Trent Oster gave a very valuable and information dense presentation of BioWareâ€™s Agile Implementation. As with every BioWare presentation you get a sense of how well thought out things are at BioWare and how closely they pay attention to what is happening with the teams on a day to day basis. It makes sense based on the values driven culture that we heard about on the first day of the forum.
The presentation was in three parts:
- An overview of what BioWare did to adopt agile
- The problems they encountered
- What they did to fix the problems
BioWare made great use of a coach during their adoption of Scrum. Trent brought Mike Cohn in and said that they benefited greatly from his classes. BioWare formerly trained almost everyone on the team about Scrum. Teams were 3-10 people in size. Daily Scrums were run by-the-book with stand-ups, war-rooms and task boards.
Problems & Solutions
Trent covered the five significant problems and their solutions that they encountered adopting Scrum.
Technical debt is any technical work on the project that isnâ€™t â€œdone doneâ€, which Trent defines as proven in the game. Addressing technical loose ends has been a challenge for their releases (multiple sprints leading to a demo). BioWare has implemented improved goal communication and allowed for the last sprint of the release to be dedicated to addressing technical debt.
Technical and Architectural Oversight
BioWare identified the need for their princliple programmers to meet daily to discuss the technical vision and goals for the team programmers. This addresses the problems of having programmers distributed across multiple teams and the reduction in communication this causes.
Long term scheduling oversight
BioWare has maintained a â€œwaterfall likeâ€ approach to long term schedules using Scrum releases. The problem they ran into with this approach was that their long-term schedules were not maintained well enough to match the reality of an agile project. To address this, they have allowed for frequent revisits of the schedule and have migrated from a large schedule to â€œrolled up deliverablesâ€ that are more easily maintainable.
Clear Acceptance Criteria
When they first started using Scrum, some teams didnâ€™t go a good job defining what would be delivered. As a result, teams felt that they delivered early while customers felt they undelivered. To fix this, they introduced several practices:
- Short planning documents for each feature are written
- Meet to discuss the end user facing features.
- Write it up briefly and circulate for all parties
- Set up a review meeting before the work was started.
Some Scrum teams were consistently overestimating the work they could accomplish during a sprint and consistently missing their sprint goals. While BioWare leadership understood this desire, they wanted the teams to be a bit more realistic rather than accepting failure. They used historical data to influence the team yet still allowed the team to drop work ahead of the deadline to still get a level of success.
BioWare has realized many benefits of agile and Trentâ€™s talk was a very honest and informational description of their adoption.