Agile has become the standard in software development, for a variety of reasons. That being said, many development companies don't truly embrace Agile practices, despite their best intentions. Instead, they create a hybrid system that's a combination of Agile and whatever suits them best.
In order to ensure your team has everything they need to perform exceptionally, you'll have to focus more on Agile and less on what your organization was doing before. With that in mind, here are a few Agile development best practices for your team.
Refining the Product Backlog
In Agile software development, the product backlog represents a comprehensive list of everything that will go into creating a valuable product (requirements, tasks, exploratory work, etc.). The Product Owner is responsible for it and plays the primary role in guiding the product.
The Product Backlog is a living artifact in that it changes over time as upcoming work gets discussed in more details and as new information is revealed either as the result of the team’s work or under external circumstances.
This is why active refinement of the Product Backlog is essential. It is not a to-do list that is created at one point in time and then adhered to regardless of everything. The Product Owner will collaborate with their team and discuss how the Product Backlog should evolve. For example, they can discuss which features should be pushed forward and which should be left for another time. Or, they can add new work that they previously did not anticipate.
Refinement of the Product Backlog is never finished and it is at the core of a successful Agile development project.
Sprint planning meetings
Your team must be able to collaborate and decide on the best course of action. One of the principals of the Agile Manifesto states that managers should trust the teams to get the job done, i.e. give them the freedom and flexibility to decide what to do next.
During the Sprint Planning meetings, your team, alongside stakeholders and everyone else involved who wishes to attend, develop a strategy based on the highest priority features as suggested by the product owner. They put together user stories to create a goal and a sprint backlog. This will encompass what the team will deliver during the upcoming iteration. One of the Agile best development practices is that teams deliver bits of working software after each sprint.
A self-organizing team
As mentioned before, managers should trust the team to get the job done, but also provide them with the environment and the support they need, in order to achieve that. That's why a self-organizing team is one of the essential parts of any Agile project. That means that team members take on work-related tasks on their own without waiting for someone to assign work to them. They collaborate and communicate to manage work and deliver as expected.
You might train or educate them further but you must not try to command and control them. Last but not least, they constantly improve their skills and make recommendations on possible improvements. By letting go of control and by providing your team with the freedom they require, you create an Agile team that's productive and effective.
Short daily meetings
In most cases, meetings can be a waste of time and quite unproductive. However, during Agile software development, your team should hold short daily meetings, in order to revise and resolve any current issues, if there are any, to begin with.
This is where collaboration comes to shine, especially since your team won't have to take too long to find a solution to any existing issues. The team can also discuss any potential issues that may stand in the way of their progress.
A working piece of software is delivered after every sprint or iteration. The team, however, must review the sprint alongside completed work. The main reason is that it allows them to present the work to stakeholders, which can include just about anyone you believe could provide insightful and actionable feedback.
In addition, a Sprint Review allows the team to take stock of where the product is at any given time and where it might go in the future. It is not an opportunity to criticize and blame anyone for any problems that might have been identified. It is a constructive meeting where constructive feedback is king.
Creating an Agile environment
Before, we mentioned providing teams with the support and the environment that they require. In the most basic sense, it comes down to creating an ideal workspace for your team. This includes a good office design where the team will work in close proximity to one another so that they can communicate naturally. The majority of Agile teams will also use visualization aids such as whiteboards where they can keep track of the work they are doing as part of the sprint.
For distributed teams, some workarounds will need to be employed, usually in form of digital tools such as VivifyScrum which can be updated easily and where the entire team can collaborate as they would if they were in the same space.
Quality assurance is omnipresent in Agile software development, rather than isolated in a silo, as is common with traditional methods. The purpose of QA team members is to ensure product quality is in accordance with stakeholder expectations. Testing is conducted in each iteration, in order to ensure that the bits of software, as well as the end-product, will meet the acceptance criteria. Agile development practice is to conduct continuous testing to prevent bugs from entering the product, to begin with.
If a bug is indeed found, testing is conducted to prevent the bug from ever returning. That's why acceptance testing is created based on user stories and should be included in every sprint and sprint planning. Moreover, acceptance tests are also used as a form of regression testing prior to product launch. That way your team guarantees that the product will have the performance and functionality it was supposed to have, in the first place.
Every agile team will discover its own agile development best practices and the important thing is that they are allowed to try things out. Agile works differently for every team and it may take a while before you find out what works for you.
The important thing is to keep trying.
All images used in this post are illustrations by Ouch.pics