Big systems support large companies, and for these organizations to thrive, they need to integrate back-office functionality onto a single platform. However, only a few providers have been able to provide the robust, scalable products needed for national and global operations. The limited choices must suffice for a diverse array of industries and business cultures, which means any individual instance of the platform will inevitably require customizations.

For this reason, the ability to maintain and evolve customizations often becomes a defining capability for IT teams within large organizations. Scrum project management within the DevOps framework is emerging as a viable option for businesses that want to stay ahead of disruptors in their industry.

One method does not fit all

Agile, DevOps and scrum are frameworks developed to replace more traditional IT project management methods that struggled to deliver efficient, timely and in-budget solutions. This is particularly true for projects with rapidly changing technologies or without clearly defined requirements.

Scrum project management is adept at discovering both the business need and the solution by working iteratively on an increasingly refined functional product. Scrum success stories tend to feature science experiment-type projects in which scrum project management allows the development team to keep innovating and improving the solution. However, organizations must commit to the scrum techniques if they want to be successful. Scrum teams embedded within traditional environments must be allowed to follow their processes outside the historic project management frameworks.

While scrum methods can deliver successful solutions, the framework does not lend itself well to set budgets and timelines. A functional product can usually be delivered within budget and time, but the features may not be sufficient. Further, for back-office systems and maintenance of existing customizations, it does not always fit to treat everything as an experiment, especially when the back-office functionality is an internal service that does not require innovation. For instance, generally accepted accounting rules don't experience constant, rapid change, so applying adaptive project management techniques such as scrum does not fit the business need.

The scrum project management fit

When organizations commit to continuous improvement and upgrade cycles, their back-office systems and infrastructures are generally up-to-speed with changes. However, when the back-office systems have experienced a period of stagnation, IT teams are faced with increased fragility and the much more difficult job of leaping several code versions ahead.

Great leaps forward are no longer incremental change. New system builds and data migration projects from the legacy installation cost significantly more, and as a result, business leadership may be hesitant to support them. However, the ultimate cost of system failures, outages, lost productivity and specialized maintenance talent will force businesses to seriously consider system changes.

Scrum project management is suited to tackle neglected systems and customizations. The ability to take on a project defined solely by functional outcomes as vague as "don't break anything" make the scrum methodology a good match for these types of situations.

Jason Hannula is a seasoned IT business analyst who has worked with various agencies to deliver transformation projects that improve business processes and data usage. He has also been writing about the impacts of emergent technologies and trends on businesses for since 2013.