What is Scrum?

Scrum is a management framework that teams use to self-organize and work towards a common goal. It describes a set of meetings, tools, and roles for efficient project delivery. Much like a sports team practicing for a big match, Scrum practices allow teams to self-manage, learn from experience, and adapt to change. Software teams use Scrum to solve complex problems cost effectively and sustainably. 

What is Scrum methodology?

Certain principles and values characterize Scrum methodology: 

Scrum principles for project success

Transparency

Teams work in an environment where everyone is aware of the challenges that others might be experiencing. Regular face-to-face conversations between cross-functional team members and project owners prevent miscommunication and information bottlenecks.

Reflection

Frequent reflection points are built into the framework to allow team members to review their progress. Project managers use insights from these review meetings for estimation and future planning. As a result, projects can run more efficiently, within budget, and on schedule.

Adaptation

Team members can reprioritize tasks based on changing customer requirements. They decide which tasks to complete first and which to revisit in the future.

Scrum values for project teams

Scrum Teams follow five core values.

Commitment

Scrum Team members are committed to time-based tasks and goals and are dedicated to continuous improvement to find the best solution.

Courage

Scrum Teams show courage by asking open, challenging questions. They have honest and transparent discussions to arrive at the best solution.

Focus

During any given period, team members will work from a Product Backlog of tasks. They will focus on the selected tasks to provide deliverables within a limited time frame.

Openness

Scrum Team members are open to new ideas and opportunities that support individual learning and overall project quality.

Respect

Team members respect the project managers, each other, and the Scrum process. This culture of respect creates a spirit of mutual collaboration and cooperation within the team.

How does Scrum work?

Scrum is a framework that is easy to learn but difficult to become an expert in. The co-creators of scrum, Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber, have explained the underlying concepts in The Scrum Guide. The guide gives a detailed overview of scrum processes and how to implement them effectively.

The essence of Scrum is a self-organizing team delivering customer value in a time-boxed period called a Sprint. Scrum defines artifacts, roles, and events associated with each Sprint. Let’s look at each of these in detail.

What are Scrum artifacts?

Scrum Teams use tools called Scrum artifacts to solve problems and manage projects. Scrum artifacts provide critical planning and task information to team members and stakeholders. There are three primary artifacts:

Product Backlog

The Product Backlog is a dynamic list of features, requirements, enhancements, and fixes that must be completed for project success. It is essentially the team’s to-do list, which is constantly revisited and reprioritized to adapt to market changes. The product owner maintains and updates the list, removing irrelevant items or adding new requests from customers.

Sprint Backlog

The Sprint Backlog is the list of items to be completed by the development team in the current Sprint cycle. Before each Sprint, the team chooses which items it will work on from the Product Backlog. A Sprint Backlog is flexible and can evolve during a Sprint.

Increment

The Increment is a step towards a goal or vision. It is the usable end product from a Sprint. Teams can adopt different methods to define and demonstrate their Sprint Goals. Despite the flexibility, the fundamental Sprint Goal—what the team wants to achieve from the current Sprint—can’t be compromised.

For example, some teams choose to release something to their customers at the end of the Sprint, so their Sprint Goal would be completed once the software change is released. Other teams might work on completing a set of features that will be released together. In this case, the Sprint Goal would be completed when a feature is tested successfully. 

What are Scrum roles?

A Scrum Team needs three specific roles: a Product Owner, Scrum leader, and development team.

Product Owner

The Product Owner focuses on ensuring the development team delivers the most value to the business. They understand and prioritize the changing needs of end users and customers. Effective product owners do the following:

  • Give the team clear guidance on which features to deliver next.
  • Bridge the gap between what the business wants and what the team understands.
  • Decide when and how frequently releases should happen.

Scrum leader

Scrum leaders are the champions for Scrum within their teams. They are accountable for the Scrum Team’s effectiveness. They coach teams, Product Owners, and the business to improve its Scrum processes and optimize delivery. Scrum leaders are also responsible for doing the following:
 
  • Schedule the resources needed for each Sprint.
  • Facilitate other Sprint events and team meetings.
  • Lead digital transformation within the team.
  • Facilitate any team training when adopting new technologies.
  • Communicate with external groups to solve any challenges the team might be facing as a whole.

Scrum development team

The Scrum Team consists of testers, designers, UX specialists, Ops engineers, and developers. Team members have different skill sets and cross-train each other, so no one person becomes a bottleneck in delivering work. 

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, recommends the two-pizza rule when deciding team size:A team should be small enough to share two pizzas. 

Scrum development teams do the following:

  • Work collaboratively to ensure a successful Sprint completion.
  • Champion sustainable development practices.
  • Self-organize and approach their projects with an evident we attitude.
  • Drive the planning and estimating for how much work they can complete for each Sprint.

What are Scrum events?

Scrum events or Scrum ceremonies are a set of sequential meetings that Scrum Teams perform regularly. Some Scrum events include the following:

Sprint Planning

In this event, the team estimates the work to be completed in the next Sprint. Members define Sprint Goals that are specific, measurable, and attainable. At the end of the planning meeting, every Scrum member knows how each Increment can be delivered in the Sprint.

Sprint

A Sprint is the actual time period when the Scrum Team works together to finish an Increment. Two weeks is the typical length for a Sprint but can vary depending on the needs of the project and the team. The more complex the work and the more unknowns, the shorter the Sprint should be.

Daily Scrum or stand-up

A Daily Scrum is a short meeting in which team members check in and plan for the day. They report on work completed and voice any challenges in meeting Sprint Goals. It is called a stand-up because it aims to keep the meeting as short as practical—like when everybody is standing.

Sprint Review

At the end of the Sprint, the team gets together for an informal session to review the work completed and showcase it to stakeholders. The Product Owner might also rework the Product Backlog based on the current Sprint.

Sprint Retrospective

The team comes together to document and discuss what worked and what didn’t work during the Sprint. Ideas generated are used to improve future Sprints.

Why is Scrum important in software development?

All kinds of teams, such as HR, marketing, and design, use Scrum effectively. However, Scrum is more prevalent in software development and engineering teams. It allows teams to respond faster to changing requirements without letting costs and budgets spin out of control. It is important for the following reasons:

Ability to maintain quality in challenging situations

Quality assurance checks are built into the Scrum framework. Teams define requirements at the start of each Sprint. Teams also comprehensively assess the software or product life cycle while establishing a team vision of done. This means requirements remain relevant and achievable within a short time frame. Regular Product Owner feedback and Sprint reviews allow continuous team improvement throughout the project. 

Increased return on investment

Scrum Teams prioritize requirements based on customer value and risk analysis. The focus is on developing a primary working product that can be released to market to gather early customer feedback. Scrum development is characterized by fewer costly defects, team efficiency, and a fail-fast approach that saves money in the long run. 

Happier and more productive teams

Self-managed and self-organized team structures allow members to be more creative and innovative. Members have the flexibility to organize their work according to their work styles, personalities, and personal life goals. Working cross-functionally allows members to learn new skills and mentor each other. As a result, Scrum creates an environment of support and trust, increasing people’s overall motivation and morale. 

Relevant metrics that improve estimation

Scrum Teams choose their own metrics to measure project performance. They estimate timelines, budgets, and quality metrics based on their experience and capabilities. The Product Owner has control because estimates are relative. Teams get more support at the beginning of the project and naturally speed up over time. Project stakeholders review working products and provide regular feedback to ensure the project stays on track.

Scrum vs. agile—what is the difference?

Agile refers to a mindset or way of thinking in software development. It is a philosophy adopted at an organizational level to get every team member to focus on continuous improvement and value delivery to customers. Scrum is a framework for getting work done within agile. Scrum uses all the core principles of agile to define methods to facilitate a project.However, it is important to note that agile does not always mean Scrum. Many different methodologies take an agile approach to project management.

How can Scrum development teams adopt DevOps?

DevOps combines cultural philosophies, practices, and tools that increase an organization’s ability to deliver applications and services at high velocity. DevOps removes the silo between development and operations teams. Engineers work across the entire application life cycle, from development to testing, deployment, and operations. This helps develop a range of skills not limited to a single function.
 
Scrum Teams are well placed to adopt DevOps. They are already cross-functional and iterative. Some ideas for DevOps integration include the following.
  • Automating software testing and writing new tests for every feature development
  • Using a technology stack and tools that support continuous deployment
  • Releasing changes to production at the end of each Sprint
AWS DevOps provides a set of flexible services designed to allow you to rapidly and reliably build and deliver products. Get started by setting up a free AWS account today.

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