Agile Project Management: Scrum

Malte Dietrich
Malte Dietrich
April 22 · 6 min read
scrum project management with sticky notes and team leading planning

In software development, many companies are successfully using agile methods to keep their projects flexible and to develop user-oriented solutions. There are various different frameworks that can be used to help structure the collaboration of co-workers within teams.

We’re sure you’ve heard of this term before, as it’s one of the most popular frameworks around – Scrum.

Scrum is a proven, scalable project management and development method. It is used successfully in large projects with up to several hundred team members. It therefore works for teams of almost any size and includes concrete tools, roles and procedures (meetings with clear rules) that organize the cooperation.

Below we have outlined some basic rules and elements of Scrum. We start directly with the first nifty tool, namely, the product backlog:

Product Backlog

The Product Backlog is basically a list of open tasks in a Scrum project.

On this list are all customer requirements, as well as known bugs, along with a clear prioritization of each topic. In this way, it is always clearly defined which topics are to be tackled next by the teams involved.

The backlog is initially filled with all foreseeable tasks at the start of the agile Scrum project. Newly recognized requirements can then be added at any time during the course of the project.

Scrum: Sprints in Scrum

Each Scrum project is divided into so-called sprints, in which the tasks from the product backlog are processed. The length of the individual sprints is always the same in every project, and is also clearly limited. Typically, a single sprint lasts 1-4 weeks.

The special thing about the agile Scrum method is that a functional product or feature is delivered at the end of each Scrum Sprint. This is also one of the most important differences between the agile method and the classic waterfall model.

The below graphic shows how the sprints in a Scrum project merge directly into each other: A planning phase is followed by implementation and so forth. It is usually the case in IT projects that there are critical steps of design, development, testing, deployment, review and launch.

If there are still topics in the product backlog, another sprint follows until the product is finished.

To give you a bit more understanding of Scrum Sprints, we’d like to mention that they can also be divided into three important phases:

1. Sprint planning

At the beginning of every Scrum Sprint is the Sprint Planning. The team takes a maximum of one morning to discuss the upcoming sprint. There are many things that are discussed here in terms of tasks but what is important to note is that this is the time in which tasks from the backlog will be included in the next sprint, which work packages will result from them and which team members are responsible for them. So it gives you a nice ‘look at next week’ overview. In addition to this, it is important to clarify which information and external resources are required to successfully complete the tasks.

If there are any concerns from team members or if they feel that they could foresee needing assistance from a manager during one of their task assignments, this would be the right time to mention this.

Good sprint planning is of particular importance. For example, poor planning can result in too many backlog issues being included in the sprint, which can quickly become a problem. It will also make workloads feel too heavy for a given time period resulting in poor performance.

2. The Sprint

The actual scrum sprint begins with the completion of the sprint planning. Since the tasks have been carefully outlined, each team member can start working. The work day involves a daily stand-up meeting in which each employee briefly reflects on what they accomplished the previous day, what they are currently working on, and if there is any obstacle currently blocking their work progress.

Incidentally, the name "stand-up meeting" comes from the idea that you literally hold the meeting standing up to automatically ensure that the meeting stays short and sweet. In fact, one should try to limit the length of the get-together to about 15 minutes.

3. Sprint Review & Retrospective

At the end of each Scrum Sprint is the Sprint Review. Here the team presents their work and achievements as part of a demonstration of the finished product or feature. During this phase only the technical solution itself should be shown. For example, presentations in the form of Powerpoint slides are not really what things are about here. This is the part where you need to show what you’ve spent your time doing in actual practice.

The review is then subsequently followed by the sprint retrospective. Here the team sits down and discusses what went well and what went badly in the sprint in order to fix problems and avoid repeating mistakes. Just like with the product, the goal here is to further develop the team with each sprint and celebrate greater successes.

Scrum: Roles

In addition to the backlog and sprints, the roles of those involved are of particular importance and clearly clarified in Scrum. When working with a Scrum framework, you usually divide by three roles, which we will outline below:

Scrum: Product Owner

The Product Owner is responsible for formulating and prioritizing the project requirements. This essentially means that they fill the product backlog. The product owner does not go into the area of ​​product development, but only formulates the user challenges that need to be solved. The solution is then developed by the Scrum Team itself.

Scrum: Scrum Master

The Scrum Master supports the Scrum Team and helps to remove barriers. This person is responsible for ensuring that the team members can do their work undisturbed.This role can also be compared to a kind of project manager, since he makes sure that the daily progress is well documented and that the team follows all the rules. For example, they would be responsible for coordinating and complying with protocols in place, such as the daily stand-up meeting.

Scrum: Team Members

The team members in the Scrum model are employees from different disciplines who work together to implement the requirements. The individual team members are often not completely specialized in a single area of ​​responsibility, but take on tasks that often have points of contact with many different departments. For example, it could be that a programmer would work on the product design, or that a web designer writes a product manual for the users. This great variety in the areas of responsibility makes the work for the employees in Scrum teams particularly interesting and exciting, as they are not bound to only one thing.

Conclusion

Scrum is a powerful framework that helps agile teams to handle software projects in a user-oriented manner and thus successfully. Nifty tools and internal procedures and protocols provide a clear framework for the daily work in the team. With a clear division of roles and the strong structure, Scrum ensures that each team member knows what their current task is. The sprints ensure that both the software and the team continue to develop during the ongoing project and still remain flexible.

If you would like to know more, why not pop us an email on hello@especial.digital or contact us here on our website.

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Malte Dietrich
Written by

Malte Dietrich

Digital Strategist & Co-Owner

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