The new new product development game

Those who are working in agile community they have had come across this new new product development game a lot of times. This white paper was published in 1986 and it is still valid and it does helps the businesses. Having a look, we see that there are six key principles of this paper which are connected to each other.

When we see the traditional approach while developing a product then it will move like a relay- race as the baton is passed from group to group. Now, when we see the new new product development game then it will be like rugby, where the team is having the ball and they pass it to each other and take it to the desired place. The most used framework scrum is also inspired by it.

Six key Principles

Let us take a look on the key principles of new new product development game:

  1. People are quite possessive about the business or work plan in the traditional approach, and they control and monitor day to day activities for others. But, this new new product development approach themselves. While talking about scrum, the race is an agreement between the development team and management. Product owner and the others will decide how to work and where the flexibility is needed.
  2. Project teams which are self-organizing if exhibit these three conditions will be ideal. The conditions are autonomy, self-transcendence and cross fertilization.
  3. Overlapping the development phases, that will enable the team to absorb the noise or vibration generated throughout the development process.
  4. Multi-learning, now this is said that it is a two-dimensional learning i.e. 1) Multi-learning across multiple functions. 2) across multiple levels. Are we clear with the vision? Is the right product selected or being built? In scrum there is a learning opportunity as the team working on the product interacts with each other and learn from the market trends.
  5. If we say that a person has both “control through peer pressure” and “self-control” then we can say that he is having subtle control. The sprint goal should be inspected by the development team so that they can adapt the sprint backlog in accordance.
  6. The transfer of learning should be done on organizational level, spring and scrum should make it sure that the team members share knowledge with each other.

— Slimane Zouggari

Spike

Spike

A task particularly aimed at collecting information or answering a query instead of delivering shippable outcome. Sometimes user story that is generated and cannot be properly estimated until a development team executes some actual works geared towards resolving design problems or technical questions. The solution is to actually make a “spike” wherein some work have the purpose of providing a solution or answer. The word “spike” comes from Extreme Programming or XP wherein this means “A Spike Solution is an ultimately simple program for exploring potential solutions”.

Spike in Agile Software Development

In the agile software development, architecture actually evolves in order to address the needs of Product Backlog Item or PBI’s forecasted on the given Sprint. This is lean. Unlike a skyscraper or a bridge, establishing business software does not really require defining the entire architecture upfront. Remember that spikes are invention of XP and are considered as special types of stories that are used in driving out risks and uncertainties on project facets or user story. It might be necessary to spike on the perfect persistence option however, implementation of spike must be wrapped to a PBI.

Spikes by definition got maximum time box sprint size. That tends to be your upper bound. At the sprint’s end, spike is either done or not really done same as other stories. Spike is the technical investigation to produce answers with regards to certain criteria on PBI prioritized on upcoming sprints. This is an excellent way of mitigating risks earlier and promoting fluid iterations later on projects. This also allows team to ensure feedback and develop clearer understanding on upcoming complexity of PBI.

Why Doing It?

Spikes are done for the following reasons:

  • The group might not know about another area, and spikes might be utilized for fundamental research to acclimate the group with another domain or technology.
  • The story might be too huge to be estimated accurately, and the group may utilize a spike to analyze suggested conduct, so they can part the story into respectable pieces.
  • The story might contain essential technical risk, and the group may need to do some examination or prototyping to pick up trust in a mechanical approach that will permit them to commit the client story to some future timebox.
  • The story might contain noteworthy functional risk, in that while the purpose of the story might be comprehended, it’s not clear how the framework needs to communicate with the client to accomplish the implied benefit.

Just like other common stories, spike is actually put on backlog, sized and estimable to fit perfectly in iteration. The spike results vary depending on the type of the story as this generally produce information instead of working code. Spike can be used and can result to decision, proof of concept, prototype and other partial solution which tends to help in driving final results.  In an instance, spike must be developing just the sufficient information to be able to identify and size stories concealed beneath the spike.

— Slimane Zouggari

Backlog Grooming

A company always makes sure that the product they are selling would have a great demand among consumers. Apart from the product making a great first impression to consumer, the company should also hold a good reputation. In this case, a sprint planning meeting is required in order to ensure that the product backlog is on the right track. This prevents hassles and problems in the future transactions of a company.
The sprint planning meeting would take much time if not done with an excellent backlog grooming session. The product owner has the first say on what the agenda will be about and what are the possible ways on how to make the product successful. If you are the product owner, it is necessary to hold the right grooming sessions in order to meet the following:
• Be able to write user stories that are essential in making the product successful in terms of scrum planning and the like.
• Be able to effectively break down long user stories in order to make these easy to use and understand.
• Be able to rewrite user stories that are poorly written. This ensures a right approach to the flow of the sprint planning meeting and the success of the product.
• Be able to efficiently estimate many backlog terms possible.
• Add an exceptional acceptance criteria to the product.
• Be able to go deeper into the backlog do more wide range technical planning strategies.
A backlog doesn’t only make a Sprint Planning Meeting successful but it also contributes proper ideas or deliberation that will happen within the meeting. The ideas or concepts shared by the product owner and the company team would result to a good impact not only to the status of the company’s performance but also to the backlog grooming itself.
Here are few guidelines to able to conduct an excellent backlog grooming session:
• An excellent goal would be good
The product owner must set a goal in order to make the session more interesting and so that would not result to a waste of time. Having a goal would lead to a smooth flow of the meeting.
• Have a proper schedule
Planning a schedule in advance would be result to an effective sprint planning meeting and the company would be able to set adjustments and refining the product is needed.
• Limit employee participation
Limiting the participation of members of the meeting, particularly stake holders is necessary in order not to produce delays or problems in the backlog session. Stakeholders have a few knowledge about the product as compared to the product owner and the team.
The right backlog grooming even in scrum meetings brings no problem or a waste of time on the part of the company members and the product owner. This ensures a most authentic and successful agile approach in deciding what possible user stories can be used or what certain business product plans needs to be made or adjusted in order to achieve on the goal the company wants to achieve.

— Slimane Zouggari

Scrumbut

Teams cannot maximize Scrum and use it to solve their problems due to a Scrumbut. Organizations that are looking into implementing Agile may turn to Scrum. However, implementing Scrum will not let you attain the success that Agile is recognized for if you don’t make the shift. Organizations that don’t make that shift are called Scrumbuts as they are putting Scrum into action, but with changes for their unique situation. Here are signs that you may be a Scrumbut.
Your developers keep getting ahead of the testers
Scrum team aims to complete the task by the end of the race and members of team do what it takes to achieve this. Team members who get ahead of the others will hold back the team in due course. Every member of the team has to do something to help the group such as writing a test framework or running a test. If the entire team falls behind, all members also fall behind, regardless of what they are accomplishing as a person.
You fail to comply with regulatory documents
The Scrum team provides working code. Building the most amazing user experience won’t matter at all if your software cannot be used and you don’t comply with the required documentation. Ensure all tasks are done during the sprint.
Members of the team are scared to try new ideas as they’re afraid of failure
Scrum team members always do their best and feel comfortable about it as they know they won’t be blamed for trying to achieve the best. You should not allow your team members to become afraid of failure.
Retrospectives focus on “who” instead of “what”
You should focus on how you work together. It’s also important to focus on the tools you use to complete your tasks. There may be members who cannot meet the team’s demands. Those team members will be will be uncovered without the retrospectives revolving around them. You should allow the team to focus on the skills of its members and eliminate those that prevent the team from achieving success.
You want all of the stories described in detail before you start the first sprint
Traditional organizations don’t start until they have discussed every detail. On the other hand, Agile organizations put the stories into the backlog once they have enough information to estimate them and allocate business value. The information gets discussed later by determining implementation activities during the sprint planning assemblies. By waiting to define the information until everyone is ready to work, the team can avoid unnecessary waste.
You focus on metrics than on outstanding results
There are plenty of metrics that can be considered by a Scrum team and ScrumMaster. These metrics help the Scrum team determine blockers. However, these metrics can become a goal that the team may only focus on it and forget about the results. The team can only be considered effective if the software is launched and the client is satisfied. Metrics should only be used to determine problems and during the retrospective.

Slimane Zouggari

Scrum Master

The Scrum Master ensures that a Scrum team follows the practices and values of Scrum. They help the team do the best work they can. The role of the Scrum Master is often assumed by a technical team leader or former project manager, but anyone can become a Scrum Master.
The Scrum Master is not only considered a coach, but also a process owner as they establish a balance with the main stakeholder (often called the product owner) of the project. He does anything possible to ensure the team’s highest level of performance.
This includes working with the main stakeholder, facilitating meetings and eliminating hindrances to the project’s progress to ensure the product backlog is in great condition and well-prepared for the ensuing sprint. The Scrum Master is also seen as the team’s protector. He ensures that the team doesn’t overcommit themselves to what they can do during a sprint because of pressure from a very aggressive product owner.
While the Scrum Master may not have authority over members of the Scrum team, he does have power over the process. He can say what needs to be done during the duration of the project. The Scrum Master helps the team use Scrum. Their assistance is similar to a personal fitness trainer who helps you perform the right exercises and stick to your program. He will not only motivate you, but also ensure that you don’t cheap by not doing a particularly hard exercise. The authority of the fitness trainer is limited as he cannot force you to do an exercise you hate. The fitness trainer will remind you of your objectives and how you have decided to achieve them. That is the authority of the fitness trainer that was given by you. For a Scrum Master, he has authority. However, his authority is given to him by the team.
He can say that the team is supposed to deliver fully functional software at the end of every sprint. If the team failed, the Scrum Master can ask about what can be done to make sure that they’ll perform well next time. This is the Scrum Master using power over the process. If the team failed to provide potentially shippable software, something has gone wrong. Since the authority of the Scrum Master doesn’t go beyond process, he should not ask a member of the team to review all codes because they failed to provide something possibly shippable. While it might be a good idea to ask a team member to review the code, the Scrum Master cannot really make that decision. It is not in the scope of his authority. In other words, the authority of the Scrum Master is limited to ensuring the team adheres to the process. It’s safe to say that his role can be harder than that of a normal project manager. The project manager can tell the team to do something because it’s his decision. The Scrum Master, on the other hand, is limited to ensuring that the team follows Scrum.

Slimane Zouggari

Scrum: Burndown Chart

Velocity and burndown charts are used to monitor the development of an Agile project. The velocity report monitors the story points accomplished in a certain timeframe and allows team members to know how well they’re following the schedule. A burndown chart, on the other hand, is a graphical illustration of the remaining work and time. Time is often located on the horizontal axis and backlog or outstanding work on the vertical axis. A burndown chart can be used to determine when the work will be finalized. It’s often used in Scrum and other agile software development procedures.
Benefits of Burndown Charts
One tracking and planning tool
The team can break down the tasks and update estimated and remaining effort. This allows them to own the plan. They can plan and track their progress using the burndown chart.
Daily visibility reduces risks
Cost overrun and schedule overrun are significant metrics that are monitored in traditional project management on a weekly basis. The burndown chart provides feedback on schedule and effort on a daily basis, reducing the risks and increasing alarms once something goes wrong. For instance, if the progress line hovers above the ideal line, the team knows that there’s a problem. They can plan the right course of action and mitigate risks before they become large problems.
Schedule management
The team can plan what needs to be accomplished in a sprint and update the list of tasks. Since the updates are done on a daily basis, the team knows whether it’s on the right track to meet their objectives or not.
Communicate with stakeholders and clients
A burndown chart is a great tool for communicating with stakeholders and clients. It can be printed and put in an Agile room or even shared with stakeholders on a daily basis. A burndown chart provides visibility on the progress of a project. If there is no online tool, a burndown chart can be physically displayed using a chart paper or whiteboard and place in the area where the team works.
How to Make a Burndown chart
Break down the tasks. Every task must have associated hours that the team agrees on during the planning meeting. The burndown chart is then plotted. A lot of Agile tools such as Mingle, RTC and Rally have an in-built capability for burndown charts. A burndown chart, however, can still be maintained in a spreadsheet if you don’t have Agile tools. Remaining efforts are put on the Y axis, while dates are placed on the X axis.
Burndown charts can be plotted at the release level or sprint level. Sprint burndown charts are usually monitored using effort remaining, but it is also common for some to use story points to monitor release burndown.
Different variants of burndown charts have appeared since their inception. Some find it useful to make burnup charts at the release or sprint level. While the Cumulative Flow Diagram is becoming more common, burndown charts are still the most prevalent tracking tool among Agile practitioners because of their simplicity and effectiveness.

Slimane Zouggari

Scrum: Sprint Review

Getting to know more about sprint will help in understanding more about processes done in preparing for a meeting. With this review, you will learn more about Scrum. In Scrum, it is a requirement for every sprint to provide a product increment that is potentially shippable. This only means that as every sprint ends, the team should already produce a piece of software that is tested, coded, and usable. Most of the time, this is presented in a form of demo where all new features are shown and are introduced to everyone in the review meeting.
Whenever a sprint review meeting is on process, it is most of the time kept informal. This is done intentionally but forbids the team that will present their demo to use any PowerPoint slides and not use more than 2 hours of preparing before attending and presenting the meeting. When it comes to handling sprint review meeting, it should not be treated by the team as a distraction or even a detour for the entire team. It should be taken by the team as a natural result for the sprint. This will help the team in improving their work and still attain their goal of making it great in the presentation.
Teams who are preparing for the sprint review, they should be prepared for the people whom they are presenting their demos with. The meeting usually includes the Scrum Team, Scrum Master, product owner, customers, management, and also some developers coming as representatives from other projects. Knowing how the people are in the review meeting will help the entire team in always being prepared of the possible reactions from everyone. It can possibly help them in being active in receiving questions and also in taking in recommendations or improvements that must be done.
When the time of the sprint review is done, the entire project will be assessed contrary to the goal that is usually determined throughout the meeting for sprint planning. This is usually the biggest challenged for the team as their goals can be questioned and may put their work into further questioning. For the team to succeed and impress the people in the meeting, the team should already arrive in the meeting with the product backlog item completely done. The item should be brought in the sprint where the sprint’s overall goal is achieved. This way, it can impress both the product owner, developers of other projects, and even the Scrum Master.
In the meeting, everyone attending is expecting the team to provide live demonstration and not show them a report. It is the product owner’s right to review all the commitments in the meeting and will be the one declaring the items that are considered as done. On the other hand, the Scrum master will be the one converting the feedbacks into another product backlog items that prioritizes everything that the owner wants. Usually, when there is a new scope discovered during the development of the new items, the new scope is displacing the old scope as the discovered scope is give more important than the original one.

Slimane Zouggari

Scrum: Definition of Ready

Learning when to use the definition of ready is another confusing thing for many. Currently, many teams are using the definition of done or DoD for checking whenever a user story is already finished or whenever the products is already set for delivery. However, when it comes to user stories that certain teams receive from product owners, teams can only verify user stories when the Definition of Ready or DoR is used.
Given that there are more individuals who are interested with learning more about what definition of ready is and why it is essential for the increase of the planning productivity of the team, there are even blogs pertaining to this term and are explaining its significance in a team. Anyone can agree that DoR is usually the least to be utilized yet considered as powerful tools that any agile team can use. As what Scrum defined DoR, stories should be instantly actionable. A team should have the ability of determining what should be done as well as the needed amount of work that is required for it to be completed. Those stories that are labeled “ready” should be concise, clean and actionable.
While DoR is used for most activities and artifacts, there are some who find it as the introduction for the important factor in the work stream which is the concept of preparing for planning. There are even benefits of a well-structured DoR that teams can get. These benefits are the following:
• Allows measuring the “ready” state of a backlog item.
• Ensures that the backlog items were thought together “just enough”
• Helps the team in the identification of other team members or product owner that is becoming overwhelmed.
• Keeps the entire team accountable for every member
• Reduces the pressure over the team for committing estimates prior to labeling stories as “ready”
• Reduces the possibility of requirements churn during development.
With all of these benefits in mind, there is no doubt that DoR can possibly solve problems of most teams who are working on stories.
Basically, a team that are working together towards attaining “readiness of the stories” will help product owners in an amazing way especially when it comes to improving themselves better. Also, it can help the team in not waiting longer for blockers for resolving every sprint.
There are also other ways on how people can use or take advantage of definition of ready in creating an overly regulated process which may impede the collaboration between the development team and owner. This means that whenever there are communication issues with the two parties, Dor can be extended using a new policy.
Once particular improvements of definition of ready are done, it will then require the product owner to state that every requirement is correct, consistently pre-checked done by a software architect and another product owner, and should also complete. This will prevent any missing details or ambiguity.
When it comes to DoR, experts are recommending teams to choose smaller DoR. This allows the entire team to be more capable when it comes to handling any incomplete information.

Slimane Zouggari

Scrum: Definition of Done

It is said that the definition of done is important for any highly operational Scrum team. You need to know the important characteristics that a team has for done to be defined. Making sure that a team can meet these DoD criteria can guarantee that your team can deliver the said features that can assure that it is truly done both in functionality as well as quality.

Most of the time the definition of done is composed of a list of certain activities that can range from writing codes, coding comments, testing unit, testing integration, releasing notes, designing documents and a lot more. These activities can add demonstrable or verifiable value to any product. When you focus on the steps that add value, it allows the team to put all of their attention on the things that they should complete for them to build the software on time and eliminate all the activities that waste their time and complicate their development efforts in finishing the software.

In the simplest form, DoD is having the ability of saying that the feature is either already done or not done. What it gives a product or any artifact is that, it adds clarity in the statement that the feature is done. With using DoD as the reference used by a team member during a conversation, it is already one way of effectively updating other members of the team as well as the owner of the products.

When asked by the scrum to provide “potentially shippable software” at very print’s end, it means that the software is already equipped with a feature or features that can already be released, provided with a limited notice, to the users at the discretion of the product owner. Those products that are set to be released with a span of 2 days are considered as those that are in the potentially shippable state. Preferably, when the term potentially shippable is used in a product, it is already similar to what the Definition of Done is.

In every team, they are working differently to achieve their product’s potentially shippable condition. Most of the time, they use DoD at different levels such as the following:

  • DoD for a certain feature. This is typically used for product backlog or story item.
  • DoD used for every sprint or the collection of certain features that are developed or made within a single sprint.
  • DoD for releases. This is the terms used for items that are labeled as potentially shippable state.

With the different factors that may influence whether an activity belongs to a release, sprint, or feature of DoD, it is necessary that one is well aware of the definitions and get to see its connection with the software or products they develop.

Do remember that DoD is changing in a certain period of time. The ability of the entire team and organizational support in removing impediments can enable the enclosure of added activities in the DoD for either sprints or features. Getting to know these basic things helps in understanding definition of done in product, release, feature, or sprint.

Slimane Zouggari

Scrum-but

A few years ago, the word “scrum-but” became quite popular. This phrase referred to the gap between just using Scrum and creating amazing products with the Scrum software. In Scrum circles, this term is very common and points out teams using the Agile Scrum software but skipping out some aspects of it for one reason or the other. Some common examples include:
• We’re using Scrum, but the retrospectives are not as effective, so we only use them on a monthly basis.
• We’re using Scrum, but our stakeholders are a bit too busy to come at Sprint Reviews, so we stopped using them.
• We’re using Scrum, but we cannot get everything done in a couple of weeks so now we just allow all our Sprints to run as long as they want to.
Using Scrum – while not using Scrum – is like being on full-fat-cheese-only diet. It won’t reduce your weight; instead it will only increase it. So you are basically going against the concept of dieting.
Most Scrum experts have an objection to Scrum-buts because they almost always cover up an impairment which could easily be removed or fixed to improve things. Some examples relating to the above examples are as follows:
• The retrospectives are quite commonly thought of as ineffective since no one does anything about all the issues raised. So it’s more probable that the teams need better retrospectives instead of fewer retrospectives.
• When interesting and essential new results are being displayed, while the team is responsive to the stakeholders input, the Sprint Reviews can be really productive and fun. Most probably, the team is working on topics which the stakeholders do not value or that they are not related to the needed changes.
• The most important part of Scum’s software is to hit the project deadline as top priority. Having a shorter deadline every couple of weeks will give the team practice on how to do it. It is most probable that the teams are missing out on important knowledge about what’s holding them from success.
These are the reasons why all the Scrum experts are so against Scrum-buts. They are just proof for why they are not able to get the complete benefits of Scrum by not using it properly. Instead of choosing to fix problems, they start avoiding them which leads to further problems on a larger scale.
Even though only using some benefits of Scrum may be helpful for some people and may satisfy them more, if one complies with buying the Agile Scrum software, it is important to follow out all the rules and regulations in their suggested methodology to ensure you get the maximum possible benefits which have been claimed for. Most people face a bit of problem in understanding what Scrum is about but learning about it will definitely be of huge value for you. So if you choose Scrum to help you, make sure you use it properly and do not become a Scrum-but.

–Slimane Zouggari