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Agile Scrum Reimagined with Online Scrums


There are countless infographics and process available that concisely describe the key aspects of agile scrum. They all talk about backlogs and grooming, sprint planning, sprints, daily scrums and ultimately output product.

In our research, most lacked tangible feedback loops and many of the key features that Online Scrums delivers to its customers, so we sat down and sketched how we envision the agile scrum process to look and we were excited to share it with our community!

Obviously, the sprint process is cyclical in nature, but for a visual representation, we need to start somewhere, so let's imagine this is our first ever sprint as a team and we are yet to receive any feedback, learnings or actions from previous sprints.

 

Vision & Direction

system scope: external

Without vision & direction from the business and its' customers, no product is going to successful, but aside from that it will also guide priorities for the team and is critical to the creation of a meaningful backlog for a project and/or product.

This is most likely to occur in planning and strategy sessions, scoping workshops with customers or prospects and be facilitated by senior members of the organisation. Remember that the vision and direction flow into the stories for the product.

 

Backlog Grooming & Planning

system scope: development platform

Although it isn't always managed in a development platform such as Atlassian JIRA, it is very common. Your stories are created and then broken down into manageable pieces of work. Work is prioritised at a high level based on business needs and these priorities are then passed on to the team that is involved in sprint planning.

 

Sprint Planning

system scope: development platform & Online Scrums

Sprint planning is more specific about what needs to be done over the coming sprint period (usually two weeks), and any resource constraints (annual leave etc), activities, events and milestones that will impact on resource capacity and task prioritisation., and any activities,

This is the first logical connection between your development platform and Online Scrums. Once you have planned and kicked off the sprint, you can import all of your planning information into Online Scrums. As most development platforms lack certain types of tasks, including recurring tasks and any form of "milestones", you will set these up in Online Scrums.

With your sprint planned and kicked off in both your development platform and Online Scrums, let the fun begin!

 

Sprint

system scope: Online Scrums

Sprint periods are usually going to run for two weeks. We have seen this vary from one week to four, and it is probably about what works for your team.

Our opinion though is that one week is too short for you to get through enough work between your planning sessions and retrospectives. It is nice to think that because your sprint is half as long, the planning and retrospectives will take half the time, but experience tells us otherwise.

Four weeks, on the other hand, removes some of the agility for the team, instead, you are changing priorities, removing and adding tasks on the fly. This makes the results somewhat hard to analyse and learn from.

 

Milestones

system scope: Online Scrums

One key aspect of business reality that is often neglected by traditional agile scrum is there are mid-sprint milestones, that are important to business continuity, such as projects milestones, payments/invoicing or leave and birthdays.

It can be easy to lose sight of these if they aren't front and centre and that's exactly what Online Scrums does for your team. Key screens throughout the application also present sprint milestones, so ... you should never hear "Oh, I didn't know that was due today" again.

 

Daily Scrums

system scope: Online Scrums

Daily scrums are the regular team discussions where the usual three questions are asked in a stand-up format, but a potential weakness of this approach is that often the work that was committed to but was not completed is rarely discussed if they weren’t technically blocked. In our reenvisioned process, this is also systemised with team members submitting their daily report which could be in the form of a video report for dispersed teams with issues with time zones.

During their submission of a daily report (aka my day), each team member first indicates the status of any tasks that they committed to as; completed, not completed or blocked. They can also provide additional information on any blockers and if this personal reflection triggers any thoughts of feedback that should be discussed in the sprint retrospective, they can add this immediately.

This gives your team, scrum master and any observers added to Online Scrums with visibility through the scrum report of what got done, what didn’t (and why) and any blockers, encouraging discussion and the creation of corrective actions within the context of the sprint milestones that are, as always, visible to the team.

 

Completed Increment

system scope: development platform

At the end of the sprint, there should be tangible, visible product. This may be a prototype, or an initial version for a customer or internal show and tell. Milestones would have been met as per sprint planning and deployments to the appropriate environments can be executed or planned dependant on the scope of the work.

 

Sprint Retrospective

system scope: Online Scrums

A critical aspect of learning and growing is reflection, it is something that we have written about previously in fact, and for agile scrum, that reflection comes in the form of the retrospective where another three simple questions are explored;

  • what did we do well?
  • what could we have done better?
  • what needs to change in the next sprint?

It is incredible the lack of time put into this process in some teams. Further, the idea of sitting, thinking of and delivering useful insights in a group setting at the end of a two-week period is flawed.

In our reenvisioned agile scrum, we incorporate continuous improvement principals that state that extracting feedback in regular, concise and consistent methods will deliver more thoughtful insights than irregular formats.

It is also important to note that you are working with different personality types, and while some team members will likely dominate the dialogue, others will act submissively and allow it.

As mentioned previously, feedback is collected in real time, while insights are most likely to occur; during personal reflection such as daily reports, daily scrums and of course during the sprint retrospective. This allows all team members to participate on equal footing and each piece of feedback is able to be reviewed and discussed in the most effective way possible.

The outcomes from this retrospective should be a series of learnings, actions and trends that will influence the subsequent backlog planning and sprint planning sessions.

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