Deadlines are approaching, customers are calling to get a progress report on their project, stress balls are squeezed and employees stay long hours to fix unplanned issues. If this is something you recognise perhaps a change of project management methodology is needed. There are several ways of increasing productivity and collaboration, for example implementing an online project management platform, which can prove doubly effective when combined with the positive influence of changing the way teams are handled throughout a project’s development.
Even though “agile” and “scrum” are mostly used for software development, this kind of methodology can easily be applied to any type of product/project by replacing some of the steps to be more in line with your product and workflows. It will require some work if the scope is outside development, but the principle works in almost any field. It’s the way of thinking about projects that is the lesson from scrum, not necessarily the exact way of working.
One of the most common ways of organising a project is called “waterfall.” It’s sequential in nature and follows a set number of phases. It starts off by formulating the requirements, followed by analysing, designing, testing, implementing and finally there is usually a maintenance phase. This rigorous set of steps usually offers more control during each phase but with the drawback of less flexibility – once a step is completed its hard to go back and make changes. Many companies have started to move away from this as clients require a more high-paced workflow where changes and iterations can be implemented on the fly.
Scrum, a framework which is part of the agile methodology, is defined by its focus on shorter iterations (called sprints) and self-managed teams where collaboration is easier and less specialisation is needed. It starts off with a simplistic project design and then starts work on a single or several smaller modules. These modules are worked on in sprints, which usually last for a week or a month for larger projects. At the end of each sprint, testing and evaluation is made, at which point the client can come with input if needed. After any feedback is incorporated, new sprints start with either a new focus or a continuation of the previous one, and this way the cycle continues until the project is finished. With these shorter timeframes the development of the project is much more flexible, which means that changes to the original idea are more easily implemented once production is underway.
With scrum you have a project lead, called “scrum master,” who coordinates the different teams via a daily meeting. This is usually a short meeting that works like a status update for all involved parties. Due to the flexible nature of the methodology it puts a lot of responsibility on the employees to be self-going and on the scrum master to be good at leading the teams in an ever-changing environment. This is perfect for a fast paced market, but perhaps less so if things are more predictable and stable.
If flexibility is your goal then scrum could well be the way to go. It’s more adaptable compared to the more old-school sequential methods, works wonderfully in tandem with a contemporary online platform for project management and, if the client wants to have an influence during the development process, it’s definitely superior.