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SirsiDynix Case Study: Jeff Sutherland on Highly Productive Distributed Scrum

by Deborah Hartmann Preuss on May 31, 2006 |
Scrum co-creator Jeff Sutherland and his colleages have just finished work on a paper on the SirsiDynix project, which used Distributed Scrum and some XP practices.

The 56 member distributed/outsourced team was split between Provo, Utah; Denver, Colorado; Waterloo, Canada; and St. Petersburg, Russia.  The team delivered 671,688 lines of production Java code.  Using XP refactoring techniques they then systematically eliminated 275,000 lines of code to achieve better usability, performance, reliability, and maintainability.  At 15.3 function points per developer/month, the paper states that this is one of the most productive projects ever documented.

Notably, this team achieved almost the same productivity as a single, colocated Scrum team documented by Mike Cohn in his User Stories book.  And this, with all the ScrumMasters located in Utah! The paper observes that:
SirsiDynix best practices are similar to those observed on distributed Scrum teams at IDX Systems, radically different than those promoted by PMBOK, and counterintuitive to some practices advocated by the Scrum Alliance. This paper analyzes and recommends new best practices for globally distributed Agile teams... It is extremely easy to integrate Scrum with XP practices even on large distributed teams. This can improve productivity, reduce project risk, and enhance software quality. What is new in this paper is that single teams with members distributed across sites can enhance code ownership and improve autonomy essential to team self-organization.
This is a very informative case-study. The article briefly reviews the history of Scrum, including the some historical "hyperproductive teams" made possible by use of Agile practices. It then outlines the practices used on the SirsiDynix project, including the way progress was measured. He finishes with some comparative productivity statistics on Waterfall, Scrum and SirsiDynix projects, using function points. You can read Adaptive Engineering of Large Software Projects with Distributed/Outsourced Teams online in the Proceedings of the 2006 International Conference on Complex Systems.

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