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How to Kick-start a Scrum Project?

A Scrum Team consists of three roles – ScrumMaster, Product Owner and Development Team. Rest of the organization, the management team, users, subject matter experts – are considered as stakeholders.

Say, you are in a Scrum Team and you know what the Scrum Framework is.  The Scrum Team and/or the organization decided to use Scrum Framework to build and sustain a new product. But you’re not sure how to get started.

Of course, you are using Scrum Framework because you want to deliver the product in short Increments, deliver early, get feedback, inspect and adapt. By delivering in short cycles aka Sprints, you are also managing risk very efficiently, and optimizing the value you create as a Scrum Team. But during the start, you’ll need to address other challenges, like where to begin, what are the tiny steps to start, who is needed to what etc. Here are some of the initial steps to kick-start your first Scrum product development.

Identify a Product Owner

The organization must identify a Product Owner who is responsible for maximizing value of the product resulting from work of the Development Team. A Product Owner’s key characteristics are Authority, Knowledge and Availability (AKA) – as far as the product is concerned. This is a highly collaborative role, who works with stakeholders and the Scrum Team.

Create a Product Vision, Product Strategy, Product Roadmap

In most cases, the stakeholders have an idea about what to expect from the product, but a Product Vision is missing. The Product Owner should create a Product Vision, Product Strategy and Product Roadmap. This can be achieved in different workshops in high collaboration with the stakeholders.

A facilitator will be very handy to help decision making in such important discussions and helps objective decision making. A ScrumMaster, if available during these initial stages, can make a great facilitator.

Identify a ScrumMaster

The Product Owner and/or the stakeholders must identify a ScrumMaster who is responsible to promote and support Scrum. The ScrumMaster is a servant-leader for the Scrum Team. The ScrumMaster helps the Scrum Team as well as the organization by wearing different hats viz. Facilitator, Teacher, Mentor, Coach etc. at different times. The ScrumMaster is also responsible to instil the Scrum values amongst the Scrum Team and the organization.

Get a buy-in and find a sponsor for Agile transformation

Get a buy-in from stakeholders about how Scrum Framework helps in creating and sustaining the product. Explain the benefits using real-world case studies from other teams within the organization or even from outside the organization. A senior stakeholder amongst this group who can sponsor an Agile way of working is crucial in the initial stages as there could be resistance to change – especially from team members, management and business teams. It will be relatively easier to manoeuvre through such challenges when you have someone standing tall. Of course, a ScrumMaster is responsible to instil change and an Agile mindset across all stakeholders and Scrum Teams; explain the benefits of using Scrum Framework.

Identify a Development Team

Identify a Development Team that consists of professionals who do the work of delivering a potentially releasable Increment at the end of each Sprint. The Development Teams are structured and empowered by the organization to organize and manage their own work. A ScrumMaster helps a Development Team to become self-organizing and cross-functional eventually.

Create an initial Product Backlog together

The Product Owner creates an initial Product Backlog, of course in collaboration with stakeholders and with Development Team, if available. A Product Backlog, as of now, consists a known list of features, functionalities of the product as envisaged by the Product Owner and stakeholders. This should also include determining the business value of each feature or Product Backlog Item.

The Product Backlog keeps evolving as product development continues, as the product is reviewed and as user feedback arrives.

Estimate the implementation effort

Once an initial Product Backlog is created, the Development Team estimates the size of Product Backlog Items. They can use techniques like Planning Poker or T-shirt sizing, to determine the initial size. Please note the size can also evolve based on the clarity that is emerging about the Product Backlog Items. The Product Owner is also a part of sizing discussions to clarify questions. This also enables to identify and discuss possible complexities to ensure everyone has the same understanding, and if required further break down large and complex Product Backlog Items to smaller ones.

High-level Release Planning

The Product Owner makes a high-level release plan based on the information available so far. Usually release plans are made for 1-3 months, and these are likely to evolve based on the initial Sprints, and the feedback received from stakeholders and Scrum Teams.

Start small, Start Development

Start small, deliver incrementally and iteratively. The first Sprint can be concluded with the aim of delivering the first ‘Done’ increment that is valuable and potentially releasable, however small it is. Show to stakeholders during the Sprint Review to get feedback. Learn lessons during Sprint Retrospectives and gather data that can be leveraged later. These are few ways on how the three pillars of empiricism – Transparency, Inspection and Adaptation are brought to life by Scrum

This should be tried at one team or few teams initially. Then expand those lessons to other teams in the organization. Thereafter, it is essential that Sprint Reviews and Sprint Retrospectives determine if there is enough feedback, build mutual understanding and trust to move into subsequent Sprints.

Take work to Scrum Team, and not vice versa

The Scrum Team is the key to the success of a Scrum product development. Scrum Teams that have been working together and have experience dealing with challenging situations are highly valuable. A good practice is to avoid dismantling the team for new product initiatives. Keep the Scrum Team together and bring new product development initiatives to this Scrum Team as much as possible and not vice versa. This team is highly self-organizing, so the initial ramp-up team is very little – which contributes to a quick development and launch of subsequent new products.

References:

  1. Scrum Guide from www.ScrumGuides.org

About the Author:

The author, Suresh Konduru, is a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) certified by Scrum Alliance, and is based out of Hyderabad, India. He has more than 22 years of working experience in Fortune 500 companies globally.

He conducts workshops for Scrum Alliance flagship certifications such as Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO). These are interactive zero Power-Point sessions conducted across Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Kochi and other cities in India; as well as in USA, Europe, APAC regions. Suresh uses real-world examples, group learning activities to make the workshops learning as well as fun. Trained more than 6000 students globally.

Suresh also consults for Fortune 500 organizations in product development, Agile transformation and change management initiatives.

He runs ‘ASK’ program – a lifelong free mentoring program for his students registered through PremierAgile.

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