The magic of scrum

The magic of scrum
Everyone is interested in the golden key to enforce successful projects. Nobody wants to be disappointed with the results after a few months, or even years, hard work. Time to apply some magic to SAP projects? Is that possible? Is scrum the magic word, is it a silver bullet?

Why is scrum getting more popular in the SAP world? What do people want to achieve while looking at agile methodologies? According to the 2010 Version One investigation, it is about (amongst others):
  • Accelerate time to market 
  • Enhance ability to manage changing priorities 
  • Improve alignment between IT and business 
At talks about applying scrum to the SAP world I often hear the following expectations:
  • Bring in the business! 
  • Enable team spirit 
  • Bring fun to team 
  • It brings opportunities to business 
  • Show software deliveries frequently to all stakeholders 
  • Expectation management, what do I really need 
  • Facilitate delivery process with continuous improvement 
  • Happy users that are satisfied using the software 

So scrum is magic?
Let me be clear before we start, this blog is not about the religious discussion between waterfall or agile project methodologies. There is already a lot written down on doing scrum, you can even learn about it within 5 minutes.
And even on SDN you can already find interesting blogs on doing scrum in the SAP world.
So then, why this blog? This blog is to identify some differences when you want to apply scrum to your SAP project. Differences, tweaking scrum? Isn’t that dangerous, will it still be scrum? To my belief one of the key principles of doing scrum is being pragmatic, so yes, you are allowed to tweak the process to fit your needs. But be aware don’t touch the core principles. Just as Bjoern Goerke wrote down in his blog Good Riddence "Do Scrum by the books. Always".

So my dear 'scrumdamentalists' don't get angry with me. Hold your breath before you state that scrum in the SAP world is not a real scrum. Things are a bit different but you are still able to do scrum in the SAP world. At least that is my opinion after having experience with 5 different kind of SAP projects:
  • SOA project with SAP ECC, CRM, PI, BI and non SAP 
  • SAP PI implementation 
  • SAP CRM implementation 
  • SAP ECC implementation and European roll out 
  • SAP CRM upgrade 

Why are things different in the SAP implementation world?
  • SAP doesn't come as a greenfield. SAP provides a lot of standard functionality and predefined industry solutions. 
  • Project teams are formed with specialists instead of multidisciplinary teams. An ECC consultant will not do PI. An ABAP developer will not start customizing Finance. And so on. 
  • Quite often multiple product owners are required for your project, different business aspects, different business department, different business representatives - so different product owners. 
  • A project with multiple teams running in parallel requires special attention for integration (just like in non scrum SAP projects). It is even possible to have an integration test team next to your realization teams. (And yes, of course things are being tested within the realization teams, how else would things get done ;-) 
  • Start with a vanilla SAP and identify the gaps that still need to be resolved (Check the agile addon for SAP's ASAP methodology in Jan Musil's blog ASAP goes Agile). Also don't write user stories for all SAP transactions that come out of the box. 
  • Make sure that you have all required specialists on board. A rare specialist, required for a short period of time, needs some planning upfront. 
  • Ensure that all product owners remain aligned. Facilitate in a 'scrum of scrums' meeting with all your product owners. 
  • The scrum of scrums meeting is REALLY important, discuss each teams progress, make sure that integration issues are resolved and planned within the different teams. If you have an integration test team running in parallel, it will probably be out of phase with the realization teams. Take the integration issues resolution into account while preparing your sprint backlog. 

Scrum in name only
Now that scrum is being 'hyped' within the SAP world, let's be careful together. Stick to the core principles of scrum. If you're asked to join a scrum project with sprints of 3 months, you know that it is a scrum project "in name only". When all your sprints are planned ahead by a project manager, this is not scrum, it is a ScrumBut. Stick to the book, but keep in mind that some things are different in our SAP world.

Scrum is not magic nor a silver bullet, but it does give you continuous insight in progress and issues. Insight that is given to you on a day-to-day basis and often a lot sooner than before.

When you apply scrum the right way, you will experience a project team that 
  • delivers frequently, 
  • continuously improves the way of working, 
  • takes responsibility to deliver what is actually needed
  • and has fun in doing so. 
Please enjoy applying scrum to your own SAP project(s) and share your experiences with us.

(This blog is also published on SDN at February 26, 2012)


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