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Quality Planning in Scrum Projects - 59 Seconds Agile
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Quality planning focuses on developing plans, processes, and validation touch points to deliver the highest value features with quality that meets the Definition of Done (DoD). Focusing on the highest priority items by minimizing or even eliminating lesser priority features allows a scrum team to deliver a product that maximizes the Return on Investment (ROI) and optimizes the user experience. 

Quality planning involves the creation of plans that manage the following components:

  • Feature prioritization during prioritization sessions of the product backlog
  • Sprint management with iterative planning
  • Quality Control and Assurance planning and
  • Coordination within Scaled Agile teams to avoid feature integration challenges.

These four components should lead to the elimination or reduction of technical debt in product delivery.  Technical debt involves the rework of code not properly delivered, that did not meet all Acceptance Criteria and is not scalable for future sprints or projects.

Quality planning in the management of technical debt maximizes the Return on Investment (ROI) of a commercial investment and end user satisfaction.

Quality Planning: Feature Management

Product backlog management is the foundation for delivery of the DoD. Technical debt as unnecessary feature development is a significant risk if the backlog is not prioritized frequently throughout an Agile scrum project. The Product Owner is responsible for defining the features and working through risk management, feature elaboration, and prioritization so that the highest value features are delivered first. The product owner will work with other members of the scrum team regularly as an ongoing activity. A few key activities that will take place after the initial planning of the backlog are:

  • Re-evaluation of features that may no longer be required
  • Addition of new features that stakeholders, the product owner or Scrum Development Team members have identified as being critical
  • Evaluation of prioritization of features
  • Updating estimates for delivery of features and
  • Evaluating feature epics to ensure that user stories can be delivered within one sprint.

Quality Planning: Sprint Management

The scrum team partners with the Scrum Product Owner to plan the user stories that will be included in each sprint. Successful execution of sprint planning involves the following items that should be outlined as part of quality planning:

  • Schedule the planning session to ensure that all members of the scrum team as well as the product owner are available
  • Ensure that the backlog items are prioritized and ready for review
  • The Agile Scrum Master should facilitate the ceremony keeping in mind that any dependencies should be reviewed in the Sprint Review Meeting
  • Encourage team members to call out risks so that they can be added to the risk register and managed accordingly and
  • Validate that the size of user stories selected are appropriately estimated and can be completed within the time box window of the sprint.

Sprints that are not well managed risk technical debt with incomplete features, user stories that were not properly estimated for delivery and failure in testing and retrospectives. Scrum teams are then at risk of reworking code that did not meet Acceptance Criteria.

Quality Control and Quality Assurance Planning

Quality planning creates outputs that become the basis for management of quality through processes and tasks referred to as control and assurance methodologies. This focuses on defining and management of the processes and ceremonies that allow the scrum team to meet the DoD. Those processes include:

  • Change Management – working to validate that all changes are appropriately vetted and included in the product backlog with approval from the Product Owner
  • Scope Management – evaluating requests for inclusion or exclusion of features using the correct ceremonies and not during the middle of sprint execution and
  • Inspect and Adapt – Agile Scrum focuses on delivering high quality features over documentation. Processes and ceremonies such as the sprint retrospective validate the delivery of features.

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Quality Assurance Planning is the set of activities that define how features will meet Acceptance Criteria that are in line with the DoD. There are three areas of focus for quality planning for assurance:

  • Firstly: Quality Factors – what are the top measures of success for each sprint that will meet the DoD and provide a shippable product
  • Secondly: Quality Criteria – by mapping the factors with the user stories for each sprint, define how the product will be tested and what the Acceptance Criteria will be and
  • Thirdly: Quality Metrics – what is the acceptable level of errors and how is this communicated for decision making on the DoD.

Following quality control processes and meeting the DoD through quality assurance provides significant benefits to reduce technical debt that will add to project costs and loss of scalable functionality.

Coordination with Scaled Agile Teams

Technical debt is at risk of significantly increasing in situations where an Agile program has multiple scrum teams delivering one or more product components. Coordination of features and activities are required. Continuous pipeline practices used by Scaled Agile Teams (SAFe) utilize the following processes to minimize technical debt among scrum teams:

  • Firstly: Continuous Exploration – continuous evaluation of the market and user needs by introducing features to satisfy them
  • Secondly: Continuous Integration – developing, testing, integrating and validating features from multiple scrum teams in a staging environment prior to deployment
  • Thirdly: Continuous Deployment – deploy features that have met exploration and integration Acceptance Criteria into an environment for release readiness and
  • Fourthly: Release on Demand – releasing features in using a well-developed process that takes into account the needs of the market and users as defined in the exploration phase.

Traditional project management methodologies risks incurring large amounts of technical debt. This process of delivery makes it difficult to quickly identify issues, risks and dependencies where conflicting or poorly designed integration techniques can lower the eventual value of the product delivered. Agile scrum’s quality planning model defines nimble processes that should be used throughout the iterations of the project to deliver high quality features that meet or exceed an organization’s ROI.

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