Agile has brought about a revolutionary transformation in the way products are developed, marketed and maintained. While the benefits of Agile are many, it is a well-known fact that there is no ‘one size fits all’ Agile formula for organizations. Every business is unique and hence needs tailor-made Agile solutions to survive in this ever-changing economy.
There are advantages and disadvantages of using Scrum and Agile, and each comes with its own set of challenges. But the benefits of Scrum and Agile far outweigh its disadvantages and hence it is worthwhile for an organization to invest in transformation. Successful transformation can be ensured by investing in training and upskilling under the guidance of Agile & Scrum experts.
What is Agile and Scrum?
These stats reveal the length and breadth across which Agile has permeated and the huge profits that organizations stand to benefit by getting on the Agile bandwagon. A Vitality Chicago blog talks about how for large projects, adopting an Agile approach ensures twice the rate of success, as compared to traditional waterfall approaches.
Agile Alliance describes agile as the ability to create and respond to change and a way of dealing with, and ultimately succeeding in, an uncertain and turbulent environment.
What is Scrum in Agile?
Scrum is the most widely used Agile framework —Scrum Alliance
Scrum is the most widely used Agile framework —Scrum Alliance uses an iterative and incremental structure for project management. Scrum focuses on delivering large projects in small chunks and has brought in immense benefits to teams that have adopted it including, creating, delivering and managing complex projects/products that are of the highest value. According to Scrum Alliance, Scrum is the most widely used Agile framework.
In this next section we will look into the pros and cons of Agile and the pros and cons of Scrum.
Advantages of Agile and Scrum
- Flexibility and Adaptability: Agile’s philosophy of flexibility and ongoing adaptability helps companies respond to changing requirements. Agile gives you the flexibility of progress over perfection and the freedom of deploying engineering teams to requirements that are more important, rather than following a rigid first-in-first-out method. This allows you to flex resources more efficiently to cope with changing requirements.
- Creativity and Innovation: Agile indexes in the ability of prototyping and allows customers to be a part of the entire development process that creates the minimum viable product. This gives developers the freedom to bring in innovation and explore their creativity during development. Furthermore, agile emphasizes on self-organizing teams and this greatly fosters creativity and innovation.
- Time-to-Market: The concept of the minimum viable product ensures that a working model is brought out into the market sooner. There is effectively the creation of some increment of the product at the end of each sprint. This not only satisfies the customers but also gives the development team the flexibility to add improvements to the product and release it faster in the market.
- Lower Costs: Since Agile releases product versions at frequent intervals, the cost of failure is much cheaper compared to the traditional waterfall model, which focuses on production quite late in the SDLC.
- Improved Quality: Agile promotes best engineering practices like unit testing, peer review, test driven development etc. This ensures that the product created is of improved quality.
- Customer Satisfaction: The first principle of the Agile Manifesto states, "Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software." Agile’s focus on early and frequent delivery ensures that customers get a finished product faster and that their requirements are implemented through each iteration of the product development.
- Employee Satisfaction: The quick time to market philosophy of Agile has a number of advantages and one of them is employee satisfaction. Developers get quick feedback on the product they develop, there is greater accountability and self-organization gives greater freedom to team members. The requirements chosen are all geared towards giving maximum value to the customer and this help employees gain confidence and a sense of pride in their work. All this ensures high employee satisfaction.
- Organizational Synergy: Organisational synergy occurs when people and processes work together to deliver value and quality. Agile allows for cross-team prioritization and these priorities trickle down and permeate through every level of the organization thus helping towards organizational synergy.
- Iterative in nature: Agile is a philosophy, while Scrum is a framework that believes in iterative and incremental development of products. This focus on iteration provides for all the benefits associated with scrum and agile including customer collaboration, innovation, early risk identification and mitigation and rapid delivery of software. This iterative nature of agile is perfect for large projects with continuously evolving requirements.
- Agile Scrum can work with any technology/ programming language: Agile is a mind-set, not a technique. It can work across industries and sectors and most definitely across technologies and programming languages.
- Improvement in the productivity of each of the team members: Every team member is accountable in Agile. This enhances the sense of ownership and responsibility, which in turn improves productivity. In fact, Scrum reduces the amount of non-productive work that team members often find themselves doing in traditional product development, such as writing requirements or specifications that have little of no use to anyone.
Disadvantages of Agile and Scrum
- Training and Skill Required: Most Agile and Scrum implementations often fail due to a lack of training of employees. Agile is not easy to implement. It requires dedication and a shift in the mind-set and the way or working. Organizations who are planning a shift to agile from the traditional often fail due to lack of proper training for employees as well as C-Suite leadership.
- Organizational Transformation: While organization transformation cannot be achieved overnight, it is a goal that most enterprises seek to pursue, in order to maximize Agile benefits. This again is easier said than done and requires full commitment from leaders at all levels in order to avoid failure. Most organizations that are trying to transform are deeply rooted in the waterfall methodology and find it difficult to relieve control and give it to the team, as mandated by agile, thus leading to transformation failure.
- Scalability: Agile and Scrum work well for small teams. In fact, small teams work smarter and better by adopting the scrum practices and the agile philosophy of fail fast, fail safe methods. But there are organizations that try to scale and more often than not, end up failing. Scaling agile requires a thorough evaluation of current processes and a complete overhaul of the top-down control. This is difficult to achieve as it means charting your own path and tailoring agile for your own needs.
- Integration with Project/Program Management: Integrating agile into an already well-established system can be frustrating, chaotic and comes with a high chance of failure.
- Works well only with small teams: Agile was designed for small teams. Small teams can adapt faster, integrate faster, ensure open communication and transparency and implement decisions faster. Communication is a major factor for the success for agile and this is more effective in smaller teams.
Like every other system there are also Scrum limitations and disadvantages of Agile methodology. The road to becoming agile is not an easy one. There will be bumps and failures along the way but once you succeed you will realise that the benefits are manifold. Agile involves a complete shift, right from the way you work to the way you think.
You do not do Agile, but you become agile. Becoming Agile is a journey, the success of which depends largely on the support of senior management. Allowing teams to self-organize is the first step towards becoming agile. A lack of commitment or belief in agile methods is a sure recipe for disaster. The right training can ensure a successful agile transformation and scrum implementation.