Friday, August 14, 2009

Bas Vodde: Interview a ScrumMaster Series

Got word from DigitalFilipino club member CodeLean that it is bringing once again Dutch Agile expert Bas Vodde to Manila - to head a two-day course on Scrum on February 3 and 4, 2009 at Diamond Hotel, Manila.

Rather than just relaying, I decided to interview him further in this article and have a better understanding about Scrum.

Janette Toral (JT): Bas Vodde, what is your claim to fame as a Scrum expert?

Bas Vodde (BV): Eh. Well I wouldn't claim such a thing. But my experiences with Agile development started in the 90s. I was first involved in RAD (rapid application development) though the 4GL tool part never attracted me much. Though, via the design pattern moment in the 90s, I quickly got to know Scrum and Extreme Programming. I had more interest in Extreme Programming though and started experimenting with that (e.g. doing test-driven development, continuous integration and working in iterations).

In the beginning of this century, I joined Nokia where I fist continued my experiments. After some time, I was involved with a very large product and got more interested in getting things to work in a traditional waterfall environment. It didn't. So, I got back to agile development and then got more interest in Scrum as I was working with Craig Larman and Ken Schwaber. I led the company-wide agile transition project in Nokia Networks for a while and now work for my own company. Also wrote two books on large-scale agile development together with Craig Larman.

JT: How many trained Scrum masters are there in the world? How many are in the Philippines at the moment? Who is doing Scrum?

BV: There are very many ScrumMasters in the world :) A couple of years ago we passed the 100,000 I believe, but I'm not sure of the current situation. In Philippines, my guess would be about 100 around now. There has just been some private courses internal into companies and one public course. Another public course coming up in September 3-4th.

Who is doing Scrum? I'm not sure. I trained mainly people from smaller companies. I guess larger companies arrange internal Scrum courses which might have different trainers. At least CodeLean, the company I work with, are doing Scrum :)

JT: What makes Scrum your favored method (I assume) compared to others you have tried? How different is it? (use analogy when possible)

BV: Who said it was my favored method? I sometimes joke that I train Scrum because Extreme Programming is too hard for people to learn, so Scrum is a good starting point. There is some truth in that, though I like the focus of Scrum on the concepts of inspecting and adapting and self-management. That isn't so explicit in extreme programming. But the engineering excellence of Extreme Programming is good, I like that part of XP.In the past I've done RAD, RUP, Waterfall and been involved with CMM(i) (though that is not a method).

RAD was transformed into DSDM and is an "agile method." I've lost most of my interest in the other methods as there are some basic assumptions about the nature of software that are different. For now, my main interest is modern engineering practices and self-organizing, self-managing teams. I don't care too much about what 'method' to use, but Scrum and XP happen to embrace these concepts.

JT: When can a company or project manager say that "I think I need to learn Scrum"?

BV: Whenever they want, of course ;) I'd say that anyone who wants to stay up-to-date with modern development practices would need to at least learn about Scrum or XP. Their impact on the software development industry has been huge. It is not that visible in Asia yet, but I don't think there is any larger company is Europe/US that has not implemented or is looking at Scrum/XP.

JT: Are there Scrum rules that matter the most? What are they and why?

BV: I'd prefer not prioritizing rules of a development system :) Conceptually Scrum is based on self-managing, self-organizing teams who work in short-cycles and focus on a working product. By working in short-cycles they will be able to inspect-adapt their product and process. The effect on that on the product is that the organization will be able to react quicker to customers need, the effect it has on the process is that the team will own their own process and are able to continuously improve it due to the faster feedback of the short-cycles.

All of these together form a simple system in which all concepts are equally important. The most important is that people understand these concepts, try them out and think about them and adjust the development to fit their context, technology, culture or team.

JT: Some folks say that the Certified SCRUM course, being two days, tends to give the wrong impression to some in terms of expectations (also being referred to as certified). What is your opinion on that?

BV: I care that people learn something useful in a 2 day course which they can apply in their work and life which will make their work a better place to life. I don't care how that would be called.

JT: They say you can't implement Scrum if you don't practice Agile. What is your opinion on that?

BV: I'm not sure what this question means. Scrum is an Agile method, so therefore if you apply Scrum and follow the principles/practices of the Agile Manifesto, then you can say that you "practice Agile." Not sure what practice agile before implementing Scrum would mean :)

JT: How can an organization transition to a Scrum process or style of development management?

BV: Well, they would first need to learn about Scrum and get a common understanding of what they are trying to do. Then sit down with the team and discuss about how to try out or transition to Scrum. Every organization will do this differently, I cannot give you a seven-step process for rolling out Scrum.

At least, I always recommend organizations to get coaching help especially related to technical practices and to make sure everyone has a clear understanding of Scrum and its difference with traditional development.

JT: What are the benefits that companies can gain for practicing SCRUM?

BV: As mentioned above, working in short-cycles where the people doing the work own the process leads to being able to respond easier and quicker to changes and to continuously improve your development practices. Scrum provides transparency within your organization which, if acted on, can lead to huge improvements.Personally, I just think that work becomes nicer as people have more control over their own work. A friend of mine and a long-time team member of a Scrum Team in a large organization told me the following: "Before, I would be asked to do things, I'd do them and wouldn't know why. Now I don't do them anymore and instead focus on the things that are important for the product"

(CodeLean to Hold 2nd ScrumMaster Certification Course in Makati

Encoraged by the success of the first-ever ScrumMaster Certification Course in the country, CodeLean, Inc. once again brings Dutch Agile expert Bas Vodde to Manila to head a two-day course on Scrum on February 3 to 4, 2009 at Diamond Hotel, Manila. Scrum is an Agile methodology that deals with how projects are organized and planned.

The Certified ScrumMaster course covers the what, how, and whys of the Scrum framework for product development—from theory to practice. Structured around stories and discussions, the course is for IT professionals who want a deep understanding of Scrum: team members, Product Owners, Scrum Masters and other stakeholders. The first phase of the course covers the concepts of Scrum: background, overview, roles, empirical process control, and the key differences between Scrum and other ways of developing new products. The second phase reveals the practical side: making a backlog, planning, estimating, scaling, initiating a daily Scrum, and more. At the end of the course, participants will have concrete knowledge on how to implement Scrum and an understanding of why it is done that way.

Attendees who complete the course will receive an official certificate labeling them as Certified Scrum Masters (CSMs), and will be listed on the CSM registry of the Scrum Alliance, an organization of internationally recognized Scrum experts.

Facilitating the course is Bas Vodde, who currently works for Odd-e, a Singapore-based consulting company that trains Asian professionals in Agile and Lean development. He is also coauthor of "Scaling Agile and Lean Development: Thinking and Organizational Tools for Large-Scale Scrum" and "Practices for Large-Scale Agile and Lean Development."

Agile software development continues to gain many adherents in most developed countries. Agile methods improve the ability of IT companies to respond quickly to market and customer needs, cut down on inefficiency, and result in more productive and happier employees.
For inquiries and reservations, email or call 8920419.)

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