In software development and project management, the need for approaches that promote adaptability and efficiency is paramount. Scrum, an agile framework, has emerged as an effective solution for managing complex and changing projects. This post explores in detail what Scrum is, its fundamental characteristics, its workflow and how it differs from the Agile approach in general.

What is Scrum?

Scrum is an agile framework used to manage complex projects, especially in the field of software development. This approach promotes cross-functional team collaboration, flexibility and incremental value delivery. Scrum was first developed by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland in the 1990s, and has since been widely adopted due to its effectiveness in managing dynamic and changing projects.

The core of Scrum is based on iterative and iterative cycles called sprints, which typically last between two and four weeks. Each sprint aims to deliver a functional increment of the product, allowing for a constant and controlled evolution of the project. This iterative cycle facilitates rapid adaptation to changes and the incorporation of continuous feedback from users and stakeholders.

What are the 3 essential characteristics of Scrum?

Scrum is mainly characterised by three key features: its iterative and incremental approach, its defined role structure, and its specific sprints that foster collaboration and continuous improvement. These three characteristics are detailed below:

Iterative and Incremental Approach:

Scrum is based on iterative work cycles called sprints, which typically last between two and four weeks. Each sprint represents an iteration of the project, during which the development team works to complete a specific set of tasks selected from the Product Backlog. At the end of each sprint, a functional increment of the product is delivered, allowing for continuous and controlled evolution. This iterative and incremental approach facilitates rapid adaptation to changes and constant incorporation of feedback, ensuring that the final product is relevant and of high quality.

Defined Role Structure:

Scrum clearly defines three essential roles which are the Product Owner, the Scrum Master and the Development Team. The Product Owner is responsible for maximising the value of the product, maintaining and prioritising the Product Backlog. The Scrum Master acts as a facilitator, helping the team follow Scrum practices and removing impediments that may arise. The Development Team is self-organising and cross-functional, responsible for delivering functional increments of the product. This role structure ensures that each team member has clear responsibility and contributes effectively to the success of the project.

Specific Sprints:

Scrum includes several key events that structure the development process and foster collaboration and continuous improvement. These events are the Sprint Planning, the Daily Scrum, the Sprint Review and the Sprint Retrospective. Sprint Planning takes place at the beginning of each sprint to define the tasks to be performed. The Daily Scrum is a daily 15-minute meeting to synchronise the team and discuss progress and impediments. The Sprint Review is held at the end of the sprint to present the completed work to stakeholders and receive feedback. Finally, the Sprint Retrospective is a reflection on what worked well and what didn’t, with the goal of continually improving the process.

These three characteristics – its iterative and incremental approach, its defined role structure and its specific sprints – are fundamental to Scrum’s effectiveness in managing complex and changing projects, enabling continuous delivery of value and constant process and product improvement.

What is the Scrum workflow like?

The Scrum workflow is organised in a series of well-defined steps that ensure efficient and collaborative project management. These steps are described below:

  1. Product Backlog:

It is a prioritised list of all tasks, features, enhancements and fixes needed for the product. This list is maintained and constantly updated.

Responsibility: Product Owner.

Purpose: To ensure that the team works on the most important and highest value tasks.

  1. Sprint Planning:

This is a meeting that kicks off each sprint. During this session, the team reviews the Product Backlog and selects the items they will commit to complete during the sprint.

Participants: Product Owner, Scrum Master and Development Team.

Objective: To create the Sprint Backlog, a detailed plan for the sprint work.

  1. Sprint Backlog:

In this step, a list of specific tasks that the team commits to complete during the sprint is created. It is a subset of the Product Backlog selected for the current sprint.

Responsibility: Development Team.

Purpose: To provide clear guidance on the tasks to be performed during the sprint.

  1. Sprint (2-4 weeks):

This is the period of time during which the development team works on the tasks in the Sprint Backlog. Sprints are short cycles, typically 2 to 4 weeks.

Duration: 2 to 4 weeks.

Objective: To complete a product increment that is ready for delivery.

  1. Daily Scrum:

Daily 15-minute meeting where the team discusses its progress. Each member answers three questions: What did I do yesterday, What will I do today, Are there any impediments?

Participants: Development Team.

Purpose: To ensure team alignment and rapid problem identification and resolution.

  1. Sprint Review:

Meeting at the end of the sprint where the team presents the completed work to stakeholders. The product increment is reviewed and feedback is received.

Participants: Product Owner, Scrum Master, Development Team and Stakeholders.

Objective: To demonstrate the increment and get feedback for improvement in future sprints.

  1. Increment:

This is the finished functional product at the end of the sprint that is ready to be delivered. Each increment adds additional value to the product.

Purpose: To ensure that each sprint delivers a functional and tested version of the product, adding tangible value with each iteration.

  1. Sprint Retrospective:

Meeting to reflect on the sprint that has just finished. The team discusses what worked well, what didn’t and how to improve.

Participants: Product Owner, Scrum Master and Development Team.

Objective: To foster continuous process and team improvement.

The Scrum workflow is iterative and cyclical, allowing the team to quickly adapt to changes and continually improve its processes and products through constant reflection and feedback.

What is Agile?

Agile is a project management and software development methodology that focuses on flexibility, collaboration and continuous delivery of value. It was born as an alternative to traditional software development methods, which were often rigid and could not adapt quickly to change. The Agile approach focuses on responding efficiently to changing customer and market needs. Its key concepts and principles are explained here:

1. Agile Manifesto

In 2001, a group of software developers created the Agile Manifesto, which sets out four core values and twelve principles to guide agile development:

Values

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  2. Software running on extensive documentation.
  3. Collaboration with the customer on contractual negotiation.
  4. Response to change over following a plan.

Principles

They include frequent delivery of functional software, welcoming changes to requirements, daily collaboration between business and developers, and emphasis on simplicity and sustainability.

2. Iterative and Incremental

Agile is based on short, repetitive work cycles called iterations or sprints (in Scrum). Each iteration produces a functional increment of the product that can be evaluated and improved based on the feedback received.

3. Continuous Delivery

The main goal of Agile is to deliver value to the customer on a continuous and frequent basis. This is achieved by producing small functional parts of the product that can be released quickly.

4. Collaboration and Communication

Agile promotes close collaboration between all team members and with stakeholders. Regular meetings and communication tools are essential to ensure that everyone is aligned and working towards the same goals.

5. Adaptability and Flexibility

Rather than following a rigid plan, agile teams are prepared to adapt to change. This may include changes in project requirements based on customer feedback or market conditions.

6. Self-Organising Teams

Agile values the autonomy of teams, allowing them to self-organise and make decisions about how to carry out their work. This encourages accountability and motivation within the team.

7. Continuous Improvement

Retrospective is a key practice in Agile, where teams reflect on what worked well, what didn’t, and how they can improve in future iterations. This continuous improvement is fundamental to increase efficiency and quality of the product and process.

8. Customer Focus

Agile puts the customer at the centre of the development process. Constant collaboration with the customer ensures that the final product meets their needs and expectations, and that it adjusts quickly if those needs change.

In short, Agile is a project management and software development methodology that emphasises flexibility, efficiency and customer satisfaction. Through its iterative and incremental approach, continuous collaboration and ability to adapt quickly to change, Agile enables teams to consistently deliver value and continually improve their processes and products.

What is the difference between Agile and Scrum?

Agile and Scrum are approaches within project management. Agile is a broader approach that focuses on rapid and continuous delivery of value to the customer. It originated as a response to the high failure rate in IT projects due to linear and predictive methodologies that did not consider unforeseen events and changes. Instead of following a horizontal approach, Agile is based on a vertical incremental approach. This means that functional elements are built successively, improving them as they go along.

Scrum, on the other hand, specialises in software development. It uses roles, meetings and artefacts to manage the development process in regular cycles. Although it shares principles with Agile, they are not exactly the same. While Agile is broader and applicable to a variety of projects, Scrum focuses solely on software delivery.

Conclusion

Scrum and Agile represent innovative approaches that have transformed project management and software development. Agile, with its broad focus on flexibility, collaboration and continuous value delivery, establishes the fundamental principles that guide specific methodologies such as Scrum. Scrum is distinguished by its clear structure of roles, events and artefacts that facilitate the practical implementation of agile principles in software development. Both approaches, by focusing on rapid adaptation to change and continuous improvement, enable teams to respond effectively to dynamic customer and market needs. Ultimately, understanding and applying both Agile principles and the Scrum framework can significantly optimise work processes, improve customer satisfaction and ensure the delivery of high quality products in an increasingly competitive and demanding business environment.