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Why Scrum Alone Is Not Always Sufficient

Scrum Master 4 min read

Agile is a collection of principles and values that have paved the way for modern software development.  Agile methodologies have managed to replace tedious and time-consuming waterfall models and allowed software developers to release usable software.

Since agile software development became popular, a number of agile methods have emerged, of which Scrum is the most common. Although Scrum is a useful technique to develop reliable software incrementally, some developers have their reservations about the methodology.

In this article, we will discuss why Scrum is not always sufficient for agile software development.

What Is Scrum?

Scrum is a branch of the agile methodology that focuses on delivering business value in the shortest possible time. The goal of Scrum is to rapidly develop and deliver working software and make improvements with the help of user feedback.

The Scrum Framework is excellent for managing projects that are highly complex and unpredictable and where requirements are likely to change. Therefore, the Scrum methodology is best implemented in projects where you need space for changing requirements and need value delivering software urgently.

A typical Scrum team has three defined roles; namely, the Scrum Master, the development team, and the product owner. The role of Scrum masters is similar to that of project managers, but with fewer responsibilities.

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Photographer: Austin Distel | Source: Unsplash

A Scrum master’s main job is to act as an intermediary between the product owner (a representative of the stakeholders) and the development team. On the other hand, the development team is similar to other project teams, but they need to be self-organizing and share responsibilities with the Scrum master.

All of these teams have daily Scrum meetings, where they set daily goals and underline what they need to achieve that day. Similarly, the teams have meetings such as sprint planning, sprint review, and sprint retrospective during different phases of the project.

(If you want to know more about the Scrum methodology, you can read about in detail in the official Scrum Guide.)

In short, Scrum emphasizes the importance of teamwork, accountability, and continuous, iterative progress towards a clear goal.

Why Does It Not Always Work?

The Scrum methodology focuses on delivering value rapidly. Therefore, each value-driven component of the software needs to be finished in less than a single month. However, most teams have to deliver these increments in two weeks.

Furthermore, the management expects these teams to develop production-quality and have working software at the end of each increment. For this reason, teams need to design code structures, write the code, test it, and then host a demo to stakeholders, all in an extremely short period. So it’s no surprise that some people find these rules either rigid or unrealistic.

Although Scrum appears to be a useful methodology to counter unpredictability in software projects, it can also be hard to implement and somewhat one-dimensional. For this reason, you need more than the basic Scrum framework to be successful with it in the long run.

As a project manager, you need to understand that Scrum is meant to provide a structure as a starting point. Therefore, you cannot force-fit it to suit every project you come across. Instead, you are better off applying the Scrum methodology along with other effective patterns.

Just like the patterns from the Design Pattern movement in the 1990s, you can either use the methodology on its own or use it in combination with another technique.

Since there are multiple teams in a Scrum-based approach, you can implement Scrum as a single pattern for one team. From there, you can use the basic framework of Scrum to monitor the progress of the project. At the same time, you can implement while incorporating other tools/patterns to build more effective systems.

Are There Other Options?

Other techniques are not sufficient on their own but can help you if you use them in combination with Scrum. The following are some of them:

Effective Agile Engineering Practices

Since the pace driven Scrum methodology allows no room to test the quality of software, the standard of the end product is often dubious. You can instead hire professionals that implement effective agile engineering practices to identify bugs and improve software quality.

These include Continuous Integration, Unit Testing, Acceptance Test Driven Development (or BDD), Test Driven Development, and Pair Programming. By using these methodologies, you can prevent your codebase from degrading over time.

Kanban

Kanban is a development methodology inspired by the car manufacturing industry. The technique uses a linear approach and emphasizes the importance of continuous delivery without overburdening the development team.

Photographer: Tai Jyun Chang | Source: Unsplash

However, the method is criticized for being too flexible for the development team, and managers avoid it because it lacks a defined structure like Scrum.

Therefore, a number of experts suggest using a combination of the Kanban and the agile methodology. Corey Ladas suggests that you can start with Scrum to discipline your team to an optimized workflow with the help of Scrum’s time-boxed routines.

You can continue with this method until your team is streamlined and then you can then start implementing Kanban for continuous delivery. Other experts suggest using Scrum as a methodology to work in a chosen way while using Kanban to review your method and improve how they deliver quality software.

This is why many organizations use different combinations of both these methodologies in different teams. For instance, teams such as maintenance teams or SysAdmin teams can implement Kanban without constraining themselves with time-boxed sprints. On the other hand, teams who are working on new feature development can implement Scrum with time-boxed sprints. 

Conclusion

To summarize, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to software development. The best methodology can vary, based on the situation. This means it’s possible that the development methodology used by one organization might not suit your organization’s needs.

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