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.