The power of Scrum
What’s the secret to great software? It’s not about the best skills, or even about the biggest resources. It’s about methodology. With the right approach to development projects, a small, dedicated team can achieve higher quality applications and faster results than a large company with huge budgets. This is why Scrum is the model of choice for the world’s top performing software developers.
To understand the concept of Scrum, you first need to understand what Agile development is. These terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but there is a distinct difference between the two.
What is Agile?
Agile is an approach to software development that, unlike traditional development models, is based on rapid progress and continuous, adaptive improvements. (The details are outlined in the Agile Manifesto.) In broad terms, it is a set of principles that encourage teams to self-organise and collaborate across team borders, to continuously improve and adapt the end product through a series of iterations.
What is Scrum?
Scrum is a framework for implementing Agile development in an organisation; a practical model used to apply the Agile principles to a project. It offers a set of guidelines that help the team to stay on track and stay true to various key elements that may otherwise get lost. One way to describe it would be to compare software development to building a house. If Agile is the builders’ yard, Scrum is the plan in your hand that tells you how to build a house using the materials you see.
The Scrum mindset
There are a number of distinct roles and stages of Scrum, which are all important. But the one thing that is the most crucial when it comes to the success of the project is the mindset. A Scrum mindset is one that truly recognises the value of serving the team and leaving any egos at the door. This can be a steep learning curve, but every Scrum member will soon recognise the tremendous value of shared responsibility, respect, and accountability.
What makes Scrum effective
Scrum is by far the most popular approach to iterative software development. But what is it that makes Scrum so powerful?
Let’s take a look at some of the key benefits of adopting Scrum:
Scrum can produce incredibly complex products, but as a methodology it is simple to adopt and use. Teams can get up and running quickly by just following the basic framework. The Scrum Guide offers a straight-forward outline of how to apply the model to any development team.
In traditional software development, change can be a difficult thing to manage. Once the development has started, you may find yourself committed to various features which turn out to be obsolete by the time the product hits the market. A Scrum project, on the other hand, allows for ongoing feedback and changed requirements. This iterative approach makes sure the product fits the actual needs of the customer and is as good as it can be when it launches.
The Scrum model uses short bursts of activity, ‘sprints’, that typically range from 1-4 weeks. These help to create a sense of urgency, as there is always a deadline coming up. Having these small and frequent goals prevents any team member from feeling overwhelmed by huge tasks, and it also gets everyone used to working at a consistent rate of productivity.
- Early and frequent delivery
A key element of Agile projects is delivering what we often call ‘functional increments’. This means that the overall development work is broken down into individual components that can be tested and validated throughout the development process. It offers early visibility of the product features, which helps stakeholders to understand the product and allows them to provide valuable feedback.
The Scrum model does require daily meetings, which may seem counterintuitive at first. But these meetings focus on efficient communication where everyone reports on their individual progress, to-dos, and challenges. Nobody can hide in the Scrum, as each team member needs to show how they are contributing to the project. On the other hand, this transparency also means that nobody needs to deal with challenges on their own but can get the help they need to achieve their targets.
- Continuous improvement
At the end of every iteration, the Scrum members will get together for a ‘retrospective’. This is a meeting where the team gets the chance to discuss the results of the iteration, review their processes and practices, and look at ways to improve in the future. The retrospective helps to measure performance, while also analysing the root causes of any issues and how these should be addressed. Thanks to this practice, the team can ensure that their development processes improve continuously throughout the project.
Scrum is here to stay
Here at DCSL, we are avid fans and advocates of Agile and particularly the Scrum methodology. Adopting Scrum has helped us deliver a wide scope of hugely successful software projects, and the mindset of Scrum is something that underpins our entire team culture.
As long as Scrum helps development teams deliver cost-efficient solutions that clients love, companies like ours will continue to use it. And the fact that it helps our teams improve their collaboration and communication skills, well – that’s a pretty nice bonus.