You’re a new software developer and everyone at your office is buzzing about scrum, agile and their next daily standup.
If you’re new, this can be intimidating and overwhelming.
But really, Agile and Scrum are different ways to tackle projects. They are intertwined styles of project management that came of age in the early years of software development, but have now spread to other industries as well.
Stay for a minute and see how scrum and agile can help your team succeed.
What is Scrum?
In agile methodologies, leadership encourages teamwork, accountability, and open team communication. Business stakeholders and developers come together on a regular basis to align the product with customer needs and company goals.
Agile software development is based on an incremental, iterative approach. Instead of in-depth planning at the beginning of the project, agile methodologies are open to changing requirements over time and encourage constant feedback from the end users. Cross-functional teams work on iterations of a product, this work is organized into a backlog that is prioritized based on business or customer value.
So how does Scrum fit in with the agile methodology? Think of it this way, if agile is a diet, Scrum is a recipe to facilitate that diet. It’s a subset of agile.
The goal of Scrum is to take the practice of agile development and make it faster, simpler, and more flexible.
Who can benefit?
Despite its roots in the tech world, Scrum lends itself to any kind of environment.
This includes anything from development teams, marketing agencies, and sales organizations to small businesses with just a few employees. All of those can create a SCRUM team.
How does Scrum work?
Agile SCRUM is all about simplicity for software development, which makes it easy to learn.
If a scrum in rugby is all the players putting their heads together, then an agile scrum should look similar: Everyone putting their heads together to achieve a common goal. And at the end, a product emerges.
Scrum depends on the product backlog. The product backlog is the feature wishlist for what the product will contain.
From the product backlog, the team determines:
- Time estimates to complete
- What features need to be completed
- How the work will be divided
From here, the team uses Sprints along with Daily Scrums to monitor progress. These parts, along with the product owners, are discussed more in detail in the next section.
The People: Scrum Masters, Product Owners, The Scrum Team
What is a Scrum Master?
In Scrum-world, the Scrum Master is essentially a project manager. He or she holds the processes together and keeps the team accountable to those goals and deliverables. The Scrum Master is also the guardian of the agile process, helping team members who may not be as familiar with Scrum iron out the kinks and see the correct processes.
A big function of the Scrum Master’s job is to promote community and harmony within the team. They’re not necessarily seeking the ROI (even though that is a factor) but are trying to promote the right practices to build continuity and streamline any rough patches in the process.
In some organizations, the Scrum Master is responsible for part of the software development process and contributing to the work itself. In larger organizations, they may simply be a mediator and coach in the development. This keeps them from being a roadblock in a project or part of the path to completion, where they would focus on their own work rather than examining it as a whole.
Many Scrum Masters are certified, taking an exam about sprints, scrum roles, daily meetings and more.
What is a Product Owner?
SCRUM starts with the Product Owner. This team member has a vision for what the final product needs to be. He or she knows the project or product requirements and makes final decisions on what is included or excluded. They are often the voice of the customer, considering things like UX, functionality and what would make sense to a customer who is not involved in development.
It’s essential that there only be one Product Owner and that their authority goes uncontested. At the end of the day, it is the Product Owner who must take responsibility for the success or the failure of the project.
However, like Uncle Ben told Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Since it’s the Product Owner whose vision will guide the project, the most important job falls on them: making the product backlog.
What is the product backlog?
The product backlog is a prioritized list of tasks that must be completed, as well as everything that needs to happen to make a project a reality. The product backlog also takes the form of user stories i.e. from the perspective of the end user and how they would interact with the product.
Often, the user story takes the form of this simple sentence: “As a [end user role], I want [the desire] so that [the rationale].”
The developers then consider that user story as they build and create features in their workflow. This is meant to help product owners and scrum team members consider a perspective other than their own.
Tasks are generally organized on a Kanban board which can be physical or digital “cards.” A kanban board is a holdover from lean principles. In the Kanban method, teams are emphasizing efficiency over waste. Oftentimes, it also represents a sticky-note with key information about the project and its status.
Tasks may also be assigned story points, which are assigned to backlog items to estimate the amount of work it will take to finish it. For story points in ClickUp, you can use custom fields to set certain columns or statuses and then list your story points there.
In ClickUp, the Board View is the go-to vehicle for day-to-day tasks of the scrum process which operates like a Kanban board. However, sometimes you’ll also need a big-picture perspective.
For ClickUp users, this need is addressed with the Box View – our way of organizing your project into stats and highlights that are easy to consume and highly informative.
Sprints and Sprint Planning
A sprint is a short burst of activity during which a team commits to completing a certain number of backlog items.
In the sprint planning, a team may decide that they want to finish the login system for their application (something on their backlog already). They could then put together a sprint, say 7-days starting that day, to attack all tasks (based on the priority given to them by the product manager) involved in completing the login system. Sprints are anywhere from a week to a month.
Each Sprint ends with a retrospective or sprint review, where teams meet to review the last sprint and discuss how to improve on their next sprint.
The Sprint review or retrospective are fabulous opportunities to learn, especially for young teams. By reflecting on what could be done better, specific inefficiencies encountered, and ideas for improvement, teams are able to systematically improve over time.
Instead of having individual employees learn things on their own about the product and its development, information is shared and open communication is used as a tool to uncover new insights.
For all you ClickUp users: We recommend using categories and sections as a way to organize tasks into a Sprint.
The Daily Scrum Meeting
The last key piece of Scrum is the daily Scrum meeting, which is a super-fast, daily meeting for teams to get progress updates on everything with the product backlog.
A daily scrum should:
- Be less than 15 minutes
- Have every team member present
- Run by the Scrum Master who keeps everyone on task
- Usually be in the morning to reflect on the previous day and set the agenda for the next
The daily scrum is not used as a problem solving or issue resolution meeting for scrum teams. Issues that are raised are taken offline and usually dealt with by the relevant subgroup immediately following the meeting.
During the daily Scrum, each team member answers the following three questions as part of the Scrum process:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What will you do today?
- Are there any impediments in your way on the project?
The daily Scrum should be brief and are there to discuss the next project steps. Often times, the daily scrum may have more than the “committed” members–that is the people doing the work. The product owner or another stakeholder may attend, but may not necessarily get to pipe up. Obviously, specific company culture has a big say in whether or not this is enforced.
It’s more than a status update, but a commitment. Commitments are a big part of the meeting. For instance, if someone says “I will finish this feature today” the next day, the developer must say whether or not they finished.
Returning to the Box View referenced earlier, this management-focused dashboard also includes a feature for meetings which are designed to facilitate smooth Scrum meetings for the entire team.
Where To Start on Agile Scrum?
Why is there such tremendous value to be found using Scrum? Because it takes into account communication issues and project development problems. It was invented to handle the mess at the intersection of software projects and making products a reality.
So, do you think your team could benefit from Scrum?
If you already have a project management approach you’re used to, I’d recommend one thing: start small.
You don’t need to radically redesign your workflow tomorrow morning.
However, if you’re just starting out, you have a HUGE opportunity to get things right the first time around.
While there a few tools out there used for Scrum – Trello being the most famous example–we found they all fall short in at least one major area.
Trello is far too simple for any meaningful workflow. Yes, you can drag tasks from column to column, but you don’t actually have statuses for tasks. And of course, you don’t really have assignees, and the workflows are vastly limited.
Reporting, management, and organization all take a major hit in Trello. Tasks simply get lost.
ClickUp was built out of these frustrations and is designed around agile methodologies to make you and your team more productive. It incorporates the best of the agile frameworks and it combines with simple tools and integrations. Incorporating ClickUp into your scrum and agile processes will help you with better projects and products.
So…what is scrum? It’s a dynamic approach to project management that emphasizes flexibility and collaboration over a top-down waterfall approach found in traditional project management. The agile-scrum framework helps teams both prioritize and collaborate together to finish the most product backlog items as possible.