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Even though Scrum was originally suggested for managing product development projects, its use has focused on the management of software development projects.

None of the project management teams I have worked with in non-software product development have ever used agile methodologies.

As an example, could we incorporate Scrum in Product Development projects within the Automotive industry?

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6 Answers 6

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There are two main tenants of Scrum that, in my opinion, define it and tell you the worth of it for any project or product. Those two are: changing requirements and iterative releases.

There are many great posts on this site about Agile vs. Waterfall. The bottom line is that Waterfall is amazing if you can gather all the requirements up-front, and they won't change much. The hard part is getting those requirements right, on paper, before doing any of the work.

This means that waterfall would apply very well to industries like automobile, healthcare, aerospace, etc. where it's easier to clarify up-front what exactly you need.

On the other hand, iterative releases are very, very useful -- even with fixed and un-changing requirements. You could theoretically do it, but I don't see what benefit you'd get out of it.

Instead, I would focus on some other useful parts of Scrum, such as:

  • Estimating tasks in vaguer units (story points) instead of time -- if requirements are unknown and/or changing.
  • Breaking work down into small units that can be completed in a week or two, or less.
  • Communicating daily across the team to say "here's what I did yesterday, what I'm going to do today, and what I got stuck on."

Your mileage may vary. I would say look at Scrum/Agile, and start pulling those practices that you can see will benefit you.

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Add a data point to the "all of the requirements up front" @ashes999 mentioned, Hal Macomber mentioned to me at the Lean conference a year ahead of time that when he talked about "high variability projects" that were "difficult to plan up front" he was talking about 1-1.5%, not the much much higher numbers we see in software. (Hal: ukleanconference.com/hal-macomber.htm) –  Eric Willeke Apr 8 '11 at 11:55

Ken Schwaber actually released a book called Agile Project Management with Scrum that runs through a number of case studies in industries outside of software development.

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Thanks a lot Sean for the reference. –  M0N4K0 Apr 8 '11 at 10:35

It is entirely possible to apply agile principles and the Scrum process outside of software and is being done in a variety of environments.

The recent Scrum Beyond Software conference held in Phoenix during September 2010 explored this topic in great detail in an open space format. As an attendee, I was among a number of people sharing their experiences using Scrum in different environments including education, marketing, sales, and government. I've personally coached a marketing organization towards applying the Scrum framework towards their campaign planning and implementations, and know of at least one sales team actively applying Scrum (and using software project management tooling effectively in doing so).

Additionally, I'm personally aware of two sessions that have been accepted for the Agile 2011 conference related to the application of Scrum beyond software development. One applies to Scrum in Sales, and the other applies to Agile in Academics. There may be many others I've not noticed.

(Note: I'm not sure of the longevity of these links after the submissions process closes for Agile 2011. As both are accepted, the experience reports will eventually be published in the conference proceedings, which is published by the IEEE)

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This is pretty much an open question at this time, and as Agile evolves I think we can expect to see greater use of it outside software development settings.

See this discussion for a good blow-by-blow: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/1702128/can-i-use-agile-in-a-non-development-project

BTW, I'm going to be pedantic: scrum is an Agile tool. Also, Agile was designed for software projects - there's no shift in focus as you suggest.

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Thanks Gary for the link. Please note that my suggestions are backed up by articles and other reference material; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrum_(development)#History –  M0N4K0 Apr 8 '11 at 10:42
    
I stand corrected. –  gef05 Apr 12 '11 at 14:42
    
=( page not found for that line now –  CodeBlend Nov 1 '13 at 12:49

When you ask about Agile outside of the software industry what I go back to is the work done by W. Edwards Deming in manufacturing. One of his core principles was the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle. AKA the Deming Cycle. This cycle along with his 14 pints and 7 deadly sins are the foundation of the much of modern manufacturing process and were key to the rebirth,and success, of manufacturing in Japan post WWII.

With its emphasis on an iterative process and focus on quality of product, rather than post production QA, Deming's work is the logical starting point for applying Agile outside of software development.

By taking Deming's work and adding to it the Agile principles around sprints, velocity, frequency and retros you get a working hybrid for non-IT applications. You additional get 60 years worth of accumulated experience in manufacturing processes that work.

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Most of Agile methods are development methodologies. If you take Extreme Programming, for example, it's obviously impossible to apply it in another domain than software development.

Scrum, on the other hand, is a way to organize a project team. It's really good suited for software development teams, but there is no reason why it wouldn't be suited for project team in other domains than software development.

Edit: I just discovered Jugaad, which could be relevant to your interest. Take a look at the official website: http://jugaadinnovation.com/

There is also a book: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1118249747.html

Jugaad is a way to consider innovation in a frugal and agile way.

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Extreme Programming can be applied elsewhere - it is similar to apprenticeships. –  Wikis Nov 6 '13 at 9:04

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