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This is the second in a series of blogs about our upcoming textbook called Introduction to Agile Methods that I have written with Sondra Ashmore. The first blog spotlighted Roles and our second post was a guest blog by Sondra on Agile in Academics. I hope these blogs inspire you to want to read the whole book! Pre-orders are available on Amazon right now – just search Introduction to Agile Methods by Sondra Ashmore and Kristin Runyan. The chapter spotlight for this post concerns Requirements and how they are approached very differently in Agile, as opposed to Waterfall. Within Agile, the terms around requirements include User Stories, Epics, Acceptance Criteria, Personas, Release Management and much more. The excerpt that I have chosen to share here addresses a particularly challenging aspect of managing requirements and priorities – Customer Specific Code Requests. First, here are the learning objectives for the chapter.
- Recognize the differences between Agile and Waterfall with regard to requirements gathering and documentation
- Understand the format used within Scrum for user stories, including epics and acceptance criteria
- Explore several examples of how user stories are broken down from epics to child user stories and how acceptance criteria add important details to the story
- Learn how the other methodologies differ from Scrum in their terminology and practices
- Examine how requirements can be enhanced by using personas or engaging User Experience (UX) designers to better understand potential system users
- Understand how user stories and Agile development efforts map into a marketplace driven by consumer demands and customer-specific development requests
- Value the importance of communication and transparency when it comes to requirement specifications and priorities
- Explore Lean software development and the Lean start-up concepts and how they influence the product development process
We are getting closer to the publication of the Agile textbook that I have co-authored with Sondra Ashmore. It is such an exciting time for us and I want to use this blog series to highlight chapters from the book. I hope you enjoy this so much that you want to order the book. Pre-orders are available on Amazon right now – just search Introduction to Agile Methods by Sondra Ashmore and Kristin Runyan.
One of the chapters that I was responsible for addresses the roles within Agile and specifically Scrum teams. Here are the chapter learning objectives as well as an excerpt from the section about Product Owners, something I am very passionate about.
- Understand the roles in Scrum with their specific responsibilities—product owner, Scrum master, and team
- Identify the attributes and personality types that are most successful in the various roles
- Learn the Agile definitions of “chickens” and “pigs”
- See how extended team members interact with the team
- Compare and contrast the roles in Scrum and the other methodologies
- Walk through practical examples of how the roles are filled in different-sized organizations
Product Ownership – Breadth
Another nuance of the product owner role is the breadth of his or her ownership. Does one product owner manage multiple products? Or is one product so big that it requires multiple product owners? Both of these situations are common in the workplace where teams are thin and expectations are high.
To examine the first instance, what are the advantages and disadvantages of having one product owner responsible for multiple products? The biggest risk factor is time and attention. Can the product owner devote adequate time to every product that he or she is responsible for? Does this person have the necessary depth of understanding to truly collaborate with IT on the best solutions? It is a risk, but certainly one that can be overcome.
In the instance where the product is large enough to have multiple product owners, there is a chance that the priorities will not align. Related to the previous reference of business value, if one product owner wants to expand to new cities to attract new users but another product owner places top priority on improving the processing speed, then you can run into conflicts. However, one of the core tenets of Agile is collaboration, which includes collaboration between product owners. Product owners need to be in communication with each other to clearly articulate the best plan for all groups—knowing that at any given time, one group’s needs will take precedence over another’s.
Even if you have a single product owner for every product, that does not mean that things are easy. Between systems there are interactions, and to create a new feature or make a modification, the product owner may need to consider dependencies.