What is Scrum, and Why You Should Adopt It

Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka introduced the term ‘Scrum’ in the context of product development in their article, ‘The New New Product Development Game’. By definition, Scrum is a project development framework that highlights teamwork, collective accountability, transparency and iterative progress towards a defined goal.

In the contemporary competitive environment, stakeholders are vying for speed to market, excellent product quality, and a quicker ROI. In addition, frequently changing business requirements need to be addressed continuously. This is where Scrum fits in. In Scrum, tasks are divided into shorter fixed timeframes of release cycles with adjustable scope to address frequently changing development needs. Scrum is unlike the traditional Waterfall Model that follows a step by step process to get a full featured product– a major drawback to which is that any changes added later in the SDLC would involve revisiting the earlier phases, and redoing the changes. Scrum saves this effort.

The Scrum approach is open to changes and welcomes change as long as they enhance customer experience. The Scrum dev team starts working with the product owner from early on to determine the minimum viable product or MVP, from which point on the incremental development proceeds till the full set of requirements is delivered. Scrum teams normally consist of five to seven members, and work is done in ‘Sprints’ with predefined timelines, resulting in a fully tested product with additional functionality.

The three key roles in any Scrum Team are:

Product Owner: The key stakeholder who is actively engaged with the Scrum team, and is business savvy with a clear understanding of what the product functionality should be. The product owner ensures that the expectations for the end product have been communicated and agreed upon, and can prioritize user stories for the product as required, along with making sure that any new requirements are not assigned during the Sprint.

The Scrum Master: The Champion of the Scrum ensuring that the Scrum team is productive and progressive. They may take up any role in the team to finish the task required to move the Sprint forward, and in case of any obstructions, Scrum Master follows up and resolves the issue. They also organize sprint planning and stand-up meetings, reviews, retrospectives to keep the sprint moving.

Developer/Tester:  Sprint teams consists of a mix of competencies working together, and the roles may rotate Sprint by Sprint. Testers, Developers, Database people, Support- all work in close collaboration to develop and implement the defined features and there are no set rules or defined job descriptions, rather it depends on what the team agrees upon. Overall, it’s a ‘whole-team’ responsibility to deliver the working software at the end of the sprint.

Let’s understand the entire Scrum Process in brief along with where the above roles come into picture.

The Scrum Process

  • The Product Owner creates a Product Backlog.
  • Sprint Planning takes place and based on the priority, the team imports items from the Product Backlog to the Sprint Backlog, and brainstorms on how to implement it.
  • Daily Scrum meetings are conducted to assess the progress and share the impediments.
  • At the end of each Sprint, delivery teams ensure the work is in a potentially shippable state.
  • Scrum Master ensures that Sprint is moving forward, tasks are being completed in time, and impediments removed.
  • Sprint ends with a Sprint Review, and a Sprint Retrospective to identify what went wrong and what went right.
  • For the next Sprint, the team pulls another prioritized chunk from the Product Backlog, and begins working.

The cycle is iterative and whenever the projects ends, Scrum ensures that the most significant work has been completed. So you get a viable product at a lower cost in a short time span.

Let us check the benefits that Scrum offers to businesses.

Benefits of Scrum

Overall, the Scrum Framework offers the following benefits:

Quick Deliverables: The involvement of the Product Owner to progressively elaborate the requirements and to set priorities along with providing real time clarification reduces the time to market. ‘High value and risk’ requirements can be delivered before the ‘low value and risk’ requirements, with every Sprint resulting in a working product that is potentially shippable.
Increased ROI: Daily meetings, regular monitoring, continuously imbibing market changes, and shorter predefined release cycles- all lead to increased ROI. Regular stakeholder feedback enables early corrections sparing a lot of time and money. Additionally, automation and up-front testing results in lower wastage and faster deployment, and thus a better ROI. Finally, if the product has to fail, it fails faster.
Superior Quality: Regular inspection of the working product, with daily testing and Product Owner feedback in the development process, allows for early visibility of the quality issues and necessary adjustments. Sprint reviews and retrospectives allows for continuous improvement and thus a superior end product..
Increased Collaboration and Ownership:The complete team works together on the entire project, and decisions are made in consensus. Sprint Planning meetings helps self-organizing cross-functional teams to set their pace and organize their work around the given business priorities, and further, daily Scrum meetings, Sprint reviews and retrospectives enhances team spirit and collaboration.
Enhanced Customer Satisfaction: Scrum enables organizations to change the project and the deliverables at any point in time, resulting in the most apt release. Scrum thus embraces changing customer requirements leading to increased customer satisfaction.
Better Project Control:  Regular feedback, the ability to address changing market demands, Sprint reviews and daily meetings offer ample opportunities to keep the project under control, and make timely amends.
Transparency: Expectations are effectively met with Scrum as the key stakeholders are actively involved throughout the project. Continuous inspection and adaptation, and total transparency are the real benefits of Scrum.

Given these benefits, it would not be an overstatement to say that if an organization adopts Scrum in its true sense, everyone involved will be able to discover the real benefits Scrum brings along.

At Astegic, we have developed a Scrum framework specifically crafted for QA and Testing stages of product development- SDEFT (Scrum Driven Engagement Framework for Testing). SDEFT introduces a set of best practices that create a flexible framework allowing consistent and predictable result delivery, resolving the critical client concerns of quality, agility, cost effectiveness, quicker ROI and speed to market.

Exploring the Business Value of QA

Transformative technologies are disrupting businesses as usual. Companies that fail to adapt and transform are likely to go out of business soon. Changes in regulatory policies and the technology landscape, globalization, rapidly evolving business needs, and dynamic customer demands have all necessitated the inclusion of robust testing programs across the application development ecosystem. As such, QA and testing services providers must offer testing services that can scale to support diverse application portfolios, and can quickly adapt to changing business needs. This has lead to a big shift in the testing realm, and in the role of QA.

The criticality of QA in ensuring the readiness of a product to go LIVE is well recognized by IT organizations. Traditionally, the role of QA was merely restricted to serve as a safety net that catches bugs at the bottom of the waterfall; but the introduction of Agile methodologies completely changed the scenario, whereby QA teams are involved throughout the SDLC process. Now, QA gets involved early on in the project, and largely influences the business metrics.

The value that QA brings to businesses can be summarized as follows:

Articulating Business Value in the Entire Testing Process

QA teams comprehend business objectives by involving all the stakeholders in the process. They play a vital role by asking relevant questions and getting the requisite clarity about the project requirements. They then map these project objectives to the business metrics or KPIs. These KPIs are then standardized and stakeholder feedback is imbibed by means of constant dialogue with the stakeholders. Based on the KPIs, a guideline for business process data is established. This lays a solid foundation for the work to be done in future, against which data captured from the actual project is reviewed and measured.

Overall, this ensures that KPIs are oriented towards the business goals, and business goals are tied to the testing process all the time.

Delivering Fast Business Value

Speed to market, high quality and reliability are mandatory to meet the expectations of a digitally empowered consumer.

To fulfill this objective, business driven QA teams work towards achieving maximum test coverage in optimal time with risk-based testing. Wherever feasible, the test artifacts from a previous release are reused. Additionally, historical data and pattern analysis is done to precisely and timely predict defects. Finally, with the adoption of Agile testing methodologies, CI, CD and DevOps; the overall delivery time has reduced, leading to a competitive edge for businesses.

Reduced Cost and Faster ROI

Businesses look for fast and scalable solutions while trying to keep cost to a minimum.. Early Lifecycle Validation or Shift Left testing performed by the QA team focuses on validation of the deliverables of upstream life cycle processes. This results in reduced effort and cost of fixing the bugs as compared to doing it at a later stage, ultimately leading to reduced time to market and a good quality end-product. Moreover,  progressive automation is assisting in further streamlining the release processes by initiating automation at an early stage, thus optimizing QA efforts, and leading to a faster end-product and hence quicker ROI.

Incorporating changing Business Priorities

The role of QA is critical in dealing with changing business priorities because the business impact of releasing a buggy or obsolete software is immense. Continuous Improvement in a timely demeanor is vital for responding to business changes, and QA is responsible to ensure these changes are imbibed via continuous communication with the stakeholders. QA also verifies that significant quality parameters are analyzed precisely to measure the outcome of key business strategies.

This provides us with an overview of the value that QA bring to the businesses. This value can be further increased when a company employs high-quality skilled testers who are also risk-aware. The future-businesses need testers that can help fuel innovation, are open to learning new techniques, and believe in customer-centric testing.

Investing in strong QA teams will ultimately strengthen business’ credibility in the market, as they are able to deliver high quality reliable products with lower costs and faster time to market. According to World Quality Report, there is an overall prediction that QA and testing budgets will soar to 40% of development costs by 2019,  and 52% of IT teams site higher amounts of releases as the reason for higher QA budgets.

Strategically investing in building a team of skilled testers will definitely help set high-performing companies apart from competition by enhancing user experience and engagement. Companies that neglect the role of QA will likely perish.