Scrum is one of the leading project management methodologies in software development and beyond. Scrum is a project management framework that relies on teamwork, accountability, and progress toward a goal.
Because of its flexibility and effectiveness, many hybrid teams find Scrum helpful. This guide defines Scrum and its practices and explains how to use it for your distributed team.
What is Scrum?
Scrum is a project management framework for achieving goals in an iterative method that finds solutions and generates value progressively. It focuses on cross-functional teams with diverse skills and expertise capable of self-management.
The term “Scrum” was first used by Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi to describe a formation in rugby teams. Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber later adopted the concept in the 1990s to refer to an Agile project management approach.
As Sutherland and Schwaber explain in the Scrum Guide, the Scrum framework rests on three pillars:
- Adaptation. Team members need to be able to adjust a process as soon as it, or its results, deviate from acceptable standards.
- Inspection. Frequent inspections of goals, timelines, and results enable adaptation by bringing to light any potentially negative deviations.
- Transparency. Processes that are transparent enable inspection by allowing all stakeholders to know what’s happening in a project, how they may be affected by deviations, and how they may affect a process both up and down stream.
In the Scrum framework, people can only succeed if they exhibit values like commitment, courage, respect, openness, and focus. Scrum team members must also support each other to achieve common goals.
Components of the Scrum process
The Scrum process includes several practices or components. Scrum works well for cross-functional teams that can complete work within two- to four-week sprints. Scrum project management can be divided into two components: artifacts and events.
Scrum artifacts provide valuable information that allows teams to understand the product or service they’re developing and the steps they should follow to achieve their goals. Scrum artifacts boost transparency by ensuring all project details are accessible to all relevant stakeholders.
Each Scrum artifact has a commitment goal that allows a team to measure its progress at the end of each sprint. The three primary Scrum artifacts are:
- Product backlog. The product backlog is a prioritized list of everything that’s needed to deliver the product or meet the goal. It’s dynamic in that it changes from sprint to sprint, as new information becomes available. Functionally, it consists of to-do items or issues chosen when developing a sprint. The team identifies tasks to add to the backlog, which can be used in future sprints. The Scrum team follows this list to develop or improve new products.
- Sprint backlog. The sprint backlog is the subset of the product backlog that is meant to be completed during a specific sprint. It’s created by developers who break down the product backlog into smaller and more actionable items. Let’s say the product backlog involves creating a web navigation menu. In the sprint backlog, developers can define supporting tasks like adding navigation links and styling the navigation bar.
- Increment. An increment is a tangible output from a sprint and represents an incremental step toward the larger goal. Each increment is expected to meet the Definition of Done (DoD), meaning the increment meets previously established standards related to quality and functionality. Increments should be delivered to the client in a state that could be released to their customers without disrupting the client’s business. As the Scrum team works toward achieving the product goal, many increments will be produced.
Scrum events are meetings teams regularly conduct to inspect Scrum artifacts and monitor progress. Scrum events promote transparency by allowing team members to come together and discuss different aspects of a project rather than working in silos on separate initiatives. They also help teams avoid unnecessary meetings, enabling stakeholders to focus on their core mandate and achieve goals.
Key Scrum events include:
- Sprint planning. The team comes together to plan the work for the upcoming sprint. The product owner explains the product backlog items to the team, and the team determines how many items they can complete during the next sprint and how they will deliver them. This is also when the sprint goal is crafted.
- Sprint. A sprint is not a single event but a time-boxed period in which a “done,” usable, and potentially releasable product increment is created. Sprints have consistent durations throughout a development effort and are usually one month or less.
- Daily Scrum/standup. This is a daily time-boxed event of 15 minutes for the development team. The development team uses the daily Scrum to inspect progress toward the current sprint goal and how progress is trending toward completing the work in the sprint backlog.
- Sprint review. At the end of the sprint, a sprint review is held. During this meeting, the Scrum team and stakeholders review what was accomplished during the sprint and what has changed in their environment. Based on this information, they collaborate on what to do in the next sprint. This ensures the team produces what the client has in mind and allows them to inspect the increment and adapt the product backlog.
- Sprint retrospective. This occurs after the sprint review and before the next sprint planning. The Scrum team inspects how the last sprint went with regards to individuals, interactions, processes, tools, and their DoD. The team identifies and orders the major items that went well and potential improvements, and creates a plan for implementing improvements to the way they work. The sprint retrospective facilitates continuous improvement.
In addition to the typical steps taken in Scrum, there are clearly defined roles. Scrum is dynamic and helps teams respond to ever-changing situations. To quickly adapt and produce effective software, team members need defined goals.
These roles help teams to follow through with specific goals in each sprint:
- Product owner. They are responsible for helping the team achieve the desired functionality. They do this by managing the backlog and addressing any challenges that the development team encounters.
- Scrum Master. The Scrum Master acts as a facilitator of the Scrum development process, helping the team follow Agile values and processes. This professional also creates a conducive environment by removing various impediments and empowering teams to produce more deliverables.
- Development team. This team comprises members who are responsible for creating schedules and assigning specific tasks to finish the work within the sprint. In a software development project, the development team would include UI designers, DevOps engineers, software testers, and software engineers.
Rules in the Scrum process
The Scrum process has several required values and rules to ensure it’s used properly. When used correctly, teams can quickly and efficiently create solutions for the software.
Scrum teams should follow these values:
- Commitment to the team’s goals
- Courage to work through problems and do the right thing
- Focus on sprint goals
- Openness to talk through any challenges the team might face
- Respect for each team member
In addition to these values, teams are expected to follow these basic rules:
- Sprints should last less than four weeks.
- Sprints are consecutive. There shouldn’t be any breaks between sprints.
- Every sprint should have the intention of producing a workable product.
- The sprint planning meeting shouldn’t last more than two hours.
- Daily Scrum can last no longer than 15 minutes and should occur every day at the same time.
- Every sprint must have a sprint review and retrospective. These meetings should last no longer than two hours per sprint.
Differences between Agile and Scrum
Agile is a project management philosophy that, among other principles, encourages teams to break down complex projects into smaller and more manageable sections for better collaboration and performance.
Agile focuses on individuals over tools and processes; working product over detailed documentation; client collaboration over contract negotiation; and agility over rigid plans.
Scrum, on the other hand, is a specific framework that follows Agile principles to help teams complete work more effectively.
How Scrum can improve your software development process
Many teams are turning to the Scrum methodology due to its various benefits.
The Scrum framework helps teams accomplish project goals at a higher standard. Because every sprint has reviews and retrospectives, teams receive feedback to improve the software.
The rules and specific order in which Scrum occurs allow teams to incrementally make improvements (continuous improvement) to the software without stressing over larger goals, essentially providing them the time and resources to perfect specific aspects of the software.
The Scrum methodology allows teams to be adaptable because of how production is organized. Since Scrum is an iterative and incremental process, team members can work on specific aspects of the software.
During that time frame, they may find areas that need to be reimagined. In the retrospective stage, an agile team can discuss possible areas for improvement.
The process is conducive to making changes, and so is the environment. The Scrum methodology encourages respectful collaboration. If there’s room for improvement, then every member can have their voice heard.
In addition to producing better-quality software, the Scrum methodology gives team members, shareholders, and end users higher satisfaction.
Short daily meetings ensure everyone is prioritizing the right goals and not wasting time. This way, team members understand the difficulties they face and adapt to overcome those difficulties.
Plus, the feedback process ensures shareholders understand the process and what it took to get the software to where it ends up, and team members understand what’s necessary to complete their goals.
Better team relationships
Teams following the Scrum methodology should follow the values of this method. The Scrum values are commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect.
The Scrum methodology fosters an environment for team members to work hard, think freely, and not feel judged by their team. This methodology helps manage remote teams through its emphasis on effective communication, reliability, and respect toward team members.
Additionally, the Scrum methodology depends on each individual. Each role is equally as important as the next in meeting the sprint goals. This helps ensure all team members feel appreciated during the process.
Scrum also helps teams collaborate. Increased collaboration results in better team participation and more communication. This can help teams discover inefficiencies that can be modified sooner.
Happier team members
Every team member feeling appreciated can lead to higher job satisfaction. Having a team that values what you contribute and respects you results in an overall happier environment. This can help individuals find their work more satisfying.
Scrum can deliver quality products to clients between 30% to 40% faster than other traditional project management methodologies. Getting the product to customers faster means investors save time and money. The entire Scrum process is extremely efficient and helps organizations optimize their spending.
In addition to those benefits, teams that implement Scrum have increased return on investment (ROI). Incremental releases help revenue come in faster. Early accumulation of capital results in a higher total return over time.
Easy to implement
The Scrum methodology has been scrutinized and improved time after time. This has resulted in a solid methodology, which has been proven to help teams achieve their goals successfully.
The Scrum steps are simple to implement for every type of team. The Scrum methodology is particularly good for remote teams, as it fosters an environment that values communication and benefits from constant feedback.
The Scrum framework is also flexible, allowing teams to use different collaboration tools, including Slack, Google, Meet, Trello, and Google Docs to communicate and share ideas with each other.
How Scrum compares to other project management methodologies
Kanban and Waterfall are popular Agile frameworks often compared to Scrum.
Kanban—a Japanese word for visual cards—uses a physical or digital board to visualize work and its progress through various stages, allowing teams to adopt it without significantly changing existing workflows.
While Kanban allows for continuous flow and delivery, Scrum organizes work into time-boxed iterations called sprints. In Scrum, each sprint delivers a potentially releasable increment of work. Also, Kanban doesn’t necessarily prescribe cross-functional teams as Scrum does, although it can be used by such teams.
Waterfall is a linear, sequential approach where each phase of a project is completed fully before moving on to the next one. Unlike Scrum, Waterfall doesn’t handle changes well once a phase has been completed. So, it works best for projects where requirements are well understood and unlikely to change, but it can be problematic for more complex projects with evolving requirements.
Scrum supports predictability by allowing teams to work at a sustainable pace and by providing empirical data (like velocity) that can help forecast future performance. But Scrum values responding to change over following a plan, which means the team should be flexible and adaptive rather than sticking rigidly to initial estimates.
Bring the top talent to your development team
The Scrum methodology can help any team improve their development process. Scrum is easily implemented and can help all teams be more efficient, saving organizations time and money.
Upwork can assist teams in finding top talent. With the help of independent professionals such as Scrum Masters and the Scrum methodology, you can develop powerful software.
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