Product Management

AGILE – A Cheat Sheet for Product Managers

There are a lot of scholarly articles written about Agile methodology and there are umpteen websites talking about this. I have tried to provide a “cheat sheet” for the project managers or business analysts based on my experience in project & product management.

What is Agile?

Agile is an iterative approach to project management and software development that helps teams deliver value to their customers faster. Time and again Agile production methods have proven its efficiency. It is not just the hype that is created by the process managers, it is practically efficient and all of those who have adopted Agile have only benefitted. Let’s do a quick recap on why the development moved towards Agile.

  1. Changing requirements: No one can chart out the requirements perfectly on day 1. The requirements kept changing as per the customer requirements or industry norms or any other external/internal factors.
  2. Better project control: Developing and testing at the end of the development was devastating and time-consuming. Also, any bugs or issues can be corrected before the entire project is completed.
  3. Customer Satisfaction: In Waterfall method (another software development methodology), the customers are always kept in a dark space until the project is delivered. While with Agile methodology, we can give the customer some features of the project for their usage even before the project is half-done.
  4. Reduced Risks: Since the client is given with some of the features of the product for usage, we can get real-time feedback so that any major deviations can be brought to notice and corrected. The product can be launched phase-wise and get the feedback of real-time users. This will provide critical feedback so that the product can be altered before it is fully ready
  5. High product quality: The product will be used by the client and feedback will be given intermittently. This feedback helps the company to give a product with high quality always.

How do I implement Agile?

Agile is the name of the production methodology. which is used widely in the software industries. (The other method is Waterfall methodology). There are different frameworks available in use now to implement the Agile methodology. Following are the most commonly used framework under agile methodology:

  • Scrum
  • Kanban
  • Scrumban

Any of the frameworks can be adopted as per the project requirement or client requirement. Let’s get into each of these in a bit. Before going into the details let’s look at an analogy.

Consider that you are put in a darkroom (project) which has an exit at one end of the room. You are provided with a variety of light source (frameworks). For explanation purpose let us consider 3 sources: a battery-operated bulb, a bulb that gives light in long pulses, and a candle with a matchbox.

You can choose any one of the sources to reach the door. Since all the sources provide light in the dark, it is up to you (project manager) to choose the type of light. The beauty here is, choose any source and you will reach the destination.

Let’s try to understand what each framework offers.

Scrum

Scrum - Agile Methodology
Source: https://brainhub.eu
  • Break the work and complete the work in sprints
  • Sprint is a time-boxed iteration which lasts from 1 week to 4 weeks
  • 3 roles: Product Owner, Development team, Scrum Master
  • Product owner gets input from executives, stakeholders, customers, users and prepare the product backlog
  • The product backlog comprises an ordered list of product requirements that a scrum team maintains for a product.
  • Sprint planning – a plan made before starting of sprint with all members for 4 hours
  • The development team is the core team that develops the product
  • Scrum Master is the one who takes development items from the product backlog, conducts the daily standup meeting, which is done every 24 hrs and maintains the sprint burndown chart
  • Daily scrum – Stand up meeting. Discuss yesterday’s work, today’s plan, and difficulties
  • Sprint burndown chart – The sprint burn-down chart is a public displayed a chart showing remaining work in the sprint backlog. Days in sprint vs Work remaining in each day.
  • Sprint Retrospective is done at the end of each sprint so that the stakeholders can understand how the product is getting shaped and feedback is given at the initial stage itself
  • Any changes in the backlog will be handled in the next sprint
  • Most of the software development adopts Scrum during the development stage.

Kanban

Kanban - Agile Framework
Source: https://www.atlassian.com
  • This is a lean and just-in-time development methodology adopted in manufacturing sectors for a long time and originated from Japan
  • A Kanban board is used to track the progress of the work
  • According to this, one person should be performing one activity at a time and once completed it must be moved to the next person
  • There are no defined roles in this methodology
  • There is no defined timeline-like sprints
  • This method focusses on the Work-in-progress items – number of items that are in progress at a time
  • Once an activity is done, it will be pushed to live continuously or as per the team’s discretion
  • Any changes in the requirement will be included for development immediately
  • This method can be used when the project is in maintenance mode with minor developments

Scrumban

Scrumban - Agile Framework
Source: https://www.digite.com
  • This takes the best of both Scrum and Kanban
    • Scrum + Kanban = Scrumban
  • This method uses the roles like Scrum
  • This has fixed length sprints like Scrum
  • This method uses the work-in-progress method like Kanban
  • In this method, the items for development is prioritized ahead of the sprint and shared with the stakeholders
  • If there are any changes in the priority, the item will be included in the sprint and some other planned item will be moved to the next sprint thus maintaining the work-in-progress items
  • This method includes the change in requirements within the sprint
  • This method can be used when the project is in maintenance mode and major development is ongoing

There are many other methods that are used across the world and there are many other methods that will be evolving (like Scrumban) as per the industry requirement. Any of the methodologies can be used until we are able to meet the customer’s expectation and satisfy them.

Leaning Tower of Pisa was a mistake but it became one of the wonders of the world. Not all mistakes will become a wonder and every project manager must remember this. Plan your project and keep monitoring it continuously so that you are building the right product in right time.

– Vishnu Praveen, Product Manager, Heptagon Technologies

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