A Sprint Retrospective: Creating a quick prototype with agile

Miranda Singler • 10/3/2016

Agile development with Scrum master at Symsoft
The team at Symsoft uses a combination of Scrum and agile approach to build a quick web prototype.

We recently built a web prototype in two short weeks by following an agile approach. We used the scrum framework and fit our meetings into daily 15 minute discussions (called Daily Scrums). We narrowed our focus, and shortened development time from a few weeks to a few days. At the end of the project, we did a project retrospective to recap on what we learned during those two weeks. Here are a few main takeaways from our process:

Focus on the essentials (the bread and butter)

When you have only two weeks, focusing on the essentials is critical. You may identify features to enhance the web application, but it’s wise to set those aside and come back to them after you’ve completed the initial minimal viable product (MVP). At the beginning of the project, make sure that you and your team agree upon a "grocery list" of sorts for your MVP features. Stick with the basic bread and butter to start, keeping the lunchmeat, pickles, and other fancy fixins as part of the backlog.

Define what you mean by "Done"

At the start of the project, agree upon a definition of done. This means that when you define a task, and agree upon what’s required for that task to be done. By doing this, you can quickly move on from one task to the next.

Divide tasks into sub-tasks

Planning cards can help you and your team estimate time by rating each development task by level of complexity. For more precise planning, break down these tasks into sub-tasks so you can focus on smaller deliverables. This can also help you identify unnecessary complexities and extra work early on in the process.

Stick with what you know, and talk about what you don’t know

Identify what technologies you’ll need early on in the process, and if you’re working within a short time frame (like two weeks), acknowledge whether or not you have time to learn anything new. If you do use a new tool, and it starts to become a hindrance, talk to your team as soon as possible. You can always fall back on what you know. Regardless of what tools you use, having quick, ongoing discussions with your team may be the biggest help of all.

Looking back

Overall, using agile helped our team work more synchronously. Focusing on the essentials kept us focused, breaking down tasks helped with strategic thinking, and daily discussions kept communication flowing. Since that project, we have been adopting more of these techniques into our daily workflow, and it’s making a difference in our work and how we collaborate as a team.

How do you use agile? Let us know on Twitter @symsoft, or on Facebook. If you are looking for resources to get started with Agile and Scrum, here are some good places to start:

Miranda Singler

Miranda is a designer with 5 years of experience in facilitating business communications through clear design solutions partnered with engaging visuals. She loves brainstorming and iterating to develop intelligent visual storytelling that enhance and humanize technical communications.

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