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Should a software developer as contractor inform his client about the application of Scrum?

This post is also available in: Deutsch

As I was doing my morning scroll through LinkedIn this morning, I stumbled across some interesting discussions and reflections on Scrum and its application in software development. Scrum is an agile method that has become very popular in software development. It promotes flexibility, collaboration and continuous learning.

In the various LinkedIn threads, one particular question kept popping up that made me want to write down and share my own thoughts on it: Should a software developer working as a contractor inform his client that he is working according to the principles of Scrum?

This blogpost is the result of those reflections. I will present both arguments for and against informing the client about the use of Scrum and try to shed light on some legal and contractual aspects.

Let’s look at the question from different perspectives….

In today’s digital world, software development has become a critical area that helps companies achieve their goals. Many companies hire external software developers to develop specific software solutions. Agile methods such as Scrum are often used in this process. But should a software developer inform his client about the use of Scrum? This question is complex and raises many aspects that need to be considered.

Arguments for informing the client

  • Transparency and trust: Notifying the client about the use of Scrum ensures transparency and promotes trust between the parties. Transparency is especially important for projects that require a high degree of collaboration and interaction.
  • Effective communication and collaboration: In Scrum, regular meetings and feedback loops are an essential part of the process. The client should be informed of these practices to make the collaboration more effective.
  • Understanding progress and obstacles: Scrum makes it possible to clearly visualize progress and obstacles during the development process. This understanding can help the client have realistic expectations and make informed decisions.

Arguments against informing the client

  • Complexity and over-information: Scrum can be complex, especially for people who do not have a technical background. There is a risk of overloading the client with details that they do not need or do not understand.
  • Focus on results instead of processes: Some clients are mainly interested in the results and not the development process. In such cases, it may be useful to focus the discussion on the products and services delivered rather than the methods used.
  • Risk of micromanagement: with detailed knowledge of the process, the client might tend to intervene in the development and try to control the process. This could undermine the Scrum principle of the self-organized team.

In summary, the decision whether a software developer should inform his client about the use of Scrum depends on many factors. A balance should be struck between transparency and effective collaboration on the one hand, and avoiding complexity and micromanagement on the other. It is the responsibility of the software developer to find the best way to communicate and collaborate with the client.

The legal and contractual aspects of software development are critical and can have a significant impact on the relationship between contractor and client. The use of Scrum or other agile methods is no exception.

Legal and contractual reasons

  • Contractual obligations: A software developer acting as a contractor is usually obliged to comply with the terms of a contract signed with the client. If the contract specifies certain methods, processes or standards for software development, the developer must adhere to them.
  • Duty to inform: Depending on the jurisdiction, there may also be a duty to inform. For example, a developer might be legally required to inform the client about important aspects of the development process. This could also include the use of Scrum.

Can a client prohibit development according to Scrum principles?

The answer to this question depends on various factors, in particular the content of the contract and the applicable law. Generally, a client has the right to set the terms of the contract, including the methods and processes used.

For example, if the contract specifies that software development is to be done according to the waterfall model, then the client could actually prohibit the use of Scrum. However, both parties should reach a clear agreement on how to proceed before signing the contract. It would be in the interest of both parties that the methods and processes specified in the contract both meet the requirements of the client and enable the software developer to work effectively and efficiently.

Now, however, the question gets a little more complicated because we go a step further and look at the case law. As a lawyer familiar with German law, I am aware that this matter is not trivial. Many of my clients, especially startups and software developers – and especially computer game developers – often deal with international contracts. This means that they not only have to deal with German law, but also with legal systems outside Germany or even outside the European Union.

It is important to note that law and contract formation are complex and depend on many factors, including the specific circumstances of the case and the jurisdiction under which the contract falls. The issue can become even more complicated when multiple jurisdictions are involved. Therefore, the question of whether a client can prohibit the use of Scrum can be answered differently depending on the applicable law and the specific terms of the contract. If there is any uncertainty, both the client and the contractor should seek professional legal advice, ideally from a lawyer experienced in international software development contracts.

Apart from legal considerations, there are also practical reasons for disclosing the use of Scrum. I have already emphasized in a previous article (see Navigating AI Generators: Liability, Disclosure, and the Need for Regulation), I emphasized that openness and transparency are important to foster trust in new technologies and methods.

Disclosing the use of Scrum can help build client confidence in working methods, quality expectations, and ability to meet schedules. This is especially important in areas like game development, where deadlines and milestones are often critical. Disclosing the use of Scrum can give the client a better understanding of how development will proceed and can help set realistic expectations and avoid misunderstandings.

Furthermore, adherence to schedules – although only indirectly related to Scrum – can indeed be contractually relevant. Scrum places a strong focus on continuous improvement and iterative development, which can help ensure that projects are completed in the allotted time. Thus, disclosing the use of Scrum can give the client not only confidence in the developer’s processes, but also assurance that the developer is striving to meet the agreed deadlines.

However, it is important to emphasize that successful application of Scrum requires active participation and collaboration from both the developer and the client. Disclosing the use of Scrum should therefore be the start of an open dialogue and productive collaboration between the two parties.

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel is a lawyer and entrepreneur specializing in copyright law, competition law and IT/IP law, with a focus on games, esports, media and blockchain.


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