An increasing number of organizations and teams have adopted a project-based approach to their operations. By 2027, most work in organizations will be project-based. So it’s no surprise that Project Management is one of the most popular and in-demand skills in the modern workplace.
Successful project management starts with a purpose, optimal allocation of tasks, and timelines and budgets. It requires soft skills like communication, coordination, emotional intelligence, adaptability, leadership, etc.
Various approaches can be adopted for project management. The most popular project management methodologies include Waterfall, Scrum, Kanban, Scrumban, Lean methodology, Adaptive Project Framework (APF), Critical chain project management, Six Sigma, Package enabled reengineering (PER), Outcome mapping, and many others.
Out of these, the Scrum methodology is increasingly preferred as a framework. But how will you know if it’s a good fit for your project? Let’s find out.
What is Scrum?
Under the Scrum framework, we break down the task into several shorter ones and aim to finish these in sprints. So, instead of directing all our efforts towards one big goal like in a marathon, we establish smaller targets, ship the product or the updates, and then take the customer feedback response to the team, who can then work on the next set of updates and iterations. Basically, after every sprint, work is taken from the backlog for each upcoming sprint iteration.
The Scrum framework is spearheaded by a Scrum Master, with the Product Owner and Development team members in tow. Scrum is, in fact, the most popular Agile framework. Scrum can be applied to projects in healthcare, defense, insurance, government, banking, and more.
What makes Scrum work?
The Scrum framework is easy to implement and is especially preferable for projects that entail evolving circumstances that require fast responses. With the incremental and iterative approach of the Scrum methodology, we can reduce time to market which can be a gamechanger in a competitive sector.
- Helps adapt to change
Change is the only constant in the modern world, and this means a constant influx of customer feedback and requests about product features or enhancements for a project manager. Scrum is highly iterative and places the customer before everything else. Scrum workflows can be easily modified to help manage the changing external situations.
- Enables faster time to market
Imagine a scenario where the entire team is working on a product or feature scheduled to be released next month. You log into work today to find out that your competitor has already pushed their product’s version to its customers with one of the most defining features you were working on. What’s the point of slogging to release a product that will no longer impress or attract customers?
Scrum’s time-boxed iterations, i.e. sprints, ensure that the team can release a product when it’s still relevant so that it can be marketed faster and the feedback can be captured from the users for future iterations of the product.
- Helps align business and IT
In a traditional organizational setup, you will notice that the IT and business departments work in silos. The development team hardly concerns itself with the business value of the product, while the business and marketing teams rarely interact with the actual product. Nothing could be more damaging to the conviction that a product should carry.
In the Scrum method of working, the product owner ties together the two ends,—business and development—adding value for the customers.
What Kind of Projects can be Executed Using Scrum?
We mentioned a few project management methodologies in the beginning—Scrum, Waterfall, Kanban, Lean, among others—but how do we know which of these methodologies is the right fit for your team or project?
While it is true that Scrum is apt for projects of all types and across a multitude of sectors, there are some considerations you should keep in mind before diving headfirst into the methodology.
- Research the success rate of Scrum adoption for a particular project
- The risks associated with Scrum adoption in this scenario and how you can mitigate or minimize the damage
- The types of tasks that will benefit from the Scrum framework
- And finally, Scrum’s suitability to the overall project
Certain characteristics of a project make the Scrum methodology a suitable one. It’s best to watch out for the following:
i. Novelty & Complexity
If you are working on a novel project and need a lot of real-time input from users, Scrum is the answer. You can release your product in stages, register the feedback you receive, and then incorporate the feedback in the product's next release.
We all do market research before we release a product. But it’s a waste if you allocate all your resources to a version of the product that the users don’t love entirely. Scrum allows you to release the product in parts, so you never find yourself in financial jeopardy. This is especially helpful for a novel product.
If your project is complex, Scrum is the right framework for you. The best way to deal with a problematic, enormous task is by breaking it down into smaller ones. Scrum is the best option for such complex and uncertain projects. When you cannot forecast long-term, it can be risky to base your entire product on assumptions. Scrum lets you soften the blow by containing the risk to just a sprint rather than the whole project.
ii. Urgency & Priority
Scrum follows an incremental and iterative approach when it comes to delivering functional products. This helps to ship new products or upgrades faster and more frequently. It removes the stringent controls that traditional project management enforces. Instead, the team can creatively address the rapidly changing client or customer needs.
Therefore, if features or feedback need to be incorporated on an urgent basis, Scrum facilitates the delivery of such demands. This may not be possible in traditional project management models.
Additionally, since Scrum projects work in sprints, they can also prioritize certain features and goals in the deliverables, get them done first and line the others up for the upcoming sprints.
In line with what we’ve mentioned about the responsiveness of the Scrum team to newer information and feedback, projects that demand a high level of adaptability are best suited for a Scrum Master to lead. The Scrum Master looks after the project flow and timelines, frequently checking in and running meetings and updates, so they can identify issues, pick up feedback and help the Scrum team pivot quickly and cost-efficiently.
Are your clients or stakeholders involved closely with the development of the product? Do you need to communicate with other teams like sales, marketing, etc., often to share updates on the project's progress? The Scrum board allows you to watch the project’s progress from its inception to delivery.
This helps bring the entire organization on the same page and fosters a collaborative spirit. Marketing teams can, for example, share the story of how the product came into its current form using this data. Scrum tools that help with visibility and transparency include task boards, daily stand-up meetings, sprint reviews, etc.
Hands-on information on project progress enables better planning across the entire organization, whether it’s resource allocation, budgeting, or marketing.
To Scrum or Not to Scrum: Rule of Thumb
How can you decide if a project is a good fit for the Scrum methodology? Think of the requirements in terms of what the daily tasks would look like. Can you deliver the work in short cycles? Will it help if your team meets every day to discuss updates on the workflows and make adjustments as and when needed? Does your project output have features that need to be tested before you can release the whole product?
If you answered to any of these in the affirmative, you are sure to benefit from Scrum. But remember that this also requires your team members to be responsive to feedback and be happy to make amends in tandem with the feedback received, too.
Under Scrum, your team will be able to respond to changes rapidly and efficiently. So, if change management forms a huge part of your project, Scrum is the answer.
The most appropriate projects for Scrum are those with a level of uncertainty, complexity, and novelty. When you want all stakeholders to watch the progress, Scrum is a good option. Most importantly, if you are doing something for the first time and want to incorporate feedback in real-time, you need agility in your team workflows; Scrum has a lot of utility for such projects. Next, you can explore how Scrum skills can also help with SAFe transformations.