Is Scrum right for web development industry?

Reading the recent Dave West's article I'm questioning myself about Scrum in web development industry.

I'm quite expert for this sector, web development, in this post I want to discuss about this question:

Does scrum works well for web development?

before giving an answer let's try to analyze the situation:

Let's say if you own a web development company it's highly probable you have many clients, with a really high number of small and medium projects.

  • I believe that more than 60% are small projects, something a team of 3-5 developers could complete in 2 weeks or so.

  • A 30-35% is middle size projects, something around 4-6 weeks, same team size.

  • The rest 5-10% big projects, but in my experience happens often something similar to middle size, 6 weeks for 3-5 devs, with the difference that this kind of projects needs a continuous maintenance and small change request week by week for months.

Another important factor regards complexity and team size:
when the features requested are not really complex, the project could be mostly a design thing, with not so specialized development. In this situation it's also difficult arrange a team of more than 2-3 developers to work at the same project.

It's evident that in a situation like that that means the amount of different projects handled and delivered by the company per year could be quite impressive.

As consequences:

  • having so many projects and clients means also have many distractions, phone calls, emails, a tons of support stuff to do.

  • That is true also for Product Owners, they have really hard time to handle so many projects and clients.

  • The production cycle is so short that it's quite usual the sell department needs often to book some developer's time, like for requirement analysis.

  • Meetings, meetings every weeks, often regarding different projects.

So we know one of the most important values in Scrum is focus. Is it possible to fulfil this value in a situation like that? Obviously NO!

The web development industry suffer from other problems:

  • is historically based on a waterfall approach, first marketing, then design, and at least development.

  • clients periodically need relaunch with a new design to renew their brand image but often they don't really need new features.

  • contents are prepared for the new website (the new container), instead of the opposite designing the new website based on the new contents.

So is Scrum valuable for the web development industry?
Yes, But!

But the web industry must evolve, consulting the client and shift the complete workflow transforming what it's now into something new.
For most of the projects instead of having many developers a team should involve designers, SEO experts, marketing expert and first of all the client and the content editors they need to work together in the same sprint.

Breaking the barriers of difference offices is important to break the waterfall idea.

Team must become more fluid and allow different team members and team-size for different projects.

Is it easy to achieve? No, it isn't, it's in the human nature that designers like to stay with designers, content editors need time to prepare contents and let the chief approve them ;) and of course developers like to drink coffee, mostly alone :D

Of course a company should not just tell it's working with scrum or agile, it has to demonstrate adopting the same scrum values every day:

  • Focus on client project

  • Courage to change when needed (the own organization/team for example)

  • Transparency that could be enhanced involving all the actors working together

  • Commitment to the project success

  • Respect

But it's possible, it is! And just using values we already know: transparency and trust for example. But most of all:

  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

  • Responding to change over following a plan

  • Enhancing interaction with others, mainly introducing agile and scrum in other department

Is it the same for other sectors? What's in gaming, or finance industries? What's your experience?

Resources you may want to read