Sprint Backlog in Scrum

What is a Sprint Backlog? Is it a baseline, a record or a report? Baseline is a project document, which, defines aspects of the project and, once approved, is subject to change control. It is used to measure project’s actual performance as against planned targets. A record maintains information on the progress of the project. A report provides snapshots of the status of different aspects of a project at a given point of time or for a given duration.
To answer this question, we need to understand what a Sprint Backlog is, its purpose and composition. The Scrum Team creates the Sprint Backlog and Sprint Burndown Chart using the User Stories and the Effort Estimated Task List during Sprint Planning Meeting. During Sprint Planning Meeting, the User Stories, which are approved, estimated, and committed during the Approve, Estimate, and Commit User Stories process, are taken up for discussion by the Scrum Team. Each Scrum Team member also uses Effort Estimated Task List to select the tasks they plan to work on in the Sprint, based on their skills and experience. The list of the tasks to be executed by the Scrum Team in the upcoming Sprint is called the Sprint Backlog.
It is common practice in Scrum that the Sprint Backlog is represented on a Scrumboard or task board, which provides a constantly visible depiction of the status of the User Stories in the backlog. Also included in the Sprint Backlog are any risks associated with the various tasks. Any mitigating activities to address the identified risks would also be included as tasks in the Sprint Backlog. Once the Sprint Backlog is finalized and committed to by the Scrum Team, new user stories should not be added – however, tasks that might have been missed or overlooked from the committed user stories may need to be added. If new requirements arise during a Sprint, they will be added to the overall Prioritized Product Backlog and included in a future Sprint.
Another tool associated with the Sprint Backlog is the Sprint Burndown Chart. It is a graph that depicts the amount of work remaining in the ongoing Sprint. The initial Sprint Burndown Chart is accompanied by a planned burndown. The Sprint Burndown Chart should be updated at the end of each day as work is completed. This chart shows the progress that has been made by the Scrum Team and also allows for the detection of estimates that may have been incorrect. If the Sprint Burndown Chart shows that the Scrum Team is not on track to finish the tasks in the Sprint on time, the Scrum Master should identify any obstacles or impediments to successful completion, and try to remove them. A related chart is a Sprint Burnup Chart. Unlike the Sprint Burndown Chart which shows the amount of work remaining, the Sprint Burnup Chart depicts the work completed as part of the Sprint.
So, it is difficult to categorize the Sprint Backlog as a baseline, record or a report. And as Scrum professes minimum documentation, Sprint Backlog fulfills purposes of more than one project document. For more information on Scrum framework, you can read the Scrum Body of Knowledge (SBOK Guide). It can be downloaded for free in SCRUMstudy website: http://www.scrumstudy.com/download-free-buy-SBOK.asp
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Importance of Facebook Marketing

Sales and Marketing has evolved significantly over time going from the Barter System of 1000 years ago to Traditional Marketplaces, Seller’s Marketplaces, Conventional Mass-media Marketing, Fragmented New-age Marketing to today where Internet enabled business models have helped marketing evolved further.
In the past through our blogs, we’ve touched upon this evolution. In this blog, we will focus on the internet enabled modes of marketing specifically Facebook Marketing. With most customers now continuously spending their time online, businesses globally have understood the value of targeting them through the online mode. While the traditional methods of targeting i.e. TV, Radio, Newspapers etc. help is reaching to a larger audience fast, they are ineffective in terms of targeting a specific segment of the audience.
If a business wants to target a specific audience segment, you need to create a customer persona and then set-up filters to target and find the relevant audience. To target relevant audiences, Facebook helps you segment your audiences using these filters:
  • Location: Reach customers by City, Country, even Postcode
  • Demographics: Target people based on demographics like age, gender, relationship status, education, workplace and more
  • Interests: Define your ideal audience by their interests, hobbies and Pages they like on Facebook. This may be based on their listed interests, activities, education, job titles, Pages they like or groups to which they belong.
  • Behaviours: Reach people based on their purchasing behaviour, device usage and other activities
Besides these regular segments, Facebook has two advanced filters known as Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences.
Custom Audiences: Custom Audiences let you reach customers you already know with ads on Facebook. If you have developed a list of customer emails or acquired such customer data from your site, you can upload this list of email addresses or phone numbers to develop a custom audiences profile. Once you upload this list onto Facebook, you would be able to reach out to these customers on the facebook network and target them using your product advertisements. You can also build audiences from the people that visit your website or from people who use your mobile app. You can create a maximum of 10,000 Custom Audiences for those from your website or mobile app. Now while custom audiences might help you advertise to this list of audiences who have already purchased your product in the past, this is not really a good use of your investment as you can also target this audience by doing a simple (and almost free) email campaign. The real advantage of Custom Audiences is that it helps you expand your business over the Facebook network through Lookalike Audiences.
Lookalike Audiences: Lookalike Audiences helps you create new audiences based on traits from one of the following sources:
  • Custom Audiences: As we’ve seen before, you can upload a list of your existing customers using Custom Audiences. The benefit of this is that we can then use Lookalike Audiences to find people who resemble that audience. Since the custom audiences have already bought from you, Facebook would be able to match their interests, and other characteristics to get you a bigger audience with the same profile. This would help you reach out to a wider audience who are more likely to buy your product.
  • Website visitors: Like Google Adwords, Facebook also allows users to track visits to your website. You can install a Facebook Pixel on your site which would help facebook track the profile and behavior of this particular user. Then based on the profile of people visiting your website, we can create Lookalike Audiences to help you reach to a wider audience.
  • Page fans: People who like your brand’s page on Facebook are typical evangelists for your brand. Facebook allows you to use Lookalike Audiences to create an audience based on people who like your Page with the belief that the Lookalike Audiences will also exhibit similar behavior to this audience.
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Creating Content For Social Media

In social media channels, high quality content is the first priority, followed by content distribution. Companies worldwide invest large sums to create quality content, but in many cases, the content is not distributed properly. Audiences neither find nor share it. A good Content Creation and Distribution Plan for social media marketing will ensure that a company’s content is relevant, timely, and well written and that it reaches the target audience using the optimal means as determined by the digital marketing team.
One of the major debates regarding content creation is between content quality and quantity—how much content is enough and how good does it need to be?
Content creation should ideally start by defining a quantity goal and a publishing schedule with appropriate deadlines. Once the publishing schedule is finalized, focus should be on the quality for each piece of content being distributed.
Some of the different types of content that can be created for the various social media elements are as follows:
  • Status updates—for professional and personal sharing websites
  • Photos—for professional and personal sharing websites
  • Videos—for audio-visual sharing, professional, and personal sharing websites
  • Infographics—for blogs, discussion forums, and professional sharing websites
  • Polls—for blogs, professional, and personal sharing websites
  • Quizzes—for blogs, professional, and personal sharing websites
  • Contests—for blogs, discussion forums, and professional sharing websites
It is also important to note that both the relevance of content and the relevance of type of content depend on the nature of the business. For example, quizzes are more relevant for companies in the education sector than for other industries such as manufacturing or airline.
In addition to good quality content, an effective social media plan must have a good distribution strategy. The content should be shared through the company’s own blog as well as other company pages on various social media sharing sites. Businesses must also ensure that there are ways for their target audiences to like, comment, and share the original content created by the company.
The following figure shows a sample of the structure of a Content Creation and Distribution Plan.
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Essential Characteristics of SCRUM Team

In a Scrum project, it is the Scrum Team members who are responsible for delivering the desired product or service and not the Scrum. Hence, we should be careful in forming the Scrum Teams.

“The Scrum Team is sometimes referred to as Development Team since they are responsible for developing the product, service or other results. It consists of a group of individuals who the user stories in the Sprint Backlog to create deliverables for the project”. – SBOK 2013 Edition.

The essential characteristics of a Scrum Team for delivering the desired project results are described below:

Self-Organized: The scrum team members are motivated individuals who do not wait for their superiors to assign the tasks. They take the responsibility, share the risk, take decision, and work collectively towards a common goal.

Empowered: The Scrum Team or the development team is supplied with the required resources to deliver the desired products or services along with the authority to take the decisions. If the team has only the responsibility but no authority to take decisions, the continuous/iterative development is difficult.

Collaboration: Project management is a shared value creation process with teams working and interacting together to deliver greatest value. The scrum team should share the knowledge, ideas, risk and responsibilities, and work in harmony with the team members to deliver desired results.

Shared Goal: The individuals within the team should work collectively towards a common goal. The team goal should superimpose their individual goals like growth, appraisal, and money.    

Optimum Size: A small Scrum team may not have the required skill to develop the product or service and a large Scrum team may spoil the work as the collaboration within the team will be difficult. As defined in the SBOK, the optimum size of the Scrum team should be six to ten. This will ensure that, the Scrum team is large enough to possess necessary skills to deliver the project and small enough to collaborate.

Diverse Skills: The Scrum Team should collectively possess the necessary skills to deliver the project deliverables. During scrum team formation the team members should be selected keeping in mind the skills required to deliver the project deliverables.

Collocated: It is advised to form a Scrum team with the members collocated. This ensures collaboration and coordination within the team members.

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Importance of SCRUM for HR

The Scrum Book of Knowledge defines Scrum as an adaptive, iterative, fast and flexible methodology designed to quickly deliver significant value during a project. Scrum ensures transparency in communication and creates an environment of collective accountability and continuous progress. Interestingly, applying Scrum successfully in a project also requires the human resource management practices of the organization where it is being implemented, to be in sync with Scrum.

In Scrum, there are two types of roles:

Core Roles: They are involved in creating the product of the project, are committed to the project, and ultimately are responsible for the success of the project.

Non-core Roles: They are non-compulsory team members, who have an interest in the project, may interface with the team, but may not be responsible for the overall success of the project. The non-core roles should also be taken into account in any Scrum project.

Typically, most organizations find it hard to discard Taylor’s scientific management theory. But to make Scrum teams work successfully, the HR has to give the cross-functional team a sense of responsibility and the control. After all, Scrum teams are expected to be self-motivated. They collaborate extensively to build products according to User Stories (users’ requirements), may a time negotiating with the Product Owner who is ultimately responsible for the Scrum team’s business decisions. Whilst executing a typical sprint, team members develop a sense of co-ownership as they set shared goals and learn how to manage each other in order to achieve them. But self-organizations of Scrum teams may be questioned when the team members are effected by performance appraisals, trying to impress managers, incentive schemes. This serves as a roadblock to Scrum’s core reasons of success: product-requirement alignment, feedback, self-motivation and morale. Along with the Scrum Master, it is also the HR’s job to help the Scrum team members to achieve their aims.

Another area where the HR’s role is important is during the appointment of the Scrum Master. The Scrum Master is the servant leader of the Scrum Team. He moderates and facilitates their interactions. He is responsible for solving their problems and ensuring the Scrum Team has a productive environment to work in. He guards the Scrum team from external influences and enforces Scrum processes. He also acts as the Scrum Team’s coach and motivator. Hence, it is important to find the right candidate for the job. One of the most common mistakes an HR makes when helping select the Scrum Master is that he ends up assuming that a manager is the default choice for the Scrum Master. Managers usually work in a boss-subordinate leadership style rather than being a servant leader. So when a manager is appointed as a Scrum Master for a team that includes his subordinates, they continue to regard the Scrum Master as a manager rather than managing the Scrum Team between themselves.

The Product Owner, on the other hand, requires a certain level of authority associated with his role. As Product Owners, the managers tend to get better results for each sprint out of their subordinates.

Effective Scrum requires longstanding, cross-functional teams. Progressive HR policies will allow Scrum teams to handpick their own members within these restrictions.

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All About Agile Testing

Coding and testing stages are not isolated ones but well integrated ones in Agile development. The development toward every user story commences through written business-interfacing experiments that enables the team the ‘what part’ regarding coding and also the juncture when the tasks are being completed with.

Professionals in the field of testing, analysis and development interface with stakeholders from the business side for extracting instances of preferred and unwanted manners for every single user story and aspect, and then transforming them into tests which are executable. This is known as Acceptance Test-Driven Development (ATDD) or Specification by Example. The team which is responsible for development will then work in partnership with their customers to choose the specific user story aligning customer expectations apropos the delivery part. User stories will be corroborated upon cracking the different functional, automated functional and manual probing tests.

Time is an important element which should be made inclusive for the whole activities related with testing toward user story estimates. This can include automated testing and manual probing testing. Inexperienced Scrum teams frequently and habitually over promise or goes overboard with their commitment part in terms of extra work planning compared to what they could feasibly do. Testing then gets hard-pressed in the end in the absence of features, due to this undesirable characteristic of the team simply because of the arrival of sprint on the last day. The result – mass demise of user stories hauled from one iteration to the subsequent one without the testing professionals being able to conduct their tests.

Focusing on completing each story at a specified time is a good way to handle this problem.

Necessary role inclusion for comprehending the various customer requirements and delivering good quality oriented software is a benefit that Agile teams possess inherently. Agile teams find the much needed opportunity through their varied experiences and assortment of abilities which help them in traversing different approaches toward supporting business participants in outlining their requirements. They are able to do it through tangible examples provided to the stakeholders and then interpreting the same into experiments certifying the ‘done part’ aimed at every user story along with their features.

Customers are pleased with the outcome pertaining to as an effort of the team – interacting and coordinating with the business teams, taking out the much needed time to plan for evidencing the aspects are done with as per requirements outlined. Newer Agile teams must pool in time to search for different means to comprehend the requisites of customers so that they can interpret those requisites into well conducted experiments which will outline software development. That will bring in maturity in terms of experience and doing things in a speedy manner efficiently and effectively.

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What is Planning Poker?

Planning poker is combination of analogy, expert opinion, and disaggregation in a fun way so that it will result quick and reliable estimates. All the team members are included in planning poker. On any agile project, you will have typically ten team members or less. If it does, the team can be split in twos. Then estimation is done independently by each team. The PO participates in planning poker but he or she doesn’t estimate.

At the beginning, each team member is handed deck of cards. All the cards are marked with a valid estimation number. Each member will be given a deck that reads a number series. The most popular of these estimation numbers are Fibonacci numbers. (1,2,3,5 ,8,13,2, 34,55 and so on). The cards are prepared before the planning poker meeting.

Then a moderator describes each of the user stories or theme that team is planning to estimate. Though generally the product owner acts as a Moderator, anyone can be a moderator. No special privilege or role is associated with the moderator. The product owner will answer all questions that the team members have.

The goal of estimation is to be somewhere on the left of the actual effort line. Important thing to remember is that this process is not about deriving an estimate that will resist all future inspection.

After all the queries are resolved, each team member selects a card that represents their estimation. Each estimator has to make a selection before Cards can be visible to everyone. Cards are kept private until everyone has estimated. Then the cards are turned over at the same time.
Then, all cards are instantaneously spun over and displayed so that all estimators can see each estimate. Chances are that these estimates will differ significantly. In that case, the high and low estimators will explain their estimates. The focus of this process is not to attack these estimators but to learn on what basis these estimations were assigned.

After this discussion, each team member will re-estimate by selecting a card. The earlier mentioned process will be followed again. Chances are that the estimates will meet by the subsequent round. Continue to repeat the process until all the estimators converge on a single estimate that can be used for the story. Very rarely it takes more than three rounds. Continue this process until estimates are moving closer together and they everyone converges on a single estimate.

 

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