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Keywords: Scrum, software methodology, agile development, extreme programming
Title: Agile Project Management With Scrum
Author: Ken Schwaber
Publisher: Mircosoft Press
Verdict: A great introduction to the Scrum methodology
As developers we are naturally curious about how other people do development. Whether it's coding standards, code libraries or methodologies, we want to know what other people are doing and why. With methodologies we want to know what works and what doesn't. That's why we like war stories so much - we want to know what happened so that when it happens to us we have an idea of what to do, and just as importantly, what not to do.
In this book Ken Schwaber, co-developer of Scrum, relates a whole bunch of war stories to do with implementing the Scrum methodology at different companies and projects. The purpose of these stories is to relate some real-life experiences to illustrate different aspects of the Scrum process. It aims to explain how the Scrum practices are used and to show how and why they work.
If you're not sure what these practices are, indeed if you've only got the vaguest notion of what Scrum is then there's no need to worry. Schwaber takes the time to introduce the background theories that inform Scrum, particularly the ideas of what can loosely be termed complexity theory, and then to explain what the base practices are. The basic idea is to foster the self-organisation of small development teams, to focus their activity on deliverable functionality and to use a minimal set of artefacts and rules to encourage agile development. The different roles and responsibilities within Scrum are clearly explained, along with the core practices of the daily Scrum and the use of the Product Backlog to drive development.
Once the core ideas are introduced the book moves very quickly into the different stories which are used to illustrate important points, including the roles of the ScrumMaster, the Product Owner and the Team. Project planning and documentation also each get a chapter of illustrative experiences. The different stories are clear and to the point, with a good discussion of any issues that arise. Along the way it's possible to gain a good idea of how it works and what the possible pit-falls are. The stories are not all sunny-day tales, there are a number of places where the implementation of Scrum has clearly been problematic.
What is clear from this book is that like many of the other agile development methodologies a major friction point is with traditional management practices. While Scrum does not go all out into Extreme Programming territory, it is sufficiently different to traditional waterfall development that many managers just don't get it. Even if existing methods lead to repeated failure, there are many managers who suffer from amnesia or wilful blindness. Failures are blamed on individuals rather than on hide-bound processes. For this type of manager Scrum will be seen as taking away control, and sadly for such people failure is the preferable alternative.
This is an enjoyable and thought-provoking book, even if, like this reader, you know little about Scrum at the outset. It certainly works as a great introduction to Scrum.