Agile Software Development with Scrum

Ken Schwaber, Mike Beedle (2001)
Review date: July, 2008
Summary

This book is written by one of the creators of Scrum, which clearly shows. With this comes the benefit of direct communication without anything being distorted, but also a certain lack of objectivity.

A gentle beginning tries to sell the concept of Scrum with a success story, and then lists some core benefits (chapters one and two). The middle part of this book explains Scrum's central concepts in good depth, and you can see that the authors have put much effort into binding Scrum to other existing theoretical work about teams, product development, and chaos theory, to mention a few.

The remaining chapters treat topics, like Scrum for multiple teams and projects, some further examples, and Scrum values expressed in terms of commitment, focus, openness, respect, and courage.

Opinion

What struck me as most remarkable when reading this book was the difference in style. The contents come in two very distinct flavors: either a very ego-centered success story flavor, like "Nothing worked, and then we brought Scrum in and everything worked", or a more reasonable theoretical approach.

The success stories pop up here and there and feel really exaggerated. Try this: teams consisting of tens of developers doing nothing are saved by Scrum's introduction. Productivity gains by 1000%... Need I say more? Personally I haven't had the luxury of participating in a RUP project starting with a half-year up front design, where a whole development team would sit idly and wait for something to happen, so I find some of the scenarios unlikely. Although some of the described, initially failed, projects were probably saved by basic project management, and not Scrum, these stories still make a good reading. You have to smile a little when reading them.

Ok, that was the critique. Now to the juicy part! This book really shines when talking about theory. Central components of the method are explained, sometimes several times, and then exemplified. A real effort has apparently been made to create a solid foundation for the method, and this surrounding theory is also presented. It is this part that sells Scrum, not the success stories!

When it comes to reading, this book is only 150 pages, but it's rather heavy. It isn't something you skim through and comprehend. Given that much so effort has been put into penetrating some theoretical aspects of Scrum, I miss a deeper discussion of time estimation. Some practical hints to get Scrum novices started would be nice too.

Who should read this book

If you consider introducing Scrum into your organization, this book will give you more theory than you need to know for start, and less "how to"s than you need to get started. I suggest a companion guide such as "Scrum and XP from the trenches" to go along.




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