Is a Scrum Agile Development Process Right for You?

by Kate Swanberg
Blog Post

A Brief History of Scrum Agile Development:

The year is 1986. Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka, two of the most influential business thought leaders in the world, walk into a bar. Within minutes, they’re engaged in a high-level business conversation. But the conversation keeps getting drowned out by the loud cheers of the bar patrons. Annoyed, they look to the TV screen to discover the source of the commotion.

Rugby.

For a minute, the violent game holds their attention. They’re captivated by the way the teams move the ball down field. In rugby, the clock never stops, teams never switch sides, and the ball can only be thrown backwards or sideways—so each team is forced to move together in a line across the field.

They notice how all the team members need to know their teammates’ status, so they can become aware of new gaps in the field position that need to be covered, and adapt to changes quickly. The team is self-managing while it pushes the ball forward in sprints.

While Takeuchi and Nonaka observe this phenomenon, an idea pops into their heads. They make a connection between this rugby scrum and an idea for a new, fast-paced, iterative type of product development—one with more potential and ability for change than the traditional relay race style approach.

Shortly after, they write “The New New Product Development Game”, and lay the roots for Scrum Agile Development.

Okay, okay. So maybe this isn’t exactly how it played out…but it’s fun to think about! One thing is for sure—rugby definitely played a role in the formulation, and it’s an important part of the history of Scrum Agile Development.

An Introduction to SCRUM Agile Development

Scrum (named after the Rugby term “Scrum”) is an agile project management methodology that focuses on short iterations, continuous improvement and feedback, embracing change, and collaboration. It’s a lightweight process with many benefits.

All the way from the Rugby field to the business world, Scrum is now the leading agile development methodology, used by Fortune 500 companies globally.

What’s Unique About Scrum?

Scrum doesn’t depend on the best guess or uninformed forecast to plan schedule releases—it uses the real-world progress of a project. Projects are divided into sprints—a set period of time during which specific work has to be completed and made ready for review.

At the end of each sprint, team members and stakeholders meet to assess the progress of a project and plan its next steps. These meetings allow you to adjust your project’s direction based on completed work—not just speculation or predictions.

During a project, customers can change their minds about what they want and need. Scrum recognizes this and focuses on maximizing the team’s ability to deliver quickly and respond to changes.

In short, a Scrum Agile process benefits your company by helping it to:

  • Increase the quality of deliverables
  • Cope better with change
  • Provide more accurate estimates, while spending less time creating them
  • Be more in control of the project of the project timeframe and status
  • Save on development costs

All of this helps you to earn higher customer satisfaction rates.

Elements of SCRUM

Scrum is lightweight because it has a few prescribed elements:

  • 3 Roles: Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Development Team
  • 3 Meetings: Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, and Retrospective
  • 4 Artifacts: Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, Product Increment, and Burndown Chart

The Roles of Scrum

Scrum Master: Responsible for maximizing the Scrum process (usually a Project Manager).

  • Coach and guide the team
  • Create an inclusive environment
  • Facilitate team meetings and negotiations with the Product Owner

Product Owner: Responsible for the product vision and improving ROI

  • Manage end-user and stakeholder expectations
  • Plan schedule releases and testable requirements for the team
  • Collaborate with the team, end users, and stakeholders to make sure that goals are met and they accept the software at the end of each sprint

Development Team: Responsible for delivering potentially shippable increments of the product at the end of each sprint.

  • Cross-functional and self-managing
  • Track progress of their own work with the guidance of the Scrum Master
  • Must deliver increments of software as promised to the Product Owner

A Quick Rundown of the Scrum Process

  • The Product Owner creates a prioritized list of high-level requirements called a product backlog.
  • A sprint planning meaning is held at the beginning of the sprint cycle. The teams pull a small chunk from the top of the product backlog, a sprint backlog, and decides how to implement those pieces.
  • The team must complete its work before the sprint is over. In order to complete the work, it holds a Daily Scrum meeting—a daily meeting to assess its progress.
  • Throughout the process, the Scrum Master is responsible for keeping the team focused on its goal.
  • The sprint ends with a sprint review and retrospective, where the team reflects on the past sprint, makes process improvements, determine what went well and what needs to be improved, and present the completed work to stakeholders.

Until enough items in the product backlog are completed, the budget is depleted, or a deadline arrives, the sprint cycle repeats. Due to the process and prioritization, Scrum ensures that the most valuable work is completed by the time the project ends.

When to Use Scrum Agile Development

Although Scrum Agile Development is most commonly used in software development, it can be applied to nearly any project. It works best for projects that can be delivered iteratively or in “chunks”, which is the case for most software developments.

When NOT to Use Scrum Agile Development

If your product can only be delivered in a single “chunk”, or cannot be divided into sprints, then Scrum is inappropriate for the project. An example of this would be a process that can’t be tested until the development is complete.

How Scrum Benefits Product Managers

Product Managers typically fill the Product Owner role and are responsible for satisfying customers by ensuring that development work is aligned with customer needs. Scrum makes this alignment easier—it provides constant opportunities to re-prioritize work, which helps to deliver maximum value.

Conclusion

There’s a reason why Scrum is the leading agile development methodology. We live in a fast-paced world with constant change, and we need to be able to adapt to those changes.

With Scrum development, you can identify problems early, and respond easily to change. You can tailor the product to better meet customers’ actual needs, instead of their assumed needs. And the enhanced collaboration within your company also helps to improve productivity.

Would you like to learn more about Scrum? Are you considering it for your next development project? Are you struggling to implement the Scrum methodologies in your company?

We specialize in Scrum Agile Development, and we’d love to help you through the process and answer your questions. Tweet us or shoot us an email at mvp@koombea.com! We also have an Agile Management Playbook you can request for by email, so be sure to ping us to get one!

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Author: @keswanberg

by Kate Swanberg
Blog Post