The word ‘agile’ according to the English Dictionary means to be able to move quickly and easily. This is exactly the purpose of the Agile methodology, to be able to move through the software development process quickly and easily. This is why software development companies choose to embrace Agile methodologies.
According to the statistics provided by betanews here, a whopping 97% of them use Agile.
The purpose of Agile is not only to increase the frequency and speed but also to keep a balance of all things that concern the process. For eg. along with Software Development, Software Testing processes are also given equal importance and recommended to be iteratively done in each sprint.
As Agile software development allows frequent iterative deliveries of the product into the market, it helps accommodate changes based on feedback from the actual users from time to time. These changes can be implemented and delivered in subsequent iterations helping the product mature iteration after iteration.
Though there are multiple types of agile methodologies that are prevalent in software development organizations, the most widely used one is Scrum. So in this article, we will talk specifically about the best practices followed under the Agile Scrum methodology.
Agile software development also aims to provide flexibility hence it is highly likely that in a bid to accommodate it according to the company culture and processes the essence of it may have been forgotten.
Now, let’s review the Agile Scrum methodology best practices below to make sure this methodology is being used to achieve the best results.
1. Coherent Development and Testing teamsIn teams following Agile Scrum methodology, there should not be a demarcation line between DEV and QA teams. The developers, testers and the scrum master are supposed to be considered a part of one team performing their respective responsibilities to make the product a success.
Here, every sprint targets making a deliverable ready and the Development and QA work together to get it into a shape that can be reviewed by the customer while the scrum master makes sure that the team focuses on the most important tasks and gets them done on time.
2. Increased involvement of QASince Agile methodology advocates working on the product in iterations in every cycle, testing also needs to be done in iterations. The target is to test the work done by developers in the same sprint. Thus, QA needs to be involved from the beginning of each sprint in all the user-stories understanding sessions and the sprint demos as well.
Making QA participate in the early stages ensures a reduced number of bugs in the later stages of development. Keeping QA involved since the start also means no big surprises for the end.
3. Highlighting risks & roadblocksAgile methodology encourages teams to account for any distractions that may come up during an iteration in advance. During Scrum, at times, the team may skip elucidating the risks and roadblocks while planning for the sprint and get overwhelmed with the sprint backlog, high priority bugs or some urgent customer enhancement requests during the sprint.
Thus, to avoid any end moment surprises, the delivery team should try to estimate the efforts that may go into dealing with the risks and roadblocks and prepare plans for end deliverables accordingly.
4. More frequent collaboration in the teamAgile methodology recommends short meetings daily between the teams. These meetings help in re-evaluating the team’s progress every single day and adjusting the sprint goal accordingly.
In Scrum, there are standup meetings daily. These meetings help in managing the focus of the delivery team as any blockers can be flagged and handled the same day they are encountered. The team members are also able to gather information about each other’s progress and are encouraged to share their inhibitions if any.
5. Velocity ChecksThe concept of Agile helps in knowing the capacity of the team in being able to deliver the user stories. It’s often calculated by measuring the number of user stories that have been achieved by the team during the initial 3-4 iterations.
This helps the project team forecast the number of user stories that the team is capable of delivering and helps in preparing further sprint backlogs efficiently based on the capability measured by velocity metric earlier.
6. Limited or zero deviation in Sprint BacklogAgile enforces that there should be zero or limited changes in the sprint backlog to keep the team focused and ensure timely delivery unless some very urgent bug or feature needs to be accommodated.
In Scrum Methodology, a substantial amount of effort is put on planning this during sprint planning meetings to ensure that only the agreed-upon user stories/tasks are being taken up during the iteration.
7. Keeping the product and sprint backlog separateThe product backlog is the complete list of tasks that need to be done till the product is ready for final release while sprint backlog is the set of tasks that will be taken up in a certain sprint.
The idea is to separate the exhaustive list of product features and user stories from its subset that is to be implemented in any particular sprint. Doing this makes a clear demarcation between what the delivery team is expected to implement as a whole over multiple sprints and what the team is expected to deliver post a sprint.
8. User Story Prioritization & Timeboxing Tasks It’s always recommended to prioritize user stories and features based on the business value being offered by them and the risks that are involved in implementing them. This approach enables the product owner and other stakeholders to estimate the financial value associated with each user story and the user story with the highest financial value can be realized earlier.
Timeboxing the tasks or the user stories helps in remaining aligned and accountable towards its completion which otherwise can run for an indefinite amount of time if not done.
9. Customer Involvement after every sprintOne of the main motives of following agile is getting the product ready for the customer in iterations and getting feedback during all such iterations. Agile can only be successful when taking feedback from the client or the customer after every sprint is given the importance it deserves.
10. Automated Regression Test Suites
Multiple iterations on the same product based on customer’s feedback results in multiple changes being incorporated and that also means a lot of time spent executing the same sanity and regression suites multiple times. Agile encourages having these sanity and regression suites automated. Having these tests automated significantly reduces the time and effort that goes in repetitive testing due to frequent code commits. Read why you need to automate Regression Tests.
11. Estimate via Planning a Poker Estimates play an important part in making Agile methodology successful. In scrum methodology, There are dedicated Sprint Planning meetings at the start of every sprint to ensure that no overestimation or under-estimation of tasks happen and the team stays close to their goals throughout the sprint. Agile teams do better estimates when the planning poker technique is used which also serves as a team-building activity.
During the planning and estimation meeting, corresponding to a task each estimator has to pull a card with numbers assigned like 0, 1, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20… representing the complexity of the task being discussed. The complexity of a task is directly proportional to the time that will be spent completing it.
All the cards are pulled simultaneously by all the team members. if the value that shows up on all the pulled cards is the same, it becomes an estimate. If not, the team members have a discussion wherein the highest and lowest number estimator has to give a reasoning for their selection. Again there is another round of cards selection and this goes on till all the estimators agree on a particular estimate.
12. Using Burndown charts Agile utilizes the burndown charts in every sprint to assess the amount of work remaining at any particular time. It’s a graph with days on x-axis and work remaining on Y-axis and a slant line from top-left to bottom-right is an ideal graph as the work remaining keeps decreasing with the days in a sprint. Most of the scrum management tools provide such a chart for tracking.
13. Implementing Continuous Integration Agile Scrum methodology works well when there is continuous feedback for the development tasks. Continuous Integration is especially helpful in enabling continuous feedback. Not only building the software every time a commit is there, but continuous integration should also include testing the build every time such that any discrepancy or issue is caught at the earliest.
Thus, for an organization that opts to implement Agile Scrum methodology for their software development and wants to achieve quick and frequent releases to the market, the above best practices are followed.