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Scrum Simplified: Completing Projects Ahead of Time

The Evolution of Project Management

To understand the significance of Scrum, let’s first take a quick journey through the evolution of project management. In the past, people used a method called “waterfall” for managing projects. We used to use that method too. It sounded good on paper but had some fundamental issues for more complex projects.

The main practices of waterfall and the challenges it creates for project teams:

  • Overplanning Upfront – A big part of project strategy is to plan everything in detail before the project team starts. The team carefully thinks through the whole project, including its different parts like Discovery, Configuration, Training, Go Live, and Hyperware. They do things one step at a time, finishing one stage before moving to the next.

Here’s the issue: as they progressed through each stage, they would discover new information about end-users and their needs. Sometimes, this information can alter the project’s direction. The problem is that the initial plan has already been approved, and instead of revisiting and making changes, they jump to the next stage (Configuration) based on the initial design. For others who decide to make changes, they go back to the first stage of the project. This becomes a cycle because of the complexity of the project, resulting in delays.

  • A Few or Single Contact of Information – In most traditional project approaches, one person typically handles most of the information. This can lead to problems because different types of roles (like managers, supervisors, and regular users) have different perspectives. Each role comes with its unique objectives, challenges, and, most crucially, specific information relevant to their role.

Here’s the issue: Relying on incorrect or incomplete information can lead to inaccurate results, as the saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out.” What’s even more problematic is that during the project rollout and training, users often hold different sets of expectations. Some of their issues may remain unresolved, leading to resistance to adopting changes.

Our experience close to a decade have led us to learn that projects are more complicated than what it seems. The issue was thinking everything can be figured out from the beginning. This challenges led to a new way of thinking and managing projects called Agile, which is more flexible and adaptable. It addresses the issues with Waterfall –  delays, going over budget, and launching projects slowly. Now,  let’s discuss how Scrum improves project management.

What is Scrum?

In a nutshell, it’s essentially swallowing bite-sized pieces of a burger instead of trying to eat the whole thing. Scrum’s main concept is getting things done iteratively supported by its 3 pillars – transparency, inspection and adaptation. These pillars facilitate improved collaboration, provide greater visibility, enable quicker adjustments, ultimately leading to successful task completion.

A Walkthrough with Scrum

Let’s dive into a walkthrough to help understand how Scrum works:

  1. Doing User Stories – User stories are short, user-focused descriptions of a feature or requirement. The team identifies and defines these features, which serve as the building blocks for the project.

  2. Filling up a Product Backlog – The product backlog is a prioritized list of all the user stories and features/requirements that need to be implemented. Stakeholders collaborate to create and prioritize this list based on business value and user needs.

  3. Sprint Planning – At the beginning of each sprint, typically lasting 2 weeks, the project management team holds a sprint planning meeting. During this meeting, they select a subset of user stories from the product backlog that can be completed within the sprint. This defines the goals within the sprint and what will be delivered.

  4. Daily Stand-Up – Every day during the sprint, the team gathers for a short 10-minute meeting known as the daily stand-up. Each team member shares their progress, plans, and any potential obstacles. It fosters accountability and helps in addressing issues promptly.

  5. Sprint Retrospective and Review – At the end of each sprint, the team conducts two important meetings. In the sprint retrospective, they reflect on the sprint’s processes and teamwork, seeking ways to improve. In the sprint review, they showcase the work completed during the sprint to stakeholders, gather feedback, and plan for the next sprint. These meetings promote continuous improvement and collaboration.

Why consider Scrum?

Through the elements of the  walkthrough, you create the following values:

  • Better Visibility and Transparency: Scrum provides full transparency into the project’s progress. Daily stand-up meetings ensure everyone knows what’s happening. This transparency allows for early identification of obstacles and swift problem-solving.

  • Iterative Development: Scrum focuses on delivering a small piece of the project at the end of each sprint. This iterative approach allows for early product releases and frequent feedback, leading to faster course corrections.

  • Prioritization & Adaptability: The product backlog is a dynamic list of project requirements. It’s a living document. The team and stakeholders prioritize items based on their value at that moment in time. This ensures that the most valuable requirements are developed first, delivering the most  value to the customer sooner.

If priorities shift, or new information arises, Scrum allows the team to pivot swiftly without impacting the project’s timeline.

  • Team Empowerment: Scrum encourages self-organizing teams. Team members have autonomy to make decisions, take ownership of tasks, and collaborate effectively. This empowerment results in improved productivity and creative problem-solving.

Get things done faster with Scrum

In the walkthrough, the two-week cycle allows teams to make consistent progress without the need to wait for the entire project to be completed. It offers the advantage of launching the project incrementally, with the ability to release features and improvements sooner, thus meeting user needs more quickly.

Imagine what can be accomplished within a single month or two with better project management. It becomes evident that Scrum’s value lies in its efficiency and adaptability. Teams can continuously refine their work, respond to changing requirements, and deliver tangible results on a regular basis. This cycle not only keeps the project on track but also ensures that the end product remains aligned with the evolving needs of the users and the business, resulting in a more successful and responsive project delivery.

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