A Marketer’s Guide to Agile Development – The Lingo – Part 1

BACKLOG – The set of development deliverables that must be accomplished by the group. In proper Agile implementatons, the backlog is a living document where meaningful progress is chronicled. In flawed Agile implementations, the backlog is a tunnel where ideas are lured in, quietly strangled, and left to die. How do you tell which type of backlog your organization has? Look at the faces at the backlog prioritization meetings. If everyone is cheerful and eager to get started, you’ve got the living document. Life is good. If everyone looks like they’re being prepped for a colonoscopy, you’ve got the tunnel. Assume the position.

WATERFALL – A non-Agile form of project management, where project stages are sequential. These include inception/requirements, design, build, integrate, test, install, and maintain. In many companies, waterfall has been replaced by Agile. And in Agile circles, any mention of waterfall methodology is generally accompanied with eye rolls and the occasional snort. You’d sooner admit to being a Justin Bieber fan than liking waterfall.

SCRUM MEETING – Also called a stand-up meeting. A short daily progress meeting, usually no longer than 15 minutes long. The meeting is run by a Scrum Master who asks these three questions: (1) What have you done since yesterday? (2) What are you planning to do today? (3) Do you have any problems preventing you from accomplishing your goal? If the answers to any of those questions take longer than 15 minutes, the Scrum Master turns into a pumpkin. Or has to utter the dreaded words “Let’s take this offline”. In that case, get comfortable, you’ll be ordering lunch in.

SPRINT – A period of time, generally between 2 and 6 weeks, in which an agreed-on subset of deliverables are coded and completed. A deliverable can be worked on in one sprint or over several. Marketing sometimes pressures developers into delivering a boatload of initiatives “by the next sprint”. Be realistic. Demand too much, and you get the version they had time to code instead of the version you wanted. And that boss interactive dashboard that “just had to” be delivered in Sprint 32 comes out looking like your 15-year-old nephew built it during a “So You Think You Can Code Flash” code-off. Blame yourself. Two words. Comic Sans. ‘Nuff said.

BURNDOWN CHART – a graphical depiction of work progress against time. Usually the X axis shows time in days or weeks, and the Y axis shows the number of hours needed to complete tasks. The purpose of burndown charts is to rally the troops, keep everyone focused, show them how much has been accomplished, and/or light a fire under their Docker-clad butts to finish on time. They are also incredibly handy when the boss receives that “we just want to get an idea of what everyone’s working” on memo from his boss and has to defend headcount.

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