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The Future of Publishing

Can Scrum Work for Publishers?

Can Scrum Work for Publishers?

About the Author

Pat Pagano is a publishing professional with many years’ experience in content and media. He earned his bachelor of science degree in communication/journalism from Syracuse University and started his career as a type designer at Linotype. His work experience includes production and technology positions on magazines (Rolling Stone, US, Elle, W, New York Magazine), newspapers (Village Voice, Women’s Wear Daily, The Daily Deal), and print and digital books at Harper Collins. His latest engagement was at barnesandnoble.com working on digital operations for NOOK, maintaining their e-book library.

There is an increasing interest among publishers of how agile methodologies, and specifically Scrum, can be used to create or improve products and services. This overview aims to give publishers a better understanding of Scrum and to identify areas within their companies that can benefit from this approach.

Scrum was originated by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland in 1995 with their publication The Scrum Guide. This is their definition:

Scrum (n): A framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.

Scrum is:

So, what exactly is it? Scrum is a series of short development cycles completed by a small team to deliver a working feature known as a “shippable product.” It starts with a defined list of features collected in the product backlog. The product backlog is a living entity. As existing items are brought into the development cycle, new items are added as they are discovered. The cycles, known as sprints, are anywhere from a week to a month long during which time the team works on items selected from the product backlog.

The Scrum Team is composed of:

The Scrum Events are:

The three pillars of Scrum are transparency, inspection, and adaptation. Transparency occurs in the sprint review when there is a demonstration of the shippable product that has met the “definition of done.” Inspection and adaptation occur throughout the sprint, especially in the sprint planning meeting, the daily Scrums, and the sprint retrospective. Examples of adaptation are continuing the momentum for processes that work, creating alternative solutions for processes that do not work, refining the product backlog, and possibly evolving the definition of “done” (i.e., initial estimations of the sprint efforts might be overreaching and the definition is then pared back by the team).

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