Applying Agile and Scrum to Events Management

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“Agile project management practices are neither new nor exotic “(Schwaber, 2004). Originally developed outside of the IT and pioneered by Honda, Canon and Fuji (ibid), today Scrum finds itself significantly useful in software developments.

Although this is true, nowadays many companies that are in need for speed and flexibility in commercial product development, also decide to adapt Scrum for their own purposes. Application of Scrum by Lonely Planet’s legal team (Tractor, 2012) or “Scrum your wedding” company (Image 1) that applies Scrum to wedding planning are just few examples that proof Scrum’s applicability in various organizations.

This article will consider application of Scrum in Events Management.

(Image 1Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 09.23.54.png(Source: http://www.scrumyourwedding.com)

Agile

Agile is a software development that consists of a software development methodologies based on iterative development, meaning that product is being developed in repetitive cycles where requirements and solutions emerge over cooperation between cross-functional and self-organizing teams (Cprime, 2013). Originally it was assumed to be applied mostly in software engineering as it referred to breaking down the software development of a large application into smaller parts, where feature code was designed, developed and tested in repeated cycles (Rouse, 2015). Agile fosters superior software development through promotion of disciplined project management process (Cprime, 2013), business approach that adjusts product development with customer requirements and company objectives, persistent adaptation and control and leadership theory that inspires teamwork, responsibility and self-organization. Any development that complies with Agile Manifesto – a document developed in 2001 by seventeen software developers (http://agilemanifesto.org/principles.html) which characterizes Agile main aims- can be considered an Agile development (Rouse, 2015).

Scrum

Scrum is most widely practiced subset of Agile (Scruminc, 2014). Developed by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber, it has been widely applied in software engineering since early 1990’s. According to Schwaber (2013) Scrum is a lightweight framework for product development that establishes work culture of adaptation, inspection and transparency while enabling the team to productively, creatively and consistently deliver products of an excellent value.

Like in a rugby game, scrum applies holistic approach where constant interaction within multidisciplinary teams are crucial (Takeuchi and Nonaka, 1986). It encourages trial and error, challenges the status quo and breaks down the structural rigidities within product development teams. It redefines leadership along with essential roles and responsibilities and puts emphasis on the collocation of project members.

Since Scrum creates a system that facilitate teams to manage complicated problems, using whatever techniques suit them best, Scrum can be adapted in miscellaneous projects. In order to maintain productivity and consistency across different projects Scrum requires teams to follow certain structure, consisting of shared tools and terms, which contributes to the clarity and transparency of the whole development process. The most fundamental standard to follow in Scrum are Scrum Events that enable structuring teams’ work:

  • Sprint Planning
  • Daily Scrum
  • Sprint Review
  • Sprint Retrospective

Aforementioned structure can be easily implemented into Events Management. Though, while adapting Scrum into one’s company, it is important to remember that adjustments can be made to take maximum advantage of Scrum.

 

Events Management

Trends

Events Managements has changed tremendously in the past decade, with technological growth being a prime factor to this shift. In 2015 technology offers an incredible range if opportunities for event organizers, from Mobile Events Apps and iBeacons that offer a variety of techniques for improving event attendees experience through gamification, personalized welcome and alert messages to sharp data analytics, Internet of Things and Social Media being immensely integrated into Event Strategies (Tweetall, 2015). Conversely, accelerating digitization of businesses has real life consequences. 2014 saw the biggest data breaches in history and it is (O’Neill, 2015) and all companies regardless of industry can be targeted by hackers. While EM companies can immensely benefit from this constant flood of technological advances, they also have to be vigilant about online security and privacy.

Challenges

Today, entertainment industry within which EM companies operate shares three basic challenges: time, costs and planning (Walmsley, 2011). Many EM companies fail to keep track of constantly shifting scope of the event (Now, 2015). Negligence of keeping track of even small changes can result in impossible time frame or uncontrolled budget. Inability to stay on track can be associated with planning (ibid). Lack on reaching clear a vision and definition of done, usually results in the event loosing its objective. When Event Organizer and cooperating companies, do not provide meticulous illustration of their vision of an event, it creates confusion among employees and discrepancy of what is expected and what is being done. Furthermore, many event companies forget to perform a risk assessment prior to the event, which can predict possible issues that can arise due to last minute changes (ibid). The next issue is lack of transparency of priorities and lack of work structure, that could foster teamwork and organized work (Lunatractor, 2015). EM teams sometimes work long hours, due to time mismanagement, lack of task prioritization and bad communication. Additionally, many event organizers forget to seek feedback from its’ clients after an event had taken place. Feedback is prominent when determining desire and tastes and if a company fails to satisfy its clients and does not seek for the reasons of it, this will eventually lead to economic repercussions (Suttle, 2015)

Implementation of Scrum

Sprints

The Scrum framework consists of series of ceremonies, which take place in each Sprit. Sprint is “a heart of Scrum” (Schwaber et all, 2013). It is an iteration of a fixed length (usually 1 to 4 weeks), during which potentially releasable product increment is created. For Event Management each Sprint is a completed interval of work that is performed to accomplish certain target or finish a specific project. For larger events like music festivals, the sprints are longer, due to scale of the event. Each termination of a sprint, brings improvements and visible results.

Teams

Scrum teams for Software developments consists of a Product Owner, Development Team and Scrum Master. The overriding principal of Scrum teams is that “everyone is a team member”, since there is high degree of autonomy, accountability and no self imposed hierarchy. Scrum teams are self-organizing, a cross-functional groups of 4- 9 individuals, who collaborate to build a potentially shippable product increment. This model optimizes flexibility, creativity and productivity and fits well into Events Management.

Scrum Master is facilitator, who provides guidance and protects team from distractions. This position fits perfectly into EM, as EM teams require supervision, guidance and structure.

Conversely, Product Owner is more problematic post to implement to EM. For Software Developments, PO is a visionary, responsible for the commercial success of the product, who translates the needs of customers into product backlog and orders it hierarchically according to business values. Traditional characteristic of Product Owner and his/her inflexible control over product backlog is too rigid and would not fit well into Events Management team, which has more flexible nature. Furthermore, sole definition of who PO is in EM is complicated and depends on the nature of the event. If EM agency organizes its own event, the originator of the idea can become the PO or a boss of the agency.

Furthermore, Scrum recognizes no titles, which is not a problem for EM teams, where there isn’t usually hierarchy. Although, each person usually has specific skill set, this industry does not require specific pre-gained knowledge and usually employees work on different posts throughout organization of the event. EM team members are mostly extroverts with tendency to self-organization so adaptation to Scrum, should be smooth.

Tools in Scrum

Scrum adopts two shared tools:

  • Product backlog: hierarchical list of all tasks that could be done over the lifetime of a project, from high to low priority. Items at the top of the product backlog must be meticulously defined as they must be completed first.
  • Sprint backlog: includes all the items that must be completed within one sprint and reflects the hierarchical order of the product backlog. Sprint Backlog is presented on a physical board, which allows to track the team’s progress and output. Usually scrum board has three columns marked as: to do, work in progress and Done.

Both tools are very useful for EM teams, as Product Backlog provides transparency of priorities, clarity and structure to follow and Sprint Backlog helps teams with tracking their actions and planning, thus improves their time management.

Ceremonies

Originally Scrum was developed to help in product development, however in Entertainment industry, the service is a product equivalent. Also, each Scrum project starts with a product vision, in this case, a vision of an event, after which PO translates the vision of an event into the product backlog. Once it is established, the team can conduct its’ first ceremony –Sprint Planning.

Sprint planning is comprehensive meeting, during which team defines what must be done by the end of the Sprint. Sprint clarifies items brought into the sprint backlog and agrees on two definitions of:

  • ready- an item in a backlog which is independent, actionable, has been assigned a point value;
  • done- everyone knows what is expected from an item when it’s delivered;

The team also creates a sprint goal, which for EM can be finding enough sponsors for the event or finalizing the location. For EM different team members work on different fronts and their goals may vary from the main sprint goal, but in the end they all work towards the same objective. A physical board is a great tracking system for all team members’ projects, so that various projects get the attention, even though they are not contributing mainly to Sprint Goal.

After Sprint Planning, the team gets to work and meet everyday for an official, 15 min, standing meeting for the Development Team to inspect progress, synchronize activities and come up with a plan for the next 24 hours. It is called Daily Scrum.

During Daily Scrum each Development Team member has to ask themselves and answer those questions:

– What did I do yesterday that helped the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
– What will I do today to help the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
– Do I see any impediment that prevents me or the Development Team from meeting the Sprint Goal?

This meeting is great for Events Management. It maintains open communication, helps team members to stay informed of each another’s actions, evaluate their own and others’ work and prevent possible obstacles.

At the end of each sprint, the team meets for Sprint Review, where they present what they have accomplished during the sprint to Product Owner and potential clients to gather actionable feedback on what was completed and review the overall plan for the event. In this case EM team could present their potential clients with drafts and information about the event, such as selected music, food choices or location. They can also review any changes in the marketplace that could impact Sprint Goal, so e.g. what themes for events are considered currently unpopular.

The final ceremony of the sprint is Sprint Retrospective, during which the team can inspect itself by identifying accomplishments and shortcomings and plan on improvements to be implemented during the next Sprint. It should include: hard truths, honesty and debate. Thorough discussion leads to good analysis and consensus what improvements to make in the next sprint. This meeting is a great opportunity for EM team to discuss how people, relationships, processes and tools worked in the last Sprint and identify items that went well and those that need improvement. Here, team can also go through through self examination in pursuit of continuous self improvement.

Conclusion

With introduction of small adjustments, Scrum framework can be easily applied to Agile Events Management and can significantly improve the quality of work of many events management teams, that struggle.

Resources

Cprime, (2015). [online] Available at: 1)         https://www.cprime.com/resources/what-is-agile-what-is-scrum/ [Accessed 17 Dec. 2015].

LunaTractor, (2012). Lonely Planet Legal Affairs: smart people + lean work practices = innovation. [online] Luna Tractor. Available at: http://lunatractor.com/not-just-an-it-thing-our-book/lonely-planet-legal-affairs-smart-people-lean-work-practices-innovation/ [Accessed 17 Dec. 2015].

Nonaka, I. and Takeuchi, H. (1986). The New New Product Development Game. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/1986/01/the-new-new-product-development-game# [Accessed 17 Dec. 2015].

Now, (2015). The Top 10 Challenges Facing Event Organisers – Liverpool Chamber of Commerce. [online] Liverpoolchamber.org.uk. Available at: http://www.liverpoolchamber.org.uk/article.aspx/show/2321 [Accessed 17 Dec. 2015].

O’Neill, M. (2015). Lateline – 24/07/2015: Computer hackers growing in numbers as security breaches increase. [online] Abc.net.au. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2015/s4280609.htm [Accessed 17 Dec. 2015].

Rouse, M. (2015). What is Agile Manifesto? – Definition from WhatIs.com. [online] SearchCIO. Available at: http://searchcio.techtarget.com/definition/Agile-Manifesto [Accessed 17 Dec. 2015].

Rouse, M. (2015). What is iterative development? – Definition from WhatIs.com. [online] SearchSoftwareQuality. Available at: http://searchsoftwarequality.techtarget.com/definition/iterative-development [Accessed 12 Dec. 2015].

Schwaber, K. (2004). Agile project management with Scrum. Redmond, Wash.: Microsoft Press.

Schwaber, K. and Sutherland, J. (2013). [online] Available at: http://www.scrumguides.org/docs/scrumguide/v1/scrum-guide-us.pdf [Accessed 17 Dec. 2015].

ScrumInc, (2015). [online] Available at: 1)     http://www.scruminc.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/The-Basics-of-Scrum.pdf [Accessed 17 Dec. 2015].

SearchCIO, (2015). What is Agile Manifesto? – Definition from WhatIs.com. [online] Available at: http://searchcio.techtarget.com/definition/Agile-Manifesto [Accessed 12 Dec. 2015].

Suttle, R. (2015). The Importance of Customer Feedback. [online] Small Business – Chron.com. Available at: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/importance-customer-feedback-2089.html [Accessed 17 Dec. 2015].

Tweetwall, (2015). The Top Event Industry Trends Of 2015 — The Tweetwall Blog. [online] The Tweetwall Blog. Available at: http://tweetwall.com/blog/the-top-event-industry-trends-of-2015/ [Accessed 17 Dec. 2015].

Walmsley, B. (2011). Key issues in the arts and entertainment industry. Oxford [U.K.]: Goodfellow Publishers.

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