It is possible that you have heard about Scrum while talking to IT people or Product Managers. Also you may have noticed that what was usually called a Product Manager is now called a Product Owner.
Scrum is an interesting development, also for people not directly working with IT. It is not just a different method of process management for the IT people, but it is a revolution in the way of working by, and with, IT departments. Scrum translates into an extremely visible development of functionality and a very high level of engagement of stakeholders.
Scrum contains a number of basic principles:
People and communication are more important than processes and tools
Working software is more important than development documentation
Collaboration is more important than contracts
Responding to change is more important than following the plan
How do these basic principles change so much? That is down to the way the principles are translated. Working according to scrum means taking baby-steps. Each step should result in working functionality. Working means that it is tested, manuals are created and that it is functioning according to what was agreed. Typically a sprint is two weeks. At the beginning of the two weeks, a team of developers agree to create a certain set of functionality. At the end of these two weeks this functionality is created and done: Done in functionality, testing and documentation. There is no need for reviewing later on or finishing up. Almost done does not exist. Releasing a product becomes more easy, stacking multiple sprints of done functionality does not require any work after the sprint. So releasing can be done more frequently.
During these two weeks there is constant engagement of the product owner with the team. At the beginning to discuss the to be created functionality, during the sprint to see if everything goes according to description and to answer questions, and at the end to verify that everything is as agreed. This engangement at the end is captured in a demo. An event in which the newly created functionality is demo-ed bythe developer to the stakeholders. Agreements and functionality are captured in short descriptions called stories.
The rhythm and the goal
After these two weeks this entire cycle is repeated again, and again. This gives the stakeholders each end of a cycle to adapt to knowledge gained and change the plan for the next sprint. This gives product development a very high level of Agility. In the old days the plan was a single shot, aim once and hope for the best, but now the goals (functional or market) can be hit by a constant adjustment of the plan.
Another important item that benefits is quality. Quality is not something you can add to your product afterwards, but it is something that is created by your way of working. A short list to give an idea of the different elements of quality that is embedded in working according to scrum:
Each unit of software is covered by unit-tests. Developers use these unit tests while they are creating new functionality. These test indicate if something somewhere gets broken when adding new functionality, so this can be corrected.
In sprint testing. During the cycle testers are part of the development team and constantly evaluate the created functionality from the perspective of the user.
Automated testing. These are test scripts that simulate a user clicking through the software. All scripts built up over all past sprints are constantly executed during the build process.
The most important element of quality is communication. Due to the constant contact between team and stakeholders everything is continuously verified and confirmed. Scrum is a revolution in software development that has proven itself over the past decade. There are even developments on-going with applying the principles in marketing and sales. Anywhere sticking to the plan can lead to paralyzed organisations, the principle can work (but that is outside the scope of this blog)
We at Nebu have been going through this transformation in the past 4 months. The first real completed product deliverables are almost there. We would love you to contact our Sales team to check them out.