Frequent Agile
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We have compiled a list of frequent agile questions and answers, to help you with your agile transformation.

As agile principles and practices have evolved over the past two decades, undoubtedly terms have merged, often losing purpose or clarity. So, we thought we should help by using our experience and expert agile knowledge, to bring some clarity to the agile terms being used every day. Please get in touch if you can’t find your frequent agile question listed below, or if you need a more detailed answer. We are always here to help.

Our team is made of up agile practitioners, with decades of experience between them. Whilst we bring clarity to the agile terms being used and we’re able to answer any questions about agile practices and principles, we also bring pragmatism to any agile adoption or agile transformation.

What are the 10 essential SAFe elements?

The Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) has different configurations. Many aspects are optional or depend on the configuration that you have chosen to use. However, there are 10 elements of SAFe that are considered so important to the framework that, if they are not used, then SAFe is not being used. These 10 essential SAFe elements are:

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What is an Agile Release Train?

In the Scaled Agile Framework®, SAFe®, an agile release train (ART) is a team of agile teams, plus an associated group of stakeholders, who regularly and frequently deliver valuable functionality into a system.

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What is a stakeholder?

We are all stakeholders at one time or another. Being a stakeholder isn’t a job description, it is just a capacity in which we operate when needed.

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What SAFe training courses are available?

The Scaled Agile Framework®, or SAFe®, has a set of certified training courses that are aimed at specific roles within SAFe. Each of these courses prepares delegates for their role in an organisation and enables the delegate to take examinations to gain the associated qualification.

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What are the roles in SAFe?

The Scaled Agile Framework®, or SAFe®, has roles that are usually associated with different levels: Team; Programme; Solution and Portfolio.

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What is SAFe?

The Scaled Agile Framework®, or SAFe®, is a set of workflows and patterns to help enterprises scale lean and agile practices. It is one of a growing number of frameworks that seek to address the problem of coordinating the activities of multiple teams when using lean and agile delivery methods.

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How do scrum teams deliver value?

There are only two ways to deliver more value! Either the development team deliver faster or increase the value of the work they are doing.

No matter how fast a development team becomes, if the product owner feeds them worthless requirements, then the output value of the scrum team is zero.

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How do scrum teams work with stakeholders and customers?

In Scrum, the product owner is accountable for managing stakeholders and customers. As with any of their accountabilities, it is up to them if they wish to delegate part of their area of responsibility to someone else; ultimately, they remain accountable.

To build and deliver great products that satisfy customer needs, it is essential that the product owner deeply understands the customer. Product owners should be fully engaged in gathering ideas and feedback from them.

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How do I plan a release in Scrum?

The Scrum framework does not prescribe how to plan a release but many scrum teams will have a ‘release plan’ that they use to track progress towards a release of software.

A release plan is a complementary practice to Scrum that looks forward over several sprints and provides a forecast of when a coherent set of functions will be made available.

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What is a cross-functional team?

You will often hear agile teams described as cross-functional or at least aspiring to be. When a team is defending why they haven’t completed something at the end of a sprint and cries “the development is done, we have passed it over to the testers!”, or “it’s just waiting for dev ops to deploy it to production”…someone will often respond with “I thought you were supposed to be a cross-functional team?”.

So, what is a cross-functional team and how would having a truly cross-functional team help address the situation above?

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What is a definition of ready?

Most agile practitioners will be familiar with a definition of done and appreciate its value in helping teams remain transparent in how they get work completed. A similar but less commonly used concept is that of a definition of ready. A definition of ready is used to determine whether work is ready to be started in the first place – is a user story or product backlog item ready to be accepted into a sprint.

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What’s different between coaching and mentoring?

Two common stances for a scrum master are coaching and mentoring. Often these words are used interchangeably, but they are two very distinct approaches to working with and developing others.

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How does an empirical process work?

Empirical process control is a technique used when the complexity of activities means a defined process control cannot be employed.

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How do scrum masters facilitate events?

Facilitator is a stance that a scrum master takes as a service to their team, so that the scrum team can work more effectively, collaborate and achieve synergy. With a facilitator hat on, the scrum master acts as a neutral party who doesn’t take sides or advocate their own agenda.

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What is a self-organising team?

When Takeuchi and Nonaka studied world leading innovative product teams in the eighties and published their paper “The new new product development game” one of the key attributes they identified was self-organising teams.

They proposed that a group possesses a self-organizing capability when it exhibits three conditions: autonomy, self- transcendence, and cross-fertilization.

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How do scrum teams manage technical debt?

Technical debt is a metaphor that leans on the idea of financial debt. As financial debt increases, the ability to repay the debt is reduced. Once the debt exceeds the ability to repay, bankruptcy occurs. So, how do scrum teams manage technical debt?

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What is agile?

What is Agile? Agile is an umbrella term for light-weight frameworks, tools and techniques that help teams and organisations achieve agility. Initially specifically aimed at Software development, following recognition by Harvard Business Review, McKinsey & Company etc. agile is now spreading rapidly to all parts and all types of organisations.

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What is the difference between agile and agility?

‘Agility’ is our ability to respond to change.

We know that companies, teams and individuals who cannot respond to the changes around them struggle to compete, perform and succeed. If you can think of an organisation that has gone out of business, lost significant market share or begun to lack credibility in the eyes of its customers, then you are probably seeing the effects of a lack of agility.

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What is Scrum framework?

Scrum is a framework that is designed for delivering software products. It comprises three roles, three artefacts and five events:

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What is the difference between Scrum and agile?

Agility is the ability to respond to change. Organisations, teams and individuals that have an ability to respond to changing consumer demand, market conditions and new technology entrants are hugely successful.

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What is Kanban?

Considered to be one of the agile frameworks, alongside Scrum, XP, DSDM amongst others, Kanban has been gaining popularity as a lightweight method for helping teams deliver effectively.

Kanban is best described as “a method for optimising the flow of valuable work”, as it is not guided by rules, but five key principles:

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What is the difference between Scrum and Kanban?

Both Scrum and Kanban are popular agile frameworks used to help teams work together to get things done. They have some subtle differences, which we have summarised below:

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What is business agility?

Business agility is the inherent ability of an organisation to respond to change.

Can you think of a business that has gone bust? Woolworths, Toys ‘R’ Us, Poundland? There are loads of them out there. These days it’s not just making a profit, but also survivability that matters.

People cite all kinds of reasons for a business failing. Strong competition, the economy and even the weather, amongst many other things.

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Why do OKRs support business agility?

Much is written about OKRs and their use. In this FAQ find out more about what OKRs are, how they are used and implemented and why OKRs can be useful in supporting business agility.

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What scaling agile frameworks are available?

As agile has developed over the last 10-15 years, questions have arisen around how you scale when you get a number of teams working on the same product. There are several scaling agile frameworks designed to help to solve the problem of numerous teams working across the same or closely linked products. Using our own experience and a number of different source materials we have collated a list of the top four scaling agile frameworks, based on market share; including their strengths and weaknesses and the agile frameworks they are suited to.

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What is a scrum master?

The scrum framework defines three roles and gives clear accountabilities to each, in order to simplify decision-making and ensure that things get done. The primary accountability of the scrum master is to provide delivery leadership, experience and expertise by managing the scrum process, improving their organisation’s ability to deliver a valuable, relevant product.

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What is a product owner?

A product owner is a decision maker.

Fundamentally, the role exists to help represent the needs of both the business stakeholders and the users within a complex environment. They broker the needs of those two sets of people condensing their requests for features and enhancements in to a single prioritised list of tasks for the development team to turn in to working product.

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What is an agile development team?

A development team is a group of people that work together to create software. This is complex, creative work that requires adaptability as technical challenges arise and business requirements evolve. An agile development team will seek to meet these challenges by applying the principles of cross-functionality and self-organisation.

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What is an agile coach?

Think about your favourite sports team – or person. They will have a coach. In fact, many successful business people and politicians do too. Coaching is a profession that is more complex than it looks, but provides huge value when done well.

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What is an agile business analyst?

Many teams that implement an agile framework for software delivery find it useful to have a Business Analyst (BA) as part of the team. However, finding a good definition of what a BA does in the agile context is challenging, especially because many frameworks such as Scrum are agnostic to the specific make up of a team. Specifically, someone with a bias towards BA skills in the scrum context would typically be a member of the development team.

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What is an agile architect?

Agile architecture is largely defined by a subset of the 12 agile principles and hence this heavily influences the remit of a software architect:

Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.

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What is a stakeholder?

What is a stakeholder? If you are a stakeholder in something, you have an interest or concern in that thing and its continued success.  In Scrum, stakeholders are not considered part of the Scrum team but are vital to the success of the team and the product they produce.

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How many scrum teams per scrum master?

A team will always be better off with a dedicated, full time scrum master. A scrum master’s role is not about managing the Team. However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a scrum master is just about facilitating ceremonies.  New teams in particular need a lot of training, mentoring and coaching to get to grips with the art of Scrum. This is without a doubt a full-time job.

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What is servant leadership?

Servant leadership is the idea that the main goal of someone in a leadership position is to serve others. A true servant leader will put other people’s needs and priorities first, and help people develop and perform as highly as possible. When reading and learning about the Scrum framework you will most often see servant leadership associated with the role of the Scrum Master.

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What makes a good agile practitioner?

The definition of a practitioner is “a person actively engaged in an art, discipline, or profession” or “someone who works in a job that involves long training and high levels of skill”. An agile practitioner is therefore someone actively engaged in practicing agile techniques to help organisations respond to both continued and rapid change; using their high levels of experience and skill in agile approaches to foster an agile mindset within that organisation.

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Who attends what event in scrum?

The Scrum framework requires three roles; product owner, scrum master and development team – but who attends what event in scrum? Detailed below are the four events: sprint planning, daily scrum, sprint review and retrospective.

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What is a user story?

User stories are not part of any particular agile framework but are a complementary practice adopted by many agile teams as a format for expressing product requirements. Due to their simplicity and versatility, user stories have become the most popular form of product backlog item.

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What is a backlog item?

The Scrum Guide lists the first responsibility of a product owner in managing the backlog as “Clearly expressing Product Backlog items” but what is a backlog item?

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What is a task?

You will often hear agile teams talking about breaking product backlog items (PBI’s) down into tasks (or “sub-tasks”) but what is a task and what is the difference between a task and a product backlog item?

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What is product backlog refinement?

The Scrum framework prescribes five events; the sprintsprint planningdaily scrumsprint review and sprint retrospective, all of which are formal opportunities for the team to inspect and adapt something. There is however another regular, complementary practice, most Scrum teams undertake; product backlog refinement.

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What is behaviour driven development (BDD)?

Behaviour Driven Development(BDD) is way of writing acceptance criteria by giving examples of how software should behave in different scenarios. They are written in a standard format that promotes clarity, as well as allowing easy integration with automated testing.

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What problems to expect when implementing Scrum?

Several volumes can be written about the kind of problems implementing Scrum.

The best approach when encountering any one of the myriad of problems, is to inspect and adapt in the spirit of continuous improvement.  Once the Team, Product Owner and Scrum Master want to be better and improve the ways they work, half the battle of implementation is won.

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What is a sprint goal?

A sprint goal is a shared high-level objective that describes the key outcome for each sprint that a Scrum team undertakes. In the same way that a product vision guides the longer-term direction of a product, the sprint goal provides guidance to the development team on why it is building the increment for the current sprint, why it is worthwhile undertaking the sprint, and what value it will deliver back to the product owner.

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What are the Scrum Values?

Scrum is based on a set of fundamental values. The values provide a code of behaviour, or ethics, for Scrum Teams – some rules of conduct for teams to embody and live by as they work with Scrum.

The five Scrum Values are:

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How do 7 Lean wastes apply to software?

Eliminating waste is a key concept in lean process thinking. Waste reduction is often seen as a way of increasing productivity. Since lean is the grandfather of agile we can perhaps borrow this key concept and apply it to software engineering.

Through identification and elimination of waste in our software teams we can build our products efficiently, potentially reducing costs but also improving time to market.

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What is the difference between incremental and iterative development?

An incremental development process works on the basis that work is sliced into pieces (increments). Each increment builds on top of what has gone before. So, fully functioning modules of functionality are built up over time, with each adding to what has already been produced. Iterative development is the process of repeating and refining a cycle/way of working (an iteration).

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What is the difference between a daily stand up and a daily scrum?

The daily scrum

The daily scrum is an event that is defined in the Scrum Guide and is a specific Scrum practice.

The daily scrum is a meeting for the development team to create a plan for the day. It is not a status update for stakeholders! The product owner has no role in the daily scrum and the scrum master’s accountability is to ensure it happens, only the development team speak and the time-box is respected.

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What problems to be expected when implementing Scrum?

Several volumes can be written about the kind of problems implementing Scrum.

The best approach when encountering any one of the myriad of problems, is to inspect and adapt in the spirit of continuous improvement.  Once the Team, product owner and scrum master want to be better and improve the ways they work, half the battle of implementation is won.

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What is the definition of done?

The Scrum Guide defines the definition of done as follows:
“When a product backlog item or an increment is described as ‘done’, everyone must understand what ‘done’ means. Although this varies significantly per Scrum Team, members must have a shared understanding of what it means for work to be complete, to ensure transparency. This is the definition of ‘done’ for the Scrum Team and is used to assess when work is complete on the product increment.”

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What is the difference between UX and UI?

Here we explain the difference between UX and UI – a common confusion amongst IT professionals.

User Experience (UX) Design is the process of enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty by improving the usability, ease of use, and pleasure provided between the entirety of a user’s interaction with a businesses, services and products.

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What is a product led company?

To understand what a product led company is, we first need to understand what the difference between product development and a project is.

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What is a sprint review?

The sprint review is a Scrum event that takes place at the end of the sprint, just before the retrospective. The purpose of the review is to evaluate the latest features and to consider the plan for the product in the future.

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What is sprint planning?

Sprint planning is a Scrum event that takes place right at the beginning of each sprint. The whole Scrum team attends, and the objective is to determine the following:

  • What should we build before the end of the sprint?
  • How shall we build it?
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What is an agile retrospective?

Agile retrospectives allow empowered teams to identify meaningful improvements to the way they carry out their work. They are a core part of the Scrum framework, occurring at the end of each sprint, and are a common element in Kanban and other agile approaches.

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What PSM certifications do I need?

We are often asked if you need to pass all 3 assessments, (PSM I, PSM II and  PSMIII) to obtain the certification as a Scrum Master.  Well, most recruitment firms recognise just the PSM I to represent certification as a Scrum Master and most people who attend the PSM training course will just take the level 1 assessment.

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Can I claim PDUs for a Scrum.org course?

Students of Scrum.org courses are able to claim 14 PDUs after attending a two-day Professional Scrum Foundations (PSF), Professional Scrum Master (PSM), Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO), or Scaled Professional Scrum (SPS) course and 21 PDUs after attending a three-day Professional Scrum Developer (PSD) course. Please note that PMI PDUs are earned for course attendance and not for passing a Scrum.org assessment.

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When do Scrum.org 2nd free attempts expire?

All students taking PSF, PSM or PSPO courses accredited by Scrum.org are entitled to one free attempt at the relevant assessment. If the 1st attempt is taken within two weeks, and a passing score is not achieved, a 2nd free attempt will be granted. The exact time that this deal expires will be listed in the email you received from scrum.org. It is usually 23:59 UTC, 14 days after the password email has been received from Scrum.org.

If you do not take your 1st attempt within 14 days, you will be entitled to one attempt, which can be taken at any time and will not expire.

If you receive a 2nd free attempt, the 2nd attempt can be taken at any time and will not expire.

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What is a daily stand up / daily scrum?

A daily stand-up meeting is a short, time-boxed team status check, held every day, usually at a set time. The Scrum framework calls the daily stand-up a ‘Daily Scrum’.

The inspect and adapt nature of agile ways of working operates at a number of levels, from unit testing code which is done multiple times a day to reviews and retrospectives which can be held as rarely as every month. Communication is at the heart of building good teams, so getting a team to synchronise daily is a good idea – if done well.

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What is a product roadmap?

A product roadmap is a visible plan for the future.

There’s no one type of plan. There are different sorts that will be of interest and use to different people.

If you’re using the agile product delivery framework, Scrum, the sprint backlog is a plan for the immediate sprint. Most teams will have a product backlog, which is a prioritised wish-list of ideas that need to be taken on a journey from concept to reality.

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What is a sprint backlog?

A sprint backlog is a number of product backlog Items (PBIs) that have been committed to a sprint.

A product backlog is a list of potential work items, prioritised by relative order of value. The agile product delivery framework Scrum uses time boxes to pursue its goal of incremental delivery, so for every sprint the most valuable items on the product backlog that can fit into the prescribed time box should be ring fenced – and these become the sprint backlog. The sprint backlog is then just a sub-set of the product backlog.

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What is a product backlog?

A product backlog is a list of potential work items, prioritised by relative order of value.

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What is a sprint?

In the Scrum framework for agile product development, the sprint is a fixed period of time in which a defined set of activities take place and at the end of which a product increment is created.

A sprint would usually be set between one and four weeks and would be fixed for a product development until such time that the scrum team inspects their ways of working, during a retrospective, and may decide that an alternative sprint length may be beneficial to the way they work.

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What is a product increment?

In the context of agile software product development, using a framework such as Scrum, a software product increment is what gets produced at the end of a development period or timebox.

In Scrum, for example, the regular development cycle is a Sprint, a period of between one and four weeks in which a planned set of product features are developed. At the end of the Sprint, the development team would have created new software that gets built into the product in such a way that it could be released into live operation, if that is the desire. This is the product increment.

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