You’ve no doubt come across references to ‘Scrum-based’ software development. But just what is a ‘Scrum approach’? Our blog helps explain how the Scrum approach to project management works. How we use this approach every day at BSL, and how our clients benefit as a result.
What is a Scrum approach?
Scrum is an integral part of the so-called Agile approach to software development. An agile approach helps a development team respond quickly to change, and to work more effectively. Scrum borrows its name from a term used in the team sport Rugby. Rugby forwards use a scrum formation to restart play, passing out the ball to the runners who head for the goal line. Each ‘Sprint’ brings them closer to the line. This strategy of reaching an objective in short sprints corresponds to the Scrum tactic used in software development. New software is developed in a number of ‘Sprints’, each lasting between 1-4 weeks. Each sprint brings incremental successes, and as a result, the team moves closer to project completion. The philosophy is clear: ‘ Better to work in small, manageable, incremental steps, rather than work for months with no end in sight – and maybe fail’.
Plan, sprint, evaluate
During a Rugby match, the players gain ground meter by meter, usually in short sprints. At each break in play they get the chance to evaluate their strategy, and adjust tactics. This strategy is the same as the Scrum approach used in software development. Each sprint starts with a Sprint Planning Meeting. The Product Owner – the stakeholders’ representative – discusses the work to be carried out. The Product Owner is responsible for communicating the stakeholders’ requirements and priorities to the development team. These are described in the Product Backlog.
Each Sprint begins with the selection of tasks from this Backlog. The chosen tasks are marked on the Scrum Board as ‘to do’ items. Team members then agree how the tasks will be divided, guided by the Scrum Master. The priority of each task, the complexity and the skills of each team member play a key role in this phase. Then the work starts, with each ‘Sprint’ usually time-boxed to a period of two weeks. And at the end of the Sprint, a review is often planned, demonstrating the results to the Product Owner and stakeholders. Feedback from the review is used to adjust and update the Product Backlog. And then on to the next Sprint…
Reaching the finish line as a team
A successful Rugby team works as a single unit, is flexible, fast, and self-managing. These elements also characterize a successful software development team. It’s crucial for both team types to include a range of skills. The BSL development team is no exception, and consists of the following specialists: front- and back-end developers, graphic designers, and marketing personnel.
There are two key roles in the Scrum approach: Product Owner and Scrum Master. The Product Owner is comparable to the Rugby coach. He ensures that the whole process runs smoothly, and that there’s a good result at the end of each Sprint. He’s also responsible for the Scrum backlog, taking care of the stakeholders’ interests. The Scrum Master on the other hand can be compared to the referee. He ensures that the Scrum approach is carried out correctly – and that the team understands and plays by the rules.
Scrum approach and the Bright Side of Software
The Scrum approach is routine within BSL, starting with the daily stand-up. Each team member provides a short overview of work completed, and informs his/her colleagues about their goals for the day. Any anticipated problems or questions are discussed. This 20-minute stand-up not only gives the team a clear focus, it’s an ideal opportunity to exchange information and know-how. It can even lead to useful discussions! More importantly, team members are motivated on a personal level, and learn to work as a team.
The Scrum approach has been successfully used in a number of BSL projects. For example, during the development of ABN AMRO SRS in 2016. ABN AMRO uses BSL’s custom software to manage Powers of Attorney assigned to employees, as well as personnel details and signatures. Using the Scrum approach, new software functions were developed, released, tested and taken into production in four sprints, each lasting two weeks. So end-users could benefit from the new developments within a very short timeframe. Result? A satisfied client, who is continuing the process in 2017.
What are the benefits of a Scrum approach for you?
To a casual bystander, a Rugby match may look chaotic. But the players know exactly what they’re doing. And if you want to understand what’s happening, it’s best to look at the scoreboard. In just the same way, a Scrum approach to software development may seem somewhat disorganized. But just as in Rugby, the team members all know their objectives. They can quickly readjust to new situations. And delivery of the software is our ‘scoreboard’ – something everyone can follow at the end of each Sprint.
The Scrum approach is ideal if you’re not 100% decided which direction you want to go with your software. Scrum lets BSL make a start on the journey, with regular opportunities for you to fine-tune your requirements, and to assess the progress we’ve made. And with each Sprint, we get closer to the end goals for your project!
To summarize: a Scrum approach means short, incremental project phases. The most important tasks are completed first, and there’s flexibility throughout the project. Therefore new insights and changes can be seamlessly taken on board too as the project progresses.
Do you have an idea for developing new software development? Then why not get in touch – no strings attached – to find out more. Our experienced and professional developers will be pleased to advise you.