1.PMI Agile Forum Founding Members/Steering Committee
The PMI Agile Forum steering committee is using Agile project management practices (primarily Scrum) to develop the business plan. This section describes how the steering committee is using these practices, some of the benefits of these practices, and plans to continue applying Agile practices to the other work of the PMI Agile Forum.
Agile methodologies are adaptive rather than prescriptive. That is the methodologies encourage evolution – modifying and or incorporating new practices and discarding practices that no longer work. “Agile methodologies generally promote a project management process that encourages frequent inspection and adaptation, a leadership philosophy that encourages teamwork, self-organization and accountability,…” - Wikipedia http:/en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agile_software_development.
The Agile community formally came into existence at a meeting in 2001 at Snowbird, Utah, where leading practitioners defined the values and principles of a style of product development that came to be known as Agile – see http://agilemanifesto.org. Methods and practices consistent with these values and principles are considered Agile. This emphasis on values and principles over specific methods and processes has had several interesting consequences. An illustrative benefit has been the ability to adopt new methods and practices into the community. Most recently and noticeably, some members of the community are incorporating Lean and Kanban practices.
Despite the broad definition of Agile, there are a number of specific methods – e.g., Scrum, Extreme Programming, DSDM (Dynamic Systems Development Method), Crystal – that are clearly Agile in nature and usually serve as a framework and starting point for evolving Agile methods to meet a specific situation.
The PMI Agile Forum steering committee is following the Scrum framework, adopted to meet the needs of this particular project and team.
There are four roles:
Customer. The customer is the end acceptor for various deliverables of the project. PMI is the customer for the business plan.
Product Owner. Jessie Fewell serves as the product owner, defining and prioritizing the work to be done to complete the business plan and other deliverables for the project
ScrumMaster. George Schlitz, serves as the ScrumMaster, focusing on resolving issues and improving the overall process of delivering value by completing work
The work required to complete the deliverables – in this case the business plan – is decomposed into stories. In breaking the work into stories, the emphasis is on making each story a unit of work that has value and can be demonstrated to and accepted by the customer. Also, the stories are decomposed in a fashion to minimize the dependencies. Finally, stories are decomposed into work that can be completed within an iteration, or sprint. For example: writing a draft of section n in the business plan, or making changes to section n of the business plan. The work is then prioritized and organized into a prioritized list called a product backlog.
Work is conducted in two week intervals – call sprints. The stories to be completed in the two week sprint are the sprint plan. Normally, the stories are further decomposed into the tasks necessary to complete the story. However, the steering committee has decided to forgo tasking out stories.
Issues – called impediments – are identified by any member of the team. The ScrumMaster ensures that each issue has an owner and is resolved in a timely manner.
The team improves the process through sprint retrospectives – meetings held at the end of each sprint to determine and plan for improvements. Three questions are asked in a typical retrospective: 1) What is going well, 2) What is not going well, and 3) What recommendations and actions will the team take in the next sprint to improve.
The General Process:
The product owner identifies stories to be done from a variety of sources including PMI requirements, feedback from PMI representatives, and suggestions from the team. The product owner lists and prioritizes these stories as items in the product backlog.
The product owner, ScrumMaster and team review the product backlog and plan the stories to be completed in the next two week period.
The team reviews the backlog and members sign up for one or more stories that are high priority and a good fit for their interests and skills. The team member may work with product manager or PMI representatives to further define and clarify the requirements for completing the story.
Every two weeks, the business plan is demonstrated to the PMI representative. Based on this review and feedback, work is accepted or rejected, and new stories are identified and prioritized.
Note: the Agile steering committee has not used some of the following standard practices of Scrum, including the items outlined in the bulleted list below. This omission was not a deliberate decision, but rather that the team has not found a particular need for the practice – either to address a problem or exploit an opportunity.
Establishing a Product Vision. The product vision is a high level description of the desired outcome of the project and why the project is being undertaken.
Conducting Release Planning. Release planning is allocating the stories from the product backlog across sprints planned for the completion – release – of a version of the product. This is conducted at the beginning of a release, usually quarterly.
Holding a Daily Stand-up. A daily stand-up is a meeting where each team member reports on what they completed yesterday, what they plan to work on today and what impediments are slowing or blocking their progress. It is a 15-minute meeting, conducted will all team members standing.
The steering committee did not decide at the beginning of this endeavor to apply Scrum practices. The adoption of the Scrum practices came about as the group began to address issues with developing the business plan and realized they could obtain several benefits by adopting specific Agile practices. Some of the benefits the steering committee gained were:
Transparency. Every two weeks, the PMI representative can review improvements to the business plan and know both the status and progress towards completing the business plan.
Fast Feedback. In the bi-weekly reviews, the PMI representative was able to provide feedback to the product owner, which allowed him to re-prioritize and add stories. For example, making the content strategy a higher priority and or adding stories to incorporate changes based on feedback from the PMI representative.
Managing evolving requirements. PMI Agile Forum is the first Virtual Forum to be formed by PMI and most of the team members are new to many of the PMI processes. The Scrum process allowed the team to easily incorporate newly discovered work into the plan.
Supporting an ad-hoc volunteer team. Having the backlog allowed volunteers to expand/contract their work for the PMI Agile Forum – taking on more or less work depending on their other commitments. Note, this is not normally a benefit of Agile methods, which generally recommend a dedicated and co-located team.
1.4.Further Application of Agile Techniques
The steering committee and the PMI Agile Forum will continue to apply Agile practices to the operation of the community. The application of these techniques will allow volunteers to:
Observe experienced practitioners working on Agile projects
Experience some of the common issues on Agile projects and see more experienced practitioners resolve these issues
Some of the specific areas where the PMI Agile Forum steering committee expects to use Agile practices:
Focus on highest priority services and products. The product owner will create a backlog of community services to be developed and delivered. The list of services will be prioritized and further decomposed into stories, to allow demonstrable progress iteratively in delivering the products and services.
Support evolving requirements. The product owner will create opportunities – focus groups, surveys, on-line forums to solicit feedback both from members of the PMI Agile Forum and the PMI Membership at large. This feedback will be fed into the prioritized list of community services.
Rapidly deliver high value projects. The various support leads will use Agile techniques on projects and sub-projects of the PMI Agile Forum.
Encourage process improvement. All volunteers will use retrospectives within and across the various support teams to improve the various processes and practices of the PMI Agile Forum.
The PMI Agile Forum Steering Committee members include: