The SCRUM approach is an Agile style framework for completing complex projects or managing ongoing activities.
The concept was originally formalised for software development projects but works well for any complex, innovative projects with endless possibilities. Projects or activities that focus on developing new products, ideas or new technologies will especially benefit from the flexible approach that SCRUM provides.
SCRUM approach is a simple and repetitive way of managing work. It can be used either for projects (that have an end date) or ongoing activities (that do not have an end date).
SCRUM is based on the principles and values of the Agile methodology, which proposes a more flexible style for managing projects. It encourages an emphasis on people over processes, working software over documentation, collaboration over contract negotiation and responding to change over following a plan. The term Agile has become synonymous with an incremental and repetitive approach to project or activity management.
Starting Projects the SCRUM Approach Way
Excessive preparation and planning can waste time. Instead, a highly capable team with a strong vision of what’s needed can just get started and use constant feedback to adjust their plans and progress. This makes a project or activity much easier to get started. It is also far easier to apply with projects where there is no ‘recipe’ or past project plan to follow.
The teams using the SCRUM approach are typically high-performance teams with strong thinkers and doers. Typically, a team will be made up of 3 – 9 people with relevant skills who implement the majority of the processes needed (eg: analysing, designing, developing, testing and recording technical communication and documentation). The team used in SCRUM is self-organising but there will be scope for them to be overseen by someone with higher authority who is often referred to as the SCRUM master.
The ‘SCRUM Master’
The SCRUM Master is accountable for removing obstacles that hinder the ability of the team to deliver product goals and fulfill project objectives. The SCRUM Master also ensures that the process is used well and as intended. They are essentially the enforcer of the rules of the SCRUM process and will often chair key meetings throughout the project or activity.
The SCRUM Master differs from a project manager in that the latter may have people management responsibilities unrelated to the role of the SCRUM Master. In a SCRUM environment, there is no role of project manager because none is needed. This is due to the duties of a project manager being divided up and the expectation that the team will organise themselves efficiently enough to not be micro managed.
The Role of the Project Owner
The Product Owner represents the stakeholders and portrays the voice of the customer. The onus is on them to ensure that specifications are met and that there is a satisfactory outcome or outcomes at the end of the project or activity. They are also responsible for ensuring the team delivers value for the business. Teams should have one product owner and the ideally the role should not be combined with that of SCRUM Master.
A sprint (or iteration) is the basic unit of development in SCRUM. The Sprint is a ‘time boxed’ effort that is restricted to a specific duration. Each Sprint is started by a planning meeting where the tasks and objectives for the Sprint are identified and a commitment time wise to the Sprint goal is made. At the beginning of each sprint cycle, a Sprint planning meeting is held.
A meeting is held each day during a sprint. The meeting is short, sharp and typically time constricted. Key points discussed are:
- What have you done since yesterday?
- What are you planning today?
- Identification of any stumbling blocks
At the end of the sprint cycle, a ‘sprint review meeting’ and a ‘sprint retrospective meeting’ are held. The review meeting will go over the work completed and the planned work not completed as well, with a view to present the complete work to the stake holders. At the Sprint Retrospective meeting the team will reflect on the past sprint and discuss potential improvements to be made.