bADlOGIN writes "Anyone and everyone on Slashdot probably knows that business-driven software development efforts all too often end up as a mess. After a number of years of observation, research, and fine tuning, Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle have released a book that makes a subtle but vital revelation about the nature of software projects and how to better run them. Learning what Scrum is and how to practice it is not all that profound. However, sitting back and realizing why Scrum works and how it addresses the fundamental flaws of the last 20 years of software engineering is. This book could be viewed as the "why" component to all of Extreme Programming's "how."
What it's all about:
Books that claim to hold the keys to developing software the right way are most often: a) a dime a dozen, b) self-serving vendor drivel, or c) all of the above. While this book is fairly new on the shelf (Copyright October 2001), it has a level of research, professionalism, and effort towards being tool- and language-agnostic that may place it in a fourth category of being: d) none of the above. Agile Software Development with Scrum is a complete picture of the Scrum process from theory to practice in real life examples. The name Scrum was chosen because the process is similar in nature to rugby play where success is built upon being quick, adaptive, and self-organizing. The target audience for the book is "executives, software managers, project leaders, and programmers." While the authors make no assumptions directly, being familiar with Extreme Programming, "classic" waterfall methodology, and having hands-on experience with the chaos of software development is indeed helpful.
The primary theme of the book is simple, but the impact is profound: software development is an empirical rather than a defined process. That's a nice big sweeping claim to make: fortunately, the authors spends a lot of time making sure that you as the reader understand what they mean by the statement and that they're serious about it. Comparisons to other empirical processes are illustrated with examples of changing, complex problems. The authors seek out and provide unique insights from process dynamics experts on the nature of empirical versus defined processes, and cite profound supporting work regarding the limitations of algorithms in complex systems with external inputs (e.g. Wegner's Lemma).
Along with a good dose of theory, there is a generous helping of practice and how-to. Agile Software Development with Scrum covers the basic practices and concepts needed to manage software development in an empirical fashion. The authors do a good job of addressing the classic "but what about..." questions on the spot in a conversational manner and include anecdotes throughout to make specific points and include full process examples towards the end.
What's good about the book?
Scrum is the missing "why" to Extreme Programming's "how." By it's nature, Extreme Programming incorporates all of Scrum's spirit, and vice versa. This book has a foundation of ideas and an explanation of what it takes to seriously improve the state of the practice of software engineering. The order is reasonable, and the depth of information should give any determined individual the ammo they need to make a change in how software is developed in their current job or their next.
What could have been better?There are only three things worth mentioning for improvement, all of which could be easily done. First, there were occasional typographical and formatting errors -- places where indentation, capitalization, or bullets were missing broke the flow. Second, the graphics in more than one section were blocky, low resolution circa 1987. And last, the $30.95 list price was a bit steep for 158 pages. It should be noted that the typographical and graphics issues were the only thing that prevented me from rating this 10 out of 10.
SummaryIn my opinion, this book has been needed for a long time. The issues and failures of defined processes such as the "classic" waterfall methodology can't be set aside until there is an approach that can justify itself both in theory and in practice to replace it. Extreme Programming has gained much attention, but tends to depend too much on the fact that "it works because it works." Scrum gives you a way to fix your development efforts without as much culture shock or risk. It's worth considering implementing before your competition does.
You can purchase Agile Software Development with Scrum from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.