Organisations that have embraced SCRUM wholeheartedly do gain the benefits offered by SCRUM if they have already undergone the phases of Forming, Norming and Storming. Usually this process is not really quick and requires dedication and patience.
In SCRUM the communication / collaboration between the Product Owner(s) [PO] and the Development Team [Team] happens on the Sprint Planning [SPM] and Spring Review [SRM] meetings. The former is for the team to commit on delivering certain amount of User Stories [US] and the latter is for the Team to present the results to the PO and for PO to accept the US-s if they meet the Acceptance criteria.
This is of course the ideal case, where there is nothing else to clarify with the PO-s and if there are usually no issues/questions that the PO-s or other departments need the Team’s help for.
In real-time circumstances it is not always smooth and usually the SPM and SRM communication is not enough, and the Team members are sometimes asked to share their view / opinion on this or that matter. Examples include:
- the PO team prepares User Stories for a major or important feature, and they need to know the opinion of the Development Team as soon as possible.
- the PO needs to know a relative and rough estimation of a User Story, when thinking for the releases ahead
- other departments, such as Marketing or Finance have questions about specific parts of the system (e.g. placing Publisher pixels on the website, payments table structure changes, etc.) which need to be addressed to the Development Team
The literature so far does not explicitly answer how to deal the issues like these. SCRUM itself implies that these questions need to be answered in Spike-s agreed on the Sprint Planning meeting, implying it will take at least a few days until the departments’ questions are answered.
One can argue that all this needs to be done within the SCRUM ceremonies, however usually it is essential for other departments to have some information, even if it is rough and can change, in hand, when the competition is extremely tough and certain strategic moves are planned ahead.
The online-based companies are naturally fast-paced and while SCRUM answers the development speed problems, sometimes other departments need quick feedback from technical experts, as shown above.
One way of handling these communications is so called “Q&A” sessions, or a dedicated 15-30 minute time every week where the development team commits to answer the questions raised by the PO or other departments. The process is the following:
- a few days prior to the agreed date/time the Questions are sent out to the development teams* the questions need to be precise and do not demand a research
- the developers who see that they can answer one or more of the questions confirm their participation in the Q&A session, one person for each
- a meeting / call takes place on the agreed date and the questions are quickly answered by the persons from the Team
* In case there are no questions, the Q&A session is simply cancelled.
This tool gives the possibility to organisations to tackle the small questions that usually pile up and become an impediment to the PO to organise a proper Sprint Planning Meeting resulting in many unnecessary spikes or a prolonged SPM.
There are also alternative techniques to manage situations where the development team’s feedback on User Stories is required prior to the Sprint Planning meeting, if the PO is preparing a major rework or a major new feature. In this case a “User Story Workshop” can be planned, where the PO shares the information on the upcoming User Stories, asking the teams for feedback.
The meeting also gives insight to the Team(s) making the estimations in the upcoming SPM easier.