How to use Scrum on a Hotline service

Last post 12:21 am November 3, 2019
by Bouke Bergsma
10 replies
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10:10 am October 31, 2019

Hi,

I read a few books about Scrum and need some advice. How do we use Scrum for example sprint reviews on a Phone Hotline service? We have a University hotline for students that I want to implement Scrum on. Are there any good indepth books or resources regarding this?

 

Kind regards, Kamil

02:46 pm October 31, 2019

What was it that made you decide to explore Scrum as a framework for the University Hotline? 

03:24 pm October 31, 2019

I wanted to give a better service to the students making sure that we answer them in time, have most up-to date information from other departments and create a positive atmosphere between the staff in office that everyone takes the responsibility and makes decisions as they need rather than a boss telling everyone what to do and people being reluctant and not engaged in their work.

I know Scrum is designed for achieving results so in a continuing service like a hotline we are thinking to have a certain amount of calls made, emails processed etc. Would you have any ideas on how to run a sprint review? Maybe invite the students and management to join but unlike a product, there is no product to test, unless we test the system we use to do achieve the goals like certain amounts of calls in a day.

04:35 pm October 31, 2019

Honestly, I don't see how Scrum would work in that kind of environment. What would be your increment? Say you have a 1 week sprint, are you going to put off calls/emails to be addressed until the next sprint? I doubt that would be beneficial. In scrum, the Sprint is timeboxed and only what the team agrees to be accomplished will be worked on, anything else is put on hold until the next sprint. 

I know Scrum is designed for achieving results so in a continuing service like a hotline we are thinking to have a certain amount of calls made, emails processed etc.

Where did you hear/read that? Scrum is NOT designed for achieving results, Scrum was designed for delivering VALUE to the customer. 

Have you read the Scrum Guide by any chance? 

For a hotline situation, I would suggest Kanban as a more appropriate framework. You can allow the team to take action as a team and self-organize to complete the work that is at hand. You can limit your WIP (Work in Progress) so you can retain better focus on completing items (calls, emails, etc) before moving onto the next. 

04:48 pm October 31, 2019

I was thinking the same thing as Curtis in regards to Kanban as a more appropriate approach. Focus on optimizing flow and eliminating waste from your processes. 

A good place to start could be talking to the front line and challenging them to come up with some small innovations that could improve the workflow. You can then work with the students to launch experiments and observe whether they see the improvement they hypothesized. 

 

04:58 pm October 31, 2019

Hi yes I think you are right about delivering value rather than results, that's what we are looking for. Maybe if we use Scrum but have a goal for each year for example recruit a thousand students and every week adapt in how we service their requests and give information to give amazing service. Kanban is an option as well, I will look into it too, thank you for the advice. 

05:10 pm October 31, 2019

Maybe if we use Scrum but have a goal for each year for example recruit a thousand students and every week adapt in how we service their requests and give information to give amazing service.

I'm still curious how you would actually use Scrum in this environment though. I don't know what the hotline is for but say I'm a student and I have an urgent request about my Dorm Room being unsafe; the outlet is shorting out and can cause a fire if anything is plugged into it. If you're working on 1 week sprints (which seems to be your plan), would you then tell me "hey so I know that's a big issue but we will have to wait until next week (sprint) to tackle that because we have to focus on what we agreed to finish this week." That's what happens in Scrum, the team gets to decide whether newly requested work is added to the current sprint or not. 

If you're looking for the feedback, teamwork, and value driven aspect of Scrum, take that but put it in a framework that makes sense for what you're trying to accomplish. Scrum is a great framework..... for the right product and environment. Scrum in most software development = awesome. Scrum in an emergency room = not so great (I mean that's down-right dangerous).

05:27 pm October 31, 2019

Thank you for the comments guys I appreciate your help.

06:27 am November 1, 2019

we are thinking to have a certain amount of calls made, emails processed etc. Would you have any ideas on how to run a sprint review?

You could implement Scrum in a way that optimizes flow and predictability.

I recently wrote a blog post on conducting Sprint Reviews with Kanban:

https://www.scrum.org/resources/blog/sprint-reviews-kanban

08:38 am November 1, 2019

Hi Ian thank you for the tips, I will check out your blog post

12:21 am November 3, 2019

Good scrum teams get good at dealing with disturbances that hurt their focus and distract them from the sprint goal. Great scrum teams actively strive to avoid them, because it risks losing focus and endangers sprint goals, and they do so by getting good at proactively delivering high quality valuable increments to their product.

But if the whole core business of your work is to respond to acute issues, what would be on your product backlog? What stories are there to estimate? To plan into sprints? What would be your product and in what increments would you deliver value to your stakeholders? Let me put it like this... If suddenly no one needs you for a week, no phones, no mails, would you still have a product to work on?

In general I would go with the people suggesting Kanban, if anything. Having said that, these frameworks are frameworks, not cookbooks for agility coolness. They serve to help you develop your own optimal value delivery. Thinking of them as molds that you can just pour your work through, any work, to get better results is missing the point.

Having said that, no one is saying you can't borrow some coolness from Scrum. A few examples:
- Empirically inspecting and adapting your processes based on the Scrum values (or others that suit you better - although for me they have become values to live my personal life by as well)
- working to shorten your feedback loops
- striving for quality and value delivery
- evolving a good team that finds its own best ways to deal with the work
- evolving a fitting a Definition Of Done that describes the standards that you hold yourself to for all your work
- collaborating on fixed intervals with your stakeholders to evaluate your services to them

... nothing wrong with all that! You'd simply be working to perfect your value delivery using some of the same ideas that Scrum was built on.