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What exactly is an impediment? I know that Scrum say that and impediment is something that stop the team from performing the best it can. So basically it can be everything? But where goes the magical line where it becomes and internal improvement?

For example. We want to have more realistic test data in our databases, is that internal improvement or impediment? We as a team could try to solve it in the sprint along with the other stories directly, or we could say that it's an internal improvement that needs to be a story and go into the product backlog.

As I see it we have three options:

  1. Handle all internal improvements as stories in the backlog and make the PO prioritize them.
  2. Work with them along regular stories in the sprint.
  3. Big things goes in as stories and small stuffs we can do directly in the sprint without it effecting the velocity much.

Which is the correct option?

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Definition of impediment from Scrumology:

impedimenta hindrance or obstruction in doing something: “an impediment to progress”.

Example: Realistic Test Data:

The example you cite, the need to have more realistic data in the database, could be construed as an impediment to progress.

An impediment is not necessarily something that needs to be resolved to complete the project. Instead, an impediment is something that "impedes" or hinders your team's progress. With enough time in the budget, an impediment may not necessarily need to be resolved. It's up to you as the project manager to determine if the productivity gain from removing the impediment is worth the opportunity cost of spending time removing it.

But where goes the magical line where it becomes and internal improvement?

It's up to you as the project manager to determine where that line is. If an "internal improvement" doesn't speed up the project team's progress, then you could argue that it's not really an "impediment" and not really necessary that the issue be resolved.

Options for Handling Small Tasks:

In my experience, it's easy to let those little things distract you from the most important tasks. All too often, I've seen myself and others get lost in minor details that we tackled because they appeared to be the low hanging fruit. This led to issues later on where we scrambled to resolve the more important larger tasks.

Thus, go with option 1. Handle all internal improvements as stories in the backlog and make the PO prioritize them.. If the tasks aren't important, push them to the bottom of the list.

Of course, if you estimate that you'll have room at the end of the sprint and the next most important task won't fit within the current sprint, go down the list and find the most important smaller task that will fit within that sprint.

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I like to keep it pretty simple.

An impediment is anything that blocks the team from doing work that is outside of the control of the team. It's up to the leadership of the team to go out and influence/coerce/cajole the external party to help them get past their issue, or, to change your implementation to work around the blocker.

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Impediments can certainly stem from areas of your development environment that require improvement - no doubt about it. But challenges such as your test data are known challenges and will - of course - be allowed for during estimation:

"Oh, this story is a 13. It would be a 5 if we had realistic test data."

As a result, in the example you give, I don't see that as a legitimate impediment. It needs fixing, but the process of estimation should have accounted for it.

In my experience, per your other question, I'm used to seeing improvements get written up as stories and added to the backlog. But really, it's situation-dependent and will ultimately be determined by factors such as whether such efforts are considered development costs or infrastructure costs and which departmental budget will account for it.

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For me,

  • impediment is something outside of the team's scope. For example, not having a special hardware for testing. In this case, the team cannot do much, because buying new hardware is usually part of the management's responsibility. So the team puts the item into the impediment backlog, and management pulls from there.

  • internal improvement is something a team can do in order to have a better product. For example, writing new test cases on the new hardware.

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