Find out the benefits of Agile Methodology from a Scrum Master

Last month, I assisted Illawara Digital Conference where I attended and learn from some keynote speakers including Daniel Young from Ebay Australia and some others.

I also got in touch with Justin Urbanski who works as a Scrum Master using "Agile" Methodology for new product development. Justin kindly shares his view about Agile Methodology in Australia and its benefits below. 

Mauricio: Why are you so passionate about "Agile" Methodology?
Justin: On the train ride to the 2009 Agile Australia conference in Sydney I was reading "Agile Estimation and Planning" by Mike Cohn. On the train ride back I was writing my speech to management on why we need to go Agile. The conference is not the sole reason I am so passionate. When I first started reading about Agile it just made sense to me. In a way it was sort of how I liked to work anyway.

Justin Urbanski - Scrum Master - Australia


M: What does "Agile Methodology" mean and what are its key benefits compared with other project development methodologies?
J: Agile is an umbrella of methodologies. A team should choose which methodology is right for them. Agile differs from the traditional Waterfall method in that it promotes iterative development and self organising teams. Instead of doing 6 month software releases, in Scrum (one of the methodologies) we have 2 week sprints. At the end of each sprint the product is potentially shippable. Everyone can then inspect where the product is at, how the market is going, what the customers want and adapt every sprint. That's the difference and one of the key benefits. 
In Scrum cross functional teams work through tasks. The teams are also self organising. I used to be a project manager and assign tasks to individuals to ensure that the project completed on time. I don't have to do that anymore. The teams simply pick off the highest priority tasks and work on it within a sprint. The team members decide who works on what. It's hard to explain but because the teams are working in short sprints and they continually inspect and adapt and eventually they become high performing. The teams talk about how they can get better and better both technically and organisationally. Its not a manager telling individuals how to improve, its a team understanding how they can go faster. That's the benefit.


Agile Methodology Cycle



M: You are a Scrum Master. What are the benefits of having a scrum master in a project development team?
JYes I am a Scrum Master. A Scrum Master serves the team. The Scrum Master does everything he or she can to help the team and make them as productive as possible. Like a coach on a football team, the Scrum Master should observe the team and help them adapt.


Scrum Master Position within a Product Development team



M: Is there anything on "Agile Methodology' that we could use for digital marketing processes, ie: managing social media, improving Search campaigns, producing content, etc?
J: I don't see why not. You just need to determine which methodology would be best for your team. For example Kanban may be the way to go. It helps teams prioritise and limit work in progress. 
In Scrum you have a Product Owner. Their responsibility is to control the budget and vision. So they set what things should be worked on first to achieve greater return on investment. I don't see why you could not do that in the digital marketing space.

Kanban Methodology simplified 


M: For entrepreneurs, is there any risk of taking/using "Agile methodologies" in their product development processes?
J: No, and I believe it would be beneficial because you continually inspect and adapt. A great book to read is "Thelean startup" by Eric Ries


M: What are your top two project development management tools you would suggest for teams to track Agile projects (Jira?, others)
J: I am very familiar with Jira and it works well. I would suggest the Atlassian suite which includes Greenhopper and Confluence. Because they are both Atlassian products they integrate easily. Greenhopper is the Agile part and helps teams organise and plan sprints. Confluence is Atlassian's wiki. I love it because it enables teams to collaborate and document quickly.


Jira Dashboard - Example



M: Is there any specific products/services or even industries that tend to be better fit for 'Agile methodologies" why?
J: Agile is targeted for the software industry and I believe suits the development of any software product. Web based products tend to be the best fit because when you inspect and adapt each sprint there is something to show. Plus web based products tend to be more volatile and also easier to release each sprint.


M: What are Australian companies implementing best practises Agile metholodogies?
J: In Australia there are too many companies to list who is doing best practise. The thing is that every company is different. If you have the right people and the right coaches then hopefully those people are getting the most out of their Agile journey.


M: Is there anything Agile teams should avoid when using Agile Methodology?
J: Firstly avoid ScrumBut. If you do not Scrum properly then you will not get the most out of your teams. Secondly be patient. Your Agile transition is a journey. It takes years to get it right.  


M: Can someone use Agile methodology for everyday activities? how?
J: Yes there are people using it in schools and I have even used it at home. At home I setup a Kanban wall to help organise our family activities.





M: How we do compare with America on the adoption of Agile methodologies and what companies in Australian are taking the lead?
J: I don't know the stats or about America but Agile in Australia is thriving. In 2009 there was the first Agile Australia conference. We now have 5 or more Agile conferences per year in Australia. The leading companies are Thoughtwoks, SMS MT, Suncorp, and Atlassian just to name a few.


M: Where people can learn more about what you do? please send us your website, blog, twitter, etc.
J: The best way is to just contact me via email for any questions your readers may have. 


M: Anything cool or funny that you have experienced by working with Agile teams?
J: The coolest thing is watching a Scrum team grow into a high performing one. That's what I love about Agile. Its about the soft skills just as much as the technical skills. The soft skills allow teams to build the rapport that enables them to produce remarkable software.


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