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Benefit #5 of Scrum – It’s quality based

stevec August 20, 2010

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In a previous post, Top five benefits of Scrum Teams, I listed several process improvements we realized by implementing the Scrum form of Agile.  In this post I am expanding on the theme of benefit #5, that Scrum is quality based.   In fact, I believe that integrity is inherent in the Scrum process.  Integrity in this sense means a dedication to producing quality code and a quality user experience.

This is evident in two key components of Scrum, User Stories and Sprints.

A User Story is an informal description of a product requirement written in a user’s voice.  It answers the following questions: Who wants it? What do they want? What is the value of it?  How do we know when it’s done?

This helps a development team in two important ways.  First, it helps the team understand at a deeper level what the user wants and why they want it.  This in turn leads to better design, more acceptance of and adherence to the design,  and a resulting higher quality user experience.   Second, are the creation of User Story Acceptance Tests.  Acceptance tests, as relates to User Stories, are criteria or conditions that indicate when a story is complete.  As User Stories are developed, a series of discussions about Acceptance Tests occurs.   We find that these discussions facilitate a quality based mind-set and aid in the development and implementation of robust testing plans.  The end result is higer quality in all tiers of the application code.

Sprints are short term (1-4 weeks) development cycles during which user stories are fully designed, coded, tested, and documented.  The benefit here is that the development team is always focused on a releasable product.  In more traditional models, each phase of development (Analysis, Design, Programming, Testing) occurs in distinct timeboxes.  So, programming can last for months followed by a shorter period of testing called release preparation or “clean-up” time.    In Scrum, the months-long project is separated into multiple Sprints.  In each Sprint, features are fully completed and made ready for release.  Thus, the “clean-up” work is more evenly spread throughout the life of the project.

This sounds great in theory, but research has emerged that makes a strong case for the iterative, incremental approach of Scrum.   A result of data gathered in the Dr. Dobb’s Journal Agile Adoption Survey  indicates 77% of those surveyed showed improvement in quality after adopting Agile practices.

As we continue to implement Agile processes in our development teams, I am confident that the quality of software we produce will continue to go from good to great.

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