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Scrum Masters – How We Approach Project Management

I often get asked by friends and family, “If you don’t design or build the websites then what is it you actually do?“.

 

“Well this is a very good question” I begin with. To those who have never been involved in a web project it can be difficult to understand what is involved. In short, my job is to make sure our clients get their projects delivered on time, to scope and within budget. So with this in mind, it is my responsibility to keep up-to-date with industry leading project methodologies and this is why we use ‘Agile’. ‘Agile’ gives flexibility and early visibility for our clients in this very creative process. It enables each chunk of work to be reviewed independently, with the opportunity to feedback. This way, clients can see progress and any corrections can be implemented quickly.

 

Historically, and when I first started out in agency life, PRINCE2 methodology was the tried and tested way of managing IT and web projects. If you weren’t PRINCE2 qualified, you weren’t a credible Project Manager – in my eyes anyway. PRINCE2 is an acronym for PRojects IN Controlled Environments. Don’t ask what the ‘2’ is for! PRINCE2 advocates a process that has a focus on business justification and divides a project into manageable and controllable stages which is carried out by a defined, structured project team. Each stage is carried out in a ‘waterfall approach’ which means, each stage is performed one after the other, determined by project dependencies.

 

In my experience, whilst this method works in an environment where a project isn’t prone to change, it can be quite rigid in an ever changing digital world. Not only that, when building a complex ecommerce website that span a series of months, clients requirements or even their business focus may change. With this in mind, I set myself a challenge to find a more flexible way to manage website projects.

 

This is when I came across Scrum, an agile project management framework that focuses more on skills and self management rather than process and lengthy documentation. 

 

Everyone is familiar with Scrum in the rugby sense, and this is exactly where it comes from. Scrum was first mentioned in Project Management terms in a article published in the Harvard Business Review titled ‘The New New Product Development Game’ – no that is not a typo. The article explains ‘… the whole process is performed by one cross-functional team across multiple overlapping phases, where the team “tries to go the distance as a unit, passing the ball back and forth”.’ Think of Scrum as a metaphor, the ball is the project.

 

My understanding of Scrum, is that a team can achieve great, creative outcomes when left to be ‘self organising’ but given the guidance through client objectives and the understanding of user expectations. The team must be agile and open to change, managing a project through this method teaches you to carry out the work in manageable ‘chunks’, these are often referred to as sprints. At the end of each sprint, a feature or phase is delivered allowing for evaluation and review by, in our case, the whole project team and/or the client.

A Scrum project team is made up of the following roles: Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Development. At Barques we ensure that the clients are front and centre of our projects as ‘Product Owner’. The Scrum Master, me, has a deep understanding of the work being carried out and is the chief facilitator. The Development Team, have differing skill sets and deliver each ‘sprint’. In our case these are made up of our designers, developers and programmers that create outstanding website for our clients’. All members of the Scrum team work on the basis of achieving a common goal in successfully, accomplishing the clients’ desired outcome.

 

Make no mistake, I am no rugby fan, but this way of working really resonates with me and this is why we use this approach in managing our projects at Barques. It not only makes sense, it also is in line with the very nature of our working environment, as a business we are very team oriented and client focused, after all, that’s what makes us Barques.