What were you doing on October 19, 1995? According to the internet, not much; most of the news from that day is reminding us of Black Monday, which had happened nine years before. But for what is now over 11 million people who practice Scrum on a daily basis, it was a big day. That was the day that Scrum was officially announced at the OPPSLA 1995 conference in Austin, Texas. Though many of the terms and structure of SCRUM (yes, the original description included SCRUM in uppercase) has changed as it evolved into Scrum, the empirical essence of the approach is still the same. This is both a testament to how good those original ideas were, and how, by keeping things simple, you can create a framework that is timeless.
Scrum was born from the realization that plan-driven approaches do not work for software projects because of the sheer volume of uncertainty. The ideas of Waterfall, though fantastic for project management, poorly support the craft of software delivery. Agile, and its most successful child, Scrum, put in focus a conflict that most software delivery professionals had known from their first project.
The conflict between a project manager asking for an absolute estimate of time, cost, and quality before the project begins (even if the customer doesn’t know what they want) comes from the fact that the developers have never delivered software to solve any given problem before, and operations has never really deployed the resulting type of application. Everyone knows that any estimate and commitment will be wrong, but everyone pretends it is possible, thus creating the underlying conflict of delivering software, or the software crisis. To add to that, the team has never worked together and each team member is also working on another three projects. The ability to plan to the hour is impossible. The insanity of treating software delivery like building bridges or cars had to stop. Hence why Ken Schwaber, Jeff Sutherland, and the Agile community put a line in the sand, calling order to the industry.
But that revolutionary idea and community seem like they were a long time ago. After all, mobile phones were rare, Blockbuster was still a multi-million dollar business, and you bought your music on a disk. Since the inception of Scrum, we have seen it grow from an approach practiced by a few "Agilisiters" to one that is used by the majority of organizations that are delivering software. The roles of Scrum Master and Product Owner have become mainstream and almost everyone is doing a Daily Scrum, even if they incorrectly call it a stand-up. The idea of Sprints, frequent inspection and a regular product review combined with a retrospective to improve, is commonplace. As the use of Scrum has become widespread, you would think that business agility and the tyranny of Waterfall would have been eradicated, but they're far from it. As I first described in a Forrester Research paper in 2011, the reality for many organizations is water-scrum-fall where only the development team are working in an Agile way, with Scrum slotting into a more traditional planning and release approach. Add to that cultural clash between traditional organizations and Agile ones, and you have an environment where the benefits of Scrum are muffled and business agility is still a pipe dream.
Birthdays are a great time to reflect on the past and look to the future. So, what is on the horizon for Scrum? Ken and I have presented The Future of Scrum a number of times and I will be presenting it again in Austin on Thursday, October 20. If you are available, please stop by and celebrate in the town where the ideas were first presented as I will be describing what is next for Scrum. If you cannot attend this talk, here are the three things that we need to focus on over the next 20 years.
- Connect better to the whole IT organization. Instead of just being labeled "the thing developers do," Scrum needs to be better connected to the whole IT organization without damaging the ideas of Scrum. Instead of water-scrum-fall, we need to form Agile organizations that take advantage of the bottom-up intelligence of Scrum teams and provide support rather than hindrance to empiricism and learning.
- Measures that drive the right behavior. By aligning Scrum teams better to the business, you can take advantage of the natural problem-solving abilities of Scrum in a business context. But without clear, shared measures, it is hard to see the value of what your teams are delivering. Velocity has always been the cornerstone of Scrum, but value is what we really need to deliver. That why we need to focus on value-based measures that drive long-term success rather than short-term validation.
- Build bridges to the Software Craftsman and DevOps communities. Scrum is all about delivering "done" software, and when we say "done," ideally, we mean in production being used by users and customers. But for many, the ceremonies of Scrum have replaced the focus on great software delivery. Scrum has become the "thing" rather than teams using Scrum to improve the important things that we need to do in order to deliver software that wows users and customers in an environment of learning and improvement. To resolve this, we need to build bridges from the empirical approach of Scrum to the communities focused on improving the craft of software and delivery that we find with DevOps and XP or Craftsman communities. Scrum is not replaced by these ideas but used alongside them to improve the overall profession of those delivering software.
The reality is that though Scrum essentially will stay the same, it should connect better with others as it matures. In support of this, we have a lot of things happening this week, the week of Scrum’s birthday.
- Scrum’s birthday party in Burlington, Mass. On Wednesday, October 19, in the Scrum.org Burlington office, we will eat cake, drink fizzy stuff, and celebrate Scrum’s birthday in the building where the first Scrum team was created. The party will follow the Professional Scrum Master course (also created by Ken Schawber), which will take place at the same training center. If you are in the area and would like to join the party, contact us at email@example.com.
- The party then continues to Austin, Tex., where Scrum was actually introduced to the world, with:
- The Future of Scrum presentation. On Thursday, October 20, at Agile Austin we celebrate again with our Austin community. It seems fitting to have Austin involved in the celebration, as not only is there a large amount of Scrum teams in the area, but the original paper was presented in OPSLA 21 years ago.
- Agile at Scale SIG. On Friday, October 21, at Agile at Scale SIG, we continue the celebration with a discussion about Scrum in the large, and how Nexus (the exoskeleton for scaling Scrum) works.
An exciting week of events adding to the 19 Professional Scrum classes that are happening around the world during the week.