According to the Agile Manifesto, face-to-face communication is the most effective way of conveying information to and within the development team. Consequently, co-location is the cornerstone of Scrum, the most popular Agile methodology.
With that in mind, it seems that remote product workshops, Sprint Reviews, and other Scrum events are out of the question. But what if external consequences, like the pandemic, leave no other options? Does it mean the end of Scrum? Well, in fact, (spoiler alert!) it doesn’t. But let’s start with the basics.
After reading this article, you’ll be able to answer the following questions:
- What is a Sprint Review?
- What are the key aspects of a Sprint Review?
- How can you make your remote Sprint Reviews efficient?
What Is a Sprint Review?
A Sprint Review (SR) is one of the key Scrum events, facilitated by the Scrum Master at the end of each Scrum Sprint. The development team, the Scrum Master, the Product Owner, and stakeholders are the main participants of the SR meetings.
The SR is dedicated to analyzing the Product Increment (what’s been done during the Sprint) and checking it against what was planned. Since the Scrum Manifesto centers around customer needs, the purpose of the SR is to define whether the Scrum Team is still delivering value to customers and to make adjustments if needed.
According to the official Scrum Guide, a Sprint Review includes the following elements:
The result of the SR is the revised Product Backlog and identification of possible Product Backlog Items (a list of tasks) for the next Sprint. In that sense, the SR lays the foundation for further Sprint Planning.
How to Conduct an Effective Remote Sprint Review in 3 Steps
Sprint Review is all about interaction. But how can you keep everyone engaged in the process when there is no shared space, no physical whiteboards, and no body language clues? At Edvantis, we recommend creating an environment of “virtual co-location” by setting up relevant remote tools and practices. Here’s how:
Step #1. Set the Scene with the Right Tools
Though there are aspects of the offline setup that you can’t replicate online, a digital space offers additional functionality. The ability to bring everyone together, file sharing options, and the ability to work simultaneously in a shared space are just a few examples. Using communication and collaboration tools can help you fully capitalize on the advantages of the remote setup.
When it comes to Sprint Reviews, it’s recommended to combine a few video conferencing and video chat tools: .
- Vital for face-to-face interactions, video conferencing tools can provide the Scrum Master with the physical clues to identify reactions and the emotional state of team members. Examples are Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and GoToMeeting.
- Group chat tools are ideal for text messaging and informal side conversations. These include Slack, Chanty, and Microsoft Teams.
Shared Input Tools
Brainstorming, planning, analysis, and other collaborative Scrum practices require some shared space where team members can suggest their ideas. Online whiteboard services that mimic physical whiteboards are ideal for such cases. They include Mural.co, Stormboard.com, and Web Whiteboard. You can also try out Google Docs, Slite, and Dropbox Paper for collective document editing.
Step #2. Get Prepared
Invite the Right People
Identify the key stakeholders beforehand. That said, consider inviting people that never attend your Scrum events in person but can give valuable feedback. It’s also advised to share the Sprint Goal with everyone involved so they can decide whether the upcoming meeting is relevant to them.
Prep Your Tech
The Sprint Review can be a lengthy event. At the same time, it requires active involvement. Using high-quality tech can help you make your meeting less tiresome and prevent remote collaboration fatigue. By “tech,” we mean investing in a high-quality headset, for example, which will allow everyone to hear you properly without those irritating background sounds.
In addition, make sure that you:
- Pre-connected to all required services, shared folders, etc
- Uploaded all the images/video, needed for the presentation
- Can share story demos in real-time
- Prepared all the screens for edge cases (if needed).
Step #3. Foster Engagement Throughout the Meeting
Make Sure Everyone Is on Video
Ask participants to turn on the video (no phone meetings). This will not just prevent them from multitasking and also help in non-verbal communication. Ask the participants to connect from the quiet place so everyone can be heard.
Make the Meeting Available to Everyone
Consider recording the meeting. This can be particularly beneficial to stakeholders residing in a different time zone and having other barriers to attendance. But remember that not everyone feels comfortable when being recorded (this especially applies to ‘external stakeholders’, like product users) — so, ask everyone in advance if they are happy to be filmed.
Take Your Liberating Structures Online
Giving everyone a voice and building trust can be problematic in a remote environment. That’s where Liberating Structures microstructures can be useful. As an alternative to “traditional structures” like presentations, status reports, etc., Liberating Structures are a set of 33 interaction methods that allow you to involve everyone in a group.
Certainly, it depends on your needs and creativity as to where and how you implement these microstructures. But, in our opinion, Simple Ethnography, UX Fishbowl, and Min Specs are the most effective when it comes to remote Sprint Review meetings.
Presenting the Sprint outcome to your stakeholders, getting their feedback, and identifying the room for improvement might be challenging in remote settings. Simple Ethnography can facilitate this process as it encourages gathering data through observation, meaning that your stakeholders explore the Increment themselves while the Scrum team observes.
To capitalize fully on this type of microstructure, present the observers with the purpose of this exercise, give them the list of questions in advance so that they know the aspects to focus on, and consider recording the entire session for further analysis.
To derive maximum value from your observations, use UX Fishbowl as a follow-up activity after Simple Ethnography. The process looks like this:
- Divide the Sprint Review participants into two circles: product users (the inner circle) and product creators (the outer circle). The outer circle members can mute themselves and turn their video off to avoid confusion between the circles.
- The inner circle participants exchange their opinions on “what’s the good, what’s the bad, and what’s the ugly about the Increment”. The outer circle is listening. While observing the process, they send their questions to the facilitator who should pass them to the inner circle when due. Otherwise, the inner circle members will read questions while discussing the topic at hand.
- The inner circle answers questions from the observers.
- All the insights are gathered in a shared document for further discussion.
Min Specs is a perfect way for a Scrum team to identify what’s absolutely essential for accomplishing the next Sprint Goal. The steps are as follows:
- Your Scrum team is divided into small groups of 5-7 people (breakout rooms). Each group is presented with the challenge, “What should be done to complete the Increment?” Then, each group member writes down as many must-do’s as they can within 2 minutes.
- Next, everyone consolidates their individual lists and expands them whenever needed.
- Each member tests each must-do from their consolidated lists against the question, “Can I implement the Increment without this step?” and cross it out whenever the answer is “yes.”
- In a shared workspace, all the lists are compared and consolidated to the shortest one possible.
Sprint Reviews have always been challenging — fostering trust and collaboration among team members, adapting to ever-changing customer needs, keeping everyone in the loop, and delivering maximum value have never been easy. Shifting to the remote meeting setup compounds the difficulties. Granted, you now have several new tricks in your sleeve to help you make your remote Sprint Reviews as efficient as offline ones.
Are you looking to learn more about our approach to running Sprint Reviews remotely? Do you need a software development team with mature agile practices? Get in touch with us!