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Agile Software Development and Scrum: What Are the Benefits?

written by: Misty Faucheux • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 9/6/2011

An organization's ability to adapt to a changing business environment is critical. This article explores the benefits of using agile software development in conjunction with the Scrum project management methodology.

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    In today's society, everything seems to be fast-moving: the cars, the people and especially the Internet, but what about project management methodologies? The answer is agile software development. Agile software development allow teams to quickly exploit opportunities as they arise and finish projects in three to six months as opposed to 12 to 18.

    Agile software development methodologies allow teams to overcome distances in space, communication and societal differences, and Scrum is especially useful in this arena. Scrum breaks up the Q/A people, developers, program managers and others into teams of no more than seven people. In this way, teams can adapt faster and finish projects within a specific timeframe.

    What's especially nice about using the agile methodology is that you can get the project to the clients quicker and also have client input throughout the entire process. During the scrum process, you have meetings every day to over what's been done since the last meeting, what's on the agenda to do next and what has not been accomplished. This helps everyone see where others are at and overcomes bad communication.

    Scrum also allows teams to ask questions of the client in order to not only assure the client that the project is on schedule, but also to affirm what the team is doing is what the clients wants.

    Agile development methodologies also force teams to think every day is of importance. There is no slacker day because the project isn't due for another three months. There is a sense of urgency to every step. In scrum, you have sprints (a specified duration of time) within which mini-projects need to be completed. These sprints can be a few days or a few weeks, but what's important is that there are constantly goals to be met and goal that are being met in a short amount of time. These mini-goals help keep the project on track and within budget.

    The overall point of any agile methodology is to get the project to the client faster and in working order. The waterfall methodology, which is still widely in effect in many companies, usually does not deliver a software system that works, although the project is completed on time. In addition this method takes longer. According to most surveys, the waterfall methodology delivers projects on time, within budget, but working less than 15 percent of the time. On the other hand agile software development methodologies average a working rate of over 41 percent.

    Agile development puts the emphasis on teams rather than on the managers. While there are product owners and scrum masters, the team decides how to tackle the problem and comes up with their own solution. The decision-making power is put in the hands of those who will be creating the product.

    Agile software development in conjunction with the Scrum process doesn't require an organization to rip out its foundation and start from scratch. Bits and pieces of the overall methodologies can be implemented and used. These methods are not expensive or cumbersome to enact, but top-level management should embrace them first. Once this happens, then these processes can filter throughout the rest of the organization.

    Flexibility and consistency are the keys to any agile software development process. Flexibility allows the teams to refocus if something is not working and, hopefully, consistently deliver quality products on time to clients. The consistency comes from the fact that as a team consistently uses agile methodology, they can better plan how long a sprint is going to take, estimate the total length of time and overall cost of that particular section.

    Agile development software with scrum as the controlling set of principles can enhance team communication, on-time delivery and overall product quality, thus making clients happier in the end.

    Learn more about scrum metholodogy.