A top-down approach, according to Eli Lopian, CEO of Typemock, tells people what the organization wants, but usually lacks guidance as to how they should behave in their new roles. A bottom-up approach is better, he said, because the developers want to learn the practices, get the tooling and become a more responsive, professional team.
But for this to succeed, “You need a very strong champion,” he said. Typemock is a provider of commercial unit-testing tools that has adopted Scrum and agile development.
Once the decision has been made to use Scrum (either on the team level or throughout the organization), it is important to set a baseline as to what it means and what everyone’s roles are. Because of the changes in how people work, Scrum is as much a human resource issue as it is a technical one.
“You’re talking about changing where people will sit, who they will be working with and how they work, and you need top-level support for that. But you need developer support as well. They might have had a bad prior experience with agile, or a fear of the unknown,” said Szalvay.
Training is important for success, the experts said. Vidoni said that when the company transitioned to Scrum a year ago, it brought in Scrum creator Jeff Sutherland and put the development team through two days of training to get a baseline. This way, “at the outset, everyone had a level understanding,” he said.
Getting the team up to speed at once is important, agreed Richard Cheng, managing consultant at Excella. “Bring in someone—either coaches, or with hiring—who knows what they’re doing. People who really get agile generally come to agreement as to how things should be done.”
Szalvay recommends starting with a pilot team to win support of the higher-ups in the organization by demonstrating success. “Pick a high-visibility project, where you can allocate people to a cross-functional project team,” he said.
“There can be no silos. You need all the roles represented [in the project] in real time. Then, you try to demonstrate the same level of success that’s visible up and down the organization. A lot of benefits can come from this kind of realistic approach.”
Pat Guariglia, founder of ElegantAgile.com and a certified ScrumMaster, suggested in his blog choosing a project with “medium criticality” as a pilot. Too little criticality means upper management will blow off the project or not give it the resources it needs; too high criticality leaves little room for failure, placing too much pressure on the pilot team.