Quick overview of Scrum

This quick overview of scrum is intended to provide a quick overall view of scrum. Scrum is the most popular among the agile family of frameworks. It is not something very new. In fact, it is more than twenty years old. Scrum was founded by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland and is based on the scrum guide. It became so popular because of it’s simplicity and it’s applicability across domains. It can be used for simple projects as well as very large complex projects.

Scrum Roles

Scrum comprises of just three roles.

  • Product owner – the one who owns the product and the product backlog
  • Scrum master – the one who ensures that the project is following real scrum
  • Development team – the cross functional team which really build the product

The diagram below depicts the flow of Scrum.

1. Product backlog

The product backlog is prepared and maintained by the product owner. The product owner gathers the potential requirements of the product and enters it into the product backlog. Product backlog can be considered as a wish list of features, which may or may not get into the final product. The product backlog is allowed to grow endlessly. When the product backlog stops growing, that is an indication that the product has reached end of life. For example, if we take the products of Apple, the product backlog of ipod will not be growing anymore, where as the product backlog of ipad must be very dynamic these days.

2. Sprint planning

Sprint is a maximum 30 days iteration. During the sprint, the team develops the increment of the product. Every sprint starts with a sprint planning meeting. The sprint planning meeting has a maximum duration of 8 hours for a 30 days sprint. If the sprint duration is lower, then the sprint planning meeting duration can be shorter. From my experience, a well conducted sprint planning meeting will take a minimum of 4 to 5 hours. During the sprint planning meeting the following happen;

  1. The product owner explains the features to be developed during the sprint.
  2. All the questions regarding the functionality is answered by the product owner or by the specialists invited to the meeting.
  3. The team estimates the weightage (size) of those features independently.
  4. Then the team discusses their estimates and converge into a single estimate for every feature
  5. The team decomposes the features into tasks
  6. Tasks are estimated and rolled up to see whether the size estimates are correct or not. If required, size estimates are fine tuned.
  7. The team checks the effort required and the capacity available and finally commits to a set of features that will be developed during the sprint and finalizes the sprint backlog.

3. Sprint backlog

Sprint backlog is the output of the sprint planning meeting. The sprint backlog contains;

  1. The list of clean features that can be developed during the sprint without having any dependencies on other features or work products which can pose a risk.
  2. Their weightages
  3. Feature wise task lists with estimates

4. Sprinting

During the sprint, he team self organizes and start to build the features in the sprint backlog. As far as possible, work allocation is not encouraged, instead the team members are allowed to decide their work as a self organizing team. The maximum duration of the sprint is 30 days or lower, as decided by the team.

5. Daily Scrum Meeting

Every day the team meets for a maximum of 20 minutes to see the progress made. During the scrum meeting each team member explains three things to the rest of the team;

  1. What is the progress he/she could make after the previous meeting?
  2. What is he doing now?
  3. Are they facing any issues?

Since the team has the collective responsibility to make the sprint successful, either other team members or the Scrum master (if external help is required) pitches in and removes the impediments for progress.

6. Sprint review

Formal sprint review meetings are conducted on the sprint completion date agreed during the sprint planning meeting. This date is not negotiable. Sprint review meetings are attended by the product owner, scrum master, development team and all other key stakeholders of the product. During the sprint review, the output of the sprint is demonstrated against pre-defined acceptance criteria, defined during the sprint planning meeting. If all the features of the sprint matches the success criteria, the sprint is declared as successful.

7. Sprint retrospective

After the sprint review meeting, sprint retrospective meetings are conducted. During the retrospective meetings the strengths and the areas that need improvements are analysed. Improvement actions are identified to be implemented in the subsequent sprints.

Scrum is simple. So, there is no room to tailor it further. It must be performed in it’s entirety to get the real benefits.