Most significant software development projects feel more like a ride on a roller-coaster than a managed success. We lay out the track, check that everyone's strapped in, and scream our way through the out-of-control ride. However, unlike the amusement park counterpart, we feel more frustrated than exhilarated when we step back out on the platform.
The Power of SCRUM
Does it have to be this way? Discipline and good engineering are definitely lacking in many contexts, but even where these are rigorously applied, there is ample dissatisfaction from excessive delays, lack of creativity, and the inability to adapt to changing circumstances. Perhaps there is an alternative that gives us the best of both worlds -- discipline for the known challenges and adaptability for the emerging ones?
Enter Scrum, a set of software development practices and roles that use agile principles to empower teams to delivery high value on time. Combining flexible requirements prioritization techniques, intense levels of communication and time-boxed short development iterations (called "sprints"), Scrum has begun to demonstrate significant improvements in software delivery and quality output. It's no wonder more and more organizations are including Scrum practices into their core software development process.
Can Scrum Go Big?
A common critique of Agile methodologies, is that they are optimized for small-scale, often co-located teams. Can the practices be scaled to large, multi-national projects with multiple interdependent teams. Salesforce.com thought so. Using Scrum as the basis of their Adaptive Development Methodology, they were able to dramatically improve productivity in just a few months in an environment involving more than 200 R&D staff. The graph below summarizes their current experience.
Others are also documenting their experiences and designs for scaling Scrum. Folks like Colin Bird at Conchango have been thinking hard about these challenges. Read his posts on Scaling Agility to take full advantage of these insights. He has put together a collection of helpful materials in the presentation created for the recent London Scrum Gathering.
If you are not already experimenting with Agile methodologies, it may not yet be too late. However, in the emerging complexity of globalization and disruptive markets, you can't afford not to take full advantage of every opportunity for sustained success and productivity.