Agile is a project management methodology that software writers adopted several years ago. But people who work in other industries are learning that the sensible, team centered, value producing and time saving methods prescribed are as useful to them as they are to software developers.
Ryn “The Guardian” Melberg discusses and defines the Agile Feature and the Agile Feature Team on her podcast this week. The Guardian podcast can be heard on Soundcloud, iTunes, or on www.rynmelberg.com.
While the there are similarities among features and user stories, there are important differences that impact the work and organization of Agile teams, Scrum and Scaled Agile work groups. While there are parts of the user story and Agile feature that are similar, they fall in different parts of the work process and have far different values.
Defining The “Feature” In Agile
To define the Feature in Agile knowing what it is not can help. There are two significant differences between features and user stories. The first is the scale. A user story is an individual task that can be accomplished in a few days by a single team. User stories are smaller in scope and could not be presented to a customer as a value differentiator or independently tested or marketed. In contrast a feature is larger in scope and is a distinct bit of functionality that could be sold or used to differentiate a product or in some cases marketed separately.
“If we look at the parts of a bank that are customer facing, there are things that are features,” Melberg tells her audience. “For example, a team working on the ATM at a bank and another working on the on-line banking functions are both features because each has a discernable and quantifiable value independent of the bank. The keypad at the ATM or the “about us” page when presented independently do not. Each of those could be a separate user story.”
Delivering a finished feature cannot be done in a few days but more likely requires up to 12 weeks. But a bunch of user stories can be grouped together to make a feature. “A complete feature is generally done by a group of scrum teams rather than a single team,” Melberg said. “A feature can be delivered every sprint or two.”
Another difference is value. A feature could have market or product differentiating value that could include an entire business case written for it. “Take the bank example,” she said. “The ATM has independent functions that deliver a value, but the separate key pad on the ATM machine does not. In this example, the keypad is a user story and the ATM is a feature.”
Work Flow In Four Steps
Features are written in Agile by the owner, or architect. This person is responsible for the vision of the finished product that is typically called “the roadmap”. Within the roadmap are the features of the finished product, from which come the separate user stories. Tasks are the final step, which defines what gets done for each user story. “This is a very streamlined approach to project management,” Melberg says. “From start to finish in four steps is a very compact model for any type of project management.”
To learn more go to www.rynmelberg.com.