Agile vs Scrum

What's Best for my Needs?

So, you want to reinvent how your company operates. You need something new, innovative, fun and something that actually works. What do you turn to? There’re heaps of buzzwords being thrown around that sound great, but making your company agile, or using scrum techniques can be daunting. The words aren’t just buzzwords, but they often get treated that way. Here’s an easy guide to understanding agile and scrum; how to use it, what’s going to work best for you and most of all what it actually is. Hey presto, you’ve found your go-to guide for agile management!

Understanding Agile and Scrum

Agile methodology is a framework for iterative and incremental approaches to software development. Scrum, in turn, is an implementation of agile methodology. Basically, your company can be agile, without using Scrum. However, you cannot have scrum without agile. Think of agile as an umbrella, encompassing many frameworks as an over-arching theorem.

The question to ask yourself then is not “should I be using scrum or agile?” but rather “should I be using scrum as well as using agile?”.

What is Agile?

Agile is a methodology that streamlines the development process through continuous testing. In turn, agile ensures that the testing and development of a product are concurrent, which is how it differentiates from other software development methods. Agile’s main properties are that is it an adaptive process, rather than a predictive process, which is why it differs so drastically from the norm, as generally software development expects a predictive plan that precedes development. As well as this, agile incorporates team members so that the overall process is more people-orientated, rather than traditional methods which tend to be process-oriented.

How Did Agile Develop?

Before agile, software development took a rigid approach. That was under the waterfall model, where the next stage of development only began when the last stage was completed. Unfortunately, the traditional waterfall model didn’t really encompass the needs of the consumer which requires the ability to incorporate change when needed, which is where agile thrives. Agile changes the process to shorter steps and greater communication which in turn means that change is more likely and more possible within the developmental process.

Benefits of Agile

Agile works well to encourage face-to-face interaction as well as collaboration. It works best with small expert teams and where there is a product requirement that is constantly changing. Agile benefits teams in this sense because there are many short steps in the development process which are continually evaluated, ensuring that the requirements are met at every stage. Due to continual reassessment of the product and each stage being in shorter intervals than the traditional model, agile companies can find that there is less waste product and happier customers in the end. Of course, the process is not just as simple as implementing the framework, there needs to be good management of the steps too to ensure that it functions as intended.

What is Scrum?

Scrum is an agile process which focusses on delivering ‘value’ in the shortest time possible through rapid and repeated inspection of actual working software. The idea of scrum is that there’s an understanding from the team that the software is likely to change in ways that may not be known at the start of the project, but the repeated inspection process makes sure that the progress within the project is flexible.

Benefits of Scrum

Scrum benefits teams due to its ability to deal with tasks in short ‘sprints’. The scrum system suits projects that are constantly and rapidly changing as there are frequent meetings which revisit the product. The process also is overall more collaborative than agile due to the self-organising teams and members that make up the methodology. One of the main components of scrum is the iterative process that makes up agile methodology, but it is the way that it is managed that is different. Scrum ensures regular meetings that help the customer and the team discuss quickly where they are in the project and what they will do next. Not only does this improve focus and output but ensures that feedback and change are constant, resulting in the final product knowingly meeting expectations, therefore, reducing waste and manpower.

How Scrum is Conducted?

  • Daily stand up meetings: daily stand up meetings are informal, quick gatherings for the team to ensure that everyone is aware of the status of all parts of the project in progress. It basically asks where they are at and what they will do next. It improves focus and eliminates any uncertainty for any team member. Usually lasts no longer than 15 minutes. It is important to note that these meetings are for the team and not for the customer.

Questions are as follows:
  a) What did you do yesterday?
  b) What are you doing today?
  c) What did you do yesterday?

  • Appointing a Scrum Master: don’t confuse a scrum master with a leader, the scrum master merely regulates the stand-up meetings and ensures that people attend and abide by the ‘quick’ nature of the meeting. Remember that the team is collaborative, so the scrum master merely takes on the role of organising and regulating on behalf of the others.
  • Sprints: one of the major functions of scrum is the use of sprints. Sprints are short pockets of the project that show progress which are worked on by the team. At the end of each short sprint the product is delivered, feedback received, and the next sprint section planned. The most important part of the sprint process is the delivery of a build for feedback.

What’s Best for my Needs?

While scrum and agile largely operate in the same spheres, there is often one that can benefit your team more.

So, when is it best to use scrum/agile?

  • When you have a product that is changing rapidly scrum is the best as there is much more collaboration along the process to include such changes. In turn, agile is more flexible in its overall methodology so it can be better if there is a need for organisational change rather than a product one.
  • Agile, while collaborative in nature, does require a leader or ‘project head’ to monitor and take care of the tasks, while in scrum there is no leader but input from the entire team to solve issues that arise.
  • Agile focusses on leadership that fosters communication between cross-functional teams. The leader is responsible for ensuring that collaboration between teams and the customer is managed. In Scrum, there are self-managed teams and cooperate and share information and tasks within the sprints and daily scrums.
  • Actual working software is the most basic measure of progress within agile method, where as in scrum, this is not a core measure of progress due to constant short sprints of progress.

There is, as you can see, no obvious solution to whether your company should implement scrum, but rather an understanding of your needs and a decision on which option would best suit your company’s operation. Trial and error are key; as is learning what is best! The process can sometimes seem daunting, but stick with it, the rewards are worth the effort. Before you know it, your company can be operating at its best and utilizing all the lean and/or agile systems it needs to function. If you’re still struggling with implementing scrum or agile – here’s some info on Why Companies Struggle and how to fix it!