Proof Of Concept

Got a grand idea? Is it… too grand? If you think it is, then you’re right: it is. This idea may be a vision, a Scrum story too large to tackle in one sprint – that’s why they’re called ‘epic’s. You think about the logistics for getting it done: you break the epic down into smaller stories. You do the Scrum thing, and now each story is independent, negotiable, valuable, ‘estimatable’, small/specific, and testable – all that good stuff. Yet, while they’re now small enough to tackle in a sprint, it might not do anything to increase your confidence level – you still can’t see this grand idea come to fruition.

Take some time to convince yourself – set up a story that is a proof of concept. Craft a story with a definition of done where you will be convinced that this seemingly lofty goal is indeed attainable.

Congrats – this is your Version One.

I see a couple of ways to set up stories towards an epic. You can start with the epic in all its grandiosity and dissect it into what are essentially building blocks: get this part of it done, then that part, where some of the later parts will build off of the previous ones. The problem with this is that you are working off of one version of the vision that does not allow for evolution. As you’re building up to this blueprint, what if the vision changes? Now you have stories done (components built) with a specific purpose in mind that might not be easily reused – waste.

The other way to eventually materialize this epic is to ‘get to done’ a version that is scaled down – a proof of concept. Scrum espouses shippable product at the end of the sprint, and I see this partially to the benefit of product development; the sooner the product ships, the sooner it can get into the hands of the user, the sooner feedback can be harvested and analysed, and the sooner we can get updated on how to keep building this product – if at all! Abandoning ship is always an option, and isn’t it much better to figure that out sooner rather than later? Steering the product in very different direction is also a decision that’s better to get to sooner rather than later.

Now, iterate. Take this Version One and incorporate feedback into the vision you’re building towards, the grand idea that may be evolving. This is how you take versions of ‘good enough’ to ‘great’.