Developing software with cross-functional teams can be a hassle, especially if you don’t have a simple and organized framework in place. Sure, you can follow a rigid structure with all the requirements, costs, and deadlines set in stone.
But what if all three are subject to frequent changes? What if the project requires more flexibility? This is where Agile project management methodologies, including Scrum, come into play. Let’s map out both of these concepts, including the pros and cons, and help you determine whether these fit your style.
What Is Agile?
Agile is an iterative approach to developing software that emphasizes continuous improvement, testing, and development. This means that products undergo testing, development, and review nearly simultaneously. This is why Agile stands opposite to waterfall, an approach that leaves little to no room for changes.
The Agile Manifesto provides the 12 critical tenets of effective Agile project management. These include the following:
- Timely and continuous delivery of working software is the key to customer satisfaction
- Changes should be welcomed no matter how early or late in the development lifecycle
- Business stakeholders and developers should work hand-in-hand regularly.
- The developer team must be small, autonomous, and cross-functional
- Face-to-face interaction and constant communication are important to minimize the risks of miscommunication and misunderstanding
- Prioritize simplicity and cut out features that don’t lend value to the product
The Agile project management framework branches out into a range of methodologies. These include Kanban, Extreme Programming (XP), Lean, and Scrum, each of which differs in priorities, time management, and team structure.
What Is Scrum?
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Scrum is an Agile methodology that allows the implementation of different methods throughout the software development lifecycle. The Scrum methodology puts the focus on teamwork, collaboration, and effective communication during the software development process.
Scrum is all about time management and delivering results, which is why the project development is divided into time-boxed iterations that are called sprints. Sprints require the team to work on product development in increments. These usually last anywhere from two to four weeks.
How Does the Scrum Methodology Work?
A Scrum team is composed of the product owner, the Scrum Master, and the development team. The product owner works with the client to determine the preliminary requirements of the product. What features should be added or created? What tasks should be prioritized? All of these are then included in the product backlog, which is determined before the project starts.
Afterward comes the sprint planning. The Scrum team meets to create a sprint forecast, by the end of which a sprint backlog is produced. This contains the to-do tasks for a certain sprint. During this, the development team works together to produce a working software product. Scrum also saves the team from the task of planning meetings as they participate in standups daily.
What about the Scrum Master? Although the title immediately alludes to a leadership role, the Scrum Master actually serves the team. S/he clears the development path of any blockers by making sure the team has all the tools and resources needed to complete every sprint.
Each sprint culminates in a sprint review and a sprint retrospective. The sprint review focuses on the product itself. What was accomplished during the sprint? What features worked and what didn’t? How can the product be improved further?
The sprint retrospective, on the other hand, focuses on the process. What methods went right? What could use improvement? How should the team members adjust to ensure a seamless development process?
Scrum vs Agile: The Most Important Differences and Similarities
As with any effective software development methodologies, there are shared practices as well as unique facets. Let’s see what sets these two apart and what they share.
The Key Differences
Difference: Nature and Scope
While often pitted against each other, Agile and Scrum are actually interrelated, with the latter being a subset of the former. Agile, at its core, is a project management philosophy guided by principles laid out in the Agile Manifesto. Scrum, on the other hand, is only one of the many methodologies that fall under Agile.
This means that while Scrum is an Agile methodology, Agile doesn’t always equal Scrum as Agile operates at a much broader scale.
Agile, by definition, is open, experimental, and receptive to change. On the other hand, Scrum sticks to a much stricter set of goals and objectives, leaving little room for frequent changes.
The Agile process has a team leader that keeps a project team on task for the entire iterative process. With Scrum, teams are more self-organized.
Difference: Product Delivery and Review
In terms of product delivery, the Agile process has a cross-functional team that delivers output almost nonstop. This is to ensure continuous review and provision of regular feedback to the team. With Scrum, reviews are more structured, typically done after every sprint.
The Key Similarities
Similarity: Iterative Approach
These are both iterative approaches to software development. This means that both methodologies value and welcome change and improvement.
Similarity: Time Estimation
Both Agile and Scrum aim to deliver products at the earliest time possible. With Scrum, the sprint’s goal is to deliver objectives within a month. With Agile, the constant iterative approach allows for the daily delivery of goals.
Both Scrum and Agile prioritize improvement, communication, and full transparency within cross-functional teams. This means that those who utilize either of these want to have a better line of communication with their teams. Doing so leads to better implementation of strategies and quicker improvement of performance deficiencies.
Scrum vs Agile: Pros and Cons
As with any other approach, both Scrum and Agile have their fair share of upsides and downsides. Knowing these will help you determine which would work best for your software development team.
- Simplicity. For the Agile process, simplicity is key. The tasks never go overboard; you only do what is enough for now. This can be attractive to teams as this can help define easy-to-understand goals and objectives.
- Continuous delivery. In keeping with the Agile Manifesto, constant delivery to the team leader and client are paramount. Agile teams deliver updates, developmental changes, and more daily. This makes it easier to monitor the progress of the project.
- Effective communication. Along with the daily delivery of output are regular face-to-face communication and open discourse. This can be a great method for achieving all goals set out before a cross-functional team.
- Time commitment. Since Agile team members and clients need to be in constant communication, it can take a lot of time to actually get things done. If you can’t complete a goal because a superior didn’t get the daily briefing, it could set the team back.
- Documentation. A significant part of the software development process involves documenting the various changes and implementations done. With Agile, there is no hard-line requirement for having documentation. This can lead to confusion if something goes wrong in the development process.
- Independence. While Scrum teams partake in both Scrum review and retrospective when all’s said and done, there’s quite a bit of independence among the members. For several weeks, Scrum teams diligently work on their particular tasks within sprints. All of their focus, energy, and time goes into these few tasks.
- Sprint Review. The sprint review serves two purposes. First, it allows the Scrum team to learn from their accomplishments as well as their shortcomings. Second, it allows them to create what’s called a ‘build’ for their clients. This is essentially a detailed and comprehensive summary of the sprint.
- Self-contained. With the Scrum process, there aren’t many changes to the organizational structure. The assignment of roles, though merit-based, is flexible. For example, Scrum Masters need not be actual company managers.
- No team leader. While some may see this as a pro, having no team leader for developing software can be a risky proposition. Instead of a team leader, the Scrum team itself goes over all the details. This could potentially lead to disorganization.
- Not ideal for larger teams. Scrum can be a great addition to any small to moderately-sized team. However, its sprints and unique iterative approach may not work well for a large group. While not impossible, implementing its more tightly-knit and hyper-focused aspects can be a challenge.
- No substitutes. Since sprints consist of a few team members, the sudden departure of a member could impede the team’s progress.
Should You Use Scrum or Agile?
So, which of the two software development methodologies do you choose? Agile or Scrum? If you’re a project manager, then the answer depends on how your team goes about accomplishing things. Let’s see some direct advantages of choosing both Scrum and Agile.
Advantages of Choosing Agile
Agile software development is perfect for those who want open and transparent communication. This allows for a better connection with team members, leaders, and clients. The iterative approach of daily updates and releases decreases costly mistakes. Using Agile is the best course of action when clients and shareholders need constant assurance or updates on products.
Advantages of Choosing Scrum
The sprints and sprint reviews are great ways to focus intently on a specific facet of a project and improve upon deficiencies. There is also a greater level of independence within the Scrum framework. Leadership can be fluid and doesn’t change the overall makeup of a company. Developing software receives a hyper-focused approach.
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