Scrum Roles –  Agile Software Development

Who are you? The three Scrum Roles explained.

Introduction

scrum team has a slightly different composition than a traditional waterfall project, with three specific functions. To better understand the basics of Agile, it’s worth talking a little about roles and responsibilities within the Scrum team. I will also tell you a little about the problems that can happen in this structure.

The Scrum Team three roles include, The Product Owner, Scrum Master and Development Team, are sufficient to deliver high value-added software according to the framework. Let’s see, in common lines, how this works.

Product Owner, the owner of the backlog

The project begins with the Product Owner: he or she is the person who knows the business and the end user’s need. With this knowledge, the PO can prioritise the needs of the user and decide what else adds value to the company. That is, this is the person who orders the product.

The Product Owner can even decide the product developed is sufficient to meet the needs and finish the project. Incidentally, this is one of the hallmarks of Scrum. Since we opted for the essential features to the business first, it is not uncommon to finalise the project with fewer items than initially envisioned.

After all, some studies point out that most of the features are seldom or never used.

The Product Owner separates a wish list, called the Product Backlog, which contains everything he initially thinks he needs to serve the business and the end user. This list should be prioritised based on the value that each item can add to the business.

Once complete, it is up to the PO to write the user stories, which detail each item in the wish list a little more. It is also up to him to take care of the project budget, ensuring that the investment yields an expected return as soon as possible.

The Product Owner supports the Development Team by answering questions about business rules. It’s crucial to the success of the project. On the other hand, the Development Team has someone available and accessible to answer the product owners questions.

Scrum Master, the proactive coach

The next role to play is the Scrum Master. He or she acts as servant leader and coach, to both the Product Owner and the Development Team. When the organisation begins to adopt Scrum, it is common for either the Technical Leader or perhaps a Project Manager to assume this role.

Be cautious of old vices: the former technical leader will tend to give technical solutions to the development team, just as the former project manager will have a strong inclination to commit to deadlines that must be met at any cost and to direct the team members, telling who does what. A good Scrum Master is there to help the team practice self-organisation.

The Scrum Master knows the process; he can instruct the Product Owner concerning Scrum practices. It guides the PO throughout the project. In the same way, it should guide the Development Team to achieve that team sprint goal. It is up to the SM to eliminate any team of impediment that hinders the progress of the team, seeking to help the team to improve its productivity.

Mike Cohn once wrote about the six attributes of a good Scrum Master:

  • Responsible for the adoption of Scrum practices and not for the success of the project;
  • Humble to the point of putting the interests of the team above their own;
  • Collaborative because he or she helps to create a collaborative environment among team members;
  • Committed to the purpose of the project and to the resolution of impediments that prevent the team from reaching its objectives;
  • Influential, both inside and outside the team, to carry out their duties to build the team and to eliminate impediments;
  • Understand the knowledge necessary for the team to achieve its goals.
  • Knowledge in facilitation techniques and Team Growing are differential of any Scrum Master.

Development Team

The Development Team is composed of those who create the product increment. Scrum does not define titles, so all its members are mostly developers, regardless of their function within the framework. The concept of the multidisciplinary team: all members can perform any task that is necessary for the project. However, it is common to observe teams that have members with specific functions.

The size of the team varies according to the project. Some people defend the idea that a team has 5 to 9 members. In particular, I believe the team should be small enough to stay agile and big enough to deliver the expected value to the product. It is a somewhat subjective interpretation, but it gives more freedom to the organisation of the team.

Another exciting feature is that the team is self-organising, that is, who decides who does what, what the roles of each member are and what is not Sprint is the team! This is key to creating a collaborative environment within the team. Seeing sense and actively participating in decisions, team members become much more motivated to commit to the expected results.

To learn more about our Scrum Master Course view our in-class courses to help you develop your skills.

How do you Eat an Elephant

So we have heard the saying, How do you eat an Elephant – One Bite at a Time. Well that’s not how project managers eat elephants – Project manager share the elephant – divide it up and find the right people to do the eating.

Why?  There are a number of reason why

The Elephant will be well gone off before we progress any distance. Project management need to create a sense of urgency and if the goal is to get the elephant eaten then we have to share.

We will be sick of elephants. We need to give ourselves little goals otherwise we will be sick of the tedious task of just eating the same thing.

 

 

To share we first must break the Elephant down into manageable pieces. Project manager call this the work breakdown structure. Once we have identified the manageable pieces we find the right person to take on this smaller task. In-fact the The project manager puts together a team of people to work on the job simultaneously thereby getting the elephant eaten as quickly.

If it all goes well,  chances are the project manager didn’t actually eat any elephant, he share everything.

emotional intelligence Project Status Report

Five Results from Emotional Upgrade

 

The people side of project management (or any management role) is the hard bit. We have to effect action and change while being conscious that we cant make people do things. We got to get them to take action for their own reasons.

Being emotionally aware can really help us understand both ourselves and therefore understand what makes others tick.

So what is emotional intelligence: Emotional Intelligence can be defined as an understanding one’s own feelings, the feelings of others, and managing the emotions to enhance growth and living. The major domains of emotional intelligence are knowing your emotions, understanding these emotions, motivating yourself, recognizing the emotions of others, and establishing a strong balanced relationship with them.

So get yourself an Emotional upgrade.  First with self-awareness (the understanding of ones strengths, limits and confidence). This evolves into social emotions (sensing others emotions), helping to develop these emotions and on the long run building lasting bonds with people.

Five results of emotional upgrade include:

  1. Self- confidence: After having read and studied your own personal emotions, you are confident that you can bring them under subjection at every time, this inflicts a level of self-control and a sound sense of self-worth and capabilities.
  2. Adaptability and influence: This means you’re sensitive and flexible enough to maneuver into people’s emotions, feelings and at times their decisions thereby resulting into a striking level of positive commitment in their activities and regulars. You have studied them enough to relate with them at their highs and lows.
  3. Relationship management: Conflict management, being a change catalyst, building bonds, teamwork, and collaboration with others is achievable when there is a conscious review of ones emotions.
  4. Social competence: This expansion of awareness and empathy of the environment increases communication and the ability to persuade, and develop opportunities to strengthen the growth of others.
  5. Leadership: Here, your team is willing to allow you lead and are willing to work with you to meet set goals because you inspire them to achieve the collective vision.

Emotional intelligence may have gone off your radar but I suggest you give it another looks.

Sign-up to request 25 steps to improving your emotional intelligence .[activecampaign form=1]

Planning and Execution of Test Cases During Agile Development Iterations

During the software development process it is vital to establish a robust process of software quality assurance, even if you are developing using an Agile development methodology.

It is important to mention that Agile development should not be confused with development without a defined quality management software. It is strongly recommended that the tasks of creating test cases and performing automated tests be planned for each development iteration.

In addition, having a test-focused person is a key to the quality of software development during the Agile iterations.

Agile Planning and Quality Assurance Tasks

The Agile iteration planning process allocates at least one resource for testing activities, and does not involve this resource in development activities within the iteration. This process is important to avoid poor quality testing.

Within a development team of five people, having at least one person focused on these tests tasks will greatly help to ensure the quality of the software. In this case we are talking about functional tests (black-box testing) planned and written through test cases. However, we must not forget that the unit tests (white-box testing) are the responsibility of the development team, and the tasks of developing these unit tests must be estimated together with the backlog items.

The advantage of include planning and execution quality assurance tasks even in an Agile software development cycle is the concern of the development team in delivering quality software to those responsible for running the tests. It is amazing how the simple fact there is a person planning and thinking about software testing already increases the quality of the software.

Here are some tests tasks that can be executed during a development iteration:

  • Creating a test-planning;
  • Creating the detailed test cases for each user story or backlog item;
  • Preparing test environments required for system tests;
  • Preparing test data: getting real data from production or simulation.

In addition the tests can be automated, so the tasks below can be included:

  • Automating unit tests;
  • Automating functional tests;
  • Writing mocks, test drivers, data simulators, test frameworks.

Tools for planning and running tests

It is not the purpose of this article to present test tools. However, it is important for the agility of the software development process to look for tools to automate the execution of the tests as well as documenting the test plans and the test cases.

Remember that tests can be re-used in future development iterations, so it is very important to define a centralised method and tool to manage the test plans and test cases. An efficient test management tool will help you with the agility and quality of your software.

The following are some suggestions for test tools:

  • qTest
  • PractiTest
  • Test Collab
  • TestFLO for Jira
  • XQual
  • TestCaseLab
  • Microsoft Test Manager (Test planning and automation)
  • Microsoft Team Services (Test cases)
  • Selenium (Automation of functional tests for Web applications)
  • TestRail
prometric test centre

Preparing for and Passing the PMP Exam

Having got the approval email from the PMI and before you schedule the exam, let us just revisit the exam content outline:

  • The PMP exam consists of 200 objective-type questions with 4 answer options.
  • The five domains consist of questions in the following ratio:
Initiation13%
Planning24%
Executing31%
Monitoring & Controlling25%
Closing7%

 

  • 25 out of 200 questions are not counted towards the score, as they may be for pre-release testing. As such you don’t know which 25 questions are not graded, and so you should just treat it as 200-question exam.
  • The maximum time to answer all questions is 4 hours.
  • The PMI does not disclose your pass score; in most cases the pass score is thought to be around 61%

So you have built up your confidence over time; have already taken the 35-hour course; have gone through the PMBOK Guide; and have a fair knowledge of project management practice. Now you need to test that confidence by answering questions and checking the answers. Once chapter-level answering is finished, you need to go for a mock test of 200 questions; a minimum of two full 200-question mock-up exams passed at above 80% is suggested. This is an indication that you are adequately prepared to venture into the actual exam.

How to Handle Each Question

One of the advantages we have in answering objective-type questions is that the right answer is in front of us – we just need to select it. Carefully read the question-and-answer choices. Attach importance to words such as always or never, except for, or have to, best, worst, most, least, first, last, etc.,  and then determine which answer the question is looking for. Look at the following example question.

Conditions that are not under the control of the project team that influence, direct, or constrain a project are called:

  1. Enterprise environmental factors
  2. Work performance reports
  3. Organisational process assets
  4. Context diagrams

The term conditions NOT under the control needs to be carefully read. Answer A is correct. (Note that the question calls for a plural answer, and all answers are plural.)

Here is another example where we need to read carefully:

A logical relationship in which a successor activity cannot start until a predecessor activity has finished is known as:

  1. Start-to-start (SS)
  2. Start-to-finish (SF)
  3. Finish-to-start (FS)
  4. Finish-to-finish (FF)

Answer C is correct. A clear scrutiny of the question and the answer choices is required. You need to eliminate the answers that do not fit with the question.

Another example:

External organisations that have a special relationship with the enterprise and provide specialised expertise are called:

  1. Customers
  2. Business partners
  3. Sellers
  4. Functional managers

Based on experience, we can quickly eliminate A, C and then D, to correctly answer B.

A practical tip is to not spend more than a minute with a single question. You can come back to the question later. Sometimes, the other questions may throw some light on this question for you. Try to recollect the study that you did within that knowledge area and process group, and work out where the question belongs. For some questions you may have to recollect your project management experience. Here is a question where we need to recollect process ITTO – Input, Tools and Techniques, and Output:

An output of the Direct and Manage Project Work process is:

  1. Deliverables
  2. Activity list
  3. A work breakdown structure
  4. A scope statement

The answer is A

It is recommended that you try to remember ITTO to select the answer to these types of questions. I suggest that you get familiar with these by reviewing them regularly so you as much get a ‘feel’ more than just learning them off by heart.

After you enter the testing centre for the exam, you will be given a pencil and paper and 15 minutes’ preparation time. This can be used to prepare a chart of process groups, knowledge areas and certain tables or formulas you can recollect. This may be handy for answering the exam questions. Try to utilise all of the 4 hours’ exam time to check your answers before you submit. Best of Luck!

/Althris

PM Tailoring

The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) presents the guidelines for best practices that can be applied to projects. It also presents a standardised terminology. PMBOK guideline preparation itself follows ANSI standards, so it is natural that it goes for a standardised terminology! Generally a single word (or phrase) is used to define or describe a process (or element) of project management. Those who have worked on projects can readily appreciate the benefits of standardised terminology in the project management profession. In the real world, we have seen the confusion created by using different words for the same thing.

PM Process Mapping

One of the important phrases that have started appearing from PMBOK Guide Third Edition is tailoring. The usage of this term in the later editions is growing, and there is an even greater emphasis on tailoring in the 6th edition, which emphasises the importance given to tailoring. Project management methodologies/processes are constantly increasing; and real-life projects are becoming ever more diverse and complex! The saying One size does not fit all goes well here. It makes sense now to throw some light on tailoring.

Tailoring is making project methodology fit. There may be different situations warranting different methodologies and the adaptation of different processes. Industry type, environment, organisational experience, kind of project, etc., may lead to different processes being chosen for different projects. Each project is unique with its own set of goals, resources and constraints. Tailoring is the act of adapting different processes to make them suitable for different projects. The standards, guidelines and rules presented in PMBOK may be general and globally applicable. There is a need to design and tailor the processes so that desired goal is achieved in each project.

The project manager along with his/her team is responsible for the process of tailoring. To quote PMBOK,

for any given project, the project manager, in collaboration with the project team, is always responsible for determining which processes are appropriate, and the appropriate degree of rigor for each process. Project managers and their teams should carefully address each process and its constituent inputs and outputs.

When the project manager and his/her team do this they obviously buy into this.

There can be several stages in tailoring. In the initial stage, the PM methodology may be based on the PMBOK Guide. In the second stage it is more geared towards the elements of the project and based on Organisational Project Management Office (PMO) guidance. The third stage of the tailoring can be at the project execution level, depending on how well suited the processes are for achieving the desired outcome. As we can see, tailoring is done throughout the entire life cycle of the project. Another important aspect to remember is the documentation. There is a need to document the tailoring process approach in the project management plan, and then at the execution stage, in terms of how each process was tailored, and why it was added, removed, or revised.

Four key takeaways from this blog post are:

  1. Tailoring is making project methodology fit.
  2. The PM and team are responsible for the tailoring process.
  3. Tailoring is done in three stages.
  4. Tailoring needs to be documented.

Join the conversation and follow us to get an update on PMP exam preparation or take an open PMP test.

Facing into an exam is never easy, particularly if your company is paying for it, or if you are doing it with a group of work colleagues; you don’t want to be seen as a failure.

At the moment of writing this, there are two well-known certificate centres. The first one is the scrum.org organisation, run by Ken Schwaber, which does a certification titled Professional Scrum Master (PSM). The second is the Scrum Alliance team, which makes you Certified Scum Master (CSM). In this article, I am writing about PSM certification, but those hints are also valid for CSM candidates.

To pass the PSM exam at the first level, you need to focus both on preparation for the exam, and on the exam itself. Below you can find seven tips that can definitely help you in reaching your goal.

1.   Attend a good Scrum Master training course.

It all begins with training. You can study on your own, but it is like learning the rules of physics from a book. It is possible, but without any practice and instant feedback from the trainer, you may understand things the wrong way. There is a lot to be learned from the classroom environment – feedback and questions from other student enhance the learning experience. There is also the opportunity for ongoing support from your classmates.

In everywhere there are Scrum courses of varying quality on offer, so the most efficient way to select one is probably by asking people. Word of mouth is very powerful, and you will get real information about the trainer.

The training programme must contain practice hours. This is when you verify your theoretical knowledge, and where you really absorb the material. Listening to lectures is boring, and you actually don’t learn that much; but practising it during the course helps you get a real understanding. On top of that, when you figure out how things work, you are more likely to remember it automatically.

Please check how many participants are to attend at a given date. The higher the number is, the lower chance of individual contact with the trainer and of having all your questions answered. On the other hand, being alone is not good either, as you need a team you can train on. In my opinion, eight to 12 people in the room is the right number, as the trainer can replicate two Scrum teams. 6 works but at 16 its getting hard to get the trainers attention.

Real Practice – learners design their own Scrum process.

2.   Do open assessment.

On the scrum.org page, you will find the “Open Assessments” tab where you can check your knowledge about the Scrum framework. This sample exam is a must-do thing before the exam, for three reasons.

The first reason is that it will allow you to check whether you are good enough to pass the final exam. It will save you stress and money, as this is free of charge, so you have nothing to lose.

The second reason is to see what the real exam looks like, and how fast you are able to read and answer the questions. It will help you get used to the pressure of time, and will give you a feel for the exam and how it looks.

The third reason, equally important as the first two, is that by answering those question, you are still learning. What is great is that you can do open assessment many times, and each time you will answer different questions. By doing this, you simply learn new things, and new ideas appear in your head. You can find answers to them later in books, and so your knowledge will grow. Remember that some of those questions are similar to, or the same as, the ones in the real exam – so don’t just pluck answers from the air.

Try the Althris Sample Exam here

3.   Explore the Scrum Guide.

The Scrum Guide is your primary source of knowledge. It is a short read, but every sentence matters. It’s dense with information, so read it a number of times and stop to think about the implications of each sentence. As it is for many experienced Scrum Masters, you will still need to look back at this document throughout your career, so get to know it.

The PSM I exam is sometimes tricky, and a small detail can decide whether your answer is correct or not. General knowledge is not enough, as it leads to quick but wrong answers in the exam. You need to know exactly how concepts are presented in the guide.

4.   Buddy up for a day.

If you are already working in an Agile company where there are Scrum Masters, you are lucky. Ask any of them if you can become his or her ghost for a couple of days. Buddying is a learning technique, where one employee does their daily tasks as usual, while the second person follows what is going on. The buddy accompanies the employee all day long.

You learn by observation, but you also get to ask anything about the Scrum Master’s work. The most important thing in this exercise is that you will encounter real-life situations, which will generate tons of questions in your head. You can get instant answers to those questions, as the expert is at your fingertips. I can guarantee that you will learn a lot, and it will be a kind of interesting experience for you both.

5.   Use discussion groups.

I am subscribed to several Scrum groups on LinkedIn and, from time to time, I am notified by email about some new threads. People ask loads of questions, from the basic level, like “We have teams of 10; is that OK with Scrum?” to more sophisticated ones such as “How do you manage dependencies between teams working on the same backlog?”

You should read first before contributing any questions. As you read loads of questions and answers, you will get to see different points of view, and then start to formulate your own.

The second thing is that discussion groups are another way to find replies to your topics. Don’t hesitate to post your doubts, even if you are a newbie. Experienced people really do like to respond – I think it makes them feel more like experts. And you get the benefit of their knowledge

6.   Choose the perfect time and place.

The good thing about the PSM exam is that you can take it at a place and time of your choosing. Most people are at their peak effectiveness in the morning, but there are exceptions to this rule, so choose what is best for you. The other important thing is choosing a place. Be sure you won’t be interrupted, and there won’t be any annoying background noise.

Having a space where you can read out the question also really helps concentration for some people, and certainly reduces stress.

7.   Read the exam carefully.

There are 80 questions, and 60 minutes to answer them. It means that you have one minute to read the question and give the answer, so don’t be in a rush. As I mentioned above, some of the questions are tricky, and one word can change the whole meaning of the sentence. Spend most of this minute on reading thoroughly before answering. When you get stuck, give the most probable answer, and continue. The system allows you to go back and change the answer if needed, but really a straight-through read is often the best way. It’s a short exam, and you may not have the time to revisit the questions as you go.

You can use this article as a starting point for your own checklist before the exam. Check what works for you and what doesn’t. And, after all, this is hard work – so don’t forget to celebrate the success. You will soon be a member of a small elite group of certified Scrum Masters.

I am also due to publish an ebook (just tidying it up at the moment) with further information and pointers, so subscribe to be the first to get an issue.

Good luck!

David is currently writing a more detailed guide on the PSM exam linkin to get further updates

Courses - Althris Project Management Training Experts Dublin

Courses – PMI-ACP Overview

The PMI-ACP ® certification is for anyone involved in product development that has a large amount of complexity and uncertainty. Obtaining the credential recognises an individual’s skills in using Agile tools and techniques to navigate complex projects towards satisfactory outcomes successfully

The Agile Certified Practitioner course is a great way to get an overview and practice the Agile methods.

This Program fulfils the PMI® requirement of 21 contact hours which an ACP® aspirant needs to have before applying for the ACP® Certification Examination. The Program also aims to train the participants to be active Project Managers using Agile methodologies.

Key Topics

Agile Principles and Mindset

Value-Driven Delivery

Stakeholder Engagement

Team Performance

Adaptive Planning

Problem Detection and Resolution

Continuous Improvement (Product, Process, People)

Our world is built up of plans and estimate, business judge the CEO’s and senior manager by the estimates they produce and how they deliver on them. Without estimate we can’t prepare for the future.

In our daily life we plan using estimates, like how long will it take us to get to the airport, how much will we need to put aside for our summer holidays (vacations?)

The process of doing estimates has significant influences on our decisions making. For example can we afford our trip to France, or how long do we leave for the airport before the flight. Failure to make accurate estimates could have a lasting impact. We could miss the flight, or we could overspend on the holiday resulting credit problems.

Clearly for big business and for smaller personal decision estimation is vital. It is no less vital for our development or business change project to have a handle on the costs and delivery timescales. But is estimation the way to do.

Business stakeholder need to incorporate the estimates into their cost and deliverables. They need to be bought into the estimate in order to buy into the project. When an estimate is asked for, it’s critical to understand why an estimate is needed.

In scrum we estimate in detail, scrutinise, reviewed and update these estimates regularity. But the purpose and timings of these estimates is not what the business stakeholders is looking for.

Business stakeholders want to have some idea of when they’ll get which features, the number of resources needed to meet a timeline, and of course costs. None of this information can be provided without taking time to do some estimation and planning.

To get to a satisfactory solution to the conflicting requirements we need to separate out the stakeholders requirements into the 3 elements and deal with them separately.

1 Planning –

Planning gives the business an idea of the resources timescales and activities. The act of planning is a large part of the value, not the piece of paper the plan is written on. This plan is not about specific component delivery but about how we deliver the cycles and more importantly it is to come to a shared understanding of what we as a team can achieve.

2 Budget –

Budgeting projects uses a top down approach, where you decompose only so far as you need to in order to have enough information to make your decision.

Budgeting can be done in much less time and Budgets make better sense “what can you do for €XX.xx” This approach clears the way for the product owner to set some of the priorities.

Secondly Knowing the customer’s or management budget expectation impacted the developers’ estimates. It’s called anchoring.

3) Agile Estimates –

It is easier to have confidence that we can accomplish small things than big things regardless of what number we attach to that smallness/bigness. Agile estimates are small, lower level and feed into the budget and cycles that we have set out.

We are close to the action and have more confidence that we can deliver the controlled delivery. Smaller results in less variations and the variation in estimates easily to manage. The delivery teams can then stand over their estimates.

Agilists must accept the need for revenue and budget forecasts to be taken seriously

It is easy to join the chorus of opinion that software project estimation is waste and must be eliminated. Whilst I can understand the objections to spending valuable time preparing and rationalizing a set of estimates for ill-defined features or projects.

Breaking it into the 3 process can satisfy bot the business and the agilest