Today, the distance between consumers and Businesses has reduced significantly. Companies are required to show agility in adapting their products, services and processes according to customer needs in order to stay ahead of competition. This is where sometimes the traditional paradigm of a “waterfall” methodology fails to deliver. Scrum methodology came into the fore as a response to this primary driving market force.
If your project has some or all of the following objectives, you will be well advised to look at Scrum as an alternative to a traditional waterfall methodology:
- Short time-to-market
- Clear vision in place but no rock solid requirements list
- Frequently changing requirements
- Continuous invention and innovation
- Input requirement from cross functional teams
- Incremental output of significant value is expected
And what exactly are the advantages of Scrum […over traditional methodologies]
- Proactive Risks Mitigation: Differences between cross functional teams can be identified and addressed early.
- Flexibility & Adaptability: All aspects can be rarely thought through in the early planning phases of a project. During the project, assumptions are constantly challenged, requirements change and invariably teams run into unexpected roadblocks. Scrum is designed exactly for these situations. Development work is carried out in iterative cycles (sprints) of fixed duration. A sprint usually lasts 2 to 4 weeks, which makes it is possible to adapt to changes on-the-fly.
- Splittet Requirements Engineering: Due to the sprint cycles it is not necessary to start with a complete set of requirements. This helps especially in projects that include the development of rich user interfaces or any kind of concepts and technology that are rather new to the project team.
- Shorter time-to-market: Every sprint delivers a finalized “product”, the results can be used productive earlier on and new ones can be built upon it.
- Greater customer orientation through fast user feedback: At the end of each Sprint customers can review and feedback on the deliverable – making this a very interactive & customer oriented approach.
So, is Scrum really the panacea for successful projects?
Unfortunately the reality in companies is different. Agile methodologies are “adapted” to fit corporate governance and structures of large organization. This results in a compromise or a hybrid approach — a combination of cascade and Scrum. The result is that the development teams set themselves up in accordance to Scrum methodology whereas the business teams use traditional cascade methodology.
Nevertheless, as we will see in the following section, a hybrid model can be made success if some cornerstones are kept in mind.
What are the Key Success Factors in making Scrum work for you?
So how does an organization deal with this hybrid approach?
Companies usually rely on experience and “gut-feel” of individuals to orchestrate parallel streams of teams following Scrum and traditional cascade methodology in order to preserve the core essence – agility. In such situations continuous prioritization of requirements is key.
In order to make hybrid models a successful, here are some cornerstones to consider:
- Trust in the cooperation: High degree of uncertainty of the final deliverable will require team to rally around individual milestones and believe in the big picture. Therefore, teams need to learn to trust and cooperate. Naturally it is management responsibility to facilitate such an environment. Time has shown that trust and communication has led to project success.
- Close cooperation between business teams & IT departments: Business & IT departments often speak different “languages”. In particular when different process models are pursued by both parties, it is a best practice to use a neutral party to moderate proceedings.
- Being on the same page: Foundation of joint processes and extensive training sessions is absolutely key for the success of the project.
- Planning for sufficient resources: Every Sprint has to be followed up by feature testing, requirements re-thinking and, where appropriate, reprioritization. These activities require that resources are planned well ahead of time.
- Continuous prioritization of requirements: Even Scrum cannot work miracles. Not everything can be implemented immediately. Therefore it is important to draw up a prioritization and estimation of requirements between the individual iterations, to define what can be implemented in the next iteration.
- Linking milestones to sprint targets: Linking the most important business milestones to sprint goals will ensure that necessary functionality is developed in time and milestones are not put at risk.
- Common tool set: A common set of tools for the business and IT departments will help measure and communicate the progress of project better. This approach leads to a “single source of truth”. This aspect is accentuated with larger and geographically dispersed teams.
So, before you go…
In conclusion, a hybrid model can work very well, provided some basic cornerstones are adhered to.
Key aspect of successful implementation is the willingness of all parties to support this form of cooperation and to foster an appropriate project culture. Therefore, it is essential that sufficient time is allocated for joint development of the process and training sessions in the business departments as well, before an agile project is launched.
This time spent initially is well worthwhile, because in addition to an elevated know-how across the company, agile project management fosters cooperation between all stakeholders, thereby strengthening relationships. As an upshot, projects can be implemented quicker, leaving clients satisfied with better results, as they would be actively engaged during implementation by constantly reviewing and providing new inputs and requirements.
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