Scrum not for me (and I am not afraid to say it)

Faster and faster is the way to go. No more time for slow and steady. Then there is the constant drumbeat of change driving the push toward flexibility and agility. All powerful drivers that appear to have propelled the rise of agile software development.

Today everyone says they are on the agile bus. Getting someone to admit that they still use Waterfall could be a steep hill to climb.

In the agile world, Scrum seems to be the leader. Building deployable software increments in two week sprints surely holds strong appeal to those who want to get things done quickly and efficiently.

Agile is certainly getting popular. A 2013 survey reported that 74 percent of organizations are using Agile whereas in 2010 the number was 35 percent. When people talk about Agile, they are most likely referring to Scrum. So it is probably safe to assume these numbers also broadly apply to Scrum.

Say what you will about Scrum but at its core it does look like an adaptation of Waterfall at a user story level, if not a sprint level. Perhaps if you contain scope sharply enough, Waterfall could remain a viable option for most folks.

But if I was a developer, I would probably vote for Agile Scrum. The emphasis on collaboration, independence, creative thinking, problem solving, and team work does have a certain charm to it. However Scrum appears to call for an exceptional team: talented, multi-skilled, closely knit, high energy (tags that would likely rule me out!). One can see Scrum flourishing in places like Google, Facebook, and Yahoo.

Yet flip over to the typical enterprise IT environment and it becomes unclear how universally applicable Scrum in its purest form could be. Scrum seems to require a certain type of enterprise culture and clearly not everyone would find that suitable nor would it be right in every case.

Given the amount of flexibility handed to team members and the self-governance it entails, it does look hard to make true Scrum work well in a large enterprise environment. On the other hand, smaller organizations with committed, cohesive teams do appear to be a great fit for Scrum.

Therefore when everyone says they follow Scrum it raises the question how faithfully they have adopted all its underlying principles. Agile and Scrum have become part of the prevailing fashion, a catch phrase if you will, and admitting to not being part of that group could be embarrassing at best and career threatening at worst.

That has led to the development of alternatives like the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFE). Though some agile practitioners are opposed to SAFE, it does seem to better align with the emphasis on enterprise architecture and governance that are prevalent in the enterprise world.

Possibly the answer is that there is no one framework that fits all situations. Everyone will need to pick and choose what works best in their environment. Dogmatic adherence to the principles of any one methodology looks to be counterproductive.

Evidently things will change over time. What worked a year back may not be the best solution today. So much is evolving in the IT world with new mobile platforms, wearables, and so on; constant reexamination of processes and frameworks appears to be the only way forward.

Conceivably we will start to see some practitioners look you in the eye and say they use Waterfall, with pride.


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