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How Can SaaS Executives Navigate Change Using SCRUM Methods?

Agile Management, SCRUM, IT Executives...

No other industry innovates, changes and redefines itself as quickly as the technology sector.  Software as a services (SaaS) businesses are challenged with multiple aspects of remaining competitive on a global scale.  That means recruiting and hiring top talent, and fostering a culture of creativity and ingenuity to be successful.

Technology firms are increasing seeking new ways to tap into the creativity needed, to write new software to meet both B2B and consumer mobile application demands.  Expect to see more demand for Scrum Masters, specific to the technology sector, as the methodology is becoming increasingly more popular in professional environments. We will discuss what it is, and how executive leadership in technology and IT, can use it to enhance productivity and team performance.

What is the SCRUM Methodology and How Does It Work?

Some of the best and most innovative ideas, happen in brain storming sessions.  The Scrum method builds on that skill, to generate not only creative concepts, but to launch new products or services on a shorter schedule.   The structure of SCRUM helps reduce the length of time it takes, to conceptualize a new product and take next steps, to put the software (or product) in the hands of customers.

The term ‘Scrum’ is derived from ruby, where team members are required to form a line, with interlocked arms and with their heads down, to push in solidarity toward a goal.

There are three stages involved in SCRUM, which can last on average, four weeks per project.  The three components are:

  1. Product Backlog

The manager responsible for the product, creates a prioritized list of ideas, which is referred to as the ‘product backlog’.   The backlog is an itemized list of components or parts, that are required for the development of the software, and team members are delegated in smaller groups, to tackle design and production of each part.

  1. Sprint Planning

Individual teams contribute over a short period of time, and that development time can last a week on average, for each team, who work in silos with a strict deadline.  Each item or detail of the software development is further broken down to create a sprint backlog, with a clear action plan as to how the team will accomplish the items, in the final sprint.

By narrowing down the essential components, and creating focus on each individual part of the software or product, distractions (including input from other team members working on other aspects of the product) are minimalized and productivity is enhanced.  Teams get faster, and more concise results, with the help of a Scrum Master, who helps keep independent teams motivated, and on track.

  1. The Sprint

After each team has mastered development for their segment of the product development, the entire team is reunited to present their solutions, innovations and rollout plan.   During the sprint, the whole team meets daily (Daily Scrum), and with innovative and creative ideas at their peak, it becomes the responsibility of the Scrum Master to manage the team, and push forward for progress, while making necessary changes and adjustments, and resolving obstacles to the end goal, which is to launch a new product or service to market.  A job that is far more difficult than it sounds, but Scrum Masters do not function in a traditional managerial role; in fact, they are less supervisory, and more coaching in their demeanor.

Once the team has successfully completed the Sprint, there should be a product ready to manufacture and rollout for B2B or consumer sale.   When the product is launched successfully, the team returns to the ‘product backlog’ to begin the process again, after completing a sprint retrospective meeting, where performance and outcomes of the project are reviewed, and contributors are acknowledged for their work.

Opportunities for SaaS Executives Using Scrum

If ever there was a way to create the an ‘assembly line’ of new concepts and innovative products, the Scrum method works, because it sets a structured pace for development.   One of the greatest obstacles that technical teams face, is the speed with which ideas can be actualized, into marketable products.

Older methods would slow down development, which doesn’t work in the technology sector.  If you have to go the route of approvals, discussion and contribution from sales or marketing departments (in the design process), the product launch can become so latent, the technology is no longer marketable.  Or it has already been developed successfully, by a global competitor.

In a development environment, professionals want the work to be perfect.  But it’s human nature that the Scrum method works around, as it reduces distraction, and sets deadlines that cannot be extended, which provides fast and consistent results.

The fast pace also works to excite and inspire developers, who find the pace to be a positive aspect in their work environment.  With Scrum, you are always on to the next exciting project, which helps break up feelings of redundancy and repetition.   Scrum Masters will also vary the scope of projects (where possible) to keep creative minds engaged.

Some of the benefits that SaaS managers and executives can realize, by implementing Scrum methods into their development team include:

  • Increased quality.
  • Improved cost control.
  • Increased employee engagement and job satisfaction.
  • Improved customer satisfaction.
  • Increased speed of ‘concept to market’ software and products.

A ‘Scrum Master’ is not another name for a Project Manager, in today’s work environment.  The role of a project manager involves direct delegation and detail management, while a Scrum Master functions more like a mentor and coach, to get results.

If you have ever wondered how leading technology corporations are able to consistently put out new software applications and devices, in a short period of time, it is due to agile team structures, and increasingly, the use of Scrum methods in the workplace.