Some Challenges of the Scrum Framework
Scum is an Agile framework which has been created for the purpose of developing and delivering software. It is a very light framework and is easy to understand but there can be many challenges for an organisation who choose to adopt it for their work.
Of course, the reason lots of organisations are using Scrum is because it brings with it many benefits, but it is important to be prepared for the challenges of getting to the point where the benefits accrue. Here I will set out the main challenges an organisation may face when choosing to adopt the Scrum framework.
In my experience, there is an overriding misconception in the industry today which is a cause of most of the challenges organisations face when adopting the Scrum framework. Scrum is perceived as being a project management methodology, however, Scrum is not project management. It is a way of working that allows teams to self-manage, collaborate, grow, mature and ultimately deliver quality software in double quick time. There are no project managers in Scrum. However, Scrum can be used within a project to deliver the IT element of the project.
Due to this misconception about Scrum, organisations will not be ready for the biggest challenge of all – Changing the way they work. In order to use Scrum effectively the vast majority of organisations will have to adopt new working practices, and this takes time and persistence and will be a slow process. Notwithstanding this, here are some other challenges:
Allowing experience to settle
The organisation will need to allow the team including the Scrum Master (SM), Product Owner and the development team time to settle into their roles and work collaboratively with no interference. Do not expect seamless transitions.
The length of the Sprint (working stage) is crucial in Scrum. This can take time to get right and needs patience and perseverance on behalf of the organisation. The exact sprint length depends on many things. Some experts suggest that week-long sprints bring difficulties, whilst others believe lots of fast sprints keep a process vibrant. The team (not the SM) sets the sprint duration based on their experience. Start by having a standard sprint time.
Recognising the importance of the Scrum Master
The role of the SM is crucial to the framework. It is important to recognise the SM is not a leader, manager or project manager. They are a facilitator and expert in the ways of Scrum and do not make business decisions. The organisation needs to allow the SM time to develop into the role. Bringing in outside coaching to assist the SM will help overcome this challenge.
Dealing with fast and frequent change
Scrum Masters follow the rules and principles when implementing Scrum, one of which includes never accepting changes within the Sprint. Change requests can be dealt with at the end or at the start of the Sprint, but not in between. However, it is common for Product Owners, Customers and other Stakeholders to try and force urgent change requests or bugs at anytime in the sprint. It is also not good to blindly follow the process without understanding the business and market aspects. It is always better to collaborate with all the Stakeholders, re-plan and then make good decisions.
Scrum is at its best when the team is co-located i.e. in the same room or building. It is one of the most common impediments faced by a Scrum Master, when the teams are distributed geographically, there are sometimes delays, cultural or regional issues, different time zones, different working hours and even systems problems. It is always difficult to get everyone connected, collaborate and communicating as a single entity.
There are of course some very good collaborative tools on the market. It is important that the organisation makes use of these tools if the teams cannot be co-located.
Backlog (task) management
Elements of the Scrum framework are immoveable, such as the daily Scrum and the role of the Scrum Master. Getting the development work done is not part of the guidance in the Scrum Framework. It is entirely up to the team to decide how best to tackle the work or tasks to be done. This means no management should interfere. The team know best. The organisation needs patience with this to allow the teams to develop these skills.
The Scrum Framework is very simple to understand but needs time to master. To avoid some of the pitfalls and challenges mentioned above, the organisation needs to have patience with it and buy into it in a big way, possibly changing the way the organisation works when developing and delivering software. A recap on the tips for achieving this are:
- Realise the Scrum Framework is not a project management methodology
- Allow the team time to develop their knowledge and skills
- Keeping disruption to the Sprint to a minimum
- Commit to training your Scrum team regularly particularly the Scrum Master
- Keep your teams co-located if possible and avoid changing the team often
- Invest in collaborative visual tools
- Allow your development teams to self-organise and get on with managing their own work