Scrum Agile Development

Agile development is one of the best practices in use today. We’ll try to cover all the core Scrum concepts, like…

  • Product backlogs
  • Team roles
  • Sprints
  • Burndown charts, and more.

To build a product, we get all kinds of feature requests from customers, stakeholders, or even other team members.

In Scrum, features are written from the perspective of the end-user, therefore, features are known as user-stories. The collection of all these user-stories is called the product backlog.

It can be called as a wish list of all the things that would make this product great. Once we have our wish list or the product backlog, we need to start planning which specific user-stories we’re going to put into a particular release of our product.

Product Owner: make sure the right features make it into the product backlog representing the users and customers of the product. PO helps set the direction of the product.

Scrum Master: make sure the project is progressing smoothly and that every member of the team has the tools they need to get their job done. He sets up meetings, monitors the work being done and facilitates release planning. He’s a lot like a project manager.

Team roles: And the rest of the team has similar roles to other development processes.

Lets get back to Release Planning:

To plan a release, the team starts with, the product backlog, and they identify the user-stories they want to put into  release. These user-stories then become part of the release backlog. The team then prioritizes the user-stories and estimates the amount of work involved for each item. Sometimes larger user-stories are broken down into smaller more manageable chunks. The collection of all the estimates provides a rough idea of the total amount of work involved to complete the entire release.

A quick side note about estimates:

There are a lot of techniques for creating good estimates. Some prefer estimating in story points where estimates are made relative to building a small component with a known level of difficulty. Unfortunately, story points don’t answer the question of, “When will my project ship?”

I have found that the best technique is to estimate work in hours, but to use some standards in how estimates are done.

For example, things that take less than a day to complete

  • Will be estimated as 1 hour, 2 hours, 4 hours or 8 hours.
  • Every item will fall into one of those buckets.
  • There will be no 3 hour estimates, for example.
    • A 3 hour item would fall into the 4 hour bucket.
  • Larger items will be estimated as 2 days, 3 days, 5 days, or 10 days.
  • Again, all estimates in between will fall into the next larger bucket.
  • Extremely large items are similarly estimated in months: 1, 2, 3 or 6 Months,

But the reality is that such items will need to be broken down substantially before work actually begins.

The Release Backlog: With a prioritized set of user-stories and the estimated amount of work at hand, we are now ready to plan out several sprints to get the work done. Sprints are short-duration milestones that allow teams to tackle a manageable chunk of the project and get it to a ship-ready state.

Sprints generally range from a couple of days to as much as 30 days in length, depending on the product’s release cycles. The shorter the release cycles, the shorter each sprint should be. And you’ll want to have at least 2 to as many as a dozen sprints in a given release. So, at this point, we can take our release backlog and split it up into several of Sprint Backlogs.

One of the most important things to remember about sprints is that the goal of each sprint is to get a subset of the release backlog to a ship-readystate. So, at the end of each sprint, you should have a fully tested product with all the features of that sprint 100% complete. Since sprints are a very short, but a realistic representation of part of the product, a late finish of the sprint is a great indicator that the project is not on schedule and something needs to be done.

Therefore, it’s extremely important to monitor the progress of each sprint with A Burndown Chart:

  • The burndown chart is the number one reason for Scrum’s popularity, and one of the best project visibility tools to ensure a project is progressing smoothly.
  • Burndown chart provides a day-by-day measure of the amount of work that remains in a given sprint or release.
  • With the help of Burndown chart, you can see that the amount of work remaining bounces up and down from day to day, but is generally trending towards zero.
  • Because historical information is provided in the burndown chart, it’s easy to see if the team is on the right track.
  • Using the burndown chart, the team can quickly calculate
    • The slope of the graph, which is also called the Burndown Velocity.
    • Average rate of productivity for each day.
    • Team’s rate of productivity might be that on a typical day, they finish approximately 50 hours of work.
    • Knowing that, it’s possible to calculate an estimated completion date for the sprint or even for the entire release, based on the amount of work remaining.
    • What’s great about the burndown chart is that we can compare our actual velocity and projected completion date to what the team needs to do in order to finish OnTime.
  • The burndown chart provides empirical proof that the project is on track or if it’s going to be late.
  • So, let’s talk a little about where the data for this incredibly useful burndown chart comes from.
  • As you recall, part of the release planning process was to create an estimate for each user-story in the release backlog.

The collection of these estimates for a given sprint represents the total amount of work that must be done to complete that sprint. As each team member goes through and makes progress on one or more of the user-stories, they simply update the amount of time remaining for each of their own items. So, the total amount of time remaining on the group of user-stories that make up a sprint, changes on a day-by-day basis, hopefully going downward until it hits zero when the sprint is complete.

The burndown chart aggregates the remaining work data and shows it visually. t’s brilliant because it communicates a massive amount of information in just a few seconds.

And that brings us to The Daily Scrum:

  • The Daily Scrum is an essential tool to having communication flow freely between team members.
  • The idea is to have fast paced stand-up meetings where team members quickly list the work they completed since the last meeting, and any obstacles in their way.
  • By meeting daily, it ensures the team is always in-sync, and any major issues are dealt with as soon as they are known.
  • Finally, as each sprint comes to a finish, it’s important to have a Sprint Retrospective meeting, where the team can reflect on what went right and areas of improvement.

After all, Scrum is a flexible agile development method that needs constant improving and tweaking for every team.

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