Scrum is an Agile methodology of software development that is now being adopted by many companies and corporates as part of digital transformation initiatives.
The role of Scrum methodology is to provide a framework for Agile software development that enables teams to work collaboratively and efficiently to deliver high-quality software products.
It is a framework for teams to work together to develop complex products. Instead of releasing a product after long phases of planning, designing, developing, and testing, the scrum aims to deliver ready-to-use products right from the beginning in small increments.
Scrum’s main principles are transparent team communication, regular quality verification, and the ability to adapt to change. If adopted and used in the right way, teams can deliver high-quality software products in a timely and efficient manner.
Key Benefits of Scrum
You can achieve increased productivity. Being a Scrum team means that the team is breaking down complex problems into small pieces. Then those small pieces are delivered within sprints as sprint increments. Team members can focus on specific tasks within a Sprint (defined time period the increments are developed in, e.g., two weeks).
Scrum encourages regular communication between the whole team. This then ensures that everyone is clear on the scope and expectations. It reduces quite a significant amount of misunderstandings that could otherwise happen. Especially if you want to proceed with a high pace from sprint to sprint, the whole team must work towards the same goal from day to day.
Scrum is designed to be flexible, so teams can adapt to changing requirements and priorities. This allows teams to respond quickly to changes in the project scope or customer needs. Rather than waiting till the whole development lifecycle is over, you can just change the content between the sprints.
Scrum emphasizes the importance of testing and quality assurance, ideally in an automated way. The ultimate goal is to increase the final product’s quality. This reduces the risk of defects and ensures that the product meets the customer’s requirements.
Scrum is designed to be customer-focused, which means that the customer is involved in the development process from start to finish, usually in the role of product owner or with a direct connection to the product owner (more on that later). This ensures that the final product meets the customer’s needs and with the right priority.
Next, we will discuss the role of scrum methodology.
Role of Scrum Methodology
The aim of Scrum methodology is to provide a framework for Agile software development that enables teams to work collaboratively. You build a Scrum team that meets daily and regularly and has scheduled discussions (ceremonies) within a sprint that repeats every sprint. Typically, the following ceremonies are part of the basic setup of a scrum team:
Daily standups – A time and place where all team members will meet and discuss what was done last day, what will be the work the next day, and what are current obstacles, if any.
Stories refinement – This is where new content (for the next sprints) is discussed and finalized.
Sprint planning – During this ceremony, the team estimates the ready-to-take content (defined within Stories) and then commits to a specific subset from them, mainly based on priority and effort estimates.
Sprint review – Here, the team meets stakeholders and presents to them what the team achieved in the last sprint.
Sprint retrospective – A dialog dedicated to the team only to discuss what can be improved or what the team feels must be changed going forward.
The significance of Scrum methodology lies in its ability to help teams work more effectively. The core principles of Scrum methodology are based on the Agile Manifesto, and they are the following.
Empirical Process Control
Scrum is based on the idea that progress is best achieved through an empirical process of continuous inspection and adaptation. This means that teams should regularly inspect their work and adapt their processes to improve their performance.
Scrum teams are self-organizing, which means they are responsible for managing their work and making decisions about achieving their goals. This helps to promote collaboration and accountability within the team.
You can divide scrum projects into time-boxed iterations, called sprints, which typically last between one and four weeks. This ensures that the team is working towards a specific goal and progressing on a regular basis.
Prioritized Product Backlog
The product backlog is a prioritized list of features and requirements that the team will work on during the project. The product owner is responsible for maintaining the product backlog and ensuring it reflects the customer’s needs and priorities.
Scrum emphasizes the importance of continuous improvement. Both in terms of the product being developed and the processes used to develop it. This means that teams should regularly reflect on their work and look for ways to improve their performance.
While Scrum methodology can be highly effective in software development, there are also some challenges that teams may face when implementing it.
Resistance to Change
Scrum requires a significant shift in mindset and culture, which can be difficult for some team members to accept. Some team members may be resistant to change, which can make it challenging to implement Scrum effectively. In other words, you need to “get it”. Until you don’t, you are not in.
Lack of Experience
You need a certain level of experience and expertise to implement effectively. If team members are not familiar with Scrum or Agile methodologies, it represents a challenge to overcome.
Lack of Commitment
Scrum needs high commitment from all team members, including the product owner, Scrum master, and development team. If team members are not fully committed to the process, it can be difficult to achieve the desired results.
Scrum relies heavily on communication and collaboration between team members. If team members are not communicating often and effectively, it can be challenging for them.
Overemphasis on Process
While Scrum provides a framework for Agile software development, it is important to remember that it is just a framework. If team members become too focused on following the process, they may lose sight of the ultimate goal of delivering high-quality software products.
Roles of a Scrum Team
Each scrum team, in order to be effective, shall consist of a few concrete roles. If those roles are not dedicated to the team or in the wrong count, the successful build-up of such a scrum team might be in danger.
#1. Development Team
This is the execution part of the team, so from the delivery of the product perspective, maybe the most important part of the team. A typical scrum development team consists of development/test/architecture/analyst specialists in a total amount of 4-10 people. If it is less, it is questionable whether you can still call it a team. If it is more, all the ceremonies and management of the team’s discussions will get overly complex and not really worth the effort to maintain.
The development team takes the stories from the backlog, estimates them, and implements them inside sprints. The team is responsible for story development and testing, and once done, also for deployment to production.
#2. Scrum Master
A scrum master act as an orchestrator for the development team. He schedules regular meetings, ensures the development team is clear in the content, and organizes the activities during a sprint with the aim of achieving the sprint plan and goals.
This isn’t really a content role. In fact, the scrum master does not need to technically understand anything from the stories content the development team is solving (although it helps for sure). However, the scrum master serves the development team and protects it from the external environment. By protecting, I mean allowing the team to work based on agile principles. Be here the speaker for the team and don’t allow changing the currently agreed sprint plan by any unplanned requests.
#3. Product Owner
Product owner (PO) servers for connection between the development team and business users (stakeholders) external to the team. PO discusses the content will all relevant parties and brings the agreed content to the scrum team.
Then PO creates stories for the team with clear descriptions and expectations. PO needs to make sure the development team understands this content so that the team can estimate each story. As such, PO owns the stories refinement discussions within the team.
Apart from the content and whole backlog management, PO is also responsible for setting up the priorities for each story inside the backlog. PO is, however, not responsible for concrete stories selection into the sprint. That only the development team can do by committing to the scope, the team will choose for the next sprint. PO can only influence that selection by properly setting and communicating the priorities.
Interactions of Roles Inside a Scrum Team
Even with all the people and roles handled, communication is really the key to success. Most importantly, the right communication because there are so many ways to make it wrong. And that is actually the single biggest reason why many scrum teams are not successful. They just don’t set it right.
For example, product owners often ask the development team to come up with new content stories. But it is not the purpose of the development team to create the backlog. Sure, they can help define the stories, make them detailed, and split them to be possible to execute within sprints. But the product owner is responsible for the backlog. PO ideally shall not ask the development team to connect with business stakeholders.
On another note, neither the scrum master nor the product owner shall define what exactly will be the scope of the next sprint. This is very often happening anyway since the roles of scrum master and product owner are some kind of natural leader roles inside the scrum team. But in reality, they are not in a position to decide what the development team shall or shall not take into the sprint. The development team is the only one that can execute this, so it is the dev team to decide. That means PO is giving information about how important which story is from the business perspective; PO can even order the backlog of stories from the most important to the least important. In this way development team has a sense of which stories to take first.
The product owner shall make an effort to regularly discuss with the team new content that the PO wants the team to deliver. PO is here to thoroughly discuss every story he/she creates or brings to the backlog. Everybody in the development team must understand the story, and it’s clear to them what are the acceptance criteria.
The Scrum master is not only the orchestrator for the team; in some way, SM protects the team against the product owner, leadership, or other external stakeholders. SM keeps the internal scrum processes running and leads most of the ceremonies for the team. On daily status calls, SM makes sure everybody says only the important updates for the day so that the meeting won’t take longer than scheduled. That actually applies to all the calls.
SM also organizes regular retrospective calls for the team, where he/she helps the team to reflect back on the work done in the previous sprint and identify areas where the team can improve.
Establishing a successful scrum team is usually a long road. You need to build experience inside the team, even if concrete members of the team already have some previous experience. Each scrum team is unique, and finding a way how to work and collaborate together as a team on common topics always takes time.
The most important thing is to keep the team stable once you already form it. Only then can the team start improving with every next sprint. The ultimate goal is to convert to a self-organizing team, where even a scum master presence is not mandatory anymore most of the time. If you can’t keep the team together, you will still be in the learning phase.
Next, check out the best scrum tools for a startup to medium business.
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