When we, as developers, are asked to deliver a new website tool or piece of functionality we generally have a deadline and a brief. How you hit both the brief and the deadline comes down to Project Management of one sort or another.
Over the past fortnight here at PlusNet Towers, we've been trialling a (new for us) development methodology known as 'Scrum'. Developed and championed originally in the mid 90's by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, Scrum promises a simple process to manage complex projects. It has been implemented in many organisations over the years and is recognised widely in the software (and other) industries.
Traditional Project Management would tend towards being prescriptive in that the project 'owner' lays out what he wants to see delivered, and by when. The resources (staff) have to organise their schedule to accommodate these demands. If something doesn't go right, the brief is added to, or the resources have to work on many other items, the project deliver date would slip.
Scrum takes a different tack and sets out with a mind to deliver priority functionality in regular batches (sprints). The delivery team meets with the ‘product owner’ and commits to deliver what it sees as being a realistic goal within a defined period – the sprint. In Scrum, the deadline would never slip, but perhaps the amount of functionality might be changed, with any outstanding items carried over to the next sprint. It’s an important difference to conventional project management and places a lot of trust in the delivery team.
In our trial we’re taking a look at our Manage My Mail tool. We’ve identified a number of improvements we should make from a usability perspective that should make the application easier to use for our customers. I’m the ScrumMaster for this; my role is to facilitate the process and make sure everyone follows the rules that keep the work focused and free from interference. The team itself includes Chris from our Comms team and I know he’ll shortly be posting more information about Scrum and how it works – and what it feels like to be involved in the process.
We have a saying here at PlusNet.. ‘It’s all about Delivery’. I like to think of that as ‘if it’s not live it’s not doing anyone any good’ - perhaps Scrum will prove to be a useful tool to help us keep delivering the tools you need and find useful.