How to Check Whether Your Agile Process is on the Wrong Track
By Gleb B
Today, Agile is a real buzzword and every person involved in software development knows what it means. The Agile project management methodology has literally revolutionized software development, making it faster, better, and more cost-effective. The key principles of Agile bring benefits to investors (better ROI), development teams (streamlined workflow), and end-users (high-quality products).
The majority of software development companies in the world practice Agile. There’s a good reason for that: according to the “11th State of Agile” report made by VisionOne, the success rate for the projects delivered with the help of Agile stood at 98%!
Yet, some projects still fail despite the adoption of Agile. Apparently, Agile isn’t a magic wand that performs miracles on its own. This software development methodology must be applied properly. Several grave mistakes in the implementation of Agile, and your project is likely to end up behind the eight ball, which means financial and reputational losses for your company. So, how can you check whether something goes wrong with your Agile process?
9 Signs That Your Agile Process Goes Wrong
The Agile methodology seems to be clear and simple in terms of theory, but there are many challenges companies face when implementing Agile practices. According to the pre-cited report, 47% of respondents said the lack of skills and experience was a serious difficulty. If you wish to avoid a failure, make sure your Agile process goes well and your team’s performance is high.
Here’s a list of 9 most common signs that your Agile process is on the wrong track.
Sign #1 No Sprint Retrospectives
Retrospectives are crucial for Agile software development methodology and they must never be skipped. Sprint retrospectives allow Agile teams to look behind and analyze what went okay and what went wrong during a sprint. All team members can share their opinions and suggest some improvements to the workflow. Retrospectives help teams learn from their own experience and hone their workflow to perfection.
Sign #2 Long Stand-up Meetings
The vast majority of Agile teams (particularly those who use Scrum) hold daily stand-up meetings that help team members synchronize and plan their activities. Typical stand-up meetings mustn’t last longer than 15 minutes, but many teams spend far more time on them. As a result, stand-ups become nothing but a waste of time.
Also, make sure to manage daily stand-ups correctly. That’s what team members have to tell during a stand-up:
What they accomplished during the previous day;
What they’re planning to do this day;
What difficulties (if any) they faced.
A stand-up meeting shouldn’t be turned into a discussion of irrelevant topics.
Sign #3 Improper Product Backlog Management
The product backlog must be properly managed and it’s the responsibility of a Product Owner (PO). A PO is an intermediary between a stakeholder and a development team. A PO has to define the tasks in the backlog and prioritize them according to their business value.
If there’s no PO and your product backlog is managed by the team, the collaboration between your team and a stakeholder will be insufficient. Consequently, the stakeholder might not like the final version of the product.
Sign #4 Failure to Deliver Product Increments After Each Sprint
Incremental development is the core of Agile methodology. At the end of each sprint, your team should deliver a potentially shippable increment (fully coded and tested) of a product. Actually, a shippable increment is a measure of success for Agile teams.
If your team fails to deliver a shippable increment at the end of a sprint, it means that your Agile process doesn’t work properly. The solution to this problem is a complete restructuring of your workflow and team.
Sign #5 Story Points Treated as Goals
Story Points estimation is, probably, the most popular technique for measuring Agile team’s velocity. During sprint planning meetings, team members collectively decide how many points each task is worth. Therefore, Story Points are informal agreements that help teams estimate the amount of effort required for developing a particular feature. Story Points are subjective: the same task can be given three points by one team but five points by another.
However, some teams tend to treat Story Points as measures of success. In this case, team members would be focused on reaching a specific number of points instead of concentrating on delivering value. Your team might end uplooking productive rather than really being productive. Remember that Story Points don’t matter but value does.
Sign #6 Incorrect Velocity Tracking
In some companies, managers compare individual velocity of Agile team members by counting the number of Story Points each of them achieves. Though this method sounds reasonable, it’s at odds with the essence of Agile, which is all about collaboration.
Team members work together and, as it’s been mentioned above, they must be focused on delivering value, not on achieving a certain number of Story Points.
Sign #7 Urgent Tasks That Interrupt Workflow
Probably, every development team sometimes needs to handle urgent tasks (e.g. adding new features to a product) that aren’t in a sprint backlog. Such interruptions distract the team and make a negative impact on productivity, since the team might fail to reach the sprint goal.
Interruptions should be managed by a Product Owner. Once some urgent tasks appear, a PO has to add them to the product backlog and re-prioritize it.
Sign #8 Large Number of Uncompleted Tasks
Sometimes, development teams seem to fulfill all the tasks in their sprint backlogs, while most tasks aren’t fully done. Needless to say, incomplete tasks will have to be done during the next sprint. Though fulfilling all the tasks in a sprint backlog may be challenging, it’s still better to have 90% of them fully done rather than having 100% of tasks 90% done.
Sign #9 Technical Debt
Very often, developers need to make changes to their projects. The reasons may be different: bug fixing, refactoring, or redesigning. Accumulating technical debt is a grave mistake that immensely reduces a team’s productivity.
Instead, technical changes must be carried out as soon as possible since it’s much easier to handle them within a sprint rather than during the final stages of the development process.
Don’t Just Practice Agile, Be Agile
A common mistake of many software development companies is treating Agile merely as a methodology. However, this view isn’t quite correct. A person truly dedicated to software development should have an “Agile mindset” that includes the following:
Desire to learn;
Focus on team success;
No fear of mistakes.
That’s why the implementation of the best Agile practices isn’t enough. Team members should shift their way of thinking to deliver successful state-of-the-art products.
based on 20 customer reviews
5 Scrum Tips That Actually Work
By Gleb B
The digital world is evolving at a breathtaking speed with new technologies and trends emerging every year. Concepts that used to be brand-new and cutting-edge yesterday, become obsolete and ineffective today. The traditional project management method (usually called “the Waterfall model”) turned out to be inefficient for web development. Obviously, there was a strong demand for a new planning method, and that’s how Lean Approach was created.
This new approach to web development stands on three pillars: short development cycles, focus on quality, and continuous improvement. These key aspects are perfectly represented in Agile ? the most popular software development approach in the world. Today, it’s difficult to find a web development company that doesn’t apply Agile practices.
Agile is widely used for a good reason: according to the “11th State of Agile” report carried out by VersionOne, the success rate for the projects delivered with the help of Agile stands at staggering 98%!
Software development companies use a variety of Agile methodologies, but the Scrum framework is undoubtedly the most popular of them. The report we’ve just mentioned states that 58% of respondents use the Scrum framework in project management, whereas other practices (Kanban, XP, and others) are less common. Moreover, many web developers combine Scrum with other methodologies.
Scrum is a powerful tool that helps software development companies streamline their workflow and make it more efficient in terms of productivity and costs.
5 Useful Tips to Make Scrum Work+
The adoption of Scrum can surely help your organization develop and launch a successful digital product, but the word “Scrum” alone doesn’t perform any magic. Scrum is a project management framework and, therefore, requires proper implementation. Several serious mistakes may cause project to fail.
There are, however, several useful tips that make Scrum work, so let’s take a look:
Tip #1: Describe the Sense and Rules of Scrum to All Team Members
This might seem like an evident and trite recommendation, but it’s really important. If the members of your web development team don’t fully understand the essence and principles of Scrum, you won’t be able to benefit from all the advantages of this methodology. Instead of collaboration, you might get problems and misunderstanding. Instead of efficient time management, your team might waste time with zero-generated value. What’s the result? Poor productivity.
If you think that training isn’t important, you’re quite wrong: one web development company out of three experiences problems with the implementation of Agile methodologies due to insufficient training. Therefore, train your team properly: they must clearly realize what Scrum is about and who’s responsible for what in this process. If Scrum roles and practices are understood and applied as they are supposed to, your company will be able to leverage smooth workflow and high efficiency.
Tip #2: Stick to the Rules of Retrospectives
Retrospective (also called “retro”) is the core element of Scrum, so it must be held appropriately. Retrospective isn’t just a fancy word. It’s a technique that has its rules. Many Scrum teams turn sprint retrospectives into a meaningless waste of time because they don’t stick to the rules.
Remember that a sprint retrospective gives a Scrum team a chance to improve their workflow. For a typical month-long sprint, a retro should take no more than 3 hours. Spending more time on it is inefficient and counterproductive.
During a sprint retrospective, team members should do the following:
Share their ideas about a just-finished sprint (process, relationships, environment);
Decide what went well and what went wrong
Offer improvements and propose a plan for implementing them.
As a result, your team will define problems and suggest solutions. Don’t forget that sprint retrospectives require the presence of a Scrum Master who moderates the event and encourages the team. Sprint retrospectives help Scrum teams become more efficient and professional.
Tip #3: Avoid Interruptions
Though each Scrum team has a sprint backlog that contains all the tasks for a sprint, there might still be some urgent tasks that interrupt the workflow. Though such interruptions seem to be inevitable, it’s recommended to avoid them. If your Scrum team has to cope with the tasks beyond a sprint backlog, it’ll be less productive and may even fail to deliver an increment of a product at the end of a sprint.
Of course, if there are improvements to the code, they must be done as soon as possible. However, it’s a part of a Scrum workflow. All other tasks, like adding new features to a product, for example, must be reported to a Product Owner who should prioritize a product backlog and decide when these tasks should be fulfilled.
Scrum teams must be focused. Once the team members are forced to shift from one task to another, a workflow stops to be Agile and Scrum doesn’t work. The best solution to this problem is to have an experienced Product Owners who’ll minimize interruptions and manage a product backlog in the most efficient way.
Tip #4: Hire a Skilled Scrum Master
In Scrum, teams are self-managed. However, it doesn’t mean they can manage themselves perfectly well without a Scrum Master. Hiring a skilled and experienced Scrum Master is essential for building a productive workflow of a Scrum team. But why? What does a Scrum Master do?
In a nutshell, the Scrum Master makes sure that a development team sticks to Scrum, its principles, and practices. The Scrum Master manages the team’s workflow: organizes daily stand-up meetings and retrospectives;coaches the team members and removes impediments. Apart from these tasks, the Scrum Master also collaborates with the Product Owner and helps with product backlog management.
Yet, the Scrum Master mustn’t become a boss who gives orders. Scrum teams should remain self-managed and the Scrum Master can interfere and make decisions only if team members can’t agree upon an issue. A skilled Scrum Master will help your development team be focused, productive, and capable of fulfilling the most challenging projects.
Tip #5: Focus on Value Your Team Delivers
Many Scrum teams are focused on velocity, which is an amount of work a development team handles during a sprint. Lots of Scrum teams use story points to measure velocity. Though velocity is, undoubtedly, the most important metric in Scrum, it shouldn’t become a goal for your team. The Agile Manifesto clearly states that working software is more important than comprehensive documentation.
This means that team members should do their best to deliver value instead of chasing after story points. Story points are merely informal agreements on how much effort each task requires, whereas working software is an objective value. Also, development teams shouldn’t neglect code quality. If there’s a choice: more story points per sprint versus better code quality, the priority should be given to code quality.
based on 20 customer reviews