Scrum Project Management
All about Scrum Project Management

Scrum Project Management

Scrum project management might sound like a strange term, as there is no formal definition of the role of a project manager in Agile approaches. However, Scrum is often considered an agile project management framework. Being able to effectively manage Scrum projects is a growing skill area for people in a variety of roles.

As organizations grow, they sometimes adopt a ‘Scrum of Scrums’ model which needs some oversight and coordination, however that is achieved in the business. There are lots of different ways to succeed in a Scrum environment, whether you have a formal project management role or not. For example, lean scrum project management is one of the possible ‘flavors’ of Scrum you may come across in your career.

In this Scrum project management guide, we’ll cover what you need to know about the scrum project management framework. The selection of curated podcast episodes below provides an introduction to the world of Agile Scrum project management and the skills you need to successfully lead Agile teams regardless of your job title.

Featured Podcast: The Project Manager's Role in a Scrum, Lean, and Agile World

Listen now to this featured podcast about Scrum project management and other agile methods.

The project manager is a highly skilled knowledge worker who has received rigorous training and knowledge in the process of achieving a globally recognized certification. At the same time, in the agile world, the project manager does not have an official role. The project manager’s role is distributed between the agile team members. You might be wondering how the project management vs Scrum Master dynamic works. In this podcast episode, Dave Cornelius evaluates the project manager role in SAFe Agile and centers on PM participation in the lean and agile transformation.
Cornelius Fichtner and Dave Cornelius
Cornelius Fichtner and Dave Cornelius
Please scroll down to see the full list of our Scrum Project Management podcasts.

Definition of Scrum

Scrum is a process framework used to manage product development and other knowledge work. Scrum is empirical in that it provides a means for teams to establish a hypothesis of how they think something works, try it out, reflect on the experience, and make the appropriate adjustments.

Evolution of Scrum

So how did Scrum come about?

Scrum was originally developed as a way to build software products, and is frequently used by software development teams. However, it’s growing in popularity for other industries as well due to the benefits and streamlined approach to project delivery.

Scrum is one of a collection of agile practices including XP, Lean and Kanban.

What is Scrum in Relation to Project Management?

This is how scrum project management works: The goal of Scrum is to deliver projects by releasing incremental improvements, features or functionality on an iterative basis. Scrum teams often work on 2 to 4 week cycles so there’s a regular pattern to delivery.

A common question is: ‘Is Scrum a project management methodology’ and the answer is: No. You can deliver projects using Scrum but it’s a framework, not a methodology.

Scrum project management techniques like the daily stand up are explained below, so let's get started!

Benefits of Scrum in Agile Project Management

There are lots of Scrum project management benefits. Here are some of the most common that we see across the majority of teams adopting a Scrum project management process.

  • Increased productivity
  • Improved product quality
  • Faster delivery times
  • Improved team morale and stakeholder satisfaction
  • Improved collaboration and communication between the team.

Scrum in Project Management

The great thing about a Scrum project team is that all the information required to do the work is easily available. There’s transparency across the team, and because delivery is a collaborative effort, everyone knows what is going on. That makes it easy for the team to adapt to the current situation, whatever that might be.

Scrum is a framework. Instead of having to follow a process or series of steps because that is what the project schedule mandates, you can flex to meet the most pressing priorities. This might mean bringing forward requirements that are urgent, building quality into the delivery and making sure progress is being taken in the direction the stakeholders expect. All these things can be achieved with low levels of friction and conflict because the approach allows for flexibility.

As a team, you can quickly inspect the output to ensure it meets quality criteria, and make changes if you feel the product is falling short. You get fast feedback on product features, and customers are closely involved in the work so you know you are delivering something that they will benefit from.

Activities in Scrum

In a Scrum project management environment, there are several Scrum events that help keep the team focused and making progress. These include:

  • Sprint planning
    The Sprint planning meeting is where the team decides what to deliver during the Sprint and how to do the work.
  • Daily Scrum meeting
    The daily Scrum meeting is a short, focused meeting to improve communication. It helps the team identify any roadblocks and how to get around them. The team shares information and makes quick decisions so the project can continue.
  • Sprint reviews
    The Sprint review takes place once the work of the Sprint is complete. During the meeting, the team reviews what was delivered. The outcome of the Sprint review may also be changes to the Product Backlog if required.
  • Sprint retrospectives
    The Sprint retrospective takes place at the end of the Sprint. During the meeting, the team reviews what was done during the Sprint with a view to making continuous improvements to future work based on the learning.

The Scrum approach to project management gives the team complete flexibility to adapt the processes to what works best for them. You might find that working as a Scrum project manager looks and feels different in different teams. With a focus on quality, it’s important that the method is adjusted to get the best results for that team, at that time, on that project.


Roles and responsibilities of each member of the Scrum team

Scrum teams are self-organizing which means they choose their own approach to managing the work. A true Scrum team is multi-disciplinary and cross-functional, which means all the work can be done by people in the team. The main roles in the Scrum team are as follows.
  • Product Owner
    The Product Owner defines the roadmap for the solution and determines what the end result will look like. They use stakeholder feedback to ensure that the product features match the user requirements. This role is responsible for maintaining the product backlog.
  • Development Team
    The Development Team is normally between 3 and 9 people, excluding the Scrum Master and the Product Owner. They decide how to deliver the work specified by the Product Owner, working together with a common goal and accountability for the end result.
  • Scrum Master
    The Scrum Master ‘owns’ the Scrum process and supports the team and organization in getting the best out of the framework. They know how to use Scrum to deliver the product and meet the organization’s goals. They are the expert in using scrum project management software to track progress.

Artifacts in Scrum

Let’s address some more scrum project management basics. There are three artifacts in Scrum: the Product Backlog, the Sprint Backlog, and the product Increment. They all share the same purpose: to help the team understand the work through maximizing transparency. The table below shows what they all mean.
  • Product Backlog
    The product backlog contains all the features to be built or items to work on. It’s a work in progress and is constantly evolving. It helps the team identify what is the next most important item to work on.
  • Sprint Backlog
    The sprint backlog describes what work will be done during this sprint. It also contains details of how the work will be done – it’s the plan for delivery. The sprint backlog should be highly visible during the sprint and constantly updated in real-time as work progresses.
  • Product Increment
    The product increment is a way of describing the outcome or benefit of the work; how the team will know if they’ve got to ‘Done’. In a software development environment, it would be defined as the increase or addition of new features.

Scrum Checklist

A Scrum checklist can be useful to help you get started with Scrum. Henrik Kniberg’s checklist is comprehensive and commonly used, but there are others.

You can use a Scrum Checklist during the retrospective to review the work of the team and ensure you are hitting the main important aspects of the Scrum framework.

However, checklists should only be used as a guide. They are a way of learning from other teams and sharing good practice, but always remember to apply your own situation to any checklist and take from it what might be useful to your own environment.

How to Successfully Apply Scrum in Projects

There are three main steps to applying scrum in a project environment. Think of them as a kind of ‘scrum project management life cycle’ for you to adapt and reuse time and time again for each project.

Step 1: Compile the Product Backlog

The Product Backlog is a To Do list in the form of user stories. These describe what the user wants to be able to do – not the technical solution to doing it. Collect all the user stories and create the backlog.

Step 2: Hold a Planning Meeting

Get the team together to review the work and estimate the duration required to deliver each user story. This allows you to look at all the work and put the To Do list in priority order.

Step 3: Compile the Sprint Backlog

Now you know the priority work, select the user stories for the first sprint. A Sprint is a timeboxed development effort so only select what can be delivered in that time period.
Once you have all the user stories in the Product Backlog and have prioritized the important tasks, your team can begin their first sprint! The backlog is kept under constant review, so you will have regular sessions to amend the priority order and add in new requirements as necessary.

Get started with Scrum project management by bringing the team together and adopting Scrum approaches to doing the work. With the support of a Scrum Master, and a focus on project delivery, you can adopt this tried-and-tested way of working. Check out the podcasts and resources on this page as a starting point, or to delve into advanced agile topics.

I believe that most people who become Agile certified and study the methodologies understand that Agile is the best approach for knowledge-based work –- work that’s complex, fast-moving, and volatile. This is the kind of work that really dominates our age now: the information age. I think Agile offers superior project management approaches to do that type of work.
Jonathan Herbert

PM Podcast Episodes about Scrum Project Management

On this page you'll find a selection of our favorite podcasts that talk about Scrum, Agile methods and how to succeed as a project manager in an Agile environment. Check the archives for more resources!

The Agile Manifesto for Project Managers

In this solo episode of The PM Podcast, Cornelius Fichtner explores the Agile Manifesto for project managers and in particular: what do the 12 principles mean for our work as project managers in an Agile environment. Whether you are working in a Scrum project management environment, or looking to do further training in this area, it's important to get the foundations right, which is exactly what this episode will help with.
Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner

The Keys to Building a High-Performing Scrum Team

High performing teams don’t happen "auto-magically". In this interview, which is a mini Scrum project management training, Alicia McLain says that it takes a nuanced leadership style, consistency, persistence, patience, a structured approach and support to create the team culture necessary to bring the best of people in a Scrum team -- or in any other Agile environment. You'll learn the steps to building high performing teams and the important elements that contribute to building and sustaining high performing teams.
Alicia McLain
Alicia McLain

Agile Project Portfolio Management

One of the larger challenges for corporations that use both Scrum or other Agile methods and Project Portfolio Management (PPM) is integration of what seem to be two very different philosophies. In this interview, you'll more about scrum vs project management and the fallacies that hold teams back from embracing agile methods. You'll see how you can benefit from agile project portfolio management.
David Blumhorst
David Blumhorst

The Warning Signs That Tell You Agile Isn't Working

Are you concerned about why Agile is not working for your team? Teams need the training, skills, and empowerment to absorb and implement agile principles. With these factors in place, organizations and teams should be able to build the foundation for agile success -- and you'll be able to avoid the 5 warning signs that tell you Scrum (or whatever Agile approach you are using) isn't working in your team.
NK Shrivastava and Cornelius Fichtner
NK Shrivastava and Cornelius Fichtner

Summary

Scrum project management is a reliable and exciting way to work. You’ll see constant deliveries and benefit from the visual approach to managing projects that Scrum teams use: whiteboards and sticky notes (physical or digital) will soon become the way you share status and manage progress!

Scrum is one of several Agile methodologies that help you work closely with the customer to make rapid improvements. You’ll know your Scrum projects are having a real business impact because you’ll see the proof in the results and in stakeholder satisfaction.

Project Management for Beginners and Experts

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