Business Problem #1: Losing sight of the big picture

Posted on April 14th, 2010 in Agile, Kanban, Silver Stories by siddharta || 1 Comment

We recently announced Silver Stories, a tool for agile portfolio management. In this post, I explain some of the problems that we hope to solve with Silver Stories. Click here for the entire series of posts on Silver Stories.

Losing sight of the big picture

Agile processes advocate breaking stories into small (and in some cases absolutely tiny) chunks of functionality and putting them on the backlog. This is a good idea for enabling frequent deliveries, but it’s terrible for retaining the big picture.

Once you have a backlog, its difficult to go and reconstruct it to see exactly where you stand on the overall project. (Jeff Patton highlights this problem well in this blog post on user story maps.)

The product or release level burndown, which is the preferred way in Scrum, is completely inadequate for this. If the burndown shows 20% done, it could be 20% across the product which means its crappy but you have a walking skeleton, or it could be 100% on one goal and 0% on the rest, which means that the software isn’t usable yet. There is a big difference between the two. You can figure out where you stand only if you retain the big picture.

For all these reasons, a list of user stories is inadequate.

How does Silver Stories help?

In Silver Stories, you’ll be able to create a big picture map (it could be a user story map, or an Epic->Feature->Story breakdown or any hierarchy that you want) and break it down into a backlog of stories. The development team will be able to work on this backlog, and the stakeholders will be able to visualize progress on the map. Are we 20% done across the project?  Are we spending too much time on one theme? Do we have a walking skeleton? The map will tell you the answers.

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One Response to “Business Problem #1: Losing sight of the big picture”

  1. Silver Stories in closed private beta, closed public beta coming soon » Silver Stripe Blog » Blog Archive Says:

    […] Losing sight of the big picture […]

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