Agile teamwork

Scrum: Framework for development with agile teams

"Scrum is a framework for agile teamwork." These or similar explanations can be found everywhere online. To explain what Scrum is really about and how you, your team and your company can benefit from it, we will give a concrete explanation and limit ourselves to the most important terms.

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What is Scrum and how does it work?

Imagine you want to renovate your house while continuing to live in it. You probably won't tackle all the rooms at once, but will finish one room the first week and the next the following week. Until finally the whole house is finished and all rooms are usable. Scrum works in a similar way: In small, evenly defined time units ("sprints") of a maximum of four weeks, the teams work on small, defined parts of the product ("increments") that are potentially usable at the end of the sprint. The advantages of this approach: you get early and regular (partial) deliveries and can react quickly to changing requirements. You do not face the impossible challenge of having to plan a project in detail over several years in advance.

Scrum is simple to understand.

In Scrum, the focus is on your customer and his wishes. In the agile context, his wish list is called a "product backlog". In it, his wishes and requirements are described and sorted according to importance (ROI, benefit, etc.). At the beginning of each sprint, the development team "pulls" as many Product Backlog entries - according to priority, of course - as it believes it can realistically implement in the coming sprint. This continuously creates potentially usable product parts ("increments"). These are reviewed by your customer in a joint round ("Sprint Review"), checked for fulfillment of the benefits and the feedback is recorded. On this basis, you make decisions for the further course of the project. And because Scrum is not only about the product, but also about the people and their cooperation, the Sprint ends with a Sprint Retrospective. Here, the team reflects on its working methods, talks about obstacles and agrees on measures to eliminate them.

Scrum brings your goals into focus. 

If implemented correctly and consistently, Scrum leads to more benefits with less effort. Sounds too good to be true, but it really works. By consistently organizing the product backlog on the basis of a cost-benefit ratio, your team always implements the requirements that bring a high benefit first. This way you get good results quickly and early. The regular and predictable completion of increments in a fixed rhythm allows you to deliver continuously and test "real" product parts. In addition, the short sprints give you the opportunity to always react very quickly (within a maximum of four weeks) to changing requirements and make changes. This way, you not only reduce the risk of failure, but also the waste of resources. The regular reviews and retrospectives ensure constant quality improvement and process optimization. And thanks to the fixed framework, you and everyone involved know at any time what the status is and what needs to be done. Scrum also helps keep the entire team focused on the next goals. Planning techniques are reduced to the essentials in Scrum, but they are all the more important for that. This is because they serve only one purpose: to keep the goals and their achievement in focus and to identify and correct deviations as early as possible. Your team does this daily with regard to the sprint goal and - thinking in longer time frames - regularly with regard to the milestones and the product vision.

A 3-5-3 System: The Elements of Scrum

Scrum defines only a few cornerstones of the procedure and is therefore referred to as a framework. At its core are: three roles or responsibilities, five events and three result types ("artifacts").

One team focused with 3 responsibilities on a common delivery

  • The product owner is responsible for the requirements for the product features and for the product’s ROI. The P.O. is responsible for the Product Backlog items and determines the right direction for the development.

  • The Scrum Master ensures that the team can work productively and "protects" the agile approach. The S.M. makes sure that everyone understands the rules of Scrum and works according to these rules, and also helps the team to remove any obstacles which hinder their work.

  • The Developers work in a self-organized manner and are responsible for achieving the Sprint Goal. The Scrum Team members - Product Owner, Scrum Master and Developers - manage their work in the Sprint together and independently of others.

The five events

In the order in which they are performed in a Sprint: In Sprint Planning, the Scrum Team - consisting of Product A graphic that shows how Scrum works.Owner, Scrum Master and Developers - details the work in the next Sprint and determines the requirements that can be implemented in the next four weeks. The Daily Scrum, moderated by the Scrum Master and lasting a maximum of 15 minutes, is about enabling progress toward the Sprint goal and solving problems as a team. Each team member answers the questions, "What did I do yesterday?", "What am I doing today?" and "What is holding me back?" The Sprint Review is about presenting increments - potentially usable parts of the product - and soliciting feedback from customers and users to optimize the product. In the Sprint Retrospective, the team looks at the way work was done in the Sprint and defines measures to improve the work in the upcoming Sprint. The Product Backlog Refinement is not a classic Scrum event, but a continuous activity. This includes updating the entries in the Product Backlog and adding necessary details, estimates and an order.

      A Scrum team at work seen from above

      The three artifacts

      • The Product Backlog is a list of customer requirements - which the Product Owner prioritizes by importance. 

      • The Sprint Backlog contains all Product Backlog items (customer requirements) that the developers will implement in the next Sprint.

      • The Product Increment is the partial product that contains the completed product backlog items - including all previous and new functionalities.

      The valid framework for Scrum: The Scrum Guide

      The recognized framework for the description and further development of Scrum is the Scrum Guide in the current version of 2020, which can also be found here in browser format: Scrum in the browser

      The prerequisite for success: an agile work culture

      The decisive success factor for Scrum is the work culture behind it.

      • This work culture includes delivering results early, inspecting and adapting. In an environment characterized by complexity, you need concrete experience and results to determine whether you are on the right track. Transparency is a prerequisite for you to inspect and adjust results based on facts.

      • Another important principle of Scrum is self-management. In a volatile environment and in a world where development cycles are cut in half every two years, speed is critical. Self-management without long approval processes is one of the most effective ways to achieve this.

      • These principles are supported by an attitude based on the values of "openness", "respect", "courage", "commitment" and "focus".

      In sum, these principles and the values are the work culture that really make up Scrum. In companies that live according to this work culture, Scrum very quickly leads to better results. The introduction of Scrum often means a cultural change for teams and their environment. And this cultural change takes a little time.

      Scrum - easy to say, but hard to learn.

      Scrum is actually easy to understand with the 3-5-3 system (3 roles, 5 events, 3 artifacts), and used correctly it is incredibly effective. So why doesn't everyone work with it? Quite simply, because the work culture behind Scrum, while an excellent fit for a complex world, is relatively demanding. And because self-organization doesn’t happen just like that, first it must be learned and it must be allowed. In addition, the underlying cultural change needs time and attention from management, especially at the beginning. Don't let this scare you off, because we are happy to support you even before the first agile steps are taken to find or create the best possible setting for a successful Scrum introduction. Just contact us, we are looking forward to talking to you.

      How do I get started with Scrum?

      The best way is to experience a taste of Scrum. You can do that in our Scrum Master or Product Owner trainings. After that we recommend that you get some Scrum Coaching - because theory is one thing, daily practice is another.

      Your expert for Scrum:

      Sascha Geßler

      wibas GmbH

      Sascha Geßler

      Otto-Hesse-Str. 19B

      64293 Darmstadt

      +49 6151 503349-0