An introduction to working in Agile - The Bolser Scrum model
Scrum is an approach to Agile project management that enables cost-effective, efficient, software development. Bolser first implemented Scrum back in 2013 and have been continually adapting and improving it with our internal teams for the last seven years.
Agile versus Waterfall software delivery
We originally used the traditional Waterfall methodology as our project delivery framework. This method involves all aspects of projects being planned in advance and delivered with little further stakeholder input. The planning stage is lengthy and complex, requiring the team to foresee all issues from the outset. The lack of ongoing collaboration means stakeholders have no visibility of the developing project or opportunity to adapt their requirements as the project evolves. In effect it’s a ‘done deal’ once development starts and any errors or omissions in the planning are built into the final product. This is risky in terms of meeting client expectations and potentially expensive for all.
Having experienced some of the limitations of Waterfall over several years, we decided to move to Agile project management delivered through the Scrum framework. Scrum breaks down projects into manageable sections and provides regular opportunity for review and adaptation. It is a collaborative process and stakeholders are fully involved providing feedback throughout the project. This means that changes can be managed more efficiently both from a time and a budget perspective and the client gets more influence over the end result.
Benefits of Scrum
Continual feedback and visibility ensures that the quality of the final product is as high as possible.
Reduced time to market & ROI
Scrum has been proven to deliver projects 30–40 % faster than traditional methods, resulting in a higher return on investment.
Higher Customer Satisfaction
Clients are able to feedback on the project at every stage throughout development, so they are personally invested in the end result.
Higher Team Morale
Self management puts decisions that would normally be made by a manager into the team members hands, increasing accountability and job satisfaction.
Scrum helps mitigate the risk of project failure by delivering a tangible product early and constant feedback ensure changes are actioned at the earliest opportunity.
We employ fully certified experts in Scrum called Scrum Masters who are responsible for linking the design, software engineering and test teams to the product owner.
The Scrum Process
Scrum enables the team to break down every part of a project into smaller, iterative sections. At the outset, all aspects including analysis, design, development and testing are split into components and then the work is carried out in intervals of usually 2 weekly periods. These intervals are called ‘Sprints’. At the end of each Sprint a demonstration of how the project is progressing is given to all stakeholders, feedback is given and actions for the next sprint agreed.
Scrum has a robust framework of processes and team meetings called ‘ceremonies’ where all stakeholders are encouraged to participate including Sprint Planning, Daily Stand Ups, Sprint Reviews and Retrospectives. As a digital marketing agency, Bolser have championed ‘retrospective’ meetings where we review all aspects of the process and use that knowledge to improve our efficiency going forward and share learnings with our clients.
We employ fully certified experts in Scrum called Scrum Masters who are responsible for linking the design, software engineering and test teams to the product owner. Before beginning a project, a Scrum Master works with the product owner to define the project requirements and vision. Throughout the project they help the team plan and manage sprints whilst facilitating development decisions and removing project blockers.
Implementing Scrum in an agency environment - the Bolser adapted model.
Scrum was developed specifically to manage large software projects and assumes the team are working from one set of requirements on one project. As a digital marketing agency we have many clients and associated projects running simultaneously. To manage our workload we take priority items from each of the projects and merge them into one Sprint (two weeks of work). This allows us to manage multiple work streams while keeping the core values of Scrum in place.
The biggest challenge to the Scrum process from a client perspective is the lack of a fixed project budget. In order to get sign off for their project, clients need to know how much they are paying and over what time period. Our adapted model can cater for this to ensure that detailed quotes are provided alongside robust deliverables and project timeframes.
We are also sometimes asked to co-create projects alongside internal client teams. This can range from delivering the design alone through to introducing Scrum to internal client developers or backfilling software teams - both remotely and on site. We have extensive experience of delivering projects in this way and are able to work within any type of Scrum environment. Most recently we have worked externally in a ‘Kanban’ version of Scrum called ‘Scrumban’ which has led us to adapt our agency model to drive even more efficient project delivery.
To learn more about how we work alongside our clients to deliver Scrum design and software delivery projects, please get in touch.
Glossary - a handy guide to some key Scrum terms
- Agile: a time boxed, iterative approach to software delivery.
- Scrum: a process framework used to manage software development.
- Scrum Roles: just 3 – the Product Owner, the Scrum Master and the team members.
- Scrum Master: the facilitator for the Agile team
- Product Owner: the person responsible for the vision, typically the key stakeholder.
- Scrum Meetings: these include Daily Scrum, Planning, Review & Retrospectives.
- Sprint: a period of usually 2 weeks when a scrum team completes a set amount of work.
- Retrospective: held at the end of a sprint to review and improve the way of working.
- Scrumban: an alternative framework to scrum based on the Kanban principle of continuous delivery.