Scrum - not a tool for Project Management
Written by Jeff on February 1, 2017 in blog

Use SCRUM within projects, not for projects

SCRUM is misunderstood in the world of Project Management. The source of the misunderstanding is that SCRUM is a delivery method, not a Project Management method.

SCRUM is for product delivery

Scrum - not a tool for Project Management

SCRUM is good on delivery. The SCRUM guide is good on sprints and backlogs, but silent on Project Management. That’s because SCRUM is typically used for product development and product maintenance. SCRUM teams are often permanent teams, linked to the product lifecycle: while the product exists, the team must exist to maintain the product. That means a permanent team. There is no start date and finish date for the work, it’s not a project. It is a long-term development of the product, organised as a series of releases or upgrades.

SCRUM is not a Project Management method

If you are a project manager, you need more than SCRUM. In your project, you will have a start date and a finish date, and you will need to focus on the whole project, not just on delivery. A Project Management method enables you to focus on the big picture and get a 360° vision of your project. You can choose any  Project Management method to give you this overview (Prince2, PMBoK or whatever). But don’t choose SCRUM, because it is not a Project Management method and won’t do the job.

SCRUM is only one of several Agile delivery options

In any project, you do need to deliver the day-by-day work. How you organise that work is a case-by-case, tactical choice.

In your project, you may choose to use SCRUM as your delivery option. Or you may choose another Agile delivery approach, such as Kanban. At Spotify, each team can choose. Some Spotify software development teams use SCRUM, others use Kanban. It’s a delivery option.

Agile is only one of several delivery options

In some projects, you may need a pick-and-mix approach, combining traditional and Agile delivery methods. You should adapt the delivery method to the deliverable. One deliverable may need a traditional approach, another may need Agile.

For example, for a web-site project, you might:

  • develop the user interface iteratively using SCRUM
  • install the new server using a classical specification and work package

You need more than SCRUM

Many teams use SCRUM with success. But you need to use it correctly. If you think of SCRUM as a Project Management approach, you will face problems across the board. You will lack the basics of Project Management such as plans and cost projections. And you will have a short-term approach, sprint by sprint.

The bottom line for a project manager is to use SCRUM within your project, but not for your project. It’s not a Project Management method.

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