Skip to main content

Managing Scrum: Traditional Project Management Software

From the moment I started working with Scrum until I wrote the quick poll on agile tool usage, it never even occurred to me to consider using classical project management tools like Microsoft Project. Why not?

Just as Neo knows that there is no spoon, and managers need to learn that there is no box, agile project managers know that there is no critical path. The world view, basic concepts and individual responsibilities in a Scrum environment are different and so the needs of the underlying software are different as well.

The Product Owner negotiates with the team on the basis of functionality to be realized, not in terms of tasks to be accomplished. The Scrum master eliminates impediments and helps assure that everyone is working on the highest priority stories in the current Sprint. The team members look to the task board to know what to do, to inform their colleagues of what they are doing, and to update their status and their estimates daily. The state of the project is visible for all to see at every step of the way.

What does classical PM software do? According to Wikipedia, the purpose of project management software is to:
  1. Schedule a series of events,
  2. Mangage dependencies between events
  3. Schedule people and resources
  4. Deal with uncertainties in the estimates of the duration of each task
  5. Arrange tasks to meet various deadlines
  6. Calculate critical paths
  7. Reporting
Do these functions correspond to the needs of an Agile Team? There is no critical path, so Gantt charts don't help much. The schedule of events is largely determined by the priorities of the Product Owner and are negotiated from sprint to sprint with the developers.

The estimates are handled in two levels of detail - 1) seat of the pants 'story points' for rough sizing and scheduling at the release level, and 2) very detailed task estimates for monitoring progress through a sprint. The only deadlines are sprint demos and they are fixed by the sprint rhythm.

Really the only thing left is reporting, but given that all the underlying concepts are different, of what use will be the reporting from such a tool ?

[Previous:Managing Scrum with Dedicated Tools ]
[Next: Managing Scrum: the Right Tool for the Job ]


Kate Carruthers said…
Your points are valid for the Scrum work itself, it is managed adequately via the Scrum process. However, often the Scrum is delivered as part of a larger program of work that needs to be coordinated and reported to management. This is the problem area where we need to let Scrum happen properly and not impose Project Management tools that don't make sense or add value. But we still need to recognise the need to report effectively on the work done so that management can percieve the value being delivered across the entire portfolio of projects (both waterfall & agile). Still working on answers for that one though.

Popular posts from this blog

Scaling Scrum: SAFe, DAD, or LeSS?

Participants in last week's Scrum MasterClass wanted to evaluate approaches to scaling Scrum and Agile for their large enterprise. So I set out to review the available frameworks. Which one is best for your situation?

Recently a number of approaches have started gaining attention, including the Scaled Agile Framework ("SAFe") by Dean Leffingwell, Disciplined Agile Development (DAD), by Scott Ambler, and Large Scale Scrum (LeSS), by Craig Larman and Bas Vodde. (Follow the links for white papers or overviews of each approach).

How to compare these approaches? My starting point is Scrum in the team. Scrum has proven very effective at helping teams perform, even though it does not directly address the issues surrounding larger organizations and teams. An approach to scaling Scrum should not be inconsistent with Scrum itself.

Scrum implements a small number of principles and constraints: Inspect and Adapt. An interdisciplinary Team solves the problem. Deliver something of va…

Sample Definition of Done

Why does Scrum have a Definition of Done? Simple, everyone involved in the project needs to know and understand what Done means. Furthermore, Done should be really done, as in, 'there is nothing stopping us from earning value with this function, except maybe the go-ahead from the Product Owner. Consider the alternative:
Project Manager: Is this function done?
Developer: Yes
Project Manager: So we can ship it?
Developer: Well, No. It needs to be tested, and I need to write some documentation, but the code works, really. I tested it... (pause) ...on my machine. What's wrong with this exchange? To the developer and to the project manager, "done" means something rather different. To the developer in this case, done means: "I don't have to work on this piece of code any more (unless the tester tells me something is wrong)." The project leader is looking for a statement that the code is ready to ship.

At its most basic level, a definition of Done creates a sh…

10 Warning Signs, that your team is not self-organizing

How do you know that self-organization is working? The Bern Chapter of Scrum Breakfast Club looked into this questions, and identified the following warning signs (which I have taken the liberty of translating).

The team reports to the Scrum Master at the Daily ScrumPeople wait for instructions from the Scrum MasterTeam members don't hold each other responsible [for their commitments]The same impediment comes up twice"That's the way it is" => resignation"I" instead of "We"Flip charts are lonelyCulture of conflict-avoidanceDecisions processes are unclear, nor are they discussedPersonal goals are more important than team goals
To this list I would add my a couple of my favorites:
you don't see a triangle on the task board (not working according prioritization of stories)after the daily Scrum, people return directly to their desks (no collaboration)there are a least as many stories in progress as team members (no pairing)
P.S. You can join the …