Among the many elements that constitute the Agile Scrum software development process, probably the most important are the Scrum ceremonies. Scrum ceremonies are meetings that allow Scrum teams to define their work, collaborate, and ensure that the work is carried out seamlessly. Scrum ceremonies are actually more than just meetings. They are the soul of scrum that binds the team and the project.
In this blog, we attempt to understand all about Scrum Ceremonies- what they are, when they are held, and how they work.
Scrum is one of the most popular frameworks under the Agile methodology. It has its origins in the manufacturing industry and was refined for use in the software industry by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber who developed a formal Scrum process in 1995.
Since then, Scrum has come a long way and is now the most popular and used agile methodology that helps organizations respond to quick changing markets and deliver high quality value.
Scrum breaks large projects into small chunks called sprints, which are fixed length iterations. The end result of each sprint is a deliverable. The cumulative deliverables of all the sprints is the finished product that is tested at every stage and improvised, thus fulfilling the continuous improvement principle of Agile. Customer feedback can be implemented at each stage before the release of the next sprint.
This incremental and iterative approach endorsed by Scrum is what makes it successful. Advantages of Scrum include:
Scrum is better used when: requirements are not clearly defined, more changes are anticipated during development, the solution needs to be tested, the team is self-organised and the scope is open and likely to change.
Ceremonies are meetings. Since we have already been introduced to Scrum sprints that are short, time boxed periods with defined end goals, we will define ceremonies in terms of sprints. Each sprint has ceremonies which outline the proper execution and planning of activities associated with scrum. These ceremonies play a larger role of empowering team members and making the team more self-organized and self-sufficient.
Scrum ceremonies are also called Scrum Events. Events specific to Scrum are of five types. These are:
Every Scrum project is broken up into sprints. Each sprint is a time-boxed period within which the team is expected to deliver a working product to the customer.
Sprint planning, according to Atlassian Agile Coach sets the goal for the project and the path to follow to reach that goal. If done correctly it helps teams work together as a cohesive unit, helps bring in self-organization and deliver quality product. Sprint planning is performed by all members of the team. A Sprint plan should answer the What, How and Who of the project.
The Product Owner decides the ‘what’ of the project—what the end goal or objective of the sprint would be and what backlog items need to be focused upon to reach the end goal.
The development team decides ‘how’ they will reach the goal.
The sprint plan needs the complete collaboration of development team and product owner, who make up the ‘who’.
The other important aspects of sprint planning are the inputs that will be considered for the particular sprint. The inputs are the sprint backlog items that help the team understand what needs to be delivered. Sprint planning also focuses on the output which is the end product delivered at the end of the sprint.
Sprint planning is always carried out at the beginning of the sprint and helps to detail out all the nitty-gritty that the team may face in the course of the development including bugs, fixes, upgrade or changes in requirements.
Daily scrum is a daily meeting that happens among the scrum teams. It is necessarily time boxed and also called the daily stand-up meeting. The daily scrum helps team members talk about their progress, obstacles or impediments, if any, that are not allowing them to progress, what they have accomplished and what they are planning to do the next day.
While this is not a detailed meeting it certainly keeps everyone in the loop and helps all the team members understand about the goings-on. The Scrum Master, Product Owner and the development team are part of the daily scrum. The daily scrum meeting is led by the Scrum Master and encourages team members to put forth their views and opinions if any.
The Sprint review, as the name suggests, helps team members present and review what they have accomplished and created in that sprint. Just like the other components of a sprint, a sprint review also does not exceed a time limit. This is done towards the end of the sprint.
In software development projects, each team would demo the product that they built in that particular sprint at the time of review to the other members of the team. This would include the product owner, developers, scrum master and other stakeholders.
Teams are careful about what they present at the review as it should be fully functional and meet the quality standard laid down by the client. Sprint reviews help teams showcase their accomplishments and milestones, and foster innovation and excellence.
This is often the last step in a ceremony, when teams retrospect on what they have accomplished. This is an important step, to look back and see what improvements can be made and implement those improvements in the next sprint. This conforms to the Agile ideology of continuous improvement wherein, teams learn from the mistakes of the past and improve the future.
Also called backlog grooming, this is a process which is ongoing. The Product Owner is in charge of the product backlog and along with the development team and the scrum master refines the backlog, which means that they review and revise the backlog items.
This may include adding details to the activities, estimates and ordering them on the backlog. This activity is not time boxed unlike the other activities in a ceremony which are, and yet, according to Scrum.org, the development team spends only 10% of their time in backlog refinement. Also, this takes place just one time in a sprint.
The product owner identifies the areas in the backlog that need refinement and the team discusses solutions or enhancements. Though the effectiveness of the backlog refinement is often debatable with many terming it as a useless exercise; it can be beneficial when backlog refinement is taken as an ongoing process and responsibility of the entire team.
The goal of agile and scrum is to make things simple, allow teams to focus on quality through a continuous feedback loop and ensure customer satisfaction. To make all this happen, an organization requires teams that are like a well-oiled machine, working seamlessly without any cracks or stops. When integrated within the Scrum process and well executed, Scrum ceremonies can bring in a lot of benefits to the team as well as the project.
We are now living in an age where our work has become exceedingly remote. Working with teams that are distributed across geographies can be a challenge, and more challenging is to keep them involved and enthused about scrum ceremonies and rituals. A Scrum Master’s never-ending quest is to ensure that team members be more proactive and participative in team events.
Retrospectives or backlog refinement, for example, are important events which are to be whole heartedly endorsed by all team members in order to ensure better outcomes in future sprints. An incorrect understanding of the significance of these ceremonies and the positive effects they have will impact not just on team productivity but on employee morale.
As a Scrum Master, you can help your team become more involved by coaching them on the various Scrum events. It’s important to help the team get into the Scrum mind-set if they are new to Scrum. As a coach you can lead the teams and help them understand the ceremonies through frequent practice.
Starting with the simplest, you can progressively move towards helping them understand the more complicated ceremonies. Your effectiveness as a Scrum Master is also tested by how well you are able to coach your team on using Scrum ceremonies. Use the latest tools and techniques to help them understand and adopt the Scrum ceremonies.
The pandemic has changed the way we work, making our lives more distributed and remote. But in order for our Scrum projects to be successful, we must ensure that Scrum ceremonies are properly adhered to and practiced by Scrum team members. Scrum ceremonies are very effective and can promote productivity and empower teams to perform better.