We talked to another Project Manager, this time from the software development industry. His name is Tero Vilmunen. Mr. Vilmunen works in a company called Klopal Oy which is a start-up studio from Finland. The company works on developing mobile and web software projects both internal and for clients.
This is our first interview with someone who works as a Product Owner within a distributed team. The team consists of four developers - two back-end developers, one full stack and one front-end developer. They work alongside with a Project manager and a CEO. They occasionally meet face-to-face to improve communication.
Tero Vilmunen started practicing Agile in 2015 with his team and this is their story.
Q: What challenges and impediments did your team face while transitioning to a new way of working?
A: We are not working in a "textbook Agile" mode, but rather we have our own semi-Scrum way of working. It has been taken into use gradually, and there haven't really been any major obstacles.
Q: Tell us about your User stories - how do you create them, do you estimate etc.?
A: We don’t have a User story template. We simply write down what a story needs to accomplish. The perspective (i.e. as an Admin etc.) is written down in case it is something that the developer actually needs to know. We do estimate our tasks and estimates are mostly well within range, but not always. When we realize that an estimate off by too much, we communicate it to the project's owner.
In our experience, the best way to avoid estimation errors is to have several people voice their opinion and discuss them through. This is especially important with more complex stories.
Q: So do you use any estimation techniques?
A: Usually not, but we do use planning poker when we have a bigger team working on the same project.
Q: How do you track progress of your project? Do you have a Sprint Burndown chart or a Cumulative flow chart?
A: Our projects are generally so small that it is enough to track them on a story completion level.
Q: Scrum meetings are a good way to help your team deliver better software and they keep the clients engaged in the process. Which meetings do you conduct? Also, when can you say that you, as a Product Owner, are satisfied with the outcome of a meeting?
A: We have Daily scrum (virtually) and sprint planning, other meetings more on a need basis.
For Daily Scrum, the whole team is present and at Sprint Planning, the project team which often means product owner and a developer. When we have justified estimates and proper understanding of all the tasks/stories of the sprint, the Sprint Planning is considered a success. We achieve this through open discussion.
Q: Let’s talk about goods and bads that Agile practices brought to your team. What would you highlight as the most valuable benefit and what as the worst experience you had while using Scrum?
A: Planning in small iterations helps us correct our direction, if needed, more easily than waterfall type planning would. Also when it comes to quality of the products we develop, the feature set tends to more accurate and it's easier to change it if or when client's needs change during the development process. Text book Scrum is too tightly governed for our needs, so we don't use it. With the way we are working there hasn't been any noteworthy issues.
We’d like to thank Tero Vilmunen for taking time to answer our questions. If you'd like to share your Agile experience with our readers, click the button below to find the interview.
Disclaimer: The interview has been edited for clarity and style.