A recent discussion on the Certified Scrum Trainers list regarding Sprint 0 and what was a product prompted me to write a long reply I have posted here. Mirage Scrum is the kind of Scrum that some people practice, where what is being developed looks like something it is not.
This is a true story describing a project that used what I am calling Mirage Scrum. The Scrummaster on this project was a colleague that I advised.
The VP in charge of a large program to integrate a bank’s online products came under the spell of a Boston Consulting MBA consultant with no dev experience and a user experience fixation. Based on the consultant’s advice, a project was setup to create the “vision” of this project, in this case the User Interface for the integrated product portal. The project team was to design the interface using a tool called iRise, that creates clickable UIs, along with typical graphic design tools.
For 3 months this project team worked in creating this User Interface (UI) using Scrum. They had a consultant Scrummaster, a scrumboard, demos, and 2 week sprints. They would demonstrate progress on the UI in the iRise tool. After 3 months they had finished the UI design in the tool, and shown it to all the executives in the bank, who approved, though many wanted to adjust colors, move things around on the screen etc. Everyone has an opinion in UI.
This UI concept was then given to the development organization. Then the fun began.
The iRise tool claimed to generate all the code needed. Well, what it generated was not usable for much of the site, so development decided on PHP. The UI design made many assumptions about the backend that were wrong, so many UI elements had to be reworked. The UI design did not have the correct security interface. Etc.
The executives who saw the completed UI in iRise asked why, 4 months after the final interface demo, was the portal not done?? Development needed to go faster. Marketing projects had been started to market the online portal based in part on seeing the completed UI in iRise. Investments were being made with ad agencies, printers, TV, media and online.
Yet massive data-warehouses had to be developed to integrate data and abstract the portal away from the many disparate systems. Acquisitions that had completely different systems and environments had to be integrated. A very large amount of development remained. This development needed to be rationalized against the UI concept, and tradeoffs, changes, and revisions made. It took a year to get the first version of the portal launched, and multiple releases to complete all of the features needed by each product.
So did the UI project add value? Yes there was value, the same value as there is in a requirements document in a waterfall project. Except that the UI project, with its demos of clickable UIs, created an impression of “done”. Based on what Managers saw in the demos, decisions were made and investments taken. Stakeholders believed the Mirage the UI team had created using Scrum practices. You can imagine the conversations between IT and marketing for the following 12 months. Many expectations to manage, IT seen as slow and always making excuses, money lost on purchased advertising space option contracts, and ad agencies doing multiple revisions to marketing material based on the changes in the system under development.
As an Agile Coach in the organization I consulted the SM and tried to persuade the consultant early in the program to find another way that would create real software. Instead of a UI based on assumptions. The consultant had lots of political support for his approach. He said the Company had lots of “consumer anthropology” that needed to be done that could not wait for real software. Since arrowheads and pottery shards were in short supply, I think he meant showing the UI to users, perhaps doing some usabilty tests? I am still not quite sure.
Can you create a vision with using scrum practices? Absolutely. Are you implementing waterfall in 2 week sprints? Absolutely.
Mirage Scrum. Using Scrum practices to deliver artifacts that create the mirage of completed software.