Scrum – in 3 minutes


The basics

Scrum is an empirical process for Agile software development.


Scrum is an iterative, incremental approach for creating and maintaining complex products. It was originally formalized for software development, as one of the Agile software development methods, but works for any complex, innovative type of product.

Why is it called Scrum?

Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber created it the early 90’s. They inherited the name ‘Scrum’ from the ‘The New New Product Development Game’ paper by Takeuchi and Nonaka (Harvard Business Review, 1986). Takeuchi and Nonaka used it (from the game of rugby) to stress that cross-functional and self-organizing teams are key to success in product development, like they are in a team sport like rugby. 

Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland created and maintain the official Scrum Body of Knowledge, the Scrum Guide.

How Scrum works

In Scrum all work is organized in “Sprints” (see Figure). Sprints are time-boxed iterations having a fixed start and end date that are never more than 30 days apart. Working in Sprints ensures a firm base to make decisions on scope, budget and the most valuable, next work. It ensures that the most valuable work is completed at all times.

A Scrum Sprint (source: Scrum – A Pocket Guide)

A sprint cycle comprises following:

  • The Product Owner manages the Product Backlog, an ordered and evolving list of all work for the product.
  • During Sprint planning, the Development team pulls the top items from the Product Backlog, crafts a Sprint Goal, and describes in a Sprint Backlog the work to implement the selected items.
  • The Development Team meets each day to assess its progress in the Daily Scrum.
  • The Sprint ends with a Sprint Review and Retrospective, where:
    • At the Sprint Review the releasable work, i.e. an Increment of working product ready to hand over to a customer, is discussed with the stakeholders for input, changes, and feedback on their part.
    • At the Sprint Retrospective the Scrum Team inspects the past Sprint to improve its work and process in the next Sprint.
  • The Scrum Master teaches, coaches and mentors the Scrum Team and the surrounding organization in understanding, respecting and applying Scrum.

Target audience

Any member and role of a software development team. Any manager or stakeholder involved in the software development process.

Evolution and constraints

Scrum has its roots in software development, and is seen as a new, ‘Agile’ way to manage software projects. The role of the Scrum Master was emphasized and interpreted as a new incarnation of the traditional Project Manager. Scrum was often used while keeping the context of delivering all requirements within a preset time and budget.

Scrum was effective as a better way to deliver software projects. Productivity was substantially higher (from 10% to 400% depending on team, environment, project, agile experience, etc.) and time-to-market was hugely improved.

With the growing importance of the Agile movement as a credible answer to the ever increasing uncertainty and unpredictability, there is an important shift in how its used. The empiricism of Scrum, designed into the framework, is explored more to move away from old school predictions and toward opportunistic business advantages.

An often observed and staggering problem however remains the inattention to engineering and software development practices within Scrum. Scrum itself has no explicit prescriptions for actual techniques and practices, but it does say that engineering standards need to be established and adhered to. Unfortunately the use of good, modern, agile development techniques, like the ones eXtreme Programming promotes, is unfortunately not acknowledged as an extremely important enabler for increasing the performance achieved with Scrum.

And, finally, despite its simplicity, the limited number of prescriptions and mandatory elements, the elements that Scrum is made of seem to be at odds with many companies’ organizational structures and processes. It’s why many people find it simple, but not easy.

Relevant links

Want to know more?

9789087537203_CoverLRTitle: Scrum A Pocket Guide
Author: Gunther Verheyen
ISBN: 9789087537203
Price: 15,95
Order here your copy or view the sample file

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