When working within a BI team, achieving a sufficient level of organisation and efficiency can be tricky - most notably due to team size, the complexity of work, and the difficulty in making development progress transparent. This can often lead to veering away from project objectives and client needs as critical time is spent on non-critical tasks. We have found that the best way to act against these undesirables is to implement a lightweight framework following agile principles called Scrum.
Most traditional approaches to software development revolve around a non-iterative design process such as waterfall. This often relates to a steady, downward flowing, step by step process that can lead to the problems mentioned above. In the image below, you can see how a downward flowing process can result in many different visions of the product that don’t meet the client’s needs at the end of the day.
Figure 1 – Potential Outcomes of a Waterfall Process
This is where the principles of Agile and more specifically Scrum come into their own. By following the Scrum framework, you can adapt to complex problems as they arise and continue to deliver high quality results. Founded on Empirical Process Control theory, Scrum is based on the fact that knowledge comes from experience and decision making is based on what is known. Through the three pillars of Empirical process control; transparency, inspection and adaption, BI teams that adopt the Scrum framework are able to understand the progress of the project, constantly inspect their work, and adapt to unexpected events.
Figure 2 – The Scrum Framework
Within our own teams we have found that Scrum has improved the speed at which we deliver on our projects. Throughout each sprint full transparency allows not only for the quality of work to be assessed but encourages collaboration if problems or blockers arise. The different skill sets of your teams can be fully utilized to continually move work forward, ensuring that road blocks do not delay a project but are solved quickly. Furthermore, having a well-defined Definition of Done means that tasks are not left almost or basically finished, but are actually 100% done.
This has the effect of both removing the time spent going back to finish these tasks and guarantees only products of high quality are deemed done. Not only is Scrum beneficial to our team but our clients highly rate the framework too. They are constantly kept in the loop about the progress of the project, the work that is being delivered and see business value quickly as each increment is delivered.
However, while Scrum is easy to understand, it is incredible difficult to master! This is quickly realized after your first sprint when estimating tasks, time boxing events, and open collaboration / communication prove difficult to implement. We have found that to successfully master Scrum, and realize the benefits, not only does the team need a complete understanding of the principles but they also must be fully committed to each aspect of the framework. When followed correctly not only does it highlight the efficacy of our product management and development practices, it means we can constantly improve what we do and how we do it. With this mindset we believe that the Scrum framework enables us to constantly deliver high quality results for our clients.
To learn more about how Scrum could be used to help your team, take a look at our 2 day Scrum for BI Teams Training Programme. This two day training course is specifically designed for implementing Scrum within BI teams. It not only teaches you how to add structure to theory, but also provides valuable practical experience. With this course, your team can all become Scrum Certified and hit the Scrum Board running!