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What are the Scrum Team Processes that help Agile Projects Deliver more Value? Development teams following the Agile Scrum framework use specific ceremonies and are part of a larger feedback loop that focuses on delivering value early and often via the inspect and adapt principles of scrum. A scrum team is composed of individuals who do not necessarily hold titles but, do have specific skills such as quality assurance analysts, software engineers, UI/UX designers, software business analysts, and software developers.

Scrum Team Delivery

Agile scrum teams are responsible for delivery of all components of the requested product. These teams provide value by:

  • Providing feedback on the features being requested during the product backlog refinement session
  • Defining the velocity of work that can be completed to give realistic expectations
  • Committing to the delivery of a high quality, shippable product during the execution timeline
  • Leading user feedback sessions on the shippable product developed in each sprint so that the product owner, stakeholders and sponsors can evaluate features in measurable increments.

Strong Agile scrum teams are champions of the inspect and adapt model, even utilizing this in measurement of their performance. 

Scrum Team Processes: Product Backlog Refinement

The product owner has responsibility for the creation of the product backlog. Some organizations go straight from backlog creating to sprint planning meetings. Eliminating the backlog refinement ceremony can lead to elongated sprint planning ceremonies. Complex user stories and a lack of dependency mapping between features are casual factors that will develop if the scrum team is not taped to provide input and value by using this ceremony.  The scrum team leads the way in developing user stories that prescribe to a just-in-time analysis with features that can be effectively delivered. During the refinement sessions scrum teams:

  • Evaluate feature feasibility and provide recommendations to the product owner.
  • Refine user stories into manageable components that can be aligned in a roadmap by highest value priority.
  • Assign story points for use in determining the potential velocity that the team can effectively deliver to. 
  • Refine feature prioritization by identifying user stories scheduled for later in the delivery cycle where there are dependencies. This works to minimize technical debt that can hinder delivery of value later in the life of product development.

A team can and should consider having multiple product backlog refinement sessions. The first 2-3 sprints can be well defined, leaving higher level user stories for future evaluation. This is a more effective use of time, allowing the product owner, and scrum team flexibility to remove or significantly alter upcoming features as needed.

Scrum Team Processes: Sprint Planning

Scrum teams deliver significant value in the acceptance of user stories for sprints through negotiation with the product owner designed to meet organizational goals for the sprint. The product owner is responsible for defining the priority that user stories have for feature delivery. It is not assumed that all user stories that the product owner requests will be in the requested sprint. It is the responsibility of the scrum team to only accept the work that they can reasonably and responsibility deliver without incurring technical debt. Scrum teams use story points to evaluate the velocity by which a team can reasonably produce high quality deliveries. Minimizing technical debt is also a key component of the value that scrum teams deliver. A strong team will evaluate the feasibility of user stories to deliver:

  • The specific feature requested.
  • Minimal complexity in definition.
  • Acceptance criteria required to validate the shippable product delivered.

Accepting highly complex user stories without evaluation can lead to incomplete sprint deliverables and re-work in future sprints.

Sprint Execution

During the execution of the sprint, it is the scrum team who is front and center. This team is responsible for delivering to the objectives of the goal. Objectives are defined as concrete features that have been broken into user stories for delivery. For example, a feature could be to input data into an ordering system. Trust and commitment are key items in achieving delivery goals. Value is not only about completion of user stories.

Trustworthy scrum team members speak up early if there is a challenge in delivering a high-quality feature and enlist their Agile Scrum Master in resolution. These individuals will also step in to complete accepted user stories for the completion of the sprint goals.  In keeping with the spirit of inspect and adapt software is reviewed as code is completed, not necessarily as the full feature is completed. The objective is to meet the goals of the sprint.

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Scrum Team Processes: Sprint Review

At the end of a sprint, the sprint team facilitates a discussion with the Scrum Product Owner, interested stakeholders and the sponsor to review the goals defined to be accomplished with this round of shippable features. Most review sessions include some type of demonstration of the features delivered. This is particularly true with software development projects. The inspect and adapt principles stressed in Agile Scrum are on display in a continual feedback loop by the Scrum Development Team during this review. During the ceremony scrum team members:

  • Review each user story as input to the desired goals of the sprint.
  • Demonstrate how the functionality has been interpreted.
  • Use this time to collaboratively discuss delivery of the shippable product as defined by the goals of the sprint.

Items that are not approved can be adapted for approval during the Sprint Review meeting.  User stories can also be moved back to the product backlog for further discussion to determine future viability and need.

Sprint Retrospective

The sprint retrospective is where the scrum team provides data used to inspect and adapt processes involved in delivering the product. The scrum team may realize that they need additional team skills or to modify the estimation process. Team members have an opportunity to identify what worked well. The scrum master and product owner are participants in the review. While they provide input, it is the scrum team members who have the best vantage point for improvements.

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Team members discuss processes that may need improvement and are expected to review their delivery effectiveness. Areas of conflict should be dealt with during a retrospective. Addressing issues immediately after a sprint as input to the next sprint ensures additional success and reinforces the self-forming nature of the team. The retrospective is designed to embrace team ownership. It is up to the scrum team to carry forward with the implementation of improvements following this collaborative discussion.

Scrum teams bring value throughout the lifecycle of the product delivery. This value is evident starting with the product backlog and continuing iteratively through the sprint retrospective.  

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