Scrum is the most popular framework used within an agile environment to convert complex problems into valuable products and services. In this blog, we will examine all things Scrum to shed light on this wonderful organizational tool that is sweeping the globe. There will be engaging articles, interviews with experts and Q&A's. Are you ready to take the red pill? Then please join me on a fascinating journey down the rabbit hole, and into the world of Scrum.

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Meet me in the Middle

The Scrum Time Machine

Don't keep your Information on ICE

Information is what we use to create knowledge, which drives many of the business and project decisions that keep our corporations afloat. In the Agile and Scrum world, information is shared with all stakeholders and is something that is not coveted but shared with anyone who wants it. We call these Information Radiators, because they involve not only the information required, but a method for sharing this information in a way that maximizes value.

Information Radiators can be defined as large displays of relevant project information located in a highly viable area. The term was coined by Alistair Cockburn in 2001 after he saw many organizations following a pattern of storing information in "information refrigerators". The information was hidden, hard to access, and often in the control of one or few individuals. I recall one project 20 years ago where we needed to gain access to some information for a status report, and the person who created the file (and knew where it was located) was on leave and we had to wait until they came back to create the report. It seems insane now, but you may be surprised to know that this practice still exists today in many organizations.

Some examples of Information Radiators include velocity charts, burndown charts, threats and issues, WIP, features in the current release, and the list goes on. The key is that they are "low tech, high touch" tools that promote collaboration between team members and also transparency with stakeholders.

So why has information been so hard to get to, and for so long before Information Radiators came along? Why haven't we always used Information Radiators? Well the simple answer is, we have!

Information Radiators existed long before Agile, Scrum, XP and Lean every saw the light of day. Many of us used Information Radiators for years before ever hearing about any of these practices. Where? In our schools of course. It seems teachers were smarter than many of our managers today because they saw the true value of Information Radiators in the learning, development and collaboration of school children.
School Information Radiator
As you can see from the picture above, information is "radiated" through large, bight and colorful displays. It invites children to explore and interact. I have seen similar schools where children use sticky notes and large pieces of paper to create and display a wide variety of information.

How did we go from that to hiding, coveting and controlling information in the business world? Well, there are many theories why and most of them are probably related to fear and greed. Fear of becoming less relevant if we can't control the information, and greed because having the keys to the kingdom (of information) invariably meant that we were paid more.

I call this practice ICE: Information Coveting Extreme. Instead of radiating information to whom it is best intended, we instead lock it up and freeze its knowledge-sharing powers.

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So how can we be better custodians of information and not repeat the same mistakes we made in the past? Well, don't keep information on ICE for a start. Let it grow and blossom in the sunlight. Unless it is a matter of national security or corporate competitiveness, information should be relevant, visible and shared.

Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!
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Posted on: March 17, 2018 07:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Yesterday, Scrum was such an easy game to play

Now I need a place to hide away?

Well it's not quite that bad. Scrum has come a long way since Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber decided to shake up the software development world by creating a framework for making products faster, better, smarter and for lower cost, even if it was named after a bunch of sweaty men huddled together with ill intent for the other side.

The Scrum framework as we know it today kicked off in the mid 1990's when they both presented their paper at the OOPSLA conference. But it may interest you to know that it was almost a decade earlier when Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka first coined the term "Scrum" in relation to product development. This revelation came after their study of successful manufacturing firms where they noticed that the winning formula was cross-functional teams iterating during overlapping phases.

Scrum made its way into many organizations over the next 15 years, but it wasn't until 2010 that Jeff Sutherland and Jeff Schwaber finally laid down the framework in a semi-official form we know today as The Scrum Guide. There have been five versions of the guide released since 2010, with the latest being in November 2017.

Scrum has since evolved into a powerhouse for delivering successful Agile projects. But is there any quantifiable data to support its widespread adoption? There certainly is. The "State of Scrum 2017-2018 - Scaling and Agile Transformation" produced by the Scrum Alliance gives us some great insights into the game of Scrum and how it is played today.

Before we look at this data, it's important to know that the information was captured through 91 countries, 27 industries, and over 2000 respondents. 78% of the respondents were in the USA and Europe, while only 10% were located in Asia. Given that Asia represents 58% of the world's population, and is the fastest growing economic region and will be for at least the next decade or so, the Scrum Alliance may want to increase their respondent representation in this region for future reports.

How many use Scrum?
94% of respondents use Scrum in their Agile practices. This is broken down into two main areas. While only 16% use Scrum exclusively, 78% use a mixture of Scrum with other approaches such as XP and Kanban.

What about Team Size?
We all know that a good Scrum Team should be small and flexible. Most people believe that aside from the Product Owner and Scrum Master, the development team should consist of between 5-9 members. The report confirms this, and the average Scrum team size was 7.4. Of the 2000 respondents, 8% had team sizes between 1-4 members. 78% had 5-9 members, while 13% had 10+ members.

Sprint number and length
The average length of a Sprint was 2.4 weeks which sounds about right. An interesting thing I noticed was that the average number of Sprints per project was only 5. This could be that a lot of projects were feature updates or a small list of features regarded as a single project, rather than a huge release. This could also be disguised as a Release or Product Roadmap broken down into small "projects". If we multiply the average Sprint length (2.4) by the average number of Sprints per project (5.0), we get a 12-week average duration for Sprint projects. This was indeed confirmed in the 11.6 weeks reported in the State of Scrum.

Scrum Events
81% of respondents held a Retrospective after the Sprint. This seems high at first glance, but when you really think about it, it's really not acceptable that almost 20% of Scrum teams don't even hold a Retrospective. The whole idea of Agile and Scrum is to Inspect and Adapt, and particularly with processes and team performance, this is hard to do if the team isn't meeting for a Retrospective.

87% have a daily Scrum. Now this is where I start to grind my teeth. Is this a Scrum Master issue, or a team just not committed to Scrum? Similarly, only 86% hold a Sprint Planning meeting before a Sprint. I wonder what these teams were thinking when they head into a Sprint with no formal plan for the next iteration. We respect adaptive planning in Scrum, but progressive elaboration does not mean we can enter the current iteration without knowing what we will do and how we will do it. The Definition of Done and our Sprint Goal is a form of planning, so what the heck was going on in their minds?

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If your Scrum projects are not half the Scrum they use to be, it is time to buckle down and look at the processes you are deploying and if they follow the Scrum Guide's framework, all the way down to the roles, rules, events and artifacts that deliver value to the stakeholders. Make sure your Scrum projects are implemented in the best way possible now and tomorrow. Don't long for yesterday!

1. Schwaber, K. and Sutherland, J. (2017) The Scrum Guide. Available from:
2. Scrum Alliance (2017) State of Scrum 2017-2018 - Scaling and Agile Transformation.
3. Wikipedia (2018) Scrum (Software Development). Available from:

Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!
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Posted on: March 13, 2018 10:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

The Purple Pill in Scrum and Agile

When implementing Scrum, there are always challenges associated with people, processes or the technology we use. Starting out with the right Agile mindset is a good start. However, transitioning from the old way we did things will always introduce trepidation and anxiety to some level. Transition programs of any kind usually go one of three ways:

  • Full Transition
  • Step or Part-Transition
  • Pretend to Transition

Using a color code from one of our favorite films, the Matrix, we might categorize these as the following:

  • Full Transition - Red Pill
  • Step or Part-Transition - Purple Pill (Ok I added this one!)
  • Pretend to Transition - Blue Pill

The creators of Scrum always intended it to be used as per the Scrum Guide, while considering some minor adjustments that may be necessary to facilitate the project. There are some organizations however that sing the praises of Scrum and Agile, but do very little in the way of implementing it into the organization. I have seen many corporate brochures that use the word "Agile" in almost every paragraph, only to find out that Agile is the furthest thing from their mind. The business environment in most cases is hybrid at best, even in the software development sectors.

A case in point was a BPO service delivery firm I dealt with in the Philippines that provided application development solutions to international corporations. They implemented a mixture of Scrum and XP and yes Waterfall. Scrum by utilizing daily scrums, Sprints, Sprint Reviews, Retrospectives etc., XP by utilizing pair-programming, refactoring, embracing simplicity of code, thorough testing etc., and Waterfall by trying to identify all the requirements up-front to lock down scope. This latter practice of course goes against Agile principles of the inverted triangle where time and cost are fixed, but scope may change.

However, a quick look at their flagship newsletter at the end of the year revealed a case study for the same project describing how this "Agile project was a success." I happen to know the project was a success because the client had a deep pocket and was willing to pay the bloated budget to get the job done. This point was of course left out of the case study.

The reality during the project was that the daily stand-ups were in fact sit-downs. Some daily meetings did not happen on time or at all. Retrospectives were almost a repeat of the Sprint Review where the development team talked about the issues the customer raised about the demo more than discussing ways to improve the team's processes and ways of working together. The Product Manager was AWOL for a day or two at a time, and the Scrum Master; well they didn't have one. Instead, one of the development team members who was also team leader no less, assumed the role of "Scrum Coach" to ensure that Scrum and XP principles would be followed. The team member did this by telling the team what processes to do and not to do, while also assessing individual performance as opposed to team performance. A bad idea in Scrum.

This scenario and ones similar to it is what I call the Purple Pill of Scrum and Agile. It is not a hybrid. It is a hybrid excuse for not taking seriously the Agile mindset and giving it a real chance to succeed.

In his book "Succeeding with Agile - Software Development Using Scrum", Mike Cohn outlines why we do Scrum:

  1. Faster Time-to-Market
  2. Higher Productivity
  3. Lower Costs
  4. Improved Employee Engagement
  5. Improved Job Satisfaction
  6. Higher Quality
  7. Improved Stakeholder Satisfaction

    and my favorite...
  8. What we've been doing no longer works

So, if you are involved in a Scrum or Agile project, remember the three golden rules which will help you decide which Pill to swallow:

  1. Ideally adopt a Full Transition: Red Pill
  2. Never Pretend to Transition - Blue Pill
  3. If you're going to take the Purple Pill, at least implement Scrum properly, even if it is in steps, or mixed with other methods such as XP

Cohn, M. (2010) Succeeding with Agile - Software Development Using Scrum. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.

Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!
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Posted on: March 08, 2018 04:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

Which Scrum Certification is Best?

Scrum is what many of us eat, drink, breathe and dream about. It's more than just a framework for delivering successful Agile projects. It's a lifestyle in the project community that we Scrumians live by. We uphold the values and principles of the Scrum Guide authored by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber. We also attempt to apply Scrum in its purest unadulterated form, while being open to modifications that make sense for the particular project or as mandated by the organization.

But who or what process can verify that we are indeed living Scrum by the book? Well fortunately, there are some certification bodies that train, test and certify individuals in the Scrum framework. These certifications are the best way to know that a Scrum practitioner is indeed qualified to assist the organization with its Scrum implementation or increasing maturity level.

But one question that many hiring managers and certification aspirants rarely understand or ask themselves is: "Which Scrum certification is best?"

My fellow colleague Andrew Craig wrote a great article on his journey to the PSM certification when compared to the most popular Scrum certification; the CSM. However, we will look at some other major Scrum certifications that are both popular and trending, and assess their pros and cons.

Certified Scrum Master (CSM)

The most well-known certification for Scrum is the Certified Scrum Master by Scum Alliance. It has the most Scrum certified professionals, which may have more to do with their marketing intelligence and early adoption into the Scrum certification domain. The vast majority of job advertisements that ask for a Scrum certification ask for the CSM, but this is changing rapidly.

The reason for this change is that the CSM is very expensive and only delivered through face-to-face training, which many feel is over the top. To make matters worse, the exam's very low passing rate does not go well for its longevity as the predominant certification chosen by employers. In fact, for many years there was no exam for the CSM; the training course was enough to get certified.


  • most well know Scrum certification
  • most employers currently ask for the CSM
  • the exam fee is included in the training course


  • mandatory 2 day face-to-face training course
  • very expensive training (up to $1,500 in many cases)
  • very low passing score needed to pass the exam
  • have to renew once every 2 years for $100

Professional Scrum Master (PSM)

This certification is managed by, which is run by Ken Schwaber, one of the two Scrum founders, so you know you are in good hands. The website provides a lot of resources as well as "open" exams to assist those prepare for the PSM. Further, they have varying categories of the PSM exam such as PSM 1, PSM II and PSM III to reflect complexity and a higher level of mastery.

The PSM is not an easy exam to pass in comparison with other certifications. In fact I read the blog of a 10-year Agile veteran who had also performed several Scrum projects and yet he only passed the PSM exam by just two questions. The pass rate is 85% so it is by no means a walk in the park.


  • no training needed to apply for the exam
  • no renewal fees
  • low exam price


  • not as well known (yet) as the CSM

Agile Scrum Master (ASM)

The Agile Scrum Master is managed by EXIN, which has a long and distinguished record for authoring and delivering certifications. They have been around for almost 35 years and certified over 2 million professionals. You may also be surprised to know that EXIN is one of the founding partners in the development of ITIL.

This exam is pretty tricky even though it has a lower pass rate than the PSM. It does not just involve Scrum, but Agile as well, and touches on some other Agile methods such as XP. To add complexity, there may be more than one correct answer during the exam, and you need to choose which ones are correct from a list. I personally found the ASM to be the most difficult of all the Scrum certification exams I participated in.

A major negative point is that like the CSM, there is a mandatory training course that can cost up to $750, but this training also has it's own assessments in order to get the training certificate to use to apply for the exam.


  • the certification is almost as much about Agile as Scrum, and having the term "Agile" in it may tick some boxes for employers
  • EXIN is well known in the certification world having certified over 2 million professionals


  • the exam fee is $230
  • mandatory training course
  • double assessment

Scrum Master Certified (SMC)

This certification is managed by ScrumStudy, who also authors the SBOK (Scrum Body of Knowledge). While they don't make it mandatory for exam aspirants to first take a training course from their approved education providers, they "highly recommend it".

The exam price is almost obscene at $450, so if you fail the exam a couple of times, you may just run out of money to get any Scrum certification.


  • None


  • extremely high exam price

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So, which Scrum certification is best? When evaluating all the above certifications, and weighing up all the pros and cons, the author has decided to select the Professional Scrum Master (PSM) certification as the gold standard in Scrum certification due to trending popularity, rigorous assessment, high passing score, certification body being owned and managed by one of the Scrum founders, expected increase in future value and market share, no training course required, and low exam price with no annual renewal fees. 

Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!
Sante Vergini Signature

Posted on: March 06, 2018 08:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (33)

Remote Support - PM Network (March 2018)

Management support for remote working teams is so important in today's Agile organizations. To learn more, please read my latest article in PM Network (March 2018) on page 27 entitled Remote Support by clicking the image below.

Posted on: March 03, 2018 06:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

"Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true."

- Francis Bacon



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