Scrum is a methodology for delivering a project.  It is an agile approach to projects, and to be clear agile means light of foot, not light on documents.  You might like to use it when your project has some degree of uncertainty in it.  Thats because like other agile methods Scrum helps you find your way to an optimal solution as the project develops.

Scrum vs traditional projects

In a ‘traditional’ project we should plan significantly upfront to try and fix the time, cost, quality/scope.  We would then try to deliver what we had planned.  If circumstances change you revise your plans and that can lead to pausing or reworking deliverables.   Also because the project usually doesn’t come together until the end, once started you have to keep going.  That approach can result in overruns in time and cost to get a usable deliverable.

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Scrum takes a completely different approach to the project life-cycle.  You instead aim to fix the time and cost only. Your focus is now to use those fixed resources to get the best possible scope/quality.  In essence we prepare a wish list for the project and we breakdown the end product into bite sized elements.  You then rank each of these for importance and support with minimal documentation.  This is called the Product Breakdown and is at the heart of the methodology.  Rather than planning the whole project you pick a group of the most important aspects.  This is your Sprint Backlog and the aspects are delivered as a ‘Sprint’.  Each sprint must produce a usable product, even if it is only a prototype.  Once the first sprint is complete you move on to the next one in turn.

Scrum and Sprints

Your sprints will be between one week minimum and one month maximum in duration and in essence are a mini project.  Each Sprint starts with a Sprint planning meeting to plan how to deliver that Sprint backlog.  Your sprint has a portion of the time and cost( resource) of the project allocated to it.  Each working day starts with a ‘Daily Scrum’ where the entire team meet to review their work and tweak plans.  These daily scrums are brief and the review of work done/remaining feeds the ‘Burndown Chart’.

Your Burndown chart is a quick guide to how you are progressing on the Sprint.  If your Sprint is behind burn you might drop a lower priority activity back to the Product backlog.  If your Sprint is ahead you may promote an activity from Product Backlog into the sprint.  You never let a sprint over or under run its time and cost/resource budget.

At the end of the Sprint you hold Review and Retrospective meetings.  Your Sprint Review looks at the work done and feeds back information including estimates into the product breakdown.  Your Sprint Retrospective looks at how Scrum is being used and any possible improvements.

Scrum Roles

There are three key roles on a scrum project they work together for the success of the project.

Product Owner – There is just one product owner and they own the Product backlog and priority decisions within it.  The Product Owner may of course take input from others but they are the ultimate arbiter of decisions.

Team member – Usually between five and ten team members to allow for simple and good communications.  Team members undertake the work and own the estimates for the product breakdown activities.  They contribute to all the sprint meetings.

Scrum Master – There is one scrum master and they are neither Product owner nor one of the Team member roll sharing.  The Scrum Master is responsible for maintaining good scrum practices on the project.

More about Scrum

Hopefully you like what you hear about scrum, it is certainly a popular approach in the IT sector and gaining traction in other areas too.  In particular where flexibility is important.  So with the increasing way that change is the only constant, scrum becomes increasingly applicable in other areas.

You can read more about the methodology in the free guide provided by the originators.

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Soon you will be able to try it for yourself with the new Practical Scrum methodology we are launching.  This will be available across the full range of our products from free Community Edition through to Live Edition.

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