Scrum tactics are a great fit for a complex problem like a financial system implementation. Ultimately, Scrum seeks to uncover better ways to deliver a complex work product in a collaborative environment, in as short a time as possible. The ideal Scrum Team consists of 3 – 9 people, focusing on just one area of achievement at a time, for a short time duration of 2 – 4 weeks before moving on to the next area of focus, otherwise referred to as a Sprint. A Sprint is a repeatable fixed time-box during which a “done” product of the highest possible value is created.
Scrum value delivery works because of roles, events (meetings), time-boxes, artifacts, rules, and feedback loops. The roles of the 3-9 team members can be divided into: the Product Owner (key stakeholder), the Scrum Master, and 1-7 Development Team members. It is critical that the Product Owner be available, otherwise a very high risk of not meeting the Owner’s expectation may occur. Among other key functions, the Product Owner is the only owner of the work product and owns the Product Backlog. The Product Backlog is a prioritized list of all the work not yet completed during a Sprint.
The Development Team consists of cross-functional talent that is responsible for turning the Product Backlog Items into increments of potentially usable, releasable increments. The Scrum Master is responsible for safeguarding the Scrum process; removing obstacles; facilitating collaboration; and ensures everyone on the team is going in the same direction.
Below is a brief depiction of how the events, time-boxes, artifacts, rules and feedback loops would work during a financial system implementation.
Four Levels of Planning
Once a vision is established, it feeds the product backlog a corporate accounting team aims to deliver in real time, accurate general ledger reconciliations that provide high-confidence-level reporting to the Executive Team. This helps facilitate their decisions during asset acquisition negotiations.
A visual aid is created depicting the upcoming Sprints allowing for easy communication on which projects are currently in process and the tracking on the progress of each of the Sprints. A Roadmap brings transparency to the product management processes.
The team decides to break out the implementation into 12 Sprints, with each Sprint lasting a duration of 4 weeks. The team estimates the implementation will take 12 months to complete and has determined to challenge themselves to identify how to reduce the timeline.
Enable a longer horizon for planning and schedule either on cadence (e.g., monthly, quarterly) or on demand (i.e., project based). The Product Owner and Development Team agree on a monthly cadence. After the first month, the team begins to predict how much value can be delivered by the release date.
During the first Sprint, the team decides to design an improved cash flow report for the Executive Team. The Development Team is split into two sub-teams to see which group can create an output (i.e., report) with the least amount of data entry points into the financial system. During the Sprint, they each discover critical mapping issues, which lead them to estimate that the implementation may take over 12 months.
Scrum Meeting Distinctions
1. Sprint Planning
An event in the Scrum framework where the team determines the product backlog items they will work on during that Sprint, and discusses their initial plan for completing those product backlog items.
2. Daily Scrum Meeting
The Development Team is responsible for conducting the Daily Scrum, which is held at the same time and place each day to reduce complexity. The duration is only 15 minutes and is held for the team to synchronize activities and answer 3 main questions:
- What has been accomplished since the last meeting?
- What will be done before the next meeting?
- What obstacles are in the way?
3. Sprint Review
This distinction can impact the planning sessions by adding or removing items from the product backlog, changing priorities in the product backlog, choosing not to proceed further with the project, and not authorizing another Sprint.
Note: Sprint Reviews should not be focused on exploring what business value the product will produce. Instead, Sprints focus on delivering the task at hand at the highest possible quality. It is the Product Owner’s responsibility to determine the business value of the product, and the Sprint Team’s sole focus is to deliver the most efficient output for the specific aspect of focus.
4. Sprint Retrospective
Inspect how the last Sprint went with regards to people, relationships, process and tools. Identity and order the major items that went well and potential improvements. Create a plan for implementing improvements to the way the Scrum Team does its future work.
5. Backlog Refinement
Critical findings are brought to the attention of the Product Owner. The Product Owner decides on the priorities and can also choose to eliminate tasks that will not yield big results.
Scrum Visual Tools for Product Management
1. Sprint Burndown Chart
The Sprint Burndown Chart tracks the hours/days remaining to complete the remaining work. The Development Team is always tracking the work remaining in the Sprint and helps answer these questions:
- Where are we?
- Do we need to change anything to meet our sprint goal?
2. Sprint Task Board
Make the Sprint Backlog visible by putting task cards on a board which team members update continuously throughout the Sprint. Either during or before the daily Scrum, estimates are changed (up or down), and cards are moved around the board. The columns generally used on a task board are: Story; To do (“Done” or “In Process”); Work in process; To verify; and Done.
3. Release Burn Up Charts
Track the amount of work accomplished across Sprints toward a release goal with Burn Up Charts.
Top Three Key Opportunities Missed When Leveraging Scrum
1. Proper Utilization of Time-Boxes
Here are some critical time management Scrum guidelines to ensure the best possible plan is designed:
- Only 10% of time should be spent on refinement
- A max of 4 hours should be spent on planning
- A max of 2 1/2 hours should be spent on daily meetings
- A max of 2 hours should be spent on Sprint Review
- A max of 2 hours should be spent on the retrospective
2. Scrum is a Mindset
Remember that more than a process, set of tools, techniques, or practices, Scrum is primarily a mindset about people and the way work is accomplished.
3. Prioritizing Your Tasks
Keeping the answer to the following question at the forefront: “What is the one thing, that if we fix, will have the biggest impact?”
Get Expert Support for Your Financial System Implementation
Scrum tactics create a clear mindset for the work involved to solve a complex problem. Depending on your financial system implementation and the specifics of the project, it may or may not be a fitting solution. A third-party systems implementation expert can help you determine the best way for you and your teams to approach the implementation.
8020 Consulting has a growing team of finance and accounting experts that are ready to deploy in Los Angeles. Our team provides a wide range of financial consulting services to support your enterprise.
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About the Author
Casandra has over 15 years of finance and operations experience primarily in the entertainment and media distribution industry, as well as the pharmaceutical industry. Casandra started her career at PWC in the New York Metro Area and participated in Johnson & Johnson’s Financial Leadership Development Program, before moving to California. She worked for over four years as a Finance Manager at NBC Universal, in International TV Distribution, a $1.5+ billion business. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration from Montclair State University in New Jersey. Casandra is also obtaining her Executive MBA at UCLA Anderson School of Business.