Just like successful athletes learn by doing, so do corporate teams. If you’re going to be a star on the field or in the boardroom, you have to practice, and learn as you go. Scrum is a project management framework that’s based on this same idea.
Just like a sports team might gather to review a failed play after a big game, Scrum encourages teams to learn from their own wins and losses. Those teams then organize (and reorganize) themselves on the fly.
This article covers all the basics: the Scrum methodology, the framework, events, artifacts, team members and tools to get started.
What is Scrum?
Scrum is a framework for organizing, planning and executing complex projects.
It supports people, teams and organizations in generating or completing projects by allowing them to adapt as they go.
We’ll dive into the entire framework later, but here’s a brief overview:
- The whole process often starts with a product roadmap outlining the big picture outcome(s) you hope to achieve
- This roadmap is broken down into a product backlog of all the features and requirements needed to reach that outcome.
- Teams run 1–4 week sprints where they tackle a portion of the product backlog and create a product increment (version of the final product).
- After each sprint, they review, refine, adjust, and then launch into the next sprint. This cycle continues until the final product is complete and the project ends.
Why is it called Scrum?
The term Scrum originates in Rugby, where players from multiple teams join together in a very tight, organized formation to obtain a goal.
Players quite literally interlock themselves into a tight group in the play. It looks like this:
The analogy was first referenced in 1986 in a paper by Takeuchi and Nonaka that was published in the Harvard Business Review.
They compared high-performing, cross-functional product dev teams to rugby teams using the Scrum formation.
What’s the difference between Agile and Scrum?
People often confuse Agile and Scrum and think that they’re the same thing. Sure, they both focus on continuous improvement rather than delivering one final product. But the scale is different.
Agile is the mindset — the idea behind what you want to achieve, like adaptability, self-management, and speed.
Scrum is the how-to recipe — a concrete blueprint detailing how to implement Agile step-by-step.
That’s what sets Scrum apart. It is a concrete framework with different stages, clearly defined roles, and events.
And the methodology works. 58% of all Agile teams use the Scrum framework.
Why Scrum? Intro to Scrum theory
Teams choose to use the Scrum framework because its simplicity and flexibility allows them to move faster, while still staying organized.
When asked why it was originally adopted within their organization, 71% of teams replied that Scrum was adopted to accelerate software delivery, and 63% to manage changing priorities.
The theory behind Scrum’s founding rests on 3 key pillars: transparency, inspection, and adaptation.
These pillars are built on the assumption that knowledge comes from experience, and that decisions should be made based on what is observed. As teams work on a project, they gain experience, and based on that experience, they should be able to re-adjust as they go.
The pillars encourage lean thinking, which means focusing on only what has been observed, and reducing wasted efforts so that teams remain focused on the essentials.
The following pillars act as guiding principles for the Scrum team:
- Transparency: both the team that’s performing the work and those receiving the work must be completely aware of the process and status at all times. Low transparency at any point in the process could lead to decisions that aren’t valuable and risk the project. The transparency pillar is also necessary for the next pillar, inspection, to be valuable.
- Inspection: the process and progress must be evaluated frequently as you go. This allows you and your team to spot potential risks or problems, and supports the final pillar — adapting when needed. The Scrum framework provides a cadence for inspection, which we’ll also discuss later.
- Adaptation: If you find your process isn’t going well or results aren’t as expected, you need to adjust. Most importantly, you have to adjust quickly so you don’t further deviate from your original goal.
It’s important to note that all 3 pillars break down if people aren’t empowered to self-manage. A Scrum team is expected to adapt the moment that anything new is learned through inspection, and you can’t do that if you don’t have the power to make self-guiding decisions.
What is the Scrum framework?
We keep mentioning that Scrum is a framework, but what exactly does that mean?
The Scrum framework is made up of events — also referred to as ceremonies — that act as stages within a project, and artifacts that act as deliverables to be completed.
They’re all organized in a way that supports continuous learning and adjustment. If you were to illustrate the whole thing from start to finish, it would look like a cycle that keeps on going.
There are 5 events or ceremonies within the Scrum framework:
- The Sprint
- Sprint planning
- Daily Scrum
- Sprint review
- Sprint retrospective
Ceremonies are designed to enable transparency, and to allow for inspection and adaptation along the way. A sprint is an event itself, while also acting as an overall container for 3 of the remaining events.
→ Read more about scrum ceremonies here
What are the Scrum artifacts?
Artifacts represent the work of the Scrum team or the value provided to the ultimate goal. They make transparency possible for the entire Scrum team.
There are 3 artifacts, each of which must be defined and measured in the following way:
- Product (or task) backlog: the complete list of work to accomplish, measured using the product goal
- Sprint backlog: the list of work to accomplish within 1 sprint, measured by the sprint goal
- Increment: the deliverable(s) provided for review at the end of a sprint, measured by the ‘Definition of Done,’ or rather, whether or not it was completed
→ Read more about scrum artifacts here
The 5 phases of Scrum
The Scrum method consists of Scrum ceremonies as we explained above. The ceremonies can be divided into the following 5 phases:
#1: The pre-planning phase
- Setting goals and vision: The product owner will define the overarching goals, objectives, and often a product roadmap. Usually done in direct collaboration with stakeholders.
- Creating and refining product backlog: The product backlog is a list of features, requirements, and bug fixes (for live software) that outlines everything a team must do to complete a product.
#2: The planning phase
- Hold a sprint planning meeting and select features to include in the sprint backlog (these are often defined from the user’s perspective and called user stories).
- Break any large requirements (often called “epics”) down into tangible tasks with estimates of how long each will take.
- Make sure the sprint backlog is small enough to be achievable in your sprint time frame and assign ownership of different user stories and tasks to the appropriate team members.
#3: The sprint, or development, phase
- Work towards your iteration or product increment that’ll be delivered at the end of the sprint.
- Hold a daily standup or daily Scrum meeting where you discuss yesterday’s progress, today’s tasks, and any potential bottlenecks.
#4: The testing and review phase
- Arrange a sprint review meeting (aka product increment review) where customers and actual users of the product (stakeholders) test the new increment. If they accept the changes, and they work as they should, you can accept the new iteration as done.
#5: The retrospective phase
- Hold a sprint retrospective with Scrum team members to review what went well, and where you have room for improvement.
- Update the general product backlog based on the success (or failure) of the increment, and any changes in stakeholder priority.
Who are the members of a Scrum team?
A Scrum team is a small team of 10 or fewer people. This number allows teams to stay nimble, but large enough to complete significant work within a sprint.
The Scrum team is ultimately responsible for stakeholder collaboration, verification, maintenance, operation, experimentation, research and product development (if applicable).
Here’s what each of the following team members are accountable for:
- Product owner: The bridge between stakeholders and the team. They understand what the customers need, and will control the overall vision and objectives for the product.
- Scrum master: Not a traditional top-down leader. A part of the team with added responsibilities. For example, reinforcing Scrum values during meetings, and keeping members on-task.
- Team member: The rest of the Scrum development or work team are equal members with direct task ownership.
Stakeholders aren’t actually members of the team, but anyone invested in the outcome of the project. For example, important clients, internal users of the solution, C-suite executives, and more. Key stakeholders attend important meetings and review product increments (client deliverables).
A Scrum team should be a “complete team” (the Scrum Guide calls it cross-functional.) Each member should have all the necessary tools to complete an iteration. They shouldn’t need to outsource anything from design to production.
It’s a guiding Scrum principle.
→ Read more about Scrum roles here
9 steps to implement Scrum with your next project
#1: Choose a suitable product owner
The product owner isn’t necessarily the most senior developer. Rather, it’s whoever has the best understanding of your customers and their needs. It could be an internal user of the product, someone from support, sales, marketing, account management, or even a business analyst.
They’re the liaison between your Scrum team and the stakeholders, so choose carefully.
#2: Create and refine your product backlog
Before you can start planning any particular sprint, you need to outline all of the things your finished product should include. The product owner should work closely with all important stakeholders to populate a product backlog.
Refine the desired features or items and prioritize them based on your short-term and long term goals. For example, your stakeholders may have singled out must-haves for the next iteration.
Use color-coded priority tags to help your project team focus on the right things.
#3: Plan your first sprint
Evaluate all the candidates (features in the backlog) and decide which ones to focus on in your sprint. Determine the larger sprint goal, outlining the overall desired change in user experience.
When creating your initial sprint backlog, don’t forget to consider your team’s capacity.
In Agile and Scrum, we often focus on “user stories” over features. Essentially, these are features from the customer’s perspective, detailing their desired outcome. For example, rather than “mobile app compatibility” you might use something like “I want to access and edit the documents on my smartphone.”
#4: Estimate the time for each task
You also need to estimate how long each task will take. You can then either set clear deadlines or use story points (SP), an estimated scope that you decide on as a team.
At monday.com, our internal teams consider 1 SP to equal a full workday, and we plan 8 SP for 2-week sprints to leave leeway for unforeseen issues.
#5: Assign ownership to appropriate team members
The team will discuss and assign ownership of tasks and user stories to appropriate team members. Self-organization is key here. The Scrum master shouldn’t be telling members what to do.
#6: Hold daily Scrum meetings
The daily Scrum or standup is used by 85% of Agile teams for a reason. Daily progress meetings help everyone prioritize and collaborate on goals.
#7: Review the sprint increment with stakeholders
Invite clients and internal stakeholders to put the new increment to the test. This meeting is called the sprint review or product increment review.
If the users feel that the new functionality meets their expectations in every way (total experience), the sprint was a success. If not, you need to adjust the backlog based on what users felt was inadequate.
#8: Hold a retrospective meeting
In the sprint retrospective meeting, the product owner, Scrum master, and team members will evaluate the following:
- What went well
- Areas to improve
- Potential changes to the product backlog
It’s the key to keep learning and improving your Scrum processes.
#9 Start the next sprint
It’s time for a new sprint, so start another sprint planning meeting. Rinse and repeat your process as you develop your product and learn more about Scrum.
Why monday.com is the best tool to implement Scrum
We’re confident that monday.com provides the best tools for project managers to implement Scrum within their organizations. It provides the foundation for all sprint events and artifacts, and includes a few key features that make the Scrum framework run even more smoothly.
Communication regarding events, artifacts, and increments within monday.com happens all within the platform under each task that’s set by the product or task owner.
This means that data and information is collected automatically within your project management tool, and reduces back-and-forth amongst your Scrum team.
Within a sprint, some activities will be dependent on the completion of other activities before them, and we know that sprints can only begin when the former sprint has closed.
Our platform automates notifications between team members when it comes to task completion, document uploads, communication and much more.
Here’s an example of how you might set up an automation:
Whether you choose a Scrum board, Kanban board, or the Scrumban, you can view your project on monday.com, and even toggle between views if you change your mind as you go.
Plus, you’ll have other options at your fingertips. You can view your project tasks as a timeline to see if your deliverables will be completed on time, as a table if you need to drill down into specific tasks, as a Gantt chart, and much more.
Your team is probably already relying on various tools to get the job done. Our software integrates with every tool you’ll need to run your projects smoothly. We even integrate with popular development tools like GitHub, JIRA, GitLab, and PagerDuty if you’re using the Scrum framework to manage a development team.
Last but not least, it’s easy to use, and your team will be excited to login everyday for status updates and communication amongst team members. Completing tasks on our platform is satisfying, and changing views, moving tasks along the workflow and communicating with other team members is easy and intuitive.
Implement scrum to your next project
The Scrum framework provides teams the freedom they need to iterate as they go without falling behind on company goals and objectives.
Implement the Scrum framework within your team — development team or otherwise — to complete projects on time, communicate progress within an organized structure, and still provide the freedom for your team to manage their own time.
If you’re looking for a tool to help you manage your Scrum team, monday.com dev provides all you need, plus integrations with the tools you already have, automations to reduce unnecessary work, a beautiful user interface, and much much more.