Way back in 1986, Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka drafted a paper for the Harvard Business Review that made history in the project management world. In this paper, titled “The New Product Development Game,” they talked about the benefit of self-organizing teams in achieving successful deliveries, and used the term “Scrum” as a metaphor from the popular sport of rugby to describe their line of thought.
Since then, Scrum has come a long way. As the most popular agile framework used to deliver working products or solutions in short increments of duration, Scrum is a lightweight framework that helps teams to find solutions for complex adaptive problems while maximising the product value.
Scrum is one of the agile methodologies designed to guide teams in the iterative and incremental delivery of a product—PMI Learning Library
While traditional project management processes keep requirements fixed in order to control the cost and time, Scrum works the other way around; fixing cost and time while allowing requirements to change. This allows for flexibility and the ability to embrace change.
As an Agile framework that helps teams roll out successful projects, Scrum has proven itself time and again. The Scrum framework has been deployed across diverse industries and verticals, helping with quick releases of product increments to end users and higher quality at lower costs.
It comes with a whole host of benefits that far outweigh the short learning curve required to implement Scrum. Some of the ways in which Scrum adds value are:
Scrum’s ability to adapt to emerging requirements, the constant involvement of stakeholders and end users, and the emphasis laid on continual improvement ensure that the team builds a product of the highest quality that offers real value and benefits to the customer.
Scrum works through short, cyclical iterations called sprints, that are repeated till all the work items have been completed and the product is released. This allows complex work to be broken down into smaller chunks that are manageable and easily understood. Tasks are prioritized, and work that matters most is completed first.
The Scrum Guide prescribes three roles or accountabilities: that of the Scrum Master, Product Owner, and the Developers.
Scrum measures progress through sprints of a 2-to-4-week duration. Several meetings or events help to maintain the cadence of the activities as the project progresses. These include:
A number of artifacts add value to Scrum and help in the planning and scheduling of work. The most important artifacts are:
While a Scrum Master on an Agile team has often been compared to a Project Manager on a traditional team, this is true only to a certain point. The roles do overlap but there are quite a few differences between the two as well.
Here are some of the ways in which the roles are similar:
There are many key differences between the two roles, which are listed out in the table below:
|Scrum Master||Project Manager|
|Approach||Follows Scrum||Can follow traditional or any Agile approach|
|Knowledge areas||Contributes to resource, quality and scope management areas||Contributes to all 10 knowledge areas of project management|
|Team size||Works with a small team of 5 to 9||Handles a bigger team or several teams|
|Meetings||Facilitates Daily Scrum, Planning and Retrospective events||Decides frequency of meetings|
|Assigning tasks||Scrum Master does not assign tasks as teams are self-managing||Project owner assigns tasks to individuals|
|Planning||Scrum Masters plan to deliver highest product value, while scope can change||Plan and schedule scope of the project, keeping timelines and cost in mind|
|Focus on Quality||Maximises quality at every stage||Knows the importance of quality, but usually hires a quality consultant rather than enforcing it themselves|
|Goals||Ensures that team members are following Agile practices. Acts as a coach, mentor, guide, facilitator, leader and trainer.||Completing the project on time, within the planned budget, and the defined scope|
Shifting from a traditional project management approach to scrum project management requires a change in mindset, and also a radical adjustment in terms of the team activities, roles and responsibilities, and ways of working.
Scrum teams use many tools to manage the project through its lifecycle. Quite a few teams start with a simple Excel spreadsheet for the backlog, that can be shared between team members to ensure everyone has visibility into the tasks in real time. They use task boards that could be put up on the wall, sometimes in the form of a whiteboard that is constantly updated or sticky notes that are moved between columns to indicate work progress.
This approach works well for smaller teams located within the same office. But as the size of the team and the complexity of the project increases, they could turn to sophisticated productivity tools and software for centrally managing projects and enabling cross-team collaboration.
Some of these tools include:
Scrum is the overwhelmingly preferred Agile method, used by 40% of respondents. State of Scrum Report
Leading corporates ranging from Google, Apple and Facebook to Adobe, Airbnb and Spotify have reaped the benefits of Scrum for their day-to-day operations. Jeff Sutherland, in his popular book “Scrum: The art of doing twice the work in half the time”, claims that by using Scrum companies have recorded productivity gains of as much as 1200%. Scrum is ground-breaking and immensely efficient and has fundamentally disrupted the way in which projects are managed.
The popularity of Scrum is set to soar even further, and if you’re looking to enter the Scrum world, there’s no better time than now!