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What is Scrum when you are not a development shop?

Davin Studer
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Mar 12, 2019

My team has recently begun the process of adopting the Scrum framework for how we manage our work. If you go on the web there are copious sites that talk about Scrum ... what it is and how to do it. However, most of those resources refer to Scum with regards to software development. The uses for Scrum within the software development community are obvious.

However, what if you don't make software? Can you still use the Scrum framework? This is where most resources fall short. They typically fail to make the leap to explain how Scum can be used for pretty much any team. This is the issue that we wrestled with at first.

Take a look at the "What is Scrum?" video and fast forward to 1:13. The definition given for Scrum is ... "Scrum is an agile project management framework that teams use to develop, deliver, and sustain complex products." That's a pretty good definition so let's pick it apart.

The fist hurdle we had to get over was the word product. I work in Healthcare IT. We fix computers, troubleshoot network issues, maintain servers, etc. We're not a development shop. We don't make any products. Or do we?

As we wrestled with that question we came to realize that we do in fact have a product. It may not be as easily identifiable as a piece of software with components and versions. But it is there. Our product is the services we offer to the clinic. It is the value we provide to the organization that helps it achieve its goals and mission. Once we realized that we were able to start to see how Scum fits within our team. We simply replaced the word product with services. So for us the definition changes slightly to be ... "Scrum is an agile project management framework that teams use to develop, deliver, and sustain complex services."

We are still new to Scum and are still refining how we work with it in our team, but we are finding the process to be valuable.

How about you? Are you in a non-development team that uses Scrum? What is working well for you? What terms have you translated to fit your environment?


Actually, the notion came from outside SW, then was developed as the branded SCRUM for software. SCRUM back out into other kinds of work is really back to the beginning.

In general, time-boxing and other iterative, defined-investment organizations go with complex, but especially *high ambiguity* projects. These are often called "discovery projects."

Branded SCRUM provides a well-defined, standard vocabulary for aspects of doing work this way. It's very helpful for that.

Kinds of projects, I've used SCRUM by whatever name, for:

  • New ventures of all kinds; new menu, new restaurant location, new service offer.
  • Remediation / refurb, in physical plant, brownfield, legacy SW, and production facility (like commercial kitchen.)
  • Writing for publication, conference presentation development, training development and training programs.
  • New IT capability roll-out.

Right now I'm using it as a framework to manage recovery from a stroke, which is complex, but also high ambiguity along several dimensions.


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