Product development roadmaps, integrating usability and keeping testers busy …

Halfway through our second sprint, my impediment backlog has 22 impediments in it. At least I have a purpose in life.

The biggest impediment is not having a server to build and test our code on. This is a pretty major one, which we are frequently bitching complaining about, and doing our best to convince somebody to resolve, with limited success so far. But I remain hopeful …

The next three are in relation to how the scrum team and product owners work together (yes, that’s right, product ownerS – it’s not ideal, but our Scrum team has to complete work not only on the web UI project that is our main focus but also on some internal applications that can’t be ignored).

Impediment 1: We have separate workstreams and until Sprint Planning, no idea how they fit together. Our product owners don’t really know how to combine the priorities, and can’t predict beyond the current sprint when they might get any of the things they’ve asked for.

My proposed solution: we need a development roadmap that lays out the bigger themes that we will work on. Being only two sprints in, we don’t have a predictable velocity yet but we can start predicting date ranges within a couple more sprints. I don’t plan on having something set in stone, but I haven’t read anything that says having a longer term vision is a bad idea – on the contrary, Mike Cohn’s book (Agile Estimating and Planning) promotes having a plan that represents our best view of the future at any point in time. At least, that’s how I read it.

Impediment 2: we have a visual designer and usability engineer who are not co-located. The usability engineer is based in Seattle. Time difference = -8 hours

My proposed solution: until they are co-located, they work a sprint or two ahead of us so that our sprints are not held up by slow communication loops. We need to figure out just how this works.
I’m not sure I’m 100% comfortable with this as a longer term solution. According to Scrum by the book, the team are supposed to figure out everything within the Sprint. In this current Sprint, we brought our designer and usability guru to London and they locked themselves in a room for two days to figure out the designs for the interaction and the interface. They did a good job, and I’m not sure how we could organise this any better. The developers couldn’t start their work until this was done, which seems a bit like mini-waterfall, but I’m not sure if I’m taking this to the extreme. Time will tell.

Impediment 3: Testers had nothing to do at the start of the Sprint.

My proposed solution: moving the UI design ahead of the sprint will help with this. Also, we did this a lot better than in Sprint 1 – our testers worked to define acceptance tests early on in the Sprint. I have to admit … I don’t really have any other ideas on how to fix this, and again I’m hoping time will tell …

Overall, so far this second Sprint seems to be going very well and I’m hopeful we’ll complete what we committed to – the burndown certainly looks really positive!

(an even bigger acheivement … I’ve actually written a weekly post for two weeks running!)

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