Mining Scrum: Modeling the Earth One Iteration at a Time


Scrum Tapped for Mining Industry

Mankind has, and always will try to understand its environment. In the last century, radar technology has allowed individuals to track vehicles, ships, planes, and even space shuttles and stars. With advances in sonar, people now have the ability to imagine a journey to space, or explore the mysteries of the sea. With the right scientific equipment, scientists can even witness new life and see it evolve. In the mining industry, the ability to identify and assess the world of solids is paramount.

MicroMentis, (, develops, manufactures and markets scientific equipment and software to visualize, analyze, and model the physical and mechanical properties of solids in a non-destructive manner. The company has tapped the benefits of Scrum methodologies to develop sophisticated yet user-friendly technologies to streamline the development process and reduce the time-to-market.

In late 2008, the company announced the industry’s first non-invasive platform in North America for rapidly testing and finding geological structures within the Earth’s surface. Called SWIPSTM (Surface Wave Intelligent Profiling System), the technology accurately analyzes the Earth’s surface geological content.

Since its founding, one of the cornerstones of MicroMentis is its focus on service to customers. The company strives to provide its customers with the most technologically advanced tools to safely and effectively characterize solids.

From the onset of designing SWIPS, the company turned to Scrum as a way to incorporate customer feedback into the design of the existing core product and future services. In addition, the company wanted to balance requested changes from the customer with offering solutions quickly that meet customer’s needs today.

The Scrum Implementation Process

Daniel Rioux, company Founder and President, researched various strategies for formalizing a consistent and results-focused software development process for MicroMentis with an aim to increase project visibility and collaboration throughout the organization. The company was attracted to the Scrum method of Agile software development due to its incremental approach and quick results.

MicroMentis is one of the first companies that expanded the use of Scrum beyond software development to such areas and activities as empirical process and electronic, mechanical and industrial design process. With the Product Owner, the software development team initiated and formulated a Scrum process for the development of its core technology offering.

The company has benefited from Scrum’s ability to provide increased visibility throughout the entire duration of a project. On a daily basis, a stand-up meeting is held where the team and the ScrumMaster meet for 15 minutes to review the past day’s activities and success, the goals and issues that are threatening the project and items which the ScrumMaster must act on immediately (Daily Scrum). At the end of each sprint, a Sprint review is held. It is a timed box activity of four hours where the team delivers to the Product Owner (through demonstration) the committed deliveries.

This meeting is followed by a Sprint retrospective of a fixed duration of three hours where the team revises and immediately improves their process based on the comments received so it can be implemented within the next Sprint. The following day, a Sprint planning is reinitiated. During a Sprint, the team remains focused on its commitments and no changes will be introduced by outside sources unless it relates urgently to the on-going Sprint. Once the project is completed, it is time for a Project Retrospective where the whole deliverable is reviewed with the Product Owner, the team and the stakeholders present.

MicroMentis Realizes Instant and Continued Success

The results of implementing Scrum have been immediate and profound for the entire MicroMentis organization. Through the use of Scrum techniques, solo development by a single person were replaced by unified collaboration. Quality, visibility and accountability are part of the company core values and all staff can have greater insight into expected delivery and features of the product. In addition, the company quickly realized that it was now delivering the technology solutions and product customers most needed and wanted in a timely and more efficient manner.

Now the company’s release planning involves the creation of user-stories and the backlog of action items detailing customers requested features and functions. As a result of implementing Scrum, the company is staying more closely in touch with customers through a web portal where customers can follow software development progress in real time by seeing which team member worked on a specific task, total number of hours spent, and expected date of completion.

Through the same Scrum principles and web portal, customers can reach specialists and log-in incidents and defects. Through email, customers receive information on progress when specific results are achieved and, at all times, customers can monitor the progress in real-time. Through Scrum, MicroMentis can demonstrate its continued commitment to its customers and ensure an ongoing high level of satisfaction.

Lessons Learned

  • There is no ‘right’ time to begin implementing Scrum. Instead, it is better to go all in and simply get started, regardless of where you are in your development process.
  • Through the use of Scrum, MicroMentis now has a clear alignment between teams and company goals.
  • Scrum has allowed MicroMentis to work much more closely with its partners in determining product feature requests and prioritize the backlog.
  • Scrum has allowed the company to improve its time-to-market delivery and realize predictable releases.

About the Author

Daniel Rioux has 15 years experience in Research and Development in the engineering industry and a decade of achievements in manufacturing. His experience includes working as a Research Assistant at CNRC Ottawa in Electronic Physics, Research Engineer with the Canadian National Research Center; Senior Testing Engineer for Bombardier, Public Transit Division; Product Engineer for Camco, (General Electric) Laundry Equipment; Director of Engineering with Proceco; and, now as President and CTO of MicroMentis. Rioux has also had success in consulting with the Pricam-EO3 bilateral cooperation agreement signed by Canada and Morocco for three years, which was awarded the winner of the ACDI award for the program who contributed the most to the development of a country. He studied Engineering in Mechanics with Graduate work in Electronics, Instrumentation, and Management.

About the author

StickyMinds is a TechWell community.

Through conferences, training, consulting, and online resources, TechWell helps you develop and deliver great software every day.