The Scrum Methodology – Current Issues in Information Systems Essay
Scrum is a project management technique used primarily in software development. Scrum adopts its name from a rugby term where players huddle together to move the ball forward up the field while pushing against the other team in the same formation. This comparison is quite natural because the scrum style of management is very team centric as apposed to more traditional forms of management that rely on continuous approval and directions from a single team lead. Managers who engage a team with this type of project must be very hands off.
This is to allow the team to delegate pieces of the projects internally as well as manage all other areas of the project as a single unit.
Although Scrum is termed an agile method it differs in that agile typically refers to a programming methodology and not a management style. For example, XP, Extreme Programming is a good example of a typical agile method. Scrum is more a management style then it is a programming methodology because Scrum is less concerned with how the tasks get accomplished as it is with when the tasks get accomplished. This moves the spotlight more towards organization and the division of work to meet deadlines and away from other concerns like the language used for the project. Thus getting away from how the programmer chooses to meet that deadline and more on how the team accomplishes its own goal.
Scrum teams typically consist of 7-8 members all with varying skills depending on the project. The theory behind Scrum suggests that because the team is small and does not require immediate management their production levels will elevate because they will feel more ownership to the product. This type of style also allows for those individuals who are more self motivated to work on areas of a project that are not considered their forte. This further supports the idea that a happy, contributing worker will generate more production then one who is simply highly paid. In an article by Robert L. Read entitled How to be a Programmer he argues that “It is a wonderful and surprising fact that programmers are highly motivated by the desire to create artifacts that are beautiful, useful, or nifty.” Read is touching on an ongoing discussion found in many programming forums and that is whether or not programming is a science or an art. If one leans more toward the art aspect it easy to see why Scrum would probably work best for that individual.
The work loads in scrum are broken into time frames called Sprints. Sprints are typically allocated in one month periods. Sprints focus on a single deliverable thus making progress easy to see and give the client a regular monthly update. Within the Sprint the team has regular and meaningful project updates with one another on a daily basis. These meetings are also called Scrums because they are at the core of this style. During this meeting it is very important that a clear understanding of progress is given for management review but also it is equally important for the team to escalate any issues that require management’s intervention. Because the Sprint is only one month there is no time for getting lost in bureaucratic processes or red tape. In so many ways this would just defeat the entire purpose of the Scrum style of management.
Scrum depends on reliable and self motivated team members with excellent communication skills. Managers are in place as enablers to problems and not as micromanagers. This concept is quite foreign to many teams that are new to this methodology and surely has caused many blank stares at initial meetings. However, Scrum is proving to be an excellent tool for motivating and maintaining employee moral.