Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls: Applying Scrum to B2B Web Development

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Say you have a particularly complex B2B web development project. How will you approach it? This is an important question to ask because any B2B website really needs to be done right.

B2B websites consistently play pivotal roles in purchasing and decision-making processes. Current and potential customers are constantly being funneled to websites through channels such as social media, blogs, email marketing, etc. Delivering an optimized website experience therefore has measurable effects on revenue.

Which means making sure that your team of developers — whether your business relies on staff at a marketing agency or an in-house team — is set up with the right tools and processes to make the best B2B website possible for you.

While many development teams still tend to lean on outdated processes such as the “waterfall” method for B2B web development, others are moving towards Agile frameworks such as Scrum for more efficient and productive approaches to complex website projects.

The Waterfall Method

The waterfall method is a sequential design process in which one stage must be completed before moving onto the next. While it may seem practical, it ultimately introduces an “over the wall” culture that can lead to frustrations on many levels (e.g., lack of communication between team members, frustrated clients, and even failed execution).

While this methodology has been known to work for relatively simple projects that have minimal variables — i.e., known inputs, repeatable processes, and expected outputs — it doesn’t provide a suitable framework for complex cases.

Once considered the standard among development methodologies, waterfall is now rapidly becoming an outdated model for complex development scenarios. Today, larger, dynamic B2B web development projects require integrated, cross-functional, and flexible teams.

It’s also worth noting that complex website projects using the waterfall approach tend to have longer timelines as there are fewer opportunities to increase efficiencies during the development process.

Scrum Methodology

The Agile framework was created in response to frustrations commonly experienced with traditional development processes such as the waterfall methodology. It aims to increase team collaboration and efficiencies, manage client expectations and feedback, and resolve project complexities in a timely manner. An empirical process, it manages variable outputs, adaptable processes, and variable outputs.

In Scrum, a type of Agile development methodology, all development team members are in constant communication and actively participate in every aspect of the process even if it doesn’t directly relate to their areas of expertise.

Scrum teams are made up of development team members, a Scrum Master, and a Product Owner, all of whom work toward the common goal of having a potentially shippable product at the end of a “sprint” — a time period of one month or less in which a minimum viable product (MVP) is created, presented, and considered done.

The Product Owner’s responsibility is to maximize the value of the product and to prioritize the work the development team will tackle. He or she gathers those items and prioritizes them in what’s called the “product backlog.” From there, the development team decides which items in the product backlog can fit into a single sprint, ultimately creating the “sprint backlog.” Items within a sprint backlog must be done by the end of the sprint.

To facilitate work, the development team meets on a daily basis to discuss what they worked on the day before, what they will be working on that day, and to disclose any potential roadblocks that may prevent the team from completing the sprint. It’s then the duty of the Scrum Master to manage and clear roadblocks identified during these daily team stand-ups.

Just as important, Scrum requires that outside stakeholders, such as client reviewers, be actively involved throughout the entire project. Their presence is absolutely required at the end of each sprint when a potentially shippable product is ready for review.

This high level of collaboration between the development team and external stakeholders allows for flexibility and welcomes change into what could otherwise be a rigid project plan.

Stakeholders in Scrum

While internal team collaboration definitely flourishes under Agile processes like Scrum, it also increases demands on outside stakeholder(s).

Active and open lines of communication between the stakeholder(s) and Scrum team are required in order for this process to work at its maximum potential. Stakeholders must be available throughout the entire sprint but it’s especially important for them to be present at the sprint review when the potentially shippable product is inspected.

One of the biggest roadblocks Scrum team’s encounter is little to no involvement from the stakeholder(s). Stakeholder feedback is vital to the progression of any complex development project and the overall success of the project at the time of completion.

In other words: If you become a stakeholder in a B2B web development project that uses a Scrum process, be prepared to block off the time you’ll need to give your full attention to the Scrum team.

The Benefits of Scrum for B2B Web Development

While not every B2B web development project requires Scrum, using this approach to build a wide spectrum of complex websites has many benefits.

For one, stakeholders will see progress on a regular basis rather than waiting until a project is close to completion for review. This ultimately results in increased customer engagement and satisfaction because a stakeholder perspective is registered throughout sprint and project duration.

Secondly, with technology and user expectations constantly evolving, the Scrum approach is far more welcoming of change, even late in the development process, because of its flexible and adaptive foundation.

Lastly, and probably most important to clients, project timelines and delivery schedules tend to be shorter as the Scrum team is continuously searching for ways to increase efficiencies throughout the process.

Building Better B2B Websites

The Scrum framework is rapidly becoming the go-to process for complex B2B web development projects, including  eCommerce websites and enterprise-level sites with numerous integration requirements.

Scrum’s ability to increase internal efficiencies and client collaboration has the potential to support the development of cutting-edge and higher-quality B2B websites, which will translate into increased online marketing success for the companies that embrace this development process.

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About the Author

Meredith Craft


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