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At AWH, everyone works on multiple projects and keeping everyone connected and up to date on all those projects means we spend a lot of time in meetings. Even after attending all those meetings, we still noticed issues like -requirement changes, missed test scenarios, development misses/delays causing late deployments, and a lot of defects in the test environment. Not only are these meetings time consuming and sometimes ineffective, but we also end up burning the project's budget by having all team members attend every single meeting! Sounds familiar right?

After having multiple discussions on these issues, we came across one solution that could not only solve all these problems but also increase our productivity and provide deliverables in a timely manner. The Solution, "The 3 amigos" meeting. Yes! You read that right- one meeting is all you need!

Why should you conduct this meeting?

Have you been in an estimation meeting and come across a story where the team has a lot of questions, and they begin discussing the details and eventually end up putting that story back in the backlog for further clarification?

Or you are in the middle of a sprint and realized stories have missing information or dependencies that are not complete?

Or stories that do not have the UI designed?

Or experienced a scope creep?

Or even worse completed development and while demoing it to the client, you are informed that the requirements were wrong or incomplete?

If your answer for even one of the above questions is YES, and you want to take a step towards solving them, then That's why you should conduct the 3 amigos meetings.

For Agile teams, the four scrum ceremonies are -

  • Sprint Planning- Where the team meets and decides which stories from the product backlog they will work on in the upcoming sprint.
  • Daily Scrum- Where the team meets every day for a 15 min stand up and they update other team members about what they are working on and the progress.
  • Sprint Review- Where the team gives a demo of what they accomplished during the sprint.
  • Sprint Retrospective- Where the team reviews their work and identify what went well, what didn't go well and where they can improve.

And in none of these meetings does the team discuss the specifics of a feature. Questions like what needs to be done, how does it work, how should we do it, what are the various edge case scenarios, and what functionality can or can't be done - are never discussed. That's where the 3 amigos meeting comes into the picture.

You should conduct this meeting to solely discuss the details of a feature.

Who are the 'Three' amigos?

Typically, the 3 amigos in the agile world are Business Analyst (BA), Tester (QA), and developer. It's not really about the number of people involved, its more about who would add the most value. Sometimes it's Four Amigos when a member of the UX team or Client is involved. I highly prefer having the client/product owner in this meeting and I will tell you exactly why in the next section. But keep in mind you do not want the entire team in this meeting.

How does the 3 amigos meeting work?

The 3 amigos meeting is usually conducted by a Business analyst. The key to a successful 3 amigos meeting would be having all the attendees review the requirements and be ready with questions.

The BA starts by introducing the requirements of a feature/story. After which the other attendees can provide feedback and ask any questions they may have.

Then Tester presents the test cases/test scenarios. The attendees review them and discuss any missed test cases or edge case scenarios

The Developer presents the plan to build the product along with their understanding of the requirements, the architecture, and the low-level design.

Now here's why I think it's very important to have a Client attend this meeting: 

  • The clients can review the requirements prior to and during the meeting. So, if the requirements are inaccurate or need any changes, it can be done sooner rather than later.
  • The clients have visibility of the work being done and the test scenarios.
  • The client is ensured that everyone is on the same page.
  • Any questions that the team might have can be answered by the client directly.

At the end of the session, the features should be "Ready for Dev". All important information discussed should be noted in the requirements and the story so that it's accessible to all.

When should you schedule the 3 amigos meeting?

Well, it depends on how groomed your product backlog is. If the feature is to be developed in Sprint N and if you have a well-groomed backlog you could schedule one as early as N - 2 Sprint. If done sooner, then the team will forget important details. In AWH, we conduct the 3 amigos meeting in N - 1 Sprint for 1 hour. At the latest, you could schedule one as soon as the sprint starts and the developers pick up a task to work on. I would not recommend scheduling one later than that since it wouldn't add much value.

How much time should you set this meeting for?

The 3 amigos meeting is time-boxed like any other meeting. The goal is to not exceed the time limit. Usually, the time that one should spend is 30 minutes to an hour max. The key is being prepared beforehand - everyone has read the requirements, artifacts to be presented are ready, and questions are ready- this will help you cover everything and make the most of your time. Even after all that, if you are not able to cover all features then you can schedule another session to cover the remaining ones.

What is the value of doing the 3 amigos meeting?

In a fast-paced agile environment, you might feel like "Do I really need one more meeting?" Initially, we felt the same but then when we started conducting this meeting, we realized it's adding more value than any other meeting. Here's why:

  • The team would have a common understanding of the product and deliverables.
  • Ensures better quality of work.
  • Any blockers, misunderstandings, assumptions, and confusion will be eliminated before any work is started on those tasks.
  • Ambiguities and gaps, if any, are identified early on.
  • The feedback loop between Client and team members reduces drastically.
  • Edge cases and test scenarios are identified early on which helps a developer build accordingly and leads to fewer bugs in test.
  • Test Cases are written early.
  • Except for the Business Analyst, nobody else would need to attend the requirements gathering sessions which limits budget burn.

What difference did AWH notice after implementing the 3 amigos meeting?

After deciding to start doing the 3 amigos meeting, it took the team some time to understand "what" needed to be discussed. After a couple of sessions, we got a hang of it, and it has made a huge difference in the final product and deliverables.

  • The most important difference we noticed is reduced bugs in test, and no bugs in UAT and Production.
  • Since Blockers, Tools, and Devices needed were identified early on, they were made available when the sprint started.
  • A more accurate estimation of resources and time since everyone knows what needs to be done and how much time it would take.
  • The BA is now the only one attending all the requirements gathering sessions for all projects which reduced the time the developers and testers spent in meetings.
  • Communication and teamwork increased tremendously. The BA must make sure all the information is passed to the team and the team together brainstorms all possible scenarios.
  • Increase in productivity - even when the team was working from home during lockdown due to a global pandemic.
  • Clients are happy and trust that we will provide high-quality product even during COVID-19.

Conclusion

Helen Keller rightly said-

"Alone we can do so little,

Together we can do so much"

I have attended many 3 amigos meetings in my career and the impact has been hugely beneficial. There are still times when our 3 amigos meetings are skipped or delayed due to extenuating circumstances such as; some of the "amigos" are unavailable, we assume the requirements are clear and self-explanatory, or the meeting was delayed so long development is almost complete. It was during these times that we noticed glitches in communication and unnecessary pressure on the team. So, if you haven't already, I would highly recommend adding 3 amigos meetings in your scrum ceremonies and see the difference it makes!

 

Works Cited

“Helen Keller Quotes.” BrainyQuote, Xplore, www.brainyquote.com/quotes/helen_keller_382259.