mainframe agility
July 12, 2016 Mainframe Agility

How Scrum Teams Enable Mainframe Agility

If you’re an application or software development team attempting mainframe agility, it’s implied you’re operating within a Scrum team, working in two-week sprints, and committing to regular cycles of continuous mainframe development, testing and delivery.

It’s true other Agile techniques exist, such as Lean development and Kanban. But Scrum has become the de facto technique for IT, being used five times more than other techniques according to the Harvard Business Review.

In a previous post on the difference between Agile and Waterfall, Josh Dahlberg, Scrum master for Compuware iStrobe and Fault Analytics, described mainframe agility as “a way to get your requirements, do your design and deploy at a more efficient rate than what Waterfall provides.” How then does a Scrum team enable mainframe agility?

The Scrum Team Structure Supports Mainframe Agility

A Scrum team is a self-operating group that has all of the skills required to manage the mainframe software development lifecycle. The precision of the iterative mainframe development process and the specificity of each Scrum role enables mainframe agility to prosper. You can get an in-depth look at the Scrum team structure here, but a general overview looks something like this:

  • Product manager
  • Product owner
  • Scrum master
  • Development team
  • Quality assurance team
  • Security team
  • Audit team
  • Operations stakeholder
  • Database administrator
  • Installation/packaging/deployment

Agile breaks up the project manager role into the product owner and Scrum master. It’s meant to divide power and promote checks and balances. After conducting market research and working with product management to define appropriate pieces of functionality, the product owner approaches the Scrum team with requirements—a piece of functionality expected to be delivered with accountability to stakeholders, executives or the people mandating the functionalities. The Scrum master then works with the team to facilitate the delivery of that functionality.

This is contrary to Waterfall development, where “you don’t have a product owner and Scrum master, you have a project manager,” Dahlberg said. “They tell you, ‘Here are the requirements, here’s what we need to get done, I’m going to manage and lead.’”

Scrum Teams Hone Skills Necessary for Mainframe Agility

Developing in quicker lifecycles for mainframe agility has an immediate impact on the product quality of software or applications a company delivers—frequent testing and feedback enable rapid refinement. But developing in quicker lifecycles also serves to sharpen the mainframe development skills of the people on a Scrum team.

“You’re working in these quicker cycles so you’ve got to do all these aspects of the mainframe software development lifecycle in greater frequency,” Dahlberg said. “It’s not like you’re doing all of your requirements-gathering once a year; you’re doing that every couple of weeks, so you get to hone your skills in these areas on a much more regular basis.”

Honing skills more rapidly has the effect of growing more fruits of labor at the end of every sprint—better skills produce better solutions. And Scrum team members take pride in presenting those accomplishments. “It’s rewarding and it gives a greater sense of ownership to the team,” Dahlberg said.

Proximity of Scrum Team Members Encourages Mainframe Agility

Much like a sports team, there’s an air of camaraderie around a Scrum team, helping it flourish while supporting the speed and efficiency of mainframe agility.

I think you have to rely on the bonds between people, accountability among team members and trust that we’re going to all go and work on the things that we need to and we’re all going to deliver what we’ve committed to,” Dahlberg said. “That’s a huge part of team dynamics, to have those relationships, those bonds, that trust.”

Dahlberg suggests the open workspace Scrum teams develop in promotes interaction between team members and enables a greater opportunity for bonding. The physical environment of Waterfall reflects a philosophy of siloed development—walls are put up in the form of tall cubicles and interaction with non-development teams is infrequent.

“When you implement Agile, you have a Scrum team room, no cubes. Everyone’s in the room designated for that team, and that’s different from Waterfall. The physical environment associated with mainframe agility has a lot to do with team dynamics. There’s some symbolism there of breaking down walls.”

That’s not to say bonds and friendship are absent in Waterfall, but Dahlberg said there happens to be more interaction with Agile. “The frequency with which collaboration needs to happen is much greater,” he said. “To that end, it solidifies much firmer relationships more quickly.”

The streamlined structure, rapid skills development and accountability associated with the Scrum team makes it an ideal technique for achieving mainframe agility, enabling faster, more efficient mainframe software development and delivery, and improving the quality of functionality delivered.

Much of this is facilitated by a number of highly organized Scrum meetings, which you can read more about here.

Photo by Liv Martin and Chad Morgan