September 23, 2015

Epiphany on Scrum

Recently, during my long and quiet morning drive to work, I got to thinking about a comment a co-worker had made the previous day. BenevolentEmployer is having us use the Scrum project life-cycle on our super secret project and some of the more recent arrivals had not gone through the week-long course that the rest of us did back in the summer. Co-worker in question had attended a two day version of the course and was wondering about the reason for some of the parts of Scrum. He was curious as to why the instructor had explained the reasoning behind some parts of Scrum very clearly, yet other parts were given no rationale beyond the fact that they were in the Scrum guide and therefore that's what you did. This was unsatisfying for him.

His comments must have been churning away in the back of my head because the next morning, out popped the answer. More of a revelation or epiphany than an answer. I realized that Scrum is not for the developers, it's for the business. Scrum is a product sold to companies. As such it has a physical product they can hold and read and follow. This is the Scrum Guide. The business has no idea what computer programmers do, but they want to manage it. Waterfall methodologies have never worked, so they are always looking for something. Scrum seems to fit the need well.

The business wants to know that their projects are proceeding and that they feel as if they have some input into the whole process without actually having to understand Information Technology. The programmers want to be allowed to work on their projects without heavy-handed oversight. Scrum sits between the two camps and facilitates a formal way for each to talk to the other. Scrum calls these ceremonies and there are just enough that the business feels connected, but not so many that the programmers feel hassled. In essence, Scrum is the API to the programming team through which the business accesses them.

And this is why some things do not make sense to the programmers because Scrum is for the business and it buys the programmers space and more autonomy than they ever had under waterfall methodologies.

Tags: Software