Scrum or not to Scrum – do the agile methods of management make any sense?

How to control the development of a new product? How to react to changes in the client’s expectations? How to plan actions to minimalize the risk of failure? Effective project management is quite a challenge. Fortunately, the agile methods which enjoy increasing popularity, such as Scrum, come to our aid. At first, it was used mainly to develop IT products, today it is also used beyond IT. What does Scrum consist in and does it really work?

What is Scrum?

Scrum is the most widespread of so-called agile project methodologies based on the Agile Manifesto. According to the rules of the Scrum methodology, the product development comes in short, consecutive stages, called Sprints. Iterative, that is incremental process of control over the project, allows for efficient and innovative creation of the product and its maximum matching to the client’s expectations.

A bit of history

First mentions of Scrum methodology appeared as early as in 1986. Its main assumptions were presented by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka in the article “The New Product Development Game”, published by Harward Bussines Review. In the 90’s Scrum was developping thanks to such persons like Ken Szchwaber and Jeff Sutherland who in 1995 during the conference in Austin in Texas jointly presented a work dedicated to the methodology. 6 years later, the same persons presented the most known to-date manifesto connected with the IT work methodology – The Agile Manifesto.

Sprints, that is work in processes

According to the Scrum methodology, called frameworks by its creators, the project teams works in Sprints  processes) which usually take from 1 to 4 weeks. Sprints are iterations consisting in repeating respective elements in a cyclic and fixed manner during the entire process of the project. The effect of each process should be a delivery of a subsequent version of the product with implemented changes which are visible to the user.

Sprints stages

Each Sprint begins with Sprint Planning during which prioritized works are sent for each process. An inherent element of Sprints are so-called Daily Scrums, i.e. everyday team meetings during which the work progress is checked and decisions on further actions are made. Next stage is Sprint Review, i.e. checking the increment of product and feedback. Sprint ends with Retrospective, i.e. a summary which aims to help in improving the subsequent iterations.

Roles in Scrum

Individual characters play a key role in the Scrum methodology. Those are: Product Owner – person representing the client, responsible for making decisions linked to product development and project duration, Development Team – team that plans, organises and performs the work, and Scrum Master – creating the appropriate conditions for work and the team, motivating the employees at the everyday, short meetings.

Advantages of the Scrum methodology

Implementation of the agile methodology may have a great deal of advantages, not reachable in the case of realising

the project with traditional methods. Above all, Scrum allows to:

  • make changes on the regular basis in the project during its performance – both in existing and future functionalities,
  • fully monitor the product in creation – each Sprint ends with a release of a new version of the product for the client who tests it and makes corrections in it to be implemented in the next Sprint,
  • perform the project in the fastest and the most efficient way thanks to corrections made on the regular basis and, hence – better adjust the product to the client’s expectations,
  • change the scope of project and even close it at any time – for example, in the situation of reduced budget,
  • minimalize the expenses connected to formalities – there is no need to create a comprehensive project documentation,
  • increase the team’s morale – thanks to self-organisation, the project participants have more room for experiments and their relations are based on colleagueship, which translates to better efficiency.

Potential threats

The Scrum method is not free of flaws. Among its potential threats, the most often mentioned one is the risk of project proliferation related to the possibility of introducing changes and adding new functionalities. This, in turn, may lead to unplanned exceeding the budget. In effect, the end-product, though comprehensive, may also not meet the initially assumed tasks.

When is it worth to work with Scrum?

Scrum, even though it gives a lot of advantages, is not a universal methodology. It will work best with non-standard products or products developed from scratch, which implies a significant level of risk and uncertainty of success.

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