Friday, January 20, 2006

Scrum Methodology

The next stop on the Magical Methodology Tour is Scrum. In contrast to XP,
Scrum is a top-down methodology, detailing more about how the project is managed. The development effort is broken up into 4-week units called Sprints, with a Sprint Goal - a short summary of the desired end result of the Sprint, as defined by the Product Owner, who is the person in charge of definied the product and priorities of features. Each Sprint is managed by a ScrumMaster, whose job is to keep an eye on the development, and remove any roadblocks the team encounters, and to hold the short Daily Scrum meeting, in which the team recounts the previous day's work, the planned day's work, and any roadblocks they face. The list of tasks to be done for the current Scrum is called the Scrum Backlog, and is set during the Sprint Planning Meeting, held at the start of the Sprint, where the highest priority remaining tasks in the Product Backlog are moved to the new Sprint Backlog. The ideal goal of every Sprint is a working version of the product, with each Sprint adding more functionality until a complete product results.

Now, as to the details:
Scrum is a lot less specific than XP, with fewer required practices, and a lot more freedom in the development techniques. It also is much more palatable to management in that it requires few changes to the actual development process - programmers still write code the same way, and the Product Owner role maps well to the common Product/Project Manager position in many companies. Priorities are still set by management. The most likely difficulties arise in the ScrumMaster's role - removing obstacles. This is not an easy job, nor one for a first-line manager - it requires authority beyond the usual bounds. The ScrumMaster must be allowed to prevent developers from being pulled into other projects, or redirected to support. And this is the big stumbling block - the development teams are usually low enough on the food chain that the ScrumMaster is not someone with such clout, and will be unable to deter these threats to the integrity of the team.

And that is a detail that I will return to in a later post.

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