Scrum was created to deal with the shortcomings of other project management methodologies in the fast-paced world of software development.
It is a lightweight framework for solving complex dynamic problems to deliver high-value products.
Using empirical methods, a Scrum Team measures progress to optimize productivity and minimize waste.
Scrum is not made of rigid rules that are followed sequentially; it is guided by flexible and adaptive best practices that help the Scrum Team self-organize and deal with unpredictability.
Scrum Team Roles and Responsibilities
A Scrum Team is made up of three primary roles. These are:
- The Scrum Master – Creates and sustains an environment for optimal productivity for the team. Guided by the Scrum philosophy, they seek to deliver value, increase agility and eliminate waste.
- A Product Owner – They have the vision, and care passionately about the solutions provided, the problems solved, and the customer. The Product Owner maximizes the value of the product to the customer and other stakeholders. They are solely responsible for managing the order of and defining the priority of the Product Backlog. They also make key decisions about the product and are solely responsible for telling the Development team what to do (but not how to do it). They sign off on the completion of deliverables.
- Development Team – This is a cross-functional team that has all the skills required to deliver the product. They self-organize to deliver value and are small enough to be nimble, but large enough to deliver the work within the allotted time.
Scrum and Sprints
The Scrum Team works in Sprints, a period of 1-4 weeks, that is agreed upon by the team as a good timeframe for accomplishing project goals.
Each Sprint is focused on completing items in the Product Backlog, an emergent, ordered list of requirements that will lead to the completion of the Product Goal, the team’s long-term objective.
Items that are being worked on during the Sprint are on the Scrum Board.
They move from “To Do” to “Busy” to “Done.” Each of these items has a Definition of Done and clearly defined parameters of success.
Scrum in Project Management: How Does it Work?
The Scrum Team plans what it wants to achieve during the Sprint Planning meeting.
During this planning period, team members also decide on a Definition of Done.
After reaching an agreement on Sprint Goals, the team begins work.
Scrum Team members check in during Daily Scrums, a 15-minute standup meeting led by the Scrum Master, in which the team members discuss their progress, service dependencies, or impediments to completing Increments that will lead to achieving the Sprint Goal.
At the end of the Sprint, the Scrum Master and Development Team meets with the Product Owner during a Sprint Review where they collectively inspect results, making sure they fit the Definition of Done.
After the Sprint Review, the Scrum Master and Development Team runs a Sprint Retrospective, discussing how they can optimize their way of work during the next Sprint.
Upon completion of a Sprint, the cycle is repeated until the Project Goal is achieved.
What Does a Scrum Master Do?
Simply put, the Scrum Master promotes and supports the use of Scrum.
They help everybody understand Scrum Theory, practices and rules, focusing on transparency, driving empiricism, and facilitating both self-organization and improvement. They are focused on enabling flow, driving the process, helping team members learn, removing impediments, and raising transparency.
As servant leaders, they seek to serve others, promoting a sense of community and a holistic approach to work. They do not seek to be “bosses,” which could hinder transparency. To achieve this, Scrum Masters are guided by a set of core values that include:
The Scrum Master shares decision-making power with the Product Owner while protecting the team from distractions and driving value. Additionally, they are responsible for removing impediments and problems that might prevent the Development Team from being successful.
The Scrum Master leads Daily Scrums. They facilitate the removal of obstacles to allow the team of developers to focus on working with minimal interruption.
How is Scrum Useful in Project Management?
As we noted above, Scrum was created for fast-paced software development projects, to address limitations in other project management methodologies.
For instance, in the Waterfall methodology, product requirements were created but often missed crucial details, especially since the customer often couldn’t articulate what they wanted. Then product features would be developed over long periods, followed by a period of bug fixing. Often, at the end of these long cycles of development, software features were no longer desirable because some business realities had changed. Also, since bugs were fixed at the end of development, fixing them was costly because they were embedded in the software.
Seeking to be more adaptable, Scrum created a shorter, more iterative cycle of development to quickly deliver the most desirable software features. By shortening the build cycles, the Development team minimized the time and finances wasted delivering features that were no longer seen as adding value to the customer or organization.
Teams benefit from using Scrum because it:
- Helps teams work together cohesively, leading to frequent collaboration and building strong interpersonal relationships that engender trust.
- Minimizes distractions and obstacles that could hinder development.
- Provides a daily opportunity to improve work efficiency through continuous feedback.
- Provides quick delivery of software products in short periods.
- Involves the stakeholders in sprint review meetings, thus improving the team’s work.
Organizations benefit from Scrum because it:
- Allows defects in the product to be found early in development.
- Centralizes responsibility to the Product Owner to ensure customer satisfaction.
- Increases trust and satisfaction by showing stakeholders results often.
- Delivers performance against budget, quality, and timelines that are important to the organization.
- Leads to an increase in sales while reducing support costs.
- Minimizes staff requirements by detecting errors early.
- Reduces risks from potential issues early in the development cycle.
The fast-paced world of software development has been revolutionized by the rapid cycles of iteration provided by the Scrum Framework.
Today’s dev teams are much more integrated thanks to Scrum, providing better feedback as the result of increased transparency and constant iteration.
In turn, organizations have benefited from the reduced development and support costs, while increasing their sales to increasingly satisfied customers.