The pandemic has changed our lives and our businesses for ever. The need of the hour is for systems that can support and operate in distributed environments and show quick adaptability and flexibility in adopting new changes and new technologies while addressing customer issues at the earliest. Recent times have shown that organizations that are able to meet these needs are those that have adopted Agile software development with Scrum.
Agile is not just a methodology but it is a mind-set that demands a change in the very culture of the organization and its workforce. In this blog, we attempt to investigate Scrum and how it helps in achieving organizational goals.
Agile is a philosophy that lays down certain values and principles, and the methodologies that are encompassed under the Agile umbrella follow these values and principles. These methodologies include Scrum, Kanban, XP and others, and they all follow the Agile principles of tight feedback cycles and continuous improvement.
For most of us, Agile is synonymous with Scrum, given that Scrum is the most popular Agile methodology. The State of Scrum Survey 2017-2018 states that 94% respondents used Scrum as their preferred Agile methodology.
So, What Is Scrum?
The Scrum Guide states that: Scrum is a lightweight framework that helps people, teams and organizations generate value through adaptive solutions for complex problems.
In a nutshell, Scrum requires an environment where:
Scrum is based on these five values:
Scrum follows incremental and iterative development by splitting work into sprints that are timeboxed. Early testing ensures that defects are caught early on. Customers are happy with Scrum because they get frequent releases, and their requirements are better addressed.
The reason Scrum is so popular is because it can be tailored to suit the needs of your organization and can be applied to product development irrespective of industry. This flexibility makes it easy to grasp and implement.
Scrum benefits not just the organization but also the workforce and the customers.
At the organizational level there are benefits that Scrum offers that help to achieve business value and meet organizational goals.
Customers are the king in today’s world, and they have high expectations. Technologies are rapidly changing and so are end user preferences. The only way to stay ahead of the competition is to ensure that products are released faster into the market.
Short sprints and short release cycles in Scrum ensure that features are created and ready for testing in a couple of weeks. These short iterations also keep in line with the ‘fail fast, fail safe’ idea of Agile where, identifying failures earlier helps to rectify them sooner and reduces overheads that may be associated with late identification of defects.
When your customer is involved in the entire process of development, they know that their product is taking the right shape, making them happier and more satisfied.
Story pointing, and estimating is an approach in Scrum that helps to determine the complexity of each task in terms of the time, effort and cost that may be consumed by each task. This early estimating helps product managers identify tasks that are more complex and prioritise them to enhance efficiency and subsequently reduce production costs. The process of ideation, creation, testing and release of product is more streamlined, quicker, and hence lower in production costs.
A striking feature of Scrum is the amount of transparency it provides, not just for team members, but for all those involved in the project including stakeholders, management, and investors. Various metrics and visual tools allow to share project status, scope, costs, and time with anyone. There is better allocation of resources and the strong focus on collaboration helps to create better teams that are more motivated and productive.
he start of any Scrum project first requires the Scrum elements to be decided upon. This includes building the team composed of the Product Owner, Scrum Master and Developers.
The Product Owner represents the business side of the product and has a clear vision of the product to be built.
The Scrum Master must take care of the team and display leadership skills in helping the teamwork its way through Scrum and deliver the expected goal at the end of each sprint. Scrum Masters ensure that there are no impediments that block progress of the team, and the team is always highly motivated and productive.
The Product Owner and the Scrum Master together select the developers of the team. Four to nine in number, the developers are expected to be multi-disciplinary, and the team should be collaborative and self-organized.
Once the team is fixed, it is time to fix the sprint durations. While generally this depends on the organization or the project, sprints are usually between 1 to 3 weeks long. Once fixed the same duration is used for all the sprints.
The Product Backlog is possibly the most important artifact of a Scrum project and is an ordered list of the tasks that need to be accomplished. The tasks are listed in order of priority. The Product Owner owns the product backlog but takes the help of the team in ordering and prioritizing the tasks. Estimation of the tasks is an important activity to be carried out as it gives all those involved in the project an idea of effort, time and cost considerations.
Sprint planning is the event that kicks off the sprint. The whole team is involved in sprint planning and decisions are made on what tasks will be taken up, what will be delivered and how. The necessary allocations are made, and estimates are drawn up by taking into consideration the speed of the team.
There is a need to make the work of the team and progress of the project more visible. Also, developers should be able to communicate if they are facing any issues during the development. This is done during the daily meetings that are held. Scrum boards offer a ready visual aid to define the status of tasks and daily scrum meetings help the team members answer questions like:
Once the sprint goal has been achieved it is important to demonstrate its workability to the Product Owner and to the stakeholders and get their feedback and suggestions. This helps in the continuous feedback and continuous improvement cycle and helps the product owner understand if the product delivered meets expectations.
It’s important to look back and reflect on what went wrong and what could have been done better and take these learnings to the next sprint. This is what exactly is the purpose of a sprint retrospective where all those involved in the sprint get together and reflect upon the progress made, any impediments that slowed down work and how things can be made better in the upcoming sprints.
There is no time to rest as the team must immediately start working on the next sprint following the same processes and procedures.
There are primarily three accountabilities involved in the Scrum team:
In order to survive the post-pandemic economy, organizations have no choice but to go Agile. Agile Scrum aids in product innovation, adaptability, productivity and reduces time to market. The road to creating high performing Scrum teams may not be an easy one, but with practice and time can be done.