• Project management
  • by Krzysztof Sowa
  • 09/10/2019

Beginner’s Guide to Scrum in Project Management

Everyone who has ever worked with software engineers or in the tech industry has heard the words “Agile” and “Scrum,” often used interchangeably. But what exactly do they mean? What is Scrum in project management? What are the different roles, events, and artifacts in Scrum? Don’t worry; I’m going to…

Beginner’s Guide to Scrum in Project Management
Beginner’s Guide to Scrum in Project Management

Everyone who has ever worked with software engineers or in the tech industry has heard the words “Agile” and “Scrum,” often used interchangeably. But what exactly do they mean? What is Scrum in project management? What are the different roles, events, and artifacts in Scrum?

Don’t worry; I’m going to answer all of these questions in this article. Welcome to beginner’s guide to Scrum in project management – featuring everything you need to know about this approach today.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is Agile?

People entering the world of software development often confuse Scrum with Agile. But there’s a key distinction between the two terms.

Agile refers to a set of methods and practices based on the principles and values that were expressed in the Agile Manifesto.

Have a look at the Manifesto’s text, and you’ll see that it talks about general values like collaboration, cross-functionality, and self-organization of teams. But it doesn’t tell us how teams can get there.

Scrum is a framework teams can use to implement the principles of agile development. And it’s only one of many different approaches to product development, others being Extreme Programming (XP), Feature Driven Development, DSDM Atern, and many others.

The agile methodology emerged out of techniques used by innovative Japanese companies like Honda or Toyota in the 1970s and 1980s. In the mid-1990s, Jeff Sutherland discovered the agile methods used by these companies and created the Scrum framework. After the stream of initial successes, Scrum quickly spread throughout the software development landscape where it rules today.

What is Scrum?

Scrum is an agile framework that was designed to help teams in iterative and incremental product delivery. It focuses on the use of several empirical processes that allow teams to respond to change quickly and efficiently.

While traditional project management methods concentrate on fixing requirements to control time and cost, Scrum works in a different way – it fixes the time and cost to deliver products of the highest possible value. To accomplish that, Scrum uses events, time boxes, a well-prioritized Product Backlog, and frequent feedback cycles.

Note that in order to work, Scrum requires excellent collaboration between the team and the customer. That’s how teams get to create great products in a lean way.

Scrum is a framework, which means that it provides teams with a structure for delivery. It doesn’t specify how teams should carry out specific practices, letting them determine the best course of action on their own.

Scrum in project management – how does it work?

Here’s a summary of how Scrum works in practice during a project:

  1. The project starts with a general vision and a set of product features, ordered from most to least important ones. All these features will land in the Product Backlog, which will be maintained by the Product Owner.
  2. Together with the Development Team, the Product Owner will forecast the features to be completed during a time box which in Scrum is called a Sprint. A Sprint can last from one to four weeks. Software development teams usually set sprints to two weeks.
  3. Once the Sprint Backlog of tasks is ready, the Development Team begins working on it. During the Sprint, the team stays in touch by meeting every day in 15-minute meetings called Daily Scrum.
  4. At the end of every Sprint, the Development Team shows a demo of the completed work to all the relevant stakeholders and gathers feedback to use it during the following Sprint. The team also takes time to reflect on their workflow with the aim of improving it in the next sprint.

Scrum roles

Scrum includes three different roles: the Development Team, the Product Owner, and the Scrum Master.

The Development Team consists of people who are responsible for the delivery of the product. Note that in Scrum, it’s the team that owns estimates, commits to tasks, and participates during the Daily Scrum meetings. The idea here is creating a team which is self-organizing; where structure emerges without any external intervention. It’s up to the team to choose how to build a product.

The Product Owner represents the customer’s interests in product development. It’s the person who will make final decisions about the product, own the Product Backlog, and communicate the product vision to the team. Another important responsibility of the Product Owner is defining and prioritizing Product Backlog Items. The Product Owner works with the Development Team and Scrum Master on a daily basis, answering questions, and providing guidance.

The Scrum Master‘s priority is Scrum. The idea behind this role is promoting and supporting Scrum and creating an advocate for the team who facilitates communication, removes obstacles, mediates discussions within the team, and negotiates with external stakeholders.

Scrum events

Organizations apply Scrum through a series of specific events (or meetings). Among them are:

  • Sprint Planning,
  • Daily Scrum,
  • Sprint Review
  • Sprint Retrospective.

Here’s a short overview of Scrum in project management.

Sprint Planning

The Sprint Planning meeting happens on the first day of each Sprint. The Scrum Master, Product Owner, and the Development Team all participate in the meeting to discuss the work to be completed during the sprint. The Product Owner presents the set of features they would like the team to finish, while the Development Team identifies the tasks required to complete these features. The Development Team uses work estimates and findings from previous Sprints to forecast whether it’s possible to complete all the features requested in the Sprint. If so, the Development Team can commit to the Sprint. If not, low-priority features to land in the Product Backlog until the Sprint workload is small enough to achieve the team’s commitment.

Once the Sprint Planning meeting is complete, the Development Team starts to track its progress using the task board. The task board helps to track the progress of the tasks for each feature on a board that consists of columns marked as To Do, In Progress, and Done.

Daily Scrum meetings

The Daily Scrum is an event which – as its name suggests – happens every day. The Development Team members meet for a short, 15-minute meeting to update one another about their progress. Each team member tells others what they did yesterday and what they’re planning to do today. The Scrum Master is present during this meeting as well. If team members report obstacles or other problems, it’s the Scrum Master’s job to take care of them.

Sprint Review

At the end of the Sprint, the team shows all the work completed during the Sprint to the project stakeholders. The primary objective of a Sprint Retrospective is to demonstrate the completed work and gathering valuable feedback. The Product Owner’s job is tracking the feedback and incorporating it into the Product Backlog.

Sprint Retrospective

Once the Sprint Review meeting is over, the team carries out a Sprint Retrospective. This is the moment for reflecting upon the way in which the team completed the work. The meeting focuses on identifying what went well and what the team was struggling with – and how to improve that in the next Sprints. Together with the Scrum Master, the team created an action plan and implements its items over the course of the next Sprint.

Scrum Artifacts

Scrum defines three primary Artifacts: the Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, and Product Increment. They all foster a shared understanding of the work and team transparency. While the Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog describe work to be done, the product Increment is the portion of the product completed by the Team during a Sprint.

  • Product Backlog – it answers the question: “What is most important to build next?” Product development is a dynamic process today, and Teams usually regularly update and refine the Product Backlog so that it matches the changing requirements.
  • Sprint Backlog – it includes both the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the Sprint, as well as the Development Team’s plan for delivering the product Increment and realizing the Sprint Goal. It works as a real-time view of the work the Team aims to accomplish during the Sprint.
  • Increment – in Scrum, the Development Team’s goal is delivering a new product Increment every Sprint. The Team needs to agree on a definition of Done to build transparency and provide it with guidance.

Conclusion

Scrum in project management is an essential framework for development teams today. Its roles, artifacts, and events have a profound impact on how companies create new digital products. I hope this guide helps you understand the specifics of Scrum and agile methodology.

At Concise Software, we follow battle-tested processes and industry standards to help our clients build high-quality software. If you’d like to learn more about how we work and what our teams could achieve in your project, get in touch with our consultants!

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Krzysztof Sowa

Technical Project Manager in Concise Software with a developer background, especially in mobile apps (Google Certified Associate Android Developer) and automotive systems. Scrum lover, certificated PSM I, PSPO I & AgilePM, who loves sharing their knowledge with IT communities (e.g. GDG). Husband, father and passionate photographer @ The Owls Photography.

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