Scrum is an agile method to manage and execute a project. More precisely, Scrum is a framework for managing a process. Primarily Scrum was used in the development of software. In addition, Scrum can and is now used in a wide variety of areas for project management - wherever a team is working on a product or service. Whether in e-commerce, the IT industry or agile hardware development, agile project management according to Scrum is now used.
Instead of specifying every last detail, as was previously the case in classic project or product planning, Scrum transfers many decisions and the associated responsibility to the team and the roles involved. This approach is based on:
be aware of having a lot of unknowns in front of you and not being able to predict every problem, and
trust the agile team to solve emerging problems. For the same reason, in the Sprint Planning Meeting, the Scrum Team commits to a result for the customer and not to working through a list of tasks or requirements.
The Scrum Team
Scrum is based on self-organized and cross-functional teams. Self-organized means that there is no team leader who decides which person has to work on which task. These decisions are made collectively by the Scrum team. Cross-functional again means that all skills are present in the team to deliver the agreed result at the end of a sprint and that every team member is needed to do this.
The Scrum Team is completed by two additional members besides the developers or executing roles. The Scrum Master serves as a process coach for the team and supports each team member to better understand Scrum and to continuously improve using the processes in Scrum. The Product Owner represents the extended arm of the customer or the users and is primarily responsible for the product.
The Scrum Events
For the optimal coordination of the Scrum team there is a series of Scrum Meetings with clearly defined objectives. The beginning of each Sprint - a stage in which an increment of the final product is completed - is the Sprint Planning. The goal of the Sprint Planning Meeting is to jointly derive a Sprint Backlog from the Product Backlog by selecting individual Backlog Items that meet the Definition of Ready. The goal of planning is that the team can work on the entire Sprint on the requirements prioritized by the Product Owner and no additional requirements are added.
The work within a sprint is considered to be secured, which is why no further tasks from the outside are allowed to be assigned to the team during this short period of time. Hereby the Scrum method ensures that the team completes the prioritized tasks and does not react to short-term disturbances. Exceptions are critical situations within the company, such as a system failure in IT or a blockage of the marketing accounts at GoogleAds, which hinder further work of the Scrum team anyway.
During the Sprint, the team members meet daily for the Daily Scrum or Daily Standup. This ritual is limited in time to 15 minutes. Topics that cannot be discussed within this time will be discussed in separate meetings. The Daily Standup Meeting serves to synchronize the team and the work. It is usually held directly in front of the Scrum Board of the team so that every user story of the Sprint can be viewed, which is more or less the to-do list of the Sprint.
At the end of each Sprint, there are two more meetings. In the sprint review meeting, the work done or its result is demonstrated to the product owner, the stakeholders and possibly even customers, and feedback is obtained. This feedback forms the basis for the backlog of the Sprint Planning Meeting of the next Sprint.
In the Sprint Retrospective the way the team has worked is scrutinized. The goal is to discover weak points and initiate countermeasures in order to achieve a continuous improvement of the work processes.
When is Scrum applied?
Scrum is an agile method similar to Kanban or the much mentioned so-called "Spotify Model" to simplify the development of features and gives the opportunity to react to rapidly changing conditions. In contrast to for example Kanban Scrum needs the roles already mentioned above and above all the role division to be able to function.
In the Scrum Guide the principle behind the roles as well as the method is explained simply and understandably. Agile project management is based primarily on the above-mentioned self-organization and adherence to the Scrum process.
Agile is also a generic term that restructures the general way of working in companies and changes the approach to challenges. Instead of wanting to understand everything from the start and take it into account in development, Agile openly acknowledges that not everything is known and that knowledge is only gained in the course of development.
This allows developers to respond quickly to changing requirements and create new Product Backlog Items as needed. WIP (Work-in-Progress) limits also ensure that work is concentrated and focused, and that developers are not constantly being given new tasks without ever having prioritized them.
How does Scrum help in the development of products?
The product backlog and each individual product increment, i.e. each product backlog entry, helps to get closer to the targeted goal. A visual Burn-Down Chart finally helps the development team to visualize the tasks done.
The advantage of this high level of transparency is that it is possible to quickly identify when and, more importantly, when potential hurdles may occur. If the process falters, the Scrum Master can intervene early and help the development team, and if the Product Owner sees a challenge in the product development, this can already be addressed in the next Sprint.
Important adjusting screws with the Scrum project management are beside the Definition of Ready, which makes only possible whether a user Story comes into the Sprint still the Definition of Done of the team and/or the Acceptance Criteria of the Product Owner, which decide when a User Story can be delivered to the customer or user. In addition, the focus is on the functionalities of the developed features.
Agile work therefore refers primarily to the customer benefits and advantages that are delivered with each sprint target.
How to learn Scrum?
Besides the simple Scrum principles and Scrum artifacts you have already read about in this article, you can learn the framework just like other project management methods. You can acquire the know-how in trainings based on the Scrum Guide by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber.
There are two reputable certification organizations worldwide: the Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org. While all certifications by the Scrum Alliance start with a "Certified", for Scrum.org it is the "Professional". Based on this naming it is possible to recognize where the training was conducted. This distinction makes sense in that the learning methods and the certifications are completely different.
While Scrum.org focuses on a multiple choice test and no personal training is necessary, the Scrum Alliance focuses on personal training.
Only those participants who have spent at least 14 hours with the Scrum framework and have practically worked out what it means to go through the Scrum process and individual Scrum deliverables receive certification here. Starting with Scrum roles, sprint planning, stand-ups, task boards and rituals, artifacts and processes, the focus here is also on getting to know other Agile frameworks. Scrum-of-Scrums, Kanban, Design Thinking and Large-Scale Scrum are explained and in some cases practically applied.
At the Agile Academy you will find all training certifications of the Scrum Alliance in English and German.