Advising on Agile
Adage Technologies has been a vocal proponent of Agile software development ever since it transitioned to a full Scrum process framework in July 2016. Since then, Adage has not only mastered the art of Scrum, but has begun imparting that methodology, through Agile Scrum training and mentorship, onto its clients. One such client partner recently asked Adage to help guide them along that transformation, to ensure success.
Agile Scrum Training
A few months ago, one of Adage’s premiere partners made the decision to transfer their IT team to work in an Agile Scrum framework. This was done to not only better partner with their dedicated Adage Scrum team, but also to better navigate their day-to-day technical challenges. In doing so, Adage was able to serve as a knowledge expert on the process, and hold a 2-day Agile Scrum training session for 15 staff members wherein we taught not only the fundamentals of Scrum, but also impart best practices that helped us prosper.
The training was structured in a way that any background and foundation was first built – understanding the lingo, the core tenants, what concepts drive the process; and then in the second half, moved into best practices, and how to make Scrum work best for you.
Agile Scrum Training – Day One
Scrum Sprint Cycle
We began the Agile Scrum training session with an explanation of the Scrum sprint cycle, ensuring that users understood how ideas become stories, how stories are compiled into a backlog, and how the backlog gets planned and pointed into a two-week workable sprint. This is an integral concept as many companies struggle with these initial elements because departments such as IT are accustomed to working on requests as they come in, relative to their importance. It is somewhat rare that work is viewed holistically and aggregated so that a delivery schedule with a determined velocity can be planned for.
Scrum is Incremental and Iterative
The other important key to understanding the Scrum process is understanding that it is both incremental and iterative. This concept helps transform the mindset of the delivery team and the end users that they are developing for; revolutionizing the way work is planned, completed, and delivered.
Agile Scrum Planning
Once this was complete, the next key theme was how to define the planned work and how to setup the proper workflow. Each task needs to have acceptance criteria that outlines the specific conditions which must be satisfied in order for the feature to be considered complete. Setting the exact expectations up front ensures that the output can meet the stakeholders needs. Developers and/or designers are set up for success because they have a clear definition of how to identify how to know when the work is done. This core element was stressed because without clear acceptance criteria, those performing the work can’t be held accountable for not completing it as intended.
Agile Scrum Schedule and Rituals
Finally, the importance of following the Scrum schedule and cadence of Rituals was stressed. The Agile framework is setup in a structured way to constantly review and plan, learn from mistakes and roadblocks, and ensure that the next sprint is optimized for efficiency.
Agile Scrum Training – Day Two
Product Owner and Scrum Master
In the second session, a review of roles and the importance of the Product Owner and Scrum Master was where the training began. The two roles are crucial in constantly keeping the business value and budget in mind, while ensuring the team is motivated to get the work done on schedule and without any blockers.
Once the ideas behind the roles and how critical they are was established, we were ready to move into Agile practice nuances. One such element is Pointing and how best to come up with a system that works to ensure the team is thinking about the level of effort a certain feature might take, in the same way. There are various methods of pointing tasks and a few were explored, with the pros and cons of each highlighted. We help demonstrate this, by performing a group exercise wherein we pointed features together, to not only explain the concept, but also see it in action.
Sprint Planning Session
Finally, we explained how best to hold a Sprint Planning session. We discussed how Planning relies on determining the team’s relative velocity, and how to calculate that velocity which can sometimes be more art than science. Ensuring that velocity and the amount of work that the team can actually complete in a two-week period is accurate, directly impacts a team’s burndown.
Burndown is the measurement for how a team is pacing with completing items within a given sprint. Measuring how successful (or not) a team is during a sprint through tracking the burndown, is crucial to finding that correct velocity, and therefore instrumental in being able to set proper expectations with stakeholders, on how much and how quickly a project can be completed.
Agile Scrum Training Feedback
After the two-day Agile immersion, we gathered feedback from the team. We learned they found the most benefit in realizing the importance of the Rituals, and how best to perform them so that they serve at improving the overall delivery process. In addition, they valued the insight on how to point and determine velocity of a sprint. Starting out, it’s difficult to transform into a regiment like Scrum where as a team you decide on what work to complete (through planning and agreeing on the acceptance criteria), and then commit to how much you as a member of that team agree to complete within that sprint time-frame.
As Adage continues to work with this and other partners, we constantly evaluate what works best and cater our Agile Scrum training processes to meet those client needs. We let teams know that it ordinarily takes about 6 sprints to truly acclimate to Scrum and find their groove, as well as determine what a normal output velocity might look like. Adage prides itself on helping advise and mentor teams on the Agile process so that both teams can work most effectively, in tandem, to complete a project.