Thursday, September 10, 2015

How my team transitioned into Agile Scrum

Greetings everyone! Moving into agile scrum? Let me help you by sharing my experiences, so that you can get an idea of what is coming ahead!

Our team was waterfall. We were developing a software with release cycle of 1 year. Our business analysts (BA) used to get requirements. They used to draft a big requirement document and developers used to write an enormous technical specification document. At the same time testers wrote big test cases covering end to end scenarios. Initial phases of waterfall, testers used to have lesser work and then they were getting stretched towards the end of the cycle. At the same time, our customer had to wait for 1 year to get the new features.

The Day arrived, when our management said "Lets go agile!". We exclaimed "What?!?!?!?!" They said "Google it and implement it!!". Everyone of us, developers, testers, DBAs, BAs, team leads started running here and there to gather information about agile. We also appointed an agile coach who was excited enough to try different experiments on our team

Year 1

Quarter 1

Our journey started with scrum. We had total 30 team members which included developers, testers, business analysts, DBAs. We divided the team into 3 scrum teams. We decided to have sprint length as 1 month. And courageously we declared that our initial velocity would be 50 story points. We decided a date as day1 of sprint1.
It was a gloomy Monday afternoon. We knew that D day1 is next Monday. We religiously started to groom the stories and found out that there are just few stories with fewer details. We started shouting, screaming and bugging our scrum master. He followed up with the product owner and then we received some more details and some new stories. Somehow till next Monday, we were able to groom sufficient stories for sprint 1.
After a month, we had a successful sprint 1.
We all were very much excited and committed for sprint 2. Here the "descent" started. Sprint 2 was major failure with 50% say-do ratio. Everyone started to finger point on others. Our agile coach had to had lot of conversations with the individuals to re-iterate scrum values. Sprint 3, 4 and 5, were all same.... all failed.

Quarter 2

After sprint 5 failed, we concluded that scrum is not working for us. We had lot of dependency on other teams. Customers were not ready spend time with us for grooming stories. Team members were bored of daily stand ups.
We consulted our Agile Coach and then we started with Kanban. We decided our WIP count. Again it started failing. We tried to put scrum rituals in Kanban mode and it was a total mess.

Quarter 3

Now, our Agile Coach, was in action. We had a detailed 2 day long retrospective of last 2 quarters. We identified what was working well and what was not. We had invited senior leadership in the same to get buy-in for our suggestions.
After this, we decided to follow scrum. We decided sprint length as 2 weeks. We got agreement from our customers to spend daily 1 hour with the development team. We spread awareness about scrum value "Transparency" into the team members. We arranged Scrum Master training for our scrum masters which helped them to learn to say "No" with courage and valid reasons.
This seemed to be working well. We had several sprints being successful one after the other.
But this was not THE END.

Quarter 4

As the sprint started to be successful with 100% say-do ratio, product owners and management wanted more velocity.
We started hearing -
"Last time you delivered 30 story points. This time we want it to be 35"
"That team is delivering 40 story points. Why your team is just at 25?"

We started to do Capacity Planning in terms of hours to show to the management that velocity can not be increased to a certain extent. We are humans and let us be humans.
We also coached the management that comparing velocities of two teams is not appropriate because velocity is not a measure of productivity.
We also had to coach the team to prepare necessary and sufficient documentation. For last 3 quarters, there was zero documentation because we were in mis-belief that agile says "no documentation".
Now the team started to create high level technical details and some functional documents which would help us to preserve the knowledge in case of attrition.


Now, our teams are quite stable in scrum. We have dedicated roles of scrum master, product owner. We also have global teams spanning the continents. We do some overlap with other teams seating in other time zones to ensure proper handover. But this is not THE END. We want to implement scaled agile now!

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