Scrum is a framework for the development and maintenance of complex products and services. Originally designed for software development¹, the framework has been used for many years in different areas and industries for product development and project management. Scrum
- is based on empiricism (knowledge arises from experience and decisions are made on the basis of observations) and
- Lean Thinking (waste is avoided and the focus is on the essential).
- is incremental and iterative.
It is important to recognise that development projects are often too complex to plan and describe precisely, as many requirements and solutions are unclear at the start of the project. These ambiguities are eliminated through incremental iteration.
How does Scrum work?
The framework is defined in the Scrum Guide. In its current version, published in November 2020, the guide lists
- five events,
- three accountabilities and
- three artefacts.
The events include
Instead of roles, the guide speaks of so-called accountabilities.² The idea behind this is that every person who actively participates in a development or a project takes responsibility for specific areas, the implementation of tasks, the adherence to commitments, the culture of cooperation and the results! And since this takes place in close cooperation, Scrum as a name also makes sense; the term comes from the sport of rugby and describes a situation in which a phase of the game is restarted on command.
Three accountabilities are defined:
In addition to the events and accountabilities, there are three artefacts:
The artefacts represent tasks or items and their realisation.
In Scrum, the team – equipped with the necessary competencies – organises itself within fixed periods of time – the timeboxes – whereby it commits itself to delivering finished functionality regularly and as early as possible.
The heart of the framework is the so-called Sprint. It encompasses all other events.
- Sprint Planning is the first event within the Sprint. In planning, it is determined “why” the current Sprint has a value, “what” is transferred from the Product Backlog to the Sprint Backlog and “how” it is realised. The goal is to create an Increment on the way to the Product Goal that delivers value, is functional and potentially shippable, and thus meets an agreed Definition of Done. For each Sprint, the team agrees on a specific Sprint Goal.
- A Product Backlog contains elements to achieve a Product Goal defined by the Product Owner.
- The Sprint Backlog is the plan for the current Sprint and contains all Product Backlog items that are selected by the Developers for the current Sprint and implemented in the Sprint.
- In the course of implementation, there is a daily standup meeting – the Daily Scrum – for joint synchronisation.
- In the Sprint Review, the completed work at the end of the Sprint – the Increment – is presented and the next steps are discussed.
- And in the Sprint Retrospective, the team – consisting of Product Owner, Scrum Master and Developers – discusses the past Sprint with the aim of improving future cooperation.
And the sequence of events starts all over again. The end of a Sprint marks the beginning of the next Sprint.
Advantages of Scrum
Because predictions and the creation of realistic plans are often difficult when developing software and systems, Scrum turns the approach around: knowledge comes from experience and experience comes from the course of a development. In combination with the iterative approach, the commitment of the team to the sprint goal and the early detection of obstacles (the so-called impediments), the predictability increases and the development risk decreases.
In summary, Scrum offers the following advantages:
- Simple set of roles, activities and artefacts; easy to understand and use.
- High flexibility in working, yet clear rules and principles.
- Concentrated communication between the accountabilities.
- Short feedback cycles.
- Integration of stakeholders easily possible, e.g. in the Sprint Review or in the run-up to Sprint Planning.
- Transparency of work steps and intermediate results.
- The ability to identify and correct deviations.
- The ability to adjust the existing process in the current project.
Scrum in practice
How does Scrum work in practice? You can find some answers and perspectives here:
- What needs to be considered during implementation and use?
- What values does Scrum define?
- Why does the application fail in organisations?
- How does the pace change in organisations?
- What influence do principles have on agile working?
- How does team building work in Scrum?
We are sure you can think of more questions. Please contact us and we will try to answer your questions or publish corresponding articles.
Impulse to discuss:
Do you think the Guide defines too many or too few rules? And what would be the advantage if it defined more or less?
 the framework was first introduced in 1995 at the OOPSLA conference in Austin, Texas by Jeffrey Victor “Jeff” Sutherland and Ken Schwaber. However, Scrum as a term was mentioned as early as 1986 in a paper by Ikujirō Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi; the two recognised that in the development of complex products, the best results are achieved when small, self-organised teams set themselves goals.
 Here you can find more information on the topic of accountability versus role. If you read the term Scrum role in publications, then you know that it must be a somewhat older text, because since November 2020 it is no longer used in the description of the framework.
Here you will find information on the agile manifesto. It describes a code of conduct to reflect the actions of a development and align them with defined principles. Based on this, Scrum provides a framework for organising and completing work collaboratively.
The SCRUM method is written about in numerous publications, but it is neither an acronym nor a method. It is a framework that names events, responsibilities and artefacts, but does not describe, for example, how a product, software or service is to be developed.
Are you interested in German podcasts about the framework? Please check out Scrum meistern.
And here you will find additional information from our Smartpedia section: