March 12, 2013

Scrum, no doubt, is one of the most viable and potentially applicable approaches to managing software development projects. Being a strong Agile approach, Scrum has multiple advantages and that is why an increasing number of companies in the recent past have either implemented or have been intending to implement Scrum; however, implementation does have its baggage. Although the facts and figures suggest that Scrum has been successful in developing and delivering high-quality, business-valued functional software, there have been instances where it has failed to bear fruit. Scrum Masters as well as Agile practitioners across the globe have been addling their brains to find the reasons how and why Scrum fails to deliver.

A deep analysis of some Scrum projects that have failed has revealed the following:

  1. Scrum is neither a Magic Wand nor a Silver Bullet – The hype that comes with the promotion of any new process or product has led software professionals across the globe to harbor the assumption that Scrum is a silver bullet for all types of problems surfacing in the process of software development and implementation. However, to be precise and practical, Scrum is not a magic wand or potion that puts an end to all types of problems. Scrum is just a development methodology which delineates the processes and practices that help in managing software development activities. No process, technique, or methodology will solve all the problems that arise in development projects. Though tempting, expecting a silver bullet that will kill all of a project’s monster is unrealistic.
  2. Inappropriate application of Scrum can lead to its doom – Scrum is not a prescriptive method, but a suggestive approach to software development. So, the way it is implemented makes all the difference. The team practicing Scrum should be well aware of Scrum principles as well as of Scrum’s suitability to the project at hand. People implementing Scrum should be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the approach they are applying. Ambiguity and vagueness about either the approach or Scrum appropriate processes or both can result in confusion and rework—increased production cost and delayed delivery on commitments.
  3.  The problems highlighted by Scrum need to be solved – One of the significant advantages of Scrum is that it reveals problems at quite an early stage in the development process; however, “knowing is [only] half the battle.” The more imperative task is to solve the problems and make an effort to remove the impediments that have surfaced. However, it has been noticed that some teams make no efforts to deal with the problems; these problems are either ignored or hidden until the end of the project. It is actually this procrastination that leads to delays in delivery or failures to meet commitments, even when the buck is passed to Scrum.
  4. Lack of a skilled and efficient project team – A very skilled and an efficient project team is required to implement Scrum effectively and successfully. All the roles, that is, the Scrum Master, the product owner—who is the voice of the customer—and the development team members need to be aware of the Scrum principles, and adhere to them as effectively as possible. Also, the team members should be technically sound and experts in their fields, that is, the developers should have expertise in the technologies to be used, while the product owner should possess all the relevant and valuable business information about the product under development. Part of the a successful implementation of Scrum relies on the development team members being “generalists/specialists;” they need to be cross-trained enough to identify and execute points of convergence for the skill sets involved in the project, while having advanced skills and acumen in a specific skill set that adds high degrees of quality. Apart from this, the team members should have a strong sense of dedication and commitment to the project and to the Scrum principles.
  5. Lack of an experienced and visionary Product Owner – The Product Owner is the one who steers the project in the required direction, and serves as a link between the technical members and the customers. So, it is essential that the Product Owner is efficient, experienced and visionary. In other words, he should be well versed in the project’s dependencies and well aware of the possible risks. Also, he
  6. Lack of an experienced and skilled Scrum Master — the Scrum Master should be an effective leader who knows how to keep the team well-coordinated and how the remove the obstacles that come in way of successful completion of the project. He should try his best to enhance effective communication among the team members, and should facilitate the planning and implementing activities.

To conclude, it can be argued that it is the improper implementation or a lack of proper adherence to Scrum principles, and not Scrum itself, that is responsible for the failure of Scrum in some projects.


Since this blog is on the reasons Scrum fails, we need to express this in the negative.

In Scrum, the Product Owner is the VoC. It is the responsibility of the Product Owner to be in communication with the customer/end users and represent their interests to the development team.

Having a backup plan can cause Scrum or any process implementation to fail—especially if the team members prefer the backup plan and sabotage the implementation of Scrum. However, that is not what this section says, so it does not fit in this blog on why Scrum fails.


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