Scaling Scrum: A Tactical Guide for the Enterprise
Apr 8, 2022
As the scope of software development broadens, software development enterprises are constantly faced with complex problems. This leads to the recruitment of many software developers and engineers. These developers join the firm and make use of their expertise to find solutions.
Growing teams is a great way to go for the firm, as all hands are on deck. But it also comes with a major shortcoming: the fact that there is little or no control over the diverse teams of developers and engineers or how to manage their inputs and contributions toward solving the complex problem at hand. This factor costs lots of time before any major breakthrough comes to the forefront. Thus, it reduces the value such a firm delivers to the client at large. To mitigate this challenge faced by software development, many companies adopt frameworks like scrum and Scrum@Scale.
In this article, we'll understand the Scrum@Scale framework. This includes how it can aid software firms, especially the larger ones, in maximizing the use of scrum. We'll also explore why you need to scale Scrum and how to scale it. But before we dive into this, we'll look into the parent framework scrum and all it entails.
What Is Scrum?
Scrum is a framework designed to help teams and organizations provide adaptive solutions to complex problems and, by so doing, create values and achieve team goals. This framework was developed by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland. Scrum is used to bring to light the effectiveness of an organization’s current management method, pointing out what needs improvements.
Scrum was built not only to give detailed instructions to users but to improve their experience. This phenomenon is what is termed in the scrum theory as empiricism. It buttresses the point that knowledge is obtained from experience and that careful observation is the foundation for smart decision-making. All these are what enable scrum to assist firms in reducing waste of time and talent and focusing on those tasks that are of more importance toward achieving the set goals of the firm.
Making use of the scrum framework entails the engagement of some group of people within and outside your firm. These people have the skills to tackle the problem at hand and also have the willingness to acquire new skills if the need arises. This group is the scrum team.
A scrum team is fundamentally a small unit of professionals, usually no more than 10 individuals. The following people make up the scrum team: the product owner, developers, and a scrum master. Each of these people who make up the team has their roles and responsibilities specified beforehand. This is to avoid clashes of interest and time waste. We'll discuss each role more in-depth in the following sections.
What Is Scaled Scrum?
Following the mass acceptability and implementation of the Scrum framework by various firms and the surge of more complex problems, the scrum framework, as it is, couldn't undertake these tough jobs, so organizations needed a framework that could. Recall that a typical scrum team consists of 10 or fewer members. This team alone can't take on or solve these complex problems as they sometimes require a larger number of professionals to tackle them.
Now, how do we get this to work while implementing the ever-effective scrum framework in order to create value? Scaling scrum happens to be the answer. To scale scrum, organizations make use of the Scrum@Scale framework. You can liken the Scrum@Scale framework to an extended scrum framework. It aims at helping larger organizations implement scrum. This also harnesses its values despite the high number of teams they possess. It aids these organizations in running these teams effectively while maintaining the values and tenets of the Scrum framework.
Why Scale Scrum
Consider that large organizations create products and render services that they need multiple teams to accomplish. As the number of scrum teams increases within the organization, some issues that hinder productivity began to emerge. These issues range from cross-team dependencies to duplication of tasks among the various scrum teams. This leads to the depletion of the quality of work done by each team and the efficiency of task delivery. All of these put the business's agility to level zero.
Therefore, in order to mitigate these issues, the need for a framework that can manage the multiple scrum teams and help each team focus on prioritized goals without shifting the goalpost from the scrum methodology was eminent. The best possible way to achieve this goal was to scale the scrum framework to accommodate this need faced by large organizations.
Understanding the Scrum@Scale Framework
Just like the parent scrum framework, the Scrum@Scale framework runs on almost the same structure, theory, value sets, and pillars. These scaled elements vary from the team structures to the events as well as the organizational structuring, which enables the teams to function effectively. For instance, some organizations claim to employ large teams, between 50 to 100 scrum teams for a project. However, it's not scaling scrum if these teams don't showcase the attributes of a scrum team that's working together uniformly. Let's explore what scaled scrum entails, ranging from a Scrum@Scale team structure to Scrum@Scale roles.
Scrum@Scale Team Structure
The scaled scrum team is just like the scrum team, but for large teams. For example, depending on the number of scrum teams working on a project, the teams are split into the scrum of scrums team structure or the scrum of scrum of scrums team structure.
Scrum of Scrums (SoS)
The Scrum of Scrums technique is useful when scaling between four to five scrum teams to function together. Recall that the scrum framework comprises a team of about 10 people. But a Scrum of Scrums team can consist of up to 50 people. Just like the Scrum framework, the Scrum of Scrums technique allows the team to carry out daily standups or meetings. However, this time these meetings consist of multiple teams that are working together.
Scrum of Scrum of Scrums (SoSoS)
As the organization becomes larger and the problem they're tackling becomes more complex, there's a need to employ the services of more teams. A Scrum of Scrum of Scrums is a structural arrangement within the scrum framework that manages multiple scrums of scrums.
Daily standups in the scaled scrum structure shouldn't be greater than 15 minutes. In most cases, a member of the development team, as well as the team master of each team, represents the other team members during standup. These standups tend to discuss the progress of the team and also release them from blockers they're facing.
You need human resources to complete tasks, especially in the tech industry. For individuals to work together in harmony, they must first understand their roles. Just like in the scrum framework, in the Scrum@Scale framework, we have roles like the scrum master, product owners, and developers. They are as follows.
Scaling scrum masters and their roles can be seen in these forms: scrum of scrums master (SoSM) who works with the scrum of scrums team and then the Scrum of Scrum of scrums master (SoSoSM) who is concerned with the scrum of Scrum of Scrums team. You can assign this to any Scrum master from any of the Scrum teams or independent personnel with expertise.
In scaling the role of the Scrum Master, there's a special team of scrum experts known as the executive action team (EAT). This team is responsible for making sure that scrum events are held and that Scrum roles are created and supported, as well as making sure that all the artifacts are created and presented to relevant people to make tackling the task smoother. The EAT is the powerhouse of upholding the scrum principles as they prepare guidelines for the scrum team. Together with the scrum masters or the SoSM and the SoSoSM, they form the scrum masters organization.
Scaling the roles of product owners is important to reflect the reality while scaling scrum. For either level of the scaled scrum framework, be it the SoS or the SoSoS, there's a product owners organization. The product owners organization comprises all the product owners of the individual scrum teams. This product owners team generates a road map for the project and also monitors the metrics that give insight into the product and its marketability. For instance, product owners can utilize tools like value stream management solutions to monitor metrics.
They collectively work to eliminate any dependency raised by any team and, together with the scrum master team, create a generally accepted “definition of done” for the task at hand. The head of the product owner's team is the chief product owner whose responsibility is to coordinate the entire product owner's team and to set strategic visions for the product that satisfy the customer needs. The chief product owner is also in charge of creating a single comprehensive product backlog, which you can further break down to each team’s product owners based on each team’s specialty.
Scrum@Scale events slightly differ from the events in the scrum framework. For instance, in the scrum framework, all members of the team can attend daily standups since it's a smaller team with no more than 10 team members. However, since the scaled scrum framework consists of larger personnel numbers, team representatives can represent their teams during standup.
In this scaled version of the daily scrum event, at least one representative from each team must be present. It's a time to give a progress report as to what each team is up to, and it's still a meeting of 15 minutes or less in duration. This event provides solutions on how the teams can work together. The questions asked during daily meetings involve the following: what teams have worked on after the last meeting, what they'll work on next, and the blockers they have.
This is still the same as the normal sprint retrospective of Scrum, but in this scaled version, it's the scrum masters of all the individual teams who come together. They analyze what has been done in the sprint and discuss what can be done in the next sprint to make improvements inching toward the overall product goal. This is as opposed to the event in the scrum framework where all the members of the scrum team come together.
How to Scale Scrum
Scaling scrum is important when you're dealing with large teams and want to maximize productivity. Just like we discussed earlier, hiring lots of teams to work on a project isn't the same as scaling scrum. For instance, if we have a large team that's working on a web application, dividing personnel to work on different aspects of the product may sound like a good idea. For example, you can divide personnel into the business side and the development side. On the development side, you can also divide personnel into front-end engineers and back-end engineers.
But what happens when the back-end engineer team's feature isn't ready? Does it mean the front-end engineer team will also halt? These are the questions that prompted the birthing of the scrum framework. In the scrum framework, a team works together in harmony to deliver a product. Notice how the scrum framework involves only a single team.
What happens if the team needs to deliver different features in the web application? This means more personnel. Also, the personnel will need to focus on their different features while still working together.
This is scaling Scrum. To scale scrum, organizations not only have to employ more personnel, but they should also have different teams working together. Let's explore the difference between scaled scrum and the scrum framework more in-depth.
Scrum vs. Scaled Scrum
AttributeScrum frameworkScaled ScrumTeam sizeThis consists of a single team of no more than 10 members.This consists of multiple teams that work together to deliver a product. In scaling scrum, the team size isn't limited to 10 members.Team rolesThe roles of team members in the scrum framework are split into product owners, scrum masters, and developers.While teams in scaled scrum are still split into similar roles as the scrum framework, there's also the chief product owner and overall head of scrum master.
Scaling Scrum Values
In scaling scrum, teams should also adopt certain attitudes and values. The usage of the scrum framework is built upon five values. These values dictate the work ethic of all members of the scrum team. They are as follows:
Focus: Scrum demands that anyone working within its framework should focus on the task. This is the major reason why the scrum framework tackles one goal at a time so as to eliminate side distractions on the part of the team members.
Courage: Scrum demands that any user of its framework must be courageous, as it is out to take on complex problems facing enterprises by providing adaptive solutions that create much value for the organization.
Commitment: When working with the scrum framework, teams must show commitment. This is because every second counts, and teams must complete tasks on time.
Openness: Scrum works within the team, and the effectiveness and efficiency of any team lies in each team member being open about what they're working on. This promotes cooperation and trust, thereby fast-tracking the team's progress.
Respect: The scrum framework abhors disrespect of any kind toward the members of the team, as well as the organization it's working for. Respect breeds mutual understanding and promotes unity, which, in turn, creates a favorable working environment for all and sundry. This is what scrum stands for, and any scrum team member must live up to these expectations.
By upholding these values, the scrum team receives a sense of direction as regards their actions and behaviors during the period of work under the scrum framework. The scrum team must ensure that all decisions and the manner in which scrum is being used reinforce these values if the maximum impact will be made. When you take all these into account, the three cardinal pillars of scrum stand tall. These pillars are as follows:
Transparency: This entails that every task must be visible to everyone doing the job and as well as those on the receiving end. For effective workflow, teams can't hide things from each other. This is what scrum stands for.
Inspection: Scrum believes in the frequent inspection of the work at hand. This helps to pick out errors or any undesirable changes and fix them before forging ahead.
Adaptation: This involves the process whereby the team members make adjustments to the mannerism of their works as suggested by the results of the recent inspection.
Cutting costs and duration of time while creating value is a top business priority for large organizations. With this in mind, employing the right framework to achieve this goal is the next priority. Having understood the scrum framework and its scaled version Scrum@Scale and what they stand for, it's paramount to implement the framework in your organization. Looking for the right platform to implement scrum or Scrum@Scale as well as other Scaled Agile Frameworks (SAFe) based on your organization’s peculiarity and need? Check out Plutora and its leading Value Stream Management Platform dedicated to delivering better software solutions faster. Feel free to sign up for a personalized demo.