Is Scrum the Best Methodology For My Software Project?

Transitioning to Scrum? Before leaping in, assess team and management buy-in, project nature, and expectations. Explore the 4 criteria to ensure readiness for embracing Agile through the Scrum framework.

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Scrum is the most well-known framework in the agile mindset, and it’s becoming widely used within and outside the tech industry. After learning about all the benefits of embracing Agile, you might want to jump on board and try Scrum in your next project to embrace the benefits.

While this is tempting, I urge you to consider the following 4 criteria to determine if your project or company is ready to make the change and implement Scrum.

Have Team Buy-in

If your team doesn’t understand WHY (AGILE), they will not see the value of the HOW (SCRUM) and will reject the change. Taking time to discuss Agile, Scrum, and to create a consensus of the decision to change is crucial.

Team accountability and responsibility increase with Scrum as teams become self-organized and self-managed, therefore strong motivation and buy-in are critical for the project’s success.

To master a project using Scrum, the team will require soft skills such as communication, adaptability, and teamwork. If the team is not proficient in this, they need to be willing to actively improve these skills.

This requires significant motivation, resilience and grit from the team and the Scrum Master (servant manager).

However, you don’t need the whole organization to buy-in. You can create a pilot of scrum within your organization or outsource a project to a team of Scrum experts. You can then use the results of the project to validate the value of Scrum and inspire more individuals in the organization.

If you don’t have people that understand the Agile mindset, and you’re still willing to give SCRUM a try, I advise you: don’t run a project this way yet, or you’ll be setting yourself up for failure.

Team resilience and motivation are critical in running a successful trial. Rather than giving it a try, spend your time creating awareness on Agile until the organization is willing to give the pilot a sincere attempt.

Have Management Buy-In

At a top management level, the change to an agile mindset and the approach to work through scrum methodology makes sense. The company will focus on building customer-centric products, based on current market conditions, and constant validation.

As a result, the risk of product failure significantly decreases, the process speeds up the time to market, and innovation is incorporated into internal processes. Lastly, the teams provide constant outputs at predictable speeds. It’s a no-brainer.

However, this implies losing traditional control at an operational level. Managers, who are used to be measured by delivering project scope on time and budget, are now told that they don’t have a scope either that they need to manage. Now, they are only facilitators.

Basically, you are taking off their identity and asking them to fundamentally shift the way they work. For this reason, having buy-in at this level is critical, as these managers can make or break the transition to this way of thinking business.

To avoid that scenario, organizations need to show the benefits of adopting an agile mindset and how it aligns with long term organizational goals.

Managers also need to be exposed to career possibilities in product owner or scrum masters’ roles to see the transition as a possibility of growth instead of a change that will make their work redundant.

If top executives do not believe in this process, they will measure teams and managers through traditional mediums. Under pressure, teams will go back to working the traditional way and the pilot will not work.

Similarly, if the new scrum masters or product owners do not have buy-in, they will manage the team as project managers and the pilot will fail.

If you don’t have a sponsor at the executive level and a motivated and knowledgeable Scrum Master or Product Owner (or a project manager who is willing to learn and transition), do not start yet. Focus on creating these connections first.

Know The Nature Of The Project

Company Type

If you work at an innovative start-up or a looking to build one, Scrum and agile are the way to go. Startups are working to satisfy a need that no one else is fulfilling effectively in the market. Essentially, you are building a product based on your own assumptions and limited market research.

The stakes are high and risk is significant. Your idea might work or might not, but being able to lower risk, test quickly, and adapt your solution to changing market conditions is a must to succeed.

Scrum framework delivers all that value, through a simple and effective methodology. Don’t waste your money building full-sized products without market validation. Chances are that you will need to adapt once you go live. Start with scrum.

Contract Type

On the other hand,  projects which are fixed (customer knows EXACTLY what needs to be done) and are simple (functionality and logic have already been broken down and tested)  that do not require testing (internally or with customers) or changing (to the market conditions or due to feedback) do not need Scrum.

For example, if you work at a company that needs to develop a simple website, you have had the designs done and are certain of the functionality needed, you can send the whole project to a team and do it through a waterfall approach. If there is no change in scope or design, your website can be done more rapidly.

Bearing that in mind, most projects change regardless of the simplicity, if you expect significant change, it would be valuable to look into learning about the agile mindset and potentially think about applying Scrum to your project.

Know Your Expectations

The change from a traditional mindset to an agile mindset takes time.  You need to foster conversations, teach people, and encourage them to do their own research.

If you inspire some curiosity and you get a group of employees excited enough to give a pilot a try, you have done an amazing job. However, don’t expect to go one day into the office, do a pitch, and have an office full of Agile team members. This is unlikely to happen.

Similarly, mastering the framework of Scrum (and any other agile framework) takes time. There is a learning curve at the beginning. You need to allocate time and resources to up-skill your current team in the Scrum process and other relevant soft skills.

You need to expect that the first couple of sprints are going to be slow and imperfect. Some of the team members will have resistance to change. Others will be emotionally drained as for being pushed out of their comfort zone.

If you cannot lower your expectations of output during the transition phase or if you are not willing to allocate the time, money, and effort into training and setting an environment for the Scrum team to succeed, do not run the pilot yet. Focus your efforts on aligning expectations and securing resources for your pilot first.

Are You Ready To Think Agile?

As you can see, the pre-work to shift the organization mentality to an Agile mindset and the effort to reach organizational consensus for change is crucial to the successful adoption of the Scrum framework.

It is very common for organizations to skip the pre-work and jump right into applying scrum. This results in bad practices, wrong interpretations of the framework, and with teams ending up changing role names but remain working in traditional ways.

As a result, the pilot project does not deliver the value intended and the momentum for change is lost and put in the back seat.

Don’t let that happen to your team. First, make sure you educate the organization with the agile mindset, and you get buy-in from teams and managers. Then, evaluate if the nature of the project will benefit from the scrum methodology.

Lastly, manage your expectations because there is a considerate learning curve to train the team with the right skills before starting using Scrum.

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