A technology blog for The Economist Group IT team

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Are you a master of scrum? 

Anyone know about scrum?

A friend of mine is a Certified ScrumMaster and just mentioned it to me. Haven't had time to look at it much, but I'm taken with the name!
I like the idea of agile methodologies, but they all state you need customers to be very close to you and involved to do this. Directors of business often just want something to happen by “October 1st”. One of the off shoots of agile stuff is that you don't know exactly where you'll be on “October 1st”, you only know what you've done and what you've got planned to do in the next iteration which leads to three or four weeks away. Even that schedule is still up for grabs. Whilst I think that agile methodologies look nice and are the resume buzzword of the year, we aren't so suited to them yet.

The biggest problem with adopting them is customer agreement/sign off, what makes it worth their while? Why should they bother? It’s their business why should they change?

It kind of makes me think about how we name servers e.g. eulorsdcf1. I try to use this name when talking to economist.com regarding their development server. They have no idea what eulorsdcf1 is or amfmdr2 or any other acronym for servers at all but we name all their servers like this. We call eulorsdcf1 smarties when talking to Economist.com and CFO.com, it’s only slightly better but at least it’s a real world word. Surely it’s the customer that counts not our asset tracking codes or favourite methodology for delivery. I accept that some methodologies make things easier for us and possibly quicker/cheaper for customers and asset tracking by name makes it easy for us to figure out where a machine is but customers only want “it” delivered on “October 1st”.

I also meant to say that scrum looks ace.
I'm not so sure about customer sign-off. If it works, the customer won't care and probably doesn't even need to know that it's agile.

I know that this isn't a particularly good analogy, but if I go into Tesco or (god forbid) Wal*Mart and there's a queue at the checkout or they don't have what I want, I don't blame SAP or whatever backend system they use, I think that people haven't got it right.
I think one of the problems is that to be truly agile you need them to be involved though, and that involves admitting you don't know exactly when you'll deliver.
I am not an expert on agile methodologies, but I do think whoever developed your server naming scheme is without question a certifiable genius.
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