Dual Track Scrum Tools and Techniques, Part 2

Within Scrum, a product backlog is used for tracking prioritized development requirements as normally determined by the product owner.  In Dual Track Scrum, it is recommend to use a separate backlog for the Discovery track.  Essentially, the discovery track backlog will “feed” into the product delivery backlog.  Discovery tracks would include techniques such as User Research/Validation, story mapping, building and testing personas, engaging in “what if” scenarios on design, creating minimum ceremony prototypes and tracking Key Performance Indicators.

Consider the opportunity canvas from my last blog (https://agilemichaeldougherty.wordpress.com/2015/08/24/dual-track-scrum-tools-and-techniques/), which covers the pains, remedies, experiments, ideas and options with continuously validating the right solution is being developed.  From that opportunity canvas, user research helps determine what your target audience wants is fully understood.  This can be done via user feedback groups, surveys, usability tests (like A/B Testing) tracking metrics and reaching out directly to the user base.  Now, if you don’t have an existing product, reaching out directly to the user base may be your only option to get direct and candid feedback of product ideas.

Story mapping is a core Agile principle similar to story boarding in the film industry where each step within a solution are created visually through a low fidelity interface in a top down approach.  This is intended to be very flexible so that story can be quickly added and removed as new ideas come up.  At a physical level, a board with post-its work really well.  There are many tools to map digitally and have a preference for FeatureMap and CardBoard, but recommend you research what is best for your needs.  A good article on story mapping is at http://www.thoughtworks.com/insights/blog/story-mapping-visual-way-building-product-backlog.

When it comes to delivering the right solution, knowing your audience down to a specific persona should not be overlooked.  Build model and “edge” audiences to determine all variances of users.  If your target audience are women between 18 and 35 for a cosmetic app, you should still consider including men of different ages that may have a reason to use the app as well.  These personas should be fed into your story board and real users should be found that closely match these personas to validate assumptions and clarify new ideas.

Holding “what if” brainstorming sessions on what and how to build will help promote continuous improvement and recommend using mind maps as tools to visually expand on asking questions on what the ideal solution would do if time, budget and feasibility were not a limitation.

Quick and repeated visualization is a key to delivering a continuously improving solution.  Through low fidelity prototypes, quick assessment and validation can be used for all the previous steps as a visual aid.  As the discovery matures, these prototypes should mature too, becoming higher in fidelity as features are validated as the right ones to build.  New ideas are then introduced at minimum visualization and mature as they are accepted or disappear if rejected.

Finally, to follow the old adage of “What gets tracked, gets done”, Key Performance Indicators should be determined for validating the benefit of discovery.  Ensuring that new features are being modified and improved is necessary.  If the discovery does not create enough change or no change at all, then the discovery track is broken and must be addressed.  Metrics such as the rate of changes, the projected benefits of those changes and the resulting improvements with user adoption (and funding) are critical to tracking.

I’ve heard of cases where daily refinement sessions to properly flesh out the user stories for the delivery backlog, would be held right after the daily stand up, but recommend this be held on an “as needed” basis, which may be every other day, weekly or even less.  However, a regular cadence should be set for each technique to best track progress.  The outputs of the discovery sessions should be incorporated into the product backlog and transitioned to the sprint backlog by the start of a new sprint.

In my next blog, I shall cover my overall opinion of Dual Track Scrum and it’s usage in today’s solution focused industry.

Published by Agile Mike

“Agile Mike” has over 25 years of experience with software development and product leadership. He is published under the “Built for Success” column in CIO.com magazine and held the position of Vice President in the Agile Leadership Network. Michael has taught multiple SAFe courses for over the past three years to over 400 people and is currently an Enterprise Agile Coach at Lean Agile Enterprises and a certified SAFe SPC5, AWS Cloud Architect, Scrum CSP, and PMP.

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