Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Orlando Scrum Gathering 2009

I just came back from the gathering last week. It was different this time from the past gatherings in that this time the event was graced by the presence of industry heavy hitters like Ron Jeffries (Co-developer of XP), Jim Copline (The author of "Advanced C++" that helped me shape my understanding of C++ and OO early in my career), Alistair Cockburn (famous for his book "Writing Effective Use Cases" and Agile process called "Crystal"), Dr. Mark Paulk (led the work on CMM at SEI), and last but not least Gregory Balestrero (President and CEO of PMI). As you can see from the lineup, Scrum Alliance has done a great job of inviting these people and initiating an industry wide collaboration around software development process.

What to expect in the coming months? Scrum Alliance has engaged Dr. Paulk to do empirical research on Scrum. He is going to focus on Agile and Scrum practices and help the Agile community to understand what practices really contribute to the success of projects. With the inclusion of PMI, we would see more and more practices being included in the PMBOK. There is a growing trend among PMPs to adopt Scrum and Agile practices. A group of PMI members has already formed a pmiagile Yahoo group to promote agile practices within PMI. This group has been officially recognized by the PMI.

What's Scrum community grappling with? From the types of discussions I heard at the event, it seems the adoption of Scrum has come a long way. The top things now-a-days on the minds of most Agile teams are,

  1. User Story vs Use Case. It was thought that User Stories are going to replace Use Cases. However, it seems people are still using Use Cases (especially on large projects) in at least some light weight format along with User Stories as they lack high level contexts. Jeff Payton's "User Story Map" technique to address this gap in User Story is becoming popular. He was at the gathering and offered sessions on it. Alistair is a vocal advocate of continuing to use Use Cases. Surprise, surprise...:-) He wrote an article on User Stories vs Use Cases for the Lean magazine (I thought I could get the article from Alistair's site or from the magazine's, but I could not).

  2. Agile Architecture. Jeff Sutherland and Jim Coplien had a session on how architecture can help a team becoming more Agile. There is a trend among Agile teams to only rely on continuous refactoring to have a suitable/consistent architecture emerge over time. They lose sight of the importance of starting on the right foot with some upfront "architecture thinking." Jim is working on an new architectural pattern called DCI (data, context and interaction) that could set the OO developers free from the shortcomings ("algorithm" part of the stories is usually scattered among many domain entities/models and get in the way to becoming Agile) associated with MVC.

  3. ScrumBut. Most teams can be considered ScrumBut, a termed coined by Ken Schwaber (I think) to point out how teams are not taking full advantage of Scrum practices. While the intent of ScumBut is to help team identify where they have improvement opportunities, it is creating confusion and frustration in the minds of the practitioners in that if there is such thing called "Pure Scrum" (which seems to be an illusive target). The whole confusion around the term ScrumBut (which gathered more negative, almost derogatory, connotation than it was intended for) lies in its definition based on a check list of mechanics. In fact, it was brought up in the panel discussion at the gathering that the definition of Scrum as found on the Scrum Alliance site as 3 roles, 3 rituals, and 3 tools hide the true essences of Agile captured in the Agile Manifesto. The mechanics are there to help teams get started, but they, by no means, are "sliver bullets." Each team needs to find its unique practices (customized through "inspect and adapt") that help them incrementally deliver working software that maximizes value for the customers.
Alistair nicely summed up the underpinnings of Agile process movement this way,
Self-awareness (focus of Crystal), self-discipline (focus of XP), and self-organization (focus of Scrum).


  1. Anonymous2:29 PM

    thanks for sharing everything in a single mail.
    can you write more about crystal clear how does it work and what is the difference between other agile methodologies and crystal clear

    best wishes,

  2. Hello Hasan,
    Crystal Clear is a people-centric, lightweight process for small teams. The difference between Crystal Clear and other Agile processes would be in that it is less prescriptive in terms of mechanics than others and more open to using/borrowing techniques from other processes as suitable for the team and the project. Here is an overview of the process.