When implementing Agile/Scrum, there are several process and project challenges that most organizations encounter and must be addressed.
When to Use Agile/Scrum Challenges
These challenges can arrive at any time in an Agile/Scrum implementation, although they commonly occur early in the transition to Agile/Scrum. Whenever encountered, they must be addressed.
Challenges associated with implementing Agile/Scrum can be divided into two categories, process challenges and project challenges.
- Process challenges are those that are related to how the Agile/Scrum methodology is staffed and implemented in the organization.
- Achieve role alignment – this challenge is due to the very different roles and responsibilities with the Agile/Scrum methodology. The typical impact or indication of this challenge is the inability of the Product Owner to establish and maintain the Product Backlog and/or the inability of the Scrum Team to work together effectively during a Sprint. When this occurs, the best approach is to create a pilot project or pilot business unit using Agile/Scrum to model the correct behaviour to the organization.
- Train resources required– this challenge is a resource shortage. The typical impact is that there are no trained Scrum Masters, Product Owners or Scrum Team members to place on the project. The solution is to establish a training program.
- Resistance to change – this challenge is due to portions of the organization maintaining the former project management methodology and rejecting the Agile/Scrum approach. The impact of this is poor project results due to tampering. It requires strong leadership by senior management (who are often the worst offenders of tampering) to overcome this challenge.
- Ineffective project reviews and meetings – this challenge is often a training and facilitation problem. The impact is that the Sprint planning meeting, the Sprint Demo meeting, and the Sprint Retrospective are wastes of time and ineffective. The problem is normally due to an inexperienced or untrained Scrum Master. The Scrum Master needs to ensure the proper individuals are attending the meetings. They also need to clarify expectations with stakeholders before each meeting and ensure the meeting ground rules are followed.
- Project Challenges are those that are related to how well the Product Owner, Scrum Master or Scrum Team manages a particular project.
- Testing approach – this challenge is the recognition of the large amount of testing that must be done to fulfil the Demo Criteria for each story. The impact to the project is that testing activity grows as each story is completed because the team needs to ensure the new Story does not degrade the performance of the Stories already completed. On a complex system the testing can overwhelm the Scrum Team. The solution is to use automatic testing wherever possible – but keep in mind that there will probably need to be several infrastructure Stories to create the automatic testing capability.
- Documentation approach – the challenge here is that Agile/Scrum does not use many of the traditional documentation records because it relies on the Story Card. However, some organization's procedures require the generation of the traditional documentation whether it is needed by the project or not. This adds unnecessary work to the project. When possible modify the documentation procedures, or at least obtain a waiver. Otherwise, the Product Owner must generate a Story Card to create the documentation.
- Regulatory compliance – the challenge is that regulated industries will often have a mandated sequential development process that is not compatible with the Agile/Scrum process. Using Agile/Scrum for the project will lead to a regulatory non-compliance and may prevent new product from being released. The solution to this approach is for the Product Owner to identify and document the mandatory steps on Story Cards and then through the prioritization process ensure compliance – by the way, this is hard to do.
- Scaling up to large projects – this challenge occurs when a large project is using multiple simultaneous Sprints due to the very large scope and complexity of a new product. The impact of this challenge is the difficulty of integrating deliverables from multiple Sprints, especially after that Sprint is completed and the Scrum Team has moved on to another Sprint. This requires very strong system engineering and architecture design. It is also a good idea to add infrastructure stories to develop e stubs and drivers to aid in the integration testing.
Hints and Tips
- Every organization will face some challenges when implementing Agile/Scrum. Don’t be upset by it, expect it, prepare for it, and then react appropriately when the inevitable happens.
- Start with small and simple projects in your organization and build up to large complex system projects.
- When compliance is an issue, you will often be able to do a hybrid development with Agile/Scrum being used to develop the basic product, and then transition to the compliant project management methodology with appropriate review and records.
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