The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed everyone to innovate and go beyond their comfort zones. The world today has gone over to a more hybrid working model, swinging between working in an office and working from home. For a Scrum Master, engaging with the stakeholders and getting the required stakeholder feedback on time could be quite a challenge. Now that we know that remote working is here to stay, even if not a full-time thing then at least in the flexible hybrid manner, Scrum Masters would need to be innovative in their approach to keep things moving smoothly.
Here are some ways in which Scrum Masters can gather stakeholder feedback effectively in a remote environment:
The Business Value Interaction
For this interaction, the group has to agree on an effective ranking system, say using a ranking between 1 to 5, with 1 being the least valuable and 5 being the most valuable. Once this has been agreed on, the group can go over each feature or element and assign a value to it between 1 to 5. In a virtual setting, one can use the whiteboard feature in the video conferencing tool being used – Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, etc. to make note of the ratings assigned. This also leaves some scope for undue influence as people would adjust their ratings according to the ratings others before they have given. To avoid this, one can have everyone write out their ratings on a paper and show them simultaneously on the call. A shared whiteboard could also be created where everybody could write out their ratings simultaneously.
The “Buy a Feature” Activity
For this activity, the Product Owner and Scrum Master would first prepare a list of features they are looking for feedback on from the stakeholders. The list could include everything they require stakeholder feedback on – technical debt, upgrades, features, etc. Then a supposed monetary value is assigned to every list item, keeping in mind the work involved, potential value, costs, etc. Alternatively, if the situation may so require, all the list items could be assigned a uniform value. The purpose of this activity is to be able to order the Product Backlog, so the interactions with the stakeholder should focus on that, not on debating the value assigned to the list items. The Scrum Master would have to keep the discussions focused here. All the stakeholders are assigned a fixed budget and then asked to choose the features, upgrades, etc. that they would like to have using the budget they are given. This would help the Scrum Master and the Product Owner understand the stakeholder feedback and order the Product Backlog accordingly. Various tools offered by the video conferencing application being used like a shared whiteboard, spreadsheet, etc. can be used to facilitate this discussion.
The 20/20 Vision Chart
The perfect vision is called the 20/20 vision. This chart to capture stakeholder feedback and opinions uses a similar proposition. Here, all the product features, upgrades, etc. that would be discussed are written down on index cards. The index cards are collected in a pile, face-down. The first index card is picked and placed on a wall or board. After this, one by one, each index card is picked and the group votes whether it should go above or below the original card. If it is more important than the original card, it goes above. Consequently, if it is less important, then it goes below the original card. In this way, when the pile of index cards is done, one gets a complex 20/20 vision board showing the group’s feedback on how important each feature is. Conducting this in a virtual mode could require a little planning and some tech-savvy features. The Mural feature would allow users to create sticky notes that can be used instead of the index cards when conducting this exercise virtually. If your video conferencing tool does not have the mural option, a shared whiteboard can also be used.
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The Voting System
For this exercise, the Scrum Master and Product Owner get together to prepare the list of the features, upgrades, etc. they want feedback on. Based on this list, it is decided how many votes every stakeholder gets. The number of votes stands for the maximum number of list items every stakeholder would be assigned – the maximum number of features, upgrades, etc. that the Scrum Master and Product Owner want to take up in the Product Backlog for now. This number would generally be slightly lesser than the total number of list items. In a virtual space, all the list items can be put up on a shared whiteboard. Every participant then takes a unique marker color and draws a line against the features/upgrades they are voting for. At the end of the discussion, the votes are tallied and the highest voted features and upgrades are ordered in the Product Backlog. One limitation this method faces is the inherent bias that can creep in from seeing other participants’ votes.
These four methods are excellent ways to keep the stakeholders engaged in the process and collect feedback on the go about the different product features and upgrades being planned by the team. Working remotely should not be looked at as a challenge to team interactions, instead, it should facilitate innovation and thinking outside the box to get things done effectively.
Ordering the Product Backlog would remain primarily the responsibility of the Product Owner, however, receiving feedback from stakeholders could reveal valuable insights about the product. It will help the Scrum team, as well as the development team, understand what the stakeholders need and how they can deliver results better as well as faster.
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