What Is Scrum Methodology? Process, Model Framework & More

Tuesday, June 28, 2022
Michael Scheiner
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Welcome one and all to our explainer on what agile scrum methodology is all about. 

We’ll define scrum, and provide a detailed scrum lifecycle step-by-step breakdown. We’ll give examples of scrum in action, talk about pros and cons, and say a little something about project management scrum software.

 

Scrum overview: What is scrum methodology? Our definition

Here is a solid scrum definition when it comes to the scrum methodology. Scrum is a project management methodology which helps plan projects by breaking the scope of the project down into smaller groups of tasks to be done over short periods of time. 

If we’re thinking about scrum meaning in project management, it speaks to managing tasks and incrementally delivering products, or iterations of products, within complex organizations and environments. As a PM system, scrum is very different from other process-based systems like the PRINCE2 project management. 

Scrum is extremely common in software development although it is not limited to this kind of product development, as scrum can be used by other kinds of development teams like marketing teams or research and development teams. 

For a more detailed explanation and definition of the scrum system, please keep reading the rest of this article for tons of scrum insights and tips.

So, what is scrum in agile?

When thinking and talking about a scrum process overview, it’s first important to take a step back and discuss the meaning of agile methodologies and agile project management concepts in general. The scrum meaning in agile is well aligned as scrum is one of the most common forms of the agile framework.

Agile methodology encompasses a few factors. Firstly, it emphasizes a teamwork process whereby scrum teams are small and can remain flexible in terms of some tasks and timeframes. The idea is to be able to quickly adapt to any new developments or changes. Secondly, agile systems focus on breaking down large projects into smaller increments of tasks within short periods of time frames. 

There are many agile scrum events to note. Scrums in agile use something called sprints. A sprint is the name of these short bursts of work and they are usually planned to last for about 2 to 4 weeks at a time with a clear sprint goal. 

Afterward, the scrum team members usually have an end-of-the-sprint review, which will review all the work done by all the team members during the sprint period, evaluate how well the sprint goal has been met, and conduct a sprint planning meeting for the next sprint increment. 

Agile sprints also make use of daily meetings called the daily scrum meeting or the daily standup meetings. Because of this, sprint planning is a huge part of any agile framework.

When is agile scrum methodology appropriate?

As mentioned above, one of the times the agile scrum methodology is important is with software development teams especially during the development process, as well as for bug fixing and issue tracking, although those tasks can also be done with the agile system known as Kanban boards. 

The Kanban methodology and its boards are similar to scrum in some ways, but simpler in others. That isn’t the only difference between scrum and kanban there is.

And then what is scrumban, you may ask? A hybrid of the two.

Next, the scrum method is appropriate for collaborations, and especially if different departments need to collaborate together, where there must be a lot of independence between departments, but regular sessions of sprint retrospectives and sprint planning. This is a cross-functional team effort with high levels of self-organization between departments to break down a large amount of work.

Finally, the scrum methodology is often used when stakeholders, like the product owner or the client, want to see both continuous improvement as well as iterations of deliverables, product increments, and regular results in the project or product development. 

How & when was the scrum approach to planning projects created?

The scrum history is a fascinating one. The word scrum itself was first used by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka. These two fine gentlemen wrote an article called “The New New Product Development Game” and had it published in HBR, or the Harvard Business Review in 1986. 

The idea was to revolutionize project management. And as Nonaka would later write that scrum is a method for “organizational knowledge creation,” and that scrum is “especially good at bringing about innovation continuously, incrementally and spirally.”

Shortly after, during the last great decade which were the 90s, software developers Ken Schwaber, along with colleagues like Jeff Sutherland, John Scumniotales and Jeff McKenna, started naming scrum directly into their company’s advanced development methods. 

Their work with scrum would form part of the agile manifesto, or to use the full name, The Manifesto for Agile Software Development, which came out in 2001. The agile scrum approach was born. 

Later, in 2009, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland would pen The Scrum Guide. This scrum guide has since been revised many times, with the most recent version coming out in 2020.

 

Scrum principles and scrum values

Scrum is both a philosophy as well as a practical guide to living and working. What we have next is a breakdown of 5 scrum values and 6 scrum principles. 

The 5 values of scrum are: commitment, bravery, focus, honesty and respect. 

The 6 principles of scrum are: control, organize, collaborate, prioritize, timebox and iterate.

Scrum values

Scrum values are work philosophies. When using a scrum system, you have a much more optimized approach to these ideas. The 5 key scrum values are:

1. Commitment

Commitments to deadlines, milestones and goals are crucial to running smooth project management. The scrum framework really helps with commitment by breaking things down into sprints of short durations, thereby avoiding the point where a team feels committed to something too distant, which is alienating and demotivating.

2. Bravery

Because of scrum’s system of having scrum roles like scrum master and product owner, there is enough leadership to inspire courage among the product developers and other team members. And even if with scrum you iterate more often, courage in your planning and tasks is always recommended. 

3. Focus

When there is a lack of focus in project planning, resource allocation, and division of labor, it’s hard for every individual or team to be able to zoom in on their tasks at hand. Scrum highlights focus with laser precision for everyone with sprint planning, while sprint retrospectives can help refocus for the next round of tasks.

4. Honesty

The daily standup meeting or the daily scrum meeting is a fantastic space for scrum team members within and between departments to get together and be open. Great topics are the obstacles one foresees or what one department might require of another if, for example, some parts of the project have to adhere to a waterfall system.

5. Respect

Respect is the lifeblood of all team collaboration and communication. How does the scrum principle of respect apply in everyday project planning? When people feel seen, heard and respected, they’ll be more ready to participate in planning sessions, or to voice their opinions if they spot something is off, thereby saving the project on time and expenses.

Scrum principles

And now, here are the core 6 scrum principles. They tell you how to approach your job so that everyone using the scrum system benefits.

1. Control 

Having control over the empirical process is the first big scrum principle. You have to take a good look at the resources you have or have access to, for example. Do regular inspections, and also be transparent with what you find out. What’s more, be realistic if you feel you need to adapt. People in all scrum roles benefit when this principle is respected.

2. Organize

Organization is the next principle of scrum. Although projects are always a teamwork effort, scrum optimizes for much self organization. This is great for allowing individuals and small scrum teams to figure out for themselves how best to reach each sprint goal, deliverable or product increment milestone. 

3. Collaborate

Team collaboration and interdepartmental collaboration is an important scrum principle. Although scrum allows for the self-organization of independent work, it also provides good collaboration when it’s needed. When team members are aware of one another and they feel comfortable communicating, scrum functions more smoothly. 

4. Prioritize

In order to get the most out of your scrum methodology, pay heed to the scrum principle of value-based prioritization. Things to think about when planning your projects are which tasks are the most important or most difficult or time consuming or costly, and combine those factors to set priorities. But also always be prepared to shift priorities if the need arises, as it often does in business. 

5. Timebox

Timeboxing is another way of talking about sprints, because you are creating time-boxes that are contained and small enough to handle without much difficulty. In most cases, the time-box for a sprint is a fortnight. The scrum meeting is a hyper example of the time-box, as it is usually set at no longer than 15 minutes a day. Timeboxing is usually taken care of by the scrum master.

6. Iterate

Iterative development is all about not putting the cart before the horse. When your team envisages a new product, it’s a good idea to break it down into stages (like a waterfall) where you can regularly produce something worth testing and getting feedback from. This is often the purview of the product owner.

 

What are the 7 scrum lifecycle phases

Let's take a look at scrum methodology steps now. The scrum system can be broken down into several kinds of scrum phases though they all have overlapping qualities. The first thing to know about are scrum artifacts. What are scrum artifacts? These are the product backlog, sprint backlog, and increments. We’ll get into these below.

1. Product backlog

It all starts with a vision. What is the vision of the project? Here is where you lay out your product backlog, or your to-do list of wishes for everything you wish to achieve in your project, or more importantly, every function you wish your product can satisfactorily perform. These are the product backlog items, and the product owner is in charge of these. This is also a good time to do a product user story. In scrum, user stories are descriptions of the project’s goals or product in natural plain spoken language for anyone to understand.

2. Sprint planning

Once the product backlog and your project vision is complete, the next scrum step is your sprint planning. You have to think of time-boxed sets of tasks that can be divided up between team members and whole teams. This is also where you might think of iterations. 

3. Daily scrum

Here’s where you begin executing the project one day at a time. Daily standup meetings normally have each team member briefly state what they accomplished the day before, what they hope to accomplish today, what obstacles they foresee, and how they think they can overcome them. 

4. Sprint backlog

The sprint backlog could be likened to the scrum phase that functions most like a more typical Kanban board scenario. It shows in clear categories all the individual tasks that still need to be taken up, those that are in progress of being done, and completed tasks. The sprint backlog allows individuals to work independently and choose new tasks when they are ready and that fit them best.

5. Sprint review

At the end of each sprint period is a sprint review. Here you’ll perform what is like the sprint standup but for the entire period of the sprint, with a strong focus on completed tasks and deliverables. You might also make use of burndown charts here. A burndown chart shows you a bigger picture of what is left to be done versus how much time is left. This helps with sprint planning going forward.

6. Sprint retrospective

After several sprints, you can take a step back and do a sprint retrospective for a bigger picture view of project progress. Some common topics to be brought up at a sprint retrospective meeting are what succeeded, what could have been done better, what failed, and what new focuses should be brought into the picture for the next set of sprints.

7. Increments

The increments phase of a scrum lifecycle is the final stage of the product or at least of a deliverable iteration. It compares the product to the product backlog and measures the successes point by point. The product increments step is also key for transparency with the whole team as well as any outside product stakeholders. 

 

What is the scrum process model useful for?

The agile scrum process is useful for many things. Because it is agile, the scrum model is excellent for continuous trying, learning and improving, without ever getting too set back whenever a change or problem arises.

Scrum processes are also useful for when individuals or teams need to work without having too many task dependencies on one another. The sprints make it easy for people to achieve a concrete number of tasks without the work getting too complicated, abstracted or intertwined. 

How scrum masters benefit from the scrum management style

What is scrum management “doing” from the perspective of scrum masters? The scrum master methodology is one that bestows a lot of responsibility and challenge upon the scrum master. They will firstly become scrum experts and join a lively scrum community. They might be required to know The Scrum Guide or the agile manifesto too.

The scrum master benefits from this management style by encouraging a sense of team cohesion, and creating an open space for everyone to feel comfortable participating. These are invaluable skills any team leader should cultivate.

Scrum masters also benefit from the scrum management style by being able to trust their teams due to the tightly controlled sprints and timeboxes of tasks.

On top of that, the agile scrum style allows scrum masters to remain creative and flexible. For these and many other reasons, the scrum master is often thought of as a “servant-leader,” for they serve the greater good of the product or project, but they also serve their scrum teams.

Scrum project management examples

Time to see the scrum master framework in action. Here are two examples of when to use scrum, one in software development, and the other for digital marketing.

Software development

When it comes to software development like making updates or rolling out new products, then scrum is the way to go 100%. Teams can break down the tasks, individuals can work on their own, and the daily standup meetings will clear away any redundancies. Two week sprints are ideal for this kind of work. Especially as there can be many iterations, feedback phases and priority shifts.

Marketing campaign

An agile scrum system is perfect for digital online marketing campaigns especially with things like lots of A/B testing and other tweaking throughout the process. Teams can lay out their goals, like how much to increase revenue or to get into new markets. They then split into their respective roles of doing copy, art, finances, and SEO. As data from the campaign’s engagements flows in, sprints can be adjusted to follow the best leads.

 

Advantages and disadvantages of scrum

Here we will take a moment to break down the pros and cons of the scrum process.

Scrum benefits

Scrum helps teams create clear plans even in complex environments or with very large projects.

Scrum makes it easy to deliver iterations or new products very quickly and on strict deadlines.

The sprint method of scrum keeps teams and employees engaged and motivated as nobody gets stuck for long.

Regular reviews and testing periods baked into the scrum lifecycle help catch problems or mistakes early and encourage nimble priority shifting.

Another scrum benefit is the total transparency it gives to a project and its stages and iterations.

If clients or other stakeholders demand sudden changes, scrum can conveniently make that happen.

Scrum drawbacks

A big con of scrum is that it is not useful if you have many task dependencies on a project.

Scrum is not great for regularly repeated projects with little changes to the plans.

Team consistency is important, so scrum is disadvantaged if there are any sudden departures from your team members.

There is the possibility of scope creep or cost creep with scrum, where these figures can slowly climb beyond reason.

Talented product owners and scrum masters can be hard to find and train.

A final scrum drawback is that it is not so useful for bigger teams and larger companies. This is a project by project method after all.

 

Integrating scrum software into your workflow

There are many ways to integrate the scrum project methodology into your workflow, and the best way is with scrum software solutions. There’s a lot of great project management software on the market. A lot of this software specializes in applying the scrum methodology for project management, while others do scrum alongside kanban boards and other PM tools. 

To integrate is easy. Pick the project management tool and the plan that you like, go through some tutorials with your team, clean and bring in your data, make sure everyone gets a functioning user account, and Bob’s your uncle.

 

Our conclusion on project management scrum methodologies

Thank you dear reader for making it to the end of this article all about agile scrum project management methodology. 

Remember the key takeaways: short sprints of work, daily meetings, sprint reviews, and increments. And don’t forget that agile scrum methodologies are key for remaining flexible to change and on-target in chaotic situations. 

And if you’re looking for more depth about PM writ large, do take a look at our greater project management methodologies comparison study. 

 

FAQs

Is scrum a framework or methodology?

As to whether the scrum method is a framework or a methodology, some argue that scrum is a framework and not a methodology because it is based on observation and iteration of empirical facts. One can say the scrum framework applies the agile methodology, which is about self-organization and flexibility. 

What is defined by the scrum framework?

The scrum framework comes down to defining how teams can work together to assess their situation, envision their goals, and allocate the tasks and subtasks to reach these goals in manageable stages called sprints. The scrum framework also encourages reviews and retrospectives on past work tasks and iterations.

What is a scrum environment?

An agile scrum environment describes the entirety of the space, context, resources, tools and situations in which the scrum team will be carrying out their product developments and projects. This considers human labor power, the software ecosystem, and the agreed-upon work processes and methods that everyone will adhere to.

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