Let’s get Scrum

scrumAt school times the teacher used to quote an important saying:
culture is what remains after we forget the things we studied thorougly.
The concept is charming, but at that time the principle was often adopted to forget things even before they were studied.

The saying is also valid for software development methodologies, where the best practices try to teach us the right path to come up with something really good, shaping a product in the most efficient way and with the highest quality.
The agile methodologies set few general rules, but the result depends on you, your skills and your team of course, not on the methodology.
Scrum doesn’t produce good software products, but if you are smart, it might suggest you some hints helpful to get away with the failure scenario.

What does Scrum say?

It declares that all activities are in a time box and assigns to each team member his own responsibility based on workload estimation, and the activities priority has to be shared with your chief, most of the time the Scrum master.
The daily meetings are essential, the team members explain what they did the day before and what they are going to do today and the blocking problems that affect the task development, as well as the estimated time for the new task or its progress update.
As in the rugby game from which Scrum took its name, the goal is to get things done. The powerpoint presentations, the docs are internal artifacts but the objective is to get product shipped.

How? By setting objectives for the next iteration (sprint), and incrementally so on with the next. The iterations firstly face the most critical issues and the trivial ones come later, as you are mostly concerned with the software/system architecture and you’d know if such solution overcome the issue, as soon as possible.

As in the rugby game, the project team will be capable of thinking by itself. The coach hasn’t to enforce a defined set of steps to reach those objectives, and as in a real game the team has to learn to handle chaos of requirement changing and with emerging problems (even hoping that Italy will win the next 6 nations).

My considerations

In my scrum practice, I’ve appreciated the time estimation duty for each single task, as discussing with fellows or build a new feature. However, I don’t find it much helpful during the meetings because it’s an information that project managers need to check the process but not useful to the other developing members. The time estimations are closely related to the tasks, so why not to handle them with the issue/bug tracking system, jira for example? You might use it as a time monitor, so the scrum master can automatically obtain all required informations about the development’s progress.
The meeting is an opportunity to get together and to make it clear to others where you are, but most importantly, firstly explain your problems. Sharing difficulties among the members and get proper tips back make the team more integrated and helps to overcome matters quickly.

What impresses of the agile methodology practices is the communication approach, the synchronization of the developers and the feedback on a daily basis. Quick stand up meetings in the morning, before the activities start; maybe better with a coffee.

ICT in Italian companies

I recently read the article Le ICT non funzionano senza capitale organizzativo that could be translated as “ICTs don’t work without Organizational Capital”.
The source is http://www.lavoce.info, an authoritative source in matters of economical & political analysis, and this digression on Information Technology could represent an interesting prompt of discussion.

Some researches reveal the competitive gap of Italian firms compared to other countries’, and a corresponding lack of pervading ICT would be one of the causes of such a difference.
The investments in ICT between 2002-2004 allowed to reduce costs in paperwork areas, but the rate of companies that catch up the same results in strategic/productive areas is substantially lower .
The article argues how ICT affects Italian companies, and how this topic is so non-prioritized and misunderstood as a way to increase productivity.
I quote below some paragraphs of the article:

According to our investigation, the incapacity to obtain stategic returns is often due to:
1. Inadequate support to ICT investments by the top management, that often considers them as a “cost to be limited”
2. The difficulty of IT managers to have a clear vision of business requirements that such information systems must support, a factor which often leads to investements not in line with company strategy

The publication stab at the companies’ inertia to adopt proper organization models. The reason could be found in a lack of technological culture of the top management due to the small average size of the Italian companies that, therefore, have small resources to invest in organization/ICT restyling.

The remarkable elements in the companies which obtain best results by their ICT policy are shortly summarized:

The importance given to the human resources, a non-bureaucratic organization, the habit to share knowledge among employees, the adoption of performance-based incentives to individuals and teams, the presence of interfunctional team.