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Introduction to Scrum

Read this introduction to Scrum methodologies to get started with Agile product management.

The Scrum framework nurtures effective team behaviour to build successful Agile working cultures and support Agile ways of working.

Scrum is not a methodology; it is a process framework that helps teams solve complex problems. It is used to develop and deliver products of the highest possible value, within a specified timeframe.

To understand the very basics of Scrum, watch Megan Cook from Jira Software talk about the definition of Scrum, key benefits, and important parts of the framework. [1]

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

The Scrum framework

Scrum encourages teams to learn through experiences, self-organise while working on a problem, and celebrate wins and losses to continuously improve. The image below gives an overview of the Scrum framework. The meetings, tools, and roles help teams structure and manage their work.

Graphic shows the overview of the Scrum framework. The process starts with the "Product backlog" to "Sprint planning" to "Sprint backlog" to "Daily Scrum" with 1 scrum team to "Sprint review" to either "Increment" or back to "Product backlog". From "Increment" it then goes to "Sprint retrospective" then back to "Sprint planning".Click to enlarge

Do the terms used in the Scrum framework sound unfamiliar? Not to worry, we will start with a brief overview of Scrum teams, artefacts, and ceremonies below to clarify what all of these mean. Then later in the course, we will dive deeper into the meanings and uses.

The official Scrum Guide outlines the framework in more detail.

Download: Scrum Guide [2]

The Scrum team

Although the specific roles on a Scrum team can vary depending on the product or industry, several roles are necessary for a Scrum to succeed.

The core roles are:

  • Product Owner: The responsibilities are to set the vision and direction, manage the Scrum backlog, and balance the needs of all stakeholders. This role serves as a bridge between the business and the Scrum team.
  • Scrum Master: The responsibilities are to ensure Scrum is effective across the team, to break large initiatives into manageable chunks, to support the development team, and to create a Scrum-friendly environment. The role acts as the bridge between the Product Owner and the development team.
  • The development team: The responsibilities of the development team include doing the work within the sprint, participating in Scrum processes and ceremonies, and practising Scrum values. A typical team is between five to nine people in diverse roles, such as developer, business analyst, and designer.

Scrum artefacts

In software development, the term ‘artefact’ is used to describe the key information needed through the development of a product. Scrum artefacts are used to provide insight into the performance of the sprint, making them a valuable resource for reflection and improvement.

The Scrum artefacts are:

  • Product backlog: This is a living artefact, a constant changing list of enhancements, new features, and bug fixes, tasks, or other requirements that need to be built into the product.
  • Sprint backlog: This is the collection of tasks that are needed to deliver on an item within the product backlog for a specific sprint.
  • Product increment: This is a step towards the vision or the goal and is the sum of all product backlog items completed during a sprint in addition to all the increments of previous sprints.

Scrum ceremonies

Product, sprint backlogs and product increments are facilitated by Scrum ceremonies. These four ceremonies are repeated at key points in every sprint:

  • Sprint planning takes place at the beginning of a sprint.
  • Daily Scrum is a brief daily stand-up, usually every morning.
  • Sprint review takes place at the end of a sprint or milestone.
  • Sprint retrospective is always at the end of an iteration.

Scrum mistakes to avoid

While Scrum is designed to be practical and achievable, that doesn’t mean teams can implement it automatically. From values to processes, your organisation or team needs to set up the right conditions to use Scrum successfully. Certain industries and types of projects are better suited to Scrum than others. The choice to use Scrum should be based on the suitability of the approach for the work that needs to be done.

Scrum is effective when:

  • there is buy-in from every member of the team
  • the full process is implemented (no picking and choosing what parts you want to keep)
  • the top priority is the tasks that add the most value, both to the customer and to the business
  • tasks are set up to be completed simultaneously (as opposed to sequentially)
  • time and cost are constants, allowing the project scope to change when necessary
  • scrum teams are empowered to lead the charge on product development.

To enrich your learning, read 10 Scrum pitfalls to avoid [3]

Over to you

Is your team or organisation well suited to use Scrum successfully? What do you feel might be the obstacles to implementing this framework in your context?
Share your response in the comments below.

References

1. What is Scrum? [Video]. Agile Coach; 2018. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b02ZkndLk1Y

2. The Scrum Guide [PDF]. Scrum; 2020. Available from: https://www.scrum.org/resources/scrum-guide

3. Layton MC. 10 Scrum pitfalls to avoid [Internet]. Dummies; 2016. Available from: https://www.dummies.com/careers/project-management/10-scrum-pitfalls-to-avoid

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