I recently had the opportunity to attend a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) training/certification course at the Rally Software Development Headquarters in Boulder, Colorado. I have been using Scrum for over a year now and this was an excellent opportunity to refine skills and to get real-world questions answered.
Previously you only had to take the course to become certified. As of October 1, 2009 the test is in ‘beta testing’ to allow the Scrum Alliance to validate the quality of the test questions before implementing the final pass/fail test. The test is based on the Scrum Guide.
The course that I attended was instructed by Tamara Sulaiman. The training was excellent and Tamara did an excellent job of illustrating the concepts with real-world examples. Tamara’s in-depth knowledge and hands-on experience added a lot of depth to the course.
Product Owner Role
The Product Owner Role is critical to the success of a Scrum project. The Product Owner must be very involved in the project and must be highly available to the team.
Sprint Retrospectives are the key to frequent inspection and adaptation. This ultimately is the whole point of Scrum – the ability to manage and control projects by inspecting and adapting frequently. Insufficient use the Retrospective was identified as one of the primary reasons for Scrum failure.
Product Backlog Grooming
I hadn’t actually heard of this specific process and I have frequently encountered challenges ensuring that the Product Backlog is “ready” prior to the next Sprint. While not a formal part of Scrum, Product Backlog Grooming is the activity of cleaning the Product Backlog during the sprint.
This ensures that the Delivery Team and the Product Owner know what is coming next (in advance) and ensures that the Product Backlog is in a clean state prior to each Sprint Planning meeting.
It was suggested that about 5% of the sprint capacity be allocated to this activity. Product Backlog Grooming meetings should be scheduled in the same way that the other Scrum meetings are scheduled.
Levels of Agile Planning
This was another area that is not formally a part of Scrum but that I found to be very helpful. The idea is that agile planning happens at multiple levels and that ‘sprinting’ on a Scrum project is only one of those levels. Here is a breakdown of the different levels of planning that were suggested:
- Product Vision – Defining the high-level vision for a product (By the Product Owner approx. 1-2 times per year)
- Roadmap – Defining the product roadmap and creating the initial Product Backlog (By the Product Owner/Architect approx. 2-4 times per year)
- Release Planning – Planning of product releases (By the Product Owner, Team & Stakeholders approx. 3-4 times per year)
- Sprint Planning – The Scrum process of planning for each sprint (By the Product Owner and Delivery Team for every sprint)
- Daily Scrum – The Scrum process of the daily stand-up meeting (By the Delivery Team)
Here are some additional resources about the topic of agile planning:
Five Levels of Planning: To Agility and Beyond! (RallyDev, 2006)
Scaling Agile Processes: Five Levels of Planning (Agile Journal, 2007)
Several books were mentioned during the training. Here is a listing for reference:
The Software Product Manager’s Bridge to Agility (Michele Sliger, Stacia Broderick, 2008)
Scrum and XP from the Trenches (Henrik Kniberg, 2007)
Agile Retrospectives (Esther Derby, Diana Larsen, Ken Schwaber, 2006)
Agile Estimating and Planning (Mike Cohn, 2005)
User Stories Applied (Mike Cohn, 2004)
Teamwork is an Individual Skill: Getting Your Work Done When Sharing Responsibility (Christopher M. Avery, Meri Aaron Walker, Erin O’Toole Murphy, 2001)