Agile Without Scrum – Is It Possible?

Agile software development practices have now become a standard in the tech industry and beyond. But agile is far more than its most common framework, Scrum, and it comes in different shapes and sizes. Many development and business teams formulate their own methods that are based on the agile principles but depart from the strict rules of Scrum. 

 

There’s no denying that Scrum is the most popular agile framework today. But is it possible to be agile without Scrum? Can development teams be more flexible about the strict rules of Scrum? 

Read this article to find out whether it’s possible to be agile without Scrum – and how to achieve the best results when following the agile methodology of project management.

What is Scrum?

Scrum is an agile framework that helps teams to address problems, deliver results productively, and drive the highest possible value. Scrum is also a framework for effective team collaboration, especially when teams are working on complex products. The Scrum Guide is an excellent resource that explains the framework in detail. 

As a framework, Scrum comes with its specific roles, artifacts, events, and rules that bind them all together. By fostering team collaboration and communication through various types of meetings such as the daily standup, sprint planning, and sprint retrospective, Scrum also helps to push projects forward and avoid the common communication pitfalls. 

Scrum may be difficult to master, and it works best in teams where all of the members know how to work with it.

 

What is agile project management?

The agile methodology offers an iterative approach to project management and software development. It helps teams to deliver value to their customers faster and with fewer problems along the way. 

Instead of counting on a “big bang” launch of a complete product, agile teams deliver work in small, meaningful increments. Plans, requirements, and results are evaluated continuously. That way, teams are equipped with mechanisms for responding to change quickly. 

By building software products with this approach, businesses can respond to market changes and evolving customer demands quickly and without incurring substantial costs. 

 

Agile and Scrum – Key differences

On the surface, agile and Scrum might look very similar. After all, they both focus on iterative development, flexibility, and adaptability to change. But they’re not one and the same thing. 

Here are the most important differences between agile and Scrum:

  • While agile is a continuous integration of development and testing, Scrum is an agile process that focuses on delivering business value in the shortest time frame possible. 
  • Agile is a methodology that aims to deliver software on a regular basis to enable feedback. Scrum, on the other hand, concentrates on delivering software after each sprint in the form of an increment. 
  • In an agile process, leadership plays a more important role than in Scrum, which, in its essence, promotes self-organizing cross-functional teams. 
  • Agile consists of collaborations and face-to-face interactions between the members of different cross-functional teams. In Scrum, collaboration, and communication happen during Scrum events like the daily standup meetings. 
  • Project managers who implement agile want to process design and execution as simply as possible. In Scrum, process design and execution can be more experimental and innovative.

 

Agile without Scrum – is it possible?

Scrum is the most popular project management framework inspired by agile. It’s a method of implementing agile principles in a project. Note that agile techniques have been used in managerial strategies and product advancements before Scrum was formulated and implemented as an industry standard.

Let’s back to the key principles of agile as explained that the Agile Manifesto:

  • individuals and interactions over processes and tools, 
  • working software over comprehensive documentation, 
  • customer collaboration over contract negotiation, 
  • responding to change over following a plan. 

Agile is a set of principles and guidelines that software development teams can put into practice in any way they want. It’s a list of values that can guide you along the development process. 

 

Scrum clearly follows agile principles:

  • Individuals and interactions are more important than processes and tools because each action becomes a team effort in Scrum. Also, in-person meetings are held whenever possible. A Scrum team is made of three vital roles: Scrum Master, Product Owner, and development team. These team members are all self-sufficient and self-managing. They don’t need to be micromanaged, but they need to communicate with another to accomplish their goals.
  • Scrum also fulfills the second agile principle that values working software over comprehensive documentation. This means that every piece of developed software needs to be tested before it’s released to ensure that it works properly and accomplishes its goals. Whether following Scrum or not, many development teams do that. Agile focuses on streamlining such processes to make teams more efficient. That’s why it recommends that teams don’t focus on unnecessary documentation that takes up the time, which can be used for more valuable tasks. This is clearly reflected in Scrum, where teams follow this principle as they move through the backlog and build new pieces of software during sprints.
  • The third agile principal places customer collaboration over contract negotiation. The idea here is to consider the customer’s viewpoint as an important factor in development. The team should care more about satisfying the needs of the user rather than creating a contract that only benefits the business. Both agile and Scrum teams value face-to-face interactions and customer feedback. Understanding the target customers before starting software development are actions that are part of both agile and Scrum.
  • The Agile Manifesto also states that responding to change needs to take priority over following a plan. This means that both agile and Scrum teams have to be flexible when an issue arises, or stakeholder introduces a last-minute change so that the end goal is accomplished. 

 

In its essence, agile shows a way to do things while Scrum shows a way to get things done. While some principles of agile might not come naturally to your team, you can always alter your project management strategies to follow the rhythm and logic that matches the unique needs of your team.

Agile without Scrum – Best practices

1. Keep your project small 

If you want to achieve success without using Scrum but still following agile, it’s best to keep the project scope small. To achieve that, keep your team small and compact. If you focus on a project that has a small goal, make sure that it’s also a short-term one. Keep things to a minimum – whether it’s project duration, the number of people who are involved in the project, or its objectives. That way, you’ll be able to create a convenient workflow and streamline project management.

2. Assign the role of Product Owner

You need a person in your team who will look after the particular requirements of product users but also the business needs. This person will have to keep in touch with the development team, managers, and product owners to apply the necessary changes in the workflow or even the product. 

3. Schedule frequent meetings

Since the goal of your project is small, there is no need to spend time on planning strategies that take a lot of time and resources. A short meeting once a week might be enough to discuss the goals you need to achieve by the end of the week. You can also update the team about all the important things they need to keep in mind while completing other tasks. Also, this is the best occasion to ensure that high-priority tasks are completed first. A weekly meeting like this should include a moment to discuss and process the problems that your team might be experiencing to overcome them and maintain harmony among team members.

4. Hold regular reviews

It’s smart to meet up at the end of every week to show what each team member has done. That way, you will be able to see what everyone has been working on throughout the week and how all of these elements fit into the bigger picture of your project. Also, there will be no surprises, and the entire team will be on the same page. This type of transparency is essential to agile projects.

 

Reviews also allow identifying the areas of production that require more attention and improve the general quality of the project. When dealing with a smaller team, you can help its members develop self-organizing skills that foster a gradual advancement of the project as well as your business. 

Conclusion

Many companies find the Scrum methodology a good choice for the projects. It’s relatively easy to use by experienced teams and saves a lot of time and resources. However, you can just as well use the agile practices of project management without choosing Scrum as your framework of choice. After all, Scrum comes with its many rules and roles that might be a little too much for your project. 

 

All in all, the agile software development methodology and its frameworks like Scrum offer an excellent way for businesses to become more flexible and adapt their products to the changing requirements quickly and at a lower cost. And in the rapidly changing economies of today, this is what builds a competitive advantage.

Technical Project Manager in Concise Software with a developer background, especially in mobile apps (Google Certified Associate Android Developer) and automotive systems. Scrum lover, certificated PSM I, PSPO I & AgilePM, who loves sharing their knowledge with IT communities (e.g. GDG). Husband, father and passionate photographer @ The Owls Photography.

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