Scrum – Definition

Scrum Definition

Scrum refers to an agile framework used in the management of knowledge work, paying attention to software development. This framework is designed for a team ranging from three to nine members who split their work into actions which can be finished within time-boxed iterations, known as “sprints”. The timeframe does not exceed one month and in most cases, it spans for two weeks. Then track progress, as well as, re-plan in 15-minute stand-up meetings, known as daily scrums.

A Little More on What is Scrum

Approaches involved in the coordination of the work of many scrum teams in larger organizations comprise Scaled agile framework (SAFe), scrum of scrums, Large-scale Scrum (LeSS), and Scrum@Scale among others.

Scrum is an iterative, as well as, incremental framework utilized in the management of product development. This framework defines a flexible and holistic product development strategy in which a development team works as a team in order to accomplish a common goal. Furthermore, this team also challenges suppositions of the traditional and orderly approach to product development and empowers teams to self-organize by means of encouraging close online collaboration or physical co-location of every team member and also daily face communication among every team member and discipline involved.

Scrum has a key principle which is the dual recognition of customers changing their minds about their needs or wants and the fact that unpredictable changes will exist, for which a planned or predictive approach is not appropriate. Thus, Scrum adopts an empirical approach that is advance-based, accepting the fact that the problem can’t be completely defined or understood in advance. Instead, the focus is centered on how to maximize the ability of the team to deliver quickly, respond to emerging conditions, and also adapt to transforming technologies and changes in market conditions.

Most of the terms used in Scrum such as “scrum master” are usually written either with leading capitals as in “Scrum Master” or as conjoined words written in camel case like (ScrumMaster). In a bid to maintain an encyclopedic tone, this article makes use of normal sentence case for the terminologies except if they are recognized marks like Certified Scrum Master. Occasionally, it is written in a capitalized format, as SCRUM. It is not an acronym and for this reason, it is not correct. But it likely arose as a result of Ken Schwaber’s early paper which had SCRUM capitalized in its title.

Despite the fact that the Scrum trademark has been allowed to lapse in order for the wider community to own it instead of an individual, the leading capital is retained with the exception of when it’s used with other words as in scrum team or daily scrum.

The term scrum was introduced by Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi in the product development context in their Harvard Business Review article of 1986 titled “The New Product Development Game”. These scholars later opined in The Knowledge Creating Company that it’s a way of creating organizational knowledge particularly good at continuously, spirally, and incrementally bringing about innovation.

The authors discussed a new approach to developing a commercial product which would enhance speed and flexibility, based on case studies from manufacturing firms situated in the photocopier, printer, and automotive industries. They referred to this as the rugby or holistic approach since a cross-functional team performs the whole process across many overlapping stages, where the team attempts going the distance as a unit while passing the ball back and forth. A scrum in rugby football is used to restart play. Here, each team’s forwards interlock, heads down and try gaining possession of the ball.

In the early 1990s, Ken Schwaber utilized what eventually became Scrum, at his company, Advanced Development Methods. Jeff Sutherland, Jeff McKenna, and John Scumniotales developed an approach similar to this at Easel Corporation, which was referred to with the single word “Scrum”.

Sutherland and Schwaber, in 1995, presented a paper together describing the Scrum framework. This presentation was made at the Business Object Design and Implementation Workshop which was held in Austin, Texas as part of Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages and Applications ’95 (OOPSLA).

Over the subsequent years, Schwaber and Sutherland worked together to combine this material. They used their experience, as well as, evolving good practice to develop what is known today as Scrum.

In 2001, Schwaber collaborated with Mike Beedle so as to describe the method used in the book, known as Agile Software Development with Scrum. The approach of Scrum in the plan and management of product development includes leveling decision-making authority with operation properties and certainties.

In 2012, Scrum Alliance was founded by Schwaber alongside others and they were responsible for setting up the Certified Scrum accreditation series. Schwaber, in late 2009, left the Scrum Alliance and founded which is responsible for overseeing the parallel Professional Scrum accreditation series.

There has been a document since 2009 known as The Scrum Guide which defines a type of official version of Scrum and gets revised occasionally. In 2018, the publication of The Kanban Guide for Scrum Teams enabled it to be expanded upon.

In the Scrum framework, three major roles exist. In order to deliver product increments having the potentially shippable product increments every sprint, these roles are ideally co-located. Together, the roles form the scrum team. While tons of organizations have other roles involved with the definition and delivery of the product, Scrum defines only these three roles.

The owner of the product takes the place of the product’s stakeholders and the customer’s voice takes responsibility for the backlog. Also, the voice of the customer is accountable for the value maximization delivered by the team. Using customer-centric terminologies, the product owner defines the product, includes them to the product backlog, and ranks them based on their importance and dependencies.

A scrum team should possess one product owner even though a product owner can support a number of teams. This role should not be fused with the scrum master’s. The focus of the product owner should be on the business aspect of product development and most of their time should be spent in liaison with stakeholders. Also, the product owner shouldn’t control how a technical solution is reached by the team. The role is similar to the role of a customer representative in some other agile frameworks like extreme programming (XP).

The major responsibility of the product owner is communication. Conveying priorities and empathizing with stakeholders and team members are important in steering product development in the right direction. The role of the product owner bridges the communication gap existing between the team and its stakeholders, thereby serving as a representative for stakeholders to the team, as well as, a team representative to the entire stakeholder community.

As the team’s face to the stakeholders, below are some of the product owner’s communication duties to the stakeholders:

  •         demonstrating the solution to major stakeholders who weren’t on seat at a sprint review;
  •         communicating team status;
  •         organizing milestone reviews;
  •         educating stakeholders in the development process;
  •         negotiating scope, funding, priorities, and schedule;
  •         ensuring the visibility, transparency, and clarity of the product backlog

Empathy, a major attribute for a product owner to possess, is the act of putting one’s self in someone else’s shoes. A product owner discusses with various stakeholders with different backgrounds, job roles, and also backgrounds. Furthermore, it is a must for a product owner to be able to see from the aforementioned angles. For effectiveness, it would be wise for the product owner to be aware of the level of detail needed by an audience. Thorough feedback and specifications are needed by the development team in a bid to build a product that would match up to the standard, as against an executive sponsor who may require only summaries of progress. Relaying more information than necessary may waste time and lose stakeholder interest. Seasoned agile product owners prefer a direct means of communication. Being skilled in methods that negotiate priorities between stakeholder interests, identify stakeholder needs, and work with developers to ensure that requirements are implemented effectively all enhance the ability of a product owner to communicate effectively.

The development team is responsible for the delivery of potentially shippable product increments every sprint.

The team has between three and nine members responsible for carrying out every task needed for building the product increments comprising analysis, development, testing, design, technical writing, and much more. Despite the fact that there will be a number of disciplines represented in the team, a generic term is given to its members which is known as developers. To avoid confusion of seeing the team to include only programmers, some organizations refer to it as a delivery team and its members, team members.

Scrum’s development team is self-organizing, although interaction with other roles outside the team may exist, like a project management office (PMO).A scrum master facilitates scrum and is responsible for removing obstacles to the team’s ability to deliver the product goals and deliverables. The scrum master is neither a traditional team lead nor product manager but performs the role of a buffer between the team and any form of distraction. The scrum master ensures that the framework and the agreed processes in it are followed by the team. Among other functions of the scrum master include the frequent facilitation of key sessions, and encouraging improvement of the team. This role is also known as either servant-leader or facilitator to strengthen these dual views. The scrum master’s major responsibilities include (but are not limited to):

  •         to help the product owner in maintaining the product backlog in that it ensures that the understanding of the needed work in order for the team to continually progress
  •         to help the team in determining the meaning of done for the product, getting input from major stakeholders
  •         to coach the team, based on the dictated of Scrum, so as to deliver top-quality features for its product
  •         to promote self-organization within the team
  •         to help the team avoid or remove obstacles to its progress, be it internal or external to the team
  •         to facilitate team events to ensure continuous progress
  •         to educate major stakeholders on Scrum principles
  •         to coach the development team to be self-organized and cross-functional

A way in which the scrum master’s role differs from that of a project manager is that people management responsibilities may exist for the latter while the scrum master has none. Scrum doesn’t have formal recognition of project manager’s role, as traditional and control tendencies will cause difficulties.

References for Scrum

Academic Research on Scrum

Scrum development process, Schwaber, K. (1997). In Business object design and implementation (pp. 117-134). Springer, London.

The Scrum software development process for small teams, Rising, L., & Janoff, N. S. (2000). IEEE software, 17(4), 26-32.

Distributed scrum: Agile project management with outsourced development teams, Sutherland, J., Viktorov, A., Blount, J., & Puntikov, N. (2007, January). In System Sciences, 2007. HICSS 2007. 40th Annual Hawaii International Conference on(pp. 274a-274a). IEEE.

Using scrum in global software development: a systematic literature review, Hossain, E., Babar, M. A., & Paik, H. Y. (2009, July). In Global Software Engineering, 2009. ICGSE 2009. Fourth IEEE International Conference on (pp. 175-184). Ieee.

Understanding agile project management methods using Scrum, Cervone, H. F. (2011). OCLC Systems & Services: International digital library perspectives, 27(1), 18-22.

The scrum primer, Deemer, P., Benefield, G., Larman, C., & Vodde, B. (2010). Scrum Primer is an in-depth introduction to the theory and practice of Scrum, albeit primarily from a software development perspective, available at: http://assets. scrumtraininginstitute. com/downloads/1/scrumprimer121. pdf, 1285931497, 15.

Inventing and Reinventing SCRUM in five Companies, Sutherland, J. (2001). Sur le site officiel de l’alliance agile.

Agile development: Lessons learned from the first scrum, Sutherland, J. (2004). Cutter Agile Project Management Advisory Service: Executive Update, 5(20), 1-4.

A teamwork model for understanding an agile team: A case study of a Scrum project, Moe, N. B., Dingsøyr, T., & Dybå, T. (2010). Information and Software Technology, 52(5), 480-491.

SCRUM: An extension pattern language for hyperproductive software development, Beedle, M., Devos, M., Sharon, Y., Schwaber, K., & Sutherland, J. (1999). Pattern languages of program design, 4, 637-651.

U-SCRUM: An agile methodology for promoting usability, Singh, M. (2008, August). Conference(pp. 555-560). IEEE.


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