What Is Scrum Methodology?
Diego Lo Giudice, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, says it’s important to align with the Agile Manifesto, or the statement of principles that make up the agile methodology, when thinking about how it could apply to government and how scrum fits into that.
For example, in agile, the highest priority is “to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software,” according to the Agile Alliance.
Another key principle is that agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
Within agile, scrum should be seen as a framework geared toward change, Lo Giudice says. Scrum is a way for software development and other teams to execute and adhere to these principles.
“Scrum is about the way that a software team or a blended cross-functional team operates tactically” in day-to-day operations, says Mike Case, director of growth and delivery operations at Nava, a consultancy and public benefit corporation that works to make government services simple, effective and accessible. “How do they figure out how they’re going to prioritize and divvy up the tactical work at a task level?”
How Can State and Local Governments Use Scrum?
Scrum involves several key concepts, Lo Giudice and Case note, including ceremonies such as quick stand-up meetings to check in on the progress of work and ensuring that updates are focused on what team members need from each other and what the key impediments or blockers there are to progress.
Additionally, scrum is focused on autonomy for teams and delivering value for the business or agency. “It privileges communication between people” rather than one person writing a document that is handed over stating what the person requesting a project wants. In a traditional “waterfall” approach to project management, another person would read those requirements.
“Scrum says, sit down and work directly — face to face or through collaboration tools — and communicate,” Lo Giudice says. “It’s communication over contracts.”
Another key element of scrum is to focus on making progress in increments, or sprints. In a sprint, Case says, teams focus on “dividing projects up into smaller chunks so that you don’t have this one giant deliverable in four months; you have a lot of different two- or three-week sprints to break up the project and also assess your progress as you’re going along.”
During that cycle, teams will go through the analysis, design, coding and testing, operating in a fashion of continuous iteration and continuous delivery. This allows teams to start delivering features that are valuable instead of the full product, Lo Giudice says.
“Instead of thinking about the full product, they start thinking about smaller features that can be delivered and added over time to build the product,” he says. “Instead of taking four months and having a big deliverable after four months, you start delivering every two to four weeks.”