Scaling New Heights: Lessons in Scrum Methodology Learned from Climbing Mountains

Scaling New Heights: Lessons in Scrum Methodology Learned from Climbing Mountains

Curated by: Rod Aburto

In the world of project management, the Scrum methodology has proven to be a powerful framework for agile and iterative development. But what if I told you that some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned about Scrum didn’t come from a conference room or a software development project, but rather from climbing mountains? In this blog post, I will share the unexpected parallels between Scrum methodology and mountaineering, unveiling the valuable insights gained from conquering peaks and navigating the challenges along the way.

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1. Embracing Iteractive Progress 

In Scrum, iterative development lies at the core, breaking down complex projects into manageable increments. Similarly, climbing mountains requires breaking the journey into smaller, achievable goals. Just as Scrum teams focus on completing sprints and delivering value, mountaineers concentrate on reaching intermediate points and base camps before progressing further. Embracing iterative progress allows both Scrum teams and climbers to maintain momentum, assess risks, and make necessary adjustments along the way.

2. Team Collaboration and Communication: 

Scrum methodology thrives on collaboration and effective communication within cross-functional teams. In mountaineering, successful ascents rely heavily on teamwork and clear communication between climbers. Just as Scrum teams hold daily stand-up meetings, mountaineers regularly gather to discuss routes, conditions, and strategies. Both settings emphasize the importance of sharing information, addressing challenges collectively, and maintaining a cohesive team spirit.

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3. Continuous Adaptation and Risk Management:

Mountaineers face ever-changing conditions and unexpected obstacles on their journey to the summit. Similarly, Scrum teams must adapt to evolving requirements, unforeseen challenges, and shifting priorities. Both endeavors require effective risk management strategies, anticipating potential hurdles, and adjusting plans accordingly. By embracing flexibility, Scrum teams and mountaineers navigate uncertainties and make informed decisions to maximize their chances of success.

4. Iterative Feedback and Learning:

Scrum methodology encourages frequent feedback loops, enabling teams to reflect, learn, and improve their processes continuously. Similarly, mountaineers rely on post-climb evaluations and

debriefings to analyze their performance and identify areas for growth. Both Scrum teams and climbers value constructive feedback as a catalyst for continuous learning, enabling them to refine their approaches and optimize their future endeavors.

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5. Focus on Incremental Goals:

Scrum methodology emphasizes setting achievable goals for each sprint, ensuring incremental progress towards the overall project vision. Similarly, mountaineers focus on reaching intermediate waypoints, base camps, or notable landmarks before advancing further. Breaking down the journey into smaller, attainable goals fosters motivation, builds confidence, and provides a sense of accomplishment. It also allows for a reassessment of progress and priorities at each milestone.

6. Resilience and Perseverance:

Climbing mountains and implementing Scrum methodologies both demand resilience and perseverance. Scaling steep slopes or navigating treacherous terrains requires physical and mental strength, as does tackling complex software projects. In both cases, setbacks and challenges are inevitable. However, it is the ability to persevere, adapt, and overcome obstacles that leads to eventual success.

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As surprising as it may seem, the lessons I’ve learned about Scrum methodology from climbing mountains have been invaluable. The parallel experiences of embracing iterative progress, fostering team collaboration and communication, adapting to risks and uncertainties, learning from feedback, focusing on incremental goals, and demonstrating resilience and perseverance are common to both endeavors. By drawing inspiration from mountaineering, we can enhance our understanding and application of Scrum principles, injecting a fresh perspective into agile project management. So, whether you find yourself in a Scrum team or planning your next mountaineering adventure, remember that the journey itself holds valuable insights that can elevate your performance and propel you towards greater heights of success.

The Value Of Team Flexibility During Challenging Times: Why Is Dynamic Staffing Better?

The Value Of Team Flexibility During Challenging Times: Why Is Dynamic Staffing Better?

Curated by: Sergio A. Martínez

Even if it looks otherwise, the software industry is not immune to the effects of recession cycles. During times when spending decreases and businesses become more cost-conscious, budgets for software development projects often suffer, having a significant impact on companies that rely on project-based revenue streams and their employees. And as we’ve seen so far in 2023, an unstable global economy has affected the Technology sector like never before, pushing software businesses today to navigate a very difficult situation where taking the necessary steps to shield themselves from the worst consequences of an economic downturn is critical. 

The Value Of Team Flexibility During Challenging Times: Why Is Dynamic Staffing Better?

Above all else, a very effective approach for software companies is to be agile and create systems and processes that enable them to adjust staff levels quickly when needed, focusing on minimizing disruption to any ongoing development project. After all, building a flexible team structure with both full-time and contract workers who can respond to current demands ensures that a company remains fully staffed, and resources remain able to be scaled up or down according to the current economic needs of the organization. And implementing effective training methods play an important role here too, guaranteeing that everyone is equipped with the necessary skills to bring a positive outcome for any project even if the team composition has changed. In other words, readiness is key when it comes to dealing with financial unpredictability and having a versatile workforce ready at all times is a big part of this success.

However, in tight budgets, companies often have to make tough choices, cutting back on staff and resources, making it difficult to build adequate teams with the right combination of skills. And if this situation continues for a long period, it can become increasingly tough for teams to maintain their momentum and stay on top of any new trends entering the market, with current staff members often having to take a bigger workload to fill in gaps that larger teams would otherwise occupy. It’s pretty likely that, during economic downturns, a lot of software organizations find themselves limited in the available talent they can hire. 

With this in mind, having the ability to scale the size of a software team can be an invaluable asset for any company. Such teams can come together quickly when needed, enabling companies to pivot and take on unique and complex projects that would otherwise be too difficult to tackle. At the same time, this approach allows developers to focus on specific tasks with laser-like precision, resulting in an improved project and output. So, during economically-uncertain times, the most successful software companies can decide about their ideal team size, as opposed to teams limited by what’s available at any given moment. But what is the best option to maintain flexibility in tough times? What choices are available?

Thinking outside the box

The Value Of Team Flexibility During Challenging Times: Why Is Dynamic Staffing Better?

In recent years, outsourcing software development has become increasingly popular thanks to the economic uncertainty that has prevailed since the start of the pandemic. Outsourcing allows organizations to take lesser risks, reduce operational costs and, more importantly, attain the necessary flexibility to scale staff up or down depending on the needs of a project, without the cost and commitment associated with hiring additional employees or establishing new departments in the company. Furthermore, it can be easier to forecast expenses when using an outside partner because project costs are fixed and known in advance, as long as a quality vendor is chosen. With companies now looking to stretch their budgets as much as possible to compete during every recession cycle, outsourcing provides an easy option for them to cut costs simply by working with external partners that specialize in the desired tasks. 

However, not all types of outsourcing are equal; the specific service must be tailored to match the individual circumstances of a company. Offshore outsourcing, for example, can offer low-cost highly-skilled coding, but working with remote locations (often in different continents) imposes delays, language barriers, and different cultural expectations that can lead to negative outcomes. On the other hand, more localized models such as freelancing might provide heightened responsiveness at somewhat higher rates but with less potential to scale up quickly which, as we already mentioned, is of utmost importance during a recession. 

This is where a Nearshore partnership model comes in. By partnering with a Nearshore such as Scio, software companies can benefit from an increased resource pool compared to employing an onsite team, providing additional strategic advantages. Things like access to skilled developers and IT engineers, expanded working hours due to the similar time zones, as well as the excellent user experience achieved by having a more diverse staff are some examples of advantages that companies can get to maintain their competitive edge in difficult economic times, thus allowing them to succeed despite the challenging environment. This is especially true when it comes to the aforementioned flexibility needed to keep the momentum of a project with very specific requirements.

The core benefit of working with a Nearshore partner, in short, is that team size can be dynamically adjusted to fit the specific needs of any project, which eliminates the problem of needing to find and build larger than necessary teams in-house. This means far less time wasted on locating and planning hiring cycles due to sudden additions or deletions from a team, and the ability to rapidly expand or contract their workforce without incurring the traditional drawbacks that come with making similar adjustments. And the ease of access to overseas markets, coupled with localized teams, means businesses can quickly scale up or down without worrying about talent availability, high attrition rates due to tedious onboarding processes, and language barrier issues. With Nearshore teams available at short notice, companies no longer have to strain their resources trying to keep track of volatile demands, enabling organizations to be better equipped to take full advantage of their resource expenditure.

But what if team flexibility is not enough?

The Value Of Team Flexibility During Challenging Times: Why Is Dynamic Staffing Better?

In an economic cycle of growth and recession, Technology companies must do their part to protect themselves, and one of the biggest challenges is staying on top of trends, as consumer needs in the software industry are constantly changing and evolving. Adopting or developing new products or services that can help grow their business during both times of growth and recession should play into their strategic planning, of course, and companies should be open to making changes in their business practices, automating redundant processes and streamlining tasks where possible, making adjustments to their product lines if those become over-saturated or if more cost-effective alternatives are available. 

And embracing new technologies should never be out of the question, especially with a trustworthy Nearshore partner at your side, which could help increase productivity by taking care of development and training staff on the relevant skills you need. Identifying innovative new ideas for existing services can also help generate new sources of revenue and put the company in a better position when the economy recovers. Staying diversified by offering services across multiple industries can provide stability even in times of economic uncertainty. Lastly, maintaining strong communication with customers allows you to anticipate their needs and prepare for whatever economic situation may arise while also building consumer loyalty which is beneficial both during times of growth and recession.

In short, the world economy is often subject to unforeseen changes, from threats of recession to pandemics. Software organizations must be prepared when unpredictable times arise, no matter how much the market fluctuates. Taking every precaution possible when anticipating economic hardship ensures that a business or organization can weather any storm, making changes as necessary, such as adopting a more flexible approach to staffing, to stay up-to-date on industry trends. Preparation leads to success, so software development organizations must take every precaution possible if faced with an economically trying year to remain strong during the entire season.

The Key Takeaways

  • Historically speaking, the tech industry has remained strong in the face of recessions, but that might not be true anymore in 2023.
  • To weather these economically-uncertain times, one of the key approaches is having flexibility in your staff, enabling you to increase or decrease team sizes as the situation demands.
  • To this end, partnering with a Nearshore company, instead of building on-site teams, is the best approach to accomplish this, enabling a company to access talent as a project and the economy permits.
  • However, secondary plans, like having a long-term strategy, keeping on top of trends, and being smart about your development partners, might also help to armor a software organization against any economic downturn. 
The Expert Blindspot, or why you should let junior developers do code review.

The Expert Blindspot, or why you should let junior developers do code review.

Curated by: Sergio A. Martínez

When you are trying to bring a new application to life, code reviews are an essential part of the development process. They help ensure the quality of the code, identify potential problems and bugs early enough to squash them and provide the perfect opportunity to get feedback from your peers. This is a source of insight and helpful criticism that can help a developer grow.


After all, in big collaborative projects such as software development, no part of the process is made in isolation; receiving advice is an important part of every good team, cultivating a better collaborative environment, and establishing a sense of trust and camaraderie among the team. Code reviews, for example, are one of the most important steps in this process, but how they should be conducted, and by whom, are questions to keep in mind when trying to guarantee the quality of any product. 

Naturally, this task tends to fall on the shoulders of the more experienced developers of a team, as seniors should know what they are doing and what to look for, but is their input the only valid one? Or should junior developers be allowed to do code reviews for their more experienced teammates? What benefits can a team have by giving the least experienced members such a responsibility?

We want to make the case that allowing junior developers to review the code written by a senior collaborator not only helps them grow their skills, but it’s a procedure essential to ensure quality in the codebase. Any team that doesn’t employ this strategy might be missing a great opportunity there, but what’s the reasoning behind it?

“You can’t win against someone who makes a bet for fun”

The Expert Blindspot, or why you should let junior develop

In professional poker, winning against amateurs is not exactly guaranteed. Of course, luck is involved, but the technique is important too. Knowing how to read the tells of your opponent, having a good idea of which cards are currently in play, and learning to push your bets at the most strategic moments are part of the toolset of any professional player. And all this can be disrupted rather easily by an amateur with less experience at the game because they are harder to estimate and bluff.

This interesting irony was noted by movie critic Gene Siskel, an experienced player when he lost against his equally famous partner Roger Ebert at a bachelor party: “You can’t win against someone who makes a bet for fun”. In other words, professional player has very specific expectations if they are going against another pro, and their decisions come from a place of knowledge and experience where possibilities tend to be more studied and controlled. So, if you are an experienced developer reviewing the code written by another experienced developer, what exactly do you expect to see? Is that different from reviewing the code written by a junior programmer? Of course, the answer is yes. This phenomenon is called “the expert blind spot”:

The experts will have difficulty to understand why the beginners don’t understand. For them, the concept feels obvious. The learners, on the other side, won’t be able to ask the good questions either, since they’re not aware of what they don’t know. How to ask good questions if you have no idea what kind of answer you want?

Although the expert blind spot is usually used in the context of teaching, the difficulties a veteran might have to pass along his knowledge in the context of code reviews are similar to our earlier poker example. A senior reviewing the code of a senior tends to have certain expectations about it, which is both a benefit and a risk: certain things might be taken as “obvious” and not be considered until it’s too late.  

After all, anyone who has ever worked on a complex project knows the frustration of feeling where something might be wrong but can’t quite see it. That’s why it’s always a good idea to take a look at it with fresh eyes. In that sense, junior developers can bring a lot to the table when it comes to code reviews, free from all assumptions and rigid pathways that might trip up even the best programmers.

A good way to conduct a code review

The Expert Blindspot, or why you should let junior 2

However, that is not to say that junior developers should bear the entire responsibility of code reviews; guidance and backup are still needed to ensure they are properly conducted during the sprint. In the words of Carlos Estrada, a Lead Developer Application at Scio:

It’s generally a good idea to have a junior dev participate in code reviews, it’s useful for them to see what changes a senior does, and learn to find and track changes, but they cannot be the ones to approve the review. There have been a few internal projects I supervised where mostly juniors were involved, and when the time was short, the juniors had to do it themselves, learning from the comments I have left on earlier reviews.”

In short, junior developers are the backbone of any software development team. They may not have as much experience as their senior colleagues, but they can make up for it with a desire to learn and master the craft, which makes them a perfect addition to a thorough code review: 

  1. As already said, by conducting code reviews, junior developers can see for themselves how code written by a veteran looks; which good practices are implemented, proper comment discipline, and readability, which can help them become better programmers. 
  2. A junior reviewing code can spot mistakes that a veteran might otherwise overlook due to the expert blind spot; a fresh perspective, free of all the expectations and assumptions a senior can unconsciously have, can sometimes obtain a better insight of the code.  

However, not all code review processes are created equal, and for one to be effective, it should follow a few simple steps that ensure the resulting review is useful. Many veteran developers may know these steps by heart, but to a junior starting to learn the value of these exercises, the following procedure is always recommended: 

  • First, developers should submit their code for review early and often.

    This allows for more frequent feedback and helps to prevent errors from becoming entrenched in the codebase. 

  • Second, all reviewers should have a common understanding of the project’s goals.

    This helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to evaluating the code. 

  • Finally, reviewers should focus on providing constructive feedback.

    By indicating what works well and what could be improved, reviewers can help developers produce better code with fewer errors. 

So, to recap, code reviews are an important part of the software development process, and juniors can learn a lot from participating in them. However, they need guidance from seniors to make sure that the code is correct and meets the standards that these projects strive for. And the final approval always must come from a senior member of the team, keeping an eye on the process, and making sure everyone can learn from it. After all, experience builds on the chance to bring new perspectives and let them teach new things.

Scio is an established Nearshore software development company based in Mexico that specializes in providing high-quality, cost-effective technologies for pioneering tech companies. We have been building and mentoring teams of engineers since 2003 and our experience gives us access not only to the knowledge but also the expertise needed when tackling any project. Get started today by contacting us about your project needs – We have teams available to help you achieve your business goals. Get in contact today!

“The best way to keep in touch with both worlds”, a chat with developer Nati Lara.

“The best way to keep in touch with both worlds”, a chat with developer Nati Lara.

The field of software development has a lot of roads, some are more challenging than others. And for Nati Lara, a Front-End dev currently living in Denmark and mom to a toddler, these experiences have been incredible. How does remote work and software impact her job as a mom and developer?

By Scio Team

Whenever someone asks me what I do for a living and I tell them I’m a software developer, the response almost always is “You must be very smart!”, because this preconceived notion of this job is that only the more intelligent persons can do it and, well, no. 

It’s like when I see a carpenter doing their thing, and I say to myself “I could never do that”, but if it really interests you and you want to make your ideas into reality, it’s within everyone’s reach.

I started programming back in High School when a teacher helped us learn to use Delfi by designing a simple website. It was a very interesting exercise, having to do an entire page by myself; it was the final project of the semester and everyone did whatever they wanted, but I got really into it.

It was a gripping challenge because the teacher didn’t explain much, so we had to make with whatever solution and tools we had on hand, and I liked that a lot. Delfi already has some basics, so we didn’t have to start from scratch, writing zeroes and ones, which changed my ideas of programming. I used to think it was a black screen with green text on it like in the movies, so it was a different experience.

I used to like computers a lot as a kid, my parents got their first one when I was 10 years old, but I didn’t know anything that had to do with programming. I was curious about interfaces, not as much as the inner workings, and that’s what I specialize in today.

That’s why I do Front-End in iOS, I like things where I can see the result. I don’t get too much into Back-End stuff, where I don’t have a clear vision of how things are working, I prefer working on things where I can see the immediate result.

As a developer, the best feeling I get is when I can put my ideas in motion, and make something useful out of them, building a work of art without using my hands directly, so to speak. I like working with others, knowing everything about every part of a project, and contributing in a specific direction. The client I’m currently working with makes vegan and vegetarian food; the chefs here run the kitchen and develop recipes that avoid meat, trying to show that the absence of it still results in a good dish. 

Their clients subscribe to the app I’m maintaining, and they get pre-made meals for three days, all vegan. There are many ideas involved with this project, like showing how much CO2 is being saved by avoiding the consumption of meat. I like it because, beyond the food, it tries to show the individual impact we have, and it even changed my conception of vegan and vegetarianism, which has changed since I work here and now I want to do my part.

The road here wasn’t a straight line. I originally studied Art and Digital Animation, because even though I always had some affinity for STEM stuff, I also liked creativity, drawing, and graphic design, but I didn’t want to go completely in that direction. So I tried something that had a bit of everything, but I ended up realizing that I liked it a lot, but maybe I wasn’t as good at it.

At some point, I started developing web pages with a friend that wasn’t very good at programming, but skilled at designing, so we started taking freelance jobs where I did the technical stuff and she did the visual part of the project.

That is how I ended up pursuing a Master’s degree in Software Development because I found it the best way to keep in touch with both worlds. I’m a developer, and I like having an opinion on everything visually going on during a project; when doing a website, I like to make sure everything lines up, looks good and works well. Even if I don’t consider myself the best designer, I like to pay attention to the details of it by programming.

For a degree like this, a proportion of 30% women does not sound like a lot, but it is, even if women are the most prone to abandon it before finishing. In Digital Design it was more balanced, around 50/50 or so, but here it was a noticeable difference. I think this ratio holds in most engineering careers, and in our culture at least, more women go for careers in Humanities like Arts or Social Studies, and a lot less in STEM.

My dad was a teacher, and he always raised us close to the sciences, so it wasn’t an issue for me, but my parents did prevent me from trying things like sports, especially soccer. I mean, I still don’t play it, but I also never had the opportunity, even if my dad somehow planted the seeds of interest in sciences like math.

As a female developer, though, I have never felt out of place or made feel less, although I’ve never worked full time in Mexico. I currently live in Denmark, and so far I have been the only woman in the Tech team of both companies I have worked at.

There were more women at school, that’s for sure, but right now we are fifteen people in the Development department, and to be honest, I like it that way. A lot of owners and entrepreneurs are feeling the pressure of attracting women to close the gap between male and female developers, so it has been easy for me so far to find a place to work. Being a woman in this industry is an advantage some of the time. There’s nothing to be intimidated by.

It’s even funny sometimes. At work parties, I’m the only one trying to dress well and use make-up, and my friends like to joke about it, saying that my job is making sure everything looks great, so of course, I do those things.

That being said, it’s curious to notice that, at companies like Scio for example, most women tend to gravitate towards analytical and QA stuff. I wonder why that is. I’ve never met another woman doing Test Automation or things like that; last year a girl started working with us in Full-Stack but doing Data Analytics, and everyone else has always been men.


It’s something I talk about a lot. I have many friends dedicated to Humanities, and we always discuss the differences between our fields; in the case of one of them, her office is almost purely women, with one or two guys here and there. I guess there are many reasons for it, and I have wondered before why it’s so important to close gaps in certain areas.

I don’t see a field dominated by either gender as something inherently wrong, if these differences were dictated by more biological, natural affinities, like women being more social or men being more analytic. But when those exclusions are cultural when we try to separate genders from childhood by allowing kids to play with certain toys only, we are creating inequality, and something should be done about it. And this is a change that we are not going to see in the next year or two, but it will take maybe an entire generation to change these points of view.

Now, in the actual job, do these differences matter? Maybe I have different aesthetic sensibilities and ideas of how things should look, so I can tell my coworkers an application needs, but I’m not sure that’s because I’m a woman, or because I have a background in Design. Who knows?

Being a developer has also brought other advantages for me. I have a son currently four years old, and working in software gave me a lot of leeways to define my schedules and limits, define my own way to work, and leave enough time for my family. I feel like I’m more productive, with better control of my time, and applying a developer point of view to raising my kid, where I accomplish big things by dividing it into smaller tasks, finishing each, and going from there, has helped me a lot. 

Also, I’m used to staying up very late at night, so being a developer has also helped me a lot with that. Working in software, then, is very freeing and flexible, and I’m glad I could do it even before I was a mom. I don’t have to go to the office all the time, I can get along anywhere and the pay is not bad at all, so my quality of life is something I’m really happy about.

Benefits of Agile Development

Benefits of Agile Development

There are multiple methodologies that can be applied during software development, and one of the most popular is the concept of Agile software development. In an Agile environment, applications can be created through the implementation of individualized steps, with each one working toward a common goal. And while Agile methodologies (Scrum and Kanban, just to mention a few) have many benefits for developers, they are also advantageous for clients as well. Here are several ways that Agile development helps clients:

Client Engagement

Perhaps the foremost benefit of using Agile software development methodologies is the ability to keep the customer involved in every facet of the project. Commonly, Agile development progresses in stages known as Sprints, and it is after the completion of each Sprint where both developers and clients can make assessments and implement changes. This helps to promote a fluid exchange of information leading to an increase in project transparency. In addition, the fact that each Sprint represents a small piece of the development cycle means that clients can be frequently updated on the progress of the application.


It is not uncommon for a client’s needs to change during the development process, and with an Agile environment, these changes are relatively simple. While there is usually a formal plan as to how the finalized application will function, by building it in individualized steps, clients are able to refine specific functionalities while the software is still being created. In this way, these updates can be put to use during the next Sprint, after which the results can be retested to ensure client satisfaction.

Predictable Costs

Software development can be costly, and in many cases, these costs can fluctuate significantly as programming obstacles are encountered. However, through the use of Agile methodologies, developers have the ability to more accurately predict the costs that will be incurred throughout the process. This predictability comes from the fixed duration of the Sprints that separate each development phase. By knowing exactly how long a phase will take to complete and the amount of work that will be required, developers and clients will be aware of the costs before the next Sprint begins.


The Agile development process allows clients to set their own goals for the project and this can help the development team better understand the specific needs of the client. Through this added level of understanding, programmers and developers will be able to make recommendations to the client which could have a positive effect on the final application.

In Summary: Agile Development is…

When it comes to meeting the needs of the customer, Agile software development offers many advantages to the more standardized ways of building applications. Through Agile development, programmers and clients can easily engage and collaborate throughout each phase of the project, and this level of transparency helps to ensure that all team members are working toward a single goal. In addition, by breaking the development process into stages there is a greater ability to predict the costs that will be involved in the creation of the application. Furthermore, Agile phases, known as Sprints, allow for coders to make adaptations even as the software is being developed. Remember to keep these points in mind when looking for hiring a software development company.

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Agile Project Initiation

Agile Project Initiation

If you search on the Internet for “agile project initiation” you are going to find a LOT of templates. People want structure and easy answers, so of course, these simple answers rise to the top of every search. Many (if not most) of the templates offered are pared-down formats from the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) Project Initiation Documents (PID). There is nothing basically wrong with the idea of using templates or most of the templates offered, except – they tend to become prescriptive when they should be taken as guidance.

From the Agile Manifesto: “…we have come to value:

Working software over comprehensive documentation,”

With that in mind, we should ask – why do we document agile projects? Often, the answer is – because it is required (by someone) when in reality the answer should be – to communicate. But again, that simple answer fails to guide us to the necessary outcome:

  • Documentation should be a natural part of agile project initiation, but not the goal. It should proceed from on-going discussions between stakeholders, the product owner and the development team that is developed in Sprint 0, but it must not end there. The conversations and the documentation of outcomes must continue through the lifecycle of the project and the product.
  • strawman

    Initial documentation is just a strawman

    Documents gathered from product owners and key stakeholders are starting points, not final documents. Documents developed by a designated team member to fill out a template are strawmen to be examined, discussed, questioned, and used as a base for the ongoing development of understanding within the entire project team.

  • Living documentation formats should be preferred over static. In smaller projects, it may not be necessary to manage documentation formally, but in most cases using the same concepts as those used for source code management is a valid guideline. Properly maintained, living documentation answers the questions, “when was this decision made? by whom?” and gives a revision history that tells the story when necessary, but only makes it apparent when needed. It needs to include simple artifacts of these discussions – photographs of whiteboards, screenshots of modified mockups, etc. – in preference to notes developed after the fact and out of the sight of the team.
  • During Sprint 0, the aim must be to develop enough trust among the project team members to allow questions and dialog to form the base for a common understanding of those items that are included in most PID templates. If initial documentation is “handed down from on high” to team members without open, trusting discussion – it cannot be internalized by the team and it will not respond to the inevitable changes that will come as discovery and learning continue throughout the project. Agile software development embraces change by allowing the project team to recognize the inconsistencies and discoveries that will come out during development, surface them and deal with their impact through discussion and collaborative negotiation.

And before we get too far away from it – there are some really strong ideas in the Agile Modeling page on Agile/Lean Documentation. Honestly, though, there is a lot of information in that reference that should really be digested as a part of understanding agile, not as a guideline for a new project. For that purpose, this short piece is a better resource. But, if the outcome of project initiation is not a bunch of filled out PID templates that we can all take back to our cubicles and file away – What is it?

Agile Project Initiation is All About Communication

With the ideas we have mentioned in mind, we have to acknowledge that open, trusting, collaborative communication does not happen automatically in an agile project team. There are natural stages that every group will go through before they can have the kind open discussion needed without fearing it will harm relationships and respect. Discussions need to be wider than the project infrastructure, technology, and user stories, without the feeling an individual is stepping over the boundaries by asking about non-functional issues. We might need to know:

  • Does the culture and background of key user profiles matter to the software development team?
  • Does the role of key subject matter experts (SMEs) in product development for an organization make a difference to who needs to be included in discussions?
  • Are we using a Lean Product Development model with the inclusion of stakeholder users as part of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) development?
  • If we are working in a DevOps implementation, how does that change our standard production procedures?

There are all sorts of questions that are not (and cannot be) included in standard PID templates but could be critical to a specific project. If we don’t discuss our viewpoints and ask questions, we run the risk of assuming we have a common understanding and making decisions based on those assumptions. Every project, every team, every organization is different. In the best case, we can open ourselves up to collaborative discussion by getting the team together, face-to-face during project initiation, for dialog and team building using team games and facilitation with a bias to being productive, explorative, and fun. Using these techniques, we can strengthen the bonds and shared risks necessary to maintain a successful project throughout its lifecycle.

facetofaceIn cases where face-to-face project initiation is not possible (hopefully more rare than the rule), much can be accomplished with video/voice meetings if they are relatively short and like agile documentation, structured just enough to ensure the meetings reach necessary outcomes and allow for continued direct discussions among stakeholders in the team when needed. There is nothing much worse than sitting in a meeting where a long, passionate discussion between two team members seems to be sucking all the air out of the room – and the meeting outcomes are lost.

This piece is relatively short and again, more of a guideline than a prescription for agile project initiation, as it should be if we are to “eat our own dog food.” Bottom line:

  • Don’t be afraid to pull out a template when you start your next project, or when you look at it – crumple it up and throw it away so you can start your own list based on what you know and don’t know.
  • What you think you know or don’t know are assumptions and should be treated as such both during project initiation and throughout the project. Only a discussion with open questions between team members can validate ideas and give us a basis for moving forward. And the assumption that is understood as valid today may not be completely correct at another time.
  • Documentation must be limited to what is necessary when it is necessary and maintained throughout the project as living knowledge. Agile documentation should not be the domain of one person or one role. It must be available and dynamic – allowing everyone on the team to contribute when necessary – in a wiki-style rather than as a bunch of locked Word documents.
  • Agile project initiation should focus on both the productive side – bringing together the information needed to organize the project, initialize environments, and the functional user stories needed, as well as the people/team side – developing the understanding, trust, and communication necessary to work collaboratively throughout the project. Ignoring either side is perilous. Assuming the job is done at the end of Sprint 0 is fatal.

Scio is a vendor of agile, nearshore services for software development projects with our customer base in North America. We can provide project-based or dedicated teams as required for each situation. We would be glad to discuss how our broad base of experience and skills could help you be successful with your next project. Contact us for more information.