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How scrum helps organisations deal with change

Scrum with kanban and devops can improve processes, flow and delivery

By Dave West - CEO Scrum.org

It has become a cliché, but increasingly organisations are dealing with change. It’s change in terms of what the customer wants, change in terms of the market and opportunities, change in terms of what is viable or possible. And as everyone knows, change is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it means you can deliver new products, which will radically change the world and the company that provides them. A curse because your competitors can as well. Uncertainty makes everything much harder.

For many organisations and startups, the way you deal with uncertainty is to start with empowering your team – a small group of people tasked with solving a problem. Maybe it is to build a new product or feature, maybe it is to make an existing product more competitive. The focus on cross-functional empowered teams was described in the Harvard Business Review article The New New Product Development Game where the authors, Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka, describe a different way of delivering innovation and managing uncertainty.

They say: “Companies are increasingly realising that the old, sequential approach to developing new products simply won’t get the job done. Instead, companies in Japan and the United States are using a holistic method – as in rugby, the ball gets passed within the team as it moves as a unit up the field.”

The Scrum Guide is simple, 19 pages, but from this simple guide more than 12 million people apply scrum daily, solving problems varying from business application, building jet fighters to delivering the new marketing micro site

In product delivery, scrum is increasingly being looked to as the way teams organise in pursuit of delivering value in an uncertain world. Scrum provides a simple framework that allows a team’s process to emerge. By combining an empirical approach with the ideas of lean, scrum enables teams to focus on learning by doing in the simplest way possible. The Scrum Guide is simple, 19 pages, but from this simple guide more than 12 million people apply scrum daily, solving problems varying from business application, building jet fighters to delivering the new marketing micro site.

But scrum’s strength of being a framework where process emerges is also its biggest challenge. To be effective with scrum, teams have to apply practices on top of the ideas of scrum to create a process that works for their situation.

Luckily the world is rife with practices that are tuned to enabling teams working in an empirical or agile way. Perhaps two biggest collections of practices can be found in devops and kanban.

Scrum and devops helps scrum teams by not only encouraging the distinction between operations and development to be removed, but also practices such as model-driven deployment, infrastructure as code, continuous integration and trunk-based development to remove the obstacles to delivery. Scrum is an empirical approach, empiricism requires feedback, feedback often requires use.

By adding devops practices to the structure provided by scrum, organisations can get a team-oriented, empirical approach that takes advantage of the modern thinking about releasing and maintaining software.

Scrum and kanban introduces scrum teams to the six practices of visualisation, limit work in progress, manage flow, make process explicit, implement feedback loops and evolve your process experimentally. These practices will help the scrum team concentrate on the way work flows through the team. By adding the regular cadence of scrum, the three roles and the focus on learning provided by scrum, the use of kanban will not only improve how the team works, but also deliver more value to the customer.

Because uncertainty by its very nature is managing the unknown, teams are a fundamental building block. The scrum framework provides enough stability for process to emerge in response to the situation. Scrum does that by applying an empirical approach to both the problem being solved and the way the team is working. Scrum teams should look to kanban and devops to improve their process, in addition to scrum, with a focus on flow and delivery.

www.scrum.org/times

For more information please contact Eric Naiburg at eric.naiburg@scrum.org

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