Many tech companies are using Agile methodologies in managing their projects –particularly Scrum. It is one of the most commonly used Agile practices when it comes to software development.
Scrum is a relatively simple process that can be applied to simple and complex IT projects. Although Scrum’s core is simplicity, it is difficult to master. Even so, most large tech companies follow this methodology and apply the scrum ceremonies in every sprint.
Scrum is an agile project methodology that follows a short fixed schedule of release cycles with the adjustable scope called sprints to address rapidly changing development needs.
This process is distinguished from other agile processes by specific practices and concepts and is divided into three categories of roles, artifacts, and ceremonies.
- Product Owner – represents the client and business in general for the product to be developed. They are responsible for the backlog and strive to prioritise the items to be worked on before every sprint. The product owner makes executive product decisions on a daily basis. They also translate the customer needs into actionable work items for the development team.
- Development Team – This is the group of cross-functional team members driven to the successful delivery of a working software. This term encompasses the developers, designers, QA, and other technical roles that must collaborate on the actual development of a product.
- Scrum Master – The scrum master is responsible for ensuring the team is delivering and accomplishing lined up tasks. They serve as the coach, counselor, advocate, impediment-remover, facilitator, and mediator all rolled into one. They lead meetings to communicate progress and blockers. This is what a project manager should be doing but just through the lens of scrum.
- Product Backlog
- Sprint Backlog
Scrum requires self-organising teams who can adapt to unpredictable environments and solve problems.
The Four Scrum Ceremonies
To encourage transparency and regular communication in doing the software projects, scrum ceremonies are held. Scrum ceremonies are meetings that are unique to scrum teams. These ceremonies ensure that everyone working in the IT project is in-sync.
Scrum is executed in iterations called sprints. Sprints are short tasking of work lasting usually no more than two weeks. Every sprint employs the four different Scrum ceremonies to make sure tasks are assigned and well-executed.
The four Scrum ceremonies are:
- Sprint Planning – This ceremony is where the development team meets and decides what they need to complete in the coming sprint.
- Daily Scrum – An everyday standup meeting where everyone needs to share their tasks to accomplish to make sure everyone is on the same page while doing the sprint.
- Sprint Review – This ceremony or meeting happens when the team demonstrates what they have accomplished at the end of the sprint –features and/or functionalities they have worked on.
- Sprint Retrospective – This is when the team reviews their work, identifying what they did well and what did not go as planned. With the retrospective, the team can come up with a better approach in accomplishing their tasks on the next sprint.
This type of Scrum ceremony helps to set up the entire team for the upcoming sprint. It creates a more seamless and successful run of tasks. This ceremony requires the participation of all the Scrum roles.
The planning part happens prior to the sprint which typically lasts for an hour or two. The product owner comes to the meeting with a prioritised list of the product backlog items, which is presented to the group. The items on the list (called user stories) are discussed with the development team. The whole development team will make a sprint forecast and will outline how much work the team can complete from the product backlog. This will be known as the sprint backlog.
Fleshing out the details of each user story can also be a part of some sprint planning ceremonies. Although, this can happen in a separate story refinement meeting or ceremony. With this, the actual sprint planning ceremony is shorter and directed only towards user stories that will be tackled in the upcoming sprint.
This is another part of a Scrum ceremony that ensures everyone knows what’s happening. It’s a way to ensure transparency across the team. Daily Scrum is a light and fun informative meeting. It’s an avenue for every member to raise their concerns and answer questions on their accomplishments and impediments daily.
The daily scrum is usually happening at the start of the day, usually lasts for only 15 minutes. It is sometimes called a standup meeting because it’s so short that you can discuss everything while standing up. This demands accountability on people to report honestly on what they have accomplished. It is also where the development team report their plans and possible blockers. This ceremony is not limited to teams that share a physical location. If the teams are working remotely, the ceremony can be conducted with video conferencing or another group chat.
After the period of the sprint, the development team will need to demonstrate their work. In this scrum ceremony, development teams need to review their showcased work and present what they have improved –like features and other functionalities.
This is also where they can congratulate themselves with their accomplishments and successful sprint. Sprint Reviews are important to check out achievements and raise the morale of the development teams.
Unlike other scrum ceremonies, the review meeting might last longer because the development team would need to present all their work during the entire sprint. The entire team will provide their feedback as well as the stakeholders in the project. Reviews must meet the quality level set up by the team or they’re not considered complete and shouldn’t be demonstrated in the sprint review.
The last scrum ceremony is the sprint retrospective that is the part of the agile process. This is attended by all roles, and it seeks to get feedback on what worked, what needs to be improved, and to quickly act on them. This makes Scrum a great project management methodology because the product and the development culture is constantly improving as the development process goes by.
The retrospective is also a way for the team to understand the fault lines in the team and the current process, with a goal to make them better. The retrospective is far different from the blame game, since it tries to objectively address areas for improvement for the succeeding sprints.
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