The Scrum framework is arguably the most popular of the different Agile methodologies, in large part because of its simplicity, flexibility, and ability to garner great results for company and customer alike. What is Scrum, in a nutshell, and what is Scrum used for? It’s a tool used to structure teams. Scrum helps them deliver quality versions of a product on a frequent and iterative basis to customers, and maintain adaptability as feedback is received and product needs change over time. Scrum also focuses on team improvement on an ongoing basis.
Scrum was initially developed in the early 1990s for use in the software development industry. Scrum fits with the Agile Manifesto, since three of its creators – Jeff Sutherland, Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle – were present when the Manifesto was created. Since then, many industries and organizations have adopted Scrum because of the great benefits that it affords:
Benefits of Scrum
- Iterative Development
Traditional project management has teams working on the many parts of a project and then delivering it as a single completed item at the end of development. This can easily lead to them building something that, by the time it’s finished, is no longer relevant, applicable, or needed. It also leads to the customer wondering what’s happening during all of that build time! With the Scrum Approach, the product is broken down into smaller, manageable pieces that get prioritized in the Scrum Product Backlog by the Scrum Product Owner. The Scrum Team works on several pieces (product backlog items) within a fixed timeframe (sprint), and then delivers all fully-functioning pieces to the customer at the end of the Sprint. That gives the customer, and users, the ability to give feedback, which informs and improves the remaining pieces of the overall product. And the customer also receives continuous delivery of the product they’re paying for.
- Predictable Delivery
Because iterative development breaks things down to smaller pieces, it’s far easier for the Scrum Team to estimate when they can complete those features.
- Time-to-Market Reduction
Because Scrum allows for changes made quickly and in response to feedback, if the market changes, the developers can quickly adapt and produce product that is releasable to the market. This is in contrast to traditional approaches where the focus is to see a project wholly through to the end before delivery, even if it’s obsolete by that time.
- Risk Mitigation
By breaking a product down into small parts that can be delivered incrementally and getting feedback as they go, the Scrum team can regularly review the products and progress to identify and address problems early on. This reduces risks and costs, versus waiting and delivering months or years later only to discover that they built something that doesn’t fit the customer need.
- Flexibility and Adaptability
Needs and priorities change (e.g. pandemic, market competition). Scrum allows development to adapt quickly to changes with minimal loss of invested development time and money.
- Collaboration and Communication
The Daily Scrum event helps keep everyone fully engaged and aware of current Sprint progress and any impediments that might make it difficult to get the Sprint Backlog Items to Done and achieve the Sprint Goal. This awareness enables Scrum team members to work together to clear blockages, and encourages cross-skilling, pair-programming, etc., which strengthen the team.
- Improved Product Quality
The Scrum framework focuses on frequently delivering high quality product in potentially shippable increments – that means small features that actually work. Scrum isn’t about churning out as much stuff as fast as possible; it requires that completed work meet Acceptance Criteria and Definition of Done to ensure quality standards are met.
- Transparency and Visibility
There isn’t much that will make a stakeholder, customer, or management more frustrated and upset than not knowing what is going on with a project. That can lead to micromanagement and low team morale, among other destruction things. The Scrum framework eliminates that with regular Sprint Reviews, so everyone involved knows exactly what is being worked on and when it is expected to be completed and ready for delivery. In addition, the Development team is saved from outside interruptions and demands by the Scrum Master and Product Owner, so they maintain autonomy on how to build the product.
- Customer Delight
Knowing that you’re going to get a high-quality workable product that solves your problem/meets your needs, at the expected time, with the ability to adapt if needed without huge cost or risk, is all pretty delightful. The Scrum framework creates the work environment to deliver that to your customers.
- Team Productivity and Performance
Scrum provides a structured framework for teams to organize their work. Scrum roles (aka accountabilities) and responsibilities are clearly defined and the why of the Product is fully understood. But the rest of it – how and when – is left to the Scrum team’s self-organization and planning. This empowers team members and increases autonomy, with motivation, morale and performance increasing as a result.
- Continuous Team Improvement
The Sprint Retrospective is an excellent tool for continuous Scrum team improvement. It builds into Scrum an event that examines not only measured results, but also team collaboration and communication, and creates a safe environment for team members to discuss ways to improve and become a true team, not just a group of people working on the same project.