Last week I attended a Scrum Master training. “Scrum Master” is one of the three roles in Scrum, and implementation of Agile, which is a set of principles for software development.

There are 12 principles behind Agile, but there are a few that I want to highlight:

  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  • The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.
  • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  • Simplicity-the art of maximizing the amount of work not done-is essential.

Agile (and Scrum) came out of and is generally used in software development, but it is starting to be used more widely in project management beyond software development. I think these principles highlight why-they foster an environment where people feel empowered to create quality work, which is applicable in any industry. They also emphasize the importance of flexibility; requirements for a project can change due to changes in the field (this happens frequently in digital preservation) or changes within an organization.

Scrum is a framework that defines roles (Scrum Master, Product Owner, Developer), events (Sprint, Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Retrospective, Sprint Review), and “artifacts” (Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, Increment). While all of these need to be implemented in order to be “true” Scrum, implementing parts of the Scrum framework can improve the efficiency of work done in projects as well as communication with project stakeholders. The foundations of Scrum-transparency, inspection (examining progress), and adaptation-foster projects that can course correct before they’ve gone too far off the rails. I will be thinking of further ways to implement this in my work and archival work more generally, so stay tuned for another post on this.

In addition to implementing parts of Scrum and Agile development in my own work, these elements will be useful as we work with other organizations to develop software. Agile development is used in the open source Archivematica and ArcLight projects, and Marist is using Scrum in its Project Electron development. Understanding the principles and language of these methodologies will help in communicating with the vendors we use and open source communities we participate in.