What is scrum?
Although it only consists of five letters, Scrum is not an acronym, but a term borrowed from the sport of rugby which refers to a method for managing software development projects. Scrum is an Agile software development method which, unlike the traditional “waterfall” method, uses an iterative approach involving a cross-functional team in time-boxed cycles.
Since Scrum is a type of Agile methodology, it’s important to understand Agile. The term was first introduced by Dr. Winston Royce in 1970. He realized that a large software system should not be treated the same as an automobile assembly line, where each part is only installed after a previous stage has been completed.
The main drawback of this approach, according to Royce, is the lack of communication between various specialists in the development team. Another problem with the traditional assembly line approach is it assumes that users and designers are able to predict the requirements of the next phase of the project with 100% accuracy. Also, the traditional approach relies on the hope that the initial design will still be relevant at the end of the project – often years later.
Scrum, the leading methodology for Agile development used around the world, was adopted for Agile software development by Jeff Sutherland in 1993. The term is borrowed from the sport of rugby as an analogy that depicts different types of players working together in a tight-knit fashion. In software development, Scrum is a flexible, holistic strategy performed by a cross-functional team throughout multiple overlapping phases.
The defining characteristics of Scrum are the time-boxed development cycles called “sprints” and the three core roles on a scrum team: the product owner, the scrum master and the developers.
What is a sprint?
A development cycle in Scrum, called a sprint, is a short work interval of usually two weeks. The typical process of a sprint is as follows:
- Sprint planning event: Determines the work likely to be done during the sprint and prepares the sprint backlog, which details the backlog items to be done.
- Daily scrum or “standup”: A short meeting of usually 15 minutes occurs every day at a specific time. Each team member gives a brief account of their work, goals and identifies impediments.
- Sprint review: The development team assesses all the work that was completed, notes any planned work that was not completed and presents a demo to the stakeholders.
- Sprint retrospective: A meeting of moderate duration, usually 90 minutes, where team members reflect on the past sprint and assess what went well and what could be improved in the next sprint.
Scrum is sometimes maligned for not delivering the accelerated results that should be expected, but this is usually due to teams not understanding the methodology or trying to borrow ideas from Scrum without embracing it fully. Scrum is the most prevalent framework for agile development worldwide and for fortune 500 projects for a good reason: because when it's done properly it generally out-performs other traditional development methods.
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