Scrum But…

We get delegates from lots of different companies on our training courses and it’s always illuminating to hear their ‘war stories’. According to our research, 85% of technology companies have now adapted some form of Agile or Scrum. So we always ask product managers about how things have gone.

One of our recent delegates – Paul Dunlop, Product Manager at DC Thomson Family History – had some really interesting anecdotes and I thought it would be useful to share them.

Paul says, we use Scrum but…

– You need a stable environment for the Agile/Scrum estimating process to work. We use complexity points as a way of estimating tasks. Predicting how many points a team can handle in a sprint only really works once things have had a chance to settle down. It took us about 6 months to get to that point. In environments where things are in a constant state of flux you’d struggle to ever get there.

– I’m the Product Owner and the Product Manager and yes it’s a lot of work but it seems to work for us. The big challenge is freeing up enough time to look at the bigger picture and more strategic stuff.

– At the end of each 2 week sprint the whole team gets together for a day-long Retrospective meeting. This sounds like a big commitment in resources but we’ve found it really valuable for two reasons. You need time to create an environment where everyone can share the open and honest feedback needed to make meaningful improvements. Also Scrum works best when it’s a collaborative effort rather than ‘them’ and ‘us’. This is a great opportunity to build the team spirit.

– Educating and setting expectations with senior management is critical. They need to ‘get’ the trade-off between less certainty on dates and content but more flexibility to cope with last minute changes e.g. responding to a competitor move.

– In some companies I’ve worked for, Agile and Scrum seem to have been adopted by Development because it’s the next big thing. It looks great on the CV. Things would have gone a lot more smoothly if there had been more time spent thinking about what really is the best development approach for us – Scrum, Kanban, Lean, Water-scrum-fall.

It’s interesting to get Paul’s views and they certainly chime with what other delegates have said on our courses. Adapting Agile to address the particular challenges that are important in an organisation seems to be the norm. Everyone does Scrum but with their own variations.

Ian Lunn
Director, Product Focus


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