I see many startups who have difficulty with planning and building a product. Some announce their product launch dates and then find they cannot meet the timelines. Others fail to set goals, expecting that they will run into difficulties that will take time to resolve. One strategy that can provide the solution to many of the challenges startups face is agile scrum.

What are some of the problems agile scrum solves?

In order to understand the advantages of agile scrum, and why it makes sense for your project, it is important to look at some of the essential challenges this strategy can resolve.

Reactive vs proactive development

In cases where the specifications of a product may not be clearly defined, there can be an impulse to react to perceived client demand rather than sticking to a primary focus. This will almost certainly result in delays because the end goal is constantly changing. With agile scrum, teams commit to developing features within a set period of time, called a sprint. This, along with the founder’s definition of and commitment to his vision, provides the focus.

Mid-way through the sprint period, a check-in with the developer to be sure they have enough time provides monitoring. At the end of the sprint, a demonstration meeting shows the client what has been achieved to ensure it meets the vision, and ensures accountability. Following this, a retrospective meeting to consider what could have been done better or differently helps focus the next period of development.

Time constraints

In many cases, development is more challenging than expected and teams come up against time constraints. Because the goal of agile scrum is never to postpone a deadline, the solution is to postpone the complexity of a feature, opting instead for a simpler version. This simplification generally proves to be a wise choice and allows the project to move forward. Rather than postponing or changing plans, teams must prioritize what they do and may need to make decisions about what stays in and what is left out–for now, in order to stick to the plan and the deadline.

Adapting on the fly

The name “agile” suggests a flexibility, an adaptability that is important in development. The structure of agile scrum however, addresses the issue of control within that flexibility and avoids projects getting off track in a reactive, rather than proactive way.

In an agile scrum environment, all of the ideas for new features, improvements or adaptations are collected into a sandbox. From there, they will be discussed and analyzed. Those ideas that are relevant enough to include and develop are then moved into a backlog repository. As future sprints are planned, ideas are drawn from the backlog in a priority sequence based on the knowledge of what can be achieved within the short sprint period of time allocated. Again, it may be that a simple function comes first to be able to fit within the timeframe, and then a more complex adaptation is made during a future sprint.

Miscommunication

Agile scrum also addresses the challenge of miscommunication between team members, or the time challenge that can result when one member of the development team struggles to resolve on their own a challenge that could be more easily fixed by the group.

Daily stand-up meetings–a quick sharing and decision process–allow team members to come together and share what they’ve achieved the day before, any challenges they face, and to ask for advice or solutions to problems. Even for a team of only two members, this provides a management and motivation function that ensures each member is on the same page. The process is called a “stand-up meeting” because it is quick, efficient and intended to get everyone back to work as quickly as possible.

For large and small teams, agile scrum can be the development strategy that answers many of the challenges startups face.

Have you used agile scrum? Tell us how it helped your project meet its defined goals.