• Future

Scrum: Agile Work in Construction and Real Estate – Just a Vision for the Future?

  • Future

Sure­ly, once cannot build the roof before the foun­da­tion – but you just might place it a little bit soon­er. This is made possi­ble by Scrum, a term taken from the world of rugby, desig­nat­ing an agile work­ing approach. Scrum was first invent­ed to speed up complex soft­ware projects. In the real estate busi­ness sector, it relates first and fore­most to digi­tal appli­ca­tions, digi­tal­iz­ing build­ing manage­ment, an app for tenants, or ERP (Enter­prise Resource Plan­ning)1 for your enter­prise. Howev­er, Scrum can also be imple­ment­ed to enhance the effi­cien­cy of construc­tion projects. In the Future: Gover­nance series of our News­room posts, we will focus on the bene­fits of this method for construc­tion and prop­er­ty development.

Manage­able Solu­tions for Complex Tasks

Scrum orig­i­nat­ed from the expe­ri­ence that many of today’s devel­op­ment projects are too complex to be thor­ough­ly planned from A to Z with conven­tion­al meth­ods. New require­ments and solu­tions that come up during a project can easi­ly disrupt tradi­tion­al project plan­ning. Scrum, by contrast, puts the empha­sis on time-boxed goals that can be achieved quick­ly, on frequent empir­i­cal reviews, and on incre­men­tal, organ­ic devel­op­ment. The essen­tials of Scrum are:

  • the prod­uct back­log – a compre­hen­sive plan that is constant­ly improved and adjust­ed to new factors;
  • the sprint back­log – detailed plans for manage­able mile­stones (referred to as ’sprints’) to be achieved quickly.

A New Way to Orga­n­ise Work

In order to put Scrum-based projects into prac­tice, ’roles’ with certain func­tions are vital – most impor­tant­ly the Team. As a rule, these are special­ists from differ­ent disci­plines who self-organ­ise and collab­o­rate. There are four basic prinic­ples for best-possi­ble team productivity:

  • A clear project goal so that every team member knows what they are commit­ting to.
  • The team decide how to reach the goals.
  • All involved disci­plines should be on the team, with regu­lar exchanges on tech­ni­cal details.
  • The team should not be too big; five to nine members are best.

There are two more roles: the Prod­uct Owner and the Scrum Master. The Prod­uct Owner sets the goals for the project and is respon­si­ble for its econom­ic success and repre­sents it to outside parties, to the enter­prise itself, as well as to the customers. The Scrum Master is not involved in the substan­tive work. In fact, they make sure that Scrum rules are observed, while orga­niz­ing and moder­at­ing the course of the project and elim­i­nat­ing any imped­i­ments that stand in the project team’s way.

A Short­er Path to the Same Goals

Scrum is a mile­stone-orient­ed work­ing method. One of the mate­r­i­al advan­tages is that stake­hold­ers, such as clients, are involved in the process on a regu­lar basis. This creates a broad­er under­stand­ing for the construc­tion process as well as for any delays or extra costs.

Anoth­er substan­tial bene­fit of Scrum is the high level of effi­cien­cy in a tight­ly-woven inter­dis­ci­pli­nary network of team collab­o­ra­tion. Exchange of infor­ma­tion does not need to go through the ’bottle­neck’ of high­er-rank­ing project managers. The team take respon­si­bil­i­ty and have deci­sion-making power, which normal­ly contributes to added self-moti­va­tion. This way, a number of factors that would throt­tle tradi­tion­al plan­ning can easi­ly be processed by Scrum teams, such as:

  • Changes in laws and regu­la­tions that are often up in the air for longer peri­ods and the course of which are often unknown,
  • New trends and proce­dures, e.g. gener­at­ing or saving ener­gy, 3D print­ing, whose poten­tials for success or bene­fits may long remain unclear,
  • Actu­al inter­ac­tion between soft­ware, produc­tion tech­nol­o­gy, and the experts’ expe­ri­ence on the construc­tion site,
  • In construc­tion projects with sub-contrac­tors: Scrum speeds up lead times, improves collab­o­ra­tion among the differ­ent trades, reduces waste, and thus increas­es prof­its and client satisfaction.

With Scrum, the foun­da­tion will still be there before the roof. Howev­er, plan­ning, getting approvals, and coor­di­na­tion of trades are made easi­er. And so, thanks to Scrum, the roof will be sitting on the build­ing much soon­er than we were previ­ous­ly used to.

1 A soft­ware system for corpo­rate manage­ment, inte­grat­ing all process­es in services, HR, procure­ment, finance, etc

(Image source: istockphotos)