The Rational Unified Process (RUP) has a shady past. It’s littered with attempts to keep up with the latest innovation at any given time. Although the term ‘iterative’ is frequently used, RUP was originally very comparable to waterfall.

In a bid to stay relevant, the framework has strayed to include Pair programming, Test-driven development (TDD), Extreme programming (XP), and other methods from the Agile framework. These attempts to move closer to Agile are reflected in OpenUP, Agile Unified Process (AUP), and Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD).

Finally, the IECT – Inception, Elaboration, Construction, and Transition phases – are still at the heart of RUP’s modern successors.

Down Memory Lane

The Rational Unified Process was created in the mid-to-late 1990s as an iterative framework. The framework, which was acquired by IBM, creates resources and artefacts for software development that may be customized to meet your organization’s specific needs.

The six core principles of RUP are:

  1. Iterative development
  2. Requirements Traceability
  3. Component-based architecture
  4. Visual modelling
  5. Continuous Testing
  6. Change Control

RUP project usually follows a four-phase project life cycle:

  • Inception—idea, vision and requirements are finalized here
  • Elaboration —feasibility, component-level architecture, concrete plan and 80% of the use cases necessary are identified
  • Construction—this is where the heavy-lifting actually occurs, i.e., development
  • Transition—shippable product is release to production

The preparation required before a team can begin development demonstrates that RUP is a planning-heavy process architecture. The team and its deliverables have a very clear direction because the project objectives and needs are set up front. Teams and organizations that have spent a lot of time and money on RUP are now considering switching to an Agile methodology. And rightfully so.

Why consider moving from RUP Methodology to Scrum?

The comprehensive Inception and Elaboration processes that influence prioritizing decisions are emphasized in RUP. And there is a time and a place for such foresight. For example, when you embark on a highly transformational initiative that has the potential to impact your entire organization (“organization” could refer to a vertical within your firm or your entire company), the time, resource, and financial investment is significant. The risks of failure are higher when there is a large investment. Any leader will try to figure out how much success can be ‘assured’ by adopting such a risky step.

In this scenario, the answers are simple: responsive websites and mobile apps. To de-risk, you can’t afford to squander time on the Inception and Elaboration phases. You want to figure out what the bare minimum is and then go right into delivering the mobile experience at breakneck speed. You’re better off adopting Agile and Scrum instead of a full-fledged RUP project that won’t allow you to start development for a while.

So, how can you shift away from RUP and toward Scrum in your software development practices?

#1 Start Slow and Start Small – or Go Big Bang

RUP is designed to perform best when the entire organization pulls in the same direction. If your company is on RUP, the practices will have spread throughout the organization. RUP most likely governs the creation of annual operating plans, the allocation of budgets, and the start and completion of individual projects. You have two options in this situation:

  • Start small and gradually integrate scrum;
  • or go big and overhaul your entire organization

In the past, I’ve discussed both incremental and comprehensive transformations from waterfall to agile. The transition from RUP to scrum is no different. If you can afford it, I’d recommend going for the Big Bang approach. It’s the most efficient way to make the switch to Scrum. However, it is not for everyone. The investment was quite substantial.

To succeed, you’ll need both the capacity and the desire of important stakeholders. You’ll also require patience and perseverance from all parties involved. If you need to take things slowly, incremental transformation is an option. Whatever your motivations for adopting this strategy, there are some clear drawbacks:

  • You’ll use Scrum to try out a few projects. As a result, you must guard scrum initiatives against RUP processes that drag them into the planning abyss.
  • Stop expecting rigid plans with little wiggle room — which is difficult when the rest of your initiatives are on RUP.
  • The consequent process, planning, and reporting misalignment between RUP and Scrum will cause additional suffering for important stakeholders who are involved in both.
  • You’ll need to keep a careful eye on Scrum initiatives to make sure they don’t make wholesale compromises in the name of RUP project collaboration.
#2 Step-up using the Agile extensions of RUP

This is a viable, albeit circuitous, approach to Scrum. As I previously stated, RUP is still attempting to reinvent itself, this time by moving towards a more Agile framework. Both the Agile Unified Process (AUP) and its more well-known successor, Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD), are positive steps forward. DAD, in particular, has been hailed as an attempt to “move beyond scrum.” This methodology aims to address the scalability concerns that Agile initiatives frequently confront.

DAD makes RUP more agile by enhancing the framework’s iterative nature while reducing the significant inception and elaboration efforts. If you want to bring as minimal change as possible while simultaneously incorporating agile and scrum methods into your project delivery, DAD is a good option. The degree of achievement and improvement will be incremental, as with any incremental transformation endeavor.

The advantage is that your team will not have to deal with major changes. Migrating scrum entirely will get progressively less painful with time.

#3 – Don’t Coach RUP out; Coach Scrum in

The necessity to deliver a working product at the end of each sprint is defined by Agile. In waterfall words, this means going from requirements to design to development to delivery to a working product in a week or two.

In RUP terms, this entails a large number of releases, each of which must pass through an IECT subset.

  • Train the team to think in terms of I(E)CT for a (much) shorter period of time.
  • Recruit Agile coaches to provide day-to-day help to your team.
  • Iteratively examine the strategy, requirements, and design using the RUP principles.

Again, you must be sure you’re in it for the long haul with this strategy. Expect results, but don’t hold your breath for miracles. When scrum thinking takes hold, the rate of results will quicken.

Bringing it all together

Your migration goals from RUP to scrum will help you determine the path and degree of change required to get there. You have the freedom to redraw your transition plan as needed to account for unforeseen circumstances. Keep in mind that the most crucial change is a shift in perspective. You’ll find it tough to adjust to the fast-changing world of scrum if your thinking is still locked in a classic RUP universe.

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