Agile and Scrum – Continues Improvement

Agile and Scrum – Continues Improvement

As you might have seen on our Twitter feed, the whole Kyria team (along with two colleagues from CCL-Logistics), recently went on a 2-day Agile training workshop, which proved insightful, fun and very worthwhile. So, for this month’s blog post, we decided to write about Agile and Scrum, and our experiences of the workshop.

A bit of background

For several years now, Kyria has been using a management and control process called Scrum to manage the focus and distribution of work within the workplace. While Scrum has helped us to successfully deliver a wide variety of software projects during that time, there were aspects that were proving to be challenging and here at Kyria we’re always looking to improve and deliver even higher quality software in a shorter period of time. So we decided we needed some training!

Agile and Scrum

The Agile development process aims to deliver better software in a shorter period of time. A key aspect of Agile is to deliver and demo useable software to the customer (Product Owner) on a regular basis, with the priority of what gets worked on next being set by the Product Owner and based on what will produce the greatest Return on Investment (RoI).

Scrum (one of several frameworks for Agile development), is based around small groups of teams working closely together, with short daily meetings called Stand-ups. This allows constant feedback within the team on how tasks are going and what impediments are holding things up. Work cycles (Sprints) are set to a standard period of time, usually between 2 to 4 weeks. At the end of each Sprint, the team and Product Owner have three meetings.

The first meeting is a Sprint Planning meeting, where the work for the next sprint is decided. In preparation for the meeting, the Product Owner has worked with various members of the team to identify relatively small chunks of work, and has prioritised them based on their RoI for the business. A key part of this preparation is the definition of the acceptance tests that define how the team will know the work is fit-for-purpose. The whole team then confirms that the work is fully understood and then estimates how long each piece of work will take to complete. Work is added to the Sprint by the team until the Sprint is full. How you know it’s full is based on the Sprint Velocity of the team – and this is a topic that could be blog post all of its own!

The second meeting is the Sprint Review which happens at the end of a Sprint. The Sprint Review meeting is where the Product Owner and the team demo to the stakeholders the software that has been delivered in the last Sprint.

The third and final meeting in the Sprint is the Sprint Retrospective, where everyone talks about what went well in the last Sprint, what didn’t go well, and critically, what specific actions are needed to get better.  The improvement with the biggest return on investment is then added as a priority for implementing in the next sprint alongside the development work. The Sprint Retrospective is a key concept of Scrum and helps drive continuous improvement.

Training

Prior to the start of our 2-day workshop, everyone read Jeff Sutherland’s book on Scrum, which is a great entry point into Scrum for those who are new to it as well as providing useful clarification and instruction to even the most experienced Scrum practitioner.

Since everyone in the company was involved, we held the workshop in our own offices which gave us great flexibility. The workshop itself was run by David Putman from Agil8 and focused on all aspects of the Scrum process, from the planning and organising of Sprints to defining the roles and responsibilities of each member of the team. The course was as comprehensive as it was engaging. David’s enthusiasm for Agile and Scrum was contagious and his hands-on approach to teaching meant everyone got involved and felt included. We spent a lot of the time working in teams to tackle problems and come up with ideas and solutions for real projects that we are working on.

After the workshop, everyone felt energised to make changes to how they work and to more closely follow the approaches of Agile as outlined by David. One practical example of this is we have literally started to use post-it notes on the wall for the current sprint, rather than rely exclusively on Visual Studio Online. Having an actual physical working space forces greater collaboration and unity and provides a focus for the stand-ups.

Another key learning point is the value of direct communication, and we have now cancelled regular meetings held by phone and replaced them with face to face meetings in the office (and plenty of wall space for post-it notes).

The end result is a team that is even more motivated to harness the techniques of Agile and Scrum to deliver better software to the Product Owners. Kyria and CCL are now more focused than ever on “Return on Investment” as the key to prioritisation for both development work and continuous improvement actions. Thanks to this experience we’ve also re-affirmed our commitment to working in an atmosphere of collaboration and shared learning.

If you’re a team working in Agile/Scrum, we highly recommend taking a training course with Agil8.

Simon Heptinstall,

Marketing Officer.