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What is Scrum?

There are many project management methodologies out there, and it’s not easy to choose the most efficient approach toward your project. You need to factor several aspects into your decision, along with understanding the different practices. In this article, we discuss Scrum, an agile project management methodology that is iterative and focuses on the use of an empirical process.

First off, let’s get clear on what Scrum is not. There is a common misconception that “Scrum” is “Agile”; therefore these two expressions are often used interchangeably. However, while Scrum is, in fact, agile, it is not the only method of implementing agile principles. A helpful analogy would be to think of Agile as being a diet, while Scrum, and other methods like Extreme Programming (XP), Crystal, Feature Driven Development, are different recipes. A particular diet is a set of practices and methods based on certain principles, and the recipe would be a framework you use to implement your diet. So, what is Scrum then? As PMI perfectly sums it, “Scrum is an agile method of iterative and incremental product delivery that uses frequent feedback and collaborative decision making.”

Scrum is merely 30 years old and based on Hirotaka Takeuchi’s and Ikujiro Nonaka’s paper written in 1986, titled “The New New Product Development Game.” (Yes, with two “news”.) They used a rugby metaphor to describe the benefits of self-organizing teams which was later applied to the field of software development by Jeff Sutherland, Ken Schwaber, and Mike Beedle. They called their method Scrum and applied it first at Easel Corporation, a popular software development firm later acquired by VMARK, in 1993.

While Scrum is still unquestionably popular amongst engineers and developers, any project can benefit from using this framework. As David Matthew says, “Scrum can be used for any sort of complex project, the caveat is that it works best when there’s a concrete product being produced.” Scrum has been used by the FBI, construction crews, and, drumroll, marketing agencies. After all, if the FBI agrees with it, you can’t really argue it, can you?

So, how does Scrum work? It has a few critical roles and “ceremonies” that define who does what and when. Scrum starts with a Product Owner who represents the client’s or final user’s interest and has the authority to make decisions about the final product. The other crucial role you need to pick is a Scrum Master, the person who helps the team proceed based on the principles of Scrum. Then, of course, there are team members, nonetheless essential parts of the framework.

The Product Owner is in charge of creating the Backlog which contains all the requirements the final product will need to have, prioritized, that is. Having the Backlog ready, the team creates a Sprint - a predetermined timeframe within which they will complete a set of tasks. While the length on this timeframe depends on the team, two weeks is pretty standard. During a Sprint, the team every day has a Daily Scrum to discuss progress, and when a Sprint ends, they have a Retrospective to review the work done and discuss how to improve the next Sprint.

As you probably see by now, transparency is a crucial principle in Scrum, therefore making tasks and progress visible is vital. This is done by using the Scrum Board which can be a whiteboard with sticky notes or a sophisticated software with charts; the point remains: every team member should be aware of what is happening in the project.

As mentioned above, Scrum is iterative and focuses on improvement; therefore when a Sprint is completed, the work done has to be ready to deliver to the client. This does not mean that the project is finished; however, the work should be complete enough to be a Minimum Viable Product. This is essential because it lets you collect feedback from the beginning, enabling you to guide your team to design a perfect fit with the client.

We, at Webtown, think that in software development the first and foremost quality is the perfection of compliance with the business goals, along with the clear understanding of the requirements, and delivering quick, error-free and quality solutions. This is why we not only follow Scrum in software production, our entire company is built as a flat organization. If you think Scrum is something you also might be able to benefit from, take a look at Scrum Mate, an agile platform that helps organizations overcome the challenges of working and managing multiple projects or clients.