Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Can we get a Scrum reporting tool?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser – I’m CEO of a CMMI certified engineering firm using agile methods here in Dayton Ohio. I would like to put our Scrum Teams on larger projects because they consistently deliver on time and on budget. The problem is, they rarely deliver all of the features we need, and I rarely find out until too late. Is there a Scrum reporting system or tool we can use to get a tighter grip? ~ Daniel C.

Hey, Daniel,

The best tool you can employ for Scrum projects (or for any others) is the one between your ears.


The beauty is that Scrum teams tend to be self-organizing, independent, process-light, and quick to change.  Like snowflakes, no two are ever exactly alike.   Each has it's own "velocity." But because they are so different, most companies have trouble imagining how they "fit in" and are using Scrum for only a small subset of their projects. You are not alone in experiencing a lack of visibility into what they are doing. For some, it’s a total white-out.

Don’t take this wrong, Daniel, but part of the problem with using Scrum is that management often doesn’t understand its iterative and incremental nature. They want a "Big Plan up Front" (a "BPUF"). Scrum a bottom-up, collaborative, and self-organizing system for getting work done.  It often starts when one or two teams come up to management and ask if they can implement Scrum. Management agrees to it because it sounds "quick and light", but they quickly realize they have no idea of what’s going on.  But it doesn't have to be this way.

But knowing this does little to solve your problem. You aren’t getting good information. And you can’t make good business decisions without good information.

Strictly speaking Scrum doesn't encourage things like weekly status reporting.   Its primary focus is on their Scrum team. They call it a self-organizing team. There isn’t even a project manager (oh no!).

So how do you get the information you need to run the business?

One solution is to combine Scrum and CMMI. At my company Broadsword, we strengthen scrum with the CMMI, based on the needs of the company.

Case in point, the Daily Stand-up. As you know, Scrum Teams opt for Daily Stand-ups as opposed to the traditional status meetings. We don't want to change that because it's a powerful construct for communications.  In a very light and agile way, we want to use the CMMI as a framework to make sure we are talking about things in the Daily Stand-up that are really important, and to help guide us through decisions.

This gives us two major advantages. By using the simple Daily Stand-up mechanism, we get a really crisp, robust view of the project, so we can understand what’s going on. We understand it early, and we understand it often. And by adopting some of the best practices that the CMMI provides, we get more value out of the Daily Stand-up, allowing us to make it even stronger than it already was.

It comes down to visibility, not reporting, Daniel. When agile and CMMI are aligned and working properly together, you get good information, which in turn allows you to make good business decisions – including whether or not to alocate your Scrum teams to larger projects (yes - you should do it!).

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 www.broadswordsolutions.com for more information about running a successful CMMI program.

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