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Scrum/Agile Now Used To Manage Non-Tech Projects 136

Posted by samzenpus
from the best-practices dept.
jfruh writes "Agile and, in particular, Scrum, have been popular project management methods for software development for more than a decade, and now its use is spreading well beyond software. For example, NPR is using Agile for faster, cheaper development of new radio programs. 'I was looking for some inspiration and found it one floor up inside our building (where Digital Media sits),' says NPR vice president of programming Eric Nuzum. NPR has used this 'Agile-inspired' approach to create several new programs, including TED Radio Hour, Ask Me Another, and Cabinet of Wonders."
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Scrum/Agile Now Used To Manage Non-Tech Projects

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  • by jools33 (252092) on Friday August 10, 2012 @02:26AM (#40942829)

    I first heard of Scrum from my wifes hospital ward - where they were using the technique to manage the activities of their staff. This made me curious as to its origins and it turns out it was first and foremost a product development methodology. So its not that Scrum is spreading from its software origins - it never originated in software in the first place. [wikipedia.org]

  • I get it... (Score:4, Informative)

    by gosand (234100) on Friday August 10, 2012 @09:20AM (#40945579)

    I understand what he meant by that, and I don't think it is as bad as it reads. I think he just meant that those things are the key components, they are just part of the process, if you want to do it right.

    I spent the last 3 years managing a testing teams on an Agile project. And it was at a very very large company that is most certainly concerned with money. What I saw Agile do was amazing... and yet, we had to compromise it somewhat. We didn't do pair programming. Our TDD wasn't as good as it could have been. We faced challenges with it, but we had contraints that we had to deal with, especially after our first release. But I will say that the quality and volume of what we put out was far and above anything else around us.

    IMO, Agile isn't for every software project, and there are some that I think it simply just wouldn't work for... but it is very very useful when it fits. BUT - you have to really adopt it. It really is a team effort, and if it's not, or if you ignore or sabotage some of the key components of it, you will fail. To one of your points, calling velocity a "nonsense construct" tells me immediately that you've never done Agile, at least not successfully. I'll take a moment to explain....

    You actually aren't far off... it kind of is a nonsense construct. What?! Yeah. It is a unit of effort. Here is how we did it. Each story is written to describe the functionality desired. It should follow good story principles of INVEST (look it up). Once you have that, the development and test team review it, and quickly put an estimate on it. We used a point scale. 1,2,4,8,16,32. You have to pick one of those values, there is no 12 for example. This forces a decision on it. If you had a 1 to 10 scale, there's really no differentiating factor between a 7 and an 8. You get the idea.

    So what we did was the dev team came up with their estimate for each story, and test did the same. Then the story was assigned the larger of the two numbers. Since you have to dev and test it during the iteration, larger number wins. Then as a team you commit to X number of points for an iteration (we used 2 weeks). At the end of the iteration, whatever stories are accepted as delivered are counted up, and that is your velocity for the iteration. The NEXT iteration, you can only commit to doing that number or less. You can certainly deliver more, but you can only commit up to that. Over time, your velocity will fluctuate, and then STABILIZE. That is the point where you know as a team how many points you can deliver in a 2 week period, in theory indefinitely. Now some people want to know how accurate your estimates were - i.e. we said this story was 16 points.. how many was it actually? Don't do that. That is exactly why we didn't use hours. It's irrelevant. What is relevant is how many points you delivered. By making the points a non-quantifiable number you can't do that. It let's you focus on what is really important, and that is determining the team's sustainable velocity.

    It is a foreign concept. But we did it for 3 years. Actually the project is still going, I just left and took on a different positon in the company. Yeah, we had challenges, funding and otherwise, but we were able to deal with them. We had to cut about 1/2 our team at one point, and our velocity suffered. But we got to the point where when we said we could deliver something by a certain date, we could. I really don't see that very often, and it wasn't the case with all of the projects around us struggling with Waterfall. Again, it's not a panacea, but it can work and to discount something just because you don't understand it or have never actually done it is foolish.

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