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Jan 31

At your service

Software as a serviceWhen you want to be successful at delivering software you have to stop treating it as a product and as a project. Turn it into as service to get it to be a success. Why do so many recruiters and HR staff when looking for new Scrum master still post ads that say that they are looking for a Scrum Master/ Project manager. Let’s make one thing very clear. They are not the same. Somehow it seems that a lot of companies have trouble in defining what they want. They think they want a Scrum master but look for a Project Manager. Why is that? What is keeping them of really changing?

In order to get Scrum to work on a higher level you have to get rid of the idea of doing a project. A project has in most cases an ending. A deadline if you will. And a deadline means that there is stuff that needs to be done before the deadline ends. This ending can have different values. Either there is no more money left. The product has a limited amount of features or it has to see the light of day because of a special occasion, for example a advertising deadline or it has to be shipped before Christmas. If you are dealing with a project it means that you are only giving it a short time of attention. And because time is short, you need someone to manage it all as good as possible. Now we all know that there are only a few deadlines ever reached successfully and that on those mystical points in time the product was most of the time crap.

The Standish Group that examines trends in software project success, repeatedly reports worrying statistics for the IT project industry. The 2011 edition of the CHAOS report found that 37% of all projects succeeded in that they were delivered on time, within budget, with all required features and functions. 42% of projects were challenged in that they were delivered late, went over budget, and/or were delivered with less than the requested features and functions. The remaining 21% were considered a complete failure due to cancellation prior to delivery or were never used post completion.

A 37% success rate is not a success! So why do we keep running projects. I’m not saying that Scrum is the solution to it all. Hell I have seen Scrum initiatives that where a complete failure. But let me say that there is much less failure with Agile projects than with regular projects. The projects that used Scrum that where a failure happened simply because they where just that; Projects. Now what would happen if we started to look at software delivery not as a product but as a service? A continues service where the main attention is not trying to reach some sort of fantasy deadline but where the main attention set on bringing as much value to market. To see if it is possible to bring with every sprint something to the light that has meaning and is needed at that point. A return of investment. Scrum has is all if you want. Short development burst that look at the highest priority and it can deliver this as fast and with as much quality as possible. When you see it as a service it also means that you can stop at any given point, or prolonged as much as possible as long as there is value delivered. You can also stop worrying about maintenance and service. With software as a service, any request is either added value or not needed. Because the software is in constant movement and change, there is no ending and therefore quality can stay at a high level (that is if you keep things like refactoring within everything you do). And for that, amongst other things, you need a continuously delivering high performance team. A team facilitated by a dedicated full time Scrum master. And I say this with all the power I can give it. A Scrum master is a facilitator not a project manager. It’s not the same thing.

So before posting any add for a Scrum master / Project manager, first ask what it is you really want as a company. A software project that is likely to fail and with someone who tries to keep the damage as low as possible. Or software as a service that brings value, delivered by a team who is facilitated to get the best out of themselves. And for Pete sake recruiters, educate yourselves, you are making an ass of yourselves.

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