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What is Scrum? Everything you need to know!

If you are looking for a Scrum Bootcamp, then you are in the right place. This Scrum refresher article will cover everything you need to know about what is Scrum.

Let’s begin.

What is Scrum?

Scrum is a framework used by organizations and teams to build, deliver, and maintain their products in a rapidly changing environment. Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland developed Scrum in the early 1990s to address the problems people faced when completing a project in an environment where sudden changes are expected.

Originally, Scrum was designed as a project management methodology for software development projects. But nowadays, Scrum is used beyond just software development as people can now use it in just about any industry. For example, Fortune 500 companies like Google and Amazon use Scrum to streamline their business operations.  

The theory behind Scrum is that any project, no matter how large, can be completed through a series of small, iterative, and incremental steps. Scrum aims to quickly deliver a valuable increment to a client before gathering feedback, which the team will use to optimize their product before repeating the process again and again. 

Scrum’s philosophy promotes empiricism and focusing only on what’s essential to your project’s success.

Empiricism: A theory that believes that all knowledge comes only from experience. Meaning, things that are yet to be touched, studied, felt, or experienced don’t exist.

Also Read: Software Development Life Cycle Models

To properly implement Scrum, you have to respect the three pillars that uphold Scrum!

  1. Transparency: Transparency in Scrum means that the people building the product and the people receiving the product must be equally informed about the state, progress, and other project information. It means that all interested parties must share information without hiding any part of it. Thus, transparency enables everyone to make more informed decisions regarding the project as all relevant data is available. It also allows meaningful inspection.
  2. Inspection: Inspection is the consistent examination of Scrum artifacts and progress in a bid to detect problems early. Inspection is done by the whole Scrum team instead of an individuals. Scrum ceremonies or events help to create space for inspection. Inspection enables proper adaptation.
  3. Adaptation: If any problems are detected during inspection, the scrum team must make adjustments quickly to counteract the issue(s). In other words, adaptation is the rapid reaction to a Scrum problem so that the project gets back on course.

What are the Scrum Values And Principles?

There are generally five values or principles that guide all individuals involved in Scrum. If everyone follows these values, the three pillars of Scrum will come to life.

The five values of Scrum are:

  1. Commitment: Members of a scrum team must be 100% committed to their tasks, progress, and each other. 
  2. Focus: Members of the scrum team must avoid working on things that do not add value to the project. Instead, members must only focus on the initially specified workload during the sprint and the entire project.
  3. Openness: Scrum team members and stakeholders share their concerns and the problems they are facing so that they can be resolved.
  4. Respect: Team members must respect each other as fully competent individuals that can achieve their commitments.
  5. Courage: Members must be courageous enough to tackle difficult problems, ask for help, and try new solutions.

What Is A Scrum Team? Roles And Responsibilities

There are three roles defined during Scrum, and each role has different responsibilities during implementation. 

These roles are:

  1. Product Owner 
  2. Scrum Master
  3. Development Team (Developers)

But before we further explain the three roles of Scrum, we must understand what is a scrum team?

A  scrum team is an independent, cross-functional group of professionals that possess all the skills needed to produce a valuable and working product. Usually, a scrum team comprises less than ten people, as more than ten team members are harder to self-manage.

If a scrum team exceeds ten people, it’s better to divide the larger team into smaller teams that can communicate and collaborate better. When separated, the two or more teams will still share the same Product Owner, Product Backlog, and Product Goal. 

What is A Product Owner?

The Product Owner or PO is the person responsible for defining the vision of the product and overseeing the progress of the project. Their main job is to optimize the work of the scrum team for a maximum value product. Different organizations, teams, and people achieve this in a variety of ways.

Besides maximizing the value of work done by the scrum team, the product owner also has several other responsibilities.

Product Owner’s responsibilities include:

  • Effective Product Backlog Management and Refinement.
  • Creating The Product Goal and Product Backlog Items.
  • Ensuring that everyone clearly understands the Product Goal and Product Backlog Items.
  • Making sure the Product Backlog is visible, transparent, and understandable.
  • Enabling product backlog transparency within and outside the development team.
  • Plan and manage releases.
  • Prevent unnecessary scrum team interference by stakeholders. 

The Product Owner can decide how they want to tackle their responsibilities. Some P.O.s delegate some of their duties to others. However, this is tricky as the P.O. is still accountable for the failure or success of their delegated responsibilities.

What Is A Scrum Master?

A Scrum Master, sometimes called a Team Lead, ensures that Scrum values, principles, and processes are followed as outlined in the Scrum Guide. This involves educating scrum team members and stakeholders in proper Scrum implementation.

The Scrum Master is a three-pronged role that serves the development team, the product owner, and the organization at large. They must acquire resources and create environments that promote their scrum team’s success.

Scrum Master’s responsibilities include:

  • Help the product owner refine the product backlog
  • Assist adopt and implement Scrum.
  • Guide team members in following proper Scrum principles and processes. 
  • Coordinating and planning scrum events where needed. 
  • Coach team members to be cross-functional and self-organizing.

For more information about Scrum Masters, check out this article: Key responsibilities of Agile Scrum Master.

What Is The Development Team?

What Is The Scrum Development Team?

Not to be confused with the scrum team that includes the development team, scrum master, and the product owner. A development team is a self-organizing group of professionals committed to delivering a valuable increment at the end of each sprint.

The skills of the development team vary according to the project. For example, the development team will have a programming or testing background in a software development project.

The ideal number of members in a development team is between 3 and 9 people. The members of a development team are often called developers.

To summarize, the development team is the group of people involved in the actual day-to-day building of a product. 

Development Team’s responsibilities include:

  • Planning for sprints.
  • Developing items or features strictly following the Definition of Done.
  • Complete their given tasks during each sprint.
  • Share a clear, common understanding of the product owner’s requirements.
  • Be present during scrum meetings such as the Daily Scrum.

Also Read: Agile Development Team: Roles and Responsibilities.

What Are Scrum Artifacts? 

Scrum artifacts are tools used during Scrum to promote empiricism, transparency, adaptation, and Scrum values. They generally record and report the work or value throughout Scrum.

There are generally three common scrum artifacts, which are:

  1. Product Backlog
  2. Sprint Backlog
  3. Increment

Each artifact has a clear commitment or goal, which is used to measure progress.

For example, the Product Backlog has a Product Goal, the Sprint Backlog has a Sprint Goal, and the Increment has a Definition of Done.

What is A Product Backlog?

What is A Product Backlog?

A product backlog is an ordered or prioritized list of the work that must be done during Scrum to build a product from scratch, deliver it, and maintain it. The Product Owner is responsible for managing or refining the product backlog. 

Items, also called tasks or user stories, are sorted by their level of importance on the product backlog. As a result, the things at the top are usually more important and ready to be plugged in a sprint.

The items or information on a product backlog include:

  • Features
  • Functions
  • Test Criteria
  • Fixes
  • Improvements
  • Release Increment & Activities

All the information on a product backlog should help involved parties to achieve the product goal.

What is A Sprint Backlog?

A sprint backlog is a smaller version of the product backlog. One of the differences between a product backlog and a sprint backlog is that while a product backlog represents work throughout Scrum, a sprint backlog only describes the work to be done during a sprint.

Another difference is that while multiple parties access the product backlog, the sprint backlog should only be viewed, used, or updated by members of the development team. Updates to the sprint backlog are made throughout the day and if necessary shared and discussed during daily scrum meetings.

A sprint backlog details the sprint goal, the product backlog items chosen for the sprint, and the sprint’s execution plan. 

What is An Increment?

What is An Increment?

An increment is a small but valuable achievement bringing us a step closer to the Product Goal. Each increment is an accumulation of the value delivered in previous sprints plus the latest value-adding delivery at the end of the sprint. In other words, an increment is a total sum of all the previous increments, and it should work harmoniously with all the past iterations.

To conclude, an increment is work done that matches the requirements of the Definition of Done.

What Are Scrum Events? 

There are five commonly accepted events in Scrum, consisting of four meetings and one execution term. 

These five events or ceremonies are:

  1. Scrum Sprint
  2. Sprint Review Meeting 
  3. Sprint Planning Meeting
  4. Sprint Retrospective Meeting
  5. Daily Scrum Meeting

What is a Scrum Sprint?

A Scrum Sprint, commonly called a Sprint, is the time set aside during Scrum for the actual building of a product. Sprints are usually less than a month long, and the duration of each sprint must be the same. In simpler terms, a sprint is a time cycle of a fixed length that repeats throughout Scrum’s implementation. For example, if your sprint is two weeks long, it implies that a sprint ends and a new one begins after every two weeks.

Additionally, all other ceremonies like Daily Scrums, Reviews, and Retrospectives happen at the beginning, during, or end of a sprint. As such, sprints can are the heartbeat that drives the progress of everything.

The only individual who can cancel or stop a sprint is the product owner.

Also Read:What is a Scrum Sprint? Everything You Need to Know!

What is a Sprint Review Meeting?

A sprint review meeting is attended by both the scrum team and key stakeholders. 

During the meeting, attendees review the progress, accomplishments, failures, and changes made during the sprint. The development team also takes the opportunity to showcase their Done Increment to other team members and stakeholders.

After that, attendees discuss what to do next, and sometimes the product backlog is adjusted to match changes. The sprint review is held before a sprint retrospective, and its duration is limited to 4 hours for a month-long sprint. Sprint reviews for shorter sprints can last even shorter. 

What Are Scrum Events?

What is a Sprint Planning Meeting?

A Sprint Planning is held at the start of each scrum sprint. The Scrum team attends the meeting to figure out the workload of the sprint. Sometimes, the scrum team may invite specialists or individuals who can offer advice for their project.

Each Sprint Planning should address the following questions:

  1. Why is the sprint valuable? – Involves finalizing the Sprint Goal.
  2. What can be done during the sprint?- Involves choosing the Product Backlog Items (P.B.I.s) to be done.
  3. How will the chosen P.B.I.s get done? -Developers, without assistance or interference, plan out how they will tackle their tasks.

The final product called the Sprint Backlog is made up of the chosen P.B.I.s (product backlog items), the sprint goal, and the execution plan. 

If your sprint is one month long, your sprint planning must not last longer than 8 hours. If your sprint is even shorter, the sprint planning meeting is also usually shorter.

Find out How to promote efficient Sprint Planning.

What is a Sprint Retrospective Meeting?

A sprint retrospective is the last event held during a scrum sprint. The whole scrum team attends the meeting. Stakeholders should come to a retrospective when invited by the scrum team.

During the meeting, scrum team members examine how the sprint went focusing on individuals, communications, processes, tools, and the Definition of Done. A retrospective is meant to self-assess the scrum team’s performance and identify if any areas can be improved.

Find out how to hold an effective online retrospective.

What is a Daily Scrum?

As the name suggests, a daily scrum is a meeting held every day. It’s attended by the development team, although the product owner or the scrum master can also attend and participate.

A daily scrum is typically 15 minutes long, and it’s held at the same place and time during each working day. 

Daily scrums help enhance communication, collaboration, and rapid decision-making during a sprint. However, developers are still allowed to meet for more technical discussions.

What is Product Backlog Refinement?

Backlog refinement or backlog grooming is the routine process where a product owner reviews, updates, amends, or prioritizes backlog items. 

The refinement process aims to structure backlog items clearly so that it’s easier for the developers to execute.

Backlog grooming sessions, AKA backlog refinement sessions, may cover the following actions:

  • Adding new user stories to accommodate changing customer needs.
  • Estimating user stories.
  • Breaking down large user stories, AKA epics, into smaller sprintable tasks.
  • Removing backlog items that are no longer relevant.
  • Re-estimating user stories to match updated information.
  • Prioritizing user stories for upcoming sprints.

What Is Sprint Velocity?

Sprint velocity is a simple measurement used to find how much work a development team can complete each sprint. Work done is measured in terms of the number of story points or hours. 

Sprint velocity is calculated by taking a sum of the story points/hours completed during previous sprints and dividing them by the number of previous sprints. The value you get is the average capacity of your development team. Sprint velocity gets more accurate as your development team packs more sprints under their belt.

What Are Scrum Goals and Definitions? 

What Are Scrum Goals and Definitions?

Goals and definitions in scrum help create a clear idea of what we want and what is expected. Armed with this information, Scrum practitioners can compare their actual situations with set expectations or criteria. As a result, the Scrum process becomes much easier. 

To learn more about the different Scrum measuring tools, check out this article: What is KPI in Software Development?

These are some of the goals and definitions that guide the Scrum Process:

  • Product Goal
  • Sprint Goal
  • Definition of Done
  • Definition of Ready

What is A Product Goal?

The Product Goal is the long-term objective or final targeted state of the product which the scrum team works towards achieving during Scrum.

Since the product owner is responsible for the product backlog, they are also responsible for defining the product goal.

What is A Scrum Sprint Goal?

A Sprint goal in Scrum is the overall target the development team is trying to achieve during each sprint. Each sprint has a sprint goal that is relevant to it. 

The sprint goal is usually in the form of an attempt to address a business problem. For example, “Display top-selling products on the homepage.” 

In simpler terms, a sprint goal is the purpose behind each sprint.

For more sprint goal examples, check out this article: What is a Scrum Sprint Goal with Examples.

What is the Definition of Done?

A definition of done is a set of descriptions or definitions agreed upon before starting a task or project. Therefore, any work done after the agreement must match the descriptions in the Definition of Done before being considered complete and acceptable.

The Definition of Done is the final gateway that any work must pass through before being considered “done.”

Also Read: What Exactly Is Definition of Done in Agile?

What is the Definition of Ready?

The Definition of Ready is a set of conditions set for a user story that help assess whether the user story is ready to be estimated or included into a sprint.

Also Read: What exactly is Definition Of Ready in Agile?

How Does Scrum Work?

Now we have covered most of the definitions about what is Scrum. It’s time to look at how Scrum is actually implemented. However, before we do so, you have to understand some things.

Scrum prioritizes efficiency, skipping unnecessary processes and meetings, rapid adaptation, constant feedback-optimization loops, and delivering the product in the shortest time possible.

If you keep these driving forces of Scrum in mind, you’ll find that Scrum is easier to understand. However, there’s a difference between understanding the why and mastering the how. At times, Scrum is easy to understand but challenging to master.

Let’s Begin.

Step 1: Personnel Selection and Organization 

Suppose you are adopting Scrum in an already existing team or organization. In that case, this is probably the biggest hurdle you’ll face. Scrum is not for everyone. As such, you may have to let some people go if they are not working out.

Building a team from scratch also has its challenges. Appointing capable people to critical roles is half the battle in Scrum. An incompetent Scrum Master, Developer, or Product Owner can derail your whole project.

Step 2: Planning Phase

This is the time to set out systems and infrastructures that will guide your scrum process. This includes planning sprint lengths, objectives, progress measuring tools, etc.

Step 3: Create The Product Backlog.

Use your team and invite subject matter experts to help create the best product backlog. Scrum is all about inclusiveness, so don’t set unnecessary yellow tape where it’s not needed.

Team members can estimate the size of tasks using Fibonacci points. 

Step 4: Prioritize and Refine Your Product Backlog  

Accept input from all corners, but always remember that only the Product Owner can prioritize, groom, or refine the product backlog.

The product owner arranges the tasks on the backlog by their order of importance and dependencies.

Step 5: Hold The Sprint Planning Meeting

The sprint planning meeting’s objective is to agree on achievable sprint goal using the refined product backlog. The whole scrum team participates in choosing tasks or user stories to be added to the sprint backlog.

In a way, the sprint planning meeting kicks off each sprint as it’s held on the first day of every new sprint.

Step 6: Tackle The Sprint Backlog During The Sprint

After the sprint planning, members of the development team self-organize and distribute tasks on the sprint backlog amongst themselves.

Each developer (development team member) must finish their assigned tasks during the sprint while updating their teammates on their progress and challenges during the Daily Scrum each day. 

Step 7: Hold The Sprint Review Meeting

Towards the sprint’s end, the scrum team and the stakeholders gather to review the ending sprint. During the meeting, the developers will present the work they did during the sprint.

In addition to that, the scrum team collaborates with the stakeholders to gather feedback and receive suggestions. The product owner can also get help from stakeholders to refine the backlog. The sprint review’s primary focus is to assess the work done.

Step 8: Hold The Sprint Retrospective Meeting.

On the other hand, the sprint retrospective meeting’s primary focus is to find areas to improve in future sprints. So during the meeting, the scrum team tries to identify what went well, what didn’t go well, and areas that could be improved in the next sprint.

Step 9: Repeat Steps 4-8 Until Product Goal Is Achieved.

After the retrospective and backlog refinement, the scrum team must once again meet for the sprint planning of the next sprint. Once that is done, the scrum team goes through the steps again and again until all the tasks on the product backlog are finished.

How does scrum work?

Scrum Best Practices 

It’s time to look at some rules, recommended actions, or golden rules you should follow for the best results using Scrum.

Here are some examples:

  • It’s inadvisable to combine the Scrum Master and Product Owner roles on one person as conflicts of interest will hamper the effectiveness of the project.
  • Distribute identification names/numbers to each user story to avoid misunderstandings between similar tasks.
  • Use Sprint Burndown charts.
  • Avoid changing team members as much a possible.
  • Only plan a new sprint when your backlog contains enough items.
  • Choose one task prioritization method and use it, e.g., MoSCoW, Kano, etc.
  • Use Physical and Digital tools to represent the status of your Scrum project. For example, Trello, Scrum Board, or Jira.
  • Use burndown and burnup charts to measure and plan releases, sprints, etc.
  • Promote team-building exercises to boost collaboration between members.
  • Use a Poker-like activity to help estimate story sizes.
  • Scrum developers should develop T-shaped cross-functional skills and knowledge to be competent.

Product Backlog Refinement Best Practices

  • Any work on the product backlog should aim to add value for the customers.
  • Backlog refinement sessions should also accept input from representatives of involved teams such as marketing, sales, customer service, etc.
  • The product owner should invite a subject matter expert (S.M.E.) for input.
  • Avoid lengthy and tedious meetings. Instead, opt for shorter, typically 1-hour sessions but host them more regularly.
  • Only invite teams or individuals whose input is critical to the task.
  • Use a Definition of Ready to make decisions on backlog items.
  • Be generous with estimates for user stories.

To learn about the characteristics of a great Agile product backlog, click here.

Choosing Sprint Length Best Practices

  • Don’t adjust your sprint length to suit backlog items or work to be done.
  • Once settled, the length of your sprint must not change.
  • Scrum recommends a sprint length of 1 to 2 weeks, especially for software development projects.
  • Sprints need to be long enough to hold meaningful scrum events.
  • New teams should use shorter sprints to build their velocity quickly.
  • Set a sprint length that enables you to release updates faster than your competitors.
  • Shorter sprints are better in case of failure as less time is spent doing the wrong thing.
  • Match your sprint length to the rate of interruptions or disruptions.
  • Overall, if possible, choose a shorter sprint.

Setting Scrum Goals Best Practices

  • Your scrum goals must be clear and easy to understand.
  • Use the S.M.A.R.T. method (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) when defining goals for your scrum project.
  • Track your goals using visual media.

Daily Scrum Best Practices 

  • Attendees should stand when holding the daily scrum. Remove chairs from meeting place.
  • Focus only on the essentials. Mainly, what’s been done, what needs to be done, and the challenges you are facing.
  • Incorporate remote team members into the daily scrum.
  • Make daily scrum a habit not to be skipped. Hold them at the same time and place.
  • Avoid technical discussions and stay on track.
  • Invitees (not a scrum team member) should only attend as a spectator.
  • Stay on time. Even if some people are missing, start and end the daily scrum on schedule.
  • The same team members must participate in all daily scrums.
  • Each member’s update should address everyone instead of an individual like the scrum master or product owner.

What to Avoid During Scrum 

  • Avoid turning scrum processes into forms of micromanagement that oppose scrum principles and values.
  • Avoid using sprint velocity as a tool to measure a development team’s performance. Instead, velocity is only used to estimate when a project will finish.
  • Avoid expecting instant results from Scrum. It takes time before it matures and gives out benefits.
  • Where possible, avoid remote interaction and collaboration as the best collaboration happens face to face.

Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash

Advantages of Scrum 

  • The ability to tackle complex projects that were nearly impossible otherwise.
  • Faster release of a useable product to clients or users.
  • Better reaction and adaptation ability to ongoing changes during development.
  • Increased scrum team productivity.
  • Reduced chances of developing irrelevant, unwanted, or worthless product increments.
  • Better product quality as there’s a constant feedback-optimization going on during development.
  • Higher employee fulfillment, communication, and collaboration.
  • Lower resource use and production costs.

Disadvantages of Scrum

  • Scrum likely gives rise to scope creep.
  • If team members are incompetent or uncooperative, the project will likely fail.
  • Daily meetings may irritate some team members.
  • Scrum’s benefits are only noticeable when the scrum team gets more experience.
  • Personnel changes during Scrum will affect the project’s progress.
  • Scrum is challenging to implement in large teams.

NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Is Scrum Right For You? 

Congratulations. You have reached the end of the refresher course. But before you finish, let’s explore if scrum is right for you.

As I previously said, Scrum is not for everyone! However, Scrum will shell out enormous benefits for you, your team, or your organization when used correctly. The lower cost and adaptability are another reason why even Fortune 500 use this Agile-based framework to run their projects.

Ideally, you should use Scrum if you have a large project that is hard to tackle using traditional methods. Sometimes, Scrum is also favored in simple projects over traditional management methodologies. Use scrum if your project:

  • Needs a swift feedback loop.
  • Is free from everyday business interruptions or disruptions.
  • Has developers who possess T-shaped cross-functional skills.
  • Has stakeholders who often change their objectives.

Scrum is not an all-purpose solution. Use it only when your requirements and Scrum’s processes align. Otherwise, avoid using Scrum if:

  • It’s impossible to deliver a valuable increment after each sprint.
  • Your organization can’t or is unwilling to adopt Scrum.
  • If the organization doesn’t allow the development team to self-manage and self-organize.
  • If the working environment is hierarchical and prohibits questioning or sharing project challenges and impediments.
  • If stakeholders can’t attend sprint reviews.

Here is my last gift for you – a parting quote from developers of Scrum on what is Scrum:

“Scrum is a framework for developing, delivering, and sustaining complex products.” —  Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, Scrum Guide. 

Thanks for reading.



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