The agile scrum

Software development is a fast-moving business, because good software is always being developed to keep pace with the latest technology and user requirements. Developers are not short of challenges in continuing to develop JiveX at VISUS either. To enable them to kick off this process more efficiently than before, the workflow team introduced the scrum model last year. Since then, programmers have been 'sprinting' from one milestone to the next. Within the VISUS structure, the workflow team takes care of interface topics, such as RIS or KIS and data transfer using HL7 or even demo folders and the Mammo Report Manager. In short, anything that ensures a seamless and smooth workflow with JiveX. When Dr. Anna Burczik took over project management for the area last year, she and the team decided to introduce the scrum to make internal team workflows even smoother and more efficient. The expression 'scrum' is borrowed from rugby and describes the team's very close collaboration where everyone has equal rights. Scrum is popular in software development, in particular, because it is based on an iterative process which accelerates processes enormously. If you look in the dictionary , you will find the following definition: "A scrum is an agile software development process model which assumes that software projects cannot be planned in detail in advance as they are too complex. For this reason, planning follows the principle of gradual refinement, with the team developing the system on an almost equal footing".

Team spirit and transparency increase

Scrum uses fixed rules and components, however, which cannot be implemented in their entirety in every company. Anna Burczik again: "We have chosen scrum elements that suit us, that help us work in a more agile way and increase our efficiency. These include 'development sprints', working with a committed backlog, daily standup meetings, planning poker and the task board". Sprints cover periods of between one and four weeks—in the VISUS workflow team, these last three weeks—in which specific tasks are completely resolved, that is, from development via testing to documentation and feedback. The team selects projects together at a 'Sprint Planning Meeting'. "This means we sit down together, look at the backlog list which details all the upcoming projects according to priority, and decide together what is achievable in the next three weeks in terms of the team's capacity. The goal of these initial meetings is for every team member to declare their support for working through the tasks on the task board over the next three weeks", explains Anna Burczik. On the one hand, progress made during the sprints is documented on the task board and lists the steps required and the people responsible for these. This creates transparency and lets people quickly see if something gets stuck somewhere or if the task card fails to show progress for a long time. On the other, every member of staff has the opportunity to give a quick status report on tasks in daily standup meetings. These short discussions are ideal for communicating the essentials and keeping in continuous touch. There's a 'retro' straight after every sprint and therefore the opportunity to provide feedback on what went well or badly in a sprint.

Fixed goals instead of working on demand

And what are the precise effects of these changes on everyday working life? "We have become considerably more agile, because we agree on the project goals set in advance and follow up them through in a focused way. Working on demand or process disruptions have mostly been eliminated. In addition, we have become more transparent, because in principle anyone—Support or Sales—can see the current project status on the task board. It is especially pleasing that motivation within the team has increased again. Partly because work successes and results are more visible and partly because there is greater participation in decision-making and problems are solved faster as a result of continuously communicating problems", the project manager explains. In fact, the team has also been investing less time in meetings since the introduction of the scrum rules although more meetings take place. Comprehensive agreement results in meetings taking a maximum of five minutes each day to determine the most important tasks. Overall, that saves more time than holding one long meeting every couple of weeks. The workflow team's approach has really convinced VISUS that in the end, it is not only products, but ways of working and working environments which need to be adjusted time and time again, because even if VISUS customers are not directly affected by processes like these, in the end they will benefit from the company being able to react faster and be more flexible in the market.