Thursday, August 03, 2006

Easy Scrum - 1

We have a Project to develop a common product for Retail Distribution. I thought of using an Agile method in order to manage this project due to the nature of this project. This has more chances of changing the scope and the project seems very uncertain. So We selected Scrum.

But we have many challenges..

We don’t have a Scrum Master. We have only a Project Manager. We don’t have a Customer working with us., But we have a Domain Expert within the team who will act as our customer. We don’t have Microsoft Team Systems. But we have Microsoft XL. We have a Project Office which needs some sort of generalized templates of all the projects.

How do we go with it.. ?

First I wanted the team to be familiarize with Scrum. The Problem is training.. We don’t have such training and workshops available here and no project budget to send them overseas. So the next option was Web and Online mentors.( Which is the only option we had)

My main concern here is the caliber of people we have for this Project., To practice Scrum Its really required to have team members who contribute to the product., And not the team members who just code the given spec and think of themselves as furniture of the company.

Step 1 - Create Product Backlog

First we got to create a Product Backlog.. How do we do that? Its very Simple.

You got to create a list of all the product functionalities ( You can simply use a XL sheet or MS VS Team Systems). You may have got so many documentation at this time. Go through it clearly, understand the required functionalities, understand everything what you have to do with the project, List them. Then prioritize them in order to see which ones to be completed first, depending on their dependencies, impotencies and effort requirements.

Then the question comes.. Who can add items to Product Backlog.?? Do I have to secure this sheet with a Password? No ..In our case we asked everybody to add items., PM, Tech Lead,Project Owner, Team, Domain Experts and so on. Then we prioritized them based on the required functionality of the product in order to do release 1 of the product.

WBS vs Product Backlog

Remember your good old WBS? (Work Breakdown Structure is the deliverable based grouping mechanism inProject Management ).. You can see the Product Backlog as something similar to that. Both can be used by the PMO to understand the amount of work to be carried out in the organization’s projects. The Difference is that WBS is a Deliverable based Grouping and it doesn’t reflect prioritization of your task or estimations. Its more or less defined, and its created by the Project Manager. But Product backlog has almost everything you got to do with the project. It shows which tasks to be done first., and the value and importance of them. Any stakeholder can add items to the backlog. New Items will be added over a time period.

WBS helps a PM to plan the required work Packages and estimate them., Product Backlog helps the PM and team to plan items for a Sprint. ( Short time Period) and estimate the work to be carried out.

Once the Complexity / Value and risk is identified for each item, You got to estimate your Product Backlog. This can happen in 2 instances

  1. A new Item is added to the Product Backlog
  2. Existing backlog item is substantively changed.

How do you estimate the Product Back log? Are you going to categorize items by Size and put a weight on each category? Or is it by any other costing methodology?

This is very useful for the Project manager to evaluate the effort involved in a release and this allows the team to select the backlog items for the coming sprint.


Gogula on 7:29 AM said...

Does it have some sort of similarity with scrum in rugby?

Thushara said...

Hi Gogula,
Scrum is named after the scrum in rugby, "which is a way to restart the game after an accidental infringement or after a touchdown"
Its a very interesting way to manage Projects.In this way the whole team should contribute towards managing the project. I have tried an interesting case study with the Dianome team and lets do it again with your team too..

Gogula on 5:36 AM said...

Does that mean, as time goes on we may not need a project manager? :)

Thushara said...

-:) Hehe

Yes …this is another trick by PMs to get their work done by you and for them watch movies... :-) Techies ….techies….techies….^#&^$#&$ .

Just kidding...

On a serious note., Scrum needs a Project Manager, ( Scrum Master) yes there is a small difference between a Project Manager and a Scrum Master..
But in this way the team will not feel they are "managed" or " Assigned to work" they will feel like they are part of the project., they feel they make the decisions.. and the transparency is very high.. Dont you like that??? :-)

Gogula on 6:30 AM said...

So you do admit that developers were earlier made to feel that they weren't part of the project huh?

And again you say, that the developer will "feel" like he/she is part of the project. He/she will "feel" as if he/she is making the decisions... And in reality they're just scapegoats huh? As we Sri Lankans call them - Camels :)

Thushara said...

Nuh Nuh Nuh :-p
What ever the PM method we use Developers and all the team members are stakeholders of the project. And every PM treat the members as stakeholders. But in our traditional approaches, we sort of “MANAGE” projects. But with this method, more or less we get people to be managed by themselves. In this way its more easier for the developers to feel they are part of the project due to very high level of transparency and collective decision making/ Frequent gatherings

Hope I tried my best to explain...

ScrumMaster Stacia on 5:22 PM said...

I've found that advanced teams that have passed through storming and norming phases don't need a dedicated ScrumMaster. You will see this happen after many sprints, particularly after Scrum has been adopted by other parts of the organization (thus reducing the number of organizational obstacles for the SM to handle). Thushara, check out my blog at

Best of luck with Scrum!


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