maps are an easy and efficient way to identify bottlenecks in any process flow. Being visual, they make it easy for everyone to understand and agree on the remediations. It is a significant tool for achieving continuous improvement with collaboration. 
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What is Value Stream Mapping and How Does it Help?

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Why you should consider a SAFe® Agile certification

The comparative analysis published in the 14th state of Agile report in mid-2020 represents a very crystal-clear image of Scale Agile Framework® winning the race. With approximate 35% of the total share and the graph still rising, there are many concrete reasons to be a part of the Agile revolution. The Covid pandemic has catalyzed change across forward-thinking organizations, and enterprises have realized the importance of agile and scaling it up to all layers.Many organizations have already moved to scale their Agile processes and ways of working, and  SAFe® is proven to be the most trusted and promising framework that serves the need of the enterprise and the client. The concept of customer satisfaction has been replaced with customer delight; hence it is not just about satisfying the needs of the customer but also making sure of nurturing long-term engagements and healthy relationships.Courtesy: 14th State of Agile ReportWith the increasing popularity of the scaled agile framework and its adoption across various organizations, there's a growing need for people who understand the framework and can lead the transformation. This opens a lot of opportunities for professionals who were earlier working with scrum or with any agile team. Even if someone is new to agile, they can go through SAFe certification and enhance their skills. Before moving forward with the reasons to get certified, let me first quickly give you the gist of what scaled agile is all about.While working with scrum teams, you might have noticed that the development team, the product owner and the scrum master work in sprints and deliver at certain intervals. Individual teams work in a localized, small fashion. But when we talk about large organizations, getting each layer to focus and work towards a common goal becomes the priority. Scaling is about expanding the agile practices at the organization level. When multiple teams are involved across all the layers namely – Team, Portfolio, Program, etc., a scaled agile framework binds everyone together to serve the highest common purpose.As per Scaled Agile,Inc, “Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) empowers complex organizations to achieve the benefits of Lean-Agile software and systems development at scale.”. Coming back to our topic of the day, let's catch up on some reasons to get SAFe certified: Mastering the Challenges – SAFE certification helps to understand the challenges of large organizations. A SAFe training helps to understand the entire organization and its end-to-end flow. By understanding the various value streams, one can easily master the blockages and help the organizations move forward in the journey with the client. It helps in learning different aspects of an organization and gaining in-depth understanding of processes. Earlier, a person just knew the people he or she was interacting with, but with SAFe, they can now have insight at all layers both in terms of delivery and roles and responsibilities. Worldwide Recognized Accreditation - Scaled agile certification has a globally recognized value, and is something that each IT organization in every country understands and treats as a niche skill. With a SAFe certification in hand, you can look out for your dream job in your dream country/organization. This certification is accepted worldwide and is much in demand. Scaled Agile credentials are among the most sought-after certifications with more and more organizations adopting SAFe. To meet the market needs and stay on top of the market, Scaled Agile constantly upgrades their content, making it more robust and adaptable.  Big money pockets - As scaling Agile is considered a niche skill in the industry, Scaled Agilists are paid rewarding salaries. If you are SAFe certified, you can expect a good hike in your new job or a good hike in the next appraisal. The credential also enhances your profile and makes it market-ready, increasing your employability. The market statistics show that SAFe certified professionals are paid at least 25% above their non-certified peers.  You can begin your journey with SAFe with the ‘SAFe Agilist’ certification, which is a foundational certification.  Increase in SAFe Adoption at Organization Level - With an upward trend of organizations adopting agile,  job descriptions have started including SAFe as one of the parameters that employers are looking out for. This certification makes you ready for the opportunity and the organizations’ expectations. In the current scenario, the numbers of SAFe certified professionals are low, which gives you an extra edge over others. With this certification, you can not only grow in your area intellectually but also can increase your visibility across industries. All about Growth Mindset – Lean-Agile principles in scaled framework focus on the growth mindset, which is different from the traditional way of working. Every individual wants to work in an environment that helps them grow, and SAFe organizations help them to expand their horizons. Working in a SAFe setup helps you to get aligned with bigger goals and gives you the opportunity to showcase your skills. You can get to see a 360-degree change in the way organizations work and deliver, after implementing SAFe.  Better Time-To-Market - Planned release cycles with shorter timelines reduce time to market and enhance customer satisfaction.  There is cutting-edge competition in the market, and as a SAFe certified professional, you will be much in demand for your capabilities of supporting the business to realize their objectives. The training and certification prepare you for the challenging task upfront, providing you with tools and processes, concepts of agile release train and value streams, etc, that can help you get aligned with the organizational needs. Lean-Agile Leadership- Lean and agile principles are very finely embedded in the SAFe framework which incorporates beliefs, standards, and processes that form the foundation of any organization at scale. With this certification, you can learn in detail about each parameter, each pillar, or each basic principle of scaling Agile. You will learn that SAFe is not just about delivery, coding, or the pipelines but it is also about its people - the individuals, and the teams who work relentlessly to achieve on-time releases. This is one of the reasons why SAFe is so popular. Makes your profile shine - Adding a SAFe certification to your profile is like adding a feather in your cap which sets you apart from the crowd. It adds a lot of weight to your resume and is much in demand across the globe. SAFe certification empowers you with an in-depth understanding of terminology and processes, and you get to know various aspects of working in a scaled agile organization which will not be possible without a certification. This is one of the reasons why employers actively seek people who already have SAFe certifications, rather than getting someone in house or someone without a SAFe credential. With the certification, your profile automatically gets selected for discussions at the initial stage itself, as you will be fulfilling their primary needs. Sets the Growth Path – With an understanding of the complete end to end defined framework, you can very easily look for growth options. Be it moving into the program or the portfolio layer depending on your skills and your expertise. it gives you a break from working in a monotonous manner, and helps you to communicate with various layers and get to know the big picture. The certification authenticates your capability to work across varied project management tools and methods. Continuous Delivery Pipeline- SAFe training and certification empowers you with the knowledge required to create a continuous delivery pipeline. You can learn how to incorporate DevOps tools, and get an understanding of various other tools and practices required to handle continuous delivery. It will not just help you with SAFe, but you can get exposure to the new market trends in terms of tools and processes.These were just a few of the benefits you can accrue with this certification. With more organizations adopting the Scaled Agile Framework, the opportunities are only bound to increase. And trust me, this is the best time to opt for a SAFe certification.  Looking at the job descriptions we usually see nowadays, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that in the time to come, this certification will become one of the mandates for any organization looking to scale Agile. If you still have any queries, please drop in a comment! We wish you good luck in your SAFe career!  
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Why you should consider a SAFe® Agile certific...

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Top 10 Agile Metrics for Successful Projects

A long-standing platitude says: “What gets measured gets done”, and in today’s context the phrase is upgraded to “What gets measured gets improved”. Either way, the emphasis is on measurement. In this article today, we will learn some basic agile metrics that can be used by the development teams to access and improve development, and optimize ways of working. With a strong competitive market, there’s a need to stay ahead of your peers, and provide optimal solutions. Here, we will discuss 10 agile metrics that can help teams carve their path towards success.What is an agile metric?Just going the agile way or adopting agile practices won't help much if the output is not measured. Agile metrics help to monitor productivity and quality across different phases during development. Metrics are standards of measurement that help the team to keep the performance in check and help to expose any gaps in performance early.Why should the teams use agile metrics (Benefits)?  There are multiple benefits of using Agile metrics. Let’s first take a look at some questions that get answered:What are the problems that need to be addressed?Is the team on track?Is the value being generated out of the efforts invested?Is the team improving?Is the team working on the right things?Are the deliverables abiding by the quality standards?Top Ten Metrics  1. Sprint BurndownThis is one of the basic and most popular metrics used to measure the work remaining during the execution of the sprint. The graphical representation through a chart helps to keep a check on the rate of work completion, and how much needs to be accomplished.  The chart comprises of X-axis and Y-axis, where the horizontal X-axis denotes time/no. of days and the Y-axis denotes the total amount of work. The total work can be estimated both in terms of man-hours or story points. The burndown helps in the prediction of whether the team will be able to complete the target sprint goal in the said sprint timeline.Image sourceComponents in the Burndown Chart:Total Estimate – The output of the sprint planning is in the form of work items or user stories that have been broken down further into tasks. Each task has an estimate with the unit in hours. The sum of the estimate from all the work items constitutes the total estimate which is represented in the Y-axis.Remaining Effort – With each passing day in a sprint, the team will be burning efforts on the tool according to the work completed. This creates a slope in the chart as the remaining effort gets decreased towards the end. This is the component that gets tracked in the burndown down the chart.Total Days – When the sprint length is defined, a set number of days are locked as the length. On the chart the total no. of days is represented on the X-axis. If there’s a holiday/weekend, the chart will show a flat line as the team will not burn any effort. This, again, depends on the tool and its customization. Some tools omit weekends and just represent the working days.Ideal Effort – It is represented through a diagonal line cutting across the chart and represents the ideal burning pattern. This is usually an auto-generated line to guide the team.2. VelocityVelocity is one of the powerful metrics in agile which is simple and easily adoptable. It is the sum of units delivered in a sprint, which is usually in story points. For example, if a scrum team commits 30 points in a sprint and delivers 28, then the velocity for that sprint is 28. As the team matures, the average velocity is calculated to predict the future capacity for the sprints. Velocity helps in getting the teams to predict correctly the amount of work that can be completed. If the average velocity of the team is 30, they know they can finish 300 story points worth of work in approx. 10 sprints.Velocity is not the measure of productivity, as it is just an average calculated unit based on the last few sprints. There might be fluctuations in the velocity due to an unstable team, holidays, legacy code, etc. It should be used as a planning tool for defining the work in a sprint. Each teams’ velocity is unique, and no two teams should be compared in terms of velocity.3. Cumulative flow diagram CFDs are stacked area charts that represent the number of work items in each column for a particular period. The lowest layer specifies the number of items in the completed state. The graph provides an essential way to envision project development and supports to visualize any possible difficulties. It represents the count of Backlog items on the Y-axis and maps them according to the state on the timeline represented on the X-axis. The cumulative flow diagram can be customized as per category or as per status.4. Release BurnupThe Release Burn Up Chart shows the current work progress against the total work planned. It also displays the total planned work, and the total work accomplished to date. One of the important aspects of this chart is the scope line which captures the deviation between the release start and the end dates.  The horizontal axis (X-axis) represents the time; it can be sprints, phases, or just the timeline representing the completion of a quarter or the project or just a particular period in discussion.  The vertical axis(Y-axis) represents the total story points in the backlog.  The Burnup charts make it easy to read the total completed work, the scope changes, and their impact on the timeline, and the remaining effort to reach the completion. Along with this, it also helps in forecasting to achieve the release plan.5. Control ChartAs per Wikipedia “Control charts, also known as Shewhart charts or process-behavior charts, are a statistical process control tool used to determine if a manufacturing or business process is in a state of control. It is more appropriate to say that the control charts are the graphical device for Statistical Process Monitoring.” A control chart is used to monitor quality regularly. It helps to measure the impact of process change, or any team composition changes. It supports to evaluate the team’s historical performance and forecast the future work pattern. This helps the teams in setting up the goals. The Control Chart displays the Cycle Time or Lead Time for your project or sprint. It takes the time consumed by a respective problem in a certain status and plots it over a stated period. A Control Chart helps you categorize whether statistics from the existing sprint can be used to govern forthcoming performance.6. Lead TimeLead Time metric originated from the manufacturing method, more specifically from Toyota Production System. It is the total time elapsed from the initial request being made by the customer to the final product being delivered. When talking of software development, it is the movement of a requirement from ‘New’ state to ‘Completed’ state. In simple words, it is the time between the start and finish for any work item.   For example, when you stand in a queue to order a burger, the time between when the order is placed and the time when the burger is received is the Lead Time. In Scrum, the lead time is defined as the time it takes from a requirement being added to the backlog to when it’s ready for delivery.7. Blocked TimeDuring the execution of the sprint, there might be situations that block the way of smooth sprint delivery. For example, an environment issue where the test cannot be performed on the code on the higher environment. Or a case where a technical dependency is blocking the way for the development team. The reasons can be countless, but it is important to capture the total time the team got blocked in the entire sprint. The scrum team can either block the task or raise a block card on the system/tool. The management can pull the real-time report on the blocked cards and help the team move forward. This should also be a part of the retrospective discussion for further improvisation. 8. Escaped DefectsNot every product delivered is error-free, as although multiple rounds of testing are done still some of the defects go unnoticed. They are found by the customers after the release date. These are termed Escaped defects. The cost of fixing a defect increases considerably the later it is found. The appetite for RAG(Red/Amber/Green) count/percentage varies across organizations. Getting more than 3 escaped defects can make the report RED for some. It is measured by the number of issues (bugs, defects, etc.) found in the product once it has been delivered to the user.9. Story Completion RatioWhen the team collectively comes up with the work items committed in a sprint during the sprint planning meeting, they come up with a list of user stories to be completed. The story completion ratio is the percentage of the total no. of stories delivered in a sprint against the committed ones. So, if a team commits 10 user stories in a sprint and delivers 9, the story completion ratio will be 90%. Story Completion Ratio = (Total No. of Stories Delivered / Total no. of Stories Committed) * 100This can also be used in the retrospection as a discussion point to identify the root causes and solutions for better delivery.10. Net Promoter ScoreThe Net Promoter Score is an index that measures the readiness of clients to commend a company’s products or services. To calculate NPS, one can ask, “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?” and score the answers on a zero-to-ten scale. Based on their rating, customers are then classified into 3 categories: detractors, passives, and promoters.ConclusionMetrics help in building up the organization by analyzing the results and striving to make it better. They provide quantifiable awareness into the team's performance and deliver assessable goals for the team. Metrics helps the team to define a way for a better customer experience and a healthy work environment. The organization should opt for only those metrics that support the systems to flourish and not to counter the individuals or the team.  
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Top 10 Agile Metrics for Successful Projects

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Standups for agile teams

Communication is the key for any team working closely to deliver a solution. The foundation of Agile is based on frequent interactions that provide multiple opportunities for the team to come closer, daily standup being one of them. There may be varied names for daily standup like daily scrum, daily huddle, quick catchups, daily sync-ups, etc. but the purpose remains unchanged. Going back to the non-agile days or to the teams which are not working in an agile fashion, they too, choose a time to interact, to update, or to check on any new advancements, but, the frequency differs. So, what makes daily scrum different from others? What is a Daily standup scrum ceremony? The daily standup is one of the scrum ceremonies prescribed by Scrum, where the team meets daily; same time, same place, to talk about Sprint goals and also check if they're on track or if there's a need to change the course. Daily Scrum helps the team to track the progress, for which they use the Sprint board. The Sprint board is essentially used to talk about the deliverables, the associated timelines and if there's any impediment that is stopping them from moving forward. The daily standup meeting is not a status update meeting; it is a time when the scrum team collectively discusses and takes ownership for a Sprint goal.  The term ‘standup’ is used because it is meant to be short and precise. It is usually done with team members standing up to discuss the work items, though this is not compulsory. The purpose of standing up is to keep the meeting short and to the point. Daily standup, in a way, provides daily planning for the scrum teams to stay focused on the sprint goal. How to conduct a Daily standup To conduct a good daily standup, everyone in the team should be aware of the agenda and come prepared for the discussion. The scrum master initiates the meeting with a quick warm-up topic (hardly lasts for a minute) that sets the tone for the meeting and serves as the ice breaker. It can be anything general; from the weather to appreciation, or any topic that makes the team comfortable.  For the entire meeting, the team remains focused and involved. They can stand near the Sprint board or any visual board where they're tracking the progress. In case of a distributed environment, the team should be using the screen share with the details of the sprint board/taskboard. 'Three questions' - the core of Daily Standup: What I did yesterday? What is my plan for today? Or before we meet again. Are there any impediments? Time-boxing the daily scrum meeting is vital; it should not go beyond 15 minutes. If there's anything the team wants to talk about apart from 'three' questions, it should be done once the daily scrum is over. Any discussion on the impediment that doesn't require the complete team should be taken as a sidebar.  Everyone in the team gets a chance to talk about the task/work in hand. As a rule, when a team member is providing the inputs, the other members will listen and stay quiet. This ensures that only one person is talking at a time. The scrum master can introduce creative ways of conducting a daily scrum that helps team participation and induces respect for others.  Here’s an example of how team members can respond to the three questions: “Yesterday, I completed writing the test cases for the login screen.” “Today, I will work with John to get it peer-reviewed and will also start testing the authentication part” “No blockers” Swift and short. Sticking to three questions helps in completing the daily scrum on time. Staying with the rules promotes discipline and better work culture.Why is the daily standup important? Transparency and planning are vital for effective delivery. Getting teams on the same platform requires collaboration, communication, and teamwork. Daily scrum provides the team with the opportunity to talk about the daily task, communicate any blockers, and discuss if there's any change in the plan. A short 15-minute sync up helps the team stay focused on the goal. The team members can call out if they need any help with the work items, which is another opportunity to take ownership as a team.  Some of the benefits of a daily standup include: Improves communication Helps to identify blockages or impediments An opportunity to inspect and adapt Improves team accord Helps to keep the team focused Increases the level of accountability  Creates a sense of accomplishment while talking about the done tasks Though it has many benefits, it can only be reaped if the daily scrum is done in a way prescribed in the Scrum Guide. Daily scrum is one among the five key events to be conducted in a sprint and serves a tactful purpose. For most of the teams, daily scrum is one of the first things that happens at the start of the day. It sets the tone and the expectation for the entire day, similar to creating a to-do list before the start of any work.  Who Attends a Stand-up? The daily scrum is one of the scrum ceremonies that is attended by the development team, the scrum master, and the product owner. Anyone else apart from these three roles can join but they'll have to be quiet and stay as an observer till the time meeting gets over. At times people from different areas who are directly/indirectly involved in the delivery may want to check on the progress. They can be a part of the daily scrum, but the rule applies to them as well, which is, only the scrum team will talk. They can ask questions only when the daily scrum is over. What do we talk about? The format of the daily scrum sticks to the three questions: What I accomplished yesterday? What is the plan for today? Are there any impediments in the path of my work? These three questions help the team to stay focused and timeboxed.  With the first question, the team member will talk about what they have completed before the start of the daily scrum. It consists of the task that they had planned and called out in the last daily scrum. Sometimes there might be a certain deviation from what they had mentioned and what exactly they worked on. This should be called out specifically as part of the daily scrum. Talking about the ‘done’ work creates a sense of accomplishment and sets the right tone for starting up with another task. The second question is more about the plan for today or the plan once the daily scrum is over. Here the team member talks about the work items they plan to finish before the next meeting. It is advised to pull only as per the capacity. While answering this question, there might be a need to change the course of action in case there's a dependency or if there's any impediment that blocks the way forward for that task. When the team member is calling out the items they have planned to work on, it creates a sense of ownership as they announce the strategy. The third question focuses on clearing the path and removing any impediments that might come in the way of delivery. The team member raises any impediment or blockages they foresee, or they talk about the blockers that can impact sprint goal. Talking about the impediments helps the team to readjust the course and look for ways to resolve the blocker as early as possible. Identifying blockers early helps to reduce the risk.  Where and when? The daily standup should happen at the same time and same place. Finding a new place every day creates an overhead and it is time-consuming, hence the reason for ‘same place’. The scrum team should use the sprint board to call out the task and the subsequent progress. Ideally, the daily scrum should happen near the Sprint board. This helps in visualizing the flow and to realize where the team stands in terms of the Sprint goal. Setting up the sprint meeting at the same place daily helps in wiring the minds of the team member to follow the same discipline. If the team is sitting alongside several other teams, it might create a noisy environment to run the daily scrum. In such instances, the scrum master or any of the team members can book a meeting room on a recurring basis.  To address the ‘when’ part, the meeting should ideally be the first thing to be done when work starts. Being the first team activity, it helps in planning the entire day which further creates momentum amongst the team members. The start time must remain consistent and one should avoid rescheduling the daily scrum. With flexible work environments, it might not be possible that everyone is present at the same time during the start of the day. In such cases the team should opt for a slot where they can have maximum participation. Working across time zones requires a slot that works for all. The daily standup should not be treated as a kickoff for the day, but as a time to talk about the advancement towards the goal and the issues and any help required with them. Keeping the meetings timeboxed and on time helps the team to create a disciplined work environment. Daily scrum gives an opportunity to self-organize and work as a team towards a single goal. Stand-ups for distributed teamsWith the worldwide pandemic situation and the teams working from home, we are living in a world with an extremely distributed environment. Agile helps here too. In such cases, the teams should be leveraging the online tools available, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc. for video conferencing. The calendars should be updated with the recurring meeting invites that consist of a link to join the video.  Why focus on video? Because humans feel more connected through video calls rather than just audio. Also, video conferencing promotes collaboration and creates a sense of a safe environment. Common Downsides to look for: Impediments are not getting raised – There can be multiple reasons for blockers not being shared across the team. Trust issues can be one of them. The Scrum Master/facilitator should help the team feel safe and provide the team with a platform to voice out the issues. Team Members reluctant to join – In some cases, the team members might feel the daily scrum to be a useless activity or it's just another meeting. In such cases, the facilitator should try to understand the reason behind such behavior and coach the individuals on the benefits. Daily Scrum gets converted to the status meeting – There are subtle signals to watch out for. Timebox not being followed. ConclusionIf you want the Scrum implementation to work for your team, following the prescribed practices and ceremonies helps a great deal. Even more than the process or ceremony, it is important to understand the team and how to make them energized to start the day, you should also learn how to best leverage the scrum ceremonies to get the best benefits and improve the overall productivity and teamwork. Daily standups help to focus on the common goal and raise the overall morale of the team and project.  
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Standups for agile teams

Communication is the key for any team working clos... Read More

Learn Scrum with JIRA

Many organizations use JIRA as a one-shot solution to automate their processes, and JIRA has almost become synonymous with Agile. Even organizations that don’t deploy it across all levels use it for at least some of their projects. Such is the popularity of JIRA. So, what exactly makes it so popular? JIRA provides a simple and easy-to-use solution for project management tasks, right from gathering requirements to maintaining releases and generating all sorts of reports and metrics. The best part of the tool is that it is highly customizable, attending to the needs of one and all. If it is said that there isn’t a thing that one cannot do using JIRA in terms of project management, then that is not an understatement.  Since Agile is the buzzword now and most organizations are opting for it, this article will provide users with a detailed insight on how to carry out their project management tasks and software development activities by using a Scrum framework.   Before moving ahead, there are two basic pre-requisites that the user who intends to use JIRA must have and they are: Pre-Requisites:  An active account on JIRA Required permissions (Super Admin, Project Admin, etc. – Defined by organizations) 1. Creation of Project: The first and most important thing is to create a project in JIRA under which we will be carrying out our activities and tracking the progress of those. There are two ways a user can create a project.  Method 1:  Step 1: Log in to JIRA using your credentials. Once you are logged in, you will land on the project dashboard which will look something like this.  Step 2: Click on Settings icon and select the Projects option as highlighted in the image below.   Step 3: Select “Create Project” option as shown in the image.   Step 4: After clicking on “Create Project”, you will be prompted with two options to select from.  Classic Project  Next Gen Project Step 5: Once you have selected the type of project, you will be asked to enter the Project name. You will also have the option to change the type of template i.e Scrum, Kanban or Bug Fixing, depending on the purpose for which you wish to use JIRA.  Once done, you must click on the “Create” button.  And voila, it’s that simple. Once you have clicked on the create button, you will land on the project dashboard with the name of the project highlighted on the top left. As we can see in the image below, project name “My Scrum Project” is visible. Method 2.  The steps remain the same, only difference is that instead of navigating through settings, once you have logged in, you will have the option to navigate via “Projects” link as depicted in the pic.  2. Creating Backlog: Once the project has been created the second important step is to define requirements in a backlog. As you can see in the pic below, there is the option to select “Backlog” from the left side panel/navigation pane to navigate to the backlog section.  Here you can start creating backlog items. This backlog serves as the “Product Backlog”. Users can outline requirements in terms of Epics, User Stories, Tasks and Bugs which are known as “issue types” in JIRA. In short, everything that is created is an issue in JIRA. Please note that for ease of understanding and reference, I am sticking to the most basic issue types as mentioned above.  Step 1: To create issues in JIRA, all that is needed to be done is to click on the “Create” button on the top most navigation bar. This bar remains visible at all times by default, no matter whichever page you navigate to. Step 2: Once the user clicks on “Create”, a dialog box to enter details of the issue will open.   The two most important fields in this are:  Project: This field, by default, is populated with the name of the project you are in. But in case you wish to change the project field, the same can be selected from the dropdownIssue Type: This option by default is selected as “Story” but can be changed depending on which issue you want to create. The relevant issue can be chosen from the dropdown. Below image shows how it all looks like in JIRA. There are two types of fields on the dialog box; Mandatory and Non-Mandatory. Mandatory fields are marked with a red Asterix. Also, these fields change on change of the issue type i.e. on basis of what is applicable to the issue type being selected.  As already mentioned, JIRA is highly customizable and a JIRA admin can add or change more issue types based on what terminology is being used by the project and/or organization on the whole. E.g. Issue type of Features can also be added in case teams follow a feature-based development approach wherein features are divided across teams and encompass the hierarchy of epics and stories.  In a similar manner, issue type “Story” can be amended to be displayed as “User Story” or at times to be more specific, something like “Functional User story” and/or “Technical User story”. In addition to this, the fields are also customizable. New fields can be added and the rule of mandatory and option field can also be altered depending on what works best for the team. To make these changes, the JIRA admin needs to navigate to the settings section and then to the desired settings type to change them. Please note that these settings will only be available to the user who either is a JIRA admin or has permission to perform these activities. Permissions are issued by the JIRA admin to the user.  Coming back to the topic of creation of backlog, once you fill up the details and click on “Create” at the bottom of the dialog box, a new issue is created in JIRA that now starts reflecting in the backlog.  Issues can also be created by using the short cut link available in the backlog section as highlighted below.  Once you click on “+” icon, you will be able to select the type of issue to create and provide a summary for the same.   After entering the summary details, you are required to click enter and the issue is created. To enter other details, you will have to navigate to the created issue by clicking on it in backlog or opening the same in a new tab and then doing the needful.  As soon as an issue is created, the same starts reflecting in the backlog. Here you can see two stories and one bug that were created, are visible in the backlog. 1. Linking Issues:  We all know the hierarchy of requirements goes something like Epics > Stories > Tasks. JIRA gives us the capability to link one issue type with another. To start with as a very basic ask, stories will fall under the epics and thus need to be linked with the correct epic. This linkage is something which replaces the requirement traceability of traditional models. When everything is perfectly linked then it can be easily known which requirement from the customer was covered under which epic and if we go into a granular level, under which story and even tasks the requirements fall under. Similarly, if a bug is found in the story while working on it, the bug can also be logged and linked against the story.  To link issues, the steps below can be performed.  Epic Link: To link stories under an epic, JIRA specifically provides the field “Epic Link” in stories. The field at most times is made mandatory by organizations to make sure that every story that is created in JIRA is by default linked to the epics. Here the epic becomes the parent issue of the story and thus it also becomes easy to make sure that every requirement has been worked upon.  Step 1: There are two ways to create the Epic link. While creation of the story, you will have the option to mention Epic link or if the story is created using shortcut link, the same can be added by opening the story and then mentioning the epic in the epic link field as shown below. Step 2: Once selected the same starts reflecting in the story details.   Step 3: To see the linkage, you need to navigate back to backlog. The link starts displaying in the backlog.   2. Linking Bugs:  Once the bugs are created, they can be used to block user stories in a similar fashion, though there is no specific field like epic link in case of bugs, they can be linked using the “Link issue” option.  Step 1: Once the bug is created, note the issue ID and open the story which needs to be blocked and select the “Link Issue” option.  Step 2: By default, “is blocked by” option is selected, indicating that the story is blocked due to the following issue. As soon as you enter the bug issue id and click on link, the story is linked with the bug or to be more specific, the story is marked ‘blocked’ by the bug. In this way multiple stories can be blocked with a single bug and vice versa.   Note – Stories can be linked to other stories to showcase linkage, to mark dependency, to display duplicity/redundancy etc in the same manner, all that is needed is to select the correct option from the dropdown after selecting “Link issue”. Issue Prioritization in Backlog.  As the rule goes, the product backlog must be prioritized at all times i.e. the issue with the highest priority should be at the top and the issue with least priority should be at the bottom of the backlog, so that the teams working on the backlog have a clear idea about the work they need to pull in once the next iteration starts or to understand if they have capacity for more during the ongoing sprint. Keeping the backlog prioritized also helps the team to keep working as per the product roadmap in the absence of the product owner and as such the team does not get blocked.  JIRA also provides the capability to keep the backlog prioritized at all times by the simple function of dragging and dropping the issue above or below the other ones. Below images will give you an idea of the same.  Scenario 1: Once you start creating issues in the backlog, the issues start reflecting in the ascending order of their Issue IDs i.e. the order in which they are created. For ease of reference, the issues have been named as 1, 2, 3, 4 and placed one after the other.  Now assume that the priority of Story 4 is the highest and thus it should be at the top of the backlog, followed by test story 2, followed by 1 and 3 respectively. Thus, they should be placed in order of 4,2,1 and 3 in the backlog. This can be done by simply dragging the items to bring them in the desired order.  Scenario 2: Below image gives you a backlog which is sorted on the basis of prioritization of stories as per the priority defined by the PO. Bugs too can be dragged and placed at the relevant position in the backlog depending on their severity and priority. All these activities of creation and prioritization of backlog are done primarily by the PO. In case the PO is supporting multiple teams and there are BAs supporting individual teams or acting as proxy POs for the teams, then POs can leverage them for backlog management. Scrum master needs to ensure that the backlog is prioritized, properly detailed and at least the stories for the immediate next sprint remain in a ready state.   3. Creating & Starting a Sprint:  Once the backlog has been created, the next step for the team is to gather and hold the sprint planning event. PO can open the stories and discuss the details and Acceptance Criteria with team members. Once all the stories have been discussed, the team can start pulling the stories in the sprint and for that to happen the team will need a sprint in JIRA. It is again very simple.  Step 1: In the backlog section, there is a “Create Sprint” button.  Step 2: Once you click on the button; a sprint is created, starting from sprint 1 with a prefix of project ID as shown in the image below. You have the option to create issues directly in the sprint using the quick link as mentioned above for the backlog or the issues can be dragged and dropped in the sprint created. All the issues dragged and dropped in the sprint created, as discussed in sprint planning, will serve as the sprint backlog.  Step 3:  Once all the issues are dragged and dropped in the sprint, the sprint is ready to be started. As an example, we see that test story 4 and 2 as well as a bug have been dragged to sprint 1 as displayed in the image below.Please note as part of sprint planning session, details like Story Assignee, story points and hourly estimates can be filled in the stories using the fields available. Also, in case the story owner wants to highlight the individual tasks they intend to perform as part of working on the story like Analysis, Coding, Review etc or in case multiple team members are working on a single story then to highlight individual work assignments, the option of creating tasks can be used. Tasks can be created just like stories, as mentioned above. It is similar to work breakdown in traditional models.What needs to be made sure is that before marking the sprint planning as being complete, all the stories have been pulled in sprint and assigned and estimated in terms of story points or hours or both, according to the approach the teams have decided to take. All the sub tasks that have been created, can optionally be assigned. If desired, these subtasks can also be estimated. Once all this is done, the Scrum Master can then mark sprint planning as complete and proceed to start the sprint.  As we know that before sprint planning, a goal is provided by the PO to the team. The same goal can be added in the sprint. Just select the three dots option besides the sprint on right side and select edit sprint and you will be able to enter the sprint goal.  4. Starting Sprint: Once the planning is complete and activities like estimations, assignments and tasking have been done, it is time to start the sprint. This is simple to do. In the backlog, there is a “Start Sprint” button. Once you click on it, a dialog box appears where you can verify sprint goal and set a duration for the sprint. After reviewing the details, you can click on “Start” and we are good to go.  5. in Progress:  Once the sprint has started, you can navigate to the “Active Sprint” section to visualize the progress on the stories in the sprint. Team members can update the stories to depict statuses from “To Do”, “In Progress” and “Done” and also update their daily hours in the stories in case teams are estimating in terms of hours.  6. Completing/Closing Sprint:  On the last day of the sprint, it is important to mark the ongoing sprint as closed in JIRA so that next sprint can be planned and started.  All the items which are marked done are considered complete. Anything pending to be completed is either moved to the next sprint or to backlog in consultation with the PO.  Step 1: In the “Active Sprint” section. On the top right corner, you need to click on “Complete Sprint” button.  Step 2: Once the “Complete Sprint” button is clicked, a dialog box appears with details of issues that have been completed and the ones which are pending. Select the place where you wish to move the pending items to, either to the backlog or next sprint which is to be started.Step 3: Once you select the desired value under “Move to” field and click on “Complete” button the Sprint is marked as complete.   
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