Overheard at the watercooler yesterday: "Scrum has no place in defense contracting."

I tend to disagree in the sense that I believe Scrum can be tailored to work in many scenarios and I can see defense being one of them. This sparked a huge debate amongst my colleagues (many of us work in defense contracting) with a fairly even split for/against.

To make this a proper question: Has anyone successfully used (or has experience working with) scrum in a defense contracting situation? What worked well, what didn't work well and what (if any) modifications to vanilla scrum did you do?

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    Agile strives to remove waste. Organizations trying to succeed with agile must be aligned with that goal. Political organizations tend to have other priorities. Aug 11, 2011 at 7:27

2 Answers 2


"Scrum has no place in defense contracting."

In my experience, the main impediment is the customer. Most government agencies have the waterfall model in their DNA. Even contracts are done in waterfall phases -- first we'll fund the requirements, then the design, then implementation. In classic waterfall theory they may even think they can get different companies to do different phases.

There's ways to get around that though IMO. Do an upfront reqs and design like waterfall, then in implementation break requirements up into iterative user stories. Use internal test/expert users evaluate each iteration. Depending on the customer, they may or may not be interested in participating. Not pure scrum, but it may be the best you can do.

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    I worked as an intern for three teams at an Air Force Reseach Laboratory facility, once in developing production software, once in rapid prototyping, and a third time in verification and validation of contract work. Both development positions were agile. In fact, the production position was very close to Scrum, with less customer interaction (software delivered every few iterations, customer on-site every 3-6 months), and this was in 2006. I agree that customer buyin and understanding is the biggest problem, but some government agencies (or at least teams) are indeed embracing Agile methods.
    – Thomas Owens
    Aug 10, 2011 at 12:37
  • @Thomas Owens This comment would be a good answer.
    – Hugo
    Aug 10, 2011 at 18:54

While it may be difficult to fully implement Scrum, it can be beneficial to adopt some of the Scrum practices. For example, now matter how you are doing requirements gathering, you can still have frequent releases and demos. You can still benefit from periodic retrospectives. Look at other processes like Lean or Kanban and see if there is anything they have that can help your team as well.

Instead of dogmatically following any one process, think about how you can improve the process specifically for your team, your project, and in your industry. Process matters. A team's methodology has a major impact on the software that is delivered.

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