Why is Empirical Process Control So Important in Scrum Projects?

November 5, 2013
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In the traditional Waterfall model, all the planning needs to be done before any execution and the customer does not review product components till the end of the entire project. Although the PMBOK may write eloquent poems about how elegantly this works, in the real world things go down completely haywire. This method presents huge risks to the project and it is far more likely to significantly impact project delivery and customer acceptance.

In today’s rapidly changing market trends, the customer may imagine an ‘apple’ and the finished product made by the project team may be an ‘orange’. This though is not the main problem. If the customer is aware of what’s cooking from the start he can steer the team to the ‘apple’ side. But in actuality the customer finds out about the ‘orange’ only too late.

This is why Empirical Process Control is very important and why Scrum is the winning horse people should put their money on. In Scrum, decisions are made based on observation and experimentation rather than on detailed upfront planning. Empirical process control relies on the three main ideas of transparency, inspection, and adaptation.

Transparency allows all facets of any Scrum process to be observed by anyone. This promotes an easy and transparent flow of information throughout the organization and creates an open work culture. In Scrum we have a Project Vision Statement which can be viewed by all stakeholders and the Scrum Team; an open Product Backlog with prioritized User Stories, both within and outside the Scrum Team; clearly visible Scrumboards, Burndown Charts, and other information radiators; Daily Standup Meetings conducted making sure everyone’s aware of everything; and Sprint Review Meetings in which the Scrum Team demonstrates the potentially shippable Deliverables.

Inspection in Scrum is depicted through the use of a common Scrumboard; collection of feedback from the customer and other stakeholders; review and approval of the Deliverables by the Product Owner and the customer.

Adaptation happens as the Scrum Core Team and Stakeholders learn through transparency and inspection and then adapt by making improvements in the work they are doing. In Daily Standup Meetings, Scrum Team members openly discuss impediments to completing their tasks and seek help from other team members. Risk identification is performed and iterated throughout the project. Improvements can also result in Change Requests, which are discussed and approved. The Scrum Guidance Body interacts with Scrum Team members during many processes to offer guidance and also provide expertise as required. During the Sprint Retrospective, agreed actionable improvements are determined.

These three pillars of Empirical Process Control ensure that the problems which projects face in the Traditional Waterfall way of doing things do not happen in Scrum Projects.

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