Softening Iterations - Setting up for success


ready user stories. There is no milestone or stage gate that separate softening from later iterations - nor any formal approval process exists that signals the end of softening. It is it up to the team to decide when it has done just enough to begin coding features that are production ready.

Below is a standard set of stories that are typical of softening iterations. Needless to say, this will largely depend on your specific project needs and environment - the idea is to provide a baseline that is relevant to most situations.








Infrastructure setup


  • Ensure everyone in the team has the necessary hardware, software, access levels needed
  • Setup email groups, project wiki, source control and document repository
  • Reserve meeting rooms, whiteboards, digital camera
  • In case of distributed teams - decide on the virtual stand-up meeting format and put the necessary tools in place.
  • Setup development and test environments (servers and data)




  • Evaluate deployment architecture options. This is the architecture of the infrastructure layer. The tasks include (but not limited to) determining the deployment of servers, network, databases and application servers. This is done in true agile fashion - in a whiteboard session, without spending a lot of time in creating an extensive document, and with an understanding that there is always a possibility that the final architecture may be different.
  • Develop an application architecture framework - this will include the structural elements of the different application layers.
  • Evaluate and select any special tools that need to be used in the application.


User Experience


  • Develop wireframes that demonstrate navigation, look and feel of the application. Review the wireframes with the product owner and other stakeholders. The idea is to develop a prototype that demonstrates the behavior of the system.
  • Hold workshops to review the wireframes and collect enough information to start designing the final user interface.


Application Features


  • Put together the initial product backlog that includes all user stories that are known to be part of the release.
  • Write short descriptions of the user stories - just enough to put the story in context so that they can be elaborated just in time - during the iteration they will be built.


Team Building


  • This is an often ignored critical factor for any project. It is especially critical when a new team is put together for a project. Team building is done in many ways, and it really depends on what the organization supports. The goal is to include this as a step in softening.




Finally, we need to consider what roles different individuals will play during softening. The project manager will primarily coordinate the infrastructure setup and team building - in addition to fulfilling the regular PM responsibilities. The developers work on architecture. The product owner plays a critical role, where s/he works very closely with developers to pull together the application features - and also, works with the user interface designer to create the baseline user wireframe.

The involvement of product owners in these activities during softening enables the developers to establish a good working relation with them. It also brings the business and IT together right from the beginning, working toward a shared goal of succeeding in the project.


About the Author


Yousuf Ahmed currently works as the Director of Software Development at Commonwealth Business Media. He has spent over 16 years in software development - serving in a number management and consulting roles. Yousuf has successfully implemented agile processes in both co-located and distributed organizations.


About the author

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