For organizations trying to do more with less in the current economy, knowing where to turn for help can be a big question mark. But as Laszlo Szalvay of Danube explains, Scrum is one possible solution. This agile method of project management is quickly transforming the way software is developed by bringing teams together through frequent communication and high-impact collaboration, resulting in increased productivity and an ability to build a better product faster.
Today, companies find themselves in the midst of a business world that is continually shaped and reshaped by emerging technology. From Web 2.0 to cloud computing, these new technologies are leading companies to completely reevaluate how they operate and interact with customers. And no one better understands the opportunities and risks associated with a rapidly evolving technology landscape than companies from the tech sector—particularly the software development industry. In short, the ability to respond quickly and flexibly to new business conditions is integral to survival. With that in mind, software developers require a new approach to project management that is nimble enough to keep pace in such a chaotic business climate, but determining which management framework will yield the best results isn’t always easy.
One of the new methods currently being employed with success is Scrum, an agile method of project management that uses iterative, incremental work cycles known as sprints to provide frequent opportunities to assess and revise direction. While Scrum’s iterative nature ensures that teams are always mindful of the big picture, the framework also facilitates ongoing communication and collaboration to yield high-impact teamwork. When people are connected through frequent check-ins, it enables teams to improve their processes in the long term by becoming the sort of groups that can achieve the near impossible. When an organization develops several of these hyper-performing teams, it creates a path toward sustainably lean operations. In other words, teams like this can do more with less.
An Overview of the Scrum Framework
Before explaining how the Scrum framework achieves all this, it’s helpful to begin with what Scrum is and how it differs from other approaches to software development. To begin, Scrum can be defined as a simple management framework for incremental product development. Development is performed by one or more cross-functional, self-organizing teams of about seven people each. These teams use fixed-length iterations called sprints, which are typically fourteen to thirty days in length. Unlike waterfall, the historically dominant method of software development, Scrum does not assume that all of a project’s requirements can be known at the outset or that development can occur in a linear, “single-pass” fashion. Instead, Scrum assumes that more information about the desired product will be collected during development and, to accommodate that, proceeds in sprints, allowing the team to revisit areas of development throughout the lifecycle.
The Scrum method is deliberately designed as a framework—i.e., a lightweight management wrapper that can be applied to existing processes. However, every part of Scrum’s minimal framework is essential for realizing its core tenets of facilitating productivity through communication, collaboration, and self-organization. Given its spare structure, it’s critical that all of Scrum’s roles and processes are observed. Here’s a quick overview of Scrum’s primary roles and meetings.
- The product owner constantly reprioritizes the product backlog to reflect those items with the highest business value. This individual is responsible for communicating product vision to team members and negotiating sprint goals with them each sprint. He also is responsible for yielding a return on investment and therefore possesses the authority to accept or reject each product increment.
- The Scrum team is a cross-functional and self-organizing team of about seven members that is responsible for delivering a functional product increment each sprint.
- The ScrumMaster facilitates team productivity and self-organization by removing impediments that obstruct progress, enforcing Scrum’s rules, and ensuring that all Scrum artifacts are highly visible.
- During the sprint planning meeting , the product owner and the team negotiate the work that team members will attempt to complete in the next sprint. The product owner is responsible