Understanding the basics of Scrum roles and Agile project management

Understanding the basics of Scrum roles and Agile project management

Kaleigh Moore

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard companies talking about scrum and agile over the past few years as part of Agile project management. 

But what is scrum? And what are scrum roles within the realm of Agile project management?

We’re going to look at the basics of both scrum and agile, so keep reading.

What is Scrum?

Scrum is defined as a popular project management approach based on the Agile methodology. 

In short, Scrum offers teams a new way to address complex challenges. 

Designed to be flexible, Scrum requires teams to deliver work in iterative chunks known as “sprints.” Each sprint lasts one to two weeks on average, and the Scrum team reviews the work delivered at the end of every sprint. 

Here’s how we use Scrum at monday.com:

 

How is Scrum different from Waterfall?

Traditional projects are often planned a year in advance––sometimes longer. A lot can go wrong during this length of time. 

Customer preferences and expectations could change, or developments in technology could render your project obsolete. Scrum, however, makes it easier for companies to adapt to unexpected changes via an Agile project management style.

This is done by revisiting plans and looking at feedback at the end of each sprint to ensure that the project is still aligned with customer needs and/or stakeholder expectations. 

Some key advantages of the Scrum framework include:

  • Easy to manage priorities as they evolve without completely derailing a project
  • Better alignment and communication between teams and stakeholders
  • Greater consistency in work delivered as team members become more comfortable collaborating

One of the biggest differences between scrum and traditional project management is how teams are structured. With traditional approaches like Waterfall, managers usually adopt a command and control leadership approach where employees follow the direction of management. 

Under Scrum and Agile, however, teams have more autonomy over how their work is completed. Leadership sets the overall goals and ensures that teams follow agile practices, but teams working on the ground have more input on planning and executing their work. 

Next, let’s look at how a Scrum team is structured. 

What are common Scrum roles?

There are three main roles that make up a Scrum team:

 Understanding the basics of Scrum roles

Each position plays an important role in ensuring the project succeeds and the company achieves its strategic goals and objectives.

When all three of these roles are coordinated and collaborate effectively, flexibility increases and teams become more consistent with their delivery. 

The product owner

The product owner acts as the collective voice of the stakeholders (executive leadership and customers). This role is responsible for identifying stakeholder needs and expectations and conveying those needs via user stories and epics.

  • User stories: Think of these stories as miniature projects. A story is a basic unit of work that consists of small tasks.
  • Epics: A collection of stories that make up a greater body of work that can’t be completed within a single iteration.

It’s the product owner’s job to create the project vision, to identify the project goals and objectives, and to set the priorities. They’re essentially the architect that creates the blueprint––but they also play a role in keeping the project aligned with the needs and expectations of customers and stakeholders.

Read our full guide on agile planning to learn more about stories and epics.

The Scrum master

The Scrum master serves as the liaison between the team and the product owner. 

Unlike traditional managers, Scrum masters aren’t responsible for calling out orders to their teams. Instead, they act as leaders and are responsible for:

  • Removing obstacles that could prevent the team from reaching their goals
  • Ensuring teams continue to follow the scrum framework
  • Driving continuous improvement from one sprint to another

Scrum masters work closely with the product owner to manage the product backlog (the list of tasks to complete) and facilitate scrum events, while also guiding the development team to success. In this regard, they act as coordinators, coaches, and project leaders.

At monday.com, we actually don’t use a Scrum master within project management.

“At monday.com, we’re more into the idea that everyone is self-managed. We can do it on our own and we all care about the tasks we’re assigned,” – Itay Cohen, monday.com developer

The development team 

The development team executes the work in each sprint. They’re responsible for picking and completing the tasks assigned in the product backlog, while the Scrum master helps them follow the Agile framework. 

Development teams have more autonomy than their traditional counterparts working on waterfall projects. While they don’t set the project goals, the development team can plan how they’ll accomplish their work. 

Self-organizing teams is an important part of the agile framework, as increased autonomy means teams share accountability and responsibility, encouraging them to have a greater sense of ownership of their work. 

Development teams are also cross-functional, meaning they include members from different departments within the organization.

Members aren’t chosen based on their titles, but rather the skills they can contribute to the team. With Scrum projects, it’s common to see people with backgrounds in areas like marketing, IT, and sales working together as part of the same team.

How do I implement Scrum methodology?

Scrum roles and responsibilities are significantly different than the roles of traditional teams. Because of this, reports show traditional managers often struggle with the lateral leadership structure when implementing Agile practices for the first time when moving from call-and-command leadership.

Here’s how you can minimize setbacks while making the jump to scrum methodology:

  • Get stakeholder support:

Having an executive sponsor who understands the value of the Agile framework will help you implement scrum more smoothly. A good sponsor understands there will be roadblocks in the early stages, and will continue to support your project and encourage teams to follow the Scrum framework.

  • Start small:

Don’t try to implement Scrum across your entire organization overnight. Start with one project. Get comfortable using Agile, learn what works best for your organization, and gradually apply Scrum to other projects.

  • Don’t demand immediate results:

Scrum is a process. It takes time for teams to become comfortable working together cohesively, and to become comfortable working within this model.

  • Understand what Agile is for:

Many organizations implement Scrum and become frustrated with the results because they don’t understand the purpose of Agile and Scrum. Remember: They don’t make teams complete projects faster. Instead, they help them become more flexible and more consistent with the time and quality of their delivery. In time, this can lead to faster delivery as team members know what they can and can’t do within a sprint

The secret to Agile project management & Scrum success

The secret to Agile project management is good collaboration between the three core Scrum roles. That’s where monday.com’s Work OS can help. 

With monday.com, Scrum teams can collaborate and stay connected during every step of the way. From visually tracking workflows to sharing important project information, teams can use monday.com to plan and execute Scrum projects.

We offer a broad selection of fully customizable, ready-to-use templates for Scrum and Agile teams, so use them to launch your projects with a few clicks of a button. Or, if you like, you can build your own visual workflow from scratch. 

Either way, monday.com has everything you need to make your projects successful.

monday.com scrum planning template

See just how easy it is to set up your projects with our scrum sprint planning template:

Try our scrum sprint template!

Kaleigh Moore
Kaleigh is an experienced writer on all things SAAS at monday.com. She is a Forbes + Vogue Business retail contributor on her free time.
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