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LEAD Innovation Blog

Read our latest articles on innovation management and innovation in a wide range of industries.

Date: 04-Oct-2018
Posted by: Angela HENGSBERGER

Agile innovation management with Scrum


Many know Scrum from rugby. It is the crowd that is so typical of this English sport. But what does this have to do with innovation?

Scrum is an agile procedural and project management model that has its origins in software development and has been used in innovation management for many years. As in rugby, Scrum stands for small, self-organized and agile units. Innovations always have to do with uncertainties and uncertainties, you only know the goal and the way in part, so it requires agility, flexibility and fast results. And that's exactly what Scrum offers. Optimally used, also in combination with the Stage Gate process, Scrum is ideally suited for innovation processes and innovation projects.


Functional principles and elements of Scrum

Scrum's goal is to develop high-quality innovations as quickly and efficiently as possible. Within a short period of time, tangible intermediate products are developed in the form of prototypes in order to receive feedback from clients and customers.

There are no requirements or requirement specifications. At the top of Scrum's list of priorities is a vision that defines what is to be achieved with the innovation project and provides orientation. The requirements are formulated from the customer and user's point of view and collected in the product backlog.

A Scrum team usually consists of three to ten people. In order to provide the necessary performance, all team members work together in a room where the requirements, plans and project status are also visualized.

Manual Scrum at a glance

Important roles at Scrum are the Product Owner and the Scrum Master. The Product Owner is responsible for the content in terms of product requirements and properties (product backlog) and for success. The role is similar to that of a project manager who represents the client's interests, is responsible for quality, time and costs and interacts with the stakeholders.

The Scrum Master does not belong to the team, but has a supporting role. He ensures that Scrum succeeds. He is a kind of moderator and coach and ensures that the project and the team perform. This includes ensuring the function of the Scrum rules and principles, but also intervention in case of problems.

The basis of a Scrum project is the release plan, which is a rough plan for the project and created by the product owner. The sprints are planned based on the release plan and the product backlogs. A sprint is a work step and is planned cyclically at intervals. For example, there is a sprint every two weeks, where you define which requirements are processed and what is to be delivered at the end of the sprint. This should usually be a tangible product increment for the customer.

The control and documentation of the progress is done via the Sprint Backlog, which is a list of the requests and their status, e. g. open / in process / completed. The project team discusses the project status in the Daily Scrum, a short morning meeting. Everyone reports on their status, what their next task is and if there are any problems.

At the end of the sprint the Sprint Review takes place, where the result is presented. The team analyses and checks together with the customers and stakeholders whether the goals of the sprint and consequently also of the project have been achieved and they define the details for the following sprint. During and after a sprint, the product backlog is constantly updated and supplemented.

In the Sprint Retrospective, working methods and performance are reflected in a similar way to Lessons Learned. The team derives improvements to become more efficient and effective.

In this way, the innovation project is carried out step-by-step or sprint by sprint until the final result is available.


Practical example - Innovation projects with Scrum at Getzner Textil

Vorarlberg-based textile manufacturer Getzner has successfully implemented Scrum in its innovation department. They have optimally adapted and implemented the method and its principles for themselves and their needs. In the Scrum jargon, the scrumbut is called "We use Scrum, but...".

The four-man innovation team under Annabell Pehlivan has a scrum board, where all projects are illustrated. The basis of each project are the release plans as rough plans.

In four-week sprints, the tasks are broken down to work packages, whereby a work package must not take longer than eight hours. The work packages are recorded on post-it's on the board, where their status is also tracked. The color of the post-it indicates who is responsible for the task.

Behind every innovation project is a user story. Potential customers are involved in the projects right from the start and are presented with the results at the end of a sprint. The feedback is fed back into the projects. LEAD Users in particular play an important role here. This ensures customer orientation throughout the entire project.

The status of the work packages is discussed in 15-minute Daily Standups. A professionally trained Srcum Master supports you in this process. Every week there is a sprint meeting and every two weeks there is an intermediate sprint where the results are presented and analysed.

In this way, Getzner Textil has adapted the effective Scrum project method in a very pragmatic manner and thus successfully organises the entire innovation project portfolio.


Advantages of Scrum in the innovation process

Many practical examples have already demonstrated that Scrum can perfectly organize innovation projects. The agility, flexibility, transparency and close cooperation bring many advantages that make a major contribution to the success of innovation.

The project's success is mainly based on the following advantages:

  • Transparency through visualization of the project and regular coordination.
  • Close cooperation and exchange of information.
  • Through the close exchange of ideas, everyone can take on other people's tasks.
  • Focus on working methods and their continuous improvement.
  • Close customer orientation and involvement of customers in the projects.
  • High employee satisfaction due to the type of cooperation, equivalence (no hierarchies), etc.

These working methods help to ensure that results are delivered quickly, thereby reducing costs and increasing quality. In addition, problems appear quickly on the surface and can be solved quickly.


Conclusion - Agile innovation management with Scrum

Scrum is a great method that the world of innovation has discovered for itself, because it counteracts the problems and challenges of innovation projects, such as high uncertainties and limited planning ability.

The scrumbut is important, as well as the fact that each company adapts the method for itself according to the individual requirements. Because there is no universal recipe, especially because software products have different basic conditions than hardware products. For example, with software products, prototypes can be delivered relatively quickly compared to product developments. Therefore, you have to adapt Scrum for yourself and combine it with the innovation process to get the highest benefit. And in addition, Scrum offers many potentials.

10 Sources of Ideas


Born and raised in Vienna. Since 2012 she has been in charge of Business Development at LEAD Innovation with the functions marketing, sales and communication.

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