How does customer collaboration weigh over contract negotiation?

June 9, 2014

How does customer collaboration weigh over contract negotiation?

Collaboration in Scrum refers to the Scrum Core Team working together and interfacing with the

stakeholders to create and validate the deliverables of the project to meet the goals outlined in the

Project Vision. It is important to note the difference between cooperation and collaboration here.

Cooperation occurs when the work product consists of the sum of the work efforts of various people

on a team. Collaboration occurs when a team works together to play off each other’s inputs to produce

something greater.

The core dimensions of collaborative work are as follows:

• Awareness—Individuals working together need to be aware of each other’s work.

• Articulation—Collaborating individuals must partition work into units, divide the units among

team members, and then after the work is done, reintegrate it.

• Appropriation—Adapting technology to one’s own situation; the technology may be used in a

manner completely different than expected by the designers.

Benefits of Collaboration in Scrum Projects

The Agile Manifesto (Fowler & Highsmith, 2001) stresses “customer collaboration over contract

negotiation.” Thus, the Scrum framework adopts an approach in which the Scrum Core Team members

(Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Scrum Team), collaborate with each other and the stakeholders to

create the deliverables that provide greatest possible value to the customer. This collaboration occurs

throughout the project.

Collaboration ensures that the following project benefits are realized:

1. The need for changes due to poorly clarified requirements is minimized. For example, during

the Create Project Vision, Develop Epic(s), and Create Prioritized Product Backlog processes,

the Product Owner collaborates with stakeholders to create the Project Vision, Epic(s), and

Prioritized Product Backlog, respectively. This will ensure that there is clarity among Scrum

Core Team members on the work that is required to complete the project. The Scrum Team

collaborates continuously with the Product Owner and stakeholders through a transparent

Prioritized Product Backlog to create the project deliverables. The processes Conduct Daily

Standup, Groom Prioritized Product Backlog, and Retrospect Sprint provide scope to the Scrum

Core Team members to discuss what has been done and collaborate on what needs to be done.

Thus the number of Change Requests from the customer and rework is minimized.

2. Risks are identified and dealt with efficiently. For example, risks to the project are identified and

assessed in the Develop Epic(s), Create Deliverables, and Conduct Daily Standup processes by the

Scrum Core Team members. The Scrum meeting tools such as the Daily Standup Meeting, Sprint

Planning Meeting, Prioritized Product Backlog Review Meeting, and so on provide opportunities

to the team to not only identify and assess risks, but also to implement risk responses to high-
priority risks.

3. True potential of the team is realized. For example, the Conduct Daily Standup process provides

scope for the Scrum Team to collaborate and understand the strengths and weaknesses of

its members. If a team member has missed a task deadline, the Scrum Team members align

themselves collaboratively to complete the task and meet the targets agreed to for completing

the Sprint.

4. Continuous improvement is ensured through lessons learned. For example, the Scrum Team

uses the Retrospect Sprint process to identify what went well and what did not go well in the

previous Sprint. This provides an opportunity to the Scrum Master to work with the team

to rework and improve the team for the next scheduled Sprint. This will also ensure that

collaboration is even more effective in the next Sprint.

Importance of Colocation in Collaboration

For many of the Scrum practices, high-bandwidth communication is required. To enable this, it is

preferred that team members are colocated. Colocation allows both formal and informal interaction

between team members. This provides the advantage of having team members always at hand for

coordination, problem-solving, and learning. Some of the benefits of colocation are the following:

• Questions get answered quickly.

• Problems are fixed on the spot.

• Less friction occurs between interactions.

• Trust is gained and awarded much more quickly.

Collaboration tools that can be used for colocated or distributed teams are as follows:

1. Colocated Teams (i.e., teams working in the same office)—In Scrum, it is preferable to have

colocated teams. If colocated, preferred modes of communication include face-to-face

interactions, Decision Rooms or War Rooms, Scrumboards, wall displays, shared tables, and so


2. Distributed Teams (i.e., teams working in different physical locations)—Although colocated

teams are preferred, at times the Scrum Team may be distributed due to outsourcing,

offshoring, different physical locations, work-from-home options, etc. Some tools that

could be used for effective collaboration with distributed teams include video conferencing,

instant messaging, chats, social media, shared screens, and software tools which simulate the

functionality of Scrumboards, wall displays, and so on.


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