What is Scrum: A Better way of Building Products
Published: 26 August, 2021
Scrum is a framework that helps people, organizations, and teams address complex problems while creatively and productively delivering products of the highest value. Scrum co-founders, Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber, wrote The Scrum Guide to clearly explain scrum. This post will concisely discuss everything you need to know about scrum, including scrum guide, scrum of scrums, and agile scrum.
What is Scrum?
Scrum is an agile project framework that helps teams work together. Work is done in short cycles (sprints), and the teams meet daily to brainstorm on current tasks and how to get the job done effectively while removing all obstacles. Scrum is a methodology for managing projects that allow for rapid development and testing, especially within the lean startup and small teams.
Just like a game of rugby- where it gets its name from (training for the big day), scrum encourages teams to learn through experiences, reflect on their wins and losses to continuously improve.
The Scrum Process
The scrum process encourages teams to work with what they already have and continually evaluate what innovation strategy is working and what is not working. Communication, which is a vital component of the process, is carried out through scrum meetings called events. The scrum process consists of:
The Daily Scrum is a stand-up session/meeting that holds within the organization daily. At each meeting, the team reviews tasks completed the previous day and strategically plans for the next tasks to be done the next day. This is the session for team members to open up on any challenge they encountered the previous day, identify obstacles that can limit project completion, and develop solutions to overcome such obstacles.
Sprint Planning Meeting
The entire development team plans the work to be completed within a given sprint during this meeting. This meeting is chaired by the scrum master and it is where the team determines the sprint goals. Specific user stories are added to the sprint from the product backlog, which aligns with the product goal.
A sprint refers to the time range in which a particular project/task must be completed, usually 30 days. Every team member participates in setting SMART goals and daily targets that will help achieve the overall project goal. At the end of the meeting, at least one effective increment (a useable piece of software) should be designed.
The sprint review is the time to show off the usable piece of software (increment) and see how it can aid in project completion.
A sprint retrospect is generally a meeting that’s held immediately after a sprint end. During this timely meeting, every team member reflects on the sprint process. The strategic intent of a sprint retrospect is continuous improvement. Therefore, a team-building exercise may also be conducted during the sprint retrospect to help team members work effectively.
An artifact is anything of historical interest/value that deserves to be looked at again. In scrum project management, artifacts are used to see what’s been done and what is still in the queue. Scrum artifacts, including burn-down, product increment, Sprint backlog, and product backlog, are useful in sprint planning meetings.
Product backlog refers to tasks remaining on the “to be done” list. During a product backlog preparatory session, the product development team works with the business owner to prioritize tasks that have been backlogged. The product backlog may be modified during a grooming session process called backlog refinement.
This is a compilation of all tasks that must be completed before selected product backlog items can be delivered. These are usually divided into time-based user stories.
Product increment refers to all that has been accomplished during a sprint (all the product backlog tasks). It also includes all items created during all previous sprints. The product increment is a reflection of the progress made by the scrum team so far.
Burn-down is a visual representation of the tasks that still need to be completed. A burn-down chart has an X-axis indicating the time and a Y-axis indicating the work to be done. Generally, the chart illustrates a downward trend as the amount of work left to do overtime burns down to zero.
The Scrum Team
The fundamental unit of scrum is the Scrum Team. The scrum team is a small network of people and consists of one product owner, one scrum master, and developers. Within a Scrum team, there are no hierarchies or sub-teams. It is an organized team of professionals focused on one goal, the Product Goal.
Principles of Scrum Methodology
Scrum is one of the agile project management methodologies. At the center of this framework, specifically designed to help teams efficiently work on complex projects with frequently changing requirements, lie constant improvement, adjustment, clear communication, and transparency.
What are the key scrum principles?
This scrum principle increases the level of independence of the whole team and also helps to assess their performance on tasks assigned to them.
Collaboration boosts efficiency and helps team members complete tasks assigned to them on time.
- Value-based prioritization:
In the scrum project management framework, tasks are constantly prioritized based on their importance and value for the company and end-users to determine the order in which the tasks need to be completed.
This implies scheduling and allocating time range for certain scrum activities. In the scrum project management framework, work is done in short release cycles called “sprints” (usually 2-4 weeks). The tasks are determined during sprint planning (1 to 2 hours), monitored and discussed at daily meetings (15 minutes), and evaluated during sprint reviews (1 to 2 hours)
- Iterative development:
As product requirements in scrum are constantly being revised or adjusted, software development activities in this framework are also revisited, repeated, and reworked to create the best products for end-users.
What is the Scrum Guide?
The Scrum Guide is the handbook authored by Scrum founders, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, to guide users in using the Scrum agile framework. It is authored to help individuals, organizations, and teams generate value from complex problems by providing adaptive solutions.
What is Scrum of Scrums?
Scrum of scrums is an approach to scale-up scrum to large groups of over 12 persons, where the groups are divided into agile teams of 5 to 10. Each daily scrum includes a delegated member as an “ambassador” to participate in a daily meeting with other ambassadors from other agile teams called Scrum of Scrums.
Scrum of Scrums (popularly referred to as SOS) is a coordination approach among the teams in a scrum. This usually involves various teams coordinating their inter-team work.
The team engaged with SOS consists of individual members of the various product development teams. The product development team determines which team member should represent them in the Scrum of Scrums meeting based on who can be a better speaker to solve the inter-team dependency issues.
The person representing a team during the Scrum of Scrums can change anytime and can be replaced by another who can best represent the team at a given point in time.
In most cases, teams send both their scrum Master and a development team member to increase the number of participants. Ideally, it makes more sense for Scrum Masters to take part at the level of SOS.
There are different approaches for conducting Scrum of Scrums, but the team should choose a suitable approach that works best for them and gives the desired results. Scrum of Scrums doesn’t take place every day but only when the need arises. Participants at a Scrum of Scrums session brainstorm and answer similar questions to the ones answered at the daily scrum like:
- What prevailing problem is my development team facing that could earn help from another team to get it resolved?
- What will my development team do before we meet again that could affect the results of other teams
- What has my team done so far since the last time we met that other teams can benefit from?
A scrum of scrums session is designed to last for 15 minutes, the same as a daily scrum meeting.
An alternative process helps to extend the SOS beyond the 15-minute timebox. Here the participants begin each scrum of scrums with a 15-minute timebox for answering the three SOS questions. The SOS session then continues extending the 15- minute activity, thereby providing better opportunities for the team to solve issues that came up.
What is the Purpose of Scrum of Scrums?
Scrum of Scrums is a cross-team project management approach used in place of the daily stand-up meeting when multiple development teams are involved. The main goal behind the SOS is to support the agile teams to boost team productivity and help coordinate and collaborate their work with other teams.
Scrum of Scrums also plays a key role in decision-making and problem-solving. For instance, suppose a particular team has a challenge with work prioritization and effective product ownership, then all the possible solutions will be discussed during the Scrum of Scrums session.
The general purpose of the scrum of scrums is to ensure that all development teams are working to see that they deliver the tasks assigned to them effectively.
A scrum of scrums agenda includes discussions and brainstorming on:
- Tasks accomplished the previous day
- Tasks still on queue
- Obstacles and challenges each development team is facing
How Often Should Scrum of Scrums Hold?
How often Scrum of Scrums holds is generally determined by the team. Product management and business development experts suggest that the meetings should hold daily, just like daily scrum or daily stand up. The meeting should last for up to 15 minutes. A strategy to ensure consistency and continuity is to hold potentially longer meetings less frequently.
Who Takes Part in a Scrum of Scrums Meeting?
There is no specific number of participants in a Scrum of Scrums meeting as this generally depends on the theme and matters arising.
- Generally, the following should be part of a scrum of scrums meeting.
- Scrum master- popularly referred to as the agile coach.
- A product owner who represents the work across all teams.
- A representative from each product development team.
- A team or group responsible for deliverables based on the release plan.
The scrum of scrums meeting is mainly carried out to support agile teams, coordinating and collaborating with other team members.
What to Expect After a Scrum of Scrums Meeting?
- Scrum of scrums meetings gives a clear picture and the path the team is moving towards achieving the end goal.
- The team can then set daily targets to be met in order to achieve the overall project goal.
- The team can identify possible problems that can slow the team in achieving its goals.
- At the end of the meeting, the team can work on the identified impediments and proffer solutions to help teams overcome such problems.
Essential Roles for Scrum Success
The Scrum Product owner
Product owners are the decision-makers for their products. They are focused on understanding market requirements, customers, business and prioritizing the tasks to be completed by development teams accordingly. Effective product owners:
- Manage and build the product backlog.
- Closely partner with the business and development team to ensure everyone understands the tasks in the product backlog.
- Give the team clear guidance on the features to deliver.
- Decide when the products will be launched in the market.
The product owner may not necessarily be the product manager but focus on ensuring that the development team delivers the most valuable products to the business.
The Scrum Master
Scrum Masters are the leaders within their teams. They oversee activities within their teams, coach product owners, teams, and the business on the scrum process, and look for ways to create a favorable condition for all parties involved in the scrum process.
An effective scrum master deeply understands the work assigned to the team and can help the team work effectively to accomplish the task without much stress.
As the facilitator-in-charge, he/she schedules the needed resources for sprint planning, sprint review, stand-up, and the sprint retrospective.
The Scrum Development Team
Scrum development teams get things done. They are the executors of sustainable development practices. The most effective scrum teams collaborate to get things done. Each team should consist of 5 to 7 members. One of the best ways to work out the size is to use the ‘two pizza rule’ coined by the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos (the team should be small enough to share two pizzas).
Team members have different skillsets and complement each other in completing their tasks.
Strong scrum teams are self-organizing and understand the power of team spirit. All members help one another to ensure a successful project and sprint completion. The scrum team drives the plan for each sprint. They determine how much work they can complete within a time frame using their historical velocity as a guide. Team members have different skillsets and complement each other in completing their tasks.
Strong scrum teams are self-organizing and understand the power of team spirit. All members help one another to ensure a successful project and sprint completion. The scrum team drives the plan for each sprint. They determine how much work they can complete within a time frame using their historical velocity as a guide.
Agile Vs. Scrum: What’s the Difference?
Given the similarities between Agile and Scrum in the world of project management, it is easy to confuse both concepts. Here is a look at what Agile and Scrum mean in Project management, how they differ and how you can select the best one for your project.
What is Agile?
Agile is a project management framework that takes an iterative approach towards the execution/completion of projects. It is primarily a project management philosophy centered on specific principles and values.
What is Scrum?
Scrum is an agile process used by project managers to deliver the highest possible value within a short time.
Whilst Agile is an orientation or philosophy, a scrum is a specific approach or methodology for how one manages a project and brings it to completion. It provides a framework for how to identify the work, who to do the work, when it will be completed and how it will be done.
The Difference Between Agile and Scrum
On a lighter note, it is easy to see why Agile and Scrum are often confused as they both involve iterative processes, collaborative decision making, and frequent client interaction. The main difference between Agile and Scrum or Agile vs Scrum is that while Scrum is a project management philosophy that utilizes a core set of values or principles, scrum is a specific agile approach that is used to facilitate a project.
There are also other notable differences between Agile and Scrum
- Agile is a philosophy, while scrum is an agile methodology.
- Scrum is broken down into smaller deliverables or shorter sprints, while in Agile, everything is delivered at the end of the project.
- Scrum includes specific roles such as product owner and scrum master, while Agile involves members from cross-functional teams.
Kanban Vs. Scrum
Kanban and scrum are two project management terminologies that are wrongly used interchangeably. The two terms are not exactly the same; there is a slight difference between them. Understanding these differences will help you choose the best approach that works well for your project.
What is Scrum?
Scrum is an agile methodology used to manage and organize tasks into smaller and achievable tasks that can be accomplished within a short time (usually 2-4 weeks long).
To plan and execute this process, scrum relies on three specific roles: the product owner, scrum master, and team members.
What is Kanban?
Kanban is a project management tool used to organize workflow for efficiency. It encourages work to be broken down into smaller tasks using a Kanban board to visualize each task as it progresses through the workflow chart.
Both scrum and Kanban allow for complex and large projects to be broken down into simple tasks to be completed efficiently.
Now how are they different?
There are many differences in both methodologies, principles, and practical applications of Scrum and Kanban. These differences can be grouped into the following.
Iteration, scheduling, and cadence
The agile scrum methodology places more priority on schedule. Each scrum team is provided with prioritized story points that need to be completed within a time frame. On a Kanban team, there are no iterations. Kanban is not based on duration, and team members work collectively to complete the project. Also, under the scrum approach, teams are required to commit to specific tasks, but this is not the case in Kanban, as team members take on tasks based on the workflow chart for the day.
Roles and responsibilities
Under scrum teams, there are three important roles that must be occupied for the smooth execution of projects: the product owner, scrum master, and team members. Each role has its unique responsibilities, and they must collaborate to achieve efficient balance.
The scrum team must also be cross-functional and have all the necessary tools to complete each sprint cycle.
Under Kanban, there are no specific roles. Under certain conditions, any team member can serve as the project supervisor or manager. The specific roles depend on the needs of a particular project.
The Kanban team does not need to be cross-functional since the Kanban board/workflow chart is to be used by all team members involved in a particular project per time.
The Kanban and Scrum board
While the scrum and Kanban boards operate on similar principles, there are still some slight differences.
On the scrum board, the columns are labeled to reflect periods in the workflow cycle, starting with sprint backlog and ending with the team’s desired outcome.
On the Kanban board, the columns are also labeled to show workflow rates but with slight differences: they publish the maximum number of stories required for each column at a time.
On a scrum board, a sprint backlog is owned by only a single team member, while on a Kanban board, multiple team members can share the same sprint backlog.
Scrum is a popular agile framework in product management and development, which helps to bring maximum business value within the shortest possible time.
Scrum might be the perfect methodology for you if your organization is looking for a lightweight team-based approach to agile product management. But if your organization’s culture tilts towards upfront planning and your executive stakeholders prefer a top-down approach to decision making rather than an organic team-based approach, then it probably isn’t the right agile project management framework choice for you.
We believe with what we have shared in this post, you now have a better understanding of scrum, agile scrum, scrum guide, and the scrum of scrums.