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JGilmartin - Implementing Agile Software Development Practices for your business

How can you effectively manage the ever-changing requirements of your software? Are you using the best tools across your development and product teams? Are you successful at planning and delivering a new requirement or solution?
I have worked with Agile teams for a number of years. I’ve seen many variations of Scrum and Agile working practises, some working better than others. Below I describe the agile process I feel works well with a team that consists of developers, product/project managers and QA/Testers. However, I can introduce a tailored version of Agile Software Development that will fit your team regardless if its size and skills resource.

When working with agile software development, the work throughout the year is broken up into Sprints. The lengths of sprints can vary from different businesses but in general they are 2, 3 or 4 weeks in length. I recommend a Sprint of 3 weeks which equates to 17 – 18 Sprints throughout the year.

At the end of the previous Sprint the team would conduct a grooming session. This is a meeting where the product team present in detail new and existing requirements from the product backlog. The backlog items would be added by the product team as User Stories. User Stories are generally worded so that a developer can read it as a story and implement a solution based on its user journey. A typical example would be “as a user I want to be able to complete the contact form and for both the customer and business to receive a confirmation email”. The aim of this meeting is for the development team to agree which User Stories can be realistically delivered in the next Sprint.

Straight after the grooming session the developers would have a meeting to technically plan the User Stories. Working with me as your Architect or Tech Lead, each User Story would be assigned a number of tasks which form the technical development required to achieve the goal of the user story. Each task which will be individually assigned to developers.

Each day the team would gather for the daily stand-up where each team member describes what they did yesterday, what they will do today and any blockers or issues they have. The purpose is for everyone standing to ensure it doesn’t flow into a long project meeting. Ideally the duration of the Stand-up should be no longer than 15 – 20 minutes, depending on the size of the team.

Delivery is a key phrase which can mean different things mainly due to the availability of resources in your team. Delivery of a task/user story in relation to a sprint from my perspective is code tested and merged to the production branch ready to be deployed or awaiting sign off from QA. For smaller teams where deployment is part of their responsibilities then delivery would refer to the live release of a given Task/User Story.
To keep developers working on new functionally, each week of the Sprint developers are nominated to be on Shield. This is a separate backlog of bugs that essentially “Shield” Developers in the team from having to stop delivering new functionality and concentrate on existing bugs. Shield tasks are added by QA and product team but this is solely dependent on the resources in the team. As the Sprint progresses any bugs the QA or Dev team find are added to the Shield Backlog and arranged by severity.
I would always recommend VSTS (Visual Studio Team Services) now known as Azure DevOps for Agile Project management. This is a Full SaaS (Software as a Service) solution that features User Stories, Tasks, Bug management, Sprint Backlogs and visualized scrum boards. VSTS also offers reports and burndown graphs so business leaders can see the ROI and rate of delivery. This is in addition to all the DevOps features available. So it’s a no brainer for a Dev team to use it regardless if your primary technology is Microsoft based or not.

Implement Agile Software Development

By implementing Agile Methodologies both your development and product teams will be better prepared and organized for ever changing requirements. I will introduce you to Azure DevOps which provides the very best agile project management features.

Easily report on team productivity

Its simple to report on the time your developers have spent on user stores, tasks and bugs. Get a full picture of the current Sprint with a visualised backlogs and burndown graphs.

Agile and DevOps features in a single SaaS Solution

By using Azure DevOps you have a full SaaS (Software as a Service) solution that covers everything from Agile methodologies, task management to Automated Deployments, Source Control and branch management.

Plan better with Standups, Sprint Planning and Retros.

Understand the current issues and learn from previous mistakes by conducting daily stand-up’s, technical planning sessions and Sprint Retrospectives.