Applying agile principles and tools to the eduScrum research project

In my experience, most research projects tend to follow a linear (waterfall-like) approach. Since the time we started the eduScrum research project we decided to “eat our own dogfood” as much as possible.

Our own process is based on fast and continous delivery and minimizing cycle time. We shortly tried Scrum but didn’t like the timeboxes and a more continuous flow of productivity felt more natural so we switched to Kanban and created a Kanban board in Jira:

jira-kanban-board

For now we maximized the number of items in the “In Progress” and “To Review” to 10. Our team has 5 T-shaped professionals to we’re able to do what we do best but can help and join others when necessary, e.g. during reviewing or pair-researching.

In the project startup we focused on scrum values like focus, courage, openness, commitment and respect. We discussed our personal goals to join the project, our expectations and questions and agreed to a common goal: we want to improve the 21th century skills of ICT and CMD students by changing the way they learn using agile principles in the classroom. We discussed the research proposal and created epics for the research questions and topics.

The research project is just one out many possible projects and tasks we do. Since we do not work together in the same room or building we’re much like a co-located team, so some tools come in very handy:

  • Slack:
    • It integrates well with Jira. Any relevant change in the planning board is pushed to our progress-channel in Slack:
      Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 13.20.36
    • It did not integrate with Confluence but wrote a plugin to support major changes to be posted to a specific progress-channel in Slack.
    • It minimizes e-mail traffic.
    • It became a single source for decisions or meeting minutes but also a lightweight approach to share ideas and inspiration. We decided to open up an “inspiration channel” to post links, documents, video’s and funny ideas to:slack-channel-inspiration
    • Great apps for OS X, iOS and Android.
  • Jira Agile (already mentioned that). Also great apps available but Jira also works great in mobile browser. Gives us   instant visibiliy of progress.
  • Confluence:
    • Integrates perfectly with Jira, back and forth:
      integrate-confluence-jira
    • We prefer wikis over Microsoft Word documents
    • Helps us to make small plans for every epic before creating the master-plan (roadmap). We like to work bottom-up instead of top-down in the initial phase of the project, so it enables us to focus on specific small pages that can be integrated in a report.

After the project start up we agreed on a weekly backlog-meeting to discuss what we did last week, what we are doing next week and if there are any impediments. Like a daily standup, but weekly 🙂

Lastly, we are very self-organizing. We received a research budget together with some clear prerequisites:

  • describe the value for the institute, department or university (done)
  • share your experience with people in and outside of the university (doing)
  • find a supervising lecturer (to do)

We are going to make the best of this project in a safe environment with commitment and trust instead of control and pressure from the organisation.

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