Managing web projects with Scrum

"The path is the goal". Heard so often and quoted even more often. However, there is also an important essence in it for our everyday work.

Overall goal of our projects is to create or enhance websites that exactly meet the specific requirements and expectations of our customers. More and more the path determines the success of the results. So we at undpaul decided some years ago to apply agile project management and now follow the Scrum framework.

You do not know Scrum yet? Then have a look at the introduction from scrum.org.

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What does Scrum mean for project work?

Scrum is a framework and provides a foundation. But how do we at undpaul use it for us? How does Scrum affect the projects? We have put together the most important questions here.

How does a web project run with undpaul?

First we agree with our customers on a cooperation and an overall goal, then it really gets started. A very important point is that not all details are determined and defined at the beginning. Instead, we realize the website step by step, in sprints of two weeks each. Each sprint expands the website with new functions and lays the foundation for further sprints. Depending on time and budget on the client side, we process a varying number of sprints per year.

In a digital ticket system (we usually use Atlassian Jira) we manage the backlog. Every member of the project team enters new requirements, change requests or errors into this living collection. Prior to each sprint, priorities and scope of the backlog entries are adjusted, if necessary, to meet the most relevant requirements in the upcoming sprint.

When the scope for a go-live is reached, the site goes live. From that point on, it belongs to the support/maintenance scope for us. If further adjustments or enhancements are pending, we plan these bundled in further sprints.

How does a sprint at undpaul work?

Together with the customer we define a time frame for the sprint. After all, everyone on the project team has to be available for the short sprint period and close cooperation.

With the preparation phase (grooming), we ensure that the requirements are defined in a clear and comprehensive way and that they are understood by the project team. What is possible and reasonable? What is unnecessarily complex? In most cases, a lot of discussion, additions or changes are made to ensure that the feature offers real added value for the end user.

In the planning meeting, the official start of the sprint, the development team estimates how many of the requirements can be realized during the sprint period. During the sprint, the requirements pass through various states: from implementation through internal developer QA to customer approval and deployment on the website. The dailies are the daily status update for the entire project team. Here we often clarify queries that have arisen during development.

With the end of the sprint period the sprint ends. The sprint board shows the result. At best, all issues are listed in the state "done" on the far right, i.e. they have been accepted by the customer and deployed on the website.

How do you involve the customers?

Regardless of the project management method, we see the collaboration as an equal give and take. We (from undpaul side and customer side) have a common goal and each member accomplishes important tasks and responsibilities. Through the Scrum process we involve our customers in the complete development phase and see the foundation in communication and transparency.

In the project teams we gladly hand over the role of the Product Owner to employees from the customer side, because they know the end users and their use patterns best. This means that a lot of responsibility for requirements, priorities and the release of new features is with our customers. Much of the preparatory work is done by the Product Owner with the support of the developers in grooming and planning. This determines the direction of the sprint. In the dailies, the Product Owner is welcome to get a daily overview of the current development status or to help with further questions.

What advantages do I have as a customer with the agile approach?

By now we have taken over many externally developed projects, as customers have requested more prompt communication and transparency. Our Scrum process helps enormously with these two points in particular, since the customers are involved in the entire development process: Among other things, they manage the backlog, communicate directly with the developers in the sprints, have access to the sprint board and can give immediate feedback at any time. The daily updates in the Daily allow for early coordination if a requirement exceeds the time frame.

Another advantage of Scrum is the focus on user-oriented and timely usable solutions. By working out the requirements together, an early exchange on usability, technical implementation or further development possibilities is created. Looking at things from different angles has often brought the project teams to good, new ideas.

New requirements are developed as a completed user story in a sprint. Thus, they are fully executable at the end of the sprint and the progress of the website is quickly visible.

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