Too often, we hear complaints from leaders across development roles that their team’s mindset is misaligned, certain roles and responsibilities are too ambiguous, and nobody seems to be on the right track. Sound familiar? Not on an Agile and Scrum project management team.
Maybe it’s a high priority client or stakeholder who has commissioned a high-end software product, and decides to change the scope intermittently. The liability falls heavy upon the project manager’s shoulders, who finds it hard enough to keep the team coherent and consistent towards one another, not to mention the demand from an important client.
Margins of error are razor-thin, and failure to deliver the promised product to the client is how a reputation becomes tarnished within the software industry. So how do these large-scale products ever see the light of day?
Well, they do and what’s more, it occurs regularly throughout most companies tasked with the production of colossal projects. The precise execution of large-scale software development is known as Agile and Scrum project management.
As a surprise to many, Scrum is actually a framework within agile methodology, which in short, is a way of working iteratively and with a dynamic scope.
The Scrum Process
Let’s examine how the Scrum came to pass as today’s leading project management model, and how an extra Scrum player within the Agile and Scrum process might have the potential to further optimize communications amongst a developmental team.
The Agile software development methodology has long been lauded as the comprehensible bite-size deployment of tomorrow’s software. Why spend months painstakingly building programs, only for the client to find glitches throughout the promised product? These small bugs could have been easily caught and rectified months before. Testing code often, and in small portions allows for you to approve each step, saving time, energy and costing.
Scaling Agile projects can be tricky, but not if combined with the Scrum technique. Through continuous timed-increments (Sprints) within the Agile and Scrum Model, the development Scrum team is able to communicate across multiple teams, guided by the Scrum Master, working through the Sprint towards the sprint review stage (incremental product release), and then finally, onto the retrospective period (review).
This practice encourages team members to constantly evaluate their work, the status of their work, what has yet to be done, and what cannot be accomplished. This is why the Scrum Master is imperative to a Scrum. Like a conductor, its task is to open the lines of communication and orchestrate meetings, known as ‘events’.
Such events occur throughout the Agile and Scrum model. Daily Scrums, or Scrum stand-ups, allow for team micro-management to flourish. Each member must assess the day’s workload ahead, part of the sprint back log, a list of things that must be done to complete the current Sprint (normally 30 days). Issues, or glitches that have surfaced can be addressed at these meetings, allowing for instant intervention.
Other valuable meetings which occur include the planning of the upcoming sprint. Each member contributes towards what can be accomplished during the sprint, where a part of the software is to be completed. This allows for group ownership over the project, where responsibility is shared amongst each team member, and not alone on the Scrum Master’s shoulders.
The Sprint Review occurs once the Sprint is complete, and that piece of software is completed and deployed. This is swiftly followed by the Sprint Retrospective. The Product Owner who liaises with the client, another important figure within the Agile and Scrum project management model, along with the Scrum Master and Scrum Team, takes measure of the Sprint. With continual self-analysis after each Sprint, a Scrum Master and its team are able to define best practices.
The Agile and Scrum project management model
- Product Owner, Scrum Master and Scrum Team collectively form a Product backlog on how to accomplish the project.
- A Sprint is defined and the team, guided by the Scrum Master, works through the Sprint backlog towards the incremental product release.
- Daily Scrums allow for the team to assess daily work-load, inspect any issues, and adapt to the movement of growth. See our article on Daily Scrum Communication for more in-depth detail.
- At the end of the Sprint, the piece of software is tested and released to the client during the Sprint Review.
- The team then undertakes the Sprint Retrospective to establish better modes of practise, and the cycle is repeated until the project is complete.
The History of Scrum
The idea, first developed by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka in 1986, compared the formation of a rugby Scrum to their hypothesis of a high-powered process for product development in ‘The New New Product Development Game’.
Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber took from this theory in 1996 to form the Scrum framework, which takes a product from the planning stage, through to product delivery. Right, we know all that, yet why exactly did it supersede its sequential product management process forefather, the Waterfall?
The Fall of the Waterfall concept
Well, the real beauty of a Scrum is breaking up a product into manageable goals (product backlog) which can be delivered piece by piece, headed by the Scrum master.
Whereas its predecessor, the Waterfall, fell short of acknowledging the power of mindset, and how team members can stumble ahead of a large project, unable to foresee the final output.
Keeping up with change of scope is paramount, which is where the Scrum’s eloquence is truly unmatched. Project managers, it’s time to ditch your title and subsume the role of master; Scrum Master, that is.
An Extra Scrum Player
Under the three fundamental pillars of the Scrum theory: transparency, adaptation and inspection, improved practises are always worth noting if only to carry the Scrum development team closer to its defined goal.
A new Scrum communications app promises to be the latest shiny tool on the Scrum master’s work belt. Our application, Allisian, assists the agile and Scrum project management model by optimizing communications between distributed teams.
Our digital tool delivers daily communication between members under one simple summary. Keeping all teams in line during the Scrum, Allisian acts as a digital Scrum stand-up meeting.
At the end of every working day, each member of the teams enters their project status. The app then summarizes the over-all progress data, and condenses it into one email, distributed across the entire Scrum.
Team members can see if another member’s progress is blocked, and can step in to help, allowing a Scrum development team to sprint towards each increment of the final product.
Still, a master is only as good as its tools. The three fundamental pillars to Agile and Scrum product management mentioned above, should still hold firm as you approach each sprint. Strive for continuous professional improvement following each product increment, and bolster each iteration with team collaboration.
Foster commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect amongst your Scrum team during your meetings, and continue to harness a growth mindset for your software delivery. A team is only as good as its weakest player.
Have you discovered other ways to advance Agile and Scrum product management? Let us know in the comments below.