Scrum is, by far, the most popular way development teams are organized and work. In fact, well over 70 percent of Agile teams around the world use Scrum. But for those unfamiliar with the structure, Scrum may look like a strange collection of rituals and oddly named designations, such as the “Scrum Master.”
However, behind that collection of ceremonies, roles and rituals, Scrum is a huge opportunity for Operations teams to streamline development and delivery, improve productivity and create a strong sense of team within the group. Not only does Scrum encourage DevOps, but because it is empirical, risk and visibility are first-class citizens.
Scrum Basics, and More
For those wondering how to get started, here are eight things that every operations professional needs to know about Scrum:
- Scrum is not focused solely on developing software; it’s about delivering software. The Agile Manifesto describes it as “working software” and Scrum describes it as being “Done,” but ultimately, Agile encourages teams to deliver working software to production frequently. With that in mind, it becomes clear that Scrum is not just about software development, but includes everyone involved in delivering working software to customers.
- Definition of “Done” is a DevOps artifact. “Done” describes what it means to be finished with a product backlog item (PBI). Ideally, it describes all the steps necessary to release the PBI to production, or highlights the gap between what the Scrum team thinks Done is and Operations’ idea of what it means to be complete with a piece of work. Operations professionals need to get involved in the formation of the definition of Done (DoD) and work with the team to both improve its reach and validate its use.
- The increment should be integrated and deployable. In Scum-speak, the increment is the working software the team produces during a Sprint (a set time frame, from start to Done). If multiple Scrum teams are working on the same product, then it is crucial that the increment be integrated across those Scrum teams. And, when I say integrated, I really mean integrated—as in, tested with processes and practices that are consistent with delivery to production. Thus, the increment is “ready to go.” By regularly integrating the increment, many of the problems that historically have plagued Operations are removed, as teams are, by design, forced into falling in sync much earlier in the life cycle.
- The Sprint Review is not a phase gate to production. When moving from waterfall to Scrum, many organizations confuse the Sprint Review with a phase gate to move to production. Rather than being a phase gate for production—or the next phase of the process—the Sprint Review is a mechanism for the team and stakeholders to inspect and adapt at the boundary of the sprint. Ideally, the Sprint Review is executed on software that is being used by real users, in production. This increases the value of the review, as the team and stakeholders get to inspect how real people are using the software.
- Continuous integration and continuous delivery automate Done. At the heart of Scrum is the idea that teams deliver working software in small batches to better understand the risks, requirements and solution. Adding delivery to continuous integration (CI) ensures they not only are integrating the software, but also formalizing the deployment processes to ensure there are no surprises. This is a great place for Operations to get involved and help ensure that aspect of Done is consistent with how it views delivering software. This might mean additional steps—or at the very least—a better understanding of operational versus development systems.
- Scrum is an empirical process which helps reduce risk. The idea of delivering small chunks of functionality to support learning is at the heart of Scrum. Ultimately, Operations cares about risk. By delivering software in small batches, it is possible to surface risks early and mitigate them. By frequently delivering software, Scrum teams demonstrate they understand the processes necessary to deliver software, thus removing friction from traditional release processes. However, all of these benefits are undermined if the team does not use “production ready” deployment processes or include risk as part of their prioritization of what to work on next.
- The Scrum Masters are Operations’ friends. The role of the Scrum Master is to both protect the team from outside distractions and help them to identify and remove impediments. To deliver Done, the team needs to work effectively with Operations and thus, the Scrum Master often will be the person who helps build those relationships. By working closely with the Scrum Master, Operations professionals will gain better insight into what the Scrum team will need from them and how they can deliver Done software.
- Helping the Product Owner understand risk. The Product Owner (PO) manages the backlog, which is the place where all work exists. This means the PO is prioritizing the backlog and deciding on what should be done next. Normally, this is accomplished by looking at business value and negotiating with the Development team to determine what can be most effectively completed next. Operations has a great understanding of risk and, by working with the product owner, can add that context to the backlog, allowing the PO to make informed decisions and about value and risk.
Ultimately, Scrum provides a great framework to build bridges between Operations and Development and can act as a catalyst to drive fundamental improvements to the way teams collaborate and deliver business value. However, both sides need to stop hiding behind the “mystery of agile” to avoid each other and embrace the desire to break down things into small chunks, incrementally manage risk and get to repeatable Done software as fast as possible.
About the Author / Dave West
Dave West is the product owner at scrum.org. He is a frequent keynote speaker and is a widely published author of articles, along with his acclaimed book, “Head First Object-Oriented Analysis and Design.” He led the development of the Rational Unified Process (RUP) and then worked with Ivar Jacobson running the North American business for IJI. Then managed the software delivery practice at Forrester research where he was VP and research director. Prior to joining Scrum.org he was Chief Product Officer at Tasktop where he was responsible for product management, engineering and architecture. Follow him on Twitter.