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Using Scrum for Your SaaS, App or IT Business

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You have probably started your business developing an App, SaaS or IT business on your own. With a great idea in mind, the technical skills and – most of all – dedication combined the will power to stay focused. You have pursued your idea successfully rather than giving up when you hit the first barrier. But once you have scaled your company, hired some people – be it staff or freelancers – you will find that not all of them might have the entrepreneurial mindset that enabled you to be successful.

An introduction to Scrum

If you start building your team or if you feel that your team of great people gets stuck and lacks the business and client focus that used to be your foundation to your success – read on and learn how you can scale your company successfully. The key to innovation and efficiency is Scrum.

Scrum is an agile framework developed for software development projects that become quite popular in recent years. Other than traditional project management methodologies, it focuses on small teams of 3 to 9 people and emphasizes performance and collaboration. The framework was developed by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Swaber, who issued and have been updating the Scrum Guide, the theoretical foundation of Scrum.

How does Scrum work?

Scrum focuses on the competencies and responsibility of a self-organizing cross-functional team (we will cover the typical roles later in this article). This is based on the values commitment, courage, focus, openness and respect.

The framework suggests a development cycle (“sprint”) of 2 – 4 weeks during which usable and marketable results (increments) are produced. During this timebox, the development team will work on items from a sprint backlog which are developed from its design all the way to its deployment as a usable piece of software.

The so-called sprint events

It all starts with a planning meeting where product backlog items – the requirements for a SaaS, App or any other type of software – are selected for the upcoming sprint. During the sprint, there will be daily team stand-up meetings (“daily scrum”) where team members typically reflect on what they have done since the last meeting, what they are going to do until the next meeting and whether they face any impediments. Besides these daily scrums, a lot of collaboration, communication and self-organized thinking is involved to get to a successful sprint result.

The sprint ends with a sprint review, where a usable and potentially shippable product (i.e. a piece of software) is demonstrated and accept. Subsequently, a sprint retrospective facilitates a team’s reflection on the sprint as well as their lessons learned exercise.

The roles in Scrum

One of the success factors of Scrum is its lightweight and people-focused approach. This is also reflected in the roles suggested by the Scrum framework, namely:

  • The Scrum Master: This role is responsible for explaining and implementing Scrum as well as facilitating the teams work and collaboration. A Scrum master is supposed to be a servant leader rather than a project manager or directing boss.
  • The Product Owner: This role represents the business and user side within the Scrum team. A product owner is identifying and maintaining the backlog, supporting the development team creating products in line with business items and presenting the final results to other stakeholders during the Scrum review.
  • The Development Team: Without a further distinction by roles or seniority, the team members are responsible to execute and implement the sprint goals by developing the sprint backlog items. The team is self-organizing, i.e. it is not dependent on a project manager but rather responsible to identify and take the right actions to achieve the goals.

While Scrum seems to resolve many impediments developers and project teams are facing in large organizations, its ideas and approaches can also be used in small businesses.

Adopting Scrum for your business

Scrum is an ideal framework to structure SaaS, App or web development projects with small teams in a customer-focused way amid fast-changing environments. For small businesses and start-ups, it comes with a number of advantages:

  • A light-weight and easy-to-understand structure that is somewhat scalable.
  • A guideline for entrepreneurs to successfully enable employees to self-organizing holistic work, rather than directing and delegating small tasks.
  • Highly adaptive framework that caters for the fact that different teams will have different ideal ways of doing their work.
  • Increasing the team motivation and productivity.
  • Creating better software.

Learn more about the Scrum framework and useful practices and try it in your own company. If you feel that your team could perform better than it actually does, Scrum can be a great enabler. If you are building your new team, hire people with the Scrum rules in mind. While Scrum has not everywhere been successful, chances are good that it will increase efficiency and productivity in a small and agile company like yours.

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