Maximizing the Value of the Agile Scrum Master Training in Practice

Mr. Toyohito Sawada at ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation

The shift from traditional project management methods to Agile is inevitable for businesses that want to keep up with the rapidly changing market demands. The Agile methodology focuses on collaboration, flexibility, and delivering high-quality products incrementally, and it has become increasingly popular in the software development industry. However, implementing Agile can be challenging, especially for professionals with only theoretical knowledge of the methodology.

In this blog post, we will explore the importance of the EXIN Agile Scrum Master as a necessary tool for professionals to become Agile professionals and move from other methods, such as waterfall, to complete and hands-on implementation of Agile methodologies in the workplace.

We’ll dive deep into the importance of a practical implementation of Agile methodologies into work experience through an interview with Mr. Toyohito Sawada, DEV Team Leader at ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation. In fact, Mr. Sawada struggled to apply what he had learned from a large Japanese company. To overcome this challenge, he enrolled in the EXIN Agile Scrum Master course, taught by instructors with extensive experience working with Japanese companies. The course was designed to be easily applied in practical settings, and Mr. Sawada was highly satisfied with the lecture – this way, he could fully implement Agile methodologies in his work.

The limits of the Waterfall model in project management

─ ─ I understand you changed jobs several times before joining ITOCHU Techno-Solutions. Could you please tell us about your work history to date?
Sawada: Sure. After graduating from university, I joined an independent systems company in Shiga Prefecture as a salesperson. However, due to a shortage of engineers, I was assigned to develop applications as a System Engineer. Later, as a full-stack engineer, I experienced the entire process of listening to customers, defining requirements, designing functions, and placing orders to outsourcing. At the same time, I also developed the software myself. However, the way things were done at the time, the process (waterfall) was a stumbling block, and I had doubts about my ability to realize work that would satisfy the customer, so I decided to change jobs.

─ ─ Where did you move to next?
Sawada: I started as a venture and moved to a medical systems company in Tokyo, listed on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. There, I joined the development team for packaged software. Development was agile, and we used a scrum board for progress and full remote communication. Development was done by a team of seven people who worked on a task, and when someone was about to get a flat tire, someone else would take over the task. We were thoroughly taught Scrum.

─ ─ So you have gone from waterfall to agile?
Sawada: Yes, in waterfall, each person just silently goes through a predetermined task, but in Agile, it is fluid and not fixed who does what. Moreover, the basic principle of Agile is that everyone can do the same thing, and the idea is that everyone should be able to do a task. Staff can choose to work on any task they like. Communication between staff is very active there, and I have fond memories

Mr. Toyohito Sawada sitting behind a desk and talking.

of having so much fun that I had the illusion that I was going to the office every day to have fun.

─ ─ How were the team members?
Sawada: All members were optimistic. No matter what you say, there is no ‘no’. It’s either “good” or “that’s something to reflect on”. The stance is not to reflect on individuals but to reflect on what has happened. In terms of the way of leadership, in Waterfall, there is a to

p-down traditional leadership style that guides people, but in Agile, there is a servant leadership style, which is a supportive presence that creates an environment where members can easily communicate with each other. This led to a positive team build.

─ ─ So, after your experience with agile development, you joined ITOCHU Techno-Solutions to continue to improve your skills. Is ITOCHU Techno-Solutions primarily using the waterfall development methodology?
Sawada: Yes, currently, we are mainly using the waterfall methodology. However, in the projects I oversee, we are adopting Agile practices. We are gradually incorporating the best aspects of Agile into our Waterfall projects to improve the overall development process.

The importance of the EXIN Agile Scrum Master Course

─ ─ What motivated you to take the EXIN Agile Scrum Master Course, and how did you learn about it?
Sawada: There were two reasons why I decided to take the Agile Scrum Master Course. Firstly, my department offered to pay for the training, and secondly, although I had some Agile experience, I lacked the knowledge to teach it to others effectively. I learned about the course from a recommended training list brochure provided by my department, which focuses on human resource development and encourages employees to participate in training programs.


─ ─ Can you share your experience with the Agile Scrum Master Course and the instructor?
Sawada: I initially attended an Agile Scrum Master Course offered by another company (Scrum Alliance), but I found it lacking practical application, particularly in a large Japanese company setting. That’s when I decided to take EXIN’s Agile Scrum Master Course, where I was taught by Mr. Kiyomi Hara, who has both knowledge and practical experience with Agile. His theoretical teachings included examples of his experiences in applying Agile to large Japanese companies. This made his approach more relatable and easier to understand. Mr. Hara’s background and willingness to share his failures made him a popular instructor among the students.


─ ─ Some people believe that foreign instructors are better for teaching Agile. What is your opinion on this?
Sawada: While foreign instructors may be suitable for those working abroad or for foreign companies, I believe that having an instructor with practical experience working in Japan can make it easier to apply Agile methodologies in the Japanese context. Mr. Hara’s approach was particularly effective as he connected the Japanese way of doing things with practical work.


Take a proactive approach if you want to become a real Agile professional

─ ─ What did you learn from the course?
Sawada: I learned that Systems Integration (SI) is about using our technology and experience to accomplish what the customer cannot. For instance, we can reduce a task that took the customer five hours daily to just one hour or even 30 minutes. This is where our value lies. The method used to achieve this, whether it’s agile or waterfall, is less critical. I was reminded that it’s best not to ign

Mr. Toyohito Sawada with the EXIN Agile Scrum Master Book (Japanese Version).
ore thewaterfall approach, as it provides more options. In fact, the way to go is to evaluate which approach best suits the task and use them accordingly.

─ ─ What benefits have you seen from taking the course?
Sawada: I have become more convincing in my work. Currently, many people believe that using Agile will guarantee success, but I realize there is no silver bullet in SI. Mr. Hara explained that it’s not about doing everything agile but distinguishing when waterfall or agile is better suited for a particular task. This was a valuable lesson for me.

─ ─ Do you see yourself leading the company in the future?
Sawada: As a department member with a technology leadership role, I understand that I am responsible for leading the team. However, I cannot take on everything myself. In the immediate future, I plan to lead the department as a tech lead, and eventually, I want to be in a position where I can lead the entire company. Our corporate slogan is “Challenging Tomorrow’s Changes”. We are always looking for new challenges. I want to use my experience to gather and develop information and create a foundation for taking on new challenges.

─ ─ Finally, what advice would you give those interested in taking the Agile Scrum Master Course?
Sawada: I recommend actively engaging in hands-on activities. Merely attending the training, accepting the teacher’s words, or memorizing vocabulary and methods is insufficient. It’s crucial to put these concepts into practice. Trying and learning Agile methods, even on small projects, will help you acquire the qualification and prepare you to use the methods in the future. Let’s make daily development more enjoyable by adopting Agile.

─ ─ Thank you very much for your time.

Sawada, Toyohito.
ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation
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