Scrum seems to work

I once worked for a security product company that had serious management and organizational issues. This wasn’t obvious at first, but it quickly became painfully clear. The point when I realized that there was absolutely no hope for this company was when I was told that people in marketing weren’t allowed to talk to people in engineering. Instead, all communications between the two departments had to be through formal meetings. That’s right – all of them.

Because the product management function was part marketing and the project management function was part of engineering, this meant that there was a huge obstacle to any communications at all. The project manager, who had done this sort of stuff for many years, assured me that this was the right way to do things. I believed that he was wrong back then and I still believe that he was wrong today. In retrospect, this was one of the worst ideas that I’ve ever seen. If you feel the need to ban all direct communications between marketing and engineering, you’re probably doomed to failure. If you get to that point, why bother actually spend your time on making and selling products? It’s only a matter of time until your organization fails, and you might as well as get a head start by updating your resume before you really need to.

At Voltage, we use an iterative and incremental process called Scrum. Scrum is somewhat trendy. Scrum isn’t perfect, but it seems to have allowed us to get more useful features into our products more quickly than our previous software engineering processes allowed. It’s certainly worked for us. It probably makes some people very uncomfortable – the type of people who insist that all discussions between marketing and engineering take place in formal meetings. But even if that’s all that it can accomplish, it’s probably worth looking at.

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