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Business

Scrum Methodology

What does it mean to be agile?

Being agile means we know how to react to the market and customers, and we react by responding quickly to their needs and requests. Agile methodologies try to minimize the risk of creating products that do not meet – or no longer meet – the needs of the market nor the customers.
Scrum is one of the most popular agile methodologies that is nowadays used to develop complex products and systems.

Agile scrum methodology is a Sprint-based project management system with the aim of providing the greatest value to stakeholders. It encourages teams to learn from experience, to self organize while working on a problem, and to reflect on their wins and losses in order to continuously improve.

It consists of 3 steps: 
1. getting work done
2. checking it
3. adjusting it

 

We ourselves use Scrum methodology for the management of our own projects, and tools such as Jira, Azure or Trello help us with the project and task organization. They are easy to use, and also let us keep track of the progress, so both we and our clients are always up to date when it comes to work that is currently being done and how its progress is coming along, so that if needed we can adapt to it in the future.

In this post, we will go through some Scrum events and Scrum participants, and what they look like for us.

Sprint

A Sprint is a time-bound period of 2 ,up to 4, weeks during which specific work must be completed and ready to be delivered to the stakeholders. This way, feedback is obtained regularly and plans for further implementation or potential changes can be made.

The duration of the Sprint depends on the size and the complexity of the project itself. Within our projects, it usually lasts for 2 weeks.

Sprint starts with Sprint Planning and ends with Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective. These phases are repeated throughout the project’s life cycle until the entire project is delivered before the stakeholders.

Product backlog and Refinement

The Product Backlog contains all the work related to product development and its improvement. Product Backlog is a list of work tasks (Task, Story) that need to be done in order to develop the product. This list is open to change and is continuously updated as the work on the product progresses.

Refinement is a meeting in which both the Product Owner and the development team participate. They analyze, discuss, assess the complexity and time needed to complete the tasks. This is also the way of keeping Product Backlog well maintained. Work assignments must be understood by everyone involved (shared understanding), have an estimate on complexity and how much effort (time) will the implementation take.

Refinement and Sprint Planning help us prepare and plan both work tasks and Sprints better.

Sprint Planning

Sprint Planning is the event in Scrum that starts the Sprint. The purpose of Sprint Planning is to define what can be delivered within the Sprint and how will that be done. Sprint planning is done by the Product Owner in cooperation with the entire Dev team.

The estimated duration of Sprint Planning is 2 hours for each week of the Sprint. This means that if the Sprint lasts 2 weeks, this meeting should last 4 hours. But if the team prepares well and estimates the tasks they plan to include in the Sprint, planning can take less time.

Our practice is that Sprint Planning does not last longer than an hour, and we achieve this by carefully preparing and estimating each work task during the Refinement meetings.

Daily meetings

During a Sprint, the team holds daily standup meetings in order to discuss progress and find solutions for challenges we are facing. Both the Development team and Product Owner attend this meeting, although the PO is not required.

During this meeting, all team members should give answers to the following 3 questions:
1. What did you do yesterday?
2. What are you going to do today?
3. Is there something blocking you?

Daily meetings should last from 5, up to 15 minutes.
We hold them every morning, at the beginning of the work day.

Sprint Review

The Sprint Review is an informal meeting during which the team demonstrates what has been achieved, while stakeholders provide feedback. The Development team, Product Owner and Stakeholders are attending this meeting.
The main purpose of the Sprint Review is to examine the outcome of the Sprint, gather feedback from all stakeholders, create a plan and reorganize the Product Backlog.

The Sprint Review is held at the end of the Sprint. The duration of this type of meeting is estimated at 1 hour per Sprint week. This means that if the Sprint lasts 2 weeks, this meeting should last 2 hours.

We like to keep our Sprint Review flexible, therefore our Sprint Review lasts up to an hour.

Sprint Retrospective

At the Retrospective we discuss what went well during the previous Sprint and what can be improved for the next one. We can think of it as a meeting where we discuss the good and bad things that happened in the previous Sprint and the things that we should start, stop and continue doing. This is the moment when the previous Sprint is used for learning.
The meeting is attended by the Development team, Product Owner and Scrum master.

A Sprint Retrospective is held at the end of each Sprint. The estimated duration of the Retrospective is 45 minutes per Sprint week. This means that if the Sprint lasts 2 weeks, the Retrospective should last 1 hour and 30 minutes.

We believe that the time allotted for the Sprint Retrospective should be flexible. When we judge that the Sprint was easy and that we did not have any problems, we reduce the duration of the meeting.

Dev Team

Group of 3 to 9 people that are working together on development of a product, and have all the skills and abilities needed to get the development done.

In our case, a Dev team consists of 1 or more Android developers, 1 or more iOS developers, 2 backend developers (mostly), a designer and a tester.

Conclusion

We have seen what Scrum should look like theoretically, as described in the scrum guide. We also saw how we could apply the Scrum methodology and adapt it to our projects. The Scrum guide should only be a guideline on how to proceed, but the point of agile methodologies is flexibility and learning from previous experiences. That’s why if you, like us, feel that you can’t apply or do some things as described, you have the freedom to adapt them as you see fit for your own team and projects. This will bring out the best in team, as they feel free to express their opinion, approval or disapproval – and in the end, that’s how success is achieved!

Categories
Business

Mobile App vs. Website: What is best for your business

As a CEO or business owner, you have probably considered how to attract customers and what strategy to use, such as whether to develop a website or mobile application. There is no definitive answer because the alternative you pick will rely on your business plans, your resources, and any properties you might require.

We would like to share our expertise in this area and highlight the advantages of mobile apps to assist you in making the best decision for your company.

Numbers speak for themselves

In 2020, mobile devices accounted for 68.1% of all website visitors globally, up from 63.3% in 2019. 28.9% of visitors came from desktops, while 3.1% came from tablets.

This shows that the mobile users percentage keeps growing every year and that the future is undoubtedly mobile. On the graph below you can see that the number of mobile online users surpassed desktop users as far as in 2013. and this difference is bigger every year.

The Ideal Situation to Develop a Mobile App

There are many circumstances where creating a mobile application is the best option for addressing particular company objectives:

  1. An application would be a better solution than a website, for example, if you intend to set up features tied to native device capabilities, such as GPS, click-to-call, cameras, scanners, BlueTooth devices, etc.

  2. Another appropriate occasion to pick an application is when you’re developing a platform, like a social network or a content marketplace, that has to maintain all these components functional and dynamic and requires access to multiple sorts of content (such as images, texts, music, and Youtube videos).

  3. Applications are ideal for interactive games like Angry Birds, daily utilities like Evernote, and services that let you train, monitor your progress in real time, and receive reminders on a regular basis (FitBit, Duolingo).

  4. A mobile application is also a viable option for data manipulation. It’s also preferable to use an app for processing complex computations and creating reports, such as in banking and finance. In addition to a full website, a mobile app may be a terrific supplement for banking operations and services. Banks (such as Banca Intesa and Raiffeisen) successfully implement this concept by focusing solely on the most widely used desktop web capabilities that are essential for usage on the go and include them in their applications in a way that makes them simple and convenient to use.

Advantages of choosing an app over a website

  • Convenience. Analysis reveals that the applications are more widely used than comparable websites because they are more practical. Mobile applications are simpler to use, offer better user experiences, and load content more quickly. In addition, applications feature push alerts, unlike web pages. Within an app, communicating updates, unique features, and reminders improves user retention. Additionally, compared to websites, the design of mobile applications more gracefully adapts to various screen sizes.

  • Personalization. Apps for mobile devices are a fantastic solution for services that need frequent use. Users may configure preferences, make personal accounts, and store important information in an application. From a commercial perspective, mobile applications offer superior assistance for audience targeting and subsequently designing marketing campaigns for various user groups.

  • Working offline. The ability to utilize mobile apps offline is an additional significant benefit. Apps can continue to offer access to material and services after being downloaded and installed on a mobile device, even if there is no internet connection.
Categories
Business

What made me a better leader

Challenges I faced in my early leadership career

I believe that most leaders when they were children did not use to say „leader“ when asked What would you like to be when you grow up?

The same was with me. As a child, I wanted to be an astronomer, but still, I focused on software engineering. Neither of those two professions specifically directed me towards leadership. However, during my schooling, I went to a competition in entrepreneurship and innovation. I was on the team with four, at the time unknown people. I did not impose myself to be a leader of the team, it happened instinctively and I led a team of people who have been professionals in areas such as economics, marketing, design… I enjoyed watching everyone working as a team to achieve one common goal – victory. Together we reached that goal, we won. Even then, not knowing it, I faced what was one of the main challenges in the leadership world. And that is how to lead people of different profiles, characteristics, and natures.

I recently read a great book on emotional intelligence in leadership written by the outstanding psychologist Dejan Zivkovic. Some of the conclusions he brought to light in his book I found extremely useful. That’s why I think is important to share some of them with you. I would like to start by highlighting the importance of leadership styles because it is these styles that can help leaders when working with different profiles of people.

  • Visionary style – When it comes to leadership, people in most cases imagine a leader as a person having this style. The feature of this style is that the leader has a vision and uses empathy to inspire people in the team to follow that vision and to believe in it. He is doing his best for that vision to be the goal of each individual, but also the goal of the whole team.
  • Affiliate style – A style in which the leader shows that he cares about the people in the team, and does his best to build a great relationship with each member individually. It’s crucial to cultivate empathy for each other among all team members. An affiliate leader inspires others with his example and shows his employees how their work contributes to achieving the goal.
  • Democratic style – Wants to involve the whole team in making important decisions, always asks for the opinion of team members trying to solve the problem together, and knows how to listen to his teammates.
  • Coaching style – A leader who is also a mentor, closely related to the profession in which he leads people. He leads others to find their strengths and weaknesses and to push their limits. „Coach“ mainly directs to what should be tried when solving problems but never tells solutions.
  • Tempo dictating style* – A leader with this style sets high standards and goals for himself and the whole team. He is focused on the quality of work and constant progress.

    *all of the mentioned styles were originally defined by Daniel Goleman.

It can look as if these styles are very similar or even the same. This is probably because when we imagine an ideal leader, we imagine him practicing each of the aforementioned styles. And I would agree with that.

As one of the founders and leaders at Crystal Pigeon, I do my best to master each of the styles above. I do this so my people can trust me, that they can enjoy while working with me, but also so that we can reach our common goal.

When I founded the company and started my career as a software engineer, I was a technical mentor to two people. In the beginning, my main task was to train and guide them technically so that they would become independent as soon as possible and so that we could distribute responsibilities as soon as possible. That’s when I got to know the coaching style. In the meantime, I realized that without a visionary style, I would not have been able to gather a team and inspire them to work with me.

As time went on, the members progressed differently. Each team member was showing individual abilities, and each of them had something to be predominantly good at.

I started to wonder how was it possible that one person, let’s call her Ruby, fails to solve problem X while a person, let’s call her Diamond, solves that problem like out of a hall. On the other hand, when a Y problem arises, Ruby enjoys solving it, while the same is unbelievably boring and stressful for Diamond. I realized that the key is the diversity in personalities.

Imagine that on the one hand, you are leading Diamond, an extremely talented person who needs to be directed towards the goal. At the same time, you are leading Ruby, a very creative person, who knows what the goal is and does her best to reach that goal. She is persistent but lacks a lot of technical experience and psychological support for personal development. If these two people were on the same team, working on the same projects, how would you balance their progress and task completion?

This is when my challenges on the path to a good leader begun.

I intuitively started my leadership career with a coaching style, and as time passed by, it became a sort of a habit for me.

The coaching-style started to lose its effect with Ruby because she often wandered to find a solution. That resulted in losing will, motivation, and results getting weaker. With Diamond, the coaching style continued to be effective as she progressed at her own pace. Still, I decided to try a democratic style within the whole team and let them make decisions for the problems that are in front of them. I wanted to encourage their creativity, and that turned out well at first because they got the impression that they were a part of what they were creating. They felt like they are not only there to solve the problem but to contribute with their ideas and decisions.

However, the problem with this approach was that sometimes the team was afraid because of the presumption that the leader was not sure of his decisions and therefore leaves it to the team to make a decision. Besides that, at times it was very stressful for the team to make decisions. I figured it was necessary to adjust style usage, so I used the democratic style only on adequate occasions. The tempo-dictating style proved to be great in moments when there was a lot of work to do. It allows the team to see and feel the progress, and each individual feels his value. This style should be applied in moderation, as it can often be stressful and lead the burnout.

If I said that the solution came of its own accord, I would be lying. It took lots of experience in leading, and we had to go through all these situations together, as a team, to realize what the solution is – applying different styles, at different times, and adjusting them to different people. Even today, I study and work on choosing the right style at the right time. I often succeed, but I still make mistakes.

However, besides the two people I mentioned above, there are other Crystals in our company that I work with and have to maintain a good and friendly relationship with. When I started to bring in people from the other fields I was not able to mentor them, because I did not have enough experience in their field. That is the time when you have to make decisions jointly. I had to be able to direct them towards the goal and then listen to them and believe they are the ones who will find a solution to any problem that arises in front of them.

I am not a leader with a lifetime of experience behind me, but the one thing I know is that every leader must master the visionary and affiliative style, and should constantly apply and improve them. The leader must be there for his people, take care of them, and sacrifice. That’s how he gains trust and how he gets the same from his people. A leader must be a visionary, he must know the path he leads his people so that they feel safe and see clearly where they are traveling.


Lead your team so that everyone enjoys and progresses because after all, that is the most important thing of them all.