A spike is any task created to find an answer or gather data. It is frequently used in Scrum, SAFe, and other Agile frameworks. If upcoming work needs more information to begin, a team will decide to schedule an agile spike story in the sprint to prepare for it. 

How Agile Spikes Help to Improve Your Agile Product Delivery?

An agile spike story is a user story that requires additional details so the team can determine how long it will take to complete. Spike stories are frequently referred to as time-boxed studies since a defined time period is outlined for spikes.

A spike may include tasks like investigation, design and prototyping. The goal is to acquire the expertise required to lower the risks of technological approaches, better comprehend a demand, or boost the precision of a story estimate.

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When to Use Spikes?

Product backlog refinement must take place before the spikes are determined. Suppose there is still a great deal of ambiguity surrounding the estimates in addition to revising the user story. In that case, these are four main circumstances where an agile spike story must be used.

  • There are several possibilities, and the development team must do additional tests to determine which is best.
  • The development team is uncertain as to whether the potential solution will produce the desired outcomes.
  • The team is unsure about how to address the problem.
  • Initial work needs to be done by the team to estimate user stories. 

Who Typically Initiates a Spike

If any member of an agile team feels unprepared to start a particular story or task, they should initiate a spike. In most cases, if a team member accepts a task and realises they need additional details before starting, they can initiate a spike to aid their preparation.

Can I Use Multiple Agile Spikes for One Story?

Agile coaches encourage teams to do so. For example,

  • Teams can initiate one spike for in-depth solution research,
  • One agile spike can be utilised for trial and error,
  • One agile spike story can be used for an implementation estimate.

There will be three distinct sprints for all three spikes.

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Types of Agile Spikes

There are two main types of Spikes in Agile:

Technical Spikes

When a team researches technical alternatives, the effects of new technologies, and so on, they employ this agile spike story.

Functional Spikes

When an agile team assesses the contribution of new features to the system or how specific features match the need of the business. 

Benefits of Spikes in Agile

The advantages of using an agile spike story are

  • It reduces uncertainty
  • A chance to define answers without the pressure to hurry through. 
  • A clarity of the direction to proceed.
  • Prevent overestimated stories because of uncertainty.
  • Realistic estimates since the certainty risk have been mitigated. 

By the end of an agile spike story, the team will have determined the possible solutions, their respective user stories and the estimates of the stories. 

How Not to Use the Agile Spikes:

These are some things to avoid and follow while setting up agile spikes.

  • They should not go on forever and should have time boxes. 
  • Allot enough time for positive results. 
  • Avoid implementing the story while employing the spikes. 
  • The topic should be the main focus of the spike. 
  • When the topic is ambiguous, refine it first and then assign a spike. 

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Guidelines for Spikes

Teams should use spikes sparingly since they do not immediately deliver user value. They can apply the following guidelines.

Quantifiable, Demonstrable, and Acceptable

Teams should develop only the information required for accurately identifying and sizing the agile spike stories. The spike result may be demonstrated to the team and other stakeholders, resulting in transparency and joint ownership. Product owners accept spikes that have been demonstrated and have met the acceptance criteria. 

Timing of Spikes

Preparing for the spike and the resulting stories in a single run can occasionally be risky because they indicate uncertainty in one or more prospective stories. However, doing both in the same iteration might be highly effective if the problem is simple and small and a speedy solution can be found.

The Exception, Not the Rule

Each user story is inherently uncertain and risky. The team finds the best solution through negotiation, cooperation, experimentation, and discussion. As a result, each user story incorporates actions similar to spikes that assist in determining functional and technical concerns. An agile team's objective is to develop strategies for dealing with uncertainty during each iteration. When there is a lot of uncertainty or unknowns, spikes are essential.

How Do I Use Spikes in Jira?

Teams can establish spikes as a distinct issue type in Jira and then turn the issue type into a story after it has been solved. To begin their first spike, teams can take the following steps

  • Choose the team member who will handle the spike.
  • To reflect a spike in the backlog, create a ticket.
  • Establish the spike time box. 
  • During the sprint, complete any required research or design to produce an estimate for the initial story.
  • Close the spike, then add the updated estimate to the original story. 
  • Convert the issue from a spike to a story.
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Conclusion

Agile spike stories allow teams to advance with their sprints after accurately predicting the time required for completing stories, enabling the team to produce more precise user stories. To learn more about Agile, you can take the Agile Scrum Master Course from Simplilearn.

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