In this blog post, we’ll discuss all the jargon used in the Scrum framework. In addition to the expertise, you need the vocabulary to have a successful SAP Activate project.
A sprint is a time-boxed period between two and four weeks when the Scrum team resolves the business problem by providing a working software.
The purpose of a burn-down chart is to show the amount of work remaining as the development team moves forward into the project. The chart can show a specific sprint or the complete product backlog. The x-axis of the chart shows the time, in days or weeks, while the y-axis shows the amount of work remaining in story points—a relative unit to estimate a user story—or in task hours. As the name suggests, the remaining hours or story points will continue to go down while the development team completes the assigned functionalities. The left-hand side of the figure below shows a sample burn-down chart.
If you show the work completed instead of the remaining work on the y-axis as shown in the right-hand side, then the chart becomes a burn-up chart where the graph is gradually moving upward, indicating the progress in the project as it shows the cumulative work done.
The burn-down chart shown is for four-week (20 working days) sprints with 300 user stories. Note that the velocity of the sprint is more or less constant. This chart was drawn at the end of the sprint. On the other hand, the burn-up chart is for a different product with an initial product backlog of 400 user stories that was drawn on the 11th month of the project; the first sprint was on February 2016 with 25 story points. In addition, note that the velocity of the sprints was slow at the beginning of the project, which improved after the fourth month of the project, predicting the final release month of June 2020.
An epic is a large user story that spans multiple sprints. Epics can also span multiple Scrum teams. An epic is a high-level requirement either coming from the client or arising due to system requirements. In the next figure, master data, requisition, sourcing, receipt, and payment are epics while the other items mentioned under each block are user stories, which we’ll discuss next.
The epic master data may not be the client’s requirements, but you can’t fulfill the client’s requirements, for example, for purchase requisition, without completing the master data. An epic, for example, invoicing, will span multiple sprints and different development teams. However, a user story such as a vendor master must be completed in a sprint. If the estimate for a user story is more than the time-box for a sprint, then the story must be broken down into several stories so that the development team can complete each part in a sprint.
A user story is a high-level requirement with sufficient information that the development team can use to estimate the work product. Per Scrum, the user story has three components: a role, a feature, and a benefit. However, in SAP, we use a slightly different version of the user story, as shown in this table.
Here’s an example of a user story: As an approval authority, I need to have an automated process to approve the purchase requisition without logging into the SAP system, which will save a lot of time and speed up the approval process. Background: I have to approve several purchase requisitions. The value of these requisitions varies from $1,000 to $5,000. However, I don’t log in to the SAP system regularly and, very often, miss approving the requisitions, delaying the procurement process. An automated email notification with complete details of the purchase requisition and a link to the approval and rejection process will help me decide about the requisition without logging in to the system. Therefore, it will reduce the procurement time, improving the efficiency of the complete production line.
A product backlog is a list of requirements, also known as user stories, arranged in a specific order to enhance the value of the delivered product that needs to work upon to create or maintain the product. The product backlog should be managed by the product owner. There can be only one product backlog for a product. This table shows the partial product backlog from an SAP S/4HANA implementation project in the utility sector.
A sprint backlog consists of the product backlog items for the given sprint along with a plan detailing the delivery of the increment—a functional software product—and the realization of the sprint goal. It’s an output of the sprint planning meeting. The process to create the sprint backlog requires close coordination between the development team and the product owner.
Story mapping is a key step in identifying the complete requirements or gaps in user stories. The map captures the activities and tasks that a user performs during a specific process. Let’s take a deeper look into the story mapping by analyzing this figure.
Each epic is broken down into user stories and then moved to the product backlog. The product owner prioritizes these user stories based on the value that they will add to the product. However, the challenge is that most of the Scrum team, except the product owner, may not able to tie these stories back to the original epic or relate them to each other. For example, two consecutive user stories in a product backlog may be related to the user role and privilege, as well as the posting of an invoice; remember that the user stories are ordered based on the value. It becomes very difficult to identify any business gaps, and the Scrum team loses the business context of the user story.
There are several ways to mitigate this issue, but the most common way is to use a subject matter expert (SME) who will tell the complete process as a story, identifying each activity and task. The development team, as they hear the keywords such as task or activity, note down those tasks on a post-it. At the end, the team arranges those tasks in a horizontal way in left to right order. More than one option of a task arranged in a column identifies parallel or optional activities. The best way to identify any gaps is to “reverse role play” where someone from the development team will explain the tasks to the SME as captured in the story map. The next figure shows a sample story map with a business gap in it.
Once done, the team can prioritize the user stories and identify the iterations. It isn’t a one-time exercise, and the team has to keep it up to date.
Velocity is a key metric that gives you the amount of work a team is doing or can do in a single sprint. As you complete more sprints, you can calculate the velocity by summing all the work done divided by the number of sprints. If you look at the burn-up chart from earlier, note that the team completed 25 story points in February, 12 in March, 11 in April, and 10 in May. The formula to calculate the velocity is:
Velocity = (25 + 12 + 11 + 10) / 4 = 14.5 Story points
However, for the complete project, the velocity was 23.5 story points.
How will you know about the status of each user stories while in a sprint? The Scrum board, as shown in the final figure, is a tool that helps the team track the progress of each user story. The team updates the board on a regular basis and shows all the items that are required to be completed in the sprint.
Editor’s note: This post has been adapted from a section of the book SAP Activate Project Management Certification Guide: Certified Associate Exam by Aditya Lal.