The Three Amigos approach to collaborating in an agile team is a critical tool in your arsenal for delivering better business outcomes. It is a significant tool that in our experience is not fully used to its potential by a lot of agile teams. The Three Amigos Approach refers to the primary perspectives used to examine an increment of work (also known as a user story) before (business), during (development), and after (testing) development. These unique perspectives are:
- 1. Business – What problem are we trying to solve?
- 2. Development – How might we build a solution to solve that problem?
- 3. Testing – What is needed to verify that the solution meets the requirements?
The key concept of the Three Amigos approach is to strike a balance in collaboration between project team members with different perspectives and involving the full team (or representatives of the team) in discussing the details of each increment of work. The origin of the Three Amigos approach goes back to George Dinwiddie, a pioneering software consultant coach in Agile development.
The Respective Roles of the 3 Amigos
The objective of the Three Amigos approach is to collaboratively bridge the gaps in the understanding of the business specifications. The three unique, but interdependent, roles include:
- Business Analyst (or Product Manager): makes sure that everyone in the team has the same understanding and expectation from the User Stories, representing the interests of the customer.
- Developer: discusses their understanding of the requirements and what it takes to build the work increment, from a technical standpoint.
- Tester: discusses quality concerns, develops appropriate test cases and makes sure that all the acceptance criteria are met by the test cases.
The Business Analyst collects the feedback and reviews comments from the team members. The BA also adds the missing information and can assist in removing any ambiguous information from the User Story.
The Developer discusses the architecture layout and detailed design with the team to form a collective understanding of what is going to be built.
The Tester provides details on the functional and non-functional aspects of the software increment and details the test cases identified to test the increment.
How the Three Amigos Meeting is Best Conducted
There are typically three primary representatives involved in a Three Amigos meeting, although more than three people can participate. The more perspectives in the meeting, the more gaps the team can fill. However, the biggest challenge is to find a proper balance between how big this group should be and how productive and effective the group can be. While a large group can reduce ambiguity, it can also inhibit an understanding and consensus.
There are many ways to organize the Three Amigos meeting, but we suggest this best-practice approach. The meeting typically should last no more than one hour or so, to be successful. It should be well planned and organized with an agenda. Typically, the meeting starts with the Business Analyst presenting the business requirement to the participants accompanied with the requirements documents or wireframes. The business requirement should be well prepared and documented at the appropriate level of detail, using visual artifacts and diagrams. It is expected that the team participants have reviewed the requirement prior to the meeting.
As a best practice, plan on at least one Three Amigos meeting on a given user story within a sprint. Sometimes an additional Three Amigos meeting is warranted in the same sprint, if necessary. We also suggest holding this meeting early in the Sprint to achieve the highest benefit and alignment.
As a next step, the participants review the requirement and provide feedback, particularly any ambiguities and gaps. The Business Analyst then works to remove the ambiguities and fill in the gaps in the requirement. Once the requirement is refined sufficiently, and the participants have no further feedback or questions, the requirement is marked as ‘Ready’.
Next, the test cases are presented to the meeting participants, similar to the requirements. Test cases should be well formed with a pre-defined structure and prepared in advance. The participants then review the test cases and provide feedback, identifying any missed test cases and discuss error conditions or edge case scenarios. It is important to note that the collaborative nature of the three amigos meeting facilitates the identification of any additional test cases that would be otherwise not obvious. Similarly, the meeting can also help identify any gaps in the technical architecture, or even business requirements. The testing team member then incorporates all the suggestions provided.
The next step is to look at the dependencies and prerequisites that might have come out during the session. The dependencies and prerequisites are then identified, and action items are created and assigned to the relevant team member.
Finally, the identified artifacts (requirements, test cases, tasks, dependencies, prerequisites) should be kept in a centralized and visual requirements management software, such as DreamCatcher, so that all team members can readily access them.
Benefits of Three Amigos Approach
There are numerous of benefits to using the Three Amigos approach, the primary one being that it enables teams to be lean and efficient in the way it prepares its increments for development and testing. It introduces certain checks and balances that are necessary to be successful. Other key benefits include:
- 1. Ensures business analysts, developers and testers, as a team, formally discuss the increment of work needed.
- 2. Identifies confusion and misunderstandings early, allowing for faster resolution.
- 3. Identifies dependencies and prerequisites, allowing for more efficient development.
- 4. Edge cases and related stories are scoped early and can be triaged in suitable time.
- 5. Acceptance criteria and test attributes are scoped and agreed to.
6. Promotes good documentation of artifacts.
Our Conclusion—The Clear Benefits of the Three Amigos Approach
The Three Amigos approach can have a substantial impact on the quality and delivery time of your product, increasing the team’s agility, adaptability and conflict resolution process. Embedding this collaborative strategy into product development process leads to continuous improvement in understanding the process, the early identification and resolution of misunderstandings with the product requirements, and consensus on acceptance criteria. To be successful, the Three Amigos meeting should be well planned and organized. The biggest challenge is finding a proper balance between how big this group should be and how productive and effective the group can be.