The business value of an Agile Retrospective. Part II

At Softwaredevtools we know the importance of ceremonies in Agile teams. And the most important is retrospectives. An Agile Retrospective session is a perfect moment to go back and reflect on our performance as a team and find the best practices to avoid past mistakes from happening again and again. We have already talked once about the business value of agile retrospectives but this time we are going to focus on the time and the money.

Agile methodologies have been gaining ground in remote teams, due to the advantages that they provide. Often split the work in chunks and define what will you work on during a sprint. But how can you be working remotely with an agile team and have a really valuable retrospective session? Or even more difficult, how can you have an efficient Agile Retrospective?

Well, if you don’t know how to improve your Retrospectives sessions, it is possible and it's has nothing to do with the difficulty.
The answer is… Finding the right tools.
Tools are very important for teams that work remotely because using them is the way that team members can constantly interact and work together. But we are not just talking about Agile Retrospectives tool (available in Atlassian), we are talking about saving your team's time and therefore money.

Retrospectives for Confluence or Jira is a tool that allows you to customize your retrospective beforehand and invite your team to meet in the Jira project or Confluence space they are actually working on.
That actually will help you set the stage to drive the conversation and collaboratively agree on what needs to be discussed and define an action item for the topic at hand.

During a colocated retrospective we have been learning from [Esther Derby] & Diana Larsen the five stages that are important to achieve great retrospective sessions:

  • Set the Stage
  • Gather Data
  • Generate Insights
  • Decide What to Do
  • Close the Retrospective

But being remote and being aware of all these, can be very difficult and can result in a waste of time and money. That’s why we are going to share with you why having a tool for your retros will help you in every step and actually save your team some money while improving results:

US News defined that in 2018 the lowest salary for developers for that year was $79,340. Taking that into consideration the salary per hour is $27 dollars. In the next paragraphs, we are going to show you how using the right tool for you retros can help you to save money on every step saving between: $85-$115.42 per month means $1020.60-$1385 per year.

Set the stage:

There are two cases for this step. If you decide to have your meeting synchronous or asynchronous (don’t be worry, in both cases, you will save time).

Synchronous: Getting more than 5 persons to connect at the same time is difficult. For sure you have been waiting for some members for more than 10 minutes when you are going to start your meeting. This is a waste of everyone's time. Using our app, this would be the only time that you have to wait. Because once that all the team is ready you don't have to decide where to start because you have the possibility to personalize your own template before the session and start using it.

If you were trying to start your retros without a tool you would have to create the template (7-10min). Even if you have one already you have to prepare it for the next sessions and this will take you at least 5 more minutes. Taking that into consideration with a tool you only have to wait till the team is online.

Asynchronous: If you decide to have your retros asynchronously, well, with this tool you don’t have to wait for anybody at the beginning of a meeting and your team can fill the template in their own time and when they are not working in everything else, so there is no lost time in this part.

Money saved per month in this stage:

  • (25min)($0.45 per min) (1.5 sprints per month)= $16.87 per team member.
  • (20min)($0.45 per min) (1.5 sprints per month)= $13.50 per team member.

Gather data:

This is one of the most important stages of retrospectives, and having a person filling a blank page without a good structure can provoke a total loss of information or even worst, misunderstanding for two reasons: the person writes it wrong or the person didn’t have enough time to write. Having a bad way to gather your data can be very frustrating and a waste of time. If you don’t recollect it rightly, the full session can be perceived as a waste of time.

If you are investing time in doing your retros remotely but you don’t use the right tool to do it. In one way or another, the meeting will become frustrating and the team can perceive it as an unnecessary meeting, which is a bad symptom in the team performance for an agile team.

Not having a tool to gather your data correctly can cost you at least 5-10 minutes from your team's discussions not getting anywhere. If you have 8 persons in the team the lost time is 30-70 minutes per session.

Money saved per month:

  • (5min)($0.45 per minute)(8 members)(1.5 sprints per month)=$27
  • (10min)($0.45 per minute)(8 members)(1.5 sprints per month)=$54

With our retrospectives tool, every member can write their own ideas. And you don't need to wait till the other person is finished because everyone can do it individually. Reducing from 56 (for 8 members and seven minutes per member) to 10 minutes maximum.

Time saved: 46 minutes

Money saved per month: (46 min)($0.45 per minute)(1.5 sprint per month)= $31.05

Generate Insights

Usually in this step, the team looks for the reasons why they are having all the problems that arise during the discussion. The recollection of ideas sometimes is better if every member does it by themselves because it can be perceived as a problem if you are trying to express something that may be a member can feel like an accusation for them. But if you are doing it out loud some stuff never gonna come out, so you can solve all the problems if you don't let the team express with freedom.

If all the members are trying to remember the topics that they talk about in the last step they are gonna lose some ideas and time. How much time? maybe 5 minutes per member. But having everything on the screen and within everyone's reach, the ideas can come quickly and everyone can be on the same channel easily.

The key to having a tool for this section is that actually you can focus on finding the common problem or the problem that was frequently mentioned by the team. It can be very confusing if you are just using a document shared in google docs. The time for grouping and finding the best ideas can decrease from 10 to 5 minutes.

With this tool, you can just take the idea and grouping with the help of a member at the same time that every member is aware of the information. This makes it for a collaborative process that increases engagement from your team. Allowing you to find better insights. Now your retros can achieve more efficient action items.

Time saved: 10 minutes

Money saved:

  • (10min)($0.45 per minute)(1.5 sprints per month)=$6.75

Decide what to do

This is one of the most frustrating parts of retrospectives, sometimes the members don't take seriously because they don’t see anybody in charge of the previous problems. Also, some members don’t take accountability for any of the possible solutions that the team found. You can take 15 to 20 minutes assigning tasks and finding that every member selects a task that helps the team but even so, doesn't truly solve the problem.

It is easier if every member takes a task by themselves and has a record of every meeting every time you want. It is possible with the Retrospectives tool. Every member selects the issue that they want and takes more responsibility because this will be assigned as a Jira issue. Instead of wasting 15-20 minutes assigning tasks, you can spend just 10 minutes while the team chooses their own task.

Money saved:

  • (10min)($0.45 per minute)(1.5 sprints per month)=$6.75

Closing the retrospective

Closing the retrospective allows you to find the problems related with team dynamics, and your results. But using a tool, the team has agreed on what needs to be improved, and everything's already assigned for follow-up. So, not much left to do, but to check around for agreement.

Retrospectives are such a valuable ceremony that can encourage continuous improvement. Why let an important ceremony became boring and ineffective. The more frequent & efficient retrospective session, the fewer problems are going to arise. So many remote teams don't have a Retrospective session because they think that it doesn’t work or that is just a waste of time. But having a tool to gather the data rightly and keep your team focused on what actually matters can be very fruitful and effective.

In softwaredevtools we want to find the right path for continuous improvement for those remote teams that have problems with their agile ceremonies. That’s why we have some incredible tools for accurate estimates, effective retrospectives, and easy standups. Check it out here.