Reporting Agile Projects

Using information radiators to report is an easy and powerful mechanism

For many, reporting is a necessary evil. However, using the agile framework, you can wrangle very simple and effective reporting tools called `Information Radiators` to help your team focus.

What is an Information Radiator?

Simply, it is s graphical representation of project information typically displayed in plain site of the agile project team in a shared area.

Reporting provides value

The secret is enabling your reporting and metrics to focus on value. But to initiate this effectively, you need to consider the thee pillars of scrum.

What are the three pillars of Scrum?

  • Transparency
  • Inspection
  • Adaption
Using these three pillars in your everyday scrum practices helps you to build trust with your stakeholders and your team. It drives meaningful metrics so your team can review, analyse and improve upon throughout the iteration.

Reporting enhances 'Transparency' so you can stay on track

Not only are we obligated to report to our customers, stakeholders and sponsors, but also to our team.
Transparency is key, you can all track progress instantly. This enables your team to understand how much value is being delivered to your customers. 
Using some basic reporting techniques, your team can measure the effectiveness of their work to the business in terms of return on investment, time to market and so on. You can measure the health of the team, the product you are building and the project -- so you catch problems as they arise.

Why agile enhances transparency:

  • Communicates large truth with simple images
  • Highlights the pain points within the project.
  • Simple visual reporting metrics can reveal icebergs (hidden problems) out into the open. Enables you to respond and address them. Typically in waterfalls projects icebergs are only seen in the small portions. But in agile icebergs, are more exposed.
  • Open and transparent metrics enable you to consider consequences
This leads us to the next pillar, inspection.

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Good metrics enables you to 'Inspect' along the way 

Now that the pain points are revealed, you can act on it. This is where the inspection pillar is a factor. It allows you to inspect and evaluate pain points accordingly.  It provides the opportunity to identify and act on any issues as they arise. To critically evaluate and make an informed decision on how to act, inspect and then adapt to the change.

The real value of this inspection pillar is that it is done within the current work. It allows you to control the process at the time so you can get things right.
As a result, the inspection pillar provides a chance for the team to have clear and predictable sprints, therefore enhancing the velocity and quality of the product.

Good metrics enhances 'Adaption' so you can rapidly to change 

Finally, the adaption pillar. Having good metrics allows you to have an honest conversation, so you can adapt to change rapidly. This is all from having the metrics available to you so you can make these informed decisions and difficult conversations.
Agile does not fix the problem for you. It exposes it so you can act.

Communicating progress by using Information Radiators

You can communicate progress through agile visual displays called information radiators. Information radiators allow everyone to view data in real time in real meaningful displays. Building software in agile is iterative and collaborative, so reporting should reflect that. Information Radiators focus their reports on being simple to read and should work for the team and stakeholders. This is why visual displays (information radiators work).
Keeping it at this simplistic and easy to digest view, avoids duplication and helps you focus on what is important.
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Tips when communicating progress:

  • Ensure you design reports with a focus to continuously improve.
  • Reports should help team to improve. Ways to show trends and areas to improve
  • Reports should indicate forward progress
  • Moving things a little and a time a little and often
  • Post up Information radiators such as team norms.
Simple and meaningful data enables you to reflect on your efforts and the direction want to go. 

Useful information radiators for your team to use:

  • Burn down: This report is a graphical chart that shows work left to do versus time.
  • Task board: This is a tool that helps teams make sprint backlog items visible.
  • Definition of Done (DOD): This is a list of requirements that a user story must adhere to for the team to call it complete. 
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