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.
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When a company is ready to migrate to Scrum, the first thing it will want to know is which of its projects would make a good Scrum pilot. If no one at the organization has past previous experience working in Scrum environments, figuring out which project to start with can leave a team feeling in the dark. After all, what attributes of a project makes it right — or wrong — for Scrum? Unfortunately, there are no cut-and-dry requirements for a Scrum project, but there are several factors to take into account when making a decision. For example, a few questions to ask would be: How does this project relate to the overall business? What kind of project is it? And does the development team have the technology to succeed?
From a business standpoint, an ideal Scrum pilot visibly demonstrates success for senior management. For a Scrum adoption to really take hold at an organization, it needs the support of management. Choosing a pilot that will directly affect the bottom line will hold management’s attention and create a compelling illustration of Scrum’s potential.
When choosing among a group of candidates, there are several factors to take into account.
- Is there a single Product Owner dedicated to the project? Working with a single customer helps simplify communication and reduce confusion among the team.
- Is there an experienced Scrum coach or mentor attached to the project? If the answer is yes, the team has a tremendous advantage over a Scrum team starting from scratch and learning by trial-and-error. An experienced Scrum practitioner can share best practices and strategies to resolve impediments with the team, helping steer the project toward success.
- Is the whole team located in the same place? While a single location for the team won’t ensure success with Scrum, it helps a lot. When a team is able to work within the same, small vicinity, Scrum’s emphasis on communication and collaboration can be maximized. When a team is dispersed geographically, however, a Scrum tooling solution is usually required to keep a team focused.
- Are the project’s requirements known? How well defined are they? Scrum is so well-suited to the unpredictability of software development because it gives teams the safety of a stable work cadence. That means that, while a waterfall project would require well defined requirements, Scrum projects can begin even when the team only has a foggy sense of its requirements.
- Is the team made up of cross-functional members? Unlike waterfall, Scrum teams are made up of cross-functional members (or they should be, at least). The idea is that if an entire team can perform the range of necessary skills, it is capable of executing every stage of the development work cycle. That range of skills coupled with the close-knit team’s spirit of collaboration shortens the feedback loop and helps teams expose and resolve impediments quickly.
The last thing to consider is whether the team has access to the technological resources it requires. Namely, does the team have the equipment and tools it needs to complete its sprint goals? Also, which agile programming practices are being employed? I would suggest that all Scrum teams use Continuous Integration, Test Driven Development, as well as Pair Programming to help tighten up processes and enable teams to do their best.
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