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Project management systems – SCRUM – part 1

SCRUM – part 1


Its intended use is for management of software development projects.
Many of the comments here reflect the nature of software development.
However, it can theoretically be applied to any context where a group of people need to work together to achieve a common goal.

For example, setting up a small school or planning a wedding.

It can also be used in running maintenance teams, or as a program management approach.

Scrum helps to get the best possible software constructed given the available resources, acceptable quality, and required release dates.
It should be able to deliver good product functionality every thirty days as requirements, architecture, and design emerge, even when using unstable technologies.
Scrum is an iterative, incremental process for developing any product or managing any work.
It produces a potentially shippable set of functionality at the end of every iteration.

It is very useful when requirements are rapidly changing.
It can control the chaos of conflicting interests and needs.

It consists of small teams which encourage good communications and maximize co-operation.
It aims to remove obstacles to success and maximise productivity.

Scrum is scalable from single projects to entire organizations.

Scrum can be implemented at the beginning of a project or in the middle of a project or product development effort that is in trouble.

Scrum is an ‘agile’ method for project management and control of development work.

Agile software development is a conceptual framework for undertaking software engineering projects that embraces and promotes evolutionary change throughout the entire life-cycle of the project.
There are a number of agile software development methods.
Most attempt to minimize risk by developing software in short ‘time boxes’, called iterations, which typically last one to four weeks.

Scrum uses existing engineering practices.

Scrum is a method for managing work, improving morale, and achieving very high productivity.
It is the most popular agile method for project management.
Scrum is noted for its simplicity, its high level of transparency, and a team based approach to work.

The approach was first described by Takeuchi and Nonaka in ‘The New Product Development Game’ (Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 1986).
It was later elaborated in ‘The Knowledge Creating Company’ by the same authors (Oxford University Press, 1995).
They noted that projects using small, cross-functional teams historically produce the best results.
This approach was likened to the scrum formation in Rugby.

In 1991, DeGrace and Stahl, in ‘Wicked Problems, Righteous Solutions’ referred to this approach as Scrum.
An approach that led to Scrum was used at Advanced Development Methods, in the early 1990's by Ken Schwaber.

A similar approach was developed at Easel Corporation by Jeff Sutherland et al who were the first to call it Scrum.
Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber jointly presented a paper describing Scrum at OOPSLA'96 in Austin, its first public appearance.
They then collaborated during the following years to merge their ideas, their experiences, and industry best practices into what is now known as Scrum.

The process is fully described in a recent book from Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle, Agile Software Development with Scrum (Prentice Hall, 2001).

A key principle of Scrum is its recognition that fundamentally empirical challenges cannot be addressed successfully in a traditional predictive or planned manner.

Thus, Scrum adopts an empirical approach.
It accepts that the problem cannot be fully understood or defined.
It focuses on maximizing the team's ability to deliver quickly and respond to emerging requirements.
It recognises that flexibility will be needed in resolving problems.

It has been used to produce financial, internet and medical products.

Characteristics of Scrum

Scrum enables the creation of self-organizing teams by encouraging co-location of all team members, and high verbal communication across all team members and disciplines that are involved in the project.

Scrum identifies values, practices, and rules in a development framework that can be quickly implemented and repeated.

It allows teams to choose the amount of work to be done and decide how best to do it, thereby providing a more enjoyable and productive working environment.
Scrum is ideally suited for projects with rapidly changing or highly emergent requirements.

Scrum consists of a series of 30 day sprints, each sprint producing an executable.
Between sprints, all interested parties evaluate progress and re-evaluate technical and business requirements.
Work is re-established and the team enters into another sprint.

It is designed to adapt to changing requirements during the development process at short, regular intervals, Scrum allows teams to prioritize customer requirements and adapt the work product in real time to customer needs.

Another terminology you may meet is:

  • Scrum Toon:

A cartoon used to explain scrum and its intricacies on teams where scrum is first implemented.

Product Backlog

This is a prioritised list of all work to be completed prior to releasing a product.
Compare this to the ‘products’ under PRINCE2®.

When a project begins there is no comprehensive effort to write down all the possible tasks or requirements.
Instead, the project team writes down all the obvious tasks, which is usually plenty for a first sprint.
The Product Backlog is then allowed to grow and change as more is learned about the product and its customers.

One person maintains and prioritizes the backlog list.
Anyone can request that an item be put on the Product Backlog list.

Between sprints, all involved parties and the engineering team meet to determine which work can be completed in the next sprint, and what the executable will be.

Product Backlog items are expanded into one or more Sprint Backlog tasks.

The choice of which items to sprint usually falls to those of highest priority.
The prioritisation technique used can be fairly rudimentary.

More information can be found in the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia.

Under PRINCE2 2009 [see ‘The Complete Project Management plus PRINCE2’] planning is covered by the Plans theme.
The purpose of the Plans theme is to facilitate communication and control by defining the means of delivering the products (the where and how, by whom, and estimating the when and how much).
[see Plans - Purpose]

PRINCE2® is a Registered Trade Mark of the Office of Government Commerce in the United Kingdom and other countries.