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What is Scrum? Scrum Methodology Explained

Scrum is a project management framework that helps streamline the production of a product, facilitates high-quality project results, and makes it easier to keep clients in the loop regarding the project process. It's adaptable and makes complex tasks more manageable. Everyone involved in the Scrum framework can perform their roles more effectively because they clearly understand the work they have to do along with the deadlines for their production.

The goal of Scrum is to get away from using machine-generated metrics for the production of a project. It takes an honest look at the project and the people involved, and enables participants to set realistic goals. The framework also gives developers the room they need to produce their piece of the project without micromanagement. Instead, the Scrum development team engages in dividing responsibilities among themselves in order to complete the project on time. Everyone on the project has a voice and their input is weighted the same as everyone else's.

The Scrum master, or leader, is tasked with keeping the project on track and communicating with the client. Everyone on the team meets with the Scrum master at set intervals to discuss the progress of the project. The information that's delivered at the meetings is then relayed to the client to keep them up-to-date and let them know what to expect.

At its core, Scrum is a framework that manages expectations and uses thought leadership to guide everyone and everything involved in the project. Goals are set, work groups are organized, roles are assigned, and the workflow is tracked. While it doesn't guarantee that everything will always go smoothly, it does make it easier for everyone to do their work in a timely manner and deliver the product to the client by a deadline. Read on to learn more about how Scrum methodology works and how it can be applied to organizations of any size.

What is the Scrum framework?

Scrum is a framework designed to encourage a collaborative, creative, and effective approach to complex projects and problems.

You may be asking yourself "What does Scrum stand for?", especially in light of the fact acronyms are commonly used for various management processes. However, the word “Scrum” isn't an acronym—it actually comes from the world of rugby, where players have a formation known as a scrum. It's similar in appearance to a huddle, but is the start of action as opposed to the discussion of action. The creators of Scrum took the concept and applied it to agile project management that's easily adapted to any type and size of product development.

The Scrum framework consists of a series of stages that track different phases of a project. They include:

  • Initiation
  • Planning and estimation
  • Implementation
  • Reviewing
  • Releasing

The Scrum framework essentially packages each phase of the project and keeps everyone focused on the task at hand from start to finish. It minimizes the risk of miscommunication because everyone is able to see what's going on, who has what portion of the project, the status of their work, and if they're going to meet the sprint deadline or not.

Progress is checked daily via a meeting with the Scrum master and marked down on a whiteboard for all participants to see. This makes it easy for all to see the current state of the sprint, if there's a backlog, and if another group is ready to combine their work with other groups and complete the product that's the focus of the sprint.

History of the Scrum framework

The original concept of Scrum as a project management framework was outlined in an article in the Harvard Business Review in 1986. Authors Takeuchi and Nonaka highlighted how companies from different manufacturing industries were using cross-functional teams that were self-organized and worked with each other to develop products. The article also talked about how management got better results by allowing the teams to perform independently and meet production goals.

In 1993, Jeff Sutherland and his coworkers at Easel Corporation applied Scrum principles to software development and tailored the workflow to the programming process. In 1995, Ken Schwaber from Advanced Development Methods used the early version of Scrum and refined it into the production process that's still used almost 30 years later. Both Schwaber and Sutherland worked with each other to develop the Scrum framework and improve on it, and eventually published a paper that laid out how to use Scrum for software development processes.

Scrum was used to develop another type of project management framework known as Agile. Schwaber joined up with Mike Beedle for the authorship of a book known as Agile Software Development with Scrum in 2001, opening up another avenue for software developers to plan and manage their product development with more depth and intensity.

What is a Scrum master?

The Scrum master is an individual who's neither manager nor team leader. Instead, their role is to facilitate the teams working on the project and prevent interruptions or other distractions from taking the team off-course. The Scrum master also has the duty of teaching Scrum theory and concepts to members of the team, and encouraging the team to do their very best work while avoiding stressful situations.

The Scrum master is a quasi-coach, cheerleader, facilitator, educator, and liaison with management. They support the teams, but don't interfere or manage workflows, because teams are supposed to be mostly independent under a Scrum framework.

Scrum vs. Agile

Scrum is an Agile framework, and Agile is its own type of framework for software development processes. Scrum is more focused on delivering sections of the work to the client as a form of keeping the client up-to-date with the progress of their order. In contrast, Agile takes a step back and looks at the entire picture during the production process, and delivers a completed project by a set date. So, what is Scrum in Agile? Agile is a type of project management philosophy, while Scrum is a methodology. Agile focuses on delivering the entire project at the end of the process, whereas Scrum uses short sprints to deliver parts of the project to the customer. Scrum's focus on short-term deliverables can be used within an Agile project management philosophy to enable teams to work independently, work in longer sprints, and deliver the product in one package as opposed to multiple small ones.

Benefits of using Scrum

Traditional, top-down project management can sometimes result in poor outcomes due to the fact that there's little flexibility. There's also a perception among managers that they feel they can't trust their teams to work independently and still make progress. Individuals working on the projects feel more stress, get little in the way of support, and have the perception that their concerns aren't being heard. This leads to burnout and resentment on behalf of those working on the project, issues that can slow down the progress of a project and cause managers to put even more pressure on the teams.

Scrum eschews the use of computer-driven metrics and timeframes in favor of letting people set production goals at a pace they feel is realistic. It also minimizes micromanaging, which can slow down a project and cause people working on the project to become resentful. In turn, everyone involved is more engaged, they feel like they have a stake in the project, and know that their concerns are heard and respected. Scrum also allows people to be human and make mistakes without major consequences because there's room for error built into the process.

The use of Scrum for project management has been found to improve the lives of employees who work under this type of framework. In fact, one survey found that 85% of Scrum users reported that using the framework had improved the quality of their work life. Scrum can relieve stress for everyone involved, make generating ideas easier, and result in a high-quality end product that the team members can be proud of.

In one survey, 85% of users reported that the Scrum framework had improved the quality of their work life

Scrum events

Scrum uses a series of phases or events that are flexible and adaptable to the needs of the team and is responsive to pressures from the project and client. The events involved in a Scrum are:

Sprint planning

The sprint involves giving a specific task to a team and setting a time limit for its completion. The sprint lasts anywhere from two to four weeks and consists of a specific objective or goal that has to be met. Each sprint has three phases that have to be set in place before it starts. That includes:

  • Designing the sprint
  • Estimating the velocity
  • Allocate the work to the teams in the sprint

The designing phase of the sprint involves breaking down the necessary tasks, creating a backlog, assigning the tasks to the teams, determining the length of the sprint, and setting up daily meetings that take place when the sprint begins.

Sprint review or retrospective

The purpose of the review or retrospective phase is to go over the results of the sprint and decide upon a forward path based on the results of the sprint. Team members can use this as an opportunity to change how a process is done or stay with the same process because it's effective. This is also the point where the team members meet with key stakeholders, managers, and the client. Everyone sits down to discuss the progress towards the ultimate goal for the product.

Daily Scrum

The daily Scrum is a 15-minute meeting that takes place at a set time each day. The rules of the meeting require everyone to stand together in a Scrum formation and engage in active listening in order to get the latest updates on team progress. Scrums are intended to eliminate the need for a daily meeting that can take a significant amount of time away from production. They're also intended to be democratic in that the Scrum master and senior management are there as participants instead of leaders.

Another purpose of the daily Scrum meeting is for handling issues such as handling team conflict, dealing with personality issues, and resolving problems that are holding the team back on progress. Anything that's viewed as problematic is dealt with through Scrum's open-book management style. Confronting issues head-on has the effect of reducing resentment and bringing everyone together to work towards the goal of completing production at the conclusion of the sprint.

Scrum artifacts

The use of the word "artifacts" is meant to describe elements that are part of the sprint phase of product development. There are three main artifacts and they include the following:

Product backlog

The product backlog is an ordered list of work that has to be done during the sprint. Essentially, the sprint starts out in a backlogged state and the teams have to clear the backlog by the time the sprint has ended. Another aspect of the product backlog is the fact that the team works on a single backlog at a time and does not entertain any other work during the sprint.

The product backlog is broken down into precise steps, the amount of work that has to be done on each step, and laid out in the order it has to be completed in. Team members can take this opportunity to add more detail to each step and further refine the work that has to be done in order to move onto the next requirement.

Sprint backlog

The sprint backlog focuses on the work that the team members intend to accomplish during the sprint. It consists of four elements that include:

  • Forecast
  • To-do
  • In-progress
  • Done

The forecast consists of the work that's included in the sprint, and the to-do is the first phase of that work. Each team member has a ticket that's assigned to them for their portion of the work, and they put their ticket on a board to show their progress. The individual tickets move across the board as the work is started and completed.

Product increment

A product increment represents a completed element of the project that's ready to be included in prior increments. The element has to be ready to use and integrate with the previous increments. Once the element has been shown to work and merged with the previous increments, it's considered done.

Scrum roles

A Scrum is run by various people who have a stake in the project's successful completion. Even though the teams work independently of management, they do their work at the behest of the product owner, management, and Scrum master. Scrum roles include:

Scrum master

The role of the Scrum master is to make it easier for the development team to do their work with minimal interference. Teams are supposed to self-organize and work independently during a sprint, and the Scrum master ensures that independence is maintained at all times while making sure teams have what they need to function smoothly.

Product owner

The product owner is an individual who's accountable for getting the most value out of the product that's being developed by the Scrum teams. That includes managing the backlog, clearly communicating the product goal and backlog items, putting the backlog items into order, and making sure that the instructions for the backlog are understandable and clear.

Development Team

The development team is a self-organizing and managing group of developers. The group creates the sprint and backlog plan, makes a definition for the done portion of the sprint, adapts and adjusts the plans to meet the sprint goal, and holds members accountable. As a whole, the development team is responsible for the production of the project and deliverables.

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We also offer an extensive knowledge base and resources that help you run your business in the most efficient way possible. We have articles about how to run hybrid offices, figuring out when it's time to hire outside help, and how to work on cultural fit in your organization. Running a business is more than supplying services and selling a product to customers. It's also about operating an organization that reflects your personal values, your desire to make people's lives better, and giving them the tools they need to succeed.

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