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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I just came across a recently published Forrester report called “Ensure Success for Agile Using Four Simple Steps,” that provides recommendations for how organizations can smooth out the agile adoption process and make sure it sticks. Written by David West, with assistance from Mike Gilpin and David D’Silva, the report draws on the experiences of companies using agile to manage complex projects (from HP to Wells Fargo) as well as companies who offer agile training and software solutions, such as Danube Technologies which publishes ScrumWorks Pro. It’s a great document for organizations considering an agile transformation or those who have taken the plunge, but are still encountering obstacles to adoption. To purchase it, head here: http://www.forrester.com/Research/Document/Excerpt/0,7211,54037,00.html
One of the most interesting aspects of this article was how Scrum is used almost interchangeably with agile. That is, while Scrum is in fact just one project management method beneath the umbrella of agile, there was virtually no mention of any other method. (Rational Unified Process (i.e. RUP) was mentioned, but Crystal, Spiral, and DSDM were not.) It’s clear that Scrum has become the most popular exponent of agile over the past few years, but West’s report suggests its popularity has grown to the point that it has become the face of agile. Nearly every concrete example provided refers to Scrum and, early on, Scrum creator Ken Schwaber is quoted about Scrum teams as a proof point of an “agile” trend.
In part, this squares with one of the report’s main points: “Make organizational change, not agile development, the main focus.” That is, agile development is only doing its job if it’s helping an organization improve its processes and become more effective and efficient. After all, if a team religiously follows agile practices and processes, but fails to enact actual change, then there’s no point. In that sense, any agile method can work for an organization, but I suspect West returns to Scrum time and again because it is the most widely practiced—and most successful—method.
What do you think? Is your team using another agile subset to manage projects? Or is Scrum just the standard? What reasons do you see as responsible for Scrum’s popularity?
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