How to Scale Scrum?As Scrum is becoming widely used by small and large-scale organizations, the need to scale Scrum is also emerging. Find out how to scale Scrum in this comprehensive guide.
Scrum is a widely used agile methodology that teams are using to develop, deploy, deliver, and maintain complex products. Scrum framework was initially meant to provide a simple environment that a team of 8-9 members can use to work on one product backlog and deliver a small-scale project. However, Scrum has gradually set its roots at the enterprise level, and today there are many large-scale organizations that are using Scrum to develop complex products.
In enterprises, the project size, goals, budgets, and teams are all in big numbers. This means that there will be multiple teams involved in delivering one project. Owing to that, the basic framework of Scrum that targets 8-9 members team cannot provide optimal results. Therefore, such organizations are actively looking for scaling Scrum to ensure collaborative developments with minimal dependencies. However, this is no straightforward way of scaling Scrum, as the involvement of multiple teams brings a lot of challenges. Therefore, this article provides the basic steps to scale Scrum along with the challenges and benefits of scaling Scrum.
Scrum framework involves one product backlog that the Scrum team targets to complete through multiple sprint sessions. The need of scaling Scrum emerges when it becomes difficult for one team to complete the product backlog itself. So, if there is a product backlog that requires the involvement of multiple teams and each team will be dependent on other teams' work, then the basic Scrum framework becomes difficult to implement. In such a case, an organization needs to scale Scrum so that multiple teams can work in a synchronized way with minimal dependencies and ensure a streamlined continuous delivery approach.
Just to be clear, Scaling Scrum does not change the core of the Scrum framework. The organization still follows the principles, artifacts, and roles of Scrum. Planning is done in a collaborative environment, while teams remain self-organizing. There is only one product backlog for all teams. However, scaling does bring some changes in the role of some members. For example, the Product Owner now has a bigger role to play, as he/she has to interact with several teams and closely monitor the costs, benefits, risks, and other metrics.
Scaling Scrum may sound easy because the core framework remains the same, but the reality is a bit different. Scaling does bring more requirements, events, interactions, and complexities. It impacts technology, people, and domain. Therefore, if your organization is looking to scale Scrum, it should do it rightfully. Below is the overview of the three basic steps involved with scaling Scrum:
When it comes to scaling Scrum, there are many frameworks to choose from, such as LeSS, Nexus, Scrum of Scrums, Scrum@Scale, and Enterprise Scrum. All these frameworks facilitate organizations to scale Scrum while ensuring that they keep following the Scrum core principles. So, the first step is to get familiar with these frameworks and pick the most appropriate one depending on your size and functionality. Below is the overview of some of the commonly used Scrum frameworks for scaling:
Keeping the Scrum core intact, LeSS (Large Scale Scrum) helps organizations to apply the principles, elements, and purpose of Scrum on a large scale in the easiest way possible. It simplifies scaling by setting up some ground rules. The main target of the LeSS framework is to use minimal processes to keep multiple teams on the same page. For example, LeSS involves a shared Product Owner, sprint review, and product backlog.
LeSS framework is separated into two frameworks, i.e., Basic LeSS (2-8 teams) and LeSS Huge (8+ teams). In both these frameworks, there is just one Product Owner that manages multiple teams. Overall, LeSS is known as the Scrum scaling frame that provides a very minimalistic framework to scale Scrum.
Nexus is a Scrum framework that targets large organizations where multiple teams are working on one common product backlog. It is designed for those projects where there are up to 100 people involved in it. It ensures accountability and transparency and involves all the methodologies required for project completion.
Nexus introduces a new role called Nexus Integration Team (NIT), which involves the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and one or more members from every team. The duty of NIT is to coordinate all teams' work, reduce dependencies, plan sprints, and do similar other activities. Moreover, Nexus also offers a new Nexus Sprint Backlog that is meant to ensure continuous workflow, refinement, and proper visualizing of the sprint progress. Overall, Nexus is a lightweight framework that suits the scaling needs of large organizations.
Scrum of Scrums is one of the most common and oldest frameworks for scaling Scrum. As the name implies, it integrates multiple teams that are working to develop and release the same project. This framework helps to address overlaps wisely and ensures events sequencing smartly.
The key to successful development in the Scrum of Scrums framework is regular meetings that happen at least once per week or max one per day. In those meetings, Scrum Master or other members are sent from every team for discussions. The representatives discuss previous accomplishments, address current hurdles, and discuss future sprints. Overall, Scrum of Scrums provides a collaborative environment for multiple teams to work in a sequence and address complications right away.
Scrum@Scale is developed by Jeff Sutherland, who is one of Scrum's creators. Scrum@Scale is a meta-level framework that is less prescriptive compared to LeSS. Organizations can use Scrum@Scale standalone or overlap with other frameworks. It involves two key cycles for successful product releases, i.e., Product Owner Cycle and Scrum Master Cycle.
The Product Owner Cycle stage involves visioning, backlog prioritizing, release management and planning, and product feedback. On the other hand, the Scrum Master Cycle involves cross-team coordination, regular improvements, and eradicating complications. Overall, Scrum@Scale provides the freedom to manage the scaling depending on the specific business case.
Enterprise Scrum framework is designed to make Scrum work in any environment and becomes applicable across the enterprise, whether it's individual teams, HR or finance teams, asset management teams, etc. It incorporates all levels of processes, programs, projects, and management to make the whole organization more agile.
Enterprise Scrum has a very simple basic goal, i.e., to provide more value in a minimal timeframe and delight everyone. Balance is the core of Enterprise Scrum, as it forces equilibrium between social impact, employee happiness, customer satisfaction, and profits. Overall, Enterprise Scrum is best suited for organizations that want to scale Scrum across company-wide operations.
All the above-listed Scrum scaling frameworks are used by different organizations depending on their business model and project needs. So, you should go through these frameworks in detail and pick the right framework that best justifies your goals.
Once the Scrum framework is finalized, the next step to do is to set the metrics that will help to better evaluate the positive impacts and challenges of Scrum scaling. These metrics will provide insightful data, which helps the organizations improve their techniques and strategies for efficient scaling of Scrum.
Other than the commitment of teams for effective Scrum scaling, organizations need to keep everyone on board, especially those stakeholders that hold the decision-making power. When all the key stakeholders are involved in scaling Scrum, it leads to better decision-making and more fruitful outcomes from scaled Scrum.
As narrated above, scaling Scrum brings a new set of complications because multiple teams are now forced to collaborate and use a refined way of interaction and development. So, some of the key challenges with scaling Scrum are as follow:
- In many organizations, Scrum is a team-level initiative, which means teams might have set their own Agile framework that suits their needs. For example, some teams might be using Planning Poker or Async Poker to estimate product backlogs, while others might be using the T-Shirt Size technique. So, when they have to collaborate with other teams on one product backlog, then it can be struggling for some teams.
- Although Scrum emphasizes self-organizing teams, a scaled Scrum might not provide the autonomy in decision-making that teams had enjoyed previously.
- Teams are dependent on each other, so one team's flow can get interrupted by others.
To sum up, scaling Scrum does pose some challenges, but there is always a way to pass through them. Teams might struggle with the framework in the beginning, but they will gradually become more familiar and experienced with the passage of time.
Despite the challenges organizations have to deal with while scaling Scrum, there are many benefits of scaled Scrum. Some of the prominent ones are as follows:
- Collaboration: Scaling Scrum brings many teams within an organization under one roof, thereby it increases the organization-wide collaboration.
- Productivity: When multiple teams are collaborating on one specific product backlog and create a mutual understanding, they are becoming more focused and determined to fulfill their assigned duties. In short, the team-level productivity witnesses a boost with scaled Scrum.
- Transparency: Scaled Scrum sets a transparent workflow where every team knows their actions and who is accountable for what.
- Fast and High-Quality Deliveries: Organizations are in a better position to tackle complex projects rightly with scaled Scrum. It is because teams focus on a continuous delivery approach, which helps them to resolve issues quickly and ensure iterative-based fast and high-quality deliveries.
In short, scaling Scrum brings a lot of benefits to the table, which not just ease complex project developments, but also empower organizations to expand their service offerings in existing resources.
Considering the fast-paced world and growing customer demands, organizations cannot rely on traditional development cycles. Agile powered by Scrum methodology has helped thousands of organizations to become more responsive to customer demands and deliver customer-oriented high-quality products. Owing to the benefits associated with Scrum methodology, more and more organizations are making it part of their development frameworks. So, it is not a surprise to see growing requests around scaling Scrum for large-scale and complex projects.
Therefore, if your organization feels a need to scale its team-level Scrum practices to a multi-team level, then you should go for it right away. It will be struggling at the beginning, but soon teams will become familiar with the scaled Scrum framework and the quality will flourish gradually.