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Practicing Scrum in a Start-up

16 February 2017

Rumesh Wijetunge
Zaizi Asia

Project management for tech start-ups

For a tech start-up, Agile is the most common and practical project management method to follow. This is especially true in the case in which a company starts from the ground up while the ownership focuses on organic growth rather than growth in the form of angel investments, joint ventures, or venture capitalists.

Such tech start-ups initially operate with two or three full-time employees, with the majority consisting of part-time colleagues or freelancers who put in a limited amount of time each day.

So how do we practice Agile in such an environment? Is it possible? Will it work? How must team members who are a mix of full-time and part-time employees adapt in such an environment?

Well, I am now part of such a start-up company, which is still operating with six full-timers, about 20 part-timers, and one owner who is hell-bent on driving organic growth. The company has been operating for more than two years, has five ongoing projects, and has about two software products in development. The team is also involved in presales and in making improvements to the organization as a whole. What further complicates things for our start-up is the fact that the company does projects for both local and international clients across multiple time zones, with some team members working part time overseas.

What worked for us

From inception, we declared we would incorporate best practices from Scrum, Kanban, and the Rational Unified Process methods. Project teams consist of one full-time employee, with the rest of the members being part-time developers, a business analyst, a product manager, and a UI engineer (all resources who are shared with senior management, which also needs to do business development and office operations). Team members have committed to two 15-minute Daily Scrum calls at the start and end of the day, using the Zoom communications tool. Each team is allocated a lead or project manager to coordinate and guide the team on the work to be done.

The team is still trying to identify a sweet spot in terms of a process. Consequently, it continues to rely on detailed requirements, design documentation, and project plans, which are all recorded in Microsoft Word and Excel. Part of this problem stems from junior team members who are still in the process of understanding what it means to be a self-organizing team and familiarizing themselves with best practices for software development. The team as a whole is getting accustomed to sprint planning, reviews, and retrospectives, which is difficult when the company has yet to onboard the client to Scrum.

I’m sure there are others who have faced the same situation as described here. I’d like to know how you've implemented Agile in your start-up.

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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