“Understanding the rules of chess does not make you a Grand Master and
understanding the rules of Scrum does not make you a Scrum Master”
I have been on a project now for a little over 12 months. While I have customers who I have assisted for over a decade, I have never worked full time for so long on the one project. Moreover, unlike many of the projects I have worked on in the past, this one is being delivered using the Scrum framework; it is an Agile project.
There are those that claim while Agile may work for short projects, it is unsustainable for longer projects. Much to my own surprise, this has proven not to be the case. We began with two week Sprints for the first three months and then moved to three week Sprints and have been doing this ever since. We have delivered a lot and the project is being hailed as a success by both KPMG and the client.
I am also about to take my PSM 1 (Professional Scrum Master Level 1) exam so I thought I would give an introduction to Agile (and Scrum specifically) to those who are still unsure what it means. The good news is if you understand Dynamics 365 (CRM) you already have a good mental model for understanding Scrum.
What is Agile?
Agile is a catch-all for delivery frameworks and methodologies which focus on quick iterations to deliver and receive feedback. The alternative is ‘waterfall’ where a lot of design and planning are done up front and delivery is more comprehensive in its first delivery but takes longer to complete, providing less opportunity for feedback along the way.
Of the various Agile approaches, Scrum is one. Scrum focusses on transparency, inspection and adaptation. It reminds me of six sigma in that it promotes the idea of constant evaluation and improvement. To begin our analogy to Dynamics 365 (CRM), Agile is like the collection of all CRM systems in the market and Scrum is just one of them. All of the CRM systems have similar characteristics with differing emphasis, strengths, and weaknesses.
What is Scrum?
Scrum is a very specific Agile framework for delivering complex projects. I am actively avoiding calling it a methodology because it is not that prescriptive. If we consider Dynamics 365 (CRM), it is very rare that a CRM project is delivered with no configuration or customization. Dynamics 365 (CRM) is the framework on which we build a system to manage the processes of a business.
Similarly, Scrum is the framework on which the processes for managing project delivery are built. Just as we add in custom entities to fill in the gaps in CRM, so too we add tools to fill in the gaps in Scrum. For example, concepts such as ‘Epics’, ‘User Stories’, and ‘Tasks’, while commonly thrown around, are not part of Scrum but are one way we can track progress and productivity. We could easily use another approach though and still be within the realms of Scrum.
How Do I Learn More About This Framework?
Like Dynamics 365 (CRM) where you can understand the essentials of the framework by taking a Microsoft Certification, so too you can take an exam to appreciate the essentials of Scrum. This is the exam I am about to take. Also, just as being a CRM consultant is much more than just a piece of paper signed by Satya, so too being an expert at delivering with the Scrum framework is much more than sitting a one hour exam.
The good news for the Scrum-curious, is it is much easier to get across the essentials for Scrum that it is for Dynamics 365 (CRM). If you go to http://www.scrumguides.org/ you can download The Scrum Guide. Read this 17 page document and you know everything you need to get the base level of certification. Moreover, the document has not been updated since July 2016 so none of this six-month cadence nonsense. As a word of warning, the document is not the best written and could be a little more concise but it is easy to read and the information is readily digestible.
Reading the document you will see it sets up a bunch of restrictions, just like CRM sets up restrictions for configuration and customization and, in both cases, it is not immediately obvious why it has been devised the way it has. My advice is to run with it, and see how it goes. Just like CRM, you can always go ‘unsupported’ if you are finding an aspect of Scrum is incompatible with your situation.
Also, scrum.org has an online trial exam (unlike Microsoft certifications) so you can sharpen up your skills before getting certified (yes, it does cost money to sit for the actual exam).
There are a lot of opinions about Agile and Scrum and they are usually expressed by people who have been involved a project where they were told it was being run under a Scrum framework but was little more than ad hoc development with no documentation. If you are interested in Scrum, check out the 17 page document. I am not a glassy-eyed convert yet but it is fair to say my project has run smoothly and delivered consistently over the 12 months and I am hard pressed to recall one of my waterfall projects which can claim the same thing.