Doing more with Story Maps

Posted on November 4th, 2011 in Agile, Story Mapping by siddharta || 1 Comment

This is a three part video series that shows how you can do more with story maps. Story Maps are a really powerful method to both a) create the product vision in a collaborative manner and b) visualise the scope. Here at we are huge fans of visualisation, and with our electronic story maps, you can do a whole lot of cool things.

The series has three parts

  1. Creating the story map
  2. Release planning
  3. Tracking progress against the vision

Creating a story map

Creating a story map is not simply a matter of entering data into the system, but a process of collaborative exploration. Our tool is expressly design to support this exploration. This video shows a typical session of creating a story map. Notice how cards get moved around, some cards get grouped together while others get split. And the tool never gets in the way throughout the process.

Release Planning

Release planning is where development team meets business strategy. Therefore, before you do a release plan, it is important to understand the business strategy. Which features are our differentiators? Which parts of the system are risky? Do we need early feedback on specific features? Are there some features which we are not sure the market will accept? Only when we answer these question can we make a truly effective release plan.

Unfortunately, release planning is often considered only in terms of selecting some stories and calling it a release. Most electronic tools do not allow you to effectively do a business visualisation prior to creating the release plan. The result? Product development is not aligned to business strategy!

In this video, we show you how our tool supports creating release plans through visualising the application in business terms

Execution Tracking

Once you have your vision laid out and the release plans done, then its time to execute stories. You will usually take your stories from the story map, and go elsewhere and put them in another tool or physical board to execute them. And what happens there will not be reflected back onto the story map.

But things are different with In this video we show how to you move stories between the story map and team boards (scrum/kanban boards), and have the result overlaid on the story map.

You can now answer questions like

  1. How many of our differentiators are remaining?
  2. Have we implemented our risky features?
  3. What level of enhancement is a specific feature?

Don’t fall into the Acceptance Criteria trap

Posted on November 3rd, 2011 in Agile by siddharta || 24 Comments

There has been a lot of talk in the agile community about acceptance criteria. How having defined acceptance criteria beforehand makes development a lot easier. And it does. I’m a big fan of acceptance criteria. But just because someone write an acceptance criteria on the back of a card, doesn’t mean that what they’ve written is the correct criteria.

That might sound like a dumb thing to say. After all, if someone writes a wrong acceptance criteria, then what can we do about it? It’s their fault, they’re just going to get the wrong software, and they have no reason to complain… Right?

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It’s time to cut the agile crap

Posted on October 19th, 2011 in Agile by siddharta || 16 Comments

via Geek and Poke

Agile is Bloated

I realised this the other day when, on a mailing list, someone asked about what the “Sprint Goal” was supposed to be. A reply came from someone else that they didn’t have a goal, but since “scrum mandates a goal”, they decided that their goal was “to implement stories”. Of course, this is a rather meaningless way to have a sprint goal.

So that got me thinking: Have agile processes become so complicated that they confuse the hell out of most people?

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Is the concept of the user story dead?

Posted on September 15th, 2011 in Agile by siddharta || 150 Comments

The user story is one of the most fundamental bedrocks of agile processes. It is the unit that we divide the requirements into. It is the minimal unit of value. It is the unit that we work on at a time. It is the unit of deployment and it is the unit of measuring progress. And now, it seems that the time has come to retire the user story.

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Do you really need an agile tool?

Posted on September 7th, 2011 in Agile, Kanban, Tool by siddharta || 1 Comment

A lot of people doing agile want to use an agile tool for a vague notion of “tracking stuff”.

They assume

  • That their execution will somehow be more “efficient” if a tool is used
  • That by spending a little bit (or lot) of money, it can replace the time and hard work required to get agile to work
  • That they can forget about process and do some other work

Well, if these are the reasons for using a tool, then I can confidently predict right now that your tool investment will fail.

There are many, many valid reasons to use a tool – where the tool can make a difference you could not do without it. But let’s be clear – all these reasons depend on your individual context, they do not universally apply for every team. Which is why you need to think carefully about your needs in a tool.

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