Juggling Projects


To determine if a project is truly using Scrum, you can try the technique that Nokia, the Finnish cellular technology company, uses to determine if its projects are properly following their Scrum implementation. Nokia has project managers ask themselves eight questions (called the Nokia Test):

  1. Timeboxed Iterations: Are all of your iterations timeboxed (with a specific start and end date) and no longer than 6 weeks in length?
  2. No Work in Progress: Do you have tested, working software at the end of every iteration?
  3. Emerging Requirements and Design: Do you start each iteration before the specification is complete for that iteration?
  4. Identified Owner: Do you know who is your “product owner?”
  5. Prioritized Backlog: Do you manage your requirements in a Product Backlog? Is it prioritized by business value?
  6. Estimates by Feature: Have you estimated the size or complexity of each Product Backlog item? Were all of the roles on the team involved in creating those estimates?
  7. Burndown for Performance Measurement: Does the team use Burndown Charts to forecast and monitor their work performance? Does the team know its “velocity?”
  8. Non-Interference: During the course of an iteration (a.k.a. “sprint”), does anyone try to interfere with the work of the team (such as a project manager, product owner, or any outside stakeholders)?

In the Nokia Test, the first three questions determine if the team is doing iterative development, while the last five questions determine if the type of iterative development can be called Scrum. The first three questions are key, as iterative development (properly done) is the engine that powers all agile methods, including Scrum. If the answer to any one of these iterative development questions is “No,” then the whole test fails.

(Incidentally, the 6-week iteration length in the first question is not specified in Scrum – it is the specific recommendation for the implementation within Nokia. Your own implementation may specify 3 weeks, 4 weeks, or some other length.)

While the Nokia Test seems to be fairly broadly used in the agile community, it is also arguably incomplete. For example, it completely misses the core agile (and Scrum) concept of a retrospective/review being done at the end of each iteration to capture feedback and lessons learned from the project team, product owner, and external stakeholders. Yet, to succeed, such a test needs to be simple to understand and to complete. Many other agile assessments exist on the market – some more complex than others – yet the Nokia Test seems to cover the most important (core) concepts.