in Agile Best Practices

6 Guides to Agile Best Practices

Everyone wants to follow agile best practices, it’s a topic that is always on the minds of team leaders, agile coaches and executives. It makes sense, striving for best practices leads to better productivity which means better outcomes, faster.

The great news is that others have already paved the way in writing down the best practices that have helped them succeed. This means the information is out there for you to draw upon.

We’ve put together a list along with some notes on some of the best agile best practice guides from around the web. You can use this list to kick start or accelerate your process of improving the practices of your team or organisation.

Atlassian’s Agile Coach Guide

Atlassian’s ‘Agile Coach’ is Atlassian’s guide to agile best practices. It has been developed through Atlassian’s own application of agile as well as the observations it has made of its customers.

The major topics Atlassian’s guide covers are:

  1. Agile Project Management – an iterative approach to managing software development that focuses on continuous releases to the customer.
  2. Scrum – one of the most popular agile methodologies.
  3. Kanban – another popular agile framework.
  4. Design – how to iterate on product design
  5. Software Development – best practices for software development in an agile environment.
  6. Product Management – a guide to being a product owner or product manager in an agile team.
  7. DevOps – continuous delivery is an integral part of the most agile organisations, so it makes sense that Atlassian has included a guide on DevOps.
  8. Teams – covers best practices for agile teams including dynamics, culture and collaboration.
  9. Agile at scale – how scrum of scrums and the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) can be applied in larger organisations.

The Atlassian Agile Coach is a comprehensive and easy to digest guide to agile best practices. A good starting point or refresher point for anyone interested in agile best practice. However, it is lacking in some of the more opinionated, practical advice provided by some of the other guides put forward by individuals.

Version One’s Agile 101 Guide

Version One has what they call the Agile 101 Guide. This guide then expands out into Agile Programming Best Practice and Agile Management Best Practice so it is reasonably comprehensive.

Some of the topics the Version One Agile 101 Guide covers are:

  1. Agile Methodologies – a summary of the various ways of practicing agile like Scrum, Kanban and XP.
  2. Agile Benefits – a beginners guide to the benefits of agile. Useful starting point if you find you are needing to sell agile within your organisation.
  3. Are you Agile? – an approach for evaluating how well you organisation is following agile principles.
  4. What is Scrum? – an explanation of what is probably the most widely used agile methodology.
  5. Agile Hallmarks – an explanation of the best practices followed by the most successful teams.
  6. Community – an introduction to the agile community.

From there you can branch out into your area of interest, be it programming or management best practices.

Version One’s Agile Management Best Practices Guide covers estimation, release planning, iteration planning, iteration tracking, velocity and progress tracking.

Version One’s Agile Programming Best Practices Guide covers test driven development, code refactoring, continuous integration, simple design, pair programming, using a common codebase, coding standards and creating a collaborative workspace.

Version One provides a great starting point and framework to think about agile through. However it is lacking in some of the more opinionated, practical advice provided by some of the other guides put forward by individuals.

Mike Cohn

Mike Cohn of Mountain Goat Software is widely seen as one of the world’s most prominent agile leaders. Mike’s blog serves as a great resource for agile best practices as well as practical advice for anyone striving for higher productivity.

Mike’s blog covers agile best practice through these primary topics:

  1. Estimating
  2. Product Backlog
  3. Product Owner
  4. Scrum Teams
  5. Scrum master
  6. Sprints
  7. User Stories
  8. Presentations

Mike’s experience working with so many teams and questions from so many professionals turns out some insightful, practical advice.

Mike’s blog is best as a compliment to the guides created by Atlassian or Version One. He covers so many useful topics, large and small. In fact, the smaller the more interesting at times.

What Mike’s blog is somewhat missing is the structure and ease of reading for a newcomer to agile that some of the other guides have. Honestly though, this is such a minor point given the wealth of practical advice that it isn’t something Mike’s blog needs.

Martin Fowler

Martin Fowler really is one of the father’s of modern software development. His blog posts, or at least the content within them, is often quoted by CIOs, architects and programmer grey beards.

Fowler has his own agile guide.

The guide covers:

  1. The agile manifesto itself as well as Fowler’s thoughts on the manifesto
  2. The path to adopting agile that Fowler has seen in countless teams
  3. The technical best practices required to make agile work
  4. Agile collaboration, including across remote teams

While the layout of the guides takes some getting used to and isn’t as polished as others, it contains lots of experienced based perspective as well as an approach that leaves you with an understanding Fowler’s take on the origins of agile.

Use this as a compliment and experienced perspective to some of the other more detailed guides.

Scrum Alliance’s Scrum Guide

The Scrum Alliance – the official organisation behind Scrum – has published The Scrum Guide. The Scrum Guide is a relatively short read laying out the major features of Scrum.

For an experienced agile practitioner it is a useful resource to return to. For someone new to agile it can be a bit of a daunting read and methodology to comprehend (if you just read this guide).

The beauty of the guide is how concise and simple it is. The challenge for someone looking to make agile best practices work is to apply what is contained in the guide. This is where the other guides listed above will come in handy. Use the other guides and wisdom you find, always remembering one of the original statements.

The Manifesto for Agile Software Development

The Manifesto for Agile Software Development is the original document that outlined the principles that have driven the entire agile movement.

Arguments can and have been made that this is the only guide an agile practitioner should need. Weighing into that debate isn’t really the purpose of this post but we want to point you to the original guide for agile best practices.

Come back to the principles in the Manifesto if you’re struggling or hitting a grey area. It can help you untangle things, workout what is and isn’t essential and help you move forward.

Also published on Medium.

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