OK, obviously we aren’t talking about an actual rugby “scrum.” But we are talking about the idea. A scrum is short for a scrimmage with regard to rugby team play. It’s a way of restarting play – over and over – for success in getting the win. A scrum related to IT development efforts is simply an agile work approach designed to drive collaboration and innovation – in short sprints to get the win. Ready to scrum?
In the IT consulting field, teams typically work in either an agile or waterfall work style. In a waterfall work environment, teams progress a project in sequence with a steady downward flow through phases. The focus of waterfall tends to be extensive planning and documentation—research, plan and do. In an agile work environment, the team has more freedom and flexibility. It promotes adaptive planning and evolutionary development through continuous improvement.
According to an HP survey, agile work styles are trending toward the norm. According to the 2015-16 survey of over 600 professionals some 90 percent report working in some form of an agile environment. Respondents cite five key motivators to moving the agile trend forward over the last decade:
- 54 percent say it enhances collaboration.
- 52 percent say in increases the level of software quality in organizations.
- 43 percent say it shortens time to market.
- 42 percent say it reduces development cost.
- 49 percent say the results increased customer satisfaction.
Why does it work?
In the simplest of terms, the agile process breaks the project down into small iterations (called sprints) to move an initiative along in an incremental, highly flexible and interactive way. These sprints are organized so the highest value items (as decided by the product owner) are focused on first. This allows the most important things can be delivered quickly. There are benefits to breaking down work and many company leaders are discovering the difference it makes.
Think your team is already agile? Ask yourself these questions:
- Does my team value individuals and interactions over processes and tools?
- Do my projects provide continuous delivery of working software?
- Do we encourage changing requirements based on changing business needs?
If you answered no, or hesitated to answer any of these questions, the team is not working agile.
Ready to scrum?
Scrum is one of many agile work methodologies. Before moving a team to work in this agile environment, ensure everyone understands the mindset and principles, not just the process and concepts. The team must be built with the necessary complementary skills: a servant leader (team leader), product owner (someone from the business who’s dedicated to this project alone) and professionals who create a complementary team with skills ranging from developer to communications to analysis and more.
As an agile team works together, it becomes its own entity. The team members build on each other’s skill sets to become stronger and faster. It’s essential for team members to have a broad and deep set of skills, not focused in one specific area. Agile works in short sprints, so coming together as a team is essential. A good scrum team becomes self-organizing.
Focusing on one project at a time also is key to an agile team’s success. A team will lose synergy if they multi-task. In the real world we know sometimes adding work is a necessary, but the key is to limit it if at all possible. Why? Because the more focused project iterations a team works through together, the more efficient they become.
As business owners and leaders ask teams to work faster, working smarter is a necessity. Being agile not only creates this environment, it also drives collaboration and brings out the best in each and every team member allowing the scrum team to win together—sprint after sprint.
Brian Andrzejewski, Director, Business Solutions