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Blog

Top Communication Tools for Projects Using Agile Methodology

27 Mar 2019

A good way to get the hang of Agile is to perceive it as a sum of its roles, ceremonies, and artifacts. We will refer to the latter two as tools because they forward communication and promote collaboration. In other words, they are stepping stones to successful Agile adoption.

You should know right away there are many different moving parts that need to fall together. It is a long way there, but the benefits that wait down the road are many. Communication tools for projects using Agile methodology help you evaluate prior work to make changes for the future. They maximize transparency of vital information and communicate project progress to all stakeholders.

So, here is how to make the most of these resources and take your game to the next level.

Meetings and Ceremonies

Face-to-face communication is the cornerstone of any Agile approach.

One aspect of it is informal and encompasses impromptu and chance encounters. They are excellent opportunities for knowledge and idea sharing. But, to really work, these channels must be supported by an open corporate culture.

This is also true for more official agile meetings. They are also called ceremonies, the main activities that govern day-to-day operations at the organization. They vary in terms of their specific purpose and duration.

So, let us dive in.

  • First off, we have a Sprint Planning meeting. This event disseminates important practical details to the whole team and sets objectives for the upcoming Sprint. Together, the entire Scrum Team will decide on what to do over the course of the upcoming Sprint and how to do it.
  • Furthermore, Daily Scrum is a granular verbal meeting that lasts around 15 minutes. It is held every day of the Sprint and it enables the team to identify potential challenges and roadblocks. Members discuss what they did yesterday and what are they working on today. It is all about quick decision-making and getting the priorities straight.
  • Sprint Review takes place at the end of a sprint and is often used to showcase working product to stakeholders. It goes beyond standard reports because it actually demonstrates the product’s market-readiness. A delivered increment is reviewed in the light of user stories and then accepted or rejected. Customers can also attend the meeting.
  • During the Sprint Retrospective, different teams exchange their prior experience and revise work done so far. Based on the insights, they fine-tune the process (including people, relationships, and tools) for better outcomes in the future Sprints. This event occurs after the Sprint Review and before next Sprint planning. It wraps up one Sprint cycle.
  • Note that there are various collaboration solutions that facilitate communication. These include sticky notes, whiteboards, digital collaboration platforms, etc. There are no hard rules here except one - they should always enhance and complement instead of replicating face-to-face interaction.

communication tools meetings

Artifacts that Promote Communication

Agile Artifacts provide structure and guidance to teams.

They are the objects generated in the development process, objects that hold crucial information. As such, they also serve as important communication channels. Although Scrum recognizes three main artifacts, we will include some other tools used in modern Agile frameworks.

  • Product Vision Statement is the first one we need to discuss. One of the reasons is that it kick-starts the development process. Namely, this tool communicates the chief goals of the project to teams and the whole organization. You can think of it as a killer elevator pitch, a quick summary of the product and its aims.
  • Product Roadmap is another key instrument. It is a high-level strategic document that lays out essential features that define product and deliver consumer value. A stream of regular meetings affects the set of its requirements over time. These events can also lead to different item prioritization and spur coordination of multiple products.
  • Product Backlog is a property of the Product Owner, which establishes the scope of the project. It represents an ordered list of everything that a product should contain. These can be functions, features, wish-list items, and various enhancements. The list is dynamic and covers any changes that product undergoes. Items are listed according to their business value.
  • Sprint Backlog encapsulates selected items from a Product Backlog, as well as Product Increment and Sprint Goals. This artifact is crafted in the planning stage and it gets updated on a daily basis. Its value is in providing instant data on Sprint and project status. There is often a list of all features developed up to that point and those that are yet to be created.
  • Burndown Chart is another facet of the Backlog, which gives you a nice visual overview. Rather than telling, it shows complex items via graphical chart depiction. One can instantly understand whether the Sprint is progressing according to plan or going off the rails. This is also where the Product Owner tracks the progress of the entire project.
  • Task Board plays a similar role, but it relates to individual items instead of a project. Anyone passing by the team’s work area can take a look and get updates on sprint/release status. Note that there are multiple columns: To Do, In Progress, Accept, and Done. Browsing them reveals where the product currently stands.
  • Product Increment marks the end of the Sprint. It must be in a finished state and meet the requirements set earlier by the team. In other words, the Increment should become a tested code built into executable. Documented user operations of features and listed items are used to double-check the Definition of Done.

As you can see, there is a lot of ground to cover. It is not an easy task, but it must be done. However tempting it may seem, try not to implement the Agile methodology selectively. Without key communication pillars in place, the whole structure falls down like a house of cards.

scrum board

Conclusion

Artifacts, informal collaboration, and meetings are the main tools in the businesses arsenal. They are not some fads you should embrace on hype, but invaluable opportunities for inspection and adaptation.

To harness their power, open the channels of communication and keep everyone in the information loop. Prevent the meetings from becoming a time-waste and being cumbersome on the teams. Inspect the progress, draw lessons from it, and test for success.

Adhere to the best practices and make a positive change happen. Remember, you are on a continuous journey of learning and improving. So, it is time to refine the process and demolish obstacles on the way to peak productivity.