October 26, 2020

Scrum at Scale: Project Management Best Practices for Large Teams

With modern innovations in project management methodology, SMEs and Fortune 500s alike are rethinking their processes. 

For serious-minded companies, visualizing the end product is not enough; they must strategize how to develop it. After all, an idea is only as good as its execution.

While there are countless ways to approach software development and team management, the Scrum framework merits particular attention since it can operate on nearly any scale. 

Why swap to Scrum, and how does it work with large teams? Here's a look at ten best practices for using Scrum at Scale and why your company might never go back to traditional project management methods. 

Moving Beyond Waterfall Methodology

Since many of us think in a linear format - problem-solving from point A to point B in a straight line - the Waterfall project management method is the easiest to visualize and explain. True to its name, the Waterfall process cascades in a step-by-step format, completing tasks until a product finishes.  

Here's how Waterfall Methodology operates:

Analyze > Design > Build > Test > Publish > Product

At first glance, the Waterfall method presents a logical and straightforward approach to product development. Many companies continue to implement waterfall methodology in the interests of keeping processes simple. 

Still, in the digital environment, the old school Waterfall framework does not carry the complexity needed to properly produce high-functioning software. 

Here's why the Waterfall method doesn't work for digital development:

  • Lack of feedback - Since the product is presented as a 'big reveal' to the Product Owner at the end, there is often a disconnect between the original idea and the final execution, leaving the Product Owner disappointed and the developers in want of a pat on the back for their hard work.
  • Late testing - Since the product is tested when production is nearing its end, revisions are often more extensive and costly.

With the Waterfall approach to software development, an app can become antiquated before it even ships, making it a gamble for Product Owners. 

Download the free Rootstrap Development Guidebook for the complete scoop. 

Opting for an agile project management framework like Scrum can reduce your company's risk when creating digital products.

Scrum - Agile Project Management Methodology

The Scrum system was developed in the 1990s and is the most popular of the Agile project management methodologies. Due to its high-value results in short timeframes, this process is Rootstrap's method of choice. 

With the Scrum framework, the first step is taking the vision and drafting a Product Backlog, outlining what the Product Owner (your company) wants to see in the finished product. 

You'll then have a Sprint Planning Meeting with the Development Team (us) to kick off the first in series of one to four-week Scrum intervals called Sprints. Here, the Product Owner and Dev. Team creates a Sprint Backlog, determining specific assignments that will be completed during the upcoming Sprint. The entire process is broken down into several Sprints, which are like mini-projects within the project. 

As the team works, the day starts with 15-minute meetings called Daily Scrums. The appointed ScrumMaster leads these meetings on the Dev. Team, but the Product Owner is welcome and encouraged to join. 

A longer Scrum Review is also held at the end of each Sprint for a live demonstration of the prototype. The Product Owner can inspect progress and share the prototype with customers and stakeholders.

Once the Product Owner has provided feedback, the Dev. Team will reconvene for a Retrospective discussion on how to adapt and improve on the next Sprint. 

After the Retrospective marks the end of a Sprint, a new Sprint is immediately initiated, and the process continues until the product is complete. 

"A traditional 6-month waterfall project typically has only 1-2 stopping points, milestones, where the stakeholders can inspect the work--and very limited and expensive chances to adapt." explains the Scrum Alliance. The Alliance continues, "A 6-month project using an agile framework like Scrum, however, typically has 6-12 opportunities to inspect and adapt the work, depending on how long each sprint is." 

Scrum emphasizes repeatedly adapting to the Product Owner's feedback and delivering real, testable software throughout the project's iterations. The process maximizes agility and minimizes opportunities for unfulfilled expectations in the final product. 

What you'll see as a Product Owner is an organized, Sprint by Sprint development of your software vision into a digital reality. 

Still, what if you have a project that will require much more development than a typical 3-9 person Dev. Team can handle? 

Scrum at Scale - Applying Scrum to Large Teams

Large team working in an organisation

Scrum methodology is dynamic enough to scale up to accommodate large teams. 

Big-name companies such as Kia, Microsoft, Spotify, and Epson are now using agile software development strategies. The success of these enterprises and many others prove that agile development can be effective at any scale. 

Of course, every project management methodology's success largely hinges on individual team members' commitment to the process. This factor can be challenging to control when working with a large team. 

Threats to succeeding as a large team include:

  • Communication breakdown
  • Decision latency
  • Power struggles
  • Lack of accountability 
  • Delaying deadlines
  • Losing agility when scaling up

To promote positive results when operating multiple Scrums, encourage each teammate to get familiar with the Scrum at Scale Guide and the Agile Manifesto

Beyond understanding Scrum theory and how to organize your Scrum and Scrum of Scrums, and Scrum of Scrum of Scrums, it's essential to have large-scale project management best practices fixed firmly in mind. 

10 Best Practices for Scrum@Scale

To foster an environment of teamwork, collaboration, and remain agile as your project grows, follow these best practices for making a success of using Scrum@Scale:

Establish Modest Expectations

While agility is the name of the game, be careful not to set the bar sky-high. Establishing unreasonable expectations for an iteration will only frustrate everyone involved, encourage team members to resort to shortcuts, and incur ugly Technical Debt. Take a balanced approach and prioritize quality over speed. 

Set a Reasonable Scale Pace

Scaling up a project too fast too soon can stunt progress and exhaust vital team members that have been with the project from the start. When you add new Scrums to your production network, be sure to bring them up to speed. Help them out through an introductory 'knowledge dump' or by assigning a core team member to temporarily oversee the fledgling Scrum until they can take flight independently. 

Maintain Fluid Communication

No matter how many Scrums are in your development ecosystem, never compromise on crystal clear communication. There's no replacement for frequent and courteous verbal contact within and between Scrums. Communication may be a challenge, especially if your Scrums work remotely and rely on virtual communication, but Daily Scrums will help everyone stay on track.

Share Knowledge

If a team member has an idea, skill, piece of information, or another tidbit that would otherwise be helpful to others, it should, by all means, be shared. Aim to help, not compete. 

Stick to Absolute Transparency

While some matters must remain confidential, be as open as possible amongst your Scrums. If a mistake is made, recognize it, apologize, and move on as a team. Use Retrospective meetings as an opportunity to evaluate your Scrum honestly. 

Give and Take Frequent Feedback

Offering and accepting feedback is the only way to collaborate as a team, working together to improve the product throughout the process. Helpful, friendly feedback can transform a good idea into a great idea. Plus, it's much better to work out software bugs early in development than to wait until crunch time right before the product ships. 

Honor Mutual Accountability

Every team member shares accountability. There's no room for shifting blame or taking all the credit. If one Scrum or one team member falls behind for one reason or another, everyone should take the initiative to offer their skills/time/resources to pitch in and get the project done as a team. 

Set Clear Goals

Each Scrum should have a well-defined Sprint Backlog with specific deliverables to prepare during a given Sprint. Roles, assignments, and expectations from each Scrum and Scrum member should be clear from the start. Once goals have a set timeframe, resist the temptation to push back deadlines, as it could set a poor precedent for the project's duration.  

Adapt and Conquer

Never view critical feedback in a negative light. As a team, we strive to view constructive criticism as an opportunity to adapt and improve. Stay in tune with the changing digital landscape, don't get attached to your own ideas, and be willing to pivot. 

Define 'Done'

From the inception of the project, the Product Owner and Dev. Team must be on the same page - or even the same letter - regarding expectations for the final product. If neither party knows what 'done' looks like, precious resources could be wasted in an endless cycle of Sprints. 

Succeeding as a Large Team - Rootstrap's Agile Framework

In today's digital landscape, agility is a prerequisite for world-class product development. At Rootstrap, we've made it our business to structure our workflow and processes around agility. 

"We use Agile frameworks every day in our work environment, so whether you're building in Scrum, Kanban, or Crystal, we'll fit effortlessly into your dev frameworks." - Rootstrap

As an enterprise mobile application development company, we develop apps from scratch. Our digital product design provides businesses with the tools they need to work efficiently while managing mobile client-side interactions. 

Our global teams create custom-built apps for use with iterative product development strategies at the company level, department level, and employee level. Mobilizing your critical business processes can unlock growth potential, give you an edge on competitors, increase security, and minimize operational costs.

Ready to get started? Get in touch with Rootstrap.