Project management is not what it used to be. Digital transformation and cloud have changed the game plan of organizations as far as product development or product engineering services are concerned. ISVs and enterprises need to push their product(s) off-the-shelf as quickly as possible or risk losing out to competitors who are breathing down their necks all the time. Faster product launches depend on which methodology is being adopted by organizations.
Also, since their priority is on exploiting market opportunities and focusing on launching various new products or services sooner, choosing the right methodology might just be the difference between winning and losing.
Given the changing times, it is imperative for organizations to consider a scalable and highly performing methodology to maximize their performance.
The Scrum product development methodology is based on an incremental and iterative product development process where solutions grow due to collaboration between cross-functional and self-organizing teams. Scrum has garnered fame due to the following points:
Simplicity and transparency of processes.
Quick adaptability to change.
Evolutionary development and delivery model.
Quick learning cycles.
Automated testing offers a stable platform.
Rapid market release.
Integrated and flexible teams which can change requirements anytime based on user feedback.
Let’s explore how my tea (Cygnet) supports organizations in product engineering with the help of Scrum.
Phases of Our Scrum Model
Product Backlog Generation
The product backlog is generated based on the priority of the features which need to be implemented in the final product. It is generally compromised of new features, enhancements, bugs, tasks, and non-functional requirements. Each item in the backlog is called a user story and is placed in the list based on highest business importance. These user stories are further broken into tasks. This product backlog is created while keeping business analysis and the company's vision in mind.
The product backlog is a living entity and the designated product owner continuously makes amendments to it.
Sprint Planning Meeting to Create Sprint Backlog
The product backlog from the previous stage is passed on to the team with a clear product vision. The project manager and team review the user stories to develop plans and break them into specific tasks with the planning poker approach. This data is further used to decide the following during the Sprint planning meeting(s):
Release planning schedule.
Duration/length of Sprint.
Generate Sprint backlog.
The scope of work to be done during each Sprint.
Decide work to be done for other Sprints.
Groom stories for better features and functionalities.
The first Sprint backlog would consist of the top priority tasks and its duration would help the team release the working version of the product. A shorter Sprint duration results in incorporating client’s feedback more often; ultimately revealing possible bugs and errors on time. However, longer Sprints allow developers to work thoroughly.
Working on the Sprint
Once the team is done with generating a Sprint backlog, the development stage begins. Here, the continuous project monitoring phase will begin. It is done with the help of tools like Jira, AgileWrap, ScrumDO, etc.
A team of analysts generates wireframes based on Sprint backlog tasks which are given to the product owner for approval. The main goal of this process is to show how the product will work and look and make sure all the stakeholders are on the same page. During the progress of the project, these wireframes are used to verify any error in the plan.
A team of designers designs the interface, elements, and themes of the product as per the requirement of clients and the user stories. These screen samples are sent to the product owner for approval, which is later configured if required.
The development team or programming team initiate the development process once the designs are finalized. They are responsible for delivering potentially shippable increments of the product, i.e., PSIs to a client at the end of each Sprint. Here pair programming, unit testing, and peer reviews are used as a means to develop the product. This written code is sent to the testing team to fix bugs and errors.
Product Testing and Demonstration
Given the ideal outcome of the entire Sprint cycle is to generate a working product, testing forms an inevitable part of the life-cycle of the Scrum model. Here, automation is included in QA to extract precise and accurate results. The approach of automating the software QA allows cost saving and the addition of new test cases, along with ongoing development processes and increases in test coverage of applications.
The result of every Sprint is demonstrated to the product owner for user acceptance testing and based on the outcome the stakeholders decide on project changes (if any). Once the approval and acceptance stages are done, the PSI is shipped to the client.
Retrospective and Next Sprint Planning
The end of the Scrum lifecycle is the retrospective and the next Sprint planning to discuss the outcomes and results of the Sprint. Here, the problems are determined and observed again to improve the development process for the next Sprint, such as time taken for delivery, the performance of the PSI, devise strategies for the effective progress of the project, and how to improve the process. The team undergoes brainstorming sessions to determine what went right or wrong in the project and what can be done to improve future iterations. Once the team settles on what to do, the next Sprint planning begins.
A burndown chart is prepared in these scrum meetings to determine how many tasks were completed and what remained incomplete. These charts impart an ability to the development team to control the entire development process and update it every day. Even before the delivery of each Sprint, the product backlog is once again analyzed and reprioritized as per necessity and the next set of requirements or user stories are selected for the next Sprint. The development and testing and acceptance phases for previous Sprints keep on happening in the cycle in the backend.
Another Approach of Cygnet for Scrum
Some projects require the wireframing and designing to be accepted before Sprint planning. This is done to avoid any kind of designing or development errors in the later stages of the project. There is a possibility that the client might change the paradigm of the project by viewing the wireframes and designs.
This cycle follows wireframing and designing approval prior to Sprint planning. Once the wireframes and designs are accepted, the team conducts a Sprint planning meeting where each Sprint backlog item is made per the client's request; the team clarifies the scope and notes acceptance criteria for the development stages. The rest of the process remains the same as per the Scrum lifecycle mentioned above.
But wait! There’s more!
For any project, transparency is important to know what is being delivered and what was expected. Frequent inspections help the team to detect variances and ensure progress. Cygnet follows Scrum events for better project delivery, like the Daily Scrum, which is important to continuously monitor the performance of the project, by the client and the project team. Thus, a Scrum meeting is conducted daily where the progress of the team is monitored by going through work planned for the next meeting or any impediments which may be blocking the team’s progress.
Cygnet’s development team follows a thorough trend analysis session after each Sprint completion to determine and regulate the extent to which the processes of Scrum meet the expectations for continuous and steady product delivery and maintain the optimum quality of the product.
Analysis of data for on-time delivery, major open bugs, static code analysis warning, performance criteria, unit testing coverage percentage, regression automation percentage, etc., are carried out to learn the effectiveness of their process from previous Sprints. Maintaining and studying these charts helps the team to understand the trends of project planning. Furthermore, it also helps to change them to improve the efficiency of the project as per the activity required to be done in the beginning, middle, or end of the Sprint.
The practice of continuous integration and continuous delivery allows the team to reduce the issues of integration and allow the robust deployment of systems. It also helps them to produce the product in short cycles and ensure the release can be done on time. Moreover, this approach helps the product owner to regulate Return on Investment and set project objectives and goals in the right direction early, along with receiving a high valued product.
When talking about managing IT projects, merely thinking Agile is no longer an option, instead, it is a core requirement. Scrum will introduce a quick adaptive process to organizations, helping them break down huge projects into quick Sprints.