Scrum is one of the most used agile methods nowadays and Living Map has adopted this framework for their development team. It suggests that projects progress by sprints – time-boxed to no more than a month. During this time, the team takes a small set of features, and at the end of the sprint, these features are tested and integrated into the evolving product.
In 1996 Ken Schwaber, father of Scrum, described it as a process that copes with unpredictability, creating a mentality of “doing what it takes” to reach a goal.
Rugby fans are used to hear this term since it was borrowed from the sport, and it describes a move when players from each team huddle closely together to advance down on the playing field.
To understand Scrum, one must understand the roles, artifacts, and ceremonies involved in the process.
There are three main roles that play a part in the framework – Scrum Master, Product Owner and the Development Team.
The Scrum Master is the protector of the team and the process. He has to make sure the team can focus on the work without any distractions. These distractions might be internal (e.g. the CEO wanting a work done, someone asking for help in something…) or external (e.g. noisy background). The Scrum Master is also the expert on the process. He knows how Scrum works and how it should be applied.
The Product Owner (P.O.) is responsible for defining and prioritizing the work because he knows what is expected to be delivered in the project and why the delivery of a certain feature is important. One of the biggest focus of the P.O. is ensuring the work being done aligns with the work that needs doing to reach a certain project goal.
The Development Team, normally composed of five to nine elements, has the functional roles required to complete the project – architects, testers, developers. The team works together to decide on how to achieve their goals and on how to self-manage.
All of these three have an important impact on the success of the agile method and should actively participate in the Scrum Ceremonies.
Scrum has 4 ceremonies – Daily Stand Up, Sprint Review, Sprint Planning, and Sprint Retrospective.
1. Daily Stand-up
Every day during an iteration (sprint), the Development Team and the Scrum Master meet at the same place and at the same time, in order to have the Daily Meeting. Here, each member has to brief the team by answering to three simple questions: “What have I done yesterday to help with Sprint completion?”; “What will I do today to help with Sprint completion?”; “Is there any blocker impeding me to help with Sprint completion.”. It’s important for the Scrum Master to be in the Daily Meeting because he will make sure that it stays short (no longer than 15 minutes) and resolve any blockage that the team has.
2. Sprint Planning
In each sprint, the team has a ceremony where they plan what they want to take into next iteration – Sprint Planning. During planning, the Development Team establishes their capacity and decides on the Sprint Goal (what they want to achieve). In Living Map, we held a complimentary meeting every week, where the Scrum Master presents the tickets on the Backlog and the team asks questions, discusses what needs to be done and estimates the tickets. This shortens the Sprint Planning and makes it easier for the team to understand what is required for each task.
3. Sprint Review
Once every sprint, the team has a Sprint Review where it shows the work done in the last 2 weeks (our sprints are 2 weeks). In this ceremony, the team also gets feedback from the business on the features released. It’s also a great time where everyone from the company can understand the project that is being developed and the features that are being implemented.
4. Sprint Retrospective
This ceremony is held to evaluate the product whilst the Sprint Retrospective is held to analyse the process. After the Sprint Review, the entire team gets together with the Scrum Master. If allowed by the team, other people (like the Product Owner) may join. During the Retro, the team members speak frankly about what occurred during the sprint and how they felt about it. From this meeting, the team should get a list of actions that should be done in order to improve the process and help with the sprint success.
Adding to the Scrum Roles and the Scrum Ceremonies, we have the Scrum Artifacts. The primary artifact in Scrum is the Product Backlog. This consists of a list of the functionality that remains to be added to the product. The Product Owner prioritizes the backlog by the relevance of business value, so the team always delivers work that is more valuable first. During Sprint Planning, the Development Team creates another artifact – the Sprint Backlog. This can be viewed as the team’s to-do list for the sprint.
It’s important to understand the difference between the two. One is a list of the features that should be done so the project gets done, whilst the other is a list of actions that the team has compromised to finish during a sprint in order to release a functionality. We can see how everything fits together by looking at the figure below:
The project starts with a vision that the Product Owner had or got from a client and transforms into prioritized user stories that will compose the Product Backlog.
The Product Owner meets with the teams and explains what has to be done and why it aligns with the business desires.
At Sprint Planning, the sprint backlog (composed by small tasks) is created and the sprint starts. While the sprint is occurring, the Development team meets every day for fifteen minutes for the Daily Scrum.
At the end of the sprint, there is a Sprint Review where the team shows the Product Owner and the stakeholders the work that has been done. When Sprint Review is over, the Scrum Master holds the Sprint Review where he gets feedback on the process. After doing so the process repeats itself.
A set of features delivered every 2 weeks instead of long waits for the final product (which is never really finalised), doesn’t it sound great?