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Scrum creates an atmosphere where employees and projects can easily succeed. This Agile approach offers a particular set of values and principles, encouraging our team to excel while not overwhelming/overworking our employees.
“Scrum is a framework for developing and sustaining complex products” (Scrum Guide).
So, how do we manage various products and projects? Scrum!
Before you read further, please understand the reasons given below may not guarantee success at your organization but have worked well at BETSOL.
Like many companies, BETSOL has employees in various locations across the US and India. Displaced teams are not ideal conditions for using Scrum, especially when communication crosses time zones and continents. However, with the growing complexity of today’s economic climate and the rapid innovation in technology, we accept these challenges as reality and strives for continuous improvement.
The top 10 reasons Scrum works well for us
1. Leadership Support & Encouragement
Many companies struggle to get buy-in from upper-management when transitioning from a traditional Waterfall project management style to an Agile approach. Whether it’s trying a new process or using a new tool, there always seems to be pushback. People are reluctant to change, even when it’s for the better. Scrum provides a framework which helps retain resources and creates a more efficient work environment. The Agile structure allows BETSOL to be nimble, giving us the ability to adapt to fast-changing requirements from our stakeholders.
We have, by no means, perfected agility. But with the support of BETSOL’s leadership, I am confident we will continue to improve our understanding of the Scrum framework and evolve our Agile mindset.
Teamwork is a value of Scrum that should not be overlooked or undervalued. Scrum allows the team to stay committed to the work and to each other. Communication between the US and India requires sacrifice. Team members often take calls early in the morning or late in the evening. The Development Team understands they’re not alone; together they’re achieving their goals. In today’s tech space, there are several tools we use to close the communication gap. These tools allow team members to stay synced with one another.
Since the focus of Scrum is on team delivery, we’ve hired individuals that are team oriented. We’ve passed on experienced candidates due to their lack of team dynamic. That’s not to say we won’t hire someone who will challenge the status quo, but ensuring their goal is for the betterment of the team is essential in our hiring process. Finding individuals who fit the mold can be challenging, but it is an important challenge to tackle. Ensuring team dynamic and commitment stays intact is vital to the advancement of our products. At BETSOL, we ensure progression by hiring smart and not rushing to get a body in a seat.
Scrum allows our teams to stay focused on the tasked at hand. Most team members are dedicated to one team; they’re focused on that product/project and aren’t pulled into working on other tasks (unless it’s ping-pong). The Scrum framework gives a set of tasks to be completed within a certain timeframe, contributing immensely to the focus of the team. Knowing what work is coming allows our teams to communicate with one another to ensure the work is completed in the allotted time.
Without focus, our teams would miss deadlines, have incomplete sprints and veer off in the wrong direction.
Transparency from our clients’ and ourselves helps support a successful and smooth business relationship. When our team uses Scrum, our clients receive insight to what we are working on every two weeks. We’re comfortable being transparent with our clients. Our Product Owner presents our Scrum boards, our backlog, and our burndown charts. Our Development Teams have transparency through the Product Owner (PO), giving them clear direction and vision. Our PO’s maintain an open dialect between the Development Teams and our clients, assuring both sides are happy.
At an organizational level, transparency is maintained throughout the entire company. Leadership provides updates regarding the health of the organization from a business perspective. Likewise, employees are encouraged to share their ideas for improvement. The Leadership Team appreciates hearing employees request, making the best and realistic ideas a reality.
5. Incremental & Iterative Progression
Scrum breaks down large, complex projects into smaller tasks. The end goal becomes more attainable when our Teams change their approach to consuming tasks. We are able to show our clients and stakeholders incremental progress, demoing the work we’ve completed after two weeks. We are able to receive rapid feedback, allowing us to iterate quickly as the scope changes. Scrum enables us to stay on pace with what our clients request and expect. When it is time to deliver a big picture item, we’ll be spot on with the stakeholder’s requirements, thanks to the Scrum Framework.
6. Trust & Respect
At the team level, trust is a virtue you may not notice until it’s gone or misused. In a professional setting, trust can often be overlooked and undervalued. A team without trust will create a toxic environment. I know this sounds cliché, but trust isn’t given, it’s earned over time.
How do you know that others trust one another? Or, that you’re trusted? Is it through actions? Through words? How much weight do the words “trust me” or “I trust you” hold? To me, it depends on who says it. If it’s a stranger, I’ll take those words with a grain of salt. If it’s a family member or friend, those words carry more weight. The same is true between co-workers. I can’t say, with certainty; our team members trust each other at BETSOL. I can say though the employees have created an environment which empowers trust to flourish.
When a colleague takes PTO, there’s no interruption to the product. In true team fashion, the rest of the Team picks-up the missing effort, ensuring the work doesn’t suffer. This gives our employees peace of mind, so they can rest and relax while on vacation!
I’ve heard colleagues refer to each other as friends. Many of the employees spend time together outside the confines of normal work hours. They attend sporting events, climb mountains, and attend concerts together. Some are even roommates! These are all indications that trust and respect are being built, which is the foundation of a successful Scrum Team.
As stated above, the Scrum process is iterative and allows for continuous feedback. We receive constant feedback from our clients and stakeholders, allowing our development teams to stay motivated. BETSOL’s products and projects are contributing to our stakeholder’s greater mission as an organization. We are impacting their customers and their employees. We are building features and tools that will save their customers and employees time and money. BETSOL is a part of something big! Receiving quick feedback indicates our work is important to our clients, keeping us motivated.
BETSOL also maintains high client satisfaction levels. We uphold the high standards we’ve set, and yet, we continue to strive to exceed our customers’ expectations. We stay motivated to perform better as individuals, teams, and as a company.
Since Scrum breaks down the big picture into small tasks, the Development Team is able to stay organized. We understand exactly what should be worked on and when. Scrum provides us the ability to stay tremendously organized and focused on priorities. Scrum gives us a clear pathway to a final destination and reduces the likelihood of large impediments arising. I’ve received feedback from various colleagues who have informed me that Scrum provides them with remarkable organization and clarity around the work that’s required of them.
Human interaction shouldn’t be suppressed in an Agile environment; it should be encouraged. Obviously, these interactions should be work related and not be wasteful to the team’s ability to get work done. BETSOL allows teams to communicate in the way they see fit. Face-to-face interactions are encouraged, when possible. With displaced teams, it’s often communication that suffers, however, encouragement from the Leadership to maintain a clear and open dialect is vital to our success.
10. Company Culture
Fostering a culture that promotes agility can be difficult. Here at BETSOL, employees are working to create a culture where they will thrive. We have ping-pong and billiards in the office. These games give us the ability to step away from our desks and engage in some friendly competition with our colleagues. They give us the opportunity to have conversations with our colleagues we may not have had otherwise. We have been given the freedom to set our own Team office hours. Our company culture is one of acceptance; acceptance to change, acceptance to diversity, and acceptance of new (and fun) ideas.
Culture is a living organism; it changes and adapts pending the personalities within the company. At BETSOL, the environment is comfortable and open. The culture, like the business, is growing and it’s being shaped by the employees.
BETSOL’s reasons are also likely to change; Scrum makes it easier to adapt to those changes.
We would love to hear what makes Scrum successful in your organization.
Contribution by: Tim Justin-Bridgman
Tim is a Scrum Master at BETSOL. He holds a CSM (Certified Scrum Master) and a CSPO (Certified Scrum Product Owner) certifications. Tim is passionate about how people interact and work together to create innovative solutions.