Posts tagged ‘agile’

February 14, 2013

Definition of Ready for Sprint Planning meetings

by Sampath Prahalad

Nice video on How to improve Sprint planning.

One of the tips given is to have a Definition of Ready.
Only those user stories that are ready to be presented are discussed in the Sprint planning meeting. This ensures that the Product Manager does his home work on the user stories to be taken up in the Sprint. This also reduces the time taken for the Sprint planning meeting.

See the video below for some good tips.


November 29, 2012

Documentation updates in Scrum projects

by Sampath Prahalad

Scrum and other flavors of Agile expect a potentially shippable product at the end of each Iteration or Sprint. This typically means that each user story within the Sprint has to be developed, integrated, tested, documented and made deployable to production. While this is not new, I have seen many variations to this in my experience with Agile teams. I am going to deal now only with the Release documentation part here. Everything else is out of scope for now.

Consider the scenario below. In a reasonably small organization, we have the Product Marketing manager Laura who doubles up as Product manager of a desktop application GoldSpot that back-ends with a database server. Laura is responsible for pretty much everything on GoldSpot. She is always seen juggling and shuffling between business case evaluation, wire-framing, product backlog creation and constant prioritization, user acceptance testing, creation and updates to user and admin documentation, customer demos, marketing communication, etc. The product development team consists of 3 developers, 2 test engineers and a Scrum master. The team and Laura meet over Skype for the Sprint planning meeting, the daily stand-ups, Sprint review and retrospectives. The team is in their third Sprint, have just created a prototype worth showing to customers and have 3 more Sprints to go in this Release.

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October 14, 2012

5 steps to get your team Agile

by Sampath Prahalad

At 5pm on a Tuesday evening, Greg and Anand meet up  at Cafe Pascucci in the city. Anand had  called up Greg earlier in the day and said that he needs to urgently meet him for some expert advice. Anand seems quite worried and Greg tries to put him at ease.

A little background here before we continue. Anand, a project manager has recently attended a Scrum Master training where he got introduced to Agile and Scrum. He works for Espresso Corp where he heads a product development team. Greg  is a seasoned project manager with rich experience working with teams and organizations of all types and in short has truly “been there and done all of that”.

After ordering for 2 cappuccinos and the initial pleasantries, Anand starts talking about his problem at hand.

Anand: “Greg, Thanks a lot for making it here on such a short notice. We recently had a product release in my company which was developed in the sequential waterfall model. The product fell short of internal and external expectations and we have had a lukewarm response to the product. After a Release post mortem and some brain storming, we feel that our rigid approach of baselining the requirements up front did not allow  us to react to competitors. Also, the product was ready for sales and customer viewing only at the end of the Release and we could not get any real feedback.
Now, I have been asked to set things right and make a release within 3 months which would meet expectations of existing customers and hopefully get us new customers.  As a company, we have a fair idea of the features to add and the areas to improve. We also have the skill set needed to get cracking on these. Since this is a make or break for the company and the people involved, I am very keen to get things right.
I feel that moving the Product development to Agile in general and Scrum in particular would set the problem right. I would like to draw from your vast experience here to know how exactly I should go about doing this. Let me know what you think.”

Greg took a sip from the coffee, thought for almost a minute and said: “Anand, you have identified the problem well. However, I am not sure if Scrum would be the answer to all your problems. There could be other tweaks needed. Before I can help you out, I would like to know a couple of things more. Who provided the requirements for the previous release?”

Anand: “We had a set of people from the Marketing team who created a PRD, reviewed and baselined it”.

Greg: “Once that was done, were there no changes at all?”

Anand: “Very minimal. Only 3 changes over the 6 month project duration, I think. The change control board voted against the other changes”.

Greg: “I am not too surprised. And did the Product Manager not fight back in favour of the changes?”

Anand: “The product marketing team… “

Greg: “There seems to be your first problem. It looks like the product did not have a dedicated Product Manager. Am I right?”

Anand: “Yes. The stakeholders from Marketing owned the PRD document of this and other products as well.”

Greg: “You are facing the straws effect where a lot of people are providing inputs from different quarters and no one person is completely responsible. This also confuses the development team. Change it to the funnel effect by getting a dedicated product manager who gathers inputs from various quarters and funnels them to the team.”

Anand: “Now, that makes absolute sense. A single dedicated person who collates all requirements from different sources and also keeps a tab on the progress of the product development”.

Anand starts taking notes.     1. A dedicated product owner for the product

Greg: “Next, get the team and this dedicated product owner trained on Scrum”.

Anand: “I have already done that. As we speak, they are all attending a 1 day Scrum training.

Greg: “That is good. However, note that the training might not be enough. You will need a coach to walk with them through the first couple of Sprints”

Anand: “I did not think of that. Let me factor that in”

Anand notes down     2. Scrum Training and a coach to walk through.

Greg: “This is another thing that I have seen working well in Scrum teams. At the beginning, come up with a list of rules for each of the Scrum roles. These essentially list the responsibilities of each role. However, it really helps to define it explicitly so that each person knows his and the other person’s responsibilities. For example: The team shall demo a story as soon as it is completed. The product owner shall not alter the scope of the Sprint once it has started. The Scrum master shall ensure that the team is protected from external interferences and scope change.

Anand: “That makes sense too. This way, each person in the team knows what is expected of them. When should I start the first Sprint?”

Anand adds this one too.     3. Rules for each Scrum role

Greg: “That is a good question. We are in the middle of the week. Start it from next Monday. However, I would suggest that you start
the daily stand-ups from tomorrow. Let the team start meeting at a common place and talk about the initial investigations and ground work that they have done. The silos will break down and team camaraderie will set in. It will also give the Product owner a chance to get the backlog ready for the first Sprint”

Anand: “I am really glad that I met you today. Now, how do I manage this team?”

Greg: “You bring an interesting point. Managers in Scrum are facilitators. Ensure that you do not turn their stand-ups into a lengthy status meeting. You have to let go of your command and control mode and be ready to enable them by being the process champion, resolving impediments and helping them self organize.”

Anand is busy writing     4. Culture shift: Let go of Command and Control mode

Anand: “Hmm. I have made some notes. Anything else that I have to take care of?”

Greg: “One last thing, get the team and product owner to define the Definition of Done.

Anand: “Yes, I will. The definition of Done actually refers to constraints, environments and guidelines which are specific to the product and not the user story, right?”

Greg: “Absolutely. I think that you are all set. Try not to deviate much from the few processes that Scrum prescribes, fine tune  the process as you go and feel free to talk to me whenever you need.”

Anand finishes writing down and lifts his head up.     5. Define the Done criteria .

Anand: “Thanks Greg, I definitely will keep you posted.  Cheers.”

Greg: “Cheers. All the best. Have a great evening”

Anand: “You too. I feel quite relieved and upbeat. Thanks, mate.”

Related Links

How Agile generates value
New to Scrum? Here are the Scrum Rituals
What does the Scrum Master manage?
How can managers effectively contribute  in Scrum?
Key traits for a successful Agile Product Manager
Product Managers, measure thyself
My competitor, my friend
Product management: 3 unwise monkeys

Pictures courtesy:, Bluepod coffee company

June 22, 2012

Agile Estimating over a coffee and 3 glasses of water

by Sampath Prahalad

Joseph Flahiff of Whitewater Projects explains about Agile estimating in layman terms by using 3 glasses of water. Ignore the background noise. This really is a nice video. Keep them coming Joseph.

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March 7, 2012

Tired of long, stressful Retrospectives? Try out the “Triple B Retrospective”

by Sampath Prahalad

As a Scrum Master and moderator, are you getting bored with the way the Retrospectives are being held? Are they becoming forums where few individuals dominate and/or accusations are hurled at each other and not much constructive is coming out of them?

Here is a minor tweaking of the usual Retrospective format to ensure that each team member gets a fair chance to reflect and portray his/her views candidly.

Let us call it the Triple B Retrospective:”Bouquets, Brickbats and Bulbs”

  • Put up a chart paper (A2 or bigger) in the team area 2-5 days before the Sprint end (depending on the duration of the Sprint). Create 3 distinct areas with the below headings
    • Bouquets: Appreciation for a team member, Anything positive within the Sprint
    • Brickbats: Any process that can be improved, toned down or scrapped.
    • Bulbs: Bright ideas here on what can be done differently starting next Sprint.
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February 28, 2012

Business Value generated by Agile vs Waterfall

by Sampath Prahalad

I came upon this video when I was preparing to give a talk on Agile and Scrum. Great video explaining the Business value add in Agile versus that in the Waterfall model.

Started my talk with points from this video and the talk went pretty well.

Go Agile Go…

February 23, 2012

Awesome Tweet Quotes from ALM Chicago

by Sampath Prahalad

The Midwest Conference on Application Life-cycle Management (ALM) was held on 22nd and 23rd February 2012 in Chicago. Microsoft was one of the main sponsors of this event.

Keynote speakers being Mike GilpinVP, Research Director , Forrester Research ON Day 1(22nd Feb 2012)  and Ken SchwaberCo-Founder of ON Day 2 (23rd Feb 2012)

Here are some good quotes in talks by Ken and other speakers that have been tweeted by participants at the conference. This is an effort to collate some good ones for everyone’s benefit.

  • If you want to really understand what you are doing on a project, use #Scrum. Ken Schwaber.
  • Metrics are used in waterfall because we had no idea what was happening so we tried to measure anything. Ken Schwaber.
  • @KSchawber“where there are rumors, there is not good communication.”
  • “There IS business value beyond new features.” aka quality vs. quantity. via Scott Herman – JCI
  • “Agile and Scrum seem to be used by companies that actually care about their customers.”
  • Perfect rule following will cause your org to grind to a halt. @vgr
  • Technical debt is growing faster worldwide than it is being paid off. @vgr
  • Competitive advantage is won with people not process. @vgr
  • It’s always amusing to me how much psychology plays into software design & development.
  • Culture eats process for breakfast
  • You wouldn’t wait till a car is at the end of the assembly line to test it. Why would you with software?


February 19, 2012

My Experience at #AgileIndia2012 – Day 3.

by Sampath Prahalad

The third and final day of the Agile India 2012 conference being held at Le Meridean, Bangalore. The learning experience got better and reached a crescendo today.

Here are some of the talks and workshops that I attended. Some were excellent and some good.

  • Exploratory testing for Agile teams by Pradeep Soundararajan.
  • Launching a Minimum Viable Product in a month.
  • Coaching: Slowing down to speed up by Rahul Sawhney.
  • Lean: Reduce Waste Campaign by Belkis Vasquez-McCall from McInzie.
  • High Five Driven development by Peder Soholt from Norway
  • Agile Scaling model: Be as Agile as you need to be by Scott Ambler
  • Fun with Agile Gaming by Vibhu Srinivasan of SolutionsIQ.

Read on to know 3-4 key learning points from each of these talks / workshops.

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