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What is agile methodology?

My prospective customers frequently ask me the above question. In addition, they want to know whether agile and scrum are the same.

I list the following example to them. Suppose you want to buy a car. Then based on your needs you either go for SUV or Sedan or Convertible or Coupe or Mini Van or Van or Hatchback or Sports Car. Once you decide the type of car, then you select car’s make, i.e., whether to buy a car from Mercedes or BMW or General Motor or Ford or Toyota or Nissan or Jeep or Suzuki or Hyundai, etc.

In similar fashion based on your project’s need, you decide whether to follow Agile methodology or Iterative methodology.  Once you decide that you want to go for Agile methodology then you decide which process from the Agile methodology you want to follow, Scrum or Extreme Programming, Adaptive System Development, DSDM (Dynamic System Development Method), Feature Driven Development, Kanban, Crystal, etc.

In short, Scrum is one of the Agile processes.  After deciding upon following the “Scrum” process then you select tool which supports scrum methodology, e.g. JIRA, Rally, etc.

In short, Agile is an umbrella which encompasses other processes as mentioned above and Scum is one of them. It is quite likely that you can pick up some of the good practices from another Agile process and combine these into the Scrum.

Our experience with Agile and Scrum?

Years or more like a decade ago, we used waterfall methodology with tools like Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheets and project management tools to track milestones and tasks for a given the project or the complete portfolio. Invariably, the sheets used to be shared with other team members on the shared drive. This helped us manage small projects locally with smaller team size. Fast forward couple of years we had clients geographically distributed all over the world, mainly in countries like the US and larger team sizes with local companies.

We had to retool and adapt to globally distributed teams and a release cadence of 2 months; Our methodology, process, team size, team communication, and tool changed completely.

Our agile transformation 5-7 years ago helped us:

  • work with geographically distributed teams,
  • work and communicate in  asynchronous mode with the team members
  • get a pulse of the project by looking at the dashboard
  • scale as per the project size,
  • spend minimal time in learning and adopting new tools like Jira, Rally

While scouting and used several tools for years we found Atlassian’s JIRA, along with recent offering like Confluence, Hipchat and Stride to meets most of the project needs. We trained our team member on Agile Principles and Best Practices, and as one of the team members has previous experience in JIRA, we were able to bring all team members up to speed quickly.  We choose the “Scrum” methodology. Some of our previous experiences which played a major role in selecting “Scrum” were:

  • Improvement in team member’s engagement and productivity
  • Improvement in coordination and communication between geographically distributed teams
  • Improvement of stakeholder’s satisfaction

We started our transformation the Agile methodology for a large project with a team size of fifteen members, where the team members were located in two different countries namely the US and India.

At the end of the project, we realized a real transformation. As team members were more engaged with the project, the productivity gain was immediate. The collective experience helped the team to detect the “task” impediments in the daily stand-ups. The most impressive part was those team members come up with the solution during the “Scrum” meeting when priorities or expectations changed.

Measurable outcomes:

Using “Scrum”, the count of “Cumulative” features delivered in major releases is remarkably higher than “Pre-Scrum” era.

The Productivity of the team is high.

Recommend: Book Reading: Scrum by Mike Cohn.