Scrum Beyond Software Development
Monday, December 15, 2014
A recent study by the Scrum Alliance revealed that 36 percent of organizations with active Scrum projects are using it outside of IT in some capacity.
Essentially, Scrum project management (PM) is a functional subset of the overarching “agile” development philosophy. The term “scrum” was derived from the rugby play, “scrummage,” which is used to restart game play after an accidental infringement. This is a fitting parallel to the development of software through a series of iterative “sprints,” bookmarked on both sides by planning meetings and retrospective meetings. It’s expected that each sprint will yield a somewhat complete version of the software—a “potentially shippable increment.”
The process looks like this:
- Product is selected from the backlog
- Team holds a planning meeting to decide sprint goals
- Team works through the sprint, holding daily meetings, using burndown charts to track progress
- Team holds a sprint review meeting to analyze the current software iteration, goals accomplished, and to discuss future iterations
Alternative Scrum Use CasesMarketing
Marketing teams can use Scrum to organize their campaigns and draw “users” (readers) from the top of the funnel down toward conversion. Campaign phases can be broken apart into sprints of varying scope—either dealing with the entire funnel stratum or dealing with a set of content that needs to be created. Marketing-software company HubSpot has used Scrum to achieve greater transparency and prioritization in their own campaigns. They measure their team’s daily progress with a point system based on completion of “User stories” with the overall aim of converting free trial users to committed customers.
Supply Chain Optimization
Scrum Alliance provides a hypothetical example of how a distributorship could optimize their supply chain in their paper on alternative Scrum uses. If a company wanted to open a new warehouse, for instance, traditional PM would lay out a detailed plan replete with several hundred tasks and milestones for selecting vendors and products, negotiating contracts, and building inventory. A Scrum approach would mean breaking the work down into basic, repeatable flows that can be attacked in 1-2 week sprints (i.e. product validation, supply chain, contract, fulfillment). A “potentially shippable increment” in this case, would equal completing a checklist for a selected vendor.
Wikispeed’s 100 miles-per-gallon, road-legal prototype car is a great example of using Scrum to speed up design and manufacturing. Wikispeed founder Joe Justice used his 44-person team to develop a functional prototype of the car in just three months. He used weeklong sprints to produce a new iteration of the car every seven days until completion. The car tied for 10th place in the Progressive Insurance X competition and has been featured by Discover Channel, Popular Science, and the New York Times. Steve Denning of Forbes wrote, “Wikispeed has more in common with Salesforce, Google, and Twitter than with GM or Chrysler.”
These are only a few examples of the non-IT uses for Scrum. Some talk of using it for music recording, editorial work, personal productivity, and even wedding planning with event management software. If traditional PM has choked your projects in the past, and you’re looking for a strategy that keeps progress organized but adapts to change and focuses on delivery, your team may be a candidate for this innovative methodology.
Posted on: in Project World