The Ultimate Manual to Scrum Project Management

If you want to understand scrum project management and how it works, this article has all the answers.

Scrum is an Agile project management methodology that allows product teams to rapidly complete complex projects through teamwork and extensive collaboration.

It is a popular model among software development teams but can be applied to any project consisting of several versions or stages.

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into scrum project management and see how it can help you improve efficiency.

Let’s dive in.

What is Scrum Project Management Anyway?

Scrum is based on frequent collaboration, short development cycles, and extensive teamwork.

It builds on the iterative approach of Agile project management, allowing product teams to ship complex projects and features much faster and with greater collaboration with the end customer.

Scrum’s foundations stand on daily scrum meetings led by a scrum master and development sprints no longer than four weeks (usually 1-2 weeks).

It provides tools and practices on top of the standard Agile project management principles that follow the “do, check, and adapt” principle, which is more of an empirical process. This process ensures optimum productivity and results in greater control over any risks during the project life cycle.

Scrum is such a popular framework that many people use the term synonymously with Agile and believe that Agile and scrum are the same thing.

However, there’s a slight difference between the two.

Agile is an approach to project management. It’s more like a mindset that advocates an iterative approach to product development. It believes that conventional project management isn’t flexible enough to accommodate the needs of modern product and engineering teams.

Its core philosophy revolves around the belief that a project team doesn’t always know everything from the start. This means it is not always possible to have an A-to-Z plan before the project kick-off.

As a result, it advocates an iterative approach that breaks down a large product into smaller features and deliverables. There’s more frequent collaboration with the end customer at every step of the process. Plus, there’s always room for change without extensive documentation and unnecessarily long approval cycles.

On the other hand, scrum is a framework that offers concrete tools and processes to implement the agile project management approach. It has well-defined roles for team members, a set of resources for every project team, and a step-by-step process of executing a project.

It is one of the several types of agile project management frameworks. The others are Kanban, and a hybrid approach between Kanban and scrum, often called Scrumban.

So how exactly does scrum project management work?

Let’s discuss this in the next section.

How Scrum Project Management Works

Scrum project management minimizes documentation and focuses on execution with short-term goals. As a result, the project teams work with increased collaboration in one to four week-long sprints.

Every sprint has a clear deliverable which is often a smaller but self-sufficient feature of the end product. Instead of focusing on the long-term goal, scrum project management encourages teams to target their immediate sprint goals.

Unlike traditional project management, scrum teams often follow a shared responsibility model where the whole team works together to ship a sprint release.

Sometimes, tasks are assigned and reassigned during a sprint to different team members depending on their output quality and strengths.

Since Agile project management advocates transparency at every level, scrum teams frequently collaborate with the clients at the beginning and end of every sprint to present the deliverables, get feedback, and exchange ideas.

Similarly, scrum teams develop internal transparency by holding daily standups. Every team member updates the team on their activities from the previous day, plans for the rest of the day, and the following action items on their list. Plus, they can also seek help from other team members or suggest necessary changes to the process.

The whole scrum project management framework is based on collaboration and short product iterations.

But to make it work properly, scrum has certain well-defined roles, artifacts, and process steps.

Let’s review them one by one.

The Main Roles In A Scrum Project Team

Every scrum team consists of various roles that contribute to the overall success of a project. Organizations develop multiple roles based on their specific business needs.

However, you’ll find the following roles in every scrum team irrespective of its business type.

A product owner in scrum project management represents the problems and requirements of the end user. They act as a bridge between the customer and the technical scrum team, advocate for the customer’s perspective, and ensure that their requirement is fulfilled precisely the way they want.

The product owner often comes from a business function of your organization but has the necessary technical product understanding to ensure that the product requirement is communicated to the technical teams properly.

The product owner is also responsible for getting the end product designed by the technical scrum team exactly the way the customer wants.

However, successful product owners never act as dictators. Instead, they help the technical teams understand the client’s requirements, provide constructive feedback, and play a motivational role that keeps everyone on the team focused on doing the best for the customer.

In short, a product owner is the internal customer of the scrum who provides the necessary product brief and direction to the scrum team.

A scrum master is a technical expert and mentor of the scrum team who collaborates with the product owner in developing the product requirements for every sprint.

The scrum master manages the daily scrum and ensures that everyone on the technical team clearly understands their job. They also play the role of a technical expert and mentor for the team, who provides guidance when required.

Additionally, a scrum master is the primary facilitator of the scrum team. The scrum framework views a scrum master as a servant leader whose primary job is to remove any hurdles from the team’s path to achieving greatness.

This includes collaborating with the product owner to set practical and reasonable goals for every sprint in line with the working capacity of the scrum team.

The scrum master also ensures that the team remains focused on its goals and does not get distracted by internal or external stakeholders. This role becomes critical in companies where the higher management routinely assigns last-minute tasks to technical resources.

That said, the scrum master is not responsible for doing the technical team’s job. Instead, their role is only to facilitate the production process, remove hurdles, provide guidance, and push the team to achieve its targets.

Ultimately, it’s the team’s job to achieve its targets and produce results at the end of every sprint.

A scrum team is a small group of business analysts, developers, testers, etc., who work collectively to deliver the product or its features in every sprint. They work under the guidance of the scrum master but are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of a sprint.

For better collaboration, a scrum development team has a common goal and works on the principle of shared responsibility. This ensures that all the team members facilitate each other to deliver the product required from them.

The scrum team members are also responsible for sharing product updates in the daily standup meetings managed by the scrum master. Each member shares their tasks from the previous day, plans for the rest of the day, and the next listed tasks.

In short, a scrum development team consists of functional experts who work for the product owner under the guidance and management of the scrum master.

Artifacts In Scrum Project Management

Scrum project management doesn’t require many artifacts since its primary focus is on getting things done. However, the main scrum artifacts are:

The product backlog lists all the features required to complete a product across its life cycle. The features in a product backlog are listed, approved, prioritized by the product owner.

The scrum development team selects features from the backlog for every sprint in coordination with the product owner and the scrum master. Any additions or removals from the backlog can only be made with the product owner’s approval.

A sprint backlog is the list of features prioritized by the product owner for a specific sprint. The scrum development team is responsible for completing all the tasks in a sprint backlog before the end of the relevant sprint.

Burndown charts provide a visual representation of the work status in a sprint. It allows the product owner and other key stakeholders to quickly evaluate a sprint’s progress and ensure that all the sprint work is on schedule.

How to Get Started With Scrum Project Management

Since scrum project management is based on the agile methodology, it executes projects through small iterations and customer collaboration.

Here are the main steps involved in scrum project management.

Step 1: Planning and Product Backlog Creation

In the first step, the product owner gathers requirements from the end customers and documents them for internal use. This involves transforming the large items and functional details into epics (broad user requirements) and user stories (executable tasks).

Based on these user stories, the product owner develops the product backlog, which includes all the epics and user stories for the whole product life cycle.

The product owner and scrum master also collectively determine the estimated time for the project completion and introduce the scrum team to the customer’s requirements.

Step 2: Sprint Planning and Sprint Backlog Creation

In scrum project management, project execution is done through multiple sprints that are typically one to four weeks long. Each sprint has a well-defined set of requirements derived from the product backlog and listed in the sprint backlog by the product owner.

During the sprint planning phase, the product owner prioritizes the tasks required, describes their scope, and shares the vision for the sprint’s deliverables.

The scrum master plays a crucial role in sprint planning by ensuring that the product owner sets reasonable targets and expectations from the scrum development team.

Additionally, both the product owner and scrum master need to determine the correct duration of a sprint that is in line with the project’s overall timelines and the sprint backlog.

Step 3: Sprint Execution

In this step, the scrum development team starts executing the tasks listed in the sprint backlog by the product owner. The scrum master ensures that the team follows the priority list in the sprint backlog.

Additionally, the scrum master and the product owner are responsible for holding the daily standup scrum meetings during which every team member shares updates on their current tasks and challenges.

This phase has to comply with the timelines defined by the product owner. Ultimately, the scrum team is responsible for ensuring that every task in the sprint backlog is delivered by the end of the sprint.

Step 4: Testing, Product Demonstration, and Customer Feedback

In this step, the scrum team ensures that all the tasks listed in the sprint backlog have been successfully completed in line with the product owner’s requirements.

After extensive testing and internal approval, the sprint backlog tasks are demonstrated to the product owner for approval. Apart from approving or disapproving the end product, the product owner and the customer can also share feedback with the scrum master and development team.

Step 5: Scrum Retrospective and Next Sprint Planning

Once a sprint’s tasks have been approved by the product owner, the scrum team holds a meeting to evaluate its internal performance. The objective of this meeting is to see what went well, what went wrong, and how to improve things in the next sprint.

At this stage, the scrum master and the other team members can openly share their feedback on the whole sprint execution process and discuss its lessons. Additionally, this step provides the stepping stone for the next sprint and its processes.

Every sprint in scrum project management broadly follows these five steps until the product backlog is empty and the product owner is satisfied with the deliverables.