What is Scrum? A Guide to the Popular Project Management Framework
Before we answer the question: “What is Scrum?” let’s first develop an understanding of its parent concept–Agile project management. The Agile framework is one of the most popular approaches for software development. It allows teams to work faster and deliver a high-quality product while embracing change. Agile approaches focus on iterative development, which means teams expect the project and its requirements to change constantly.
Furthermore, the Agile framework promotes collaboration between small cross-functional teams, which are also self-organizing. Agile teams develop the product over a series of increments with constant inspection and adaptation. Several different Agile approaches exist, but Scrum is the most popular.
Last Updated December 2020
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The Scrum framework
The Scrum framework aims to manage complex, multi-tiered projects with product delivery in increments. Scrum is a lightweight framework that is “iterative” because teams develop the product in parts. In every iteration, the teams work to develop certain product pieces, such as new features.
After every iteration cycle, teams receive feedback. They rapidly improve their process and the product with each iteration until they fulfill all requirements. In Scrum, achieving the objective of the project is a team responsibility. Every individual is accountable for the entire project deliverable and not just their own work tasks.
Scrum is a framework that allows rapid progression through experience, providing the flexibility to incorporate new information and adjust to shifting circumstances. Thus, you can fit the Scrum framework around your needs, based on the nature of your project.
Scrum has three main components:
- Scrum Roles
- Scrum Events
- Scrum Artifacts
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1. Scrum Roles
Scrum defines three main roles–the Scrum Master, Product Owner, and the Development Team. These are the only members considered part of the Scrum team. I explain each of these roles below.
The Scrum Master is responsible for promoting Scrum and for ensuring Scrum is being implemented correctly on the project. They help everyone understand the rules and guidelines of Scrum. Scrum Masters also provide coaching and support to the development team while ensuring they don’t run into any problems. As a result, they remove hindrances that negatively affect the team’s productivity.
Scrum Masters also facilitate Scrum events and help the Product Owner develop clear goals to maximize the value of the product backlog.
The Product Owner is responsible for managing the product backlog. They are the single source providing all project requirements with clarity. They serve as the liaison between the customer and the technical team.
The Product Owner learns the requirements from the customer and then translates them into the product backlog. They ensure the development team understands the requirements of the customer in simple language and sufficient detail.
Product Owners also organize the items in the product backlog in a way that best achieves the goal of the project. In other words, they order the items in the backlog according to the priority of the features and product requirements.
The Development Team works on creating the product. The team is cross-functional and self-organizing. A Scrum Developer or Development Team member specializes in a particular area. As a team, they have the combined skills necessary to complete the project.
To complete the product development process, they organize and divide the work between team members during the sprint. Overall the Development Team should be between three and nine members. Teams of this size are highly flexible and productive while avoiding unnecessary complexity.
2. Scrum Events
The Scrum process involves settings up a series of events that lead to the completion of the project.
A sprint is a time-box of one month or less, during which the team develops a “Done” product increment. A set of product features, which should be completed and useable by the end of the month, make up the product increment.
The Scrum team outlines the work they will complete during the Sprint within the Sprint Planning Event. The meeting itself lasts for eight hours for a one-month sprint. The entire Scrum team collaborates to make the plan.
Daily Scrum Meetings
Every day of the sprint contains a 15-minute Daily Scrum Meeting that only the Development Team attends. During Daily Scrum Meetings meetings, the team plans for the next 24 hours by setting goals. They analyze progress, and the team members bring each other up to speed on the work they’re doing.
The Scrum team presents the work done during the sprint and has a discussion with the stakeholders (e.g., customers) during the Sprint Review. They inspect the increment together, and the team receives feedback. Based on the feedback, the team may add changes or recommendations to the product backlog.
The Sprint Retrospective occurs after the Sprint Review. The entire Scrum team attends this meeting. On average, Retrospectives are a three-hour meeting for a one-month sprint.
The Scrum team inspects their performance during the sprint. They discuss and identify process and workflow improvements for future sprints. This crucial meeting allows Scrum teams to continuously improve as the project progresses.
3. Scrum Artifacts
Scrum Artifacts refer to the work, objects, or documents involved in Scrum. These tools share information and ensure inspection and adaptation throughout the project.
The sprint backlog consists of two components:
- A list of product backlog items to be selected for the sprint
- A plan for the sprint goal to deliver the product increment
Basically, the sprint backlog determines and documents the amount of work selected for a specific sprint.
Product backlog (PB)
The PB is the ultimate document. It contains everything required to make the product, including product features (user stories), bugs/fixes, and any changes that might be required. The PB also houses a list of all the product requirements. The Product Owner is solely responsible for managing the product backlog.
The PB lists all items in their priority sequence. The top of the list shows the most highly valued items and the bottom of the list shows the lower priority items.
An increment is the sum of all the completed product backlog items. An increment includes the items/product features completed during previous sprints, as well as the items/product features completed during the current sprint.
In short, it is the resulting work done during sprints (both past and present), based on the tasks listed in the PB. An increment should be “Done,” meaning it is a useable condition and never in a partially-completed state. Any features developed should function properly.
More and more people are adopting scrum beyond its original software development roots. Scrum is the perfect project management approach when you need to embrace change and thrive in a fast-paced environment.
Are you interested in learning more about Scrum? Check out my article on how to get your Scrum Master Certification.
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