Scrum 101: The What, Why, Who and How of Scrum

Scrum 101: The What, Why, Who and How of Scrum

Insights | 08 November 2016

A number of years ago if you mentioned the word ‘scrum’, typically it was associated with sports (in particular, rugby). Today, mention the word ‘scrum’ and the comments may be:

– “Oh that’s something to do with agile”, or

– “That’s for IT isn’t it?”, or

– “Yes I recently did my Scrum Master”

What exactly is ‘scrum’ in an organisational/project setting today? Why is it so popular? Who is involved in ‘scrum’ and how does it work?

We’ve compiled a beginner’s guide to the What, Why, Who and How of ‘scrum’.

What is ‘Scrum’ and Why is it so Popular?

‘Scrum’ is an iterative team-based approach to product delivery and continues to be one of the most well-known agile frameworks.

Agile is a broad umbrella term, so think iterative and incremental, as opposed to more traditional methods that are characterised by detailed step-by-step progression through sequential phases. The essence of scrum, which falls under the agile umbrella – lies in its simplicity. The Scrum Guide itself is around 10 pages. Scrum has been in use since the early 1990s and is seen as ‘lightweight, simple to understand, but difficult to master’.

“Scrum is a framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.”

The Scrum Guide™, and ScrumInc.

Who is Involved in Scrum?

Scrum describes 3 roles:

  • Product Owner: Responsible for ensuring that the final product delivered represents best value for the business (think customer/business or ‘voice of the customer’).
  • Development Team: The professionals (subject matter experts) responsible for development and delivering the product.
  • Scrum Master: Responsible for ensuring that scrum is understood and properly applied. The Scrum Master encourages and supports the development team in achieving their potential and is described as a ‘servant-leader’.
Scrum requires all three roles to be collaboratively engaged.

How Does Scrum Work?

Scrum uses the concept of a product backlog which is an ordered list of everything that might be needed in a product – in effect business/user/customer requirements.

Scrum is based around the following events:

  • The Sprint: This is a container of time (‘timebox’) of 1 month or less during which the development of the product (or product increment) occurs.
  • Sprint Planning: At the start of the sprint, the scrum team determine what is the focus of the sprint (sprint goal) and the work needed to deliver the product increment (sprint backlog).
  • Daily Scrum: Every day the scrum team hold a 15-minute meeting (other agile approaches refer to a daily stand-up) to help focus on the sprint goal.
  • Sprint Review: This is held at the end of a sprint where typically what has been achieved in the product increment is demonstrated.
  • Sprint Retrospective: Here the team reflects on the effectiveness of the way they worked together as a team, and agree on any improvements for the next sprint (akin to ‘lessons to be learned’).

Remember What Scrum is ‘Not’

Scrum is not a project management method, so in isolation it cannot be used to manage a project. As such, scrum does not define a project manager role but scrum can be used on a project as a part of an approach to delivering products within a wider project management method (for example PRINCE2® and AgilePM®).

Although scrum is widely used in IT/software development, it can also be applied to other sectors. There is nothing in The Scrum Guide that restricts it to IT only.

Scrum embodies agile concepts but is only one of many agile frameworks, therefore it is not a case of agile is scrum – scrum is just one approach to agile ways of working.

Our foundation to practitioner workshops are designed to equip participants with a thorough understanding of processes, principles and themes, through to certification.

The Scrum Guide is a trade mark of Scrum.Org and ScrumInc.
PRINCE2 is a registered trade mark of AXELOS Limited.
AgilePM is a registered trademark of Dynamic Systems Development Method Limited in the United Kingdom and other countries.
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