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Agile Tasking

Customer: I want to build a home. Could you give me an estimate?

Builder: No I cannot! You need to give me more information like how many rooms, plot size, how many floors etc.

Customer: I need you to build me a four bedrooms, two and one-half baths, a gourmet kitchen, walkout basement with media room and three-car garage in Pennsylvania.

Builder: Now you are talking! Do you insist on top-of-the-line cabinets and appliances for your gourmet kitchen, or will mid-range ones do? Are you planning to side the house with cheap vinyl or expensive stone brick? Is the house going to be one story, or two?  Will you have simple, rectangular rooms that minimize the materials and the labor required for framing, or unusual shapes like octagons with vaulted ceilings? What sort of flooring, bathroom fixtures and heating and cooling system will you have? Is the lot easy to access, relatively flat and easy to dig, or is it rocky, heavily wooded and uneven?

Similar to above story , its very difficult to provide an estimate when your customer asks the scrum team how long will it take deliver this feature or functionality. Breaking down the user story into tasks will help team to estimate their work accurately and track sprint progress.

What?

Tasking is the process that the developers undertake to understand, design, and properly prepare to write code for a user story.

Why?

The challenging decisions are made during tasking.  If tasking is done properly then the actual coding is a much simpler task.  I believe that this is the most important thing any scrum team does.

Who?

It’s important that all developers and testers attend.  This serves multiple purposes.

  1. every developer on the team begins to become comfortable with the code base for all of their applications
  2. every developer has the ability to include their input on the design and solution
  3. any developer on the team should be able to pick up any story at any point to complete the tasks because they were there and the expectation should be such.
  4. every tester in the team can ensure they’re aware of the solution and that it meets all of their criteria.

It’s also good to have the BA there to review the story with the team and answer any questions.  Once the story is reviewed it usually makes sense for the BA to go about their day and to let the developers get into the technical details.

When?

Second half of the sprint planning session or right before the work is to be done (if  other stories being implemented that may change the approach and invalidate the tasking that was completed).

How?

Step 1: Review Current Code

The developers will review the current code that relates to the user story.  They will walk through the code to ensure that everyone is on the same page with what the code currently looks like.

Step 2: Decide on Changes to Code

The developers will discuss how to modify the existing code to make the addition of the new functionality simple.  It’s common for developers to perpetuate the logic found in the current code (good or bad), so always considering ways to change the code is a key to having well written code.

Step 3: Draw a Sequence Diagram

The sequence diagram is a visual representation of the classes that call each other to accomplish some discussed part of the code.  If this diagram is complicated, then it’s a great indication that the code should be modified so that the diagram is less complicated.

Step 4: Task Out New Work

Once everything is decided, the actual coding tasks should be created and ordered.  Each task should take under an hour to complete.  The developers can then grab these tasks and complete the story in small chucks in separate streams ( if needed).

Why Tasking Doesn’t Happen?

For all of the reasons stated above, it’s important that the teams task stories.  It’s easy for developers to take shortcuts and skip tasking.  One of the main reasons is a lack of collaborative areas.

Tasking can take developers 4+ hours, and they need a whiteboard, projector and computer to properly task.  Finding a room like that for 4+ hours is challenging at times.

 

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