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Java: Book Review

The Scrum Field Guide: Practical Advice for Your First Year

Agile Software Development Series

This is one cool book. If you are starting to use Scrum, read it. If you are using Scrum, read it. If you are just wondering what Scrum is all about, read it. It gives the best insight into the workings of Scrum I have seen in a book.

The chapters are laid out in a really nice to read format. Each one contains sections titled The Story, The Model (or The Practices in some chapters), Keys to Success, References, and sometimes Works Consulted (although I never figured out what the difference between these and references where?).

The story is literally a story that comes from the author's field experience that introduces the topic the chapter covers and brings to light problems being solved by the next section, The Model.

The Model and the Practices sections are the guidance and suggestions to help with the problems identified in the story. Keys to Success provide advice on how to execute the model.

The book starts with an introductory chapter, Scrum: Simple, Not Easy, in which the author makes some very important points. I don't know how many times I have repeated the sentence, "Agile does not mean easy and I believe it requires much more experience to pull off than traditional processes".

The book is then broken down into four parts. I have listed the parts and the chapters below.

Part I- Getting Prepared
Getting People On Board
Using Team Consultants to Optimize Team Performance
Determining Team Velocity
Implementing the Scrum Roles
Determining Sprint Length
How Do We Know When We Are Done?
The Case for a Full-Time ScrumMaster

Part II- Field Basics
Why Engineering Practices Are Important in Scrum
Core Hours
Release Planning
Decomposing Stories and Tasks
Keeping Defects in Check
Sustained Engineering and Scrum
The Sprint Review
Retrospectives

Part III- First Aid
Running a Productive Daily Standup Meeting
The Fourth Question in Scrum
Keeping People Engaged with Pair Programming
Adding New Team Members
When Cultures Collide
Sprint Emergency Procedures

Part IV- Advanced Survival Techniques
Sustainable Pace
Delivering Working Software
Optimizing and Measuring Value
Up-Front Project Costing
Documentation in Scrum Projects
Outsourcing and Offshoring
Prioritizing and Estimating Large Backlogs
Writing Contracts

Appendix- Scrum Framework
The Roles
The Artifacts
The Meetings
Putting It All Together

Every chapter was great, but I really liked Documentation in Scrum Projects, Using Team Consultants to Optimize Team Performance, The Fourth Question in Scrum, and Outsourcing and Offshoring. All these chapters contain topics I usually see Scrum teams avoiding.

A lot of agile teams like using the agile process as an excuse for not doing documentation. The author makes it very clear that documentation can rarely be dismissed. It is about doing what is needed to succeed, and planning and documentation are tools for success when they aren't over done. Too much can kill your project just as easily as doing none.

The Fourth Question in Scrum rocks. This basically brings to the table all chatter that happens after the daily standup when a project is hitting rocky ground. It gives the team a chance to voice their real opinion of how things are going.

The author provides a very realistic picture of what outsourcing and offshoring actually cost and how much hidden extra effort is involved.

The team consultant model does a good job of showing how to structure a flexible team structure.

One thing I would have liked to see more of is the inclusion of the actual practices that are executed in order to produce the documentation the author mentions. An example is architecture. The architecture documentation that results from the architecture definition process (or the Architecture Business Cycle) is just an artifact of many practices that need to be preformed throughout the entire project.

The author also includes a link to supplemental material which includes some nice tools. I really like the 14 and 30 Day Sprint Backlog Templates.

Over all I thought this book was great. It pulled a ton of real project experience into one place. It was also an easy read. The author's writing style made it really easy read. The stories were all interesting and were a cool way to lead into the chapter's topics.

The Scrum Field Guide: Practical Advice for Your First Year

More Stories By Tad Anderson

Tad Anderson has been doing Software Architecture for 18 years and Enterprise Architecture for the past few.