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Adopt Scrum for Competitive Advantage

Get an edge on the competition with Scrum

19 October 2015

Kenneth Adams
Apple, IBM and more...

Everything is moving faster, so agility is needed now more than ever. In this article, I’ll dive into the reasons for implementing Scrum. For example:
  • Why Scrum is required these days
  • Studies that demonstrate Scrum project success rates over a decade
  • Why Scrum is a significant competitive advantage

Why Scrum is required these days

Software markets move fast! Especially in the mobile, online services, and cloud software sectors. Even the conventional desktop software market, which has existed for years, has changed dramatically due to online app stores. All of this means that you need to move fast by fully embracing Agile principles and implementing the Scrum framework.

Go pure Scrum; don’t do it halfway or implement some bizarre hybrid of old-school Waterfall and Scrum. Going truly Agile has enormous benefits and beats Waterfall, hybrids, and chaotic ad hoc methods hands down.

One widely cited set of surveys that showed that Agile beats Waterfall is published in the Standish Group CHAOS Manifesto. You’ll find a significant number of references to data from these reports and some copies of the report out there, too.

The Standish Group CHAOS Manifesto published in 2011 shows that Waterfall projects have three times the failure rate -- 29 percent versus 9 percent -- and a third of the success rate -- 14 percent versus 42 percent. The reports show a trend in this direction over time, so there’s no doubt that Agile success rates continue to increase.

The graph below shows the details:

Project Success Rates: Agile vs Waterfall

Project Success Rates: Agile vs Waterfall

The Standish Group measured CHAOS resolution results of both Waterfall and Agile projects from 2002 to 2010.

Definitions used in the Standish reports:
  • Successful: Delivered on time and on budget, with required features and functions
  • Challenged: Late and over budget, or with fewer than the required features and functions
  • Failed: Canceled prior to completion or the product was delivered but never used

Project Success Rates by Year

Project Success Rates by Year

The Standish Group has been doing this kind of research and similar reports for many years. This graph shows project success rates going back as far as I could find them -- from 1994 to 2012. The rates are fairly consistent for nearly a decade. Success rates average just under 29.9 percent, while failed and challenged projects make up the remaining 70 percent. Success rates are slowly improving over the years due, in part, to the gradual adoption of Agile principles and the move away from failing Waterfall and other management methods.

The survey results from the Standish Group CHAOS Manifesto reports include all types of projects, and so it is heavily weighted toward projects managed by using Waterfall methods due to the extensive use of Waterfall over this long period.

In their 2011 CHAOS Manifesto, the Standish Group noted the following regarding the increase in projects managed using Agile methods:

In 2002, Agile projects made up less than 2% of overall projects and less than 5% of new application development projects. Today, Agile projects account for almost 9% of all projects and 29% of new application development projects, for a 22% CAGR. The increase in project success rates can directly tie back to projects resolved through the Agile process.
-- Standish Group’s 2011 CHAOS Manifesto, page 1

Additionally, they also noted this about the much higher quality that Agile projects produce:

The Agile process is delivering not only a higher percentage of features driving up the average, but also a higher percentage of higher usage of those features. Still, there is much need for improvement.
-- Standish Group’s 2011 CHAOS Manifesto, page 2

3 Agile Scrum Books You Must Own

3 Agile Scrum Books You Must Own

Resources for better understanding

For those of you new to Scrum, refer to the following references to learn more about this framework. I’ve listed them in the order from basic to increasingly sophisticated:
  1. Scrum (Source: Wikipedia)
  2. Learn About Scrum (Source: Scrum Alliance®).
  3. Scrum Resources, by the co-creators of Scrum and other Scrum resources at Scrum Alliance
  4. My book review article on "3 Agile Scrum Books You Must Own"

Scrum is a noteworthy competitive advantage

Because Scrum is such a well-defined and mature process, there is enormous support to be found and advantages to be gained. This standardization in method, training, and knowledge creates a significant competitive advantage for anyone who embraces a standard Scrum approach.

By contrast, Waterfall and hybrid methods are less standardized, and although they share some commonalities, every Waterfall and hybrid organization has their own nonstandard spin on it. This proprietary nature costs considerable amounts of money in steep learning curves, training, and speed, and it handicaps your ability to compete.

Accessible standardized training

Scrum training classes are available almost everywhere, all around the world. Because it is standardized by Scrum Alliance, you know what you’re getting. And by not "reinventing the wheel," you save yourself a ton of money, time, and hassle.

Standardization with Scrum brings all kinds of critical advantages because you can hire people who have an industry-standard set of Scrum skills and use well-established Scrum standards to train your existing people who don’t already have Scrum skills. Standardization generates scalability and speed.

Scrum Alliance has Certified Scrum Trainers® (CST®) and classes at many locations, and you can find and schedule training online in a snap. If you need to train a group of people at once, you can hire a CST to conduct onsite training classes.

Extensive certifications and large community

Scrum Alliance manages a number of certifications that you can use to ensure consistent skill sets for all levels of Scrum professionals -- from team managers to product managers to developers and engineers of all types, and more.

A robust and well-established set of certifications and a worldwide community of people are a giant pot of gold that you can tap into.

Easier recruitment of talent

Because training and certifications are standardized, you can rely on those standards to screen new talent. As with all talent recruitment, experience matters most, but the training and certifications ensure that your new talent knows the real Scrum.

But there’s more: Adhering to standardized training and certifications shows that your new candidates have made an investment in something critical to your success and theirs. In fact, chances are they might have some painful ScrumBut or Scrummerfall or WaterScrum experience that can help you. And if you are committed to Scrum and Agile, that will make your company more attractive to the best of the best. Competition for talent is fierce, so you need every advantage that you can get.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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