4 Things You Need to Know About Scrum

Are you thinking about starting a journey toward implementing Scrum?

Are your employees and IT management talking about the benefits that could be achieved by moving toward the most popular of the Agile project management frameworks -- Scrum? 

At SCRUM ALLIANCE®, we know that implementing Scrum can be a wonderful voyage of discovery – however, it's understandable to be nervous. Here we're going to try to help you decide whether Agile in general, and Scrum in particular, is a direction that you should be taking. The four key points in this article come from our recent State of Scrum report. SCRUM ALLIANCE® is a membership organization with more than 350,000 members dedicated to transforming the world of work. Scrum is a business approach that reaches far beyond software and aligns with customer needs -- and it works.

1. Scrum isn't just about software

Among organizations responding to our survey, 59 percent said that they are not in the information technology industry, and 36 percent of organizations use Scrum outside of IT departments. Scrum started out in a software product environment, but it's not about software. Scrum is focused on delivering results that better align with customers' needs, and as people have moved forward with Scrum they have recognized that many different areas of an organization can achieve those benefits. Scrum has become one of the key product building and project execution approaches for all parts of an organization, from sales and marketing to finance and HR.

Of course, Scrum is still used frequently for software as well, and as you explore how it can benefit your organization, that's probably a good place to start. Software development employees will likely be more familiar with Scrum and how to make the most of what it offers -- but don't limit yourself to using Scrum with software only. As you journey further with Scrum and become more comfortable with what it offers, you'll be able to identify opportunities to expand Scrum into other areas of your organization.

2. Scrum is a business approach

Our survey respondents told us that the two biggest factors contributing to Scrum success in their organizations are "active senior management sponsorship and support" and "a clear set of business goals." A commitment to implement Scrum should be made at the business level for business reasons, not delegated to software development as a tactical decision. Done well, Scrum becomes an integral part of project execution. Like any other major initiative, the investment in Scrum needs to deliver a return, which means that you should commit to Scrum with defined business goals and objectives. Additionally, Scrum needs visible and consistent executive-level support from all stakeholders, just like any other major project.

If Scrum is positioned in an organization as a niche approach to select software projects, then its benefit will always be limited. But if it's positioned as an alternative approach for appropriate projects across the enterprise, then it will deliver real benefits to the organization's bottom line. This will also help with Scrum adoption and acceptance, as all business areas can learn and experience Scrum together without leaving some parts of the organization behind. Even if your initial Scrum investment is only in software development, recognizing it as a strategic initiative will give it needed visibility to help it succeed.

3. Scrum aligns first and foremost with customer needs

Our survey respondents told us that the biggest business priority for Scrum is fulfilling customer needs. This is consistent with one of the foundations of Scrum: While Scrum projects frequently deliver results more quickly and at a lower cost, the focus is on delivering products and services that more closely align with the needs of the customer. When exploring how Scrum can benefit your organization, it is important that all stakeholders and practitioners focus on that "customer first" approach; getting that right will deliver the other benefits.

It's also important to note that Scrum isn't about eliminating process. Scrum project execution is people driven rather than process driven, but it is still a planned journey toward completion -- not an unstructured meander through various tasks.

4. Scrum works!

Of the organizations that responded to our survey, 63 percent said that more than 50 percent of their Scrum projects were successful. This contrasts markedly with the most recent Standish report, which showed that, overall, only 39 percent of IT projects succeed. Consistently over the years, organizations have found that Scrum delivers the results they need to improve their success rates, and at the same time they report more engaged project teams and higher levels of satisfaction.

Implementing Scrum needn't be scary. Yes, Scrum is different from traditional project execution approaches, but that difference is a large part of why it works. Like any voyage of discovery, your implementation of Scrum will have high points and challenges, but the results have been demonstrated time and time again by organizations across the globe and in virtually every industry.

Need some guidance on how your organization can become Scrum-ready? Connect with thousands of Scrum professionals to ask questions about your specific challenges. Learn more about the benefits of becoming a Scrum Alliance® member today.