Monday, April 30, 2012

Can Scrum give us the features we want?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser,

It’s me again, Daniel, from the CMMI certified engineering firm in Dayton Ohio. Thank you for answering my question about CMMI and Scrum, but I’m still in the dark about features. We know what to expect from the CMMI, but can Scrum give us the features we need or not?

Daniel, the connection between CMMI and Scrum remains a mystery to many executives – and that’s OK! The CMMI Appraiser is here to help.

The secret of CMMI and Scrum is that they are more alike than they are different.  A lot of folks see CMMI and Scrum as polar opposites. But there’s a reason these two things exists. CMMI and Scrum both exist to solve problems. CMMI and Scrum are allies, not adversaries. Like these cool kids:

Why shouldn't CMMI and Scrum be friends? As the leader of your company, you can make that happen.  Use the CMMI to improve the Scrum processes to produce better results.

Now, about those pesky features. As I think I said last time, the Scrum team is a nuclear team that does all of its work inside of the time box called “sprint” and spends most of their effort focusing on the task at hand.  This is part of the magic of a scrum team - not forcing them to focus on too much at once.  One of those things that goes on outside of them is the generation of the features (usually either derived from, or a replacement for, requirements). The quality of these features, or functional requirements, must be reasonable, implementable, and well thought-out so the Scrum Team can accept them and turm them in to something valuable.

Trying to get visibility of the features to the scrum team can be tough when you hear your Scrum team say, “We don’t need any process.” But if you sit down with them and buy them a drink, and really talk about quality of the features, they will all start laughing and say the quality is poor. They may even say, “We get a lot of junk for stuff that can’t be implemented.”  They may even start telling you how to improve that (without using the dreaded "p-word" of course!).

At this point, you should ask them: “Would you like to receive higher quality features that are easier to implement and are more implementable?”

Most likely, everyone will say, “Yes.”

Right then I would make the argument that CMMI can help make their live's easier.

For example, check back to my lasts post about Daily Stand-ups. By adopting some of the best practices that the CMMI provides, and applying them to the simple Daily Stand-up construct, you will know exactly what’s happening with the features – same as you do in true CMMI environments (guess what....they're the same thing...).  That's because both CMMI and Scrum are all about solving problems.  They are not so different as you think.

Learn to get the two to work together, and they will be your BFF.

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Visit for more information about running a successful CMMI program.

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