Scrum Crash Course

Scrum offers an alternative to conventional management practices. With the dynamics of business constantly evolving, management techniques have to evolve as well. Before you can implement Scrum, you need to learn more about how it works and the steps it entails. Here is an overview of what you will learn through our Scrum Crash Course:

Epics
Overarching Initiatives: If you think about building a piece of software or a website, this could represent an entire page. Stories are associated with Epics. A good epic is defined by all the stories that will accomplish the goal.

Tips: A good way to think of an Epic is as a set of features that would accomplish a specific goal for the project. When thinking of epics, you may think of milestones. Each project is different, so it will take some practice to get good at breaking projects down into meaningful parts.

Stories
A story is like a task but is told as a story.
For example:
“As a user, I can update my password and save it to my account”
Remember, this is about good communication, so try to include images and artifacts to help your teammates understand the intent of the story.
Also, a good story answers all relevant questions upfront. A scrum master and project manager will help with this.

Sprint Planning
A sprint is a block of time. In our case, we work in two-week increments (also known as iterations). Before we kick off a two-week sprint, our scrum team assigned to the project will sit together and pull projects from the icebox and enter them into the backlog to be worked on.

Use the effort points allocated to each story as a mechanism to understand how much work your team may accomplish within a two-week sprint. The sum of the story points your team is able to accomplish within a sprint is called Velocity.

The Sprint
The sprint a sacred block of time that is to be projected at all costs. Once the work has been agreed upon, it is up to the team and the scrum master to work together to achieve the sprint. Teams use meetings, like “The Daily Standup”, and communication tools like Slack to warn each other in case there is a chance that some task will not be completed. The goal of the sprint is to exact all of the work they had agreed upon to either meet or exceed their target velocity.

The Daily Standup
When your team is assembled, and wherever possible, a standup is a 10 to 15-minute block of time where you stand with your team and each person gets a minute or so to discuss:

  1. What they accomplished yesterday
  2. What they hope to accomplish today
  3. Is there anything blocking them

Tip: DO NOT FIND A SOLUTION. Stand-ups tend to take up too much time when we hear a problem and try to find a solution for the problem during the standup. Scrum Masters have to keep the team on task. If a blocker arises or a few team members need to collaborate on something, kindly request that those conversations take place after the standup.

Blockers
A blocker is generally a reference to something that is preventing work from being done. This could be missing information, missing technology requirements, another story/epic that needs to be done first, design artifact or even a client meeting that has not occurred yet.

Dealing with Blockers
Blockers occur often and vary from case to case but you have to overcome them to keep your team moving. There is no one way to deal with blockers except to communicate clearly. Ask good questions that get to the root of what needs to be solved and have laser focus on solving exactly that. Once you feel the blocker has been eliminated, confirm with your team that they are able to move forward.

An enemy of success is assumption.

Velocity
Velocity is the sum of effort points your team is able to accomplish within a given sprint. It is part of the Scrum Master’s agenda to work with the team to achieve the highest velocity possible. Note that there will be certain things that affect your team’s velocity, for example vacations.

The Backlog
The backlog is a set of epics and or stories in order of highest value or customer impact. A backlog should be groomed regularly.

Steps for Grooming a Backlog

  1. There are times our teammates may not be using the backlog to record progress on a story. Encourage them to use the tools provided to your team to make sure stories are kept up to date.
  2. The backlog is sorted by the most important work first, so make sure all the epics and stories are in order.
  3. Make sure stories are well written and provide as much meaning as possible. Think if someone was looking at the story for the first time, can they sort out what needs to be done without needing to ask you a question?
  4. Remove or otherwise delete stuff that is just not going to get done or is redundant.

Sizing
Stories need to be sized for effort. We use a scale of 1,2,3,5 and 8. To size a story, sit with the scrum team assigned to the backlog and go through the stories and size them with the team. Get everyone involved in contributing to the sizing. Your teammates have different experience and visibility into the work you do.

Effort and Points
Effort is not exactly associated with how much time something will take, but the higher the point value allocated to a given task, the more tasking it will be on the team. A good rule of thumb is that if a story scores over 5 points, it should be broken down into more stories.

With Scrum, you can enhance the efficiency and productivity of your team and also make sure that work is completed on time, without conflict, and without compromising on quality. Scrum offers the ideal framework for modern businesses to improve their operations and achieve their goals.

Starting a New Venture – Why Execution Matters

Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats

  • Sue Grafton

Business owners that start new ventures know how important execution is. They know that most executed ideas end up being hits or misses more often than not. According to a research paper from the Harvard Business School over 75% of all startups fail. Entrepreneurial ventures might start off with great ideas; but some startups don’t realize that those same ideas are useless no matter how unique they happen to be. Here are other reasons why execution matters when it comes to starting or growing a business –

The Value of Execution

Knowledge might be power, but it is the execution of that knowledge that really matters especially when it comes to business. After all, established brands lead the pack because they had what it took to take their ideas to the next level.

MJ Demarco explains this brilliantly in his The Millionaire Fastlane in which he explains the value of ideas and their execution according to dollar values. Let’s say that an entrepreneur has a range of ideas for growing his business. According to Demarco, a brilliant idea is worth $200 while a bad idea can be worth $1. However, an awful idea can be worth $10 million if it is executed brilliantly. On the other hand, a good idea that is worth $200 will have no more value than it already does if it is poorly executed.

Let’s explains this with a real life example. You decide to design an app as an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and plan to test it out. The idea itself is unique and is sure to attract more customers to your hotel chain especially since it will allow them to book rooms online. The only problem is that you don’t know how to make sure that your target audience uses the app. And if your audience cannot use it, you don’t make any money.

Results

Good execution guarantees results; period. Once you are used to being bold in this regard, you improve your own skills as well or find new ways to grow your idea more. If an idea doesn’t give you the results it is supposed to, it is time to think of a new one and initiate it in new ways.

Prepare to Fail

Failure is a great teacher. Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs tend to throw in the towel after their first one. A fear of failure often makes people freeze in their tracks. As a result, they don’t see their visions through to the end, no matter how good those visions are.

Keep in mind; if you are not prepared to fail, you risk stunting your business’s growth. People learn from their mistakes and business owners should be no different. Just because you failed to execute an idea effectively before doesn’t mean that you give up. Go back to square one if you have to. But remember to focus more attention on executing your idea than harboring the notion of the idea itself.

Why your Business Needs MVP

It’s the same old story; you have a product that you want to sell. You know that there are going to be takers. After all, field tests do not lie. So you do what makes sense in this day and age; you take your product to World Wide Web. But how do you market it? The businesses of today use MVPs.

What is an MVP?

MVP or Minimum Viable Product is a term in web development. It basically defines a process in which new products or websites are developed according to specific features that will attract early adopters.

The term itself was coined by startup consultant and writer, Eric Ries who defines it as “…a version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

In other words, an MVP is an elementary version of a product.

In order for an MVP to have any affect at all, it must have at least three basic characteristics –

  1. It has enough value to attract buyers or users
  2. It has enough potential to retain early adopters
  3. It has a feedback loop that provides data for future development

Of course, you also need to ensure that your product gains the feedback you need to guide development.

The Benefits

Starting a new service or promoting a new product as an MVP has its benefits –

Less is More

While you may be tempted to perfect your first product from the get go, the decision may come back to bite you especially since you don’t know how it will be received by your target audience. You aren’t alone. Most new businesses tend to overbuild new releases in a bid to outrun the competition. This is often accompanied by a fear; a fear that underbuilding might set the product up for failure.

But can such a product guarantee its success? The beauty of an MVP is that it actually improves its chances of success. Here is how –

  • It doesn’t need to be reworked as much
  • It allows you to focus on core value propositions and efficiencies
  • It brings focus to critical business functions
  • It allows you to create relationships with customers immediately

Example

Let’s explain the concept with an example. Let’s say that your pizzeria just started a home delivery service. You decide to design an app that has basic functions and allows users to place their orders online. You get in touch with them once they select their choice and provide their contact information. Keep in mind; you still don’t know how successful your idea will be until you test it out. If your customers are happy with the app, you can add some more features that will make it even more valuable for paying customers.

By allowing you to create relationships with early adopters sooner, a Minimum Viable Product makes it possible for you to authenticate your value propositions early as well. Testing basic functions before you scale ensures that the weakest are improved and that any feature that you add in the future works perfectly for your target audience.

How to start planning your first app

One of the most lucrative professions nowadays is creating apps for android and iOS, and if you manage to create a good, or better said popular app, you can build a good reputation for your company. Apps can be classified in the following manner: popular apps (low price, high rate of downloads, almost everyone likes them), Niche Deluxe (high price, low download rate, high quality and created for specific audience), Deluxe popular (high quality, high price, high download rate, and almost impossible to pull off), Failure apps (the majority of apps in the app store, low price, low download rate, doomed to be forgotten and never seen).

Basically, your goal for the first app should be to avoid making a failure app, so it could be a good idea to download a few of them, just to see their major shortcomings. After all, it is far easier to notice mistakes in a bad product, than to find all of the key elements in an app that is harmoniously executed. Here are a few suggestions that can help guide your creative process.

Your minimum viable product (MVP)  

This is the very core of every app – if your minimum viable product is boring or not engaging enough, your app will very likely be a failure. Take a look at flappy bird, the game itself is nothing more than a minimum viable product, and yet it was such an amazing success. So you need to ask yourself – what is the purpose of your app? To help or entertain people? Once you have established that, then you need to know the minimum number of features that your app needs to have in order to live up to its task.

Another good example of a successful MVP is Dropbox, since it was simple for them to explain to the masses what their product does and why they should choose it. Basically, it is the main reason why people choose you as their provider. The same thing applies when you construct a website and want to design your landing page. A landing page should clearly communicate to the visitor what it is that you offer, and motivate them to take action, i.e. make a purchase, subscribe and so on.

Plan your app based on the upcoming season or pop culture trends    

If you are not certain what you first app should be, then all you need to do is focus on a current or an upcoming topic/trend. So, if summer holidays are around the corner, you can make an app that helps people decide where to spend their summer vacation, or you can create themed lock screens with pictures of exotic and beautiful locations. For fall, you can make an app that is connected to Halloween in some way, helping people with costume ideas or hacks for costume creation etc.

The main idea here is to focus on current topics, because this is what most people will be searching for online, so the possibility of your app being noticed increases if it is related to the latest trend. The sooner you start the better, since IT firms usually rush these apps in order to meet deadlines for a specific date, and a lot of them are poorly executed. If you invest a whole year into this project, you can take the market by storm.

Explore different tactics for going viral

In order to secure popularity, you need to have some sort of strategy, so you can utilize the viral potential of your app. As mentioned in the previous part, you can focus on popular trends, and your app should have some level of utility or incite engagement, but that is not all. You need to implement some sort of reward for users who share your app. Moreover, your app should also reward customers who are frequent users. Clearly, it can be hard to know how to perfectly connect all these features in a natural manner. You should attempt to do so nevertheless – after all, this is what it means to be creative.

Finally, always ask for a second opinion before you proceed with the idea. If people around you are not really hyped about your idea, then maybe you shouldn’t go with it. Remember to have your app tested before the release, and use the feedback as valuable input for your future app creation.