Long, long ago, when the Wright Brothers were yet to invent the first airplane, something extraordinary took place.

Any guesses as to what that could be?

The birth of project management began which led to a more efficient way of building products. For starters, Project Management is the use of distinct knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to deliver value to customers. And there are a number of ways to use these skills & tools to manage projects.

But, what is Agile and how does one manage projects using an agile mindset?

If your search term is “What is Agile?” or “What is Scrum?”, then you have landed in the right place.

We’ve created a definitive guide to Agile and Scrum. This took us infinite all-nighters and umpteen amounts of time and research, so make sure you’re all ears to our words.

Let’s kick-off!

Here are the topics that we’ll cover in this complete guide to Agile & Scrum:

What is Agile?

A Brief History on Agile

What are the 12 principles of agile?

What are the Benefits of Agile?

What Is Scrum?

A Brief History on Scrum

Scrum Methodology & Process

Different Roles in Scrum

Benefits of Scrum Methodology

How are Scrum and agile different from traditional methodologies?

Waterfall Approach

What's so bad about Waterfall development?

Case Study

What is the difference between agile and scrum?

Should I be using Scrum, Kanban, or another framework of agile?

How will Agile and Scrum help me?

How do I get started with Agile and Scrum?

Wrapping Up

WHAT IS AGILE?

Agile is a time-bound agile project management methodology that follows an iterative approach that builds software in increments from the start till the completion of the project.

It breaks down the larger project into phases and then builds the requirements in timeboxed iterations which typically last 2-4 weeks.

A Brief History on Agile

The history of Agile software development dates back to 2001 when 17 software developers came together at a resort in Utah to discuss lightweight development methods. 

This discussion led to the inception of the Agile Manifesto. It prioritized four values-

1. Individuals and Interactions over tools

Historically, tools and processes have been prioritized over people. The Agile Manifesto suggests that though those are important, the team members take precedence.

The team members are instrumental to the success of the project. Even the best tools are ineffective in the hands of unskilled people. The success of the project is largely reliant on the mutual interaction and communication between the team members.

Interpersonal communication between team members helps the team members solve any problem.

2. Working software over comprehensive documentation

Throughout the ages, developers have been working on creating documentation. It may serve a purpose but without a piece of working software, it is worthless.

The customers should be given the working, functional software. Feedback can be taken in loops to make changes for future releases.

3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Since time immemorial, contracts would be drafted first where customers would detail the entire product requirement. This led to a disparity of contract mentioned, what the product did, and what the customer desired.

The focal point should be continuous development. When customers are asked for feedback regularly, you can build a product that delivers the optimum value.

4. Responding to change over following a plan

Do you like rigidity where things don’t change according to circumstances?

How realistic would an affirmative answer be?

It isn’t possible but development plans were never flexible to accommodate things as per requirement. A dynamic development plan is the need of the hour where requirements can be added according to the need.

What are the 12 Principles of Agile?

12-principles-in-the-Agile-Manifesto

The Agile Manifesto specifies 12 principles which are the cornerstones of the Agile Project Methodology. Let’s go through each of the 12 agile principles in detail. 

Let us remind you, that each of these principles is the commandment of Agile. So, make sure you read all the 12 principles word by word. 

Take a deep breath because this is going to be exhaustive!

1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

The first priority is early and continuous delivery of software to satisfy the customer. Meaning, to satisfy the customers, firms have to ship early, keep delivering iteratively, and collect feedback regularly. 

In waterfall methodologies, long development cycles are the norm. Agile encourages shorter development cycles that reduce the time between ideation and launch. Delivering a Minimum Marketable Product to the customer takes precedence over everything else. This enables faster feedback which helps the product development team to improve for future releases.

2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage

Change is tough but inevitable. This Agile principle advocates accepting change, however late it may be. Other traditional methodologies were resistant to change and ignored the changes citing delays. 

Comprehensive but rigid plans were made for the course of the entire project which ignored the need for changes. Agile propagates the need for change due to competitive market forces, evolving customer needs, and the like.

3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.

The Agile framework bats for breaking large projects into smaller chunks called user stories which are then added to the sprint backlog. This makes it easier to deliver working software incrementally with short albeit realistic timelines.

This accelerates product development through frequent releases. You’re spared of the exhaustive documentation that is central to waterfall methodology.  Frequent releases mean fewer delays, cost effective, and remarkable progress.

4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project

Communication is crucial to a project’s success. Poor communication between team members and different functional teams often results in a botched project.

The business teams such as sales, marketing, finance must work closely with the development team to get newer product insights. These product insights emerge from teams that are proficient in their expertise. 

Poor communication results in half-hearted projects which indicate collective failure. 

5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done

The jugular vein of agile philosophy is to empower team members by granting them autonomy and showing trust. The agile team should be formed by including members of diverse skill sets. The roles and responsibilities of every member must be clearly defined. Once it’s done, micromanagement should be avoided at all costs.

6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation

The aforementioned principle may contradict the policy of remote work. You may ask how is it possible to have face-to-face conversation when you are geographically distributed?

Face to face conversation doesn’t have to be in-person, does it?

With the slew of video conferencing tools such as Slack, Asana, Zoom, and Google Meet, direct communication is no longer a distant reality. The key purpose of the principle is to ensure that product, tech, marketing, and sales teams communicate in real time regarding strategy, roadmaps, issues, and opportunities.

7. Working software is the primary measure of progress

If you don’t have a working software that is ready to hit the market shelves, then your efforts mean zilch. All your blueprints, bugs resolved, and skeleton are of no use, if you don’t have a Minimum Viable Product(MVP).

8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely

While there is a constant hustle to deliver working products, it shouldn’t come at the expense of the development team’s misery. The development pace should be slow and steady. Setting realistic expectations and deadlines helps sustain team morale which reduces burnout and attrition among the team members of cross-functional teams.

9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility

While the early and continuous release is a key objective, often organizations achieve this by compromising on technical and design aspects. 

As a result, technical debt keeps piling up which increases the production costs.

Therefore, focusing on technical excellence and good design should be as important as continuous delivery. Agile teams achieve this through the implementation of best engineering practices.

10. Simplicity-the art of maximizing the amount of work not done-is essential

Keeping things simple and not complicating it can achieve tremendous results. Heard of the Pareto rule? Or commonly known as the 80/20 rule.

It states that 80% of the outcomes come from 20% of the inputs. Narrowing your goals to organizational objectives and prioritizing growth over everything else will get you the desired results. The core of Agile focuses on building for the long term and building for a purpose.

11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams

Teams should become self-organized i.e. they should learn to self organize all spheres of software development. They should enquire requirements by communicating with the business, write optimum code, and group their work.
This enables the development team to take responsibility as if it were their own enterprise. Self organizing teams can only be formed if they are granting autonomy and trust.

12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly

From time to time, self-organization must self-introspect their progress and their efforts. You are not an Agile team, if you believe that this is the way we have always worked and there’s no need for change.

The heart of Agile lies in continuous improvement and not following a rigid process for every sprint. Continuous improvement isn’t a buzz word and must extend to every sphere of the organization such as processes and teams.

Recommended reading: What is Agile Governance: 4 Guiding Principles for Good Governance in Agile

What are the Benefits of Agile?

What are the Benefits of Agile?

Why is Agile widely adopted? 

What makes it so unique is that over its 2 decades of existence, it is ranked number one in terms of popularity? 

As per the 15th State of Agile Report, the agile adoption rate increased from 37% in 2020 to 86% in 2021. 

This brings us to the pertinent question, ‘What are the benefits of Agile?’. 

The benefits of Agile are numerous. Here are 10 benefits of Agile Methodology you should know if you’re doubting its effectiveness-

1. Exceptional Product Quality

The product outcome at the end of the sprint is outstanding since testing is an integral part of the sprint. The client participates in the entire development cycle and all changes are made on time. 

Agile is based on iterations which ensure that self-organizing teams are experimenting, learning, and growing. 

2. Customer Happiness

Customer feedback is critical in Agile development. They are part of the decision-making process which leads to reduced customer churn. Traditional methodologies limit customer participation in the planning phase. 

Since customers are involved in the entire development cycle, the product is developed by processing their feedback which makes them happy customers. The time to market time is reduced in Agile and this is a trump card since it offers a first-mover advantage. 

3. Aerial control

Managers can perform efficiently because of the extensive control over the project due to its transparency, feedback inclusion, and quality control features. 

Quality is maintained through the development cycle and all the stakeholders are kept in the loop through daily progress reports through the state of the art tools. 

4. Decreased risks

Agile decreases the number of risks to a large extent. The sprints in Agile are small and iterative which results in continuous delivery. 

5. Heightened flexibility

Agile supplements development processes with flexibility. Teams work in short sprints and customer feedback is given from time to time with the Product Owner taking the lead. 

Changes prove to be expensive in other methodologies due to their rigidity. Agile provides the privilege of short sprints that are both realistic and manageable to implement changes on the go. 

6. Sustained Improvement

Self-introspection for self-improvement. 

Does it ring a bell? 

Take a guess. 

It is one of the 12 principles in the Agile Manifesto. Agile works in iterations and the product are built in increments. Every sprint will be better than the last and mistakes will not be repeated. 

Agile endorses free flow of ideas and exchange of learnings among team members. This increases collaboration and the bond among team members. 

7. Ameliorates team morale

Agile teams are self-organized and independently managed. They are empowered to make decisions and have autonomy.  

The Scrum Master protects the team sponsors and management. Since the innate nature of Agile teams is cross-functional, every team member can grow by learning project management skills and grow in their current roles. 

The team works as a close-knit unit by discussing the challenges and the potential solutions. This is possible because Agile teams are small in size. 

8. Better Cost Estimation and Scheduling

Traditional project methodologies had longer development cycles which led to costs overreaching the budget. 

Agile reduces costs since the sprints are short and the deliverables are given on time. This improves the project predictability. The cost estimate is given to the client before the start of the project. This improves the decision-making for the features required and the possible additions needed later. 

9. Elevation in ROI

Agile follows the Early bird philosophy. 

Agile consists of sprints where product iterations are built incrementally. An early start and development process that happens as per schedule gives the benefits early. 

A functional prototype is ready to be launched. This reduces the time to market and decreases the cost. By launching a functional product, you gain the first-mover advantage. 

Marathon delivery cycles lead to soaring project costs and are a disadvantage in competitive markets. Agile ensures quicker product releases and the advantage of assessing the early critical response to the product. 

10. Priority to Business Value

Agile focuses on determining the most important features required by the client. The development team will focus on what’s important to the client and deliver the features that drive the business value. 

Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of Agile Project Management Methodology, let’s look at its subset Scrum.

You might be interested in reading: What Is Agile Training and Why Agile Scrum Should Be Your Next Career

What Is Scrum?

Scrum is a lightweight agile framework that encourages team members to work on a problem together. It helps teams to gather knowledge from experience, learn self-organization through working on an issue. Scrum also encourages them to improve by reflecting on their success and losses.

 The Scrum framework splits every project into sprints which last 2 to 4 weeks. Every sprint concludes with a functional product or a prototype of the final deliverable. 

Scrum is based on 3 pillars and is difficult to master-

  1. Transparency: There should be ambiguity and jargons are a no-no. You must use a common language and common definitions.
  2. Inspection: Scrum artifacts must be regularly examined and reviewed to ensure quality
  3. Adaptation: On noticing below-par quality products, the team should make corrections and adjustments.

A Brief History on Scrum

Scrum as a software development term was first used in 1986 in the research paper titled ‘The New New Product Development Game’. Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka. 

The paper was first published in the Jan issue of Harvard Business Review, 1986. The term derives its origin from rugby, where the term means teamwork. 

Fast forward 7 years later, Jeff Sutherland launched the first Scrum project in 1993. Two years later, he developed Scrum as a formal process. 

Now, let’s study the Scrum methodology and process.

Scrum Methodology & Process

Scrum is a subset of Agile. It is defined by set rules and best practices that govern the software development process and its absence will result in absolute failure.

Scrum builds increments in iterations called Sprints which are typically 2-4 weeks.

Different Roles in Scrum

Different Roles in Scrum

The success of Scrum methodology is dependent on 3 roles-

  • Scrum Master:

    The Scrum Master is responsible for the implementation of the Scrum framework. They ensure that the scrum principles and practices are followed. They eliminate hurdles, conduct meetings, and work with product owners.

    As a Scrum Master, you will be working closely with the Product Owner to ensure that the Product Backlog is ready for the next sprint.

    The Scrum Master has authority over the process but doesn’t have authority over the team members. However, the Scrum Master is well within their rights to ensure that the team members are not burdened with tasks so that the sprint progresses smoothly.

  • Product Owner

    The Product Owner is a representative of the customer. They decide what features to build and prioritize the feature that offers the most business value to the customer. The Product Owner knows the in and out of the customer behavior, market environment, and current trends.

    The Product Owner envisions the product’s future, communicates with the external stakeholders and translates their needs into the team. They also ensure that the product needs are being built and oversee the progress.

  • Development Team:

    The Scrum Development team is a cross-functional team so that they have the technical expertise to deliver the final product. The scrum team includes professionals like software developers, architects, programmers, analysts, system admins, QA experts, testers, UI designers, etc.

    The scrum team works on the features specified by the Product Owner. It helps in goal definition and sprint planning. The sprint team only undertakes tasks that they can handle at a time.

    It uses data to develop high-quality products and ensure regular testing to find flaws in products and prototypes. It also does frequent quality assurance checks.

Benefits of Scrum Methodology

The proven benefits of Scrum are testament to its effectiveness. Here are 7 benefits of Scrum that will convince you to adopt Scrum for your organization.

  • Increased Revenue

    New features are built-in short sprints in Scrum. At the end of every sprint, a functional product for customer use is available. This allows early release to market which would otherwise not be possible if the entire product is released after completion. 

  • Supreme Quality

    Quality is a given since frequent testing is done to ensure that any defects or bugs are corrected on the go. This enables that any flaws are detected in the early stages ensuring quality and minimizing production delays.

  • Reduced risk

    Scrum propagates transparency hence the Product Owner and all the stakeholders are kept in the loop about the product development. Since the feedback loop is constant, the Scrum team can identify the risks early. Since any review and feedback is taken on time, the outcome won’t be mediocre. This reduces the high incidence of failure.

  • Significant flexibility

    The lack of flexibility in traditional development methodologies is the reason it was discarded. There is no room for changes in the product requirements because it is expensive and time-consuming to make changes.

    In Scrum, there is scope for flexibility and new features are added to the next sprint. Requirements change as the product evolves. The Product Owner decides if the feature is required or not.

  • Cost effective

    Static timelines and changing requirements are opposites when working under a fixed budget. The requirements change over time and so does the cost. Calculating the current developmental costs will help you estimate the cost of future development.

  • Customer Satisfaction

    The high engagement of the Product Owner, the crystal clear transparency of the process, and the product ensure that everything is visible to the customer. The flexibility to accommodate changes when necessary leads to greater customer satisfaction because the product is delivered to the customer.

  • Speed to Market

    Iterative development means timely revenue and Scrum facilitates ease of early releases.

How are Scrum and Agile different from traditional methodologies?

Agile and Scrum are distinctive from the traditional methodologies in various aspects. Here are the differences between Scrum/Agile and Traditional methodology also called Waterfall methodology.

Waterfall Approach

  • The development cycle is broken down into different phases 
  • Waterfall has a sequential design process 
  • The Waterfall is a structured development methodology hence it is rigid 
  • The Software development process happens in one single cycle
  • Not possible to add features once the development process begins
  • Key processes like testing, designing, and development happen once 
  • The test plan is seldom discussed in the test phase 
  • The method works for projects where is no change in requirements 
  • The testing phase comes after the build phase
  • The sole aim is to complete the project and deliver optimum value to the customer
  • Team collaboration and coordination is limited 
  • Business Analysts gauges the requirements before the start of the project 
  • A Detailed description is required to the implement waterfall approach

Agile/Scrum

  • It breaks down the project into short iterations called Sprints 
  • It has an incremental approach
  • It delivers frequently so that the feedback could be gathered faster 
  • Agile has mobility
  • Agile is a set of numerous different projects 
  • Agile is flexible and accommodates changes even after the primary planning 
  • Agile follows a repetitive pattern where planning, development, and prototyping and other activities happen more than once 
  • The Testing plan is reviewed after every sprint 
  • Agile development process hence requirements evolve with time
  • Development and testing go hand in hand 
  • Agile follows customer satisfaction where the product caters to the needs of the customers and evolve as per customer demands 
  • Small teams with a superlative degree of coordination and synchronization work well
  • The Product Owner refines the requirements continuously

What’s so bad about Waterfall development?

Waterfall has become obsolete and has been discarded. But, what could be the reasons for doing so?

Waterfall has its fair share of limitations which render it unproductive. Let’s take a look at all the limitations. 

  • Creates serious confusion

    If the project requirements aren’t specified properly, then the whole project will be a shipwreck.
    Why do you ask?
    Since the waterfall approach is rigid, there is no scope for any additions. Once a project is initiated, the entire project should be shut.

  • Lacks Flexibility

    Unlike Agile, waterfall methodology requires the product requirements to be specified at the beginning itself. The customer isn’t a part of the process so feedback is not taken. In Agile, since a functional product with customer feedback is present, a minimum viable product is ready to be released.

  • Erratic

    Since the testing in Waterfall only happens after the completion of the project, any defects, bugs, or corrections are impossible to identify.

  • Little to no customer involvement

    Customers are not a part of the development process and hence they have no access to the prototype being built. Customer feedback is not taken which renders the product unfit for the market.

Recommended reading: Top Scrum Certifications You Need to Know in 2022

Case Studies: How Have Other Organizations Successfully Adopted Agile?

Spark

Spark, a prominent telecom operator in New Zealand completed the first phase of its Agile transformation in 2018. The goals were to increase customer-centricity, employee engagement, and speed for overall efficiency. 

The firm was able to reduce customer complaints from 30 to 40% scoring an NPS of 70. The outcomes were an increased market share and sector-dominating returns. 

The bottom line- 65% of the organizations who undergo successful agile transformations reported improved financial performance 

Roche

Roche, a Swiss pharmaceutical company with 94,000 employees and a presence in 100 countries rolled its change program for senior leaders. 

1000+ leaders attended the 4-day program that educated them about the mindset and capabilities to lead an agile organization.

What is the difference between agile and scrum?

Agile

Scrum

Agile is a development methodology that follows an incremental and developmental approach  Scrum is one of the frameworks of Agile. It follows an iterative and incremental approach called sprints which lasts 2-3 weeks
Agile works best for organizations which small but experienced development teams Scrum is best suited for projects where requirements keep changing 
Leadership plays a key role in Agile Scrum supplements a self-organizing and cross-functional team
Lacks flexibility when compared to Scrum Scrum’s flexibility is its biggest strength since it can adapt to changes quickly 
Open communication is the norm in Agile where face to face interactions happen between cross functional teams Daily stand up meetings are held where Scrum Master, Product Owner, and the team members
Agile needs a lot of structural and developmental changes before the start  Not many changes are required when applying Scrum 
The client feedback loop should be regular in  The client is asked for feedback after every sprint for review
In Agile methodology, each phase of the development process like requirements, analysis, and design is tracked regularly A demo is given to the client after every sprint for feedback 
The Project head oversees the tasks and is the decision-maker The team has no leader so the entire team resolves issues and tasks
Design and implementation should be simple Innovation should drive design and implementation
Continuous delivery of the working product is the priority in Agile Empirical process control is followed in scrum
Functional software is the measure of progress Functional software is the measure of progress

Should I be using Scrum, Kanban, or another framework of agile?

“While Agile and Scrum are fine, can we use Kanban or other agile frameworks?” 

This is the question that is often asked to us when organizations reach out to us for Agile frameworks. 

Before we proceed ahead, let us first go through the definition of Kanban. 

Kanban

Kanban is a workflow management method that defines, manages, and enhances services that deliver knowledge work. It strives to visualize work, increase efficiency, and improve constantly.

Now, let’s see how Scrum and Kanban differ. 

Scrum

Kanban

Sprints in Scrum are fixed. It lasts anywhere between 2 weeks to 1 month Kanban is not duration-based. It works in cycles hence it is measured in cycle teams
Sprint is planned based on the product backlog   This is monitored using workflow, work item, or Kanban card 
Scrum involves 3 roles i.e. Scrum Master, Product Owner, the development team  Kanban doesn’t involve roles
Sprint Goal doesn’t change  once the sprint begins Kanban is allowed since changes can be made anytime 
Since work is done in sprints or batches, the work is completed in batches or sprints Work is done based on the single-threaded work item flows

Using Kanban or any other agile framework is dependent on a lot of factors such as the organization size and the like. An Agile coach would be best able to determine which agile framework would work best for your organization.

How will Agile and Scrum help me?

A career in Agile and Scrum can help you land jobs in Fortune 500 companies. 

Scrum Master Trends 2019 published the following average salaries by continents. The results are mentioned below-

  • North America – $113, 295 
  • Europe – $76, 889 
  • Africa – $ 62, 571 
  • Asia – $40, 326 
  • Oceania – $149, 507 
  • South America – $43, 505 

Isn’t it amazing?

Becoming a Scrum Master certified from globally recognized bodies such as Scrum.org and Scrum Alliance leads to increased job opportunities beyond geographical borders. It leads to higher paychecks compared to non-certified peers. 

In a superficial world everyone claims to be certified Scrum Masters, a Scrum Master certification will set you apart. 

44% of the participants in the survey reported having earned more than $100,000, while 18% without a certification claimed to earn the same.

How do I get started with Agile and Scrum?

This marks the end of the blog post but before we wrap up. There’s an important question that needs to be answered.

“How Do I Get Started With Agile and Scrum?”

Here are a few steps that you can take to start learning Agile and Scrum-

1. Learn the fundamentals of Scrum and Agile

Start learning the basics of Scrum and Agile from the Scrum Guide and the Agile Manifesto. Read the Scrum and Agile glossary to understand the basic technical terms.

Read the resources from Scrum.org and Scrum Alliance. Watch videos and listen to podcasts. This will help you learn rudimentary concepts, beliefs, and practices.

2. Select the right Scrum & Agile certification

A globally recognized Agile or Scrum certification training will teach you the Scrum framework. It will give hands-on training on implementing Scrum and Agile in your organization.

Here is a list of Scrum & Agile certifications from globally accredited bodies- 

3. Take up the exam

Now, you wouldn’t want to attend the training to just learn, right? 

Take the exam to assess your knowledge of Scrum & Agile. Clearing the exams will make you certified in Scrum and Agile. This will make you a valuable hire in the job market. 

Once you are certified, the certification is valid for two years, post which you will have to appear for the certification exam again.

Wrapping Up

Agile and Scrum are the popular frameworks for driving organizational transformation. After having gone through the definitions of Agile and Scrum and its history, benefits of Agile and Scrum, differences between Agile, Scrum, and Kanban, and case studies, you should be able to have a concrete understanding of the agile and scrum methodology. 

What is Agile? And What is Scrum? Guide should help you arrive at a decision. 

How do you think the guide helped you? What points did we miss? Share your thoughts and your opinion in the comments with us.

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Author's Bio
Agilemania

We are a team of Professional Scrum Trainers (PST) and Enterprise Agile coaches actively working as Scrum Trainers, Agile Coaches, Scrum Masters/Product Owners aimed at delivering quality and consistency for our students across the globe.