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Tracking A Hybrid-Scrum Project with MS Project Agile

Project and program managers know this mantra well: planning is indispensable, but plans are useless. In other words, you need to plan because you must convey information, establish agreements with your team, vendors, and other stakeholders, and enable decision-making. Just be very clear that your plan will change frequently. These changes are inevitable when you execute, track, and make necessary adjustments.

You earn your salt as a PM with these necessary adjustments to your plan. As a matter of fact, I believe tracking and controlling will consume most of your time as a PM. The process can be quite complex.

The complexity of managing and tracking a Hybrid project goes up by at least an order of magnitude. Hybrid-Agile projects are a reality nowadays, rather than exceptions. As an Agile practitioner, sound understanding, management, and tracking of Hybrid projects will be key skills in your arsenal. This article will build and enhance your skills in Hybrid-Agile management.

In this article, we will learn how to track a Hybrid-Scrum project, starting with where our project currently stands. We will learn how to do baselining and setting of the status date. We will set up the necessary custom fields to differentiate between predictive and adaptive parts, followed by tracking of both parts. Finally, I’ll share a video demonstration and concluding remarks.

Scenario

In an earlier article, Building a Hybrid-Agile plan, I had explained the structure of a project with many phases in predictive mode and some phases in development to be executed with Scrum as a background Agile framework. As a project like this progresses, I’ll demonstrate setting the status dateand tracking it.

An Example of a Hybrid Project
Figure 1

As shown:

  • We have multiple predictive phases with an emphasis on the Development phase.
  • The Development phase has a Scrum Development part, which will run in parallel with the Predictive Development part.
  • The status date will be set at the middle of Sprint 1, and tracking will happen with respect to this date.
  • Each Sprint lasts for two weeks. You can set any other duration for the Sprints, but it should be planned from the very beginning.

Baselining Hybrid-Scrum Project

Before tracking the predictive part, we need to first baseline the project. We are not going to baseline the Adaptive part of the project, as the time is boxed (timeboxing) for the Sprint’s duration. Note that if the items in the current Sprint can’t be completed, then it’s usually moved into the next Sprint.

The predictive part can be baselined by going to the Project tab > Schedule group > Set Baseline … command as shown below:

Baselining the project
Figure 2

Baselining a Hybrid project is somewhat tricky because such a project will have several items that are predictive, as well as items in adaptive modes.

The below video [duration – 4m: 21s] demonstrates how baselining is performed for a Hybrid-Scrum project. This content is taken from my Certified Hybrid-Agile Master course. For the best experience, you may want to go full screen in HD mode and use headphones.

Understanding baselining will be important as we proceed with tracking the predictive part of this project.

Status Date Setting and Analysis

After setting the baseline, we must set the status date for the project against which the tracking will happen. This applies for both the predictive and adaptive parts. Without proper setting of the status date, you can’t have the right variance analysis.

The status date can be set by going to the Project tab > Status group and using the Status Date: command.

Setting the status date for the project
Figure 3

Note these important considerations from the above view:

  • The Sprint 1 Planning task (0.5 days duration) highlighted above shows the Sprint Start and Sprint Finish dates. Sprint 1 begins on October 10, 2022 and finishes on October 23, 2022. You can learn more about end-to-end Sprint planning here.
  • The status date has been set for the entire project. It’s mid-Sprint 1, as the date is set to October 17, 2022.
  • All Scrum work items are associated with respective Sprints (Sprint 1, Sprint 2, and Sprint 3), whereas the predictive work items are not associated with any Sprint.
  • The Pre-Sprint Work task (2 days duration), above the Sprint 1 Planning task, is part of Agile development work, but not associated with any Sprint.

The Sprint Planning Board view shows all the work items to be done in three Sprints. You can plan as many Sprints as you need based on your release planning with the Manage Sprints command under Project tab.

The sprint planning board view
Figure 4

Show on Board and isAgile Fields

At this stage, you may be wondering how the items will be segregated for tracking when you consider their Sprint associations. This is done by two fields:

  • Show on Board field: This is a built-in field of MS Project. For most of the Scrum work items (across all three Sprints) have this field enabled, whereas for the predictive/waterfall items it is not.
  •  isAgile field: This is a custom Boolean field to distinguish Agile work items from non-Agile ones. It’s used because some of the items are not directly associated with any Sprint and, therefore, may not be displayed on the board views. These items can be Agile work items, for example.

These fields can be added to the Gantt Chart view. Corresponding settings have to be done for all the work items for the entire Hybrid-Scrum project.

the Gantt Chart view
Figure 5

As shown above:

  • We have two new fields/columns added for the Gantt Chart view: Show on Board and isAgile.
  • Work items under the Predictive Home Development sub-phase have both Show on Board and isAgile fields disabled.
  • Work items the under Agile Home Security sub-phase have both Show on Board and isAgile fields enabled, e.g., the Feature- Smart Entry (Task ID 19) with all its subtasks.
  • For some of the work items, the Show on Board field disabled, whereas the isAgile field has been enabled, e.g., the task of Pre-Sprint Work (Task ID 17) under Agile Home Security Development sub-phase.

The isAgile field must be carefully set for the work items in the Agile Home Security sub-phase. A demonstration of both these fields is shown in the final video of this article.

Tracking the Predictive (Waterfall) Part

We are going to track the predictive part of this Hybrid-Scrum project using the Gantt Chart view, though you can very well use other views, such as Tracking Gantt view. To track, it’s a good idea to add the % Complete field in the tabular side of the Gantt chart.

The tracking of the predictive work items can be done with many options available in MS Project software:

  • %, 25%, 50%, and 100% commands given in the Schedule group of the Project tab.
  • Mark on Track command and Update Tasks command, which are again under the Schedule group of the Project tab.
  • Update Project command under the Status group of the Project tab. This command can be for the entire project or a set of selected tasks.
Sprint Tools in MS Project
Figure 6

Remember to only use these commands to track the predictive part of the project, not the Agile/Scrum part. Items for which the isAgile flag is enabled, but the Show on Board field is disabled can also be tracked using these commands. We learn more in the final video.

After you are done with part of your tracking for the predictive work items, your Gantt Chart view will appear as shown below.

Gantt Chart view in Microsoft Project
Figure 7

Interpreting the above figure, one can say the following for the predictive part:

  • All tasks under the Start-up phase are complete (100%).
  • The two tasks (Task IDs 7 and 8) under the Planning phase are 80% and 75% complete, respectively.
  • One task under the Predictive Home Development sub-phase, i.e., Interior Change (Task ID 11), is 64% complete.
  • The duration of the entire project has changed to 96 days. Earlier it was 92 days. You can compare it with the second figure shown earlier, where I’ve highlighted the 92-days duration.

It’s pertinent to note that % completion of these tasks is as on the status date, which is highlighted above as the vertical red line on the right.

Tracking the Agile (Scrum) Part

Next, we must track the Agile-Scrum part of the project. For this, we are going to use the Current Sprint Planning Board view. Before you track, you should have set the % COMPLETE value for the workflow states (columns) on the board.

Sprints view in Ms Project
Figure 8

As shown:

  • Board columns Next-up, In Progress, and Done are set 10%, 50%, and 100%, respectively.
  • The Sprint Backlog has been set 0%. I’ve renamed this column from Backlog to Sprint Backlog.

Tracking of these items will happen according to the status date, which was set earlier as October 17, 2022. For the Scrum part of the project, MS Project software with its Agile features makes it very easy to track with boards. You just need to drag and drop items on the Scrum Board from one workflow state (column) to another.

After you complete your tracking, it will appear as shown below:

Sprints view in MS Project
Figure 9

Interpreting the above figure, one can say:

  • The Sprint 1 Planning task is complete.
  • Several Daily Scrums are also complete.
  • Several tasks under the feature items are also complete, e.g., sub-tasks for the Feature – Smart Entry.
  • Several sub-tasks for the Feature – Smart Alarm are under the In Progress column, such as Check points to install alarms, Install security alarms and the sub-task, Test alarm installations, is under the Next up column.

To learn about all the features being developed under Scrum mode with all sub-tasks, you can refer to this article.

For the task items represented as cards on the board, I’ve customized and added a number of fields, such as Start and Finish dates, along with the Summary Task Name.

It’s also worth noting that for tasks which are moved into the Done column of the Current Sprint Board view, blue tick marks are shown on the top right side of the card. This means these tasks are 100% complete.

Pro Tips: Hybrid-Scrum Project Tracking

We have proceeded in-depth and step-by-step on how to track a Hybrid-Scrum project. Now it’s a good time for some pro tips. The video below [duration – 4m:25s] breaks down a few simple tips for tracking Hybrid-Scrum projects.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can the Adaptive/Agile part of the Hybrid-Scrum project be baselined?

As informed in the first video related to baseline, one can definitely baseline the Agile/Scrum part of the Hybrid-Scrum project. It’s highly possible you may have to report Agile earned value management related metrics such as SPI, CPI, SV, and CV. All these metrics will require baselines.

Can one have separate reporting for the Predictive and Adaptive parts of the project?

Yes, absolutely you can. However, you need to have customizations to do separate reporting.

As the Project or Program Manager (or Agile Project/Program Manager or the Group Scrum Master), it’s your job to make these decisions in consultation with your key stakeholders, such as customers, Product Owners, and/or Product Managers. These decisions should be made before the project or program gets kicked-off.

Conclusion

In the beginning of this article, I noted that tracking of a Hybrid-Agile project is highly complex and can be quite tricky. You need to be very careful during planning, execution, and tracking of the tasks, and using the association or non-association of tasks with Sprints that have custom fields to help you with grouping, filtering, and reporting.

I hope you now have a better understanding on tracking Hybrid-Agile projects and it brings value to your work.

References

[1] NEW Certification Course: Certified Hybrid-Agile Master Professional, by Satya Narayan Dash

[2] NEW Online Course: Mastering MS Project 2019 Agile (Scrum and Kanban), by Satya Narayan Dash

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Written by Satya Narayan Dash

Satya Narayan Dash is a management professional, coach, and author of multiple books. Under his guidance, over 2,000 professionals have successfully cracked PMP, ACP, RMP, and CAPM examinations – in fact, there are over 100 documented success stories written by these professionals. His course, PMP Live Lessons – Guaranteed Pass, has made many successful PMPs, and he’s recently launched RMP Live Lessons – Guaranteed Pass and ACP Live Lessons – Guaranteed Pass. His web presence is at https://managementyogi.com, and he can be contacted via email at managementyogi@gmail.com.

 

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2 Comments
  1. Thanks for leading off with President Eisenhower’s statement about planning and execution. It is my favorite saying of all time.

    I am confused about the difference between Scrum boards and Kanban boards. Labeling the swimlanes in the first Scrum as Sprint 1, Sprint 2, and Sprint 3 suggests that Scrum uses events. But then labeling the swimlanes in the second one as Next up, In progress, and Done is how I think about Kanban boards. Please explain.

    Reply

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