Thursday, September 26, 2013

Get off Your Butt and Get in the Scrum

Have you heard of scrum? Scrum is an agile development methodology often used to develop software. You can read the Wikipedia definition HERE, since they say it better than I could. I also read an interesting post about this called: Agile PM is not Just for Software Projects Anymore.

It has been shown that the scrum methodology promotes transparency and provides greater accountability so that projects get done faster with greater innovation. It sounds a little unnerving, but those who use it in their software development environments have a flexible process that readily supports change. The image below attempts to show this more clearly.

I don’t have time to explain the whole process, but let me try. Tasks are broken up into things called “sprints” that usually last a few weeks. The sprint has a very specific goal that is to be accomplished. During the sprint, there is a daily standup meeting called the “daily scrum”. The daily scrum usually lasts around 15 minutes. In this meeting everyone says what they are doing, and what they plan to do. During this meeting it is not ok to say that you plan to “sit around, take a few office supplies, take a long lunch, then clock out early.” Accountability and transperancy is a large part of the scrum approach.

Once the sprint is complete there are more meetings and more scrums until everyone is happy. When you add in multiple sprints, the process continues until a new innovative software deliverable is ejected out the other end. The whole process makes developing software a much more transparent and flexible activity. The approach assures that what needs to get done is getting done, that changes are accommodated, and that those in charge always know the status of work in process.

The reason I bring this up is that I have recently heard of several engineering product development companies using scrum principles for engineering. In one case they started it as a test, and as more groups saw how successful it was, other groups started using it. I think there is a lot of potential using this type of methodology for product development.

The standard engineering product development process is often filled with long meetings that don’t really accomplish anything. Engineers do not like to explain what they are doing to people, and often do not want to display their activities until late in the design process. Once they finally release something, it requires a prolonged change process. Wouldn’t it be nice to skip some of those late changes by talking them out early in the design process?

I think some of these agile development methodologies could have a very good impact on product development. I am in favor of improving transparency and collaboration in support of more innovative products. I think this would potentially lead to better products with higher quality that get to  market faster.

What do you think?