What Is Scrum in Software Development

by Anna Khrupa on Mar 4, 2022

Scrum is a framework or a collection of rules and responsibilities to develop, convey, and manage complex products in a variety of industries, and in software development specifically. Delivering value to a user during the development process within tight deadlines and a number of fixed iterations or sprints lies at the core of the scrum methodology definition and the main idea behind it.

A Brief History of Scrum

The term “scrum” was first mentioned in the 1980s by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka, who defined a flexible product management strategy and a team as a part of a whole in their article “The New New Product Development Team”. It was called the “Rugby” approach. The term was borrowed from the game, in which a team cooperates as a unit to reach the common goal. Product development was an analogue to rugby.

In 1995, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland described this concept further. They made it applicable to software development, which was presented at the OOPSLA Conference in Austin, Texas. Since then, scrum software development methodology has been a preferred concept globally.

Scrum Methodology Roles and Responsibilities

Scrum is represented by two groups. The first group are those who are completely into development – Product Owner (PO), Scrum Master (SM), and Scrum Team. Users, stakeholders, and consulting experts are in the second group.

The first group includes three distinct scrum methodology roles as all of them participate in every stage of a project.

  • Product Owner (PO) represents people who have an influence on a product (but who are not a part of a team) and conveys their visions of a product to the team. PO is a voice in a company, who communicates about the problems and progress. He/she defines the goals for future work. PO is responsible for how clear and understandable those goals are. The main roles are to manage requirements, determine how they are delivered, and ensure the values are provided to others.
  • Scrum Master (SM) is in charge of how well the way a scrum project methodology can be used to accomplish goals is understood by promoting self-organization and helping the team. He/she hosts daily meetings, improves technical skills, coaches, and brings feedback to others. SM is a servant leader who keeps things under control, ensuring everyone follows the process agreed before.
  • Scrum Team specializes in activities that help to reach the goal of a company and deliver high-value results. In other words, it is a group of people who develop what the company wants to create. It is represented by developers, analysts, data specialists, QAs, etc. They attend standup meetings and deliver the results that were agreed with SM.

How does it work?

Workflow in Scrum Project Methodology

There are six phases of scrum methodology, which are the pillars of commitment and productivity:

  • Sprints;
  • Planning meetings;
  • Daily scrum events;
  • Sprint reviews;
  • Sprint retrospectives;
  • Backlog refinement (grooming).

The Artifacts and Steps of Scrum Methodology

A scrum team completes a set amount of work in sprint/ iteration, which is a previously accepted period of four weeks or less. There is a sprint planning meeting, guided by SM, PO, and Developers before every iteration. During these meetings, they discuss the goal and select the list of critical items that should be performed in one sprint.

The high priority task list identified during these meetings is known as the sprint backlog. The main purpose of it is to give understanding to the stakeholders of what has to be done during the next sprint.

During a sprint, there are daily meetings to check the progress by answering the following questions:

  • What did we do yesterday?
  • What will we do today?
  • Is there anything blocking the progress?

A daily meeting is not held to discuss details. It is limited to ten-fifteen minutes with a focus on evaluating the progress rather than inspecting the details to set the context for the upcoming day.

Reviews and retrospectives come after a sprint. In a review, the team discusses what has been accomplished. The developers show what they have already completed.

Retrospectives reflect on previous sprints and state what worked well or was wrong and what can be done better next time. The main idea is to predict and eliminate potential failures in future.

Backlog refinement is a continuing process to monitor and modify the backlog. It is organized in the form of a dialogue between PO, SM, and Team to estimate efforts and update the priorities by breaking tasks into smaller items or involving further analysis and clarifications.

The documentation to manage the project and provide transparency while implementing different steps of scrum methodology process is called an artifact.

There are three major artifacts.

  1. A Product Backlog (PB) is anything crucial that is required for building software. 
  2. A Sprint Backlog is a subset of the PB. It is a guess for a particular iteration, created for and by developers. 
  3. An Increment includes every feature and fix of the PB from the current as well as previously completed sprints. It is an accomplished output that can be potentially released.

Values and Tools

There is more to scrum than increments and backlogs. It is rather about behavior and values in a company rather than artifacts and roles. There are five common values, which underpin scrum methodology in project management and sustain productivity.

  • Commitment. Being personally committed to achieving project goals.
  • Courage. Being courageous to take responsibility, make a change, and handle a tough task.
  • Focus. Doing less stuff with a focus on a backlog helps to get more stuff done.
  • Openness. Being transparent about the progress, ideas, and decisions.
  • Respect. Displaying respect to others. Encouragement to express ideas and listen to each others’ opinions.

Like any other agile approach, scrum can be supported (but never restricted to) by a variety of tools. Some tools will work for one team and will not work for another. For example, spreadsheets, tracking dashboards, proprietary software packages, etc. There are companies that do not use additional tools at all. The trick is to find what suits or not a particular workflow.

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