Historically, Scrum goes back to the US software developers Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber. In the mid-1990s, both were faced with the question of how the production of software could be made more efficient. The reason: According to the first CHAOS study conducted by the Standish Group in 1994, around a third of all IT projects failed prematurely at the time, and only 16 percent of all projects achieved the targeted development goal without defects. In view of the rapidly increasing demand for powerful software at that time, this was completely unacceptable from an economic point of view. Sutherland and Schwaber saw the solution to the problem in making the project process more flexible – and hoped to achieve better results more quickly.
Agile Software Development and Lean Production
This break with traditional software development methods was also the birth of agile methods like Scrum. The term “Scrum” actually comes from rugby and means as much as “crowds”, but with regard to software development it was borrowed from a 1986 publication by the Japanese university professor Ikujirō Nonaka, an expert in the field of knowledge management.
In terms of content, Scrum is an adaptation of the so-called lean production, of “lean thinking” in production, as it has been practiced since the second half of the 20th century, especially by the Japanese car manufacturer Toyota.
The final breakthrough of this revolutionary “production philosophy” is closely linked to the problems for the supply chain in economic processes resulting from the first oil crisis in the early 1970s. The core idea here and there is the “avoidance of waste” with consistent use of implicit employee know-how.
From the counter-proposal to Agile Manifesto
Scrum is probably the leading agile method used today not only in software development, but also in all areas where the gradual optimization of what has already been achieved by adding new product features. In Scrum, this progress takes place within the framework of temporary, cyclical repetitive work stages, the sprints.
Scrum is thus an alternative to the classic top-down organization of projects and gives the development team more scope for independent action. Although there is also a clear objective “from above” here: the development of innovative products – the team largely organizes the respective path to the goal itself. In Scrum, the management function is divided into three roles: Scrum Master, Product Owner and Development Team.
In 2001, Jeff Sutherland, Ken Schwaber and other experts in the Agile Manifesto summarized the values of agile software development as follows:
- People and interactions are more important than processes and tools.
- Functioning software is more important than comprehensive documentation.
- Cooperation with the customer is more important than the originally formulated service descriptions.
- Responding to change is more important than sticking to a plan.