The Scrum methodology of agile software development marks a dramatic departure from waterfall management. In fact, Scrum and other agile processes were inspired by its shortcomings. The Scrum methodology emphasizes communication and collaboration, functioning software, and the flexibility to adapt to emerging business realities — all attributes that suffer in the rigidly ordered waterfall paradigm.

19th
MAY

“Scrum Users Group” Controversy

Posted by admin under Scrum Discussion

As discussed here previously, the Scrum Alliance plays an important role in helping to preserve the Scrum framework through its certification process. Because it has standardized the experience required for various “certified” positions in Scrum, the terminology used to describe Scrum, and, of course, the framework itself, the Alliance has armed thousands of software professionals with the practical knowledge they need to advance in a career in Scrum. I’ve always considered their work to be obviously valuable for individuals seeking training, but also an important reason why Scrum has flourished in recent years.

But I just saw this peculiar story on InfoQ: http://www.infoq.com/news/2009/04/scrum-alliance-user-group According to the post, Scrum user groups—informal groups in which Scrum users get together to share best practices and other strategies—have been receiving notifications that the Scrum Alliance now lays claim to the term “Scrum users group.” What this means for the many users groups that have been contacted in the last month is still fairly unclear. Many groups have reported that the Alliance simply asked them to sign a licensing agreement and branding image. A statement from the Scrum Alliance’s managing director Jim Cundiff explained that user groups must sign the agreement only if they’d like to use the Scrum Alliance’s name and logo. Cundiff also goes on to say that there are no fees associated with using the Scrum Alliance’s name or logo.

So what do you make of this? Is this just another step toward standardizing Scrum, as the Alliance would have some degree of involvement in the branding (and perhaps more) of the group? Or is the Alliance overstepping its bounds, attempting to build publicity for its brand through these grass-roots groups? Do the groups have that much to gain from an affiliation with the Alliance? Some of you may know more about this than I do, in which case please let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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24th
APR

Scrum is a Framework, Agility is a Concept

Posted by admin under Agile and Scrum, Scrum Discussion

If you’re new to Scrum and agile, or like me a long time Scrummer, there are always insights to gain from talking with experienced practitioners. I had a recent opportunity to talk with Michael James (link to his blog) of Danube Technologies. He clarified something extremely basic for me, but it cemented the relationship between Scrum and agile for me so I thought I’d share it with you all.

Our conversation started with me stating that Scrum was a process that fell under the general umbrella of processes called “agile”. He quickly stopped me right there and pointed out two subtle, but important corrections. First, Michael noted that agile is not a process (or collection of processes) at all; rather, it’s a set of principles summarized by the Agile Manifesto. Scrum, XP, and other methods embody these principles and so are described as “agile”. There is no real parent-child relationship though.

Second, Michael made clear that Scrum was not a process in the technical sense of the word. A process is a prescriptive and linear series of steps taken to repeatably generate the same output. Hmm, that doesn’t sound like Scrum at all! Since we’re constantly inspecting our work and adapting the backlog, there is no repeatability we’re striving for. Instead, Michael suggested we use the term “framework” or “method” to describe Scrum. These terms suggest that we have a skeletal framework within which things happen, but that the innovation and intelligence of the team fills in the
gaps.

These two subtle corrections really changed the way I think about Scrum. Thanks, Michael!

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25th
MAR

Guest Column: Scrum Transitions, Part 3 of 3

Posted by admin under Scrum Basics, Scrum Discussion, Scrum Transitions

Scrum Methodology’s Guest Column feature asks individuals throughout the Scrum community to address an issue that is a common obstacle for Scrum teams. In the final part of the inaugural column, entitled “Scrum Transitions: Do It Once, Do It Right,” Katie Playfair, director of client services at Danube Technologies, Inc., discusses how teams can work toward making a Scrum transformation a success—long before the transformation actually occurs.

Scrum Transitions: Do It Once, Do It Right, Part Three
Don’t fail before you start – avoiding common pitfalls prior to the pilot stage

By Katie Playfair, director of client services, Danube Technologies, Inc.

So you’ve got your team – now what?

It’s almost time to start sprinting but not yet!  The manager trying to spark this Scrum transformation needs to make sure their (hopefully) all-volunteer pilot team is armed with the tools they need to be successful at Scrum. The first thing they need to do is understand what Scrum is. There are two basic categories of knowledge about Scrum that will help the team begin practicing:

Knowledge of Scrum mechanics:

  • Roles, meetings and artifacts
  • Story-writing (requirements) basics
  • Vocabulary
  • Common patterns and anti-patterns

Understanding of Scrum principles:

  • Reflexive knowledge of Scrum values
  • Embrace of guiding principles
  • Ability to apply values, principles and practices to scenarios not discussed in class

Although the first category of knowledge can be taught at a very basic level through books, blogs, and other didactic tools, the second must be taught through experiential means. Managers have a variety of providers to turn to and should consider the following factors:

  • Does this instructor have experience implementing Scrum at an organization of similar size and type to yours?
  • Is this person highly accessible and responsive to our questions and needs? Do they, or their educated staff, get back to you quickly with answers?
  • How involved in and respected by the Scrum community is this instructor?
  • Do they have case studies or references to back up their claims?

Once the pilot team has received some high-quality training (remember, we’re keeping costs low by limiting our audience to only those who will be immediately practicing Scrum), a manager should also be looking into infrastructure that will help them be successful. When piloting Scrum, it is extremely preferable that the entire team be co-located, if possible in the same room (team room). If facilities make that impossible, managers should seek to approximate in-room co-location as much as possible by providing some shared space for the team to have their daily stand-up and sprint planning, review and retrospective meetings. Although it is best to allow the team to develop its own tools for tracking sprint commitments and work, managers should be prepared for the need for a physical task-board area, a virtual way of tracking tasks through a Scrum-centric project management tool, or both. Often at this phase of the project, managers do not yet have senior management support or much financing to work with. Fortunately, there are free tools that can provide this necessary infrastructure without having to go through the budgeting process.

Motivated, educated, and armed with tools…

With an educated volunteer team armed with motivation, eagerness to try Scrum, knowledge about the framework and infrastructure to support their work, managers can finally feel free to let the team actually start sprinting. Now that the team is ready to sprint, the team needs to be successful in two major ways:

1. The team needs to be successful on a project that demonstrates the value of Scrum to the organization.  Essentially, they need to “show me the money!”

2. The pilot team needs to experience success and enjoyment from the process, so that their motivation level stays high to continue on with the pilot.

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23rd
MAR

Guest Column: Scrum Transitions, Part 2 of 3

Posted by admin under Scrum Basics, Scrum Discussion, Scrum Transitions

Scrum Methodology’s Guest Column feature asks individuals throughout the Scrum community to address an issue that is a common obstacle for Scrum teams. In part two of the inaugural column, entitled “Scrum Transitions: Do It Once, Do It Right,” Katie Playfair, director of client services at Danube Technologies, Inc., discusses how teams can work toward making a Scrum transformation a success—long before the transformation actually occurs.

Scrum Transitions: Do It Once, Do It Right, Part Two
Don’t fail before you start – avoiding common pitfalls prior to the pilot stage

By Katie Playfair, director of client services, Danube Technologies, Inc.

It’s all about buy-in

Teams that are successful at Scrum are usually teams that want to be successful at Scrum. If you’re a team member and your team wants to try Scrum, you have the right ingredients to start thinking about a pilot. How can a manager convince a team that Scrum is worth trying? More importantly, how can a manager motivate a team to want to be successful at Scrum? Building buy-in for Scrum at the development level is really about getting teams to embrace that Scrum will be better for them personally and professionally. Note the world “embrace” is not the same as “understand.” The goal of the buy-in phase is to get team members and, specifically, volunteers for your pilot team to become genuinely excited about Scrum. To accomplish that, consider the following:

Teams need to understand why what they’re doing now isn’t working.

First, ask the team what isn’t working for them. Examples include:

  • BA’s are overloaded at the beginning of the project, while developers and QA are bored. QA is overloaded at the end of the project, while other functional groups may be “done” with their contribution and unwilling to help.
  • Team members may be frustrated that requirements seem to change regularly and have a heavyweight change process, resulting in changes “jerking them around.”
  • As in the case of our Intel client case study, there may be unnecessary turnover at the end of a project because of burdensome deadlines falling on particular groups.
  • Work just isn’t fun anymore.
  • The team can’t release a product due to technical debt (when we change something, something else breaks).

Secondly, tell the team what isn’t working for the organization with regard to their product:

  • Development is too slow.
  • The team isn’t open to change due to current processes.
  • The project is constantly slipping deadlines.
  • Software quality has gone down – bug reports are way up.
  • Due to technical debt, the team can’t develop new features anymore.
  • Team member attrition has gone up and the cost of replacing good people is too high.

Team members need to have adequate information about this Scrum framework a manager would like them to try.

What the team needs to know:

  • Working in a Scrum environment is more fun than traditional project management.
  • In Scrum, the input of every team member matters and the organization will ask for your opinion, often on your area of technical expertise. Scrum helps create more equality between team members and each person’s input is considered equally important.
  • The Scrum framework helps ensure that the technical team is responsible for the technical quality of their output and that the business team is responsible for the quality of business decisions.
  • Engineering practices that go hand-in-hand with Scrum will help make late change cheaper and less painful.

How can you get them this information?

  • Distribute case studies from similar companies who have experienced success.
  • Invite an experienced Scrum coach or trainer on-site to share success stories.
  • Encourage developers to attend local agile, Scrum and XP user groups to discuss how their counterparts at other companies feel about it.
  • Invite them to read blogs, participate in online discussions, and generally research Scrum online.

Seek volunteers who agree that current processes could be improved and that Scrum might be worth trying.

  • Express support for doing things differently and ask for motivated folks who want to try it.
  • Demonstrate concern for the welfare of the team and their success.
  • Assure volunteers that they are safe to try and fail at first, while they learn this new way of working.

Does volunteerism work in the real world of Scrum transformations? Yes. Let’s take the case of a 35+ person development organization, divided into two basic categories, “technical leadership” and “everyone else.” “Everyone else” members were treated as lackeys, not allowed to make technical decisions or have any input into how to estimate difficulty of their tasks. Many of the “everyone else” team members were bright and capable, longing for more responsibility and independence. When a Scrum pilot was offered as an option, members of the “everyone else” team rushed to volunteer to be on the team.

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18th
MAR

Guest Column: Scrum Transitions, Part 1 of 3

Posted by admin under Scrum Basics, Scrum Discussion, Scrum Transitions

Scrum Methodology’s Guest Column feature asks individuals throughout the Scrum community to address an issue that is a common obstacle for Scrum teams. In the inaugural column, entitled “Scrum Transitions: Do It Once, Do It Right,” Katie Playfair, director of client services at Danube Technologies, Inc., discusses how teams can work toward making a Scrum transformation a success—long before the transformation actually occurs.

Scrum Transitions: Do It Once, Do It Right, Part One
Don’t fail before you start – avoiding common pitfalls prior to the pilot stage

By Katie Playfair, director of client services, Danube Technologies, Inc.

Introduction

The pressure to create more software of higher quality with fewer people isn’t new, but the global circumstances of the last several months have created greater urgency around cutting costs and doing more with less. Scrum is a framework designed to leverage small teams to deliver maximum business value and has become the answer for many organizations for reducing development costs and time to market, while still delivering a great product. As Scrum becomes a more visible and popular framework for managing enterprise development, managers and executives are naturally eager to implement it as soon as possible. In an interesting paradox, however, most successful enterprise Scrum transformations have been driven, at least initially, through strong bottom-up efforts that started at the developer level, gradually gained the acceptance of management, and, ultimately, scaled organically to large teams. So if managers today are drawn to Scrum, how can they leverage known best practices of bottom-up transitions to spark a transformation in their organizations?

Don’t start how you think you should…

If you are a manager eager to roll out Scrum across your organization, please hear out this argument. What you believe has worked for you in the past (in terms of rolling out new processes) will probably not work with Scrum. Here’s an anonymous proof point:

Case One – Online e-commerce portal:
Senior managers at this company decided Scrum was the key to restructuring teams and, therefore, developed a process roll-out plan based on previous process roll-outs. The plan involved training about 150 software team members and asking all of the teams to “kick-off” on the same day. The plan sounded very organized, but, critically, failed to consult anyone with actual enterprise Scrum implementation experience. Trainers were brought in for several sessions. What management discovered is that employees had not “bought into” changing the way they worked. Moreover, since more than 50 percent of the staff was comprised of contractors who felt the transition jeopardized their employment, more than half of the staff present for training refused to participate. Ultimately, after spending tens of thousands of dollars on training, only a few enthusiastic individuals embraced Scrum. It took approximately three years for these enthusiastic volunteers, working on a pilot project, to re-sell Scrum to the organization by demonstrating their success and the best practices they had developed as a small pilot team. This same outcome could have been achieved by spending only a few thousand dollars on sending those enthusiastic volunteers to training or conducting a small- to medium-sized training session for 10 to 30 people.

Almost every successful Scrum transition has started with an enthusiastic pilot team that wanted to try Scrum, demonstrated its capacity for success, documented their best practices, and, finally, asked their management to invite other teams to join. So if your plan for starting Scrum among your teams doesn’t look anything like that, it is almost certain that you will fail either entirely or by spending more time, money, blood, sweat, and tears than necessary.

Rather than spending time developing an enterprise roll-out plan, sending out RFPs to vendors for training and coaching services, and risking spending too much money, let’s talk about how managers can leverage best practices developed by successful Scrum teams around the world to facilitate lasting change that positively impacts the bottom line. On a side note, what you’re about to hear is going to be cheaper than these “big bang” strategies, too.

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5th
MAR

A Scrum Users Group with a Twist

Posted by admin under Scrum Basics, Scrum Discussion

InfoQ just published a brief article on Scrum Club, a group of Los Angeles-based software professionals that operates like a mix of a user group and a philanthropic outreach organization. In short, the group—which was founded by devs who connected at Agile Open California 2008—strengthens the Scrum community by meeting regularly and discussing Scrum best practices. It extends its impact by offering its services to a hand-picked group of local non-profit organizations. You can read the full text and check out the group’s Fight Club-inspired video here: http://www.infoq.com/news/2009/02/Scrum-Club

While Scrum Club’s model of a users group expands the mission of most of the ones I’ve encountered, it’s a great reminder of the value of getting together with folks who speak the same language, face the same challenges, and can share strategies for overcoming similar obstacles. There are Scrum and agile user groups all over the country—in fact, they seem to be popping up more often than ever these days. A quick Google search should help you find one in your area.

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9th
FEB

Games Are for Teams

Posted by admin under Scrum Basics, Scrum Discussion

I’ve been hearing more and more about Certified Scrum Trainers (CSTs) who are using lessons from outside of software development to inspire their students. Most recently, I’d heard about a presentation given by Danube CST Michael James at last fall’s Stockholm Scrum Gathering, in which he shared some fascinating findings from high-performing teams in aviation, psychology, and jazz. Not long after, I ran across this article on the SD Times web site in which Jeff Feinman reports on how some trainers are using principles from other fields to help their students better understand Scrum. For example, one trainer mentioned in the story has attendees engage in exercises drawn from improvisational theater, another leads participants through a series of stretches.

So what’s the value of teaching teams about Scrum using these methods? For one thing, it draws participants out of their shells and gets them to start talking to one another. That might not sound like a big deal, but, given that software developers are often introverted personality types, it’s a big step toward getting a team to behave like one. In a bigger sense, it gives participants experience working outside of their comfort zones. This is good practice for team members at organizations that are about to transform through Scrum. Leaving familiar working behaviors behind for new, sometimes challenging processes is scary for a lot of team members. So a no-pressure or goofy team-building exercise can break that ice and show a team member that a break from the norm can be exhilarating—or even lead a team to accomplish what they never dreamed was possible.

How has your Scrum team helped members acclimate to new processes? Have those efforts worked? How did team members respond? Please share your experiences in the comments section.

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14th
JAN

A Career In Scrum

Posted by admin under Scrum Discussion, Uncategorized

As Scrum’s popularity increases, there is a rising demand for professionals with Scrum experience. However, since Scrum is still a fairly new management method, that puts many aspiring Scrum practitioners in a tough spot: They want the experience of working in a Scrum environment, but they need Scrum experience to get the job. Obviously, then, there is no better experience than actually working in a Scrum environment, but there are plenty of ways to build experience that will pay off in that environment.

One way to secure valuable experience is to attend a two-day Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) course. CSM courses focus on an interactive approach to learning the basics of Scrum, including its vocabulary, principles, and practices. The course lasts only two days, but most attendees find that the information covered really sticks due to the hands-on nature of the course. Several companies offer CSM courses and a full list of trainers and their schedule of courses is located on the Scrum Alliance website.

Of course, real life experience working in a Scrum environment is far more compelling than simply attending a CSM course. When an individual works on a Scrum team—whether as a ScrumMaster, Product Owner, Analyst, Developer, Tester, etc.—for a full year since completing a CSM course, he or she may apply to become a Certified Scrum Practitioner (CSP). The Scrum Alliance reviews and, based on one’s qualifications, approves the CSP designation. Clearly, the CSP title is attractive for employers, who view it as proof that an individual understands Scrum’s principles and processes and has practiced them.

Short of getting experience on a Scrum team, the next best thing is to illustrate to your prospective employer that you possess qualities valued within a Scrum environment. These might include skills such as pair-programming, test-driven development, continuous integration, and refactoring code. Apart from these development techniques, it’s important to demonstrate a strong background in collaboration and facilitation. Since Scrum places greater emphasis on the success of the team, rather than personal heroics, an individual who has proven his or her leadership potential—without extensive authority—would be an excellent candidate for the ScrumMaster role.

Beyond Scrum courses or, of course, working in a Scrum environment, an individual can prepare for a career in Scrum by developing certain skill sets and demonstrating personality attributes that would fit within the Scrum paradigm.

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