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Published January 6th 2014

Why Agile and Scrum is Good for Your Business

At Brandwatch, we believe in constant innovation and development, which means a large development team continuously working on features and improvements.

We follow the Scrum framework for development.

I’ve been a Scrum Master at Brandwatch for about six months, having previously been a Scrum Master at a marketing/digital agency. A Scrum Master’s role is to work alongside a number of product development teams to deliver new software using the Scrum framework and processes.

Here I’ll explain what Scrum is, and why we use it at Brandwatch.

What is Scrum?

Well, first off, it has nothing to do with Rugby (our offices aren’t built for that kind of teamwork). Secondly, before I explain Scrum, I need to quickly explain agile for those unfamiliar with it.
Agile is a type of project management that differs from the traditional ‘waterfall’ technique, in which “Business X” commits to producing “Product Y” for “Customer Z” by a deadline.

Agile is more, well… agile; a business commits to producing as much as it can in 2-week stretches (called ‘sprints’), and then builds on it in future sprints.

There are a number of well-known agile methods which are focused on different aspects of the software development life cycle. We have chosen Scrum as its main focus is on managing complex projects, which in Brandwatch’s case can include anything from new features and fixing bugs, to changing aesthetics.

Agile is generally better for development businesses like Brandwatch as it allows us to manage our time, maintain the software and improve our product in a much more flexible and efficient manner.

Rather than committing to delivering fully-fledged features one-by-one, we can prioritise fixes, new features and improve our offering based on and adapting to customer wants and needs constantly.

Why is this so important?

Because you don’t want to waste your time and money building a product no one will want to use or pay for. This is where MVP (minimum viable product) comes in; creating a product with the minimum set of product features that will give value to users, in order to test the concept and get feedback before continuing development.

The Scrum processes are very clear about the need to produce visible value in the form of working software on a regular basis. By delivering a product iteratively and incrementally (i.e. in sprints), we also maximise the opportunity for regular customer feedback and the return on investment.

So, how do we accomplish this?

Well, for a start we are split in teams of about 5-7 people each, and those teams are cross-functional. This means that our teams have all the necessary skills needed to accomplish the work without depending on people outside of the team.

We also rely on self-organizing teams. This means there is no team leader who decides which person will do which task, or how a problem will be solved. Those are issues that are decided by the team as a whole, normally as part of our regular Scrum ceremonies.

We keep the team meetings to a minimum in order to optimise productivity, and also ensure an appropriate amount of time is spent without allowing waste in the process. Our ceremonies include:v

  • Daily Stand-up (aka Daily Scrum) – 10 min where each team member talks about what they did yesterday and will do today, and if they have any blockers
  • Estimation meeting – the team gathers to discuss the requirements and estimate their size
  • Sprint Planning – team commits to a certain amount of work at the beginning of the sprint and plans how to deliver it
  • Sprint Review – at the end of the sprint, the team demos their progress to the stakeholders
  • Sprint Retrospective – following the demo, the team discusses between themselves how to improve things next sprint

Agile and Scrum works brilliantly for Brandwatch, not only from a process point of view, but also culturally. We follow the Agile Manifesto, which has these core principles:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Hopefully, when you next work with us and the Brandwatch platform, you’ll be able see how these affect our design, support and development.

Well, that’s a lot to take in in a short post, and there’s a lot more I could write about (technical aspects, JIRA setup, how we estimate in story points), but hopefully that gives a good intro to our development process here at Brandwatch.

I didn’t want to jump in the deep end straight away, but if you have any questions or would like to learn more about how we do Scrum at Brandwatch, let me know in the comments or tweet us – @brandwatch – and I’ll try to include it in my next post!

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