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Topics: Agile & DevOps

Large-scale development projects in every type of Agile environment align with roadmaps or portfolios defining the long-term view of the software product the team is building.  With a roadmap in hand, the team can ask: Where are we headed next? What’s coming in the next few releases? They needn’t look far. The answers are right there.  Unfortunately, it’s not always this simple. Take a hard look at your roadmap: Is it easy to connect the dots? Can you see a direct link between project needs and next steps?

Too often the answer is “no.”

We frequently encounter organizations where user stories are disconnected – there is no “connective tissue” linking business needs with development tasks.

That gap could kill your project. Without the proper context, your development teams are likely to miss the mark with their software products.  To address this shortcoming, organizations leverage solutions like Storyteller to define the required user stories, generate the required downstream development and testing work products, and align them with the overall portfolio.

Feature Decomposition Shows the Way Forward

Feature decomposition drives the connection between business goals and development tasks. Specifically, it advances projects through the process of:

  • Taking business initiatives and defining the capabilities required to support them;
  • Breaking the capabilities into features or epics; and
  • Writing those features or epics as user stories for the development team.

The key is linking the user story back to the business initiative it supports.

A Comprehensive Approach

Feature decomposition must be comprehensive – taking a business vision, expressing it as a feature or epic, and then decomposing it into specific work items for the development team.

Consider this example: A bank wants to introduce a cheque-depositing function for its mobile phone app. First, they create an epic or feature specifying the “ability to deposit via mobile device.” Agile teams must then go an extra step – breaking the epic into comprehensive stories to execute the vision. The stories must outline the “functional decomposition,” or the step-by-step work. Using our example, the functional decomposition would entail mapping out the steps for building the mobile app deposit function.

More is required, however, for feature decomposition to be comprehensive. Using our example again, the stories must also address critical considerations, like security, privacy, bank processes for deposits, anti-money laundering requirements, regulatory and compliance standards. Similarly, they must address technical considerations, like performance limitations and how the app will function on different devices.

High-quality, comprehensive feature decomposition is essential to delivering successful products and applications.

Driving Benefits and Project Success 

Effective feature decomposition requires these important features:

  • Visual modeling tied directly to the portfolio or roadmap;
  • The incorporation of regulatory and compliance content;
  • The ability to access best practices to successfully defining the required capabilities; and
  • Collaboration capabilities that allow teams to be distributed and still share the critical details of the feature decomposition.

Leveraging these features yields significant benefits, including:

Benefit 1 – Improving your sprint estimation

Teams striving to develop a predictable sprint velocity must understand their own throughput or capacity and how much work they can get done. They can connect that to how many stories can be completed.

The next question is: What should be the story’s size?  Which stories should be pulled into a sprint?  

The good news is that Storyteller can standardize and automate these factors. Automated story generation provides quality user stories that are the basis for consistent estimation to drive predictability in sprint velocity – the rate or pace at which each team can develop features.

Benefit 2 – Making your development teams more effective

Feature decomposition is the most critical step for companies working with any type of Agile methodology. However, too few teams are set up to do it properly. Most teams are not co-located, and feature decomposition is usually where their development process breaks down. With these factors in place, sprint planning and delivery veers off course, and organizations fail to meet their sprint goals.

Storyteller provides the collaboration capabilities and the complete context of the solution that all teams can reference to effectively manage their feature decomposition.

Benefit 3 – Automatically creating your downstream work products

Feature decomposition then automatically generates the downstream work products needed by the development and testing teams. They include:

  • Automatic generation of mature user stories that are fully-articulated, including visual renderings of screenshots or wireframes, and acceptance criteria;
  • Automatic functional test generation for 100% path coverage from an acceptance criteria and functional test perspective – resulting in manual work avoidance; and
  • The creation of those well-formed, testable stories at a consistent granularity across the team, which begins to make everything else about sprint planning better.

Feature Decomposition is the Critical Success Factor

Teams implementing an Agile process, regardless of the methodology they use, should understand that the feature decomposition phase is the critical success factor. Most teams have strong developers, and – with the right instructions – the reality is they will almost always build to plan. That’s not where projects fail.

Failure comes from teams not knowing what to build or not having crucial details about what they’re building.

Learn more about DevOps or Blueprint Storyteller.

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