Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Towards Agile Support

2 years ago, Anton Schultschick, Leader of IT Support for the EE Department of the ETH Zürich attended my /ch/open workshop on Scrum and got curious about Scrum. 6 months ago, he attended my Scrum Jumpstart with the goal of solving a problem: "My support group has to deal with daily business and we have to successfully complete medium term projects. But the needs of daily business are consuming all our time. We keep the IT running, but we have difficulties with projects. How do we reconcile the two?"

The answer wasn't strictly speaking Scrum. Daily business problems require shorter reaction times  than multi-week sprints would allow. But he did bring home many tools which he could apply to the problem. Today he gaves us a look into what he and his team did:
  • Big Visible Task Board(s) galore - for project backlog and the individual projects
  • Weekly iterations for projects 
  • Demos instead of reports
  • Retrospectives
  • Introducing the Product Owner concept into the daily work. Someone who is interested in and will drive results.
Some things he did not do: there is no daily scrum for support -- the discussions proved not to be very useful -- and there is no Scrum Master. He did not go for electronic tools (which provoked some interesting discussion, initiated by a Webinar participant, about why should you use the "primitive" tools -- Short answer: the big visible taskboards are better for communicating with and motivating people -- the people who produce a ticket own the ticket.

Personally, I think this could be the start of a "Scrum for Support" (Let's call it "Scrimmage" - you heard it here first) - a few simple rituals, roles and artifacts which help you do Support well. I've heard Kanban is getting attention in this area, so maybe that's the solution. But there is something essential about the rhythm of a sprint, which Kanban, a flow oriented framework is missing.

There were several people in the room confronted with the same problem, so I hope they will find each other on our Community Site, and start a discussion about what a "Scrimmage" could be!

If you're interested in Kanban, check out Karl Scotlands Lean and Kanban 101 Tutorial at the SwissICT Lean Agile Scrum Conference next month in Zürich. I know I'm looking forward to this talk!



Daniel Marbach said...

Hy Peter,
I just announced your cool article on! I used some of the words you wrote in the article. Hope you don't mind!

Peter said...

Cool :-)