Many IT professionals mistakenly equate Agile with Scrum, and vice versa. Although Scrum was one of the earliest applications of lean software development principles and, for a long time, the most popular Agile approach worldwide, it is important to understand that Scrum fully embraces Agile principles.
What is Scrum?
Scrum is an incremental, iterative strategy for lean software development. One key consideration when comparing Agile and Scrum is that, unlike other lean methodologies, Scrum organizes teams into small groups of 4 to 10 individuals. These small teams have autonomy in how they work. The term ‘Scrum’ in this context is named after a formation used in the game of Rugby, where players gather together for a specific activity. These teams take work that has already been broken down into a product backlog and proceed to code, test, and deliver in short fixed time-boxed release cycles known as sprints. Each sprint lasts between two and four weeks, which is another distinguishing feature between Agile and Scrum. Agile does not specify the use of fixed time boxes, while Scrum does.
What is the Difference Between Agile and Waterfall?
The use of short, regular iterations to deliver products is a key feature that sets Agile apart from the traditional Waterfall model. The underlying concept behind this lean methodology, shared by both Agile and Scrum, is that clients often change their requirements. Agile and Scrum provide the flexibility to accommodate these changes at a minimal cost. Additionally, both approaches avoid extensive long-term planning and focus on consistently releasing working software.
Agile vs Scrum: Roles
When comparing roles in Agile and Scrum, Agile does not define or mandate any specific roles, while Scrum does. The Scrum Team is a multi-skilled group responsible for determining requirements, running daily scrum meetings to monitor progress and address issues, writing and testing code, and deciding what can be shipped at the end of each sprint.
A Scrum Master protects the team from external interference and supports the implementation of Scrum and its 12 principles. Interestingly, as Agile culture opposes management hierarchies, the Scrum Master is not the boss but rather a servant-leader for the team. They help outsiders understand which interactions with the team are helpful and which are not.
In this lean methodology, a Scrum Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the product’s value resulting from the team’s work. The exact approach to achieving this goal may vary across organizations, Scrum teams, and individuals. In the Agile vs Scrum comparison, the Scrum Product Owner is the sole individual responsible for managing the product backlog. In other variants of lean software development, this responsibility lies with the team. In the Agile vs Waterfall comparison, a separate team, independent of the development team, determines the requirements.
What is Lean?
When considering Agile vs Scrum, it can be helpful to compare Agile with Lean. Lean is a conceptual model initially developed for use in manufacturing industries. Lean software development shares principles and values closely aligned with Agile methodologies. However, Lean provides additional guidance on methods and practices that can be applied. Lean emphasizes adding value through the concept that every activity in the product’s delivery must contribute value. This distinction sets Lean apart from Agile; only Lean specifies the methods to achieve this.
Lean software development techniques excel at eliminating or minimizing waste, known as ‘Muda.’ Waste refers to anything that does not add value to the product. Muda includes queues within processes, partially completed products lying idle, and redundant quality inspections. While this waste is easily identifiable in manufacturing processes, it can be more challenging to spot in software development. However, the effort to identify waste is worthwhile. The principles of Lean can be applied to any implementation of Agile, including Agile and Scrum or any other variant of lean software development.
Agile vs Scrum: Conclusion
Understanding the terminology is crucial when discussing different methodologies and approaches. While practitioners may be clear about the distinctions, clients, stakeholders, and even casual observers often use the wrong terms, leading to confusion. It is essential for organizations that embrace Agile methodologies to provide clarity in terminology. Developing and communicating a clear and concise definition is key to the success of any organization.
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