Scrum

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Last updated 22 Nov 12:44

TL;DR

Scrum is a framework that enables the team members to work together. It is a set of meetings, tools, and roles that helps the team manage the work. Scrum is simple to understand and difficult to master.

What Is Scrum

Scrum is a framework focused on a productive and creative delivery of complex products with an emphasis on the highest possible value.

Scrum became a very popular agile methodology in the early 1990s together with Kanban or Extreme programming (XP). Co-creators Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber have defined a brief document The Scrum Guide. The Guide explains the Scrum within a definition which consists of Scrum's roles, events, artifacts and detailed rules that connects them together:

  1. Roles
    The Scrum Team consists of just three roles: Product Owner, Scrum Master and the Team.
  2. Events
    Prescribed events are used to create regularity and to minimize the need for meetings not defined in Scrum. The heart of Scrum is a Sprint during which a "done", useable and potentially releasable product Increment is created. The other events are Planning, Daily Scrum (also known as Daily Meeting or Stand-up), Review (or Demo) and Retrospective.
  3. Artifacts
    Artifacts are designed to maximize transparency of key information so that everybody has the same understanding of the artifact. The Scrum Artifacts are Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, and Increment.

Scrum
Source: Scrum.org: Scrum Framework Poster

Why You Might Want Scrum

  • Better quality and customer satisfaction
    The main focus is to provide new features or corrections frequently and collect feedback from customers as quick as possible.
  • Lower production costs
    Companies with Scrum experience noticed an increased return on investment and project control, reduced risk and time to market. Compared to waterfall projects, regular feedback per each sprint enables course corrections early which is less costly and time-consuming than later in the process. This reduces (besides other things) cost of failure.
  • High team morale
    Scrum emphasizes on self-organization, collaboration, working cross-functionally and sustainable work practices. Being part of that team allows people to be creative, innovative, and acknowledged for their expertise.

Problems the Scrum Helps to Solve

How to Implement Scrum

  1. Consider whether Scrum is appropriate for your project
    Scrum fits perfectly into complex projects where is a high level of requirements and a very wide scope in the future. Scrum is appropriate when the customer needs are fast-changing.
  2. Create the initial Product Backlog
    It is a priority list of all features that need to be done within the project. The Project usually contains three types of work items: Epic, User stories, and Tasks.
  3. Appoint a Scrum Master and a Product Owner
    The Scrum Master ensures that the team is effective and progressive. His role does not imply dictating what the team will work on. The main function is to lead the team through the Scrum work system.
    The Product Owner represents the business or user community and is responsible for prioritization, that is what features will be in the product and sprint backlog.
  4. Build the team
    Define your first work team which consists of 5 - 9 members. These members all have a combination of competencies. When it comes to larger and more complex teams, the best thing to do is to apply a scaled agile framework (for example LeSS) and split the team.
  5. Define Scrum elements
    Sprint duration is generally between one and four weeks. In case you do not know how much time is the most appropriate, it is advisable to start with two weeks and then find the best timing.
  6. Plan and start the Sprint
    The team brainstorms and decides on what and how much they can complete in the upcoming sprint. The Product Owner is actively involved as well. Based on his/her prioritization, they pick items from the product backlog and place them into the sprint backlog. The meeting is called the Sprint planning.
  7. Make work and Daily Meetings (stand-ups) visible
    Every day at the same time, and for a maximum of 15 minutes, the team and the Scrum Master participate in the Daily, where three key questions are answered:
    • "What did I do yesterday to help the team finish the Sprint?"
    • "What am I going to do tomorrow to help the team finish the Sprint?"
    • "What obstacles do I have in my path or in the team’s path?"
  8. Arrange the Sprint Review
    In that Scrum meeting, there is essential to show real progress on the product to make decisions in case where reality is not in line with expectation.
  9. The Retrospective of the Sprint
    One of the key ideas of Scrum is allowing everyone to participate in the improvement process. The results of the Retrospective meeting are insights what went well, what could be done better next time.
  10. Start the next cycle of the sprint, immediately
    When the end of the time box is reached, all planned work should be done. The process begins again and the changes will start to become visible.

Common Pitfalls of Scrum

  • "Faux Scrum"

    Sometimes organizations will say that they are "doing Scrum". They may apply some of the Scrum events but they have not embraced the principles of agile and are ultimately creating waterfall deliverables and products under the false Scrum titles. This is a sure path to avoiding the benefits of Scrum.

    Tip: Look up for the help of an agile mentor. Without the support of professionals who can help guide teams through new approaches, the new scrum teams may find themselves falling back into old habits.

  • Lack of training

    It follows the point above. At the beginning of the project, do not forget to give teams the right foundation of competencies which is necessary at the start of your scrum transition. Examples of skills critical to success are of competencies and can include developers, testers, support, designers or business analysis.

    Tip: Investment in a hands-on training class will provide a quicker, better learning environment than even the best book, blog, or white paper.

  • Ineffective Product Owner

    Scrum teams need a Product Owner who is an expert on business needs and priorities and can work well with the rest of the scrum team on a daily basis. Start the project with a person who has the time, expertise, positive relation to the product and temperament to be a good product owner.

  • Distributed teams

    Scrum prefers collocated teams as a distribution of team members impedes direct and open communication which in turn reduces productivity and quality. Focus on moving them together.

  • Problem-solving in the Daily Scrum
    Daily Scrum is neither for discussing problems nor for finding solutions to those problems. That is the reason why the meeting is time-boxed and limited to answering the three questions.

  • Focus On Tools

    In brief, tools are not important - people and principles are.

Resources for Scrum