Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part article written by Joseph Mercier, a certified ScrumMastrer with Charlotte-based Mariner.

By Joseph Mercier, Project Manager, Mariner

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – My recent certification as ScrumMaster has brought Scrum into the limelight for the first time for many clients and co-workers. In my explanation, which I’m sharing with you, I hope to provide some insight into Scrum’s uniqueness and value as a software development framework and behavioral model. My insight is based the knowledge I’ve gained through recent experiences and through resources available on the web sites I’ve referenced below.

To understand the ScrumMaster’s role, it is first necessary to understand the concept of Scrum and the role it plays in Agile development.

What Is Agile Development?

Agile development using the Scrum methodology is simply the natural evolution of software processes to support today’s accelerated, rapidly-changing business environment. Through a simplified approach to system development, Agile incorporates a set of management and engineering best practices for accelerating and improving the delivery process. The key principles of Agile development have been around for decades and are based on a series of straightforward, proven steps. Perhaps the core principle that underlies the whole Agile process is “do the simplest thing that will work.” And by working from this core principle, the development team can consistently identify better ways to develop software and help others benefit from new information. These core principles and concepts are defined in a guiding document for Agile development called the

Three of the principles that support the Agile Manifesto stand out to me as keys to Agile/Scrum’s success:

• Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
• Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
• Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential.

Through Agile development, we have come to value individuals and interactions over processes and tools, working software over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation and responding to change over following a plan.

What Is Scrum?

as an open project management framework with a uncomplicated set of rules. The rules enable an average team to organize themselves into a high performance team that greatly exceeds the performance of traditional teams. The rules of Scrum allow continual inspection, adaptation and self-organization and enable innovation to emerge. Within this environment, teams produce exciting products for the customers, enjoy high team spirit and satisfying work, generate high productivity and customer satisfaction, and achieve the operational and financial goals for the project.

Scrum enables teams to select their own work, and then decide, through close communication and mutual agreement within the team, on how best to accomplish the work. This removes the pressure of outside management from teams, significantly improving the quality of work environment and life for developers while increasing employee retention.

According to Certified ScrumMaster Trainer Craig Larman, "Scrum is arguably the oldest and most widely applied agile and iterative method, with an emphasis on iterative and adaptive PM (Project Management) practices."

Scrum has been applied in thousands of organizations and industries since 1993, when Jeff Sutherland first implemented Scrum at Easel Corp. and viewed it as an “Agile Project Management wrapper” for software projects. Projects large and small, in organizations including Yahoo, Medtronics and Primavera, were implemented with great results.

To achieve these types of results, leadership must commit to this important change: Teams adopting Scrum must move away from the status quo of command-control, wishful-thinking-predictive management and embrace the simple rules of Scrum.

Part Two: Why Use Scrum? (Waterfall vs. Scrum)

About the Author

Joseph Mercier has more than 30 years of experience in project management of software development projects and provides project management and technology consulting services to clients as well as strategic planning, enterprise problem solving and implementation support. He is currently engaged in developing and delivering data warehouse and business intelligence solutions for education clients.

Mr. Mercier has Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a Masters certificate in Project Management from The George Washington University, and holds certifications as a Project Management Professional (PMP) and a Certified Scrum Master (CSM).

Mr. Mercier is a member of the Agile Alliance and Project Management Institute (PMI). He is actively involved in several national PMI Special Interest Groups and to the Metrolina PMI Chapter.