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Building Scalable & Responsive Architecture

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The State of Scrum at IDL

A short while back [in a moment of procrastination… I mean, ‘personal development’] I read a report on the State of Scrum. This research survey was a global one, asking project professionals from over 70 countries about Scrum & Agile and other methodologies.

Reading the report with our own context in mind helps to benchmark where we are good and where we can improve vs the other players in the industry and so I reviewed this report, largely to get a feel for what we can be proud of at IDL and what we might need to focus on improving during this year.

I thought I’d share a brief summary of the findings, and my interpretation of these.

1. Culture is king.
Self-organising teams and a culture of collaboration are key ingredients for success. We are pretty good, (and in my eyes rapidly maturing as a whole organisation) in this respect. That said, especially when the pressure is on, we must beware the trap of micro-managing our teams. Instead, we need to maintain our prioritised backlog so that our teams can self-organise and deliver those business priorities in the most efficient and effective way that they can. Trust and clarity of purpose will give us motivated teams, yielding better results.

2. Certified Scrum Masters.
IDL is in a minority in terms of having access to qualified Scrum practitioners. Only 28% of the respondents had the Certified Scrum Master qualification that Stephen and I hold. Only 3% hold the Certified Scrum Professional accreditation that I hold. This is not to blow any trumpets; rather just to remember that many companies try to muddle by without qualified servant-leaders, which often results in a nasty hybrid of values and processes.

3. Scrum is most popular Agile practice.
Of all the agile methodologies (inc Kanban, XP, Lean etc) - Scrum is by far in a way the most popular choice of framework. We are mainstream in that respect.

4. We (at IDL) are consistent with our delivery method.
We are part of the 20% minority who are always using Scrum. The fact we release value to our live products every fortnight is testament to having achieved a good level of maturity.

5. We (at IDL) have similar challenges and needs to many other businesses.
Businesses across the globe adopting Scrum are crying out for these most important supporting factors:

  • Active senior management sponsorship & support for Scrum (27%)
  • A clear set of business goals (22%)
  • Alignment (19%)

These 3 things represent the holy-grail for us in my opinion. The increasing collaboration and clarity that we get from fortnightly review & prioritisation sessions (with key stakeholder and our CEO) is a clear indicator of each of these supporting factors in practice.

The report also found that the key enablers for successful Scrum teams, are:

  • Being supported by a product owner
  • Being empowered to do its work
  • Being self-organising

Since the turn of the year, we have seen a step change in all three of these enabling points, I’d be intrigued to hear if anyone feels any differently. We have much closer product ownership and engagement for our 2 core products; resulting in clearer objectives and clearer, more stable, sprint goals. This in turn supports a greater focus within the teams, and as you techies all know, less context switching = greater quality and volume of output.

Our teams are increasingly trusted and empowered, with “healthy debate” being far more commonplace than disagreement or conflict. This trust in turn is giving us the breathing space to self-organise, and it is genuinely a joy to see everyone pulling together to thrash through problems and reach sprint goals.

6. Customer is king.
The survey found that the #1 driver of business priorities is “customer needs” (41%). This is interesting as we often, understandably, focus upon “revenue”, or potential revenue as a specific driver. If the proposition drives revenue and we relentlessly improve based upon customer needs then the end result will, by definition, be greater revenue. So the fact that we are basing product requirements upon extensive user testing activity and A/B testing in our production environment is really reassuring.

7. Scrum is not limited to Tech.
The most common “non-IT” parts of businesses using Scrum are:

  • Operations (19%)
  • R&D (19%)
  • Sales & Marketing (8%)

In the past 12 months I’ve started seeing a greater understanding of, and engagement with the Scrum process that we use in tech. For me, the time you know you’ve got Scrum truly nailed, is when other parts of the business start wondering if they too can benefit from the approach. This hasn’t happened yet at IDL, and I’m loathe to push it, because to work best it needs to be organic (and also I’m kinda busy). But I do think that if we keep our own momentum, it is only a matter of time before we see more daily huddles springing up around the building…and I’ll be delighted to support that if and when it happens.