Sunday, July 3, 2011

My two cents on Scrum

Scrum is an agile methodology which helps companies iterate through a product/project development to successful completion. Back in the days we all know that we were limited to the water fall model which was later extended to be known as the V-Model. Gantt charts and the like were included with these methodologies.

The practices defined within these traditional methods were concise and precise. We start off with gathering of requirements from the client, document it which usually goes as the Software Requirement Document (Known as SRS), which is later signed off by the client after user acceptance testing is done. Afterwards we have the design phase where all our class diagrams come into play as well as use case diagrams, ER diagrams and the like. Then it’s time to implement this well designed product with technologies that fit the choice. Testing and product release follows the implementation phase.

Though there were no intrinsic problems with this methodology, the problem lied in the fact that we humans are involved in every phase. In a perfect world (such as what skynet once planned) this methodology would work seamlessly and we would have picture perfect product releases. But alas, with us humans nothing is guaranteed. We all know how hard it is for us to make a decision on something at certain times. In terms of a company, when they approach a software company to build a piece of software for them, they might not know what they exactly want early on. As time goes on as they see the product they might and most usually do want something radically different to what they wanted earlier.

The problem posed by the traditional methodologies as everyone knows is that it’s very hard to go back from once phase to a previous phase as the cost and time involved in the process is of great monetary value to the company. We can’t coerce the customer to agree on our basis as client’s request are always dynamic and we as a company should have the processes in place to adapt to such changes.
This is where Scrum shines as I see. I’m quite new to the scrum process. In scrum what is usually done is that we start off with a base Product backlog which has feature tasks that the client requested. There are a few entities that are involved within the process of Scrum such as;

The Product Owner(PO) – The product owner is the one who gathers requirements from the client and creates and maintains the product backlog. Also he/she is responsible in assigning a priority to each task defined within the product backlog.
The Scrum Master(SM) – The scrum master does not involve with anything specific to the project, but acts as a supervisor helping the team and the product owner to adhere to scrum practices whenever he/she sees that they are deviating from proper processes.
The Team  – is that development team involved in the development as well as the testing of the project features.

Ok now that we have met the people involved in the Scrum, let’s see why it is so awesome. One of the eye catching points of Scrum is the fact that the team decides on the time lines rather than your project manager deciding it for you. I have been any many meetings where the developers stand there like deaf or dumb people and watch as their Project manger do the estimation giving unrealistic deadlines. In scrum the practice is that the team decides along with the PO which tasks they can take on. Usually in Scrum features are taken to fit into one sprint which is more less a month of time. This is the most efficient time as proposed by Scrum. So the team decides what they can achieve within the month and take on the tasks that fit the timeline.

The key feature to note is that they do not make the estimation based on the high level task defined within the Product backlog. They break it down to meaningful development tasks and estimate based on that. If a feature has work for more than one sprint, some features are pushed to the next release. This is a very efficient way of estimating as I see because you do not leave anything out in your estimate and are able to give credible estimates to your Product owner.

Also Scrum is dynamic in which if a customer wants a new feature added on whilst a spring is going on, though they can’t achieve it within this sprint they can always push it to the next sprint  and the wait time of the customer is minimized to just a month.

Also usually whilst a Sprint is coming to an end, the team gets together with the PO to estimate on the upcoming spring to. In scrum momentum is key, which allows teams and companies achieve its development goals in a timely manner without pressurizing the developers with unrealistic deadlines. So the team is aware of upcoming work load as well whilst within the current spring. This is a great feature of scrum the scrum practice. Planning ahead, but not too far ahead.

And also if for any reason they are unable to deliver a feature within the current Sprint they can always push it to the next Sprint and finish off.

As a couple or so Sprints go on, the team gets the feeling of the kind of work it can achieve within a particular sprint which allows them to make timely, accurate estimates on future tasks.
All in all, I believe these agile practices is the way ahead for all companies big or small as the benefits it brings along supersedes the switching costs involved with moving away from your current practices.
What are your thoughts on Scrum? Pls do leave a comment with your own thoughts on the same.

God Bless 

10 comments:

Chamindra H said...

Hey Bro. I also went through the SCRUM process a week back and I also think its a far more efficient process/ method than the traditional waterfall method we use now. Only issue is people are so used to traditional methods that they don't want to change. If that attitude can be changed; then methods such as these can be adapted for better software development procedures. Overall a Great Method that can be used by any company and Thanks a Lot for Posting this Love it !!

Anonymous said...

There are another incremental and iterative models. Personally, I prefer Unified Process.

Dinuka Arseculeratne said...

@ChamindraH: Yea its an amazing methodology and companies can reap benefits from it if applied correctly. Thx for leaving by a comment bro. Cheers

@Anon - Thx for the feedback. I did not know about the incremental and iterative models. But in a way Scrum is iterative isnt it? because of the Back to back sprints. Thx for your comment. Appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

The black as coal dark side of agile is that it is a tool that forces developers to micro-manage themselves, freeing up managers to be even less useful than in the past. There are a lot of good developers suffering under the slavery known as agile. Many will likely quit the business for good since they no longer fit with the knew extroverted style of programming and leave it to the younger ones who are oh-so gung-ho about agile since they don't know any better.

Dinuka Arseculeratne said...

@anon - that is an interesting thought which i believe will take me some time to realize as i just started working in an agile team. Thx for the comment and feedback. Lets see how it works out :)

Anon said...

Hi, Dinuka.

Yes, it is. There is a big family of this kind of process. All are a generic response to non-working Waterfall model. Unified process could be the very big foundation of these models. Rational Unified Process was then build over it (but it's a proprietary model so you have to pay for training).
Then, at the beginning of the century, Agile methodologies (like Scrum) appeared as a response to UP and RUP because some people felt that these processes needed so much documentation.

I think any of these models is absolutely better than Waterfall (in fact, it shouldn't exists anymore). I think people know they don't have to trust in this process but even this, they still apply it.

Dinuka Arseculeratne said...

Wow i have no doubt you know what your talking about, reading through your comments. thx so much for enlightening myself as well as other readers of your points. I have barely read up on RUP, will look closely upon that as well. For now scrum feels ok to me, maybe cos im still new to it. Anyhow time will tell :).. thx again for your comprehensive responses. Appreciate it.. Cheers

Tristan said...

Having tried SCRUM we found it too constraining for my team so we moved towards Kanban and found that works much better.
That is however in our team, with our products. Other teams in the company use a more SCRUM based approach.

The important thing to remember is that the process is only a means to an end - delivering the best product possible on time. People often get bogged down in the process and view it as sacrosanct.
A good development manager should not be afraid to modify process based on feedback and experience.

Dinuka Arseculeratne said...

@Tristan - Thank you very much for your feedback. I did not know about Kanban. Will look into it. And appreciate the comprehensive feedback you have left. And yes i agree that delivering the best product on time is the end goal of any process. Cheers mate.

sorna said...

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Scrum Process

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