7 Tips for Fixing a Broken Mobile Application Development Process

You feel like you’re doing everything right.

You know your mobile app development needs to be Agile, and you’re behind it 100%. You’ve put your project manager through ScrumMaster training and your app development team was prepped to follow his lead. They say they’re doing Scrum, but …

  • Daily standup meetings only occur about two or three times per week
  • The software engineers say any meeting is a waste of time and their negativity derails the process
  • The last Sprint completed with no shippable or even demo-able new product features

And now they’re saying Agile methods won’t work for your business, and want to go back to their traditional roles and ways.

Does this sound like anything you’ve faced before? Or anyone you’ve worked with in the past? How do you fix this broken development process?

The first thing to realize is this: the Agile process does work. That’s been proven time and again in the mobile development world. It’s your technical team’s implementation of the process that’s broken.

And since (in this example) you’ve chosen Scrum management as your framework, your main task is to get rid of the “scrumbuts.”

Ken Schwaber, co-developer of the Scrum process and founder of Scrum.org, describes a scrumbut as saying, “We do Scrum, but in our organization we …” These scrumbuts expose the dysfunctions in your organization (which is good), and shows your team could not overcome or resolve them.

Here are 7 tips to fixing your broken mobile development process, and whether you’re using Scrum or some other Agile framework, eliminate the “scrumbuts.”

1. Start with the Product Owner

This is the person representing the business needs of the project. How involved are they in the daily routines of the mobile development teams? Are they helping team members understand the requirements? Making sure the highest priority needs are completed first? Communicating with clients and/or stakeholders regularly?

2. Observe the ScrumMaster

Many ScrumMasters are “appointed” because of their project management backgrounds. But the role of the ScrumMaster is completely different. Instead of managing the project, they should be facilitating it. Instead of managing team members, they should be supporting them. Get your ScrumMaster certified to help make the transition. A next step would be to bring in an experienced Agile coach to review and collaborate on the project.

3. Assess Their Teamwork

How does your development team relate to each other? Are they clashing with the new methodology and culture, or with each other? Or maybe both? And how would you rate the level of trust between management and the team? The Society for Human Resource Management provides a toolkit for Developing and Sustaining High-Performance Work Teams. How does your team stack up? Identify some ways you could help them reach high-performance status.

4. Take a Close Look at the Management Style

Is your mobile development team empowered to make their own decisions? Management – via the Product Owner – should be communicating what needs to be done. But the members of the team should be making the decisions as to how to get it done. If the Product Owner, ScrumMaster, or other managers are still micromanaging rather than supporting your engineers, the process will remain broken.

5. Evaluate Your Team’s Output

The deliverable for each sprint should be a working, shippable product. If that’s not the case, you need to reset the team’s goals. Make sure the Product Owner is helping to order your project backlog items in accordance with the highest business value. And make sure the engineers are envisioning ways to deliver that functionality with each completed sprint.

For a closer look at how Scrum delivers shippable products, watch our free webinar on driving business results.

6. Devote Training Hours to the Process

Some companies will train a ScrumMaster and then expect everyone else to fall in line. This rarely happens, because until your mobile development team is trained, they’ll still view your ScrumMaster as the project manager, and the Product Owner as “the boss.” Direct your entire mobile team to read the at the very least, or send them through training if possible. Other training areas that could prove beneficial to a cross-functional development team are: effective communications, working in high-performing teams, and conflict resolution.

7. Conduct a Third-Party Assessment

One of the best ways to fix a broken development process is to hire an experienced, external team to analyze your implementation. This way you’ll get an outside opinion on the health of your team, plus suggestions on how you can help improve it. When Ascendle does an assessment, we look at all the areas listed above, plus items such as:

  • Is the team producing predictable timeframes for the amount of work remaining?
  • How fast is the team moving, and are they setting an appropriate pace for Agile development?
  • Are all their results measurable?
  • Is the team using Agile estimating techniques such as planning poker?
  • Are there unnecessary stages in their workflows? Bottlenecks?
  • Are they clearly communicating the amount of time and work required to stakeholders?

What You Need to Do

Most CEOs care deeply about these mobile development projects, but are not qualified to fix them when they’re broken. By the same token, most technical leaders don’t like to admit problems like these exist. Especially when they’ve built strong, highly structured – but non-Agile – organizations.

In these cases, a third-party assessment is the best tool in your toolbox. Discover what’s not working quite right – without all the organizational and cultural bias inside your team – and what you can do about it. An assessment will empower you and your business leaders to understand and solve your broken mobile development process.

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