Scrum Epic: What Is It And How To Create The Best Epics In Agile?
By Deepti Sinha
Scrum has been a buzzword since a decade now, and why not, it has so many success stories, hey, I am not talking about the stories which mean requirements in Scrum but the actual stories of teams and the organizations practicing Scrum. Looks like, I just gave the hint of what I would be covering in my article today.Yes, we will be talking about the requirements and how are they handled in Scrum. We will be talking about the Epic, so far, we have known Epic as a long narrative about the heroes of great historical or legendary significance performing courageous deeds but here we will touch upon a different side. Believe me, we are now going to talk about the EPICs in Scrum!What is an Epic in Agile?In simple terms, Scrum EPIC in Agile Methodology is a big chunk of work which can be divided into smaller user stories. An epic can be spread across sprints and even across agile teams. An epic can be a high-level description of what the client wants, and accordingly, it has some value attached to it. As we mentioned, an epic is a high-level requirement, hence its scope can change over the course of time.“Epics are a helpful way to organize your work and to create a hierarchy. The idea is to break down the work into shippable pieces so that large projects can actually get done and you can continue to ship value to your customers on a regular basis. Epics help teams break their work down while continuing to work towards a bigger goal.”- Atlassian To explain it better, I would prefer taking a life example, let’s say, throwing a New Year party at your place can be an epic requirement for you. To do so, you’ll need to organize your effort: from the biggest objectives down to the smallest details. You should be able to respond to change, report your progress, and stick to a plan. Once you are aware of the epic, you can drill it down to create smaller tasks like creating a guest list, deciding on the menu, shopping for the grocery, decoration at home, shopping for the new year, etc.Let’s see how we can create an Epic also called Scrum Epic User Story – In today’s era, almost all the tools that the team use have the capability to create an epic, it is up to the product and the team, which type of Epic they want.Some Epics cater to the reporting needs of management. Some Epics are created with a timeframe in mind, it should not be too long and too short, i.e. it should not take more than a couple of weeks to finish. But the widely used way is Storytelling.So, what is StorytellingStorytelling is a tool which helps you visualize the flow of events and how they corroborate back up to the Epic. If you feel, your working pattern does not sit in any of the mentioned ways, create your own. Just remember, Agile is never prescriptive, it shows you the path and how you want to go over it, it’s your choice!Coming back to our example, let us try to break it down into some doable components. It is really important to create chunks out of the epic so that the team can pick those up and deliver in a sprint time. You can compare this activity to art which requires precision in terms of size, priority, minimally interdependent etc. There are some pre-set ways of doing it, like:Workflow break downHere in our example, we talked about a project where we have a New Year party, let’s see how we can break it down in terms of workflow – Shopping can be a workflow where you need to get the items from outside. Another workflow can be cooking the food for the guests, same way we can have decorating the house as another workflow. See how simple it gets to understand once you start connecting it with our lives! This also helps the product owner to easily prioritize the work, in our case, the Product Owner can be the host of the party. Some steps in the workflow may not be important right now and can be moved to later stages. Perhaps baking the cake takes on the priority as it takes time to cool down but the same can be done later as well.Role-based breakdownWe can also break an epic as per the role or the persona, there can be different roles in your product or a project, here we have role of a ‘host’, ‘guest’ or you can have a role as a ‘cook’, you can even add the roles as per your product. In a role-based breakdown we talk in terms of that particular persona, example, for a host, ‘Driving a successful party’ can be one, for a guest, it can be, ‘Looking for some fun games at the party’.Break Down around the timelineSome of the epics can be broken down according to the time it will take to complete. The team usually divides the work which can be accomplished in a sprint time. They take up the whole thing, break it into pieces and fit the pieces in different sprints as per the dependency and priority. As I have already mentioned, the breaking down requires consideration into several areas such as size, priority, interdependency etc. Thus, there are two approaches to dividing – Horizontal and Vertical. It is like cutting the cake, if you cut it horizontally, you will get a single layer but if you take a vertical approach, you will get to have a bit of all the layers. Understanding the basic differences between Epic, Story, and TaskWe have been talking a lot about Epic and its breakdown, now let’s capture how it actually disintegrates further. We had an Epic “New Year Party”, this was a big chunk of work to be accomplished, we learned about the techniques to break it down. The result of the breakdown is termed Stories, which can be accomplished in a sprint time. The stories are further broken down into chunks called ‘Tasks’, the team pulls up the tasks and completes them, once all the tasks are completed, the story is marked as Completed. The below figure explains Scrum Epic Vs User Story:Thus,Epic - A requirement that is just too big to deliver in a single sprint. Epics need to be broken into smaller deliverables (stories).Story - A requirement that the business wants. It is something that is deliverable within a single sprint.Tasks - The essentials of a story, these are the milestones to take the story to ‘Done’.Anything that we cannot measure will not yield many results, we have been hearing this for a long time. It does apply here as well. We can use burndown charts to measure how much work has been accomplished in an Epic. This also helps in predicting if the team is on track with the commitments. By keeping a watch on the Burndown chart, it becomes easy to manage the progress and the blockers (if any) that the team is facing. This not only provides transparency to the system but it also helps in building the trust for the team and the clients.How to identify Epics in AgileEpic is something which is a fairly large chunk of work and cannot be completed at one go. It is something which requires discussion and brainstorming so that it can be broken down further into smaller chunks. At the epic level, we give rough estimates which can be in the form of T-shirt sizes, swags, points or any other method the team is comfortable with. The team can track the progress in an epic through the Burndown chart which represents the progress and also reflects if there are any blockers. Benefits of EpicsEpics help in understanding the high-level requirement from the stakeholder and what exactly is the need.It also helps in defining the scope of work which is in agreement with the client. Epics articulate efficiently about final output of user needs. Epics help to track bigger thoughts in a product backlog without the need to overwhelm it with multiple things. They allow establishing a hierarchy for the backlog items where the epic represents the original idea often closely related to a particular outcome.It also helps in estimating how much time it will take to deliver. Epics are time and again used as placeholders for new views that have not been thought out completely, or whose full expansion has been postponed till essentially desirable.Epics are then evolved into split into multiple user stories that help Agile development teams effectively manage and groom their product backlog.Common Pitfalls in EpicThough there are many positive aspects of using the epics in backlog management a coin always has two sides, it has its pitfalls too! Sometimes, the teams can create confusions around the end deliverable from the epic by just viewing them as more than just large user stories. This is deceptive when the team creates multifaceted tools to distinguish between epics and user stories as well as creates far-reaching tools for chasing epics separately from other backlog items.The teams may also try to estimate the epics at a very high level though they might not have a clear picture of what is to be done. This increases the chances of ambiguity and it is very likely that the estimates will not be of any use as it will not serve any purpose in reporting.Finally, here we are, with the discussions around the Epics and how we can break it down. There is no set way to work on the epic, it about what approach suits your needs. Again, it is all about the mindset and way we deal with the backlog. Epics are always fascinating to work with!
based on 12 customer reviews
Reasons to Get Updated to Leading Safe®️ 4.6 Certification in 2019
By Deepti Sinha
SAFe®️ is an agile framework for software development which encourages alignment, collaboration, and delivery across large numbers of agile teams. It was developed by Dean Leffingwell, leveraging three major bodies of knowledge: agile software development, lean product development, and systems thinking. It offers a simple, lightweight experience for the development team. The entire framework is distributed into four sections Team, Program Level, Large Solution, and Portfolio. The scalability and configurability provided by SAFe®️ framework support organizations to deliver new products, services, and solutions in the shortest sustainable lead time, along with the best potential quality. It orchestrates alignment, collaboration, and delivery for various Agile teams ensuring every team is focused on the same goal.With the increase in success rate for the organizations turning towards scaling, the need for them to equip themselves with the right tools, techniques, and people became their top priority. As we all know, from our experience, ‘people’ parameter is crucial for the success of any project or any organization. There has been a sharp upswing in the demand of certified professionals with the needed skills. The organizations are now turning to people who can demonstrate skills and qualities that can help them adopt the change smoothly. They are now looking into specific areas such as SAFe®️ Agilist who can understand the whole system, who can work with the teams and help out at the different levels in delivering a quality product that can add value to the customer. Most of us have already seen how SAFe®️ 4.5 works and its benefits, a good part is, now we have SAFe®️ 4.6 which highlights the introduction of the Five Core Competencies of the Lean Enterprise. Before looking at the advantages of Leading SAFe®️ 4.6, we will see the new features in Leading SAFe®️ 4.6.In addition to the core competencies, this updated version in Leading SAFe includes new government guidance, which describes a set of success patterns that help public sector organizations implement Lean-Agile practices. Mastering the core competencies enables enterprises to successfully respond to volatile market conditions, changing customer needs, and emerging technologies. Let’s look at the advanced topics in SAFe®️ 4.6:Source Lean-Agile LeadershipLean-Agile Leadership lies at the very foundation of the framework defining how the Lean-Agile leaders will go about and endure the organizational transformation, to achieve this, they might need to create an environment of learning, exhibiting, teaching, and coaching SAFe®️’s Lean-Agile Mindset, values, principles, and practices. Among the five competencies being introduced, Lean-Agile Leadership forms the root of the framework. The lean-agile leadership comprises of managers, leaders, and executives who can drive the change and also to continuously work around the improvement needed. These leaders will base their working model on the core values as stated by the scaled agile framework which is alignment, built-in quality, transparency, and program execution. The leaders embrace the SAFe®️ Lean-Agile mindset which is the combination of beliefs, assumptions, and actions of leaders and practitioners who embrace the concepts in the Agile Manifesto and the SAFe®️ House of Lean. These leaders are the torch-bearers for the organizations in the transformation journey, making it clear where they are and where they need to go.Team and Technical Agility“Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.”—Agile ManifestoWhen we talk of making a team the high-performing, we need to understand what all is required in their transition, maybe some critical skills, principles, and practices to support current and future business needs. Let’s first understand what is team agility - cross-functional, responsible, and dedicated to collective goals, they have all the skills necessary to define, build, test, and deploy value in short iterations. Now, talking about it in terms of scaling, these teams become part of Agile Release Train (ART), these trains have necessary people to drive towards the solution. They plan, integrate, demo, deploy, release, and learn together.This was about the team functioning, now let’s move to technical agility, which is, “defines the Agile software engineering principles and practices teams use to deliver solutions quickly and reliably. This includes the Lean-Agile values and principles, eXtreme Programming (XP) practices, Behavior-driven Development (BDD), Agile modeling, built-in quality, proven approaches and patterns for object-oriented software design, and more” – Scaled Agile.DevOps and Release on Demand“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” —Charles DarwinDevOps is the recipe of traditional values, practices, and tools that upsurges an organization’s capability to provide product and services at high velocity: progressing and refining products at a quicker speed as compared to organizations using traditional software development and infrastructure management processes. This swiftness permits organizations to better help their clients and compete more successfully in the market. The benefits of DevOps include speed, rapid delivery, reliability, scaling, improved collaboration, and security. SAFe®️ talk about the ‘CALMR’ approach and is grounded in five concepts - Culture, Automation, Lean flow, Measurement, and Recovery. Each concept serve as the foundation pillar for DevOps and in turn, helps with the continuous delivery pipeline. Release on demand is the method through which new functionality is deployed into production and released immediately or incrementally to Customers based on demand. ARTs and Solution Trains can continuously explore user value, integrate and demo value, deploy to production, and release value whenever the business needs it.“Showing a strong success and visible benefits is key to getting others to agree to try your way of doing things.”—Frederic Rivain Business Solutions and Lean Software EngineeringDefinition as per Scaledagile – “The Business Solutions and Lean Systems Engineering competency describes how to apply Lean-Agile principles and practices to the specification, development, deployment, and evolution of large, complex software applications and cyber-physical systems.”Earlier when the organizations followed the traditional approach, the cycle time from the birth of an idea to its delivery took enormous time, most of the times the originator of the idea or the teams working on it went for a complete change, it even sometimes took a lifetime(Phew). Now, we can understand why there were late deployments, budget going over the bounds and issues with quality. This typically consequences in higher than expected maintenance and operations expense, poorer returns, and other business complications.To deal with it, Scaled Agile Framework gives the direction of building up large-scale solutions in a flow-based, value delivery-focused model, driven by Lean and Agile principles. The principles provided by Scaled Agile Framework relate directly to the development of all kinds of large and complex systems. They have embedded Lean-Agile values and principles to make sure the customer gets the right value at the right time with the best quality.Lean Portfolio Management“We don’t have to be smarter than the rest. We have to be more disciplined than the rest.” – Warren BuffettLean Portfolio Management (LPM) is one of the Five Core Competencies of the Lean Enterprise and it rests at the Portfolio level. This area focuses on how an organization can embrace Lean approaches at the strategic, financial level, Agile portfolio operations, and Lean governance. The Lean Portfolio Management function carves out its way through a series of three collaborations—strategy and investment funding, Agile portfolio operations, and Lean governance— this enables the organization’s ability to accomplish current obligations consistently and enable innovation by building on the foundation of the four other core competencies. LPM is the process of running a program and product portfolios by applying the concept of lean thinking. This result-oriented method delivers high-quality work by prioritizing and managing the work in the Lean portfolio. It increases the speed of planning and reporting processes and eliminates the time-consuming governance.Features of LPM include:Prioritization of the most valuable and critical activitiesTimely inspections and validation of workQuick delivery of high-value work without interruptionsTask alignment with the company's objectivesIn my point of view, this is one of the finest framework developed so far which takes care of the components that other frameworks missed incorporating. It truly focuses on people and product, bringing both of them to rise in terms of skills or qualifications. With this new addition, the agile teams can enhance the way they work and also THEMSELVES. It takes care of all the levels in the framework, enriching every stage with the refined thought process and Lean-Agile way of working. Starting at the team level and working up towards the Portfolio is truly amazing, along with an emphasis on a value being delivered, it also works on creating a healthy environment for the agile teams to deliver the best of quality. It has the best practices embedded with the framework to support both the stakeholders and the teams by building a Continuous Delivery Pipeline and DevOps culture. Scaled Agile Framework is a large knowledge base of demonstrated principles, competencies and practices, that are assimilated together to help bring about cultural change in organizations, which means the teams will deliver faster, more frequently, on time and on budget. Whether you believe it or not, SAFe®️ has some truly convincing case studies which prove its claims!!I have experienced how SAFe®️ helps organizations scale tremendously, I have witnessed the culture shift and the mindset change and with this new version, I can say, go for it, it will really benefit the way you think and the way you work. With the refined version, you will get to see a new way of delivering the best quality.This upgrade is the need of time! I would like to end this with a lovely quote,“Quality debt focuses on the impact of implementation and quality decisions on the end user and business; how those decisions affect their ability to do their day-to day-job.”— Jordan Setters
based on 13 customer reviews
A Step-by-step Guide to Implementing Scrum in Organizations
By Deepti Sinha
When I started my Agile journey, I was very much apprehensive about Scrum, because till now we experienced the comfort zone with the implementation of Waterfall methodology, even if it made us fail! Maybe that’s how we human beings are. We feel uneasy with the new changes around us as that changes need to implement from scratch. Looking at the market scenario two years back, there was a survey done by Version One which shows, 58% of the organizations adopted Scrum as their framework to work on the products, today, Scrum has expanded in its share in the market and is being widely used, and moreover, teams are now customizing it as per their need. Let’s see what is Scrum, exactly – in a simple language – it is a way of delivering quality product iteratively and incrementally in a time-box fashion. This is a simple illustration of what the Scrum implementors and others define it, moving with it, why not just explore what they say too- “Scrum is a framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.”– Scrum.org“Scrum is an agile way to manage a project, usually software development. Agile software development with Scrum is often perceived as a methodology; but rather than viewing Scrum as methodology, think of it as a framework for managing a process.”– MountainGoatSoftware.comTo set this framework up, we need some roles to support this process, the roles include:Scrum MasterThe Scrum Master supports the team in boosting and streamlining the processes by which they can accomplish their objectives. They also shield the team from both internal and external interferences. Product OwnerThe Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the products produced, they are the owners of the product backlog and makes sure that the backlog is healthy and prioritized.The Development TeamThe Development team is one who creates the product as a whole, they are actually involved in the coding, testing etc, to make sure a quality product is delivered in a time-boxed manner. They are self-organizing, cross-functional team of people who together are responsible for all of the work necessary to produce a working software or product.Why Scrum? Interestingly, there are reasons behind the popularity of Scrum framework in the technological market, let us look at some-First and the foremost is, “delighted customers”, so far we have been talking about customer satisfaction but now we are one step ahead and focusing on delivering delight.Next, on the list is “improved return on investment”. Most of the projects have witnessed reduced costs and faster results, which in turn gives confidence to the clients and upliftment to the teams. These look small when we just talk on paper but these are really big advantages of the Scrum that an organization can get.Though we have talked a lot about the benefits that Scrum provides, one must not mistake this as a magic wand that can cure all the problems. There might be scenarios where Agile is not a good fit for your product. It is really important to understand if Agile is the way to go for your product or not! There are many scenarios when we can say that Agile is all we need, to quote some, frequent requirement changes, it is not essential to expend months documenting requirements that may or may not result in what the client wants or is looking for. Next big reason can be, management support for the Agile framework and its philosophy of enabling teams. When we talk about adopting Agile, it is not just a bottom-up approach rather it should go in all directions and more focused from top-to-bottom. If the top management is aligned with the change and merge it with their goals, it will work wonders!Now that we have gone past through the evaluation of Agile adoption, let’s move back quickly to the discussion we originally started with – Scrum!!What if you are asked to implement Scrum for your product? How comfortable will you be to go ahead with this move? I know you might be thinking of all those points that might go into this, no problem, let’s look at it together. For moving about how to implement Scrum, there are few pre-requisites which you are already aware of: Be ready with your product backlogThis is a very essential step in Scrum implementation. To start this up, you have to identify your product owner who can actively work with the Stakeholders and create a product backlog which contains requirements that can deliver value and also are prioritized as per the market need. A Product Owner takes up the ownership of the product backlog. A product backlog usually comprises two kinds of work items:Epics - High-level requirements that are very coarsely outlined without much detail.Stories - More comprehensive requirements for what should be doneDuring the development phase, the teams might encounter some requirements which were not covered in the backlog but are needed, so the team has all the rights to add items on the backlog but only the product can prioritize them.Let’s build our teamDefining a Scrum team is again a crucial step, as this is the team who is required to work closely bound and deliver a quality product. The team will comprise of 5-9 team members which include developers, testers, support, designers, business analysts, etc. All the members in a team will work towards a common goal as set in the commitment. Usually, we strive for creating a cross-functional and self-organizing team, getting the former is quite easy and doable but don’t worry if making them self-organized is taking time. Don’t panic, it really takes a lot of effort and time to churn out a self-organized team!Who will be our Scrum Master?So far, we have the product backlog and the team to work on it, but, where is the person who will make all this go smoothly without interruptions, who will make sure the team is encouraged and being involved productively, who will make sure the team realizes their potential, (the list is pretty long ….). In short, let’s get a Scrum Master. The Scrum Master ensures that the Scrum team is effective and progressive. The person will help the team in planning the work for the coming sprints. Here comes TIME-BOXING in ScrumWhen we talk about Scrum, we talk about Sprints. A sprint is a time-box for the Scrum team to commit and deliver items in a short span of time. It usually ranges between a week to a month, whatever the length has been locked for the team, it stays the same throughout. The Sprint starts with a commitment from a team on the backlog items, they develop, code, test, etc. and provide a demonstration at the end of the Sprint. The Sprint closes with the retrospective ceremony where the team reflects on what went well and how can they improve further. Get, Set, Go!! – First drive with the SprintThe Sprint starts with the first gear – Sprint Planning – here the team picks items from the list (typically from the top in the backlog). They set their Sprint goal and start working on the items, during the course of the Sprint, the team will regroup each day for a quick meetup called Daily Standup/Daily Scrum to talk about their progress and if there’s anything blocking their path of delivery. Once in a while, they will stop by, to talk about the next inline items for the upcoming sprint which is called the Backlog Grooming/Story Time. On the closure day, the team will demo the items they have worked on to the Stakeholders or the Product Owner. The Sprint gets over with the last regrouping called the Retrospective where they inspect how they did and work on the ideas to make it better by adapting to it.How we did on the numbersIt is really important to measure our success and failures, it gives us a chance to improve. This applies to Scrum as well. Here, we talk about our burndown charts, yes, these charts can be compared to the ultrasounds or the X-rays we have, they show how we did as a team, anyone can read out the issues and the brownies from our charts. The Scrum Master can understand, just by looking at the burndown, how the team did, the scope change, the blockers and how the team adapted to the new environment. It should be one of the goals for a team to reach Zero by the end of the Sprint in the chart.Overall, I can say, Scrum is really effective if implemented with the right spirit and the focused direction. There’s a Scrum implementation plan which has to be laid out. We have many success stories where Scrum helped the teams deliver the products on time with customer delight. The dynamic participation, teamwork, and collaboration in Scrum Teams make for a more pleasant place to work and most importantly if your teams are happy, they will go to any lengths to make your customer happy. I have been working with the Scrum teams since last 10 years and I must say, they are more contented. So it’s not just about the product or the organization, it is also about the ‘PEOPLE’, it is about us!Master Scrum and learn more about the Scrum roles and process to deliver the best to the users. Be a better Scrum Master with our Agile and Scrum online practice test!
based on 41 customer reviews
The Most Important Scrum Artifacts and Their Best Uses in Real-time Projects
By Deepti Sinha
Introduction:To be honest with you guys, this is the topic or area which is close to the hearts of almost all of the Scrum practitioners and the most widely discussed among the Scrum teams. Specifically, in my case, I just love taking up this topic with the people I interview. Let me take you to journey on how it got originated and what it is all about.What is Scrum?As per Scrum Alliance “Scrum falls within “Agile,” which is the umbrella term for several types of approaches to getting any complex, innovative scope of work done. The concept is to break large projects into smaller stages, reviewing and adapting along the way.” As per the survey was done by version one, scrum is the most popular framework being used globally. Scrum is a lightweight process framework for agile development and it distinguishes from other agile processes by explicit ideas and practices, divided into the three categories of Roles, Artifacts, and Time Boxes.Let’s focus on the artifacts part for now and dive into further details on its components.Scrum Artifact DefinitionAn artifact is a concrete by-product created in the course of product development. Scrum artifacts characterize work or value in numerous methods that are beneficial in providing transparency and prospects for inspection and adaptation. In Scrum, artifacts are “information radiators” which serve to encapsulate the shared understanding of the team at a certain point in time.Scrum ArtifactsNow that we have understood the definition of it, let’s dive further and check most important scrum artifacts that are adding value to scrum.Product BacklogTo make it easy, a product backlog is a list of all the things that are required in the product. It is an ordered list of all features, functions, requirements, enhancements, and fixes that institute the modifications to be made to the product in upcoming releases, as in the details below:Epics – high-level items, which need to be broken down into Features.User Stories – user-centric low-level items.Non-functional requirement items.Spikes – research stories that will result in learning, choosing proper architecture or design, creating prototypes, etc. to fulfill the goal of the Spike, based on which proper User Stories will be created later.Technical items (like refactoring, configuring Jenkins, etc.) – these items should be separately discussed with the Product Owner for him to see the value of them.Bugs, etc.A product backlog is a dynamic entity and hence it keeps evolving, for the teams, it is a live unit. To keep this product backlog healthy, the product owner has to make sure that the below items are in place and being closely monitored. It’s the Product Owners responsibility to build up a stack of item s in the backlog and prioritize them as per the business goals and the global approach. The product backlog is a dynamic list of items and as we call it in agile, it is ‘live document’ that should be frequently updated based on changing project requirements all the way through development.What is Product roadmap?A product roadmap is a high-level pictorial synopsis that plots out the vision and path of your product. A product roadmap connects the why and what behind what you’re building. It’s a guiding tactical document as well as a plan for executing the approach. It can get the internal participants in alignment and assist in the discussion of options and situation forecasting.Building a product roadmap aids in communicating the path and advancement to the teams and the stakeholders. This document consists of the high-level initiatives and the plan for accomplishing the work that supports the product strategy.Crafting a product roadmap should be a continuous process throughout the lifecycle of a product. One should gather requirements and features from a variety of sources, including customers, partners, sales, support, management, engineering, operations, and product management. It is up to the product management team to prioritize incoming ideas to make sure the roadmap aligns against the business goals. Sprint BacklogThe sprint backlog consists of all the stories or items the team committed for a particular sprint. It is a commitment from the scrum team to the stakeholders for a sprint. During the sprint planning meeting, the scrum team pulls the highest priority items from the product backlog which are usually in the form of stories. They discuss the final acceptance and zero in on the points to be allocated for the story. During this ceremony the team also creates tasks which are required to complete the stories, they drill down to the lowest level of details so that nothing is missed, to ensure quality.Sprint GoalAccording to the Scrum Guide, the Sprint Goal is an objective to be met by the Sprint through the implementation of part of the Product Backlog. The Sprint Goal helps provide focus on an objective we want to achieve and allows the flexibility to negotiate the work to achieve that objective.Burn-Down ChartThe burndown is a chart that shows how quickly the team is burning the efforts to reach the completion. It shows the total effort against the amount of work we deliver each iteration. The x-axis in the chart shows the time in days and y-axis represents the total hours of work estimated in a sprint. Some of the teams use story points in the y-axis instead of total estimated efforts. Both the approaches are fine as long as the team understands the idea behind it. Its purpose is to enable that the sprint commitment is on the track to deliver the expected solution within the timeline (sprint).Product Vision“A product vision represents the core essence of its product or product line. It also sets the direction for where a product is headed or the end state for what a product will deliver in the future.” – Aha!Your product vision should not be a plan that shows how to reach your goal. Instead, you should keep the product vision and the product strategy – the path towards the goal – separate. This enables to change your strategy while staying grounded in your vision. (This is called to pivot in Lean Startup.)Monitoring Sprint ProgressOnce the scrum team has started working on the sprint backlog, there is a need to track the progress so that there are no surprises in the end. I have witnessed many teams who initially start the sprint with a lot of zeal and positivity but end up feeling frustrated due to impediments or roadblocks, they feel the hindrance in their work and hence start cribbing on the end results. It is really important to monitor the sprint progress, there are different techniques a team can use.Tracking the burndownEffectively using the daily standup timeRaising and getting the blockers removed on timeProduct Increment “The Product Increment is the sum of all Product Backlog items completed during a Sprint and all previous Sprints. At the end of a Sprint, the new Product Increment must be in a usable condition and meet the Scrum Team's Definition of Done.” – Wibas. Ownership of the product increments should belong to the release engineers in most organizations and should be fully available to the product owner.The definition of done is created by the scrum teams to make an agreement with and with the stakeholders on the getting the stories accepted. It also ensures the quality of work to be delivered by the end of the sprint. The components of “definition of done” differ from team to team.ConclusionFrom the above discussion, we now understand the artifacts that add value to the Scrum process. The artifacts from the base for Scrum implementation, effective use of these stated artifacts can actually help in improving the product and its delivery, and most the quality. I mentioned quality because you can define your definition of done in such a manner that it focuses on quality, even the way a user story is created is a big contributor to the quality angle.You can learn more about Scrum artifacts through our Scrum Tutorial.
based on 28 customer reviews
How Does SAFe®️ Benefit Organizations?
By Deepti Sinha
Necessity is the mother of invention – Plato This quotation even applies to our software development where things are changing fast and it’s not just an elephant that you have to deal with, it’s the “Titanosaur Argentinosaurus huinculensis” – the massive dinosaur.The software industry has grown by leaps and bounds which implies that the challenges have even multiplied too. For large programs and organizations, the challenges can come from any of the corners, it can be around monitoring or control, communication, stakeholders onboarding, change management, governance structure, the list is pretty long, and any imbalance can impact any of the three sides of the project management triangle – time, cost and scope.With a volatile industry, Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®️) came in as a big rescue for the teams working on the different sizes of solutions. It is an ability to help the teams in maintaining an alignment with the business goals. Also, helping the organizations that need to work across the teams, is totally praiseworthy. Being deep-rooted in Agile and Lean principles, scaled agile remains more effectual than traditional styles to software delivery.Before the Agile era, we used to build the large and complex systems and the effects were outraging. Most of the times, the teams were missing the deadlines and minimal focus was given on a quality. Due to this, businesses faced bad days and I feel the software industry regrets that now.Measuring SAFe®️ business benefits SAFe®️ tries to address these issues and companies who have adopted the framework have shown amazing results. With the need of delivering quality, time-to-market, faster ROI, our leaders in the industry shaped in a lot models and frameworks to support software development like Large Scale Scrum (LeSS), Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) etc.The flexibility these frameworks provide may valued by those with a good understanding of agile, but it might not offer sufficient track for those who are transitioning from traditional models. The usual reason we get to see for agile failure lies in the mindset of cultural change, none of the framework apart from SAFe®️, takes care of this fact.Back in 2011, Dean Leffingwell and Drew Jemilo, together came up with the framework which has helped a wide variety of organizations, so far, they stay strong with their framework by introducing new features and making it more compatible with the needs of the organization.The advantages of Scaled Agile Framework, if taken into account, the ‘Full SAFe®️’ takes care of all the levels in the organization and provides end-to end solution at the organisation level. Scaled Agile Framework was designed to sustain the big picture view of software development, it can effortlessly handle a synchronized plan for large-scale and complex projects with teams that can go beyond hundreds.Organizations can opt the benefits of Scaled Agile Framework, if their focus is on scaling the agile processes up to enterprise level, aligning business and technical goals for the company, utilizing the employee skills effectively, defining effective organizational structures around agility, scheduling for on-time delivery and improving the quality of solutions.It is the framework which not only aligns at the team and program level but also helps us stay aligned with organization strategy. It provides different level of configurations, that organizations can pull as per their needs. Scaled agile framework highlights predominant fears, like architecture, security, performance, and the resolution of dependencies and inconsistencies across the projects.In this framework we talk about releases, trains, value stream, product increment, the reasons to consider SAFe®️, and each and every entity in the whole system is connected to deliver the best solution.I have been a part of the transformation, where our organization moved into scaled framework, it is actually a big change, a big shift from what we were earlier. Now, there was a proper alignment in terms of product, teams and the work assignment. Teams actually understood why we are building it, they got to know what value it is going to add as a whole.As a culture shift, everyone was talking a foreign language but surprisingly they could easily comprehend the whole shift. You can feel the excitement, the lows and highs, the overall chaos in the initial phase and a smooth runway in a longer run.But it takes time, I just mentioned complete 2 years journey in a paragraph!!So far, I have been just talking about ‘what’ and ‘why’ for scaled agile framework, now let’s look into the ‘how’ part of it relating to the business. Trust me, this framework is really huge and the more you dive into it, the more you will be astonished by its beauty and effectiveness.Talking about the business, the organization's main focus is usually on the productivity (output), quality, time-to-market and the engagement. These are the basic reasons for any businesses for adopting SAFe®️ in the organizations. As per the survey, the productivity of your teams increase in the range of 20% to 50%, this owes to the fact that the teams have to be aligned with the product, the continuously collaborate and interact which gives them a high level of transparency on the expectations, they understand the deliverables and in turn set the expectation of the stakeholder too.This framework takes care of the dependencies and complexity which helps in building more. This helps in aligning the right work to the agile teams, even the customer knows what to expect at the end of the release, hence the balance in work assigned and the work delivered greatly increases, and it comes back as an increase in the productivity.Quality is one of the foundations when we talk about SAFe®️, organizations using SAFe®️ reported an increase in quality ranging from 20% to 75%, ‘wow’ factor for any company.Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility. Built-in quality is also a core principle of the Lean-Agile Mindset, helping to avoid the cost of delays (CoDs) associated with recalls, rework, and fixing defects. SAFe®️’s built-in quality philosophy applies systems thinking to optimize the whole system, ensuring a fast flow across the entire Value Stream, and makes quality everyone’s job. – Scaledagileframework.com.Quality is embedded at every stage/level in SAFe®️, it can be dev tests, QA tests (scale, security, UAT), environment tests or prod config. A continuous delivery pipeline ensures quality before delivery into production. The scale agile framework also helped in getting happier teams with their satisfied stakeholders.Now, the teams have more visibility into what is building in and why is it building. Constant collaboration at all levels increases the confidence and raises the commitment. Most of the times, the teams actually get to interact with the real customers which helps them own the product and its deliverables, they tend to feel elated about showcasing what they have developed.Problems faced during SAFe implementationLet’s move on to see the real examples that we have from the organizations which adopted SAFe®️, and yes, it was not a smooth drive for them initially.In this article, we will cover the case study from LEGO - It is a line of plastic construction toys that are manufactured by The Lego Group – the company we all love so dearly!When LEGO adopted its scaled agile journey in 2015, they started their journey with moving 5 teams out of 20 to get into self-organizing mode. And later on the other teams followed the journey, but there was a challenge on coordination and collaboration. To make that happen, LEGO followed the SAFe®️ framework pattern and added another level of abstraction- the program level. They followed few practices such as meeting in every 8 weeks for a planning session which lasted for one and a half days.Benefits after SAFe implementation During this meeting, teams showcased their work, worked out the dependencies, estimated risks, and planned for the next release period. With their adoption on scaling, they found the following benefits of Scaled Agile Framework-The team was now more confident on giving the estimates and precise predictability on the delivery of their committed work.The employees felt more empowered to accomplish their work. They focused on adopting lean practices and minimized the documentation and other productive work.They leveraged all the possible options for face-to-face communication and it really had a constructive impact on the way they worked and collaborated, increasing their efficiency and effectiveness.Another plus point was the use of visual boards which helped them stay focused.Other success stories are from FitBit, Accenture, Bank of Canada, TomTom, Capital One, Sony, Cisco. The list is pretty long and has been increasing continuously. Every organization has a story to tell from their transformation journey. Being agile is not a destination, but it is a continuous journey. So, be a part of the scaled journey and enjoy the Scaled Agile Framework pros.Summarizing all the aspects that we have been discussing so far, the crux of adopting the scaled agile framework could be, better predictability, higher productivity, increased quality, greater employee happiness, faster time to market.This framework can be adopted by the larger organizations, we have already witnessed awesome feedbacks from companies implementing SAFe®️, though it has got its own set of prescription, it really helps if the values and principles suggested by the framework are applied at its best. Scaled framework supports the organization at all the levels ensuring they deliver excellence at every stage.
based on 11 customer reviews
Roles And Responsibilities Of A Product Owner You Should Be Aware Of
By Deepti Sinha
A Product Owner is a role in a product development team or a scrum team who is responsible for the product backlog, making sure that it is up-to-date in terms of priorities and has the items which translate back to the vision. The Product Owner represents the business or user and is accountable for collaborating with the consumer to define what features will be in the product release.What do Product Owners do?Since the time I embraced agile, I got to work with several Product Owners and mind you, this role is really critical as it handshakes at both the ends – the development team and the stakeholders. The Product Owner works with the stakeholders to get the right requirements, right in the sense, help the users to devise the requirements which they might not see or comprehend at that point. This not only improves the relationship with our customers but also helps to build up the trust. And at the other end, the Product Owner helps the delivery team/development team understand the vision and the requirements. Hence, this role is kind of a bridge between the two ends, holding tight the two corners and effectively enhancing the smooth communication.Roles and Responsibilities of Product OwnerAccording to Roman Pichler, the ultimate responsibility of a product owner is to ensure that the product creates value for its customers and users, as well as for the company. “Think of the product owner as the person who champions the product, who facilitates the product decisions, and who has the final say about the product,” he says. “This includes if and how feedback is actioned, and which features are released.”The role and responsibilities of a Product Owner are too deep so as to make sure he/she understands the core of the product and too wide that collaboration is done at 360-degree level, being a liaison and face of the user.Let’s look at the major responsibilities that this role demands:1. Defining the vision The Product Owner has the responsibility of creating a vision so that the development team clearly visualize the expected outcome by the user. It is the Product Owner who majorly interacts and collaborates with the users to understand their requirements, thus, it is really important to translate this in a form of a vision to the team. Also, it is equally significant, to communicate to the stakeholders the vision and goals so that every talk the same language and have an identical understanding of the outcome. To make sure every item from the goal is aligned to the business objectives, the Product Owner should create a product road map, which is a high-level, tactical graphical summary that shapes the vision and direction for the product.2. Managing the product backlog The most essential responsibility in a role a Product Owner is managing the product backlog. Today’s market is really dynamic, every customer wants to stay at the top of the new features being introduced. Even the items in the product backlog might require some movements due to changing priorities. It’s the Product Owners responsibility to build up a stack of items in the backlog and prioritize them as per the business goals and the global approach. The product backlog is a dynamic list of items and as we call it in agile, it is ‘live document’ that should be frequently updated based on changing project requirements all the way through development.3. Prioritizing needs Making choices about the priority of product backlog items in order to deliver the maximum outcome. The Product Owner has to order the items in the Product Backlog to best achieve goals and missions. We live in a world where help is readily available in term of awesome tools, hence, there are heaps of tools to help Product Owners do this. The Product Owner is required to have the Backlog sequenced prior to the Sprint Planning Meeting. This means that each user story must be ordered by relative importance.4. Overseeing development stages Once we have the basic entities in place – vision, product backlog, and the prioritization, the product owner has to make sure that he/she is participating in the overall development stages of the product. The team might need their Product Owner to get the clarity on a few queries or they might need to demo the committed item. The Product Owner will participate in the ceremonies with the team, in some ceremonies, this role can be active such as planning or backlog grooming but can be passive or inactive such as in the daily scrum.5. Anticipating client needs In today's’ competitive environment, it is really important for someone in a role of a Product Owner, to understand the client/customer’s needs. The product owner should understand the market, the competition, and the users’ pain points. With those valuable pieces of information, the product owner can determine what features should be implemented, and in what order, with respect to time and importance. Sometimes the Product Owner can help the customers configuring and penning down the items which they want but are not able to comprehend. And here communication plays a big role.6. Acting as primary liaison As we have talked about this at the start of our discussion, a product owner role is more into acting as a primary liaison between the teams and the customers. The person in this role has to make sure the information flow is quick and clear so that there is no interpretation or reading between the lines. The Product Owner has to make sure that the goal and the vision are correctly aligned with the work items on the product backlog. The Product Owner also acts as a liaison for business stakeholders and end-users, determining whether each story meets their shared expectations.7. Evaluating product progress at each iteration The product owner makes sure that the development works upon the priorities and monitors the progress of the items over the course of a sprint. Work that is either not complete or un-done needs to be re-prioritized or sequenced. The Product Owner makes sure that the development delivers the expected outcomes from the stories they worked upon and accepts it.8. Participates in the daily Scrums, Sprint Planning Meetings, and Sprint Reviews and RetrospectivesScrum ceremonies give a chance for the Product Owner to inspect and adapt. And as a result being present at these ceremonies is identical to success. It is important for the product owner to join the scrum meetings, it not only keeps the development team up-to-date with the priorities but also helps the product owner understand the perspective of the team if there are any impediments.9. Terminates a Sprint if it is determined that a drastic change in direction is required If the Sprint goal has no meaning (will not deliver business value) because of the extreme change, the product owner can terminate the sprint. The termination is most frequently the outcome of an intense change in business priorities--something previously considered important is no longer important, or something even more significant is learned.How to become a Product Owner?Getting into a product owner not only requires a thorough understanding of the product but it also takes into account the analytical and strategic skills. The person who wants to deep dive and become a good product owner needs to understand the market and the stakeholders, he/she should be able to create a vision and knows when to juggle with the items in the product backlog so that the bucket is always prioritized.You can opt for some good certification programs provided by different authorities and gain a confidence in this area. As per my experience, I would recommend to select a domain, stick to it, master it by all means and then there is no stopping for you!What is Certified Product Owner?As defined by the Scrum Alliance, a Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) is someone who has been taught by a Certified Scrum Trainer about the Scrum terminology, practices, and principles that will enable them to fulfill the role of Scrum Product Owner.Is the Product Owner the Project Manager?Both a project manager and a product owner watch over teams who work to carry developments across the finish line together. But the path to that finish line deviates entirely from the start. The product Owners are product driven and customer focused. The product owner needs to be actively engaged with the team because they are the ones responsible for deciding what features will go into the final product.What challenges does a Product Owner come across?As everyone in the Agile teams, the Product Owner also has a few challenges to tackle with, let’s talk about few of them:1. Missing product road map2. High-level acceptance criteria3. Spending too much time dealing with product support instead of grooming the backlog4. Changing priority while sprint is in progressProduct Owners can escape these usual snares by working around the product road map, centering on high-value backlog items, defining crisp acceptance criteria, concentrating on grooming quality backlog item, and avoiding disturbing sprints.The Future of Product OwnerThe role of a Product Owner is indispensable for the scrum teams, this role can be compared to a deeply rooted tree which has a firm foundation on the product side and provides vision, approach, and planned execution on the outer side. The product owners carry the ownership of the product in terms of quality and delivering as per the expectations set with the stakeholder.Product Owner needs to have an all-inclusive view of the product along with all the other factors that make product successful which involves understanding business, go-to-Market, organizational readiness, and product capabilities. All of these should be collectively managed, coordinated and aligned to drive product success.
based on 14 customer reviews