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8 min read

Overcoming the standing backlog: strategies to follow

From Team '23

Tempo Team

Product development can be complex and can involve a lot of simultaneous spinning plates. Agile, when done correctly, can help you keep track of those plates. Here at Tempo, we use agile to ensure healthy development, smooth collaboration, and on-time product delivery.

Agile helps the Tempo team members maintain clear roles and keep a watchful eye on the needs of the client.

Tempo Planner helps you manage your teams and do both the high-level and granular planning needed for agile development, but more importantly, Tempo Planner allows you to adapt to changing circumstances, arguably the core benefit of Agile development.

Daily Stand-Up Meetings

Daily stand-up meetings are an inconspicuous but vital component in agile development. The daily stand-up meetings are a time to look your team mates in the eye and do a quick status check of where each team member’s work is heading.

Before commencing the stand-up meeting, the Tempo team will have a look at their current workload and the team’s workload.

Some gauge that information by viewing active sprints in JIRA Agile and see tasks which have been assigned to them or ones they have assigned to themselves.

Others will use the Tempo Planner iteration overview in the backlog. This is done by opening the team’s view in Tempo Planner, accessing the Team Backlog and selecting the current iteration. This displays the Iteration Backlog, a clear overview of what the individual team member and the whole Tempo Planner team is working on through a timeline and a list of unassigned issues and assigned issues divided by team member.

During the daily stand-up meetings, Tempo Planner will be running on a monitor in the background, showing the team workload. The meetings normally take place before noon and average 10-15 minutes in length by assuming approximately one minute per team member to communicate his or her status.

The core development team will be in attendance with the marketing specialist for Tempo Planner (that's me!) as an optional attendee. Furthermore, the team has one off-site team member, Jón Þór, who participates via an audio feed on Google Hangouts and Atlassian’s Hipchat.

During the meeting, team members take turns, in a clockwise rotation, to address three key topics:

  • What they have been working on since the last daily stand-up meeting.

  • What they will be working on until the next daily stand-up meeting.

  • Any hurdles or problems they may have run into in the course of their work.

This helps prevent any clashes in dependent tasks and gives the team a chance to address issues that may have come up. The hurdles or problems of a team member are addressed loosely and the team tries to establish a solution quickly without getting bogged down in technicalities or going over time.

Through sharing in their progress and personal success, it motivates the team towards the common team goals and gives them a tangible connection to their fellow team members.

These meetings are repeated throughout the entire sprint cycle.

Product Backlog Grooming

Before sprint planning can take place our product owner will need to organize the work backlog, what is often referred to as “backlog grooming”, the main aim being to prioritize the most important work items to the front of the queue.

Guðrún, the Product Manager for Tempo Planner, is in charge of this task. She will set the importance of each feature and establish backlog priority. With the Tempo Planner team, Guðrún performs the grooming the day before the sprint planning stage (more on that in a later post).

Lúlli, the current Tempo Planner scrum master, will often weigh in on this stage. The backlog grooming meeting I witnessed was unusual in that there was a particularly pressing need to further break down certain tasks before the actual grooming could take place. Therefore, two other team members were brought into the backlog grooming meeting and, together, the team managed to compartmentalize and reprioratize in the face of a looming deadline. Even a well-greased agile engine like the Tempo Planner will run into obstacles like this and then it’s about how you move to resolve them through efficient collaboration.

During the backlog grooming meeting, Guðrún addresses questions like:

  • What needs to go into the next version of Tempo Planner?

  • What is an essential addition to Tempo Planner?

  • Which features would compliment each other?

  • What is the relative difficulty level of implementing the item in question?

Another important meeting prior to the sprint planning meeting is the product management meeting, where Guðrún will meet with Viðar, our VP of Product Management & Design. This is a high-level meeting to discuss the feasibility and priority of product features and we find this compliments the backlog grooming very nicely. During this complimentary meeting, Guðrún and Viðar use the Program Roadmap feature of Tempo Planner to visualize the big picture feature planning.

And there you have it. The stand-up meetings which take place daily during the sprint and the backlog grooming performed by the product owner before the sprint planning can take place.

Watch this space for the next part in our breakdown of the following stages in the Tempo Planner agile sprint cycle and see how we leverage the best Tempo and Atlassian have to offer to ensure a successful sprint.

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