What is Scrum project management?
If you are interested in project management, you have probably heard of Scrum.
In this guide, you will find out what Scrum is and get familiar with the basic Scrum terminology.
We will explain how it works, identify the Scrum roles and pinpoint the steps you should take to apply this framework to your projects.
Moreover, we will address the difference between Scrum and other popular project management frameworks and methodologies — Agile, Kanban, and Waterfall.
Let’s get started.
What is Scrum?
When explaining anything complex, you should always start from the basics. Therefore, we need to determine what Scrum is in project management first.
The Scrum Guide defines Scrum in project management as “a lightweight framework that helps people, teams and organizations generate value through adaptive solutions for complex problems.”
So, when we break down the definition, Scrum is an:
- Iterative process,
- Organized in Sprints throughout the project,
- With daily stand-up meetings,
- Where the Product Owner orders the work for a complex problem into a Product Backlog,
- The Scrum Master is accountable for the team’s effectiveness, and
- The Scrum Team is cross-functional, self-managing, and creates a useful Increment in every Sprint.
It is vital to address a widespread delusion regarding Scrum — Scrum is not a methodology but a framework. Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland developed it in the early 1990s, and since then, its popularity hasn’t faded. According to the 15th annual State of Agile Report, about 66 percent of Agile users implement Scrum.
So, Scrum is an Agile methodology framework mainly used for product development by Agile software development teams.
We have prepared the table below to make Scrum easier to comprehend — alongside its pillars, values, roles, artifacts, and events.
Not to worry, every term mentioned in this table will be explained later in this guide.
|Scrum Categories||Scrum Elements|
|Scrum Pillars||– Transparency|
|Scrum Values||– Courage|
|Scrum Roles||– Product Owner|
– Scrum Master
|Scrum Artifacts||– Product Backlog|
– Sprint Backlog
|Scrum Events||– Sprint|
– Sprint Planning
– Daily Scrum
– Sprint Review
– Sprint Retrospective
Let’s begin with the core of this framework — the three pillars of Scrum.
What are the 3 pillars of Scrum?
The Scrum Guide pinpoints the three pillars of Scrum.
- Transparency — Work must be visible to those doing it and those receiving it.
- Inspection — The Scrum Artifacts and the progress toward settled goals must be inspected often and diligently, to discover potentially unwanted variances or problems.
- Adaptation — If anything differs from the acceptable limits or the resulting product is not acceptable, we must adjust the process or materials as soon as possible.
Next, let’s take a look at the Scrum values.
The Scrum values are a set of fundamental values and qualities of the framework.
- Courage to work on challenging problems,
- Focus on Sprint’s work to make optimal progress toward Sprint goals,
- Commitment to accomplishing the goals,
- Respect to each other in a Scrum Team and respect from people they work with, and
- Openness about the work and the challenges from the Scrum Team and their stakeholders.
After providing the definition of Scrum and specifying its pillars and values, we can move on to the basic Scrum terms.
Basic Scrum terminology to know
Whether you are new to Scrum or want to brush up on your knowledge, we have prepared a list of basic Scrum terms. They are:
- Scrum Team
- Sprint Review
- Sprint Retrospective
- Daily Scrum
- Scrum Artifacts (Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, Increment)
- Definition of Done
- Scrum Board
- Burn-Up Chart, and
- Burn-Down Chart
Let’s get started.
First, we need to identify who is on a Scrum Team.
The Scrum Team members are:
- Product Owner
- Scrum Master, and
The Scrum Team is a self-managing team. This means that the team members internally determine who accomplishes what, when, and how.
We will discuss each role in more detail in the section dedicated to the Scrum roles.
Sprints are Scrum events during which all work required to achieve the product goal happens.
Some teams might work in two-week sprints, while others might prefer weekly sprints.
Sprints typically last no longer than one month.
They are made consecutively, with a new Sprint starting right after the previous one ends.
A Sprint Review is a Scrum event that serves the Scrum Team to gather to review finished work and decide whether additional changes are required.
It lasts a maximum of four hours for a one-month Sprint, or less if Sprints are shorter than one month.
A Sprint Retrospective is a Scrum event that enables the Scrum Team to inspect the past Sprint and plan improvements for the next Sprints.
It lasts for three hours for a one-month Sprint, or less if Sprints last less than one month.
As its name suggests, a Daily Scrum is a daily meeting for Developers that lasts about 15 minutes and takes place every day of the Sprint.
During the Daily Scrum, Developers explain to their teammates what they plan to work on for the next 24 hours.
This Scrum event takes place at the same time and the same place each day.
Are you familiar with Scrum Artifacts, or when someone mentions an artifact, you instantly recall good old Indiana Jones movies? Indiana Jones had recovered various artifacts over the course of these movies, like the Holy Grail, the Crystal Skull, and the Ark of the Covenant.
While Scrum Artifacts are completely different, for an Agile team, they are just as priceless.
Scrum Artifacts express work or value, and they are intended to maximize the transparency of critical information.
There are three Scrum Artifacts that help organize work:
- Product Backlog,
- Sprint Backlog, and
A Product Backlog represents an ordered list of the team’s work needed to create, maintain, and sustain a product.
It is constantly evolving and is never complete since it is updated on-demand as new information is available.
A Product Owner is the one in charge of managing a Product Backlog.
A Sprint Backlog is an overview of work that the team commits to accomplishing in a given Sprint.
Developers are those who manage this Scrum Artifact.
An Increment is complete and valuable work Developers produce during a Sprint.
Within a Sprint, Developers may create multiple Increments.
We cannot consider work as a part of an Increment unless it meets the Definition of Done.
Definition of Done
According to the Scrum.org article, the Definition of Done is “a shared understanding within the Scrum Team on what it takes to make your Product Increment releasable.”
A Scrum Board is a physical board whose purpose is to visualize information for and by the Scrum Team. You can use a write on the whiteboard, use post-it notes on a wall or opt to project management software.
The simplest Scrum Board consists of three vertical columns and has the following categories:
- To do
- In progress, and
A Burn-Up Chart displays work that has been completed, with time presented on the horizontal axis and finished work on the vertical axis.
It is named so because, as time passes and we take and complete items from the backlog, a line showing the work done may be expected to rise.
A Burn-Down Chart displays the rate at which workload is completed and how much it remains in a backlog.
This chart is a graphical representation of the outstanding work on the vertical axis and time on the horizontal axis.
It has such a name because, as time progresses and we take and complete items from the backlog, a line showing the work that remains may be expected to fall.
Roles in Scrum
We mentioned who the Scrum Team members are when discussing basic Scrum terminology: Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Developers.
Now it’s time to describe each role further.
A Product Owner is responsible for managing the Product Backlog and maximizing the product’s value. You may wonder how the Product Owner does this?
The Product Owner:
- Represents customers and other stakeholders,
- Sets and expresses the product goal,
- Creates and communicates Product Backlog items, and
- Make sure that the Product Backlog is visible, transparent, and comprehended.
A Scrum Master is accountable for a Scrum Team’s guidance and helping them understand and use Scrum properly.
Some other responsibilities include:
- Taking care of the team’s effectiveness, and
- Helping them focus on creating high-value Increments that meet the Definition of Done.
The Scrum Master is unrelated to the project itself, and instead focused on the team and implementation of Scrum, so everything works smoothly.
Developers are Scrum Team members committed to creating any aspect of a usable Increment in each Sprint.
They are accountable for:
- Creating the Sprint Backlog,
- Daily plan adjustments to meet the Sprint goal,
- Instilling quality by sticking to a Definition of Done, and
- Keeping each other accountable as professionals.
Now you are familiar with Scrum terminology.
But, how does it work, and how can you implement Scrum in your organization?
Don’t worry — we will explain everything you need to know in plain English.
How does Scrum work?
After determining what a Scrum is, its values, and basic terminology, it’s time to describe how it works.
Let’s see the gist of how Scrum works before, during, and after a Sprint.
How Scrum works before Sprint?
Before a Sprint, it is crucial to know who will be members of your Scrum Team.
As we explained in more detail earlier, the Scrum Team consists of a Product Owner, a Scrum Master, and a team of Developers.
A Product Owner represents customers and other project stakeholders and manages a Product Backlog. It is a dynamic and priority-ordered list of everything the product needs to have.
For a Sprint to start, you need to do Sprint planning. In a nutshell, Sprint planning describes what can be delivered in a Sprint and how that can be accomplished.
The two Sprint Planning outputs include:
- A defined Sprint goal, and
- A Sprint Backlog.
How Scrum works during Sprint?
After planning, it’s time for the actual Sprint.
It can last a week, or two weeks, depending on the timeframe agreed on by everyone.
During the Sprint, Developers meet once a day and have a Daily Scrum meeting.
The purpose of the Daily Scrum is to review and adjust the progress towards the Sprint goal.
The Scrum Master ensures that Scrum is understood and performed.
How Scrum works after Sprint?
When a Sprint ends, the review takes place. It inspects the result of the Sprint and determines future adaptations.
Over the course of a Sprint, we can create multiple Increments (versions of the product).
We present all the Increments at the Sprint Review, but we can deliver an Increment to stakeholders before the end of the Sprint as well, to show them how the project is progressing.
The final Sprint event is a Sprint Retrospective.
It concludes the Sprint, and it is timeboxed to a meeting lasting a maximum of three hours for a one-month sprint, or less for shorter Sprints.
During this event, the Scrum Team reviews the following:
- What went well during the Sprint,
- What problems were faced, and
- How those issues were resolved — or why they weren’t.
How to implement Scrum in project management?
There are a few steps you have to take to implement Scrum in project management.
They include the following:
- Assemble Scrum Team,
- Plan a Sprint,
- Track progress,
- Run a Sprint Review,
- Run a Sprint Retrospective, and
- Use project management software.
Now, let’s explain what each step entails.
Assemble a Scrum Team
The first step is assembling your Scrum Team.
So, you need to define and assign your Product Owner, Scrum Master, and the Developers.
Scrum teams usually include ten or fewer members. They are cross-functional in terms of team members possessing all skills needed to create value within each Sprint.
Suppose you like the idea of implementing Scrum but don’t have trained people on board. In that case, you should look into project management certification options.
💡 Plaky Pro Tip
Check how to get project management certification in our guide:
Plan a Sprint
If we want to track whether the project is going smoothly and according to plan — well, we need a plan first. The same applies to Scrum.
A Sprint Planning meeting starts a Sprint. What makes Scrum different from other frameworks is that this meeting is the collaborative work of the entire Scrum Team.
The Scrum Team works together to define a Sprint goal that expresses why the Sprint is valuable to stakeholders.
Then, it is time to select items from the Product Backlog that will be included in the current Sprint.
Developers do that, but they do not select items alone. They discuss it with the Product Owner.
After selecting the items from the Product Backlog they want to include in a current Sprint, Developers plan what they need to do to create an Increment that meets the Definition of Done for each one.
Sprint Planning lasts a maximum of 8 hours for a one-month Sprint.
You can track a Sprint’s progress by using the Burn-Down Chart and the Scrum Board, all while conducting the Daily Scrum meetings.
As we mentioned earlier in this guide, the Burn-Down Chart displays the outstanding work on the vertical axis and time on the horizontal axis.
Over the days of the Sprint, the line showing the amount of remaining work should trend down to zero by the last day of the Sprint.
We can also use the Scrum Board to track the progress of the tasks. It should have a minimum of three columns: To Do, Doing, and Done.
Lastly, if you want to use Scrum properly, a Daily Scrum is unavoidable. It is a Developers’ meeting that usually lasts for 15 minutes, and it is always at the same place and at the same time.
The Daily Scrum focuses on reporting on progress towards the Sprint goal and produces an actionable plan for the next workday.
Run a Sprint Review
A Sprint Review’s purpose is to inspect the outcome of the Sprint and specify future adaptations.
Sprint Review is a working session.
During this Scrum event, the Scrum Team presents what was accomplished in the Sprint to key stakeholders and discusses the progress towards the product goal.
The Scrum Team and the stakeholders inspect the Increment of the product that results from the Sprint, evaluate the impact of the completed work on progress toward the product goal, and update the Product Backlog to maximize the value of the next period.
Run a Sprint Retrospective
Finally, there is the last Scrum event — a Sprint Retrospective.
As its name suggests, it serves the Scrum Team to review the past Sprint and plan improvements for future Sprints.
During each Sprint Retrospective, the Scrum Team makes plans on how to improve product quality.
How do they do that?
There are two ways:
- By improving work processes or
- By adapting the Definition of Done (if it is suitable and if it is not in conflict with product or organizational standards).
Use project management software
No matter which framework and methodology you choose to use, you will manage a project easier with the help of project management software.
Why use a project management software for Scrum?
Well, using project management software promotes transparency, which is one of Scrum’s core values. Everyone can see what other team members are working on and their tasks progress.
Now, using project management software does not have to cost a fortune.
Unlike other project management platforms, Plaky offers an unlimited number of users and projects, all for free.
How to use Plaky for Scrum?
Well, in Plaky, you can:
- Create a separate board for every Sprint,
- Assign ownership,
- Attach files,
- Add comments,
- Mention team members, and
- Get notified when there’s a new task comment or a change to a note you’re subscribed to.
This way, tracking and managing work progress becomes easy.
What is the difference between Scrum and other frameworks and methodologies?
Now you know what Scrum is and how it works. To avoid being redundant, in this section, we will focus more on explaining how Agile, Kanban, and Waterfall differentiate from Scrum, without repeating all that we previously mentioned about Scum and its main characteristics.
Scrum vs. Agile
First, we need to address the most common misconception regarding Scrum and Agile.
Scrum is not equivalent to Agile.
As previously mentioned, Scrum is an Agile approach.
It is the most popular framework used to implement Agile principles and values.
Agile refers to a specific way of mindset and work performing. It is a flexible, iterative approach and concentrates on continuous releases that include customer feedback.
You may have heard of Kanban and Extreme Programming (XP). Just as Scrum, they are some examples of Agile frameworks.
💡 Plaky Pro Tip
If you want to learn more about Agile in project management, check our guide:
Scrum vs. Kanban
Kanban is another popular Agile framework. It is the process of visualizing your workflow, and you can apply it to many different industries. Teams who use the Kanban framework tend to use boards to monitor tasks.
These boards are called Kanban boards and include at least three columns:
- To do,
- In progress, and
The simplest version of a Scrum Board has the same columns.
The project phases are divided into columns, and tasks are written on cards. We move them from one column to the next until the task is completed.
Using the Kanban board helps teams boost efficiency.
They can monitor what they need to accomplish and task progress, and they have a clear insight into how long it takes each project task to move across the board toward realization.
Kanban is all about visualizing your work, and unlike Scrum, the work is not done in Sprints. Scrum also has prescribed roles and ceremonies, which Kanban does not have.
Scrum vs. Waterfall
The Waterfall is nothing like Scrum.
While Scrum is an Agile framework, Waterfall is a project management methodology. It is one of the stricter PM methodologies, and it is not flexible like Agile.
Waterfall maps out a project into separate, sequential phases, and the order in which the tasks are done matters. Each phase starts when the previous one has been completed. Waterfall has a fixed timeline, and the budget for projects using the Waterfall methodology is typically fixed as well. Keeping in mind that Waterfall is a linear project progression, it works best for projects with a determined end goal.
On the other hand, the Scrum teams are autonomous. They have no project managers or formal leaders. While Waterfall is sequential, Scrum is flexible and continually evolving.
💡 Plaky Pro Tip
Find out more about Waterfall in project management in our guide:
Wrapping up: Use Scrum to provide adaptive solutions for complex problems
Scrum is the most popular Agile framework, trusted and used by many teams worldwide. It is a flexible, iterative approach focusing on continuous releases, with Sprints that last between one and four weeks. The Scrum Team is cross-functional and self-managing and creates a useful Increment in every Sprint.
To be more efficient, we recommend managing the project’s progress with the assistance of project management software, such as Plaky — to enjoy organizing your work transparently, efficiently, and getting things done on time.
- Crail, C. (2021, November 3). What Is A Scrum Board? Should You Make One? Forbes Advisor. Retrieved March 10, 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/advisor/business/what-is-a-scrum-board/
- Digital.ai. (n.d.). 15th Annual State Of Agile Report. Retrieved March 21, 2022, from https://digital.ai/resource-center/analyst-reports/state-of-agile-report
- Madan, S. (n.d.). DONE Understanding Of The Definition Of “Done”. Scrum.Org. Retrieved March 21, 2022, from https://www.scrum.org/resources/blog/done-understanding-definition-done
- Schwaber, K., & Sutherland, J. (2020). The Scrum Guide. https://scrumguides.org/docs/scrumguide/v2020/2020-Scrum-Guide-US.pdf#zoom=100
- Scrum.org. (n.d.). Scrum Glossary. Retrieved March 9, 2022, from https://www.scrum.org/resources/scrum-glossary
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