Module 1: Week 1: Time Management and Agile Development

I have been quite apprehensive about this blog post. I have decided to apply the Agile philosophy of Fail Fast so that I can employ continuous improvement to my learning and practice. 

During my career, I have experienced a few different delivery methodologies and practices including Prince II, Waterfall, Scrum, SAFE, and a hybrid model.    

Waterfall 

The Waterfall approach is most suitable when requirements are fixed and in a low variability environment. It is a linear sequential phased approach, where each distinct phase must be completed before the next phase can commence. Detailed in the diagram below:

Waterfall Methodology in Software Development

The Advantages of Waterfall:

  • Clear delineation of departmental responsibility
  • The framework is simple to understand.  
  • Management of progress can be tracked through each stage using the deliverables.
  • Milestones clear and understood.
  • Strong governance: process and results are clearly documented.

The Disadvantages of Waterfall based on my experience:

  • The benefits can only be realised post the deployment phase.
  • There is no customer feedback loop
  • Introducing change once a project is in flight is subject to rigorous change control before it can be incorporated into the project/programme.
  • When working on a programme or portfolio of projects the Waterfall approach can sometimes lead to bottlenecks when products are released in a short timeframe or single “Go Live” putting pressure on testing & release management, and sometimes resulting in integration issues due to the volume and complexity of change introduced. This can increase cost and time post-deployment.
  • I have observed that Project Managers and delivery teams tend to be rolled off the project once the deployment is complete, which can impact the transition to business as usual and benefits realisation. Once the delivery team has been redeployed there is a lack of accountability. 
  • I have also experienced a reluctance to change even if a project is not performing as planned and desired outcomes are not being achieved. I think this is due to the time and effort allocated to the initial phases of the Waterfall SDLC, and a reluctance to throw away work even if it is the right decision for the business. 

Agile/Scrum 

In the Agile project management approach, the project is broken down into smaller components to deliver the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The delivery is iterative which facilitates a faster release to market and creates a customer feedback loop.  Detailed in the diagram below:

The recommended Agile framework for practice during the course is Scrum. 

The Scrum framework (Schwaber and Sutherland, n.d.) or simply Scrum, is an iterative and incremental Agile framework, which is based on three pillars of empirical process control, Transparency, Inspection, and Adaptation.” (Measey, 2015)

Scrum Roles & Responsibilities: 

Scrum Master: Facilitates the Scrum meetings, ensures processes are followed, provides coaching, and supports organisational change. Can unblock issues or escalate issues if beyond the control of the Scrum Team.  ( Measey, 2015)

Product Owner:  Defines and prioritises the Product Backlog Items (PBI) and specifies features to be included in the PBIs. Ensures that value is delivered, and Return on Investment is realised. Aligns the business vision with the Sprint Team vision. Sets goals for the sprints and releases and is responsible for acceptance of the goals and sprints.  (Measey, 2015)

Delivery Team: Comprises of a cross-functional team of specialists that are needed to deliver the PBI. The team is Self-Organising and decide on how to deliver the sprint goal. Regular communication ideally face to face is critical for the delivery team.  (Measey, 2015)

Sprints

The development is timeboxed into sprints with a maximum one-month duration. The sprint commences with a Sprint Planning meeting to select the PBIs for that sprint cycle. Once selected the PBI are broken down further to create a sprint backlog with tasks or user stories.  (Measey, 2015)

Each Sprint comprises a cycle of design, implementation, integration, testing, and documentation. The Sprint is concluded with Sprint Reviews and Retrospective meetings.  (Measey, 2015)

Sprint Review

The Sprint Review is a demonstration or review of the PBI that has been delivered during the Sprint Cycle and how the item fits with the overall product vision. It provides an opportunity for external stakeholders to give feedback.  (Measey, 2015)

Retrospective 

The Retrospective is an internal meeting for this Sprint Team to reflect on what went well, what didn’t go well, and what can be done next time to improve performance or collaboration.  (Measey, 2015)

Product Backlog 

The product backlog consists of requirements defined by external stakeholders.  (Measey, 2015)

Sprint Planning 

The product owner sets the Sprint goal this is then divided into technical tasks that the Delivery Team will apply estimates to. The development team will take ownership of the Sprint backlog till this Sprint Goal is achieved.  (Measey, 2015)

Daily Scrum

The daily scrum is a time-boxed meeting for 15 minutes and is used so to adapt daily planning. The following items are discussed:

– what I did yesterday 

– what I plan to do today 

– what got in my way  (Measey, 2015)

Advantages of Scrum based on my experience:

When working in E-commerce I felt that Scrum was the most effective methodology for successful project delivery. This was due to the pace of change in the market and the need to be able to adapt, respond and correct any issues introduced by change. The iterative development and releases meant that benefits could be realised earlier, and customer feedback and analytics could be utilised by the Product Owners to inform the backlog and prioritisation. 

Disadvantages of Scrum based on my experience:

The drawback with Scrum is that all levels of an organisation must be brought on board and fully supportive. When there are multiple sprint teams in a portfolio or programme it is harder to create a rolled-up view for management. Burndown charts and velocity are good measures of an individual team but as each team will have its approach to estimation and the size of a story point, it is not possible to do side by side comparisons of performance.

Conclusion:

I am hoping to apply adapted Scrum practices during the course as I take on the roles of Scrum Master and Development Team for my MA. I plan to implement the following: 

– Creating a Product Backlog from the course material. 

– Create Sprint Backlog using a Kanban board. 

– Communication: Although it will not be possible today Daily Scrums I will use the comments in canvas, emails to the course tutors, peer feedback, and Webinars.

– The Critical Reflective Journal to document Retrospectives.

– Continuous improvement: I will use feedback to improve my practice. 

Why is Agile/Scrum a good fit for this course

Scrum is the most prevalent Agile methodology used in industry for software development so utilising the framework will provide a good experience for future career opportunities. 

Time Management 

To help me break down the weekly tasks and keep on top of time management I have set up a Kanban board on Trello. I have also adjusted my childcare arrangements, so I have time for work after the weekly tutorial. 

I think I will need to reflect on time management as I have spent longer than I intended on Week 1 activities. 

Sources:

Measey, P., 2015. Agile foundations. 1st ed. Swindon, UK: BCS Learning & Development.

Sood, P. ,2018. Crucial Advantages & Disadvantages of Agile Scrum Methodology – Code Briefly. [online] Code Briefly. Available at: <https://codebriefly.com/crucial-advantages-disadvantages-of-agile-scrum-methodology/&gt; [Accessed 2 February 2021].

Gurendo, D., 2020. Scrum Methodology Phases which Help in Agile SDLC Process: 5 Key Steps. [online] XB Software. Available at: <https://xbsoftware.com/blog/software-development-life-cycle-sdlc-scrum-step-step/&gt; [Accessed 2 February 2021].

Tutorialspoint.com. n.d. SDLC – Waterfall Model – Tutorialspoint. [online] Available at: <https://www.tutorialspoint.com/sdlc/sdlc_waterfall_model.htm#:~:text=The%20Waterfall%20Model%20was%20the%20first%20Process%20Model,and%20there%20is%20no%20overlapping%20in%20the%20phases.&gt; [Accessed 2 February 2021].

UKEssays. November 2018. Waterfall Methodology in Software Development. [online]. Available from: https://www.ukessays.com/essays/computer-science/waterfall-methodology-in-software-development.php?vref=1 [Accessed 2 February 2021].

Lucidchart.com. n.d. What the Waterfall Project Management Methodology Can (and Can’t) Do for You. [online] Available at: <https://www.lucidchart.com/blog/waterfall-project-management-methodology&gt; [Accessed 2 February 2021].

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