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  • Writer's pictureEva Jenisch

What is this Scrum all about?

Last week someone asked me what Scrum is all about and what it is needed for. Most people know scrum from software development, but it can be used in many other areas, especially when it comes to developing or building a product or service quickly and in an agile way to meet customer needs.

Where does Scrum come from? And what does it stand for?

The term originally comes from rugby. A " scrum " is the term used to describe a dense bunch of players who gather around the ball. Transferred to agile project management, Scrum means that the project team meets daily to coordinate upcoming tasks, to discuss progress, and mitigation of critical issues.

How does Scrum work?

🏉 It all starts with a product idea that the product owner wants to drive forward and that should bring benefits to the customer. The brief consists of a rough idea of the product or solution that is to be developed. This product idea is transferred into story cards or user stories that describe individual elements, features, or functions of the product from the customer's point of view.

🏉 The core of a Scrum project is the Sprint. To realize the product idea, several sprint cycles will be completed, which have a fixed duration (time box) of 2-4 weeks.

🏉 A so-called Product Backlog is compiled from the product owner's requirements and the story cards. Priorities are assigned in the product backlog - whereby the elements and functions that are most important and ensure a high level of customer satisfaction are given priority. Other requirements that are not as important or technically unfeasible are put on hold or merged with others.

🏉 In the Sprint Planning, the prioritized tasks are selected from the entries in the Product Backlog and planned for the next upcoming Sprint, along with formulating the Sprint goal. From this, the Scrum team creates a Sprint Backlog. This is a selection of the product backlog entries for the next sprint (called "tickets") supplemented by the implementation plan. The so-called "Definition of Done" is formulated, i.e., how to recognize whether the task has been completed and the deliverable (increment) of the sprint has been properly delivered.

🏉 During the Sprint, all the tickets listed in the Sprint Backlog are now being worked on. The Sprint Backlog serves as the action plan and worklist for the scrum team. Each team member takes responsibility for individual tickets (declaration of commitment). During the daily 15-minute meeting, called the Daily Scrum, everyone reports in turn: What has been achieved since the last Daily Scrum, what will be worked on until the next Daily Scrum and what hinders the work. In doing so, everyone keeps an eye on the Sprint goal and checks whether it can still be achieved. The Scrum Master must address the obstacles and helps to remove them. A sprint burndown chart shows how the project is progressing. In the sprint, the team members work on their tasks, the tickets, until they are finished and the "Done" is reached.

🏉 Each sprint is concluded by a Sprint Review Meeting. The team presents the results and deliverables to the product owner. They check whether the deliverables meet the criteria defined in the Definition of Done. If this is the case, the owner accepts the sprint results. The entry in the Sprint Backlog is thus checked off. At the same time, the entries in the Product Backlog are updated or adjusted.

🏉 Following this, a Retrospective meeting is held to discuss how work was carried out in the sprint - i.e. the focus is not on the content of the work, but on how the collaborative process worked. What went well, what didn't go so well, and how the team intends to do things better in the next sprint. The purpose of this is to further develop and improve the collaboration.

Based on the results of the Sprint Review, the Retrospective and the revised Product Backlog, the next Sprint can start. The process starts again with Sprint Planning. This is followed by as many Sprints until the product is developed.

What are the roles in Scrum?

🤝 The Product Owner represents the users of the product or the stakeholders of the product. S/he knows the customer requirements and decides, e.g. in the Sprint Review Meeting, whether these are fulfilled.

🤝 The Scrum Master is responsible for the Scrum process. The Scrum Master is a moderator and supporter for the project team, helping the team with methodological problems and ensuring that the rules of agile project management are adhered to. S/he removes obstacles, procures the necessary resources and promotes good cooperation within the team. In addition, s/he is the contact person for outsiders.

🤝 A Scrum Team should comprise between five and ten team members. Together, the team members manage all the tasks themselves. There is no hierarchy in the team - everyone has the same rights and duties, but different competencies. All areas of expertise that contribute to the solution should be represented. It is important that all team members participate on their own volition.

What is the benefit of doing Scrum?

In Scrum, products are designed from the customer's point of view, what brings the most value to the customer. Work packages, progress of work and prioritization are straightforward and transparent. The flexibility to react to customer feedback or changes is much higher when working with Scrum than, for example, with Waterfall. However, critical to success is the support of the Scrum team from the organization - which can be a challenge for some hierarchically structured organizations. Since people appreciate to be able to plan their own work and to take responsibility, Scrum encourages and supports this. Through the high transparency and regular feedbacks, the overall visibility is increased, and the communication is improved. So, all in all a motivating, rewarding and successful method to organize a team to develop a product or service.


Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash, Graphics by me

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