Agile vs Scrum: what you need to know

Agile vs Scrum: what you need to know
Ivan Pavlov
November 19, 2019
Last updated: May 11, 2020

For those people who are not yet familiar with project management, choosing the right methodology might be confusing, especially since so many terms are used. So if you are just at the start of your project manager career, it is high time you devote some time and effort to studying various techniques and methodologies which will later on help you conduct all the processes successfully.



Table of Contents

  1. Agile methodology 101
  2. How to realize agile methodology
  1. Scrum as a way to implement agile methodology


Agile approach is considered extremely popular while speaking of project management methods. But alongside agile characteristics you will also hear such terms as Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming and many others. Are these totally different systems or do they share any similarities? If it is agile vs Scrum, what would be perfect in current situation?

We suggest to discuss agile approach in detail, discover the prospects of practising agile as well as the reasons it became so widespread. As we discuss agile, various techniques of implementing it are worth mentioning, and Scrum, being such a widespread feature, is definitely among them.

Agile methodology 101

Iterative and incremental approach is the base for agile processes. Multiple other approaches include thorough project scheme which is created before it even begins. Agile implies a different approach as it is open to changes which would be actual to project stage. Users’ feedback should be considered and incorporated while iterating the ways of product creation. Changes are implemented with the aim get a working result.

Cross-functional groups of workers cooperate in agile product creation, sharing obligations and organizing their own schedule. Main priorities include customer values which offers flexibility in changes when demands become different.

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Agile methodology leadership values group cooperation as well as interpersonal discussion and accountability. It is not solely developers’ or manager’s responsibility to produce the ideal product, it includes both sides working together with a goal to align the result with customer’s requirements.

Agile approach also includes working in shorter cycles, compared to such methodologies as Waterfall. This is also more beneficial for both clients and vendors, as it provides continuous users' reviews and offers a possibility to alternate the working process regularly.

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The Agile Manifesto became the basis which states the main techniques used in agile methodology. It was created in 2001 by several IT workers who gathered to address various development approaches. Their discussion resulted in a publication of a Manifesto for Agile Software Development which includes 12 principles:

  1. Customer satisfaction is the main aim. It can be reached by delivering valuable software continuously;
  2. Demands might be changed even later during the whole time of the project;
  3. Working software should be delivered frequently within a short timeline (varying between several weeks and several months);
  4. Customers and team participants must communicate over the duration of work daily;
  5. The environment must evolve around highly motivated people. They should also be supported and trusted;
  6. Developers should concern face-to face discussion as the perfect way of addressing issues and exchanging details;
  7. Results can be estimated while checking new working software;
  8. Indefinite constant pace is crucial for providing continuous and sustainable results in agile processes;
  9. Technical excellence and good design represent the main importance;
  10. Attaining goals through simplicity;
  11. Self-organization of developers allows to provide best results aligning with customer's needs;
  12. Team reflections provide new approaches to attaining efficiency and regular adjustments of strategies.

How to realize agile methodology: best techniques

Agile approach might be implemented using various approaches. There are several methods which are chosen regularly for this purpose.

Scrum

Scrum is extremely famous if we speak of implementing these techniques. It includes software models with strict responsibility division as well as regular meet-ups. Such way also uses sprints which help groups of workers’ to show results regularly. Such sprints usually have a duration of several weeks. As you can now understand, it is not Scrum vs agile. The main question is whether Scrum suits your needs the most or would be more preferable consider other options.

Kanban

Visual frameworks which are used in agile implementation are called Kanban. Such approach has a basis of petty regular changes. Several main principles of Kanban can be noted:

  • visualized workflow;
  • limited work in progress;
  • continuous improvement;
  • flow management and enhancement.

Extreme Programming (XP)

The technique has the aim of delivering high quality products which correspond to the requirements provided by a business stakeholder. Its main features are openness to iterations with the base of feedback and simple development process.

Crystal Clear

This is the perfect choice for a team of up to 8 workers. Being located in the same space provides Crystal Clear users with the most efficient communication which allows to reach the goals successfully. Usable code is frequently delivered to customers in this approach.

Lean Software Development (LSD)

Lean Software Development bases are derived from Lean manufacturing and IT principles. There are seven main features of LSD:

  • waste elimination;
  • attention to learning;
  • postponing decisions to the later stages;
  • fast deliveries;
  • team empowerment;
  • integrity building;
  • seeing the process as a whole.

Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)

This is agile implementation method which addresses the main issues of IT development. Some of them are missed deadlines, going over budget and no user involvement in the process. It is a very business-focused approach which doesn’t compromise on quality or timelines and demonstrates control. At the same time it offers openness to change and continuous communication.

Scrum as a way to implement agile methodology

As we aimed to discuss what is the difference between Scrum and agile we will now study Scrum more precisely. As it was already mentioned before, Scrum is a popular technique which allows to implement agile processes in project management.

Scrum is an iterative scheme. To allow developers present working software regularly sprints are incorporated into the work process. That means tasks are completed fast. Sprints only last within one or several weeks. Each of such timelines ends with a meetup for developers and customers where they can come up with the further plan.

The tasks are fixed divided between developers in a group. A schedule with a demo and a retrospective is created for a sprint. Such plans include day-to-day stand-up meetings as well as those happening when the term is over. There are several ways which allow to track progress in Scrum. For that purpose various boards and charts are implemented.

The fixed set of roles Scrum implies includes:

  • Product Owner who is a medium between a customer and the workers. Product Owners aligns the work developers do with the vision customers have which allows to reach project goals. He or she also controls timelines and monitors the market;
  • Scrum Master. This person organizes meetups and communicates with a Product Owner to ensure having product backlog before the next sprint. His or her responsibilities also include aligning the team with the Scrum process;
  • Scrum Team. Usually consists of up to 7 members. The Scrum Team plans the work they can manage within one interaction. There are no distinguished roles in such teams as each member works together with the others to complete their common goal.

Scrum Flow also includes the following steps:

  • Product backlog which describes all of the features the final product must have;
  • Spring planning which happens in a meeting where a Product Owner suggests a list of top priority tasks and a team chooses those they can complete over a sprint;
  • Backlog refinement which happens once each sprint is over aims to prepare backlog for the following sprint;
  • Daily Scrum is a daily stand-up meeting which helps to keep all people included into the process updated on the results;
  • Sprint Review Meeting showcases results developers managed to achieve during the sprint;
  • Sprint Retrospective Meeting offers a possibility to review the previous iteration and suggest alterations which might offer the group of developers more suitable environment with a prospect of attaining results more successfully.

Scrum method advantages

Even though Scrum feels like an extremely prescriptive method of implementing agile it definitely has multiple benefits. Some of them include:

  • Total transparency. It is both day-to-day brief meetings and regular sprint meetings which allow to see control development process and implement alterations if necessary. Such discussions allow to eliminate misunderstandings as well as allow the developers to divide their responsibilities. As such discussions timely reveal the difficulties arising, the team is able to discover the ways which help to fix problems promptly;
  • Flexibility. Short sprints allow to denote problems and select changes which need to be implemented regularly. Constant customer’s feedback is also taken into consideration and, as the results are presented at every stage, it is much easier to accommodate change and align the product development with the requirements and needs. If certain needs are identified after a sprint, they are easily introduced to the next backlog and are taken into consideration;
  • Team accountability. All developers should rely on themselves and suggest decisions which will be discussed together. That means they can collectively choose the tasks they can manage to complete in a sprint as well as divide responsibilities conveniently. Developers also work together which allows to help each other but provides all members with the necessary independency;
  • Cost control. This is another benefit continuous communication provides. As important issues are discussed as they arise or even beforehand they can be fixed immediately. At the same time, if such discussions are postponed, mistakes can become too pricey to be fixed which requires more financial investitions from a customer. But when the issues are fixed timely, such expenses can be avoided;
  • Simplicity. Because there is no long-term plan, making the tasks more clear also offers better results. There are just enough people participating in the task completion for the result to be efficient which means everyone understand their places and tasks. Short-term sprints also allow achieve goals part-by-part implying understandable conditions.

Scrum method disadvantages

It is definitely worth remembering that even though there are so many benefits Scrum management can offer, it also includes drawbacks. Those are important to consider as knowing about them only helps to make the project more efficient.

  • Scope creep. As there might not be a specific completion date, certain Scrum projects go through scope creep. In such conditions customers are tempted to request extra work and functions to be installed because of lack of specifications;
  • Team experience. Developers participate in a project and regulate the process within an iteration themselves, which means each member should be experienced and knowledgeable of Scrum approach. Technical experience is another feature crucial to agile processes. Workers don't have prescribed roles so they should be ready to do various requested tasks. Commitment to stand-ups is mandatory;
  • Scrum Master doesn't manage the whole project. If this is ignored and the Master tries to force certain decisions onto developers, the whole concept of such environment is destroyed;
  • Tasks must be set clearly, otherwise the results won't be reached. It is crucial to formulate a task as well as a desired result clearly because it allows to achieve results within reasonable timeline with moderate iterations with no radical influence on the cost.

Summary

Altogether it is now understandable that question of agile vs. Scrum shouldn’t be placed in such way. Deciding to implement agile methods while mamboing a project it is also important to come up with the best tool to choose. Scrum is only a single choice among other options. It might seem overwhelmingly popular, but the choice should also consider the exact case. Both benefits and drawbacks must be taken into consideration while making this decision. But nevertheless Scrum remains an extremely successful agile management method especially since it is extremely transparent to both sides of the product development process.



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