Empirical Process Control Explained with Examples

Editorial Team

Empirical Process Control

When working in an organization or as a team, there is always a need to ensure that the whole team is on the same page and working towards achieving the same goal. You will need to have a system that provides this for the team’s effective running and business organization in general. Empirical processes help you achieve this. 

Empiricism is founded on transparency, inspection, and adaptation. These principles enable team members to work openly and in a trustworthy environment making it easier to work towards a common goal.

Below, we shall discuss more on empirical processes, compare them to defined processes, how empirical methods control works in the Agile environment, and give you a few examples of empirical processes.

Empirical Process Definition

An empirical process deals with uniform analog for large sums of independent random variables in a system in a given state. Where the problem domain is considered to be complicated, empirical processes are applied using a prescribed algorithm. However, it is essential to note that there are no guaranteed results are using empirical approaches as it is unpredictable.

Empirical processes work by diving work into workable bits. After one task is complete and the results are evaluated, a team can start working on the next bit. The team’s performance and all processes are based on transparency and are inspected at the same cadence in the sprint retrospective. The team then works on improving the next Sprint by adjusting the communication and quality.  

Since the external environment is continuously changing, empirical processes help you to remain flexible and adjust in any complex system. Empirical processes are generally designed to make it easy to team members to start but are intentionally incomplete. This allows the team space and an opportunity to adjust as they learn, which is critical while working in complex domains. Empirical processes come in very handy in software development, where the nature of the product is mostly affected by uncertainty and shift in technology.

Empirical Processes Control Theory 

 The empirical process control is a fundamental principle of Scrum and distinguishes it from other agile frameworks. Empirical process control does not sort or fix the product’s scope or step by step guidelines on how to build it. However, it offers you short cycles that enable you to make small bits of the product. You can then inspect the product and adapt it based on the feedback you get. Empirical processes control work to ensure that transparent mechanisms are used in the building process to make inspection an easy process.

Empirical processes control work excellently with Scrum because product development is considered to be a too complex domain. There is a significant variation in the product groups, and each group needing its requirements to be met. You cannot use a fixed and defined process for such. Empirical processes control works to create a Scrum structure that ensures that transparency is maintained to create an effective inspect-adapt system. This will ensure that the team is constantly improving on their work.

Empirical processes control theory is basically based on team members having shared access to knowledge and a shared understanding and trying out something based on that knowledge and view the outcome. Finally, based on the result, which is considered new knowledge, try out something new.

Empirical Process v Defined Process

The empirical process is considered to be the evolutionary product planning, while the defined process is the traditional fixed planning. Though both work towards achieving the same results, more and more organizations are moving towards the empirical process.

In Scrum, an empirical process is implemented based on experiments and mere observation instead of having a detailed plan and well-defined processes. Defined processes work in the opposite way whereby there are well laid out a set of steps. Both empirical and defined processes will produce the same output if there is the same amount of input.

When working using empirical process control, you do not know what to expect each time. You live by expecting the unexpected. For this reason, you can produce unpredictable and unrepetitive results every other time. On the other hand, with defined process control, every piece of work is clear and understandable. This allows you to start a defined process control and let it run with similar output every other time. Since empirical processes are unpredictable, they tend to be mostly used in complex situations, whereas defined processes are used in cases where one knows what results to expect.

Control in empirical processes is exercised through inspection and adaptation, whereby improvements are conducted through experiments and experience. In a defined process, you can produce the same results repeatedly and in a predictable manner.

Empirical Processes Control in Agile (Scrum)

Empirical processes work based on facts, experience, and evidence. Scrum, on the other hand, work to implement these empirical processes. In Scrum, progress is measured by observing reality and not fictitious plans. In an Agile environment, Scrum encourages the use of mind-set and cultural change to achieve business excellence and improve organizational agility.

Empirical processes are based on three pillars, and these are transparency, inspection, and adaptation. Transparency advocates for everyone in the organization knowing what is going on. This means that facts are presented as they are. Everyone involved, from the highest officer to the consumers, are open with their daily dealings with each other. Trust is built among everyone in the organization, and they are not afraid of being honest with each other on good or bad news. This makes it easier for everyone in the organization to collaborate and work together towards achieving a common goal as no one has any hidden agendas for self-gain. In Scrum, the product backlog is open and visible to everyone in the team. This gives all the team members a clear sense of the priority and work based on that.

Inspection encourages everyone to check on their work as they do it. In this sense, it is not conducted by an auditor or inspector but rather by everyone in the organization. 

The inspection can either be for a product, the processes, people, organizational practices, or even improvements. The team can reveal a product to the customers at the conclusion of each Sprint so as to get feedback. If the customer adds other requirements and is unhappy about something, the team can adapt and make the required changes and test out new products to ensure the customer gets exactly what they need.

Inspection allows Scrum team members to reflect on the work done and will enable them to determine any necessary changes that will be needed to improve in the next Sprint. While inspection is crucial in ensuring a smooth workflow, they shouldn’t be more than necessary. This will simply work to waste time and create unnecessary tension.

Adaptation works to assure the team that it is allowed and acceptable to change tactical approaches towards achieving a task. It ensures that there is a constant and continuous improvement based on the results produced by the inspection conducted. The relevance of adaptation is to be able to improve and be better with each passing day. If the organization is profit-based, you can clearly tell if there is an improvement based on the profits recorded. There should be a faster time to market with adaptation, getting value-based delivery, enhanced software quality, and customer and employee satisfaction.

Scrum works by adhering to Agile principles to ensure that the empirical processes work effectively, producing a predictable organization delivery.

Empirical Processes Control Examples

As mentioned before, empirical processes are mostly used in complex domains. However, they are still very applicable in our day to day lives. We probably use empirical processes even without realizing that we are. Below are some simple examples that will try to explain how empirical processes work and how we use them daily.

Temperature control thermostats use empirical processes control to read the temperature. They rely on an accurate temperature reading of the room they are placed in that can be frequently inspected. In case of temperature change and it goes below a certain required comfort level, then one can adjust the temperature of the room by applying heat.

Cruise control works almost in the same manner as the thermostat, whereby it adaptively modifies the power delivered by your car’s engine in response to a signal sent by the speedometer. The paths you use will not matter, and it simply inspects and adapts the speed you are currently driving at to maintain what you requested.

Gyms also use empirical processes a lot, where gym trainers have to curate plans for each client. At the beginning of the month, the trainer will create a diet and exercise plan to last them through the month. They do this without knowing what the results at the end of the month would be. At the end of the month, the trainer will have to create a new plan for the client based on the results after weighing and testing them.


It is quite evident that this process is necessary in the day to day running of business. I hope that this article has furnished you with all the information that you need.