Thursday, February 18, 2016

Can we bolt CMMI’s risk management onto our Scrum Teams?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser

It’s Bob, from a CMMI certified software engineering company in San Diego California. We’ve been using the CMMI to improve our Scrum Teams’ Daily Standup meetings, and that’s helped us understand what’s being done. Can we bolt on other aspects of the CMMI that don’t exist in Scrum, like risk management? ~ Bob A.

Bob, gee, "bolting on" sounds a little heavy and rigid for a Scrum Team, doesn't it? But I like where you’re going with this. Here’s a better way to say it: when we combine CMMI and Scrum, can we pick aspects of Scrum that we strengthen with the CMMI, based on the needs of our company? Now you’re talking, Bob! The goal is to make both frameworks stronger, in a way that makes sense for your company. Maybe not with bolts.

I’m glad you brought up the Daily Standup example.  In a Daily Standup, every morning, for 15-20 minutes, the team stands together to discuss issues that are important to them. But there is no guidance around things that get talked about, and how things are going. As a result, the impact of the meeting, in terms of insight for management, is pretty weak. The format generally goes as follows:

“Here’s what I am doing.”

“Here’s what I plan to do.”

“Here are the kinds of problems I’m having.”

That’s fine, but it leads an opportunity for many things not being done – such as paying attention to the risk.

This is common everywhere. If you asked your Scrum team, “How do you understand to risk?” they would say, “We do that in the Daily Standup. If somebody has a risk they bring it up.”

This won’t cut it for executives who need solid information about risk to make business decisions. The CMMI offers categories of risks that are important to us (like technical risk, financial risk, and business risk) and provides for brainstorming within these categories, recording them and sharing them with the appropriate stakeholder.

Does that mean ditch Scrum? No! Keep Scrum, and add that type of analysis in Daily Standup maybe once or twice a week.

I’ll give you an example. Here at Broadsword we have clients who discuss risk once a week in their Daily Standup. They use the guided risk management within the CMMI to make their risk discussions more meaningful. And guess what? Management understands where they are with functional requirements. Sounds like a dream, right?

The trick to making this work is not to ditch Scrum or change how Scrum works, but to take the individual Scrum ceremonies involved (things like the Daily Standup or sprint retrospectives) and make them stronger.

We would never try to force a Scrum team to do BPUF, for example, or have status meetings simply because management wants information. That’s how it works in a Waterfall world, but not in Scrum. Take the Daily Standup and leverage it back to improve the information that is being gathered. Use the guidance that the CMMI gives to the constructs of Scrum, instead of trying to change the construct.

What I hope you’ve gained from this conversation, Bob, is that CMMI is fully compatible with Scrum, and can be used to improve agile methods, making your investment in agile both powerful and productive.

If you’d like to know more about applying the CMMI’s Risk Management guidance to Scrum, sign up for the latest webinar in our “Everything You Need to Know” series:

Webinar: “Everything You Need to Know: Managing Project Risk!”

Date: Friday, February 26, 2016 @ noon EST

Registration: Sign up here.

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.

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