What is Scrum? Scrum Methodology - Roles, Artifacts, Events, & Values

What is Scrum?

Scrum is a simple empirical process that enables teams to build products incrementally in iterations, to keep abreast of the changing market needs and align themselves to the organization's business goals.

"Scrum is an agile process that allows us to focus on delivering the highest business value in the shortest time."
- Mike Cohn, Mountain Goat Software

Scrum advocates self-organizing teams working towards a common goal through continuous inspection and adaptation. A minimum viable product at the end of each iteration provides an option for the teams to quickly get feedback from end users and respond much faster.

Jile for Scrum teams

Watch how Jile helps teams adopt scrum practices to manage the product backlog, plan and track iterations, manage impediments and iteration retrospectives.

Scrum Methodology

Scrum is simple light weighted agile project management methodology that enables product teams to build products incrementally in an iterative fashion through effective team collaboration. Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland are co-creators of Scrum and continue to contribute significantly to the evolution of Scrum.

Scrum forms the base for many of the other frameworks and hence it is important for an agile practitioner to understand this methodology.

The Scrum Methodology is defined by:

  • Scrum Roles
  • Scrum Events
  • Scrum Artifacts
  • Scrum Values

Scrum has gained popularity in the software development community. Scrum Methodology has proven to scale across multiple teams of large organization with 900+ people. See how Jile supports Scrum Methodology.

Scrum Methodology Figure 1 : Scrum Methodology

What are Scrum Roles?

The scrum team is made up of three roles: A Product Owner, a Scrum Master and the Development Team.

1. Product Owner:

A Product Owner in a scrum team decides what needs to be built. This person has complete knowledge about the market and business needs, has a vision, and owns the return on investment (ROI) or the value delivered by the product.

Unlike traditional delivery, this person is a part of the team that delivers the product.

Following are the key responsibilities of the Product Owner:

  • Creates the vision
  • Represents business, and is responsible for the ROI
  • Cascades the vision to the teams
  • Owns the backlog of features
  • Prioritizes features by market value
  • Is empowered to take decisions
  • Negotiates with the team and business to deliver the right product at the right time

2. Scrum Master:

The Scrum Master is not a management title and cannot make decisions on behalf of the team. The Scrum Master's major responsibility is to ensure that scrum is understood and practiced by every team member in the true spirit.

The Scrum Master should understand the different skill sets of his or her team and group them by having the right sheep in the right flock. A Scrum Master should guide the team such that the team does not go astray and fall prey to excess time and energy.

Just like a shepherd, a Scrum Master must draw out quiet people during stand-up meetings or when planning poker sessions. Whenever the team loses focus or a team member goes astray, the Scrum Master aka the shepherd should bring the lost one back to the flock and guide appropriately.

The Scrum Master should not enforce agile practices on the team, but should do a 'Servant leadership' role. Scrum Master should lead by example and be a living demonstration of team assets and scrum values.

He or she should create an environment of safety for the team, and guide and facilitate team collaboration. He or she should refrain from solving problems or making decisions by guiding teams to do so.

To summarize, a Scrum Master:

  • Is a servant leader - mentors and coaches the teams on scrum theory and practices, guides them on how they need to adapt to those, thereby realizing the benefits of scrum both at team level and organization level.
  • Helps remove obstacles/impediments - supports the Development teams in removing the impediments by reaching out to the right people, thereby ensuring a smooth development progress without disrupting the team.
  • Facilitates collaboration - enables interactions within the team as well as between the team and the Product Owner.
  • Teaches scrum - to the team.
  • Protects the teams - from external disruptions such as changes to stories in the current sprint.
  • Is a change agent - in growing the organization to deliver early and often, and removing waste.

3. The Development team:

The Development team in scrum is the team that has all the skills necessary to execute the backlog items. This team is not a normal team but is committed, dedicated, and motivated to perform the best.

It is a self-organizing team that collaborates, shares their special skills and knowledge and are committed completely to fulfil the objective.

The following are the special characteristics of 'The Development team':

  • Self-organizing - the Development team will be a self-managing group, who will decide on the tasks that they will work on incrementally. There is no 'Manager', who controls their work.
  • Empowered - the team should commit to work, determine 'HOW' to deliver and decide on 'HOW MUCH' to deliver in one iteration.
  • Cross-functional - the team does not segregate members as agile developers, testers or analysts and each member has the necessary skills to deliver the product increment.
  • Small-sized - the Development team should ideally have 5 to 9 team members with skills sufficient to deliver the committed work. Smaller teams will not have the bandwidth to complete a considerable work and larger teams will increase the complexity.
  • Co-located - the agile team is typically co-located to ensure effective collaboration.
  • Committed - since the team is empowered to take decisions on the scope of work in a sprint, they are committed to delivery, should be transparent on the progress, and highlight the impediments early on.
  • Dedicated - this team is focused and is 100% dedicated to product delivery.

Unlike traditional methodologies, where the commitment to deliver is made to business by the team that is not involved in the execution, in Agile, the team that does the work commits to how much work can be executed in a sprint.

The Development team decides how much work is to be done in a sprint, and commits to delivering a 'potentially shippable product increment (PSPI)', without sacrificing quality and speed. The team also makes continuous self-improvements.

What are Scrum Artifacts?

Scrum focuses more on a working software at the end of every sprint rather than comprehensive documentation. This does not imply that there is no documentation at all. The documentation is to facilitate collaboration and interactions, rather than tracking.

The progress is always measured through a working software. Scrum Documentation has three main artifacts namely: Product backlog, Sprint backlog, Increment.

1. Product backlog:

A product backlog is a dynamic list of functionalities the product might include, such that it provides value to users.

The Product Owner maintains this list and is responsible for creating, managing, and prioritizing the backlog by focusing on 'WHAT' brings the highest value to the users. These are a few unique characteristics of a product backlog:

  • It is dynamic in nature as it evolves based on changing market needs
  • Lists all the features and capabilities that will be taken up in iteration and delivered as a product increment
  • It is refined on a continuous basis. The Product Owner and Development team collaborate and update the details, estimate, and prioritize based on business value and size

2. Sprint backlog:

Sprint backlog is a subset of the entire product backlog that the scrum team plans to implement in one iteration or sprint.

During the sprint planning, the team selects items from the product backlog that they commit to complete in one sprint and thereby, create the sprint backlog. The Product Owner and Scrum Master should not provide inputs that may impact the team's decision. Sprint backlog has:

  • Subset of product backlog items that the teams commit to implement in one sprint
  • Items broken into smaller pieces of work as tasks
  • A focus on 'HOW' the team does the work and delivers the value in one sprint
  • A story or task board that is used by the teams to view backlog and what the individuals sign up for work after backlog prioritization
  • Provision for the Development teams to track the sprint progress and check their alignment with sprint goals

3. Increment:

An increment is the work delivered at the end of every sprint. Typically, after every iteration there will be a Product Increment (PI) that delivers value and the final product will be a working software.

This increment is a sum of all the capabilities that were delivered in the previous sprints as a part of the PI. At the end of every sprint, the Product Owner decides whether to release the working product increment or wait until the next release.

What are Scrum Events?

All scrum activities are time-boxed and allow teams to inspect their current work and implement those learnings in future time-boxes.

Heart of Scrum - The Sprint

At the heart of scrum, is the 'Sprint'. The sprint is a time-boxed iteration, typically ranging from 1 to 4 weeks, at the end of which, a potentially shippable product increment is delivered by the Development team.

The sprint has the following characteristics:

  • Does not exceed a maximum of one calendar month as this will increase the risk due to changes in requirements and therefore, may not provide the perceived business value at the end of the sprint
  • Has a goal or 'definition of done' associated with every sprint that actually measures the success of the sprint
  • Can be cancelled by the Product Owner, if the goal or the need for the sprint becomes obsolete due to changing market needs

Scrum advocates specific types of activities or meetings within a sprint to avoid the traditional formal meetings. These events and meetings are conducted at regular intervals and happen at specific periods of the sprint.

Typical Scrum Events are:

  • Sprint planning
  • Daily scrum
  • Sprint review
  • Sprint retrospective

Product backlog refinement (continuous activity throughout the sprint)

Product backlog refinement is a continuous activity throughout the sprint, where the Product Owner ensures that the product backlog is in order. The Product Owner performs the following tasks to ensure that the product backlog is relevant:

  • Removes or demotes product backlog items that no longer seem important
  • Adds or promotes product backlog items that become more important
  • Splits product backlog items into smaller items or merges smaller ones into larger items and estimates those

How to manage product backlog?

Create product backlog with detailed descriptions, estimate, rank and prioritize the features or capabilities in the backlog. The features can be further broken down into user stories and estimated and prioritized for execution by the teams.

1. Sprint planning (8 hours for a one- month Sprint & lesser duration for shorter Sprints)

Sprint planning meeting happens at the start of every sprint. This helps the Product Owner and Development teams to plan the product backlog items that will be taken up for implementation during the sprint. The Development team performs the following activities during this meeting:

  • Considers and discusses product backlog items with the Product Owner
  • Ensures a shared understanding about those items
  • Selects a number of items that they estimate to complete
  • Creates a sufficiently detailed plan to complete the selected items

How to do sprint planning?

Create a time-boxed sprint within a release. Pick the most highly ranked backlog items and plan those into the respective sprints based on the sprint capacity using intuitive planning boards.

There are two activities to be done to ensure that the above are achieved:

Part I: Define 'WHAT' work will be done

  • Product Owner renders prioritized product backlog to the Development team
  • The whole scrum team collaborates to understand the work
  • The Development team is empowered and solely decides how much work is to be taken based on sprint capacity.
  • The scrum team crafts a goal called the sprint goal as the essential focus of that sprint

Part II: Explain 'HOW' the work will get done

  • Development team decides how to produce the next product increment that meets 'definition of done'
  • Sufficient design and planning is conducted to complete the committed work
  • Work to be done in initial days is split into small units of one day or even less
  • Work to be done later are split whenever needed

2. Daily scrum (15 minutes)

Daily scrum is a 15-minute time-boxed event in which the team manages its daily activities. Daily Scrum is also called the daily stand-up meeting.

The scrum team meets every day, preferably at the same time and same place, so that it becomes a habit. During the meeting, each member answers three critical questions:

  • What did I get done yesterday?
  • What will I get done today?
  • Are there any impediments blocking me?

It is essential that all the members of the development team are available for the daily stand-up meeting. The daily stand-up meeting is for the Development team to track progress towards the sprint goal, and they should participate enthusiastically to collaborate with each other.

The daily scrum also ensures that the impediments blocking the progress of the sprint are identified and resolved without further delay. Detailed problem solving does not happen during this meeting. Broadcasting individual updates to everyone in the team avoids unnecessary meetings.

This event enhances team communication and transparency, thereby enabling teams to be self-organized and take faster decisions.

How to execute sprints?

Use Jile's scrum boards for daily scrums and keep a tab on the progress of execution of tasks on a daily basis. You can log the work hours for team members, check their availability and utilization.

3. Sprint review (4 hours for a one- month Sprint & lesser duration for shorter Sprints)

A sprint review is an event that happens at the end of every sprint, where the scrum team demonstrates the work that is done in the sprint to the stakeholders. The following happens during this meeting:

  • A demo of the product increment showcasing the new features and underlying technology
  • Feedback from the review provides input to the team to further discuss on refining the existing backlogs and plan for future sprints
  • The Scrum Master facilitates this review meeting that is typically attended by all the stakeholders invited by the Product Owner
  • Sprint review is essentially a way in which the team inspects and adapts to the next sprint and the overall product release

How to track sprint progress?

Get a real-time progress of all the artefacts, sprint burn down charts, CFDs and many more. Track the stories, tasks completed in that sprint, the status of the impediments and dependencies.

4. Sprint retrospective (3 - hours for a one - month Sprint & lesser duration for shorter Sprints):

During a sprint retrospective meeting, the scrum team inspects the previously completed sprint and identifies areas of improvement to be enacted for the upcoming sprints. This happens after every sprint and right after sprint review in which the whole scrum team participates.

During this meeting:

  • The team introspects on what went well in terms of collaboration, planning, process, and tools
  • They try to identify potential improvements that can be taken up in the next sprint to make the scrum processes more efficient by learning from previous shortfalls
  • They decide on what could be done in the next sprint by taking into consideration the major improvements
  • Scrum Master ensures that the teams improve their skills and knowledge during the scrum process so that they become more efficient in the next sprint
  • The team focuses on improving their entire delivery cycle
  • The three typical questions that the team answers are:
    • What shall we start doing?
    • What shall we stop doing?
    • What shall we keep doing?

All the above events in the scrum process framework enable teams to deliver a potentially shippable working software in short iterations. This also enables teams to capture feedback, inspect, and adapt for the next iteration.

How to perform sprint retrospective?

No sprint is complete without sprint retrospection! Identify 'What went well', 'What can be improved' and the action items to be taken up to deliver better results in the next sprint.

What are Scrum Values?

Scrum also states five core values to which teams have to adhere. The core values are: Commitment, Courage, Focus, Openness, and Respect. These values should be imbibed and lived by the scrum team to ensure the fulfilment of scrum pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation. It builds trust among everyone.

Successful use of scrum depends on people becoming more proficient in these 5 values

  • People personally commit to achieving the goals of the scrum team
  • The scrum team members have the courage to do the right thing and work on tough problems
  • Everyone focuses on the work of the sprint and the goals of the scrum team
  • The scrum team and its stakeholders agree to be open to all the work and the challenges that they encounter while performing the work
  • Scrum team members respect each other and consider everyone to be capable and independent

Benefits of Scrum methodology:

One of the main drawbacks of project management is the uncertainty of the results, so it is unthinkable to assure a project's success at its completion. Scrum ensures to be iterative, fast, and adaptive enough to deliver results as soon as possible in a project to decrease the gap between start and finish. Below are the reasons why scrum methodology is effective.

  • Quick scrum deliverables - The projects practicing scrum framework are likely to deliver their outcomes (scrum deliverables) sooner in a productive manner.
  • Easy to groom - Using the Scrum framework makes it flexible for everyone to refine in case any mistakes are identified mid-way and to fix those mistakes.
  • Thrift usage - Time and money used effectively, whenever needed, thereby producing budget-friendly projects in a short period.
  • Easy to cope - Scrum being a sub-group of agile can encompass changes in its project that are required by the client at ease with the help of its short sprint cycles and regular feedback.
  • Lightweight process - This includes that the Scrum framework receives periodic updates of the progress done throughout the sprint through the events.
  • Manageable units - However large a project may be, it could always be broken down into feasible items that can be realized in achievable sprints.
  • Versatile - Grants access to any stage of development and allows maximum changeable actions within the scope of scrum methodology.
  • Direct and clear - Each team member is aware in great clarity of each other's advancement made during the daily stand-up meetings.

Want to try a Scrum software for free?

Commonly, an individual scrum team uses Scrum tools such as sticky notes, a spreadsheet, or a whiteboard to manage the product backlog and measure the progress of the sprint backlogs in each sprint. This practice becomes complex once the team scales agile practices across the organization or to the enterprise level. The more teams use scrum within an organization that is geographically distributed, the more complicated it becomes with simple tools such as sticky notes, a spreadsheet, or a whiteboard.

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