5 Essential Scrum Meetings: Is Your Team Doing Agile Right?

by:
on August 1, 2018

Small business teams that follow agile project management (PM) methodologies such as scrum meet regularly to plan tasks, discuss project status, identify risks and perform other vital project tasks.

However, many scrum team members see these frequent meetings as unnecessary and a waste of time.

Much to the frustration of scrum masters, these feelings aren’t totally unwarranted. Studies reveal that businesses in the U.S. waste $25 million every day on unnecessary and unproductive meetings.

To avoid wasting time and resources, small businesses practicing scrum must ensure that team meetings are opportunities to discuss and fix broken or faulty processes. Meetings shouldn’t be the cause of diminished employee productivity.

As a small business, you can make scrum team meetings productive with the help of agile project management tools.

For instance, Comensura, a managed service provider, used an agile PM tool to document meeting minutes and centralize the team’s access to project details. As a result, teams didn’t waste time searching for information, leading to a dip in meeting duration.

Likewise, agile PM tools can help you increase the efficiency of scrum meetings. In this article, we’re covering the do’s and don’ts that will make your scrum meetings effective and productive.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Scrum Meetings

Mike Cohn, the co-founder of ScrumAlliance, points out that scrum meetings are more prone to criticism than the many other unnamed meetings that teams attend when managing projects.

This could be due to failure in helping employees understand the value of scrum meetings. Keeping in mind that the agile process requires teams to attend many meetings, they may just end up believing that all scrum meetings are unnecessary.

But, you can bust this perception by following our best practices for each type of scrum meeting. The graphic below shows the general do’s and don’ts that you should aim to implement in your small business’s meetings.

Implementing these best practices requires small businesses to leverage agile project management tools.

To help you do that, here are the five types of scrum meetings and some advice for how you can make them more effective using agile project management solutions.

1. Daily Stand-Up Meeting

What it is: A short meeting that happens every morning, where teams discuss the tasks they completed the day before, what they’re currently working on and any roadblocks preventing them from completing their tasks.

Why it’s necessary: The daily stand-up meeting is an opportunity for teams to identify roadblocks in a given sprint. The meeting promotes self-organization, transparency and collaboration in agile teams.

Key outcomes of the daily stand-up meeting

  • Helps teams quickly identify risks that can delay sprint completion.
  • Builds team ownership of tasks, because employees are motivated to think as a unit.
  • Establishes knowledge sharing and common understanding of goals among team members.
How tech can help: Project management tools come with built-in collaboration features that help teams—even those with remote members—participate effectively in the daily stand-ups. Here are some tasks that you can accomplish with these tools:

  • Create a to-do list to remove impediments: The dev team can create a to-do list of potential roadblocks and assign them to the scrum master before the stand-up meeting begins. This saves time, because everyone is aware of all the key issues prior to the meeting.
  • Include remote teams via group chat: Remotely working members can participate in daily stand-ups by asking questions on team channels, which are designed like social networks. Team members can quickly share updates and get feedback from their colleagues on these centralized online workspaces.

2. Sprint Planning Meeting

What it is: Sprint planning is the longest scrum meeting and involves the dev team, scrum master and product manager. It’s where the dev team commits to the tasks they’ll complete in a given sprint.

Why it’s necessary: In the sprint planning meeting, the dev team decides on the actual tasks that can be completed in a given time-boxed event, which usually lasts for a week or month. The success or failure of an agile project is determined by how closely the team delivers against the tasks they commit to completing in a sprint.

Key outcomes of the sprint planning meeting

  • Facilitate discussions between the product owner and dev teams about backlog items and feature development prioritization.
  • Get accurate estimates from the dev team and understand the effort required to complete tasks.
  • Finalize and assign sprint tasks to team members based on their availability and expertise.
How tech can help: Agile tools help with different aspects of the sprint planning meeting such as estimating the team’s effort required to build a feature. Here are the details of what the tools help you do:

  • Estimate efforts required for a task: Teams can use historical performance metrics in agile tools, such as burndown charts, to correctly estimate the time required to build a feature in a sprint.
  • Prioritize features with story points: Agile tools help team members assign points to user stories in the product backlog (more on this later). They also help users determine which features should be included in the sprint plan.

3. Sprint Review Meeting

What it is: This is where the dev team showcases new (working and tested) software features developed at the end of the sprint to internal (product owner) and external (customers) users of the software.

Why it’s necessary: Sprint review is essential to understanding the results of a sprint. More importantly, it’s an opportunity for the team to capture feedback from clients and other stakeholders on whether the sprint results meet their requirements.

Key outcomes of the sprint review meeting

  • Review the tasks that were actually completed in a sprint against what the dev team initially committed to doing.
  • Get feedback from stakeholders on usability and business use cases when reviewing the demo of the new features.
  • Analyze insights gained from stakeholder feedback so the product owner and dev team can rescope the product backlog for the new sprint.
How tech can help: Capturing stakeholders’ feedback and understanding project performance are the goals of the sprint review meeting. Here’s how software can help you achieve these goals:

  • Understand the completed tasks in a sprint with a burndown chart: Agile tools automatically track different performance metrics, including a product release burndown chart. This chart helps product owners visualize completed or pending tasks at the end of the sprint. Product owners can estimate the effort needed to complete the next sprint by analyzing the results of the current sprint.
  • Use a rating scale survey to capture stakeholder feedback: A survey tool can help you quickly understand how happy stakeholders are with the new features demo. Create a rating scale survey to quickly compare stakeholders’ responses. This will help you identify the features that are complete (highest stakeholder satisfaction) or those that need more work (least stakeholder satisfaction).

4. Sprint Retrospective Meeting

What it is: The goal of the sprint retrospective meeting is to discuss what the team did correctly in the current sprint and what they can improve going forward. It’s facilitated by the scrum master and helps the team improve its processes and boost productivity.

Why it’s necessary: This meeting is crucial for teams to continuously improve their collective performance. It instills transparency and ownership among teams as they celebrate their wins and analyze shortcomings, which will help them improve the project management process.

Key outcomes of the sprint retrospective meeting

  • Discuss what the team did right in the current sprint.
  • Identify the challenge areas and make suggestions on improving the process.
  • Establish the best practice (or practices) to be implemented in the next sprint.
How tech can help: Agile project management solutions offer reporting and document management capabilities, which come in handy for holding effective sprint retrospectives. Here’s a closer look at how to leverage these two capabilities:

  • Use velocity charts to understand team performance: Similar to burndown charts, velocity charts are an agile metric that helps teams measure their performance. These charts help contextualize a team’s performance over time. They also allow product owners to forecast the amount of work that can be allocated to a team for an upcoming sprint.
  • Capture feedback in a team knowledge base: To ensure that the team feedback helps improve the next sprint, scrum masters can capture feedback in shared knowledge bases. These knowledge bases serve as living documents that record a team’s improvement areas and best practices, which can be applied in future sprints.

5. Product Backlog Refinement Meeting

What it is: This meeting is led by the product owner, who introduces the priority list of features for the upcoming sprint, which will be developed by the dev team. The dev team discusses all the items in great detail and tries to understand the requirements as well as they can.

Why it’s necessary: This meeting is an opportunity for the team and product owner to identify the priority of features that are to be developed in the upcoming sprint. It’s also when they clearly analyze the requirements of a feature and any challenges they may face while developing it.

Key outcomes of the product backlog refinement meeting

  • Allow the product owner to introduce features that are likely to be taken up in the next sprint.
  • Help the team collectively analyze the requirements and identify potential challenges.
  • Facilitate the participation of different stakeholders, such as the design team and data administrators, so they can also offer feedback.
How tech can help: Teams can use agile tools to understand and categorize product backlog items better. Below are two example use cases:

  • Use a ticketing tool to categorize backlog items: The product backlog refinement meeting can offer new feature development, bug fixes and feature updates. Using a service desk solution that comes built-in or as a third-party integration with agile tools can help you categorize the items better, and thus, set their priority.
  • Build a backlog roadmap for better user feedback analysis: The bulk of product backlog items consist of what users want (new functionality, bug fixes etc). Basically, this is user feedback, which can be understood and classified better by using a backlog roadmap dashboard. This dashboard helps visualize product backlog items as raw feedback (i.e., needs more scoping; the team hasn’t discussed the item), unprioritized feedback (i.e., the team knows what’s to be done but hasn’t estimated the effort required to build the feature) and feedback ready for the dev team to consider for the the next sprint.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Implementing the abovementioned scrum meeting best practices requires coordination between the product owner, scrum master and developers—all of whom constitute the scrum team. Successful scrum teams follow not just these best practices but also adopt the right agile mindset such as:

  • Clear and constant communication with each other
  • Deep understanding of the scrum process
  • Self-organization and leadership qualities

In addition to these attributes and best practices, teams can use agile project management tools to drive efficiency in scrum meetings. Below are detailed reports that compare the features, pricing and use cases of such tools. Check them out to understand how the software can help your scrum teams manage their work better:

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