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InfoQ Homepage News State of Scrum 2017 Edition Published by Scrum Alliance

State of Scrum 2017 Edition Published by Scrum Alliance

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Scrum is increasingly used outside of IT or software development, where many organizations adopt mix-and-matched approaches to agile, and the ScrumMaster role is evolving into more of a shared role where fewer ScrumMasters focus on a single initiative; these are some of the findings from the 2017 State of Scrum report which has been published by the Scrum Alliance.

The 2017 State of Scrum report explores how the world is applying Scrum. The yearly survey is done by the Scrum Alliance; the 2017 report shows results from 2000+ participants from 76 countries representing more than 15 different industries.

InfoQ interviewed Lisa Hershman, Interim CEO Scrum Alliance, about the major changes in the 2017 State of Scrum report, how Scrum is spreading outside of IT or software development, how the Scrum master role is changing, the key success factors for adopting Scrum and how organizations can prepare their culture for smoother Scrum adoption, and asked what they learned from running this survey and how that will impact Scrum and the Scrum Alliance.

InfoQ: What are the major changes in the 2017 State of Scrum report compared to previous reports?

Lisa W. Hershman: In the 2017 report, we find an acceleration of a trend: the growing use of Scrum outside of IT or software development. Departments as varied as operations, production, research and development, sales and marketing, finance, accounting, human resources, and consulting reported running Scrum projects. As Scrum users evolve, it will be interesting to see if Scrum in marketing looks different from Scrum in software.

Another notable change is the increase use of mix-and-matched approaches to agile. In this year’s survey, we found a substantial decrease (from 43 percent down to 32 percent) of respondents who used Scrum "exclusively." On average, survey respondents reported that their organizations used three different frameworks.

InfoQ: The report mentions that usage of Scrum is increasing outside IT. Can you give some examples?

Hershman: As all organizations become technology organizations, the need for agility grows. We see Scrum being used to achieve agility in industries such as publishing, churches, even restaurant kitchens.

But perhaps the best use of Scrum we’ve been a part of recently came at HOPE High School, an Arizona charter school that serves at-risk students, including those with histories of gang involvement or teen parenthood.

Students at HOPE are now using Scrum within their student council to create a culture of teamwork and cooperation. According to the principal, "Agile has worked here because it is a non-traditional practice in a non-traditional field."

InfoQ: How can IT departments or software development teams benefit from this?

Hershman: Scaling agile within an organization is a constant challenge. As more of the organization begins to adapt the same mindset as the IT and software teams, it can be easier to keep everyone’s focus on the customer and to speak the same language. The benefits are obvious: Faster feedback, ability to adapt to change, problems identified early, flexible prioritization and team purpose. More than 80 percent of respondents also believe Scrum improved the team’s quality of work life.

InfoQ: How has the Scrum master role changed over the years? What do you expect to happen next?

Hershman: A Certified ScrumMaster helps project teams properly use Scrum, increasing the likelihood of success. CSMs understand Scrum values, practices, and applications and provide a level of knowledge and expertise above and beyond that of typical product managers.

However, what we’re finding is that the ScrumMaster is evolving into more of a shared role. It’s a big job, especially when the desired outcome is organizational change, so it can make sense for individuals with complementary skill sets to work together.

This year’s survey indicates fewer ScrumMasters focus on a single initiative and almost one in five respondents reported having a project manager in addition to the ScrumMaster. Traditional project managers are more likely to function as ScrumMasters when working for the government or in the IT industry.

InfoQ: What are the key success factors for adopting Scrum?

Hershman: Support from leadership is key. Two-thirds of respondents identified "active senior management sponsorship and support" as an important component of success.

At the next level down, almost half of respondents cited "participation of experienced trainers/coaches" and "alignment with the strategic and financial goals of the company as a whole."

On the flip side, when tension arose from Scrum introduction, 70 percent pointed to companies’ adherence to top-down command structures as a key problem. Likewise, 52 percent said their organizational design and culture made it difficult to adopt and further scale Scrum and 36 percent noted lack of trust as an obstruction to adoption.

InfoQ: How can organizations prepare their culture for smoother Scrum adoption?

Hershman: When you eliminate waterfall management, you return responsibility to the individuals in your department or organization. We’ve seen this increase employee satisfaction and, ultimately, provide more value to the customer. However, the responsibility shift might not feel logical at first. This is why trainers and coaches are so important. You need people who have the experience to know what works and what doesn’t when transitioning to agile.

Another integral success-factor for agile business structure is allowing for the capacity to fail. Of course, we’re not interested in failure for failure’s sake. There must be a "learn-improve" cycle attached to the event. This helps change the culture from risk-averse to innovation. I tell my team: "Once is an experience, twice is a mistake. Have lots of experiences and avoid the mistakes."

This is why you often hear agile referred to as a mindset. Scrum’s prioritization strategy helps organizations know where failure might be allowed, and therefore, creativity stretched.

InfoQ: What did you learn from running this survey? How will that impact Scrum and the Scrum Alliance?

Hershman: The goals of the State of Scrum report are two-fold. First, to be a resource for community of trainers and coaches. And second, to create a broader picture of Scrum use around the world. The report sets the stage for us at Scrum Alliance by inquiring: where is Scrum going and how do we help it get there?

We’ve learned a lot from this year’s survey. We know that the use of Scrum to achieve agility is growing. More than four out of five respondents said that certification improved their Scrum practice, and 98 percent will continue to use Scrum in the future.

The report has also shown the need for additional certifications. This is why we’re rolling out a progressive model for certification, to create more effective and valuable resources to our community. Our Certified Agile Leadership (CAL) program is a one example of this in implementation, which is a certification tailored to C-suite executives.

Our mission statement, "transforming the world of work," has perhaps never been truer or more necessary, and we are excited to meet the changing needs of the Scrum and agile community in 2017.

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