Scrum with Pega Express: Using Scrum to maximum effect with Pega Express

Keith Buehlman,

Scrum is a fundamental part of the Pega Express delivery approach. Scrum ensures that business and IT work collaboratively and transparently to achieve the right results for the client, guaranteeing that there are no unwanted surprises at the time of deployment. In this post, I’m going to define Scrum, describe what Scrum looks like within the context of a Pega project, and identify several benefits for adopting Scrum as an essential part of your delivery approach.

What is Scrum?

Let’s start with a couple of definitions.

Agile is a term that can be applied to any methodology characterized by (1) breaking projects into stages, (2) the discovery of requirements through collaborative and cross-functional effort, and (3) continuous improvement through iteration at every stage. 

Scrum is a form of Agile development that defines specific roles, responsibilities, events, artifacts, and processes. It involves leadership roles like Product Owner and Scrum Master, divides projects into time-boxed development cycles called ‘sprints,’ and requires a backlog to be maintained in the form of ‘user stories.’

Unlike methodologies such as waterfall project management, Scrum is a framework that lets project teams build quickly, respond to change, deploy continuously, and gather feedback easily.

The natural partnership of Scrum and Pega Express

Adopting Scrum can sometimes be a daunting shift for an organization, but with support and thorough preparation, the benefits far outweigh any initial teething pains.

As a ‘Pega Agility Consultant,’ my role at Pega is to simply set up our clients, partners, and consultants for success with Scrum. Scrum is how we deliver value faster, provide transparency through a collaborative and engaging process, and support rapid innovation. Scrum is pointless without a focus on business outcomes.

Pega Express delivery with Scrum is unique. The way we capture and define work through a concept of a microjourney makes Scrum the ideal vehicle for delivering it in a risk-free and transparent way. This practice ensures that both business and IT participate, so that what is being configured meets stakeholder expectations and achieves all the business outcomes set out at the start of a project.

Everything can’t be a priority. The way that Pega Express makes use of Scrum unifies Pega’s best practices with a proven accelerated delivery approach that creates a clear product goal for teams to pursue by defining microjourneys and understanding how they align to the goals of the organization.

Shifting to Pega Express

While each organization is very different, there are a couple of common and important conversations that they need to have in order to be successful.

First, organizations need to discuss changing mindsets and existing ways of working. Adopting Scrum takes deliberate preparation. Organizations working in an established waterfall way need to be open to the benefits of Scrum, embrace a new way of working, and be willing to change existing processes so that they are more agile. They need to identify and remove gates or big hurdles. They need to rethink design and requirement documentation processes. Doing so will ensure that the team can be innovative as they create, test, and deploy applications quickly. Investing in the right roles to support Scrum is also integral, from an empowered Product Owner who represents the business, a Scrum Master, and the Testers who will test continuously throughout the process.

Second, organizations need to work through how to manage scope through the backlog. How will they know what they will get out of the release if the scope isn’t fixed at the outset? Pega Express captures the concept of a microjourney during the first phase, Discover. This microjourney is directly linked with achieving a high-value strategic benefit for the client’s organization. This is broken down (starting in the Prepare phase) into user stories by the project team working with business subject matter experts. The project Business Architect ensures that user stories meet the agreed definition of the microjourney before sizing them with the full team.

Once user stories are sized and approved by the business representative (Product Owner) they enter the backlog ready for prioritization (again by the Product Owner) for a future sprint. The key word here is prioritization. The Product Owner plays the role of understanding the business and prioritizing the right high-value user stories that will achieve what Pega calls a Minimum Lovable Product. Stakeholders are in control of what is being developed and put forward for delivery. Business teams are heavily involved in shaping the user stories from which the application will be built.

Benefits of Scrum

I am often asked, what are the top benefits of using Scrum? While there are many to choose from, speed to deliver, transparency, and innovative thinking are among the most important.

1. Speed to delivery

Scrum delivers through short sharp bursts of activity called sprints during the Pega Express Build phase. These high-intensity sprints ensure maximum focus on delivering functionality, but also accelerate your testing by testing with your business experts in parallel to development. This ensures that you flush out any issues quickly and ensure that there are no big surprises at the end of the development process when the solution is revealed because the business was involved.

2. Transparency

Kemmons Wilson, founder of the Holiday Inn hotel chain, famously said that “the best surprise is no surprise.”

Once a user story enters the Build phase, Scrum ceremonies – regular meetings with all key stakeholders -- show the value of those stories throughout a sprint, and each Sprint ends with a ceremony in which teams showcase progress and get approval that work is complete and meeting the goals of the organization. Scrum ceremonies provide an opportunity to incorporate valuable business feedback before it's too late for those changes to be accommodated. ‘No surprises’ is a key theme with Scrum and the reason why we use it in our approach to delivering value for our clients with Pega.

3. Innovation

‘Why go live without the full singing and dancing solution?’ is a common question. Adopting Scrum ensures your initial Minimum Lovable Product release will be quickly ready for production. By moving quickly the team can limit the cost of delay and show demonstrable progress to senior management. Most critically, the team can learn from end-users and start using this valuable feedback to improve the application quickly and incrementally through subsequent sprints. Using Scrum to learn and iteratively develop the solution using real end-user feedback.

Are you are thinking of embracing Scrum as a key element of the Pega Express delivery approach? Don’t delay! Scrum is one of those approaches that can be quickly adopted, and teams learn quickly through using the framework. The approach ensures that business and IT teams collaborate on high-value important work, facilitating rapid configuration and business testing.

 

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About the Author

Keith Buehlman is an Agile Business Coach at Pegasystems.