How to get the most out of your Scrum artifacts
In space, planning is paramount. It can even mean the difference between life and death.
Every day at the International Space Station, astronauts report everything they did to the mission control center, including experiments conducted, systems checked, and observations made.
Then, according to daily progress, mission control center staff replan every remaining day of the mission. This process repeats itself until the mission is over to ensure all tasks get completed and every duty gets fulfilled.
This is Agile management at its finest, but you don’t need to be a NASA employee to achieve this level of organization. You simply need to use something called artifacts. Huh?
While a boomerang or other caveman tools may come to mind, artifacts are also a key part of Scrum. Scrum in fact involves 3 main artifacts: the Product Backlog, the Sprint Backlog, and the Product Increment.
For teams that use a self-organizing approach to projects, as in the Scrum methodology, maintaining specific Scrum artifacts is essential for:
- Estimating progress
- Calculating timelines
- Monitoring success
What are scrum artifacts and how can you get the most out of them?
Scrum artifacts are the lists and tools scrum teams use to provide transparency on how a project is progressing. They create opportunities for self-reflection and facilitate adaptation during a project.
Scrum artifacts must be updated and shared with all participating team members on a daily basis. This ensures that everyone understands where a project stands, what work remains, and whether the project is on track to provide the intended value by planned deadlines.
There are three main scrum artifacts, each of which is designed to keep teams aligned. However, the benefits of staying on top of your artifacts extend far beyond organization and timeliness.
So, what added value can your scrum artifacts offer and how do you get the most out of them?
Let’s start by defining each of the three scrum artifacts.
3 artifacts of Scrum, defined
1. Product backlog
The product backlog is the list of everything that a scrum team must complete before a project gets finished. In the world of software development, where scrum is widely used, the product backlog lists what needs to be added to the product.
In different types of projects, the product backlog refers to other corresponding deliverables. For example, if your team is working on developing an ad campaign, your product backlog would include:
- Landing page
- Micro-copy deliverables
When planning sprints, product owners decide what each sprint will focus on based on how they rank items in the product backlog.
One crucial aspect of the product backlog to understand is that it is never complete.
At the onset of a project, the product backlog will include the first-known and best-understood requirements. But, this list evolves over time as the project develops and the team environment changes. The product backlog is dynamic and requires refining of details, time estimations, and criteria. It is also important to know that having multiple, a set of product backlogs is not conducive to Scrum practice.
2. Sprint backlog
“Sprints” are time-boxed periods in which a Scrum team works to complete the items on the product backlog.
Because the product backlog includes every needed deliverable for the project, it’s necessary to break it down into individual sprint backlogs. These backlogs are ordered lists of the elements that must get done within the sprint.
The first step to creating a sprint backlog is to set the sprint goal. You can also define what will be ready and usable by the end of the iteration.
Next, product owners must decide which items from the product backlog will get included in the sprint.
Many Scrum teams use burndown charts to support the sprint backlog. Burndown charts illustrate how much work remains in a sprint.
The purpose of burndown charts is to allow the Scrum team to see how much work remains within the sprint. They can do a sprint review to determine if all assigned work will get done on schedule.
While Scrum backlogs include lots of detail, teams should have a shared understanding that the backlogs must also be flexible and changeable as the sprint progresses.
In each daily Scrum meeting, the team may change the sprint backlog. This will reset the remaining time in the sprint.
3. Product increments
Increments = product backlog items completed + value of previous sprint increments
Increments are the sum of all the product backlog items that your team completes during a sprint plus the value of the increments of all previous sprints.
At the end of each sprint, the increment must get done based on the team’s definition of “done.”
While this definition will vary depending on the team and type of project, the basic rules of scrum qualify being done as being functional, usable, and offering value in itself.
In the original application of scrum for software development, an increment is done if it produces a potentially releasable, shippable product.
As the term suggests, each increment brings the scrum team one step closer to the project’s final vision or goal.
Getting the full value of your scrum artifacts
By using your scrum artifacts, your team will be better positioned to stay on top of projects. Scrum artifacts help break large-scale work into bite-sized pieces, which are easier to manage and track.
They help each team member understand their responsibilities, stay on top of progress, and speak up when there is an issue that needs to be resolved.
But improving team organization while keeping a project moving forward are only some of the many benefits of scrum artifacts. When embraced by your team, scrum artifacts offer value that extends far beyond the project at hand.
Artifacts provide structure for improving teamwork, accountability, boosting communication skills, and increasing engagement.
By using systems that need both independent and teamwork, continuous updating, sharing of information, self-reflection, and transparency, each team member will get used to working as a unit.
Without individual accountability, the entire project can come to a grinding halt.
Individual responsibility becomes a driver of teamwork, while communication and information sharing become essential enablers of progress.
How to get the most out of your scrum artifacts: 3 tips
Not all scrum teams achieve more effective teamwork, communication, engagement, and accountability. If your team is merely going through the motions, you will probably achieve the standard benefits. You’ll be leaving team potential untapped.
So, how should you approach your scrum artifacts to ensure you can reap their full value? Here are three tips you can put into practice today.
1. Generate authentic motivation in each teammate
Your scrum team will only get as much out of your scrum artifacts as they put into them. Without a true, authentic drive to maintain and use them effectively, it will be difficult to derive value from any scrum artifact.
To help encourage your team to embrace your scrum artifacts, make sure each team member understands why they are important.
Everyone on the scrum team should have clarity into how each artifact works, how it should be maintained, and what kind of value they offer.
2. Choose the right leaders
All teams need effective leadership, and scrum teams are no exception. When choosing who will lead your scrum team, those at the helm will need to possess several traits beyond expertise and experience.
While many scrum teams have scrum masters to champion the framework’s methodology, this position is not always necessary. This depends on the technology you use to guide your projects forward and the type of team you have.
At monday.com, we don’t use scrum masters because we encourage the idea that everyone is self-managed. We use our project management software to manage our work.
Whether or not you have a scrum master, he or she, along with the product owner, must be effective communicators. They need to be able to convey key information such as the purpose of the project, each team member’s individual duties, sprint goals, and vision.
Product owners must champion the Scrum principles and values. They should also promote the scrum methodology among all teammates. They should know the project matter well and communicate with stakeholders, users, and developers.
Without the right leadership, leading sprints and achieving the project goals will be a challenge.
3. Select the right organizational tools
You may have the best scrum team leaders, engaged employees, and organized sprints, but without an effective scrum artifacts management platform, it will be difficult to reap all of the value from them.
Many teams that have opted for traditional project management software quickly realize these tools are not up to the job. Features for listing tasks, notes, and deadlines are standard across all project management tools. But systems made for collaboration and efficiency have all the facilities needed to take work to the next level.
Solutions like monday.com empower Scrum teams to use product and sprint backlogs and increments as best as possible with its engaging, intuitive, and seamless interface.
Features for communication, sharing information, and updating project statuses are built-in, as well as automation for speeding up processes and integrations with other enterprise apps.
One of the main benefits of monday.com is that it is easy to set up, use, and maintain for all employees — not just developers. This is crucial to scrum, in which collaboration with internal and external stakeholders between each sprint is vital.
For Scrum to work well, you need a software that enables all users and stakeholders to easily share information, provide feedback, and monitor progress.
Solutions that speed up teamwork automatically encourage better use of scrum artifacts.
They enable your team members to boost collaboration, engagement, and accountability along the way.
Don’t just go through the motions
Achieving the full range of benefits from the scrum methodology and its artifacts requires deliberate thought, actions, and technology.
As any scrum master will tell you, understanding the scrum principles and values is only the beginning.
Having the right systems in place for actualizing scrum processes and artifacts is integral to success — no matter what kind of project you’re working on.
Are you ready to optimize your scrum team success?