I’m sure that most of us have been exposed to traditional Waterfall delivery models prior to adapting to Scrum. Being a Project Management Professional (PMP) and a Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM®) is an advantage when dealing with different stakeholder opinions and questions prior to starting a project, and even during the project execution. I have often overheard client stakeholders who are accustomed to years of a Waterfall-driven system development life cycle (SDLC) question Agile project leaders about the milestone plan for the project. As a project lead on a Scrum-based delivery model, you might sometimes find it challenging to respond, and you might even tweak your Scrum model to ensure that stakeholder expectations are managed well.
Working in different companies, it was always difficult to convince my reporting managers, who have a strong connection to the traditional Waterfall approach, about tying the calendar dates of my delivery plan to important milestones. When Scrum attempts to deliver the most valued business requirement in a working system as early as possible, the project lead or the ScrumMaster will have to depend on the product owner to determine rough dates for important milestones. When milestones are imposed by the client (based on future marketing activities, some regulatory requirements, or competitor advantage), the situation mandates that the team achieve these on time with the expected quality.
Having Scrum experience, I can see a few approaches to tackle the mandate. When you figure out the number of sprints for the project (divide your total backlog story points by team velocity), you can line them up on the calendar to see when each sprint starts and ends. You can now position all the predetermined milestones on the calendar to map out in which sprint you expect to deliver those milestones. Having this visualized will help the product owner and the client prioritize the product backlog items accordingly, so that the development team delivers the relevant user stories.
The other approach is that you define your sprint goals by considering those tasks that will meet the milestones imposed by the stakeholders. When you have a relative estimation of your product backlog items, you can get a rough idea of how long it will take to achieve the milestone. In this way, you work back from your product backlog items and sprint goals to derive the milestone date. This approach will not work for predetermined milestones with target dates. Instead, it will help to get a rough idea of when the required features will be delivered so that the milestone date can be determined.
Bivendra Narangoda | Director – Delivery