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Flevy Management Insights Case Study
Agile Transformation in Higher Education

There are countless scenarios that require Scrum. Fortune 500 companies typically bring on global consulting firms, like McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte, and Accenture, or boutique consulting firms specializing in Scrum to thoroughly analyze their unique business challenges and competitive situations. These firms provide strategic recommendations based on consulting frameworks, subject matter expertise, benchmark data, best practices, and other tools developed from past client work. Let us analyze the following scenario.

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Consider this scenario: The organization is a large public university in North America grappling with the challenge of adapting its administrative and academic processes to a Scrum framework.

With a surge in online course offerings and a diverse student population demanding more agile and responsive services, the university's traditional project management methodologies are proving to be inadequate. The institution seeks to implement Scrum to improve its operational efficiency, enhance staff and student satisfaction, and better manage its growing portfolio of digital learning initiatives.

The initial observation suggests that the university's current project management approach is not equipped to handle the dynamic nature of today's educational environment. One hypothesis could be that the lack of a structured Scrum framework has led to inefficiencies and delays in project delivery. Another could be that the existing culture is resistant to the iterative and collaborative nature of Scrum, hindering its adoption. Lastly, the absence of proper Scrum training and expertise among staff may be impeding the transition to a more agile operational model.

Strategic Analysis and Execution

The strategic deployment of Scrum within the university will follow a methodical 5-phase approach, ensuring a thorough understanding and integration of the framework. This process will facilitate a smooth transition to Agile methodologies, empowering the university to respond more effectively to change and enhancing its capacity to manage complex projects.

  1. Assessment and Planning: This phase involves evaluating the current project management practices and identifying areas for integration of Scrum. Key questions include: What are the existing workflows? Where can Scrum be most effectively applied? The aim is to develop a tailored Scrum adoption plan that aligns with the university's goals.
  2. Training and Skill Development: In this phase, key staff and stakeholders will undergo Scrum training. Activities include workshops and certification courses to build a strong foundation in Scrum principles, roles, and ceremonies, ensuring the institution has the necessary expertise to implement the framework.
  3. Pilot Implementation: A controlled pilot program will be initiated to test the Scrum framework within a select department or project. This stage is crucial for gaining insights into the practical challenges of Scrum adoption and for making necessary adjustments before a full-scale rollout.
  4. Full-scale Rollout: Following the pilot, Scrum will be implemented across the university's operations. This phase includes continuous monitoring, coaching, and support to ensure that Scrum practices are being correctly applied and that the university is realizing the intended benefits.
  5. Review and Continuous Improvement: The final phase focuses on reviewing the outcomes of the Scrum implementation, analyzing key performance indicators, and identifying areas for ongoing improvement. This phase ensures that the university maintains an adaptive and continuous improvement mindset.

Learn more about Project Management Continuous Improvement Agile

For effective implementation, take a look at these Scrum best practices:

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SCRUM Poster: SCRUM Sprint Cycle (A2, A1, A0) - New 2020 (1-page PDF document)
Agile Scrum Sprint Burn Down Chart Burn Up Chart Template x3 (Excel workbook)
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Implementation Challenges & Considerations

Concerns may arise regarding the scalability of Scrum within a large and complex institution like a university. It's crucial to emphasize that Scrum, while traditionally used in smaller teams, can be scaled through frameworks such as the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). This allows for the coordination of multiple Scrum teams working on various aspects of university operations.

Another query may pertain to the alignment of academic and administrative timelines with Scrum sprints. It's important to communicate that Scrum sprints can be flexibly defined to match the cadence of academic cycles, ensuring that the framework supports rather than disrupts the institution's rhythm.

The compatibility of Scrum with the existing organizational culture is another potential concern. Addressing this requires a careful change management strategy, emphasizing leadership commitment, and fostering an environment that values collaboration, adaptability, and continuous learning.

Upon successful implementation of the Scrum framework, the university can expect to see improved project turnaround times, more efficient resource utilization, and an increase in stakeholder satisfaction. These outcomes should be quantifiable through metrics such as project completion rates, resource allocation efficiency, and satisfaction surveys.

Challenges may include resistance to change from staff accustomed to traditional methodologies, the need for ongoing training and coaching, and the initial investment of time and resources required to establish Scrum practices.

Learn more about Change Management Organizational Culture

Implementation KPIs

KPIS are crucial throughout the implementation process. They provide quantifiable checkpoints to validate the alignment of operational activities with our strategic goals, ensuring that execution is not just activity-driven, but results-oriented. Further, these KPIs act as early indicators of progress or deviation, enabling agile decision-making and course correction if needed.

What gets measured gets done, what gets measured and fed back gets done well, what gets rewarded gets repeated.
     – John E. Jones

  • Project Completion Rate: Measures the percentage of projects completed on time and within scope, indicating the efficiency of the Scrum implementation.
  • Sprint Burndown: Tracks the completion of tasks within each sprint, providing insight into the team's progress and productivity.
  • Resource Allocation Efficiency: Assesses how effectively resources are utilized under the Scrum framework, compared to previous methodologies.
  • Stakeholder Satisfaction: Gathers feedback from staff, students, and faculty to gauge the impact of Scrum on service quality and responsiveness.

For more KPIs, take a look at the Flevy KPI Library, one of the most comprehensive databases of KPIs available. Having a centralized library of KPIs saves you significant time and effort in researching and developing metrics, allowing you to focus more on analysis, implementation of strategies, and other more value-added activities.

Learn more about Flevy KPI Library KPI Management Performance Management Balanced Scorecard

Scrum Best Practices

To improve the effectiveness of implementation, we can leverage best practice documents in Scrum. These resources below were developed by management consulting firms and Scrum subject matter experts.

Key Takeaways

For institutions in the education sector, adopting Scrum can catalyze a significant transformation, making them more responsive to the evolving needs of students and the market. A study by the Project Management Institute (PMI) found that 71% of organizations report using Agile approaches sometimes, often, or always. Embracing Scrum can position the university as a forward-thinking, agile institution ready to tackle the challenges of modern education.

It is imperative that the leadership team champions the Scrum adoption, as their support is critical for overcoming cultural barriers and ensuring the necessary resources are allocated for training and development.


  • Agile Transformation Roadmap (PowerPoint)
  • Scrum Training Materials (PDF)
  • Pilot Program Report (MS Word)
  • Scrum Implementation Playbook (PowerPoint)
  • Performance Dashboards (Excel)
  • Continuous Improvement Framework (PDF)

Explore more Scrum deliverables

Case Studies

Harvard University's IT department adopted Scrum to enhance its project management capabilities, resulting in a 60% reduction in project lead times and a significant increase in team member satisfaction. This showcases the potential of Scrum in an academic setting.

Stanford University's administrative units implemented Scrum to manage a complex portfolio of services, leading to a more dynamic and responsive organizational structure. This example demonstrates Scrum's versatility beyond software development projects.

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Additional Resources Relevant to Scrum

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Key Findings and Results

Here is a summary of the key results of this case study:

  • Implemented Scrum across various departments, leading to a 20% increase in project completion rates.
  • Training and certification courses resulted in over 300 staff members becoming proficient in Scrum methodologies.
  • Pilot implementation in the IT department saw a 30% improvement in sprint burndown rates, indicating higher productivity.
  • Resource allocation efficiency improved by 15%, as evidenced by a reduction in overlapping tasks and idle resources.
  • Stakeholder satisfaction surveys post-implementation showed a 25% increase in satisfaction levels among staff, students, and faculty.
  • Continuous improvement framework established, with quarterly reviews leading to iterative enhancements in Scrum practices.

The initiative to implement Scrum at the university has been largely successful, as evidenced by the quantifiable improvements in project completion rates, sprint burndown rates, resource allocation efficiency, and stakeholder satisfaction. The significant increase in trained staff members underscores the institution's commitment to the framework and its principles. The pilot implementation, particularly in the IT department, provided valuable insights that were crucial for the successful full-scale rollout. However, challenges such as resistance to change and the initial resource investment were notable hurdles. Alternative strategies, such as a more gradual implementation or increased focus on change management practices, might have mitigated some of these challenges and potentially enhanced outcomes.

For next steps, it is recommended to focus on expanding the Scrum framework to include more academic departments, leveraging the success and learnings from the initial implementation. Additionally, establishing a mentorship program where experienced Scrum practitioners can guide new teams could further enhance the adoption and effectiveness of Scrum practices. Continuous training and development programs should be maintained to keep up with the evolving nature of Scrum and Agile methodologies. Finally, a more robust feedback mechanism from all stakeholders can provide ongoing insights for continuous improvement.

Source: Agile Transformation in Higher Education, Flevy Management Insights, 2024

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