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User Stories

A good way of composing Product Backlog items is using “user stories”. This is an example:

As an end user, I want to get a report on my account activity, to check if everything is OK.

Yes, it’s small. That’s the point! We prefer to have small items, because it makes it easier to control the project. We can also produce enough 100% done small items in each iteration, while if the items are large, it’s hard to say when they are really done.

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Product Backlog Items

No, it’s not OK to have an item like “create the solution architecture” in the Product Backlog, because it’s predictive. We need to design the product iteratively.

We only have functions there; things that the customer can understand, and when produced, can try out and give us feedback. That’s why Product Backlog Items should have two characteristics:

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Starting the Project

The first thing we should do is to create the “Product Backlog”. It’s the list of features we have thought about for the project. It’s the definition of the scope.

However, Scrum is not predictive, so we do not plan upfront. Instead of creating a complete Product Backlog, we just add enough items for the next few cycles (aka iterations or Sprints). Then we will start the first cycle and keep updating the Product Backlog “adaptively”.

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Is Agile New?

Can you imagine no one thought about or tried adaptation 2000 or 3000 years ago? I can’t. I just can’t believe it was invented in the last 20 or 30 years. Just imagine ancient wars; were they predictive, or adaptive?

Of course we didn’t have modern labels such as Agile, or new frameworks such as Scrum, but the concepts had been there. At least, that’s how I believe.

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We talked about predictive systems in last post. When we cannot use a predictive system, an adaptive one is a great replacement. Adaptive systems are those commonly called “Agile”.

This system is used when we have a result in mind, but we cannot be sure what kind of product can create it, and therefore “prediction” is not possible. This is the case when the market changes dramatically (think of IT), or it’s not possible to really understand the market or the client.

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What is Agile?

Many people have difficulty defining “Agile”, and to be honest, many people do not have the correct understanding. However, I believe it’s really simple: being Agile is using an adaptive development system instead of a predictive one.

OK, now we have two problems:

understanding adaptive systems, and understanding predictive ones.
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What is Scrum?

Scrum is an Agile framework. The most famous one. About 70% of Agile companies are using Scrum, or a combination of Scrum with another Agile system such as XP (eXtreme Programming).

It’s important for you to understand that Scrum and Agile are not the same thing. Agile is a concept upon which many frameworks and methodologies have been created, and Scrum is one of them. In other words, Scrum is a way of practicing Agile in the real world.

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