Why Scrum Why Scrum
27 December

Why Scrum?

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The emergence of scrum as an alternative approach to managing projects has been bewildering. It started off as a methodology suited primarily for the IT industry but has now been touted as the mainstay of project management in an increasingly turbulent business environment. So what is “scrum” and why is it gaining such rapid popularity? This article aims to shed some light towards answering this question.

Project Management is based on the premise that you only execute based on what is planned in order to maximize profits. This is possible only if the needs of the client are predictable and external environment remains stable.  In reality, this is not the case. Almost every aspect of the business ecosystem within which projects are undertaken, including customer requirements changes at an increasingly alarming rate. As such the basic assumption that underlies traditional project management, which is, you know what the customer requires and you can plan for what lies ahead in order to maximize profits, does not hold any longer.

Given its preoccupation with the need to plan based on a presumed unchanging requirement of a customer, project management adopts a predictive approach to management where it is assumed that it is possible to predict, with some degree of certainty what will transpire as the project unfolds. The focus is to maximize profits but minimizing cost. This predictive approach to realize this focus is fine in a stable environment in which things don’t change. In reality, things do change. Technology changes, competitor actions change, product life cycles change and customer’s requirements change.

Hence to maximize profits based on a prediction of what will happen is based on a false assumption that customers needs and the business environment does not change. This results invariably in having to undo what is done at the terminal stage of a project, leading to losses and delays. Ultimately the costs rise and the ability to maximize profits is impaired. Initially this was a perennial problem for IT based projects only. Now it has become a problem for almost all projects being undertaken.

What is needed is agility. The ability to change and respond to change in order to profit in a turbulent environment. To be agile means having the willingness and capability to change plans, objectives, beliefs and to a large extent the mindset of the project team. In an ever changing business ecosystem in which the customer requirements are unpredictable, the need to change and respond to change is what keeps businesses alive.

Scrum adopts a methodology that subscribes to this concept of agility. It is fundamentally different from project management in two primary dimensions, approach and focus. In conventional project management, the approach is predictive whereas in scrum the approach is adaptive. In conventional project management, the focus is on maximizing the company’s profit, in scrum the focus in on maximizing the customers value.

In conventional project management, the processes and tools used to manage projects is defined and adopted based on what is assumed the customer requires. The contract is the reference point for customer requirements. With increasingly shorter product lifecycle, with the advent of increasingly disruptive technologies and uncertainty in terms of deciphering end user requirements, customer requirements do change. It is not possible for customers to define what they really require in a predetermined contract. What they need is some assurance that the project team will collaborate with them to navigate the uncertainties they themselves face. They need the project team delivering the service or products to be agile.

By being agile, adapting to changing business requirements and focusing on what adds value to the customer, a collaborative relationship evolves between the project team and the customer. There is a heightened sense of awareness of limitations faced on both parties and a deep felt desire to work together to realize the full benefits the customer derives from a project as well as be able to maximize profits comes to fruition.

The scrum methodology is based on certain key principles that drive the adaptive approach and enables the project team to focus on providing value to the customer. There is a standard process that has been recommended that serve as guidelines when adopting scrum methodology. What results is a somewhat different approach which alters the overall aspects relating to quality, change, risk and value proposition that is normally associated with in project management.

In todays world, the only constant is change. Changing the way projects are managed is no more something we can aspire towards. It is now a need that we can no longer ignore.

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Dr Rumesh Kumar

Dr Rumesh Kumar is a certified project management professional, a certified professional trainer and performance improvement consultant specializing in the areas of leadership development, continual productivity improvement and enhancement of interpersonal skills.

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