Five Sprints into SCRUM

We kicked off Sprint 5 yesterday for Application Framework team.

Guidewire development is following SCRUM methodology. However, through all these years, due to various reason, the ideas behind Sprints are not exactly followed. There are many reasons for this, some of which are actually good reasons. However, that does not mean it was the best decision, and some development teams are trying to bring back meaningful Sprints to the development process, including AF team.

So what have I done differently this time?

We ended up using JIRA to track our stories. There are many reasons for this. I think the first one is the kind of work we are doing right now. We are not yet doing active development, but rather fixing bugs for a point release and run performance testing. Since all the bugs are created in JIRA already, using JIRA to track items that are not bugs makes it easy to track all the items we need to do given any Sprint. On the weekly work-from-home day, which each Guidewire employee can choose freely, it is very convenience to go to JIRA to pick the next work to do.

I am still keeping a Sprint board by writing down the JIRAs on the story cards but it is not as effective as I would like it to be. I think one reason is that QAs are verifying the JIRAs on their own schedule. (And the reason for that is some QAs are not part of AF team, because AF work affects other application teams). I know it sounds strang, but that is the situation right now. We are talking about how to get away from this mode and have a real complete independent development teams but before that happens, we will just have to pull it through.

The purpose for Sprint board now is more for daily Sprint meeting, where we talk about what we have achieved yesterday and are planning to do today. I use it to help the team focus and work on only the blocker JIRA or the JIRAs scheduled for the Sprint. Old habits die hard but we are making progress in that direction. When we schedule too many for the Sprint, which has been the case for all the past Sprints, I use Sprint board to figure out what to push to the next Sprint. I have not bee doing this aggressively. Now that I have an idea of our current velocity, I’ll do more now.

I am also changing the Sprint planning format. I am not going through the JIRAs one by one and ask question on them anymore, because the feedback has been that it takes a long time and becomes uninteresting. I think the first reason is that we are not sharing enough to make it a team conversation. Rather, it is me and whoever owns that part of the system talking with each other and figuring out the tasks to do. Even that, because I cannot pair on each and every JIRA, I am not able to track and check that each JIRA is estimated correctly and each JIRA is done within a Sprint. Without following them up and closing the feedback loop, all the work of creating tasks and track them become rather pointless.

So in the Sprint plannig, I now show the JIRA list scheduled, talk about them briefly in groups by the functional area, and track down the estimate after the meeting. I think I will change the estimation to be before the meeting next time, so that I would know how much to schedule for the Sprint.

One Comment on “Five Sprints into SCRUM”

  1. Raoul Duke says:

    Thanks for posting about the reality of things like scrum. There sure is a lot of stuff out there saying how great it all is, and less on how it actually plays out with real people and real work and real schedules.

    I previously was at a megacorp which switched to scrum, and while I think the long result was good, it was kind of a cluster you-know-what before it got all ironed out.

    If people know about the choices and pot holes which might come up, they can do a better job of adopting it successfully – which I think people should really consider doing. I very much miss doing Agile…

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