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An Introduction And A Brief Overview Of Agile And Scrum Methodology For Project Managers

By Expert Author: Mrugesh Panchal

Today, many companies and business entities are finding themselves in the midst of a constantly changing consumer market, where the end users dictate the success of a product, and indirectly govern what and how a company should manufacture a product. The market is continuously being affected by emerging technologies, which have a lot to offer in terms of features and functionality, usage and portability. Right from Web 2.0 and HTML5, to cell phone based applications and cloud computing, these new technologies are redefining the way end users use products. Many leading companies the world over have been forced to completely reevaluate the manner in which they operate and interact with their customers. The continuously evolving technological landscape has made it mandatory for many business entities to manufacture products which are feature rich, and in tune with the end user requirements. One of the biggest constraints faced by the companies is that the market conditions keep on changing even while the product is being developed by them. In many instances, a project is launched to create a product which incorporates the latest features and functionality, but by the time the product is developed and launched into the market, it loses its importance and significance simply because other competitive products capture the market segment owing to an early launch and improved functionality. Project development incurs heavy investments, and if the product fails to perform in the market, the stakeholders are likely to suffer heavy financial loses.

For many years, project managers and “C” level company executives have been trying to overcome this drawback, and now with Agile framework and scrum, it looks like they have found a possible solution. The scrum methodology supports dynamic and quick product development, and perhaps the most important advantage with scrum is that the entire development cycle can be controlled and monitored to manufacture products which have high business values. The development too takes little time, and the project life cycle has the capability to incorporate the changes occurring in the market related conditions.

Generating business value using scrum
A big advantage of scrum over traditional project development methodologies is that the product is developed in iterations, and in an incremental manner. The entire product is developed in iterations known as “sprints”, which usually last for two weeks. At the end of each sprint, a certain functionality or a product feature is developed by the team. During each sprint, a set of features or functionalities is taken up from a master list known as the “product backlog”, which includes all information needed to develop the product in totality. Each product functionality to be developed is known as a product backlog item, or a user story. The unique aspect about scrum development is that each user story developed at the end of the ongoing sprint is “shippable” i.e. each functionality is tested and passed through quality assurance tests before it is accepted as “Done” by a person who represents the stakeholders and the investors – the product owner.

Scrum methodology emphasizes upon collaboration and transparency. The team members work as a joint unit and collaborate while carrying out their development activity. They help each other when problems are faced, and when important decisions are to be made. In scrum, it is very important that the process be implemented in a proper manner to be effective. It is worth knowing that scrum is a methodology and is required to be implemented in a project before its results can be availed. In scrum, a person is specially appointed to ensure that scrum is properly implemented at all times during the project cycle. The person is the scrum master. In many ways, the scrum master acts in the capacity of a project manager, but with a subtle difference. He or she does not actively participate in the development work, but rather supervises the entire project and ensures that the project flow is maintained and scrum framework is followed by the scrum team.

Each activity in scrum is time boxed. The methodology uses certain artifacts, or objects, which form the base of all development work. The artifacts consist of the product backlog and the sprint backlog. The product backlog contains the list of requirements in the form of user stories required to develop the product, while the sprint backlog consists of user stories taken up for development by the team during the sprint.

Scrum can be quite efficient, but for it to be effective, the roles, events and artifacts associated with the methodology should be effectively implemented. Companies and managements have a lot to benefit through scrum. Proper efforts should be made to understand the framework so it can be implanted in the projects.

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