3 Big Benefits of Scrum and Why It Beats Waterfall for Product Development

October 16, 2013

Getting more accomplished in less time is every manager’s dream — Scrum makes it a reality. Scrum coach and expert Kenny Rubin explains the benefits of adopting an agile framework and why it beats waterfall for product development.


Are you interested in delighting your customers, boosting your bottom line, and improving your processes? Scrum certified trainer Kenny Rubin, author of the best-selling book Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process, sat down with OpenView Labs to outline three big reasons why Scrum is worth your time, and why it makes sense to go agile.

Scrum 101: A Quick Breakdown

Think of Scrum as a framework for developing products and for managing work, Rubin explains. The process begins with a prioritized backlog — a list of the work that needs to be done. That list is put into order by the product owner. From there, your team moves the project forward by working in short-duration iterations known as sprints, which typically span from one to four weeks.

During each sprint, your team decides on a subset of the high-priority work to pull into that sprint. The team’s goal should be to produce something “shippable” at the end of the sprint.

At that point, management via the product owner decides whether to release what’s been produced, or to conduct another sprint into a release. At the end of every sprint, the team conducts two “inspect and adapt activities”:

  1. Reviewing what’s been produced with the stakeholder community to determine if what is being build is tracking to a killer product in the marketplace
  2. Reviewing the sprint process, itself (what works well, what isn’t working, and what could be improved)

After that, in Rubin’s words “you rinse and repeat” until your team has finished the backlog or the economics indicate it is time to stop.

The 3 Big Benefits of Scrum

So why choose Scrum for product development? According to Rubin, there are three major benefits that your organization can’t afford to ignore.

1) Delighted Customers

By building iteratively and incrementally, companies are able to deliver customers the products and services they really need faster and more effectively. With Scrum, you can receive and incorporate customer feedback at the end of every sprint, which means your results get shaped by real-world use, not your assumptions. This makes it much easier to keep customers and key stakeholders closely involved and engaged.

2) Reduced Product Costs

Scrum also improves your return on investment by reducing costs. “The speed at which we do things,” Rubin explains, “and the waste elimination that we’re able to bring to bear by skipping work that is not essential to our minimum viable product makes for a faster, leaner, and more cost-effective development team — and a healthier bottom line.”

3) A Happier, More Productive Team

“There is no technical person I’ve ever met who would like to build something that will never see the light of day,” Rubin points out. “With Scrum, your developers get to build things quickly that people then get to use, which is exactly what gets engineers excited.”

Why Scrum Beats Waterfall for Product Development

Rubin stresses one important distinction between Scrum and the traditional waterfall development framework: Scrum delivers features at a time, while waterfall simply delivers phases.

“A typical waterfall style development is phased-based, sequential, plan-driven. In that model, you really don’t give value until the very end,” Rubin says. Scrum turns that model on its head and delivers new features every few weeks instead of focusing on a big release in the future.

“Delivering features today generates revenue and feedback today,” Rubin says. “And money and insight today is worth more than money and insight tomorrow.”

Photo by: 401(K) 2012

Principal Consultant

Kenny Rubin is a Managing Principal at <a href="http://www.innolution.com/">Innolution, LLC</a>. He is also an Angel Investor at Agile Angel Partners. He previously was the Managing Director at Scrum Alliance.