Today marks the official beginning of sprint number 2 for the Automation Team. Last month was our first attempt at a modified Scrum. I mention "modified Scrum" simply because of the cruel fact that I don't know everything there is to know about the Scrum Methodology. We just kind of picked out what made immediate sense and did it. It's a good change and we are learning. While our team is the first team in MacBU to be using this Agile process, hundreds of teams at Microsoft have had great success with it. We've had daily standup meetings for a long time, but this was the first time we actually did the product backlog and sprint backlog so I thought I'd record some of my personal reactions to the experience. There's a lot to like about what we've experienced so far, and as we figure out better how to apply this "Agile" stuff, I'm hopeful things will get even better. Here are some of my first impressions about the process: The backlog provides an awesome communication vehicle. Before the beginning of September the four of us on my team got together and generated a big long list of all the things we would like to do. We put all of this in OmniPlan, and then selected a subset that we would tackle in September. This did several very good things:
- It got us all excited about the ways our team could contribute to the overall success of the software products we produce.
- Helped us "get on the same page" with respect to the meaning of the individual items. You'd be surprised how different people can interpret even the shortest sentence!
- Allowed everyone on the team to see exactly what everyone else had to do.
- Allowed me, as a lead, to post the sprint backlog in the Lab for everyone to see. If folks wanted to see what we were working on, or how much progress we were making, it became very trivial. Perhaps low tech, but effective.
- It allows time for the customer to really think about the request. By the time the next sprint rolls around what was life-and-death-urgent is now better thought out and prioritized more realistically.
- It gets our "customers" in sync with our rhythm of delivery. The theme becomes, "Get your ideas in the next sprint's backlog, and you'll see some action on it in a month." All the lobbying for changes and design discussions about what goes in next will happen with the Product Backlog owner (me in this case) while the rest of the devs are uninterrupted.