“Individuals and interactions over processes and tools; Working software over comprehensive documentation; Customer collaboration over contract negotiation; And responding to change over following a plan” ~ The Agile Manifesto
If you or someone you know is a developer, designer, student, teacher, or business leader, then you should know a little bit about “scrum“. And for those that may be somewhat familiar with the ins and outs of scrum life, you can also find some valuable insights into the future of this incredibly popular “tech”nique.
What is Scrum & Who Uses It?
Scrum is a framework for software application development that puts people, rather than paperwork, at the center of work. And if it sounds a bit like a term you’d hear in one of Europe’s most loved games, rugby, it’s because that’s part of the inspiration behind it. To play rugby, you need a strong, cross-functional team, that is people with different skills and expertise, working together to push a single a ball forward some distance, while working against competitors. In scrum, the ball is the business’ product (e.g. mobile health app, e-Learning program, game, etc.). And instead of props, locks, and flankers (i.e. rugby players), scrum often demands the respective strengths of analysts, developers, designers, and a variety of other technical professionals to build different aspects of a single digital application. But what’s so special about scrum in comparison to other methods for completing business projects in the tech world, is that it allows teams to truly adapt to changes.
“Anybody who has a complex project can benefit from using Scrum. Prioritize large to-do lists into manageable tasks with improved teamwork, better communication, and faster results. Most important, Scrum is not unproven hype. It’s a solid and successful Agile framework that’s been applied to a variety of projects and teams. Universities use Scrum to deliver valued projects to clients. Militaries have relied on Scrum to prepare ships for deployment. In the automotive world, Team Wikispeed is using Scrum to build a fast, affordable, ultra-efficient, safe commuter car that should sell for less than $20,000,” (ScrumAlliance, 2016).
Who Typically Uses Scrum?
- Architects: Programmers, Developers, Engineers, Instructional Designers
- Artists: Graphic Artists, Designers, Content Writers, Photographers, Videographers
- Analysts: Business Analysts, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Experts, and many more
What Issues Does the Scrum Method Address?
- Leaves ample room for learning
- Provides ready resources for problem-solving
- Ensures clear communication for cutting-edge projects to be completed quickly and well
Scrumin’ | How Does One Scrum?
Scrum workflow typically includes three key phases over the course of two weeks, collectively referred to as a team “sprint”. Sprints begin with planning, including communication about project goals and the creation of a comprehensive task (e.g. product requirements) list known as the “backlog”. In the second stage, teams dive right into building the actual product, while maintaining brief daily meetings, called stand-ups. “A common characteristic is the daily stand-up or daily scrum. In this brief session, team members report to each other what they did the previous day (1), what they intend to do today (2), and any roadblocks or impediments they can see (3) toward their team’s sprint goal,” (Wikipedia, 2016).
The third and final phase includes a review and retrospective meeting, which involves demoing the prepared product for stakeholders (1) and reflecting on the overall sprint workflow (2), as a team. These are the basic, best practices of many great inventions: Plan, prepare, present, and reflect.
For even further insight into this superb, scrum style, I spoke with the Director of the Agile Competency Center, Thomas Banea, and the Senior Business Analyst and Scrum Master, Julio Tejera, here at USF Health Information Systems. They offered their unique insider perspectives into scrum methods in action.
Q. What is scrum like for the teams here at USF Health I.S.?
Banea: “Scrum here at Health I.S. is always evolving and is at different levels of maturity depending on which team you are working with. For those using scrum on a daily basis, backlog planning, sprint planning, stand ups, reviews and retrospectives are rituals that are part of their typical work day. Every day I see these teams self-forming to creatively find solutions for their projects. I see them utilizing Jira, our tool for managing agile/scrum projects, to provide transparency and visibility of their progress to their clients. Most importantly, I see teams collaborating and communicating in an agile manner that allows them to adapt to roadblocks and change”.
As team leaders, what have you found to be most valuable about scrum?
Tejera: “One of the things I find most valuable about operating in a scrum framework is the ability to identify and evaluate potential risks in a project, while having the openness to provide constructive criticism about the process or team. All of this is maintained while the team continues forward movement, developing the most valuable items for the client at any given point”.
Banea: “Using the scrum methodology was my introduction to adopting a more agile mindset and ideology to my work life. I can confidently say that agile and scrum have changed my professional career profoundly. It raised my career to the next level by helping me to become more aligned with organizational goals and giving me the ability to execute and meet expectations. Scrum is iterative and incremental and so is our adoption of it. It is important to inspect, adapt and continually improve”.
What’s the Future of Scrum?
If the name of the game is teamwork and progressive results are the goal, then scrum is likely to continue proliferating throughout the public and private business world. This is particularly true in technology-oriented environments, where there is no shortage of talented workers or big ideas for a better tomorrow.
What Future Industries Could Benefit From a Scrumin’ Style?
- Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) Application Development
- Health Information Management and Technologies (e.g. Informatics, etc.)
- Universities and Progressive, Education Oriented Organizations
- 3D Design and Printing Companies
- Much More
“Has anyone recently read a manual for a tool or application? For me, the last time was five years ago, when I bought a digital camera. Knowledge can be found everywhere, at almost no cost. This century is for creative workers, who invest their time in experimentation and practice while continuously updating and replacing their knowledge. Thanks to ubiquitous information, the knowledge economy has turned into the creative economy,” (NOOP.NL, 2016). And scrum is this new economy’s foundation for innovation.
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