What is Agile Scrum?

Paul Brown
30.10.2020 Published: 30.10.20, Modified: 30.10.2020 15:10:45

In this blog we will cover the following topics:

What is Agile?

Agile is a method of working which revolves around continual development and collaboration. The Agile Framework brings together a group of people into a project with the flexibility to choose their way of working as a team, operating within guidelines but

choosing their boundaries. It encourages teamwork, self-organisation and accountability within a team project.

Most significantly, this method allows for the ability to be responsive to change. For example, the Agile way of working facilitates any changes that might occur in customer requirements in a timely manner. It also ensures that a company can supply an ongoing responsive product release in smaller iterations.

An Agile mindset is necessary to create and develop high-performing teams, who in turn deliver value to their customers in a shorter time frame, which leads to a quicker return on investment.

The 12 Principles of Agile:

  1. Satisfy the customer
  2. Embrace changing requirements
  3. Deliver working software within a short timescale
  4. Collaborate across teams and eliminate silos
  5. Create a motivated environment to empower team members and provide them with the support they need to complete projects successfully
  6. Face-to-face interactions for improved communication
  7. Meet customer expectations with functioning products
  8. Maintain sustainable development
  9. Continual technical excellence
  10. Keep it simple to maximise efficiency
  11. Self-organised teams offer most value
  12. Reflect on your work regularly to continuously improve

Scrum Model Definition 

What is Scrum?  As per the official Scrum Guide, Scrum is not exactly a methodology, but rather a simple framework for effective team collaboration on complex projects. Scrum gets its name from rugby terminology and just like a rugby team, encourages members to learn from experience and continuously improve. It involves specific values, commitments, events and artefacts, which all ensure the seamless running of a project. 

The Scrum Process Model is also known as the Scrum Software Delivery Framework. However, it is not only used to develop software for businesses; it’s also widely used in hardware development, marketing and business operations, among other things, including SpaceX.  

In short, the Scrum process begins with a Product Owner who orders work into a Product Backlog, which contains a prioritised list of work for the development team. The Scrum team then executes the work in increments, otherwise known as Sprints. Sprints are typically 2-4 weeks long and help break the project down into smaller tasks. Once a Sprint is complete, the team takes time for reflection to collate project feedback before moving onto the next Sprint. A Sprint is regarded as a complete Increment of the product, providing the customer with a value at every stage. Here’s a simple breakdown of the process:  

The Benefits of Agile Development Scrum 

Agile Scrum provides a range of benefits for all parties involved in the process, including development teams, customers and vendors. These include: 

Enhance Quality Output 

Scrum development teams have a clear definition of requirements, take on regular feedback and continuously improve. As such, they ensure a seamless process and produce higher quality products. Scrum teams use ‘The Definition of Done’, a pre-agreed set of items that must be completed for a project to be considered done and released. This ensures that the project is completed to the highest standards and covers everything from development and testing to integration and documentation. 

Higher Customer Satisfaction 

 Scrum frameworks foster a close relationship between the Scrum team and clients to ensure better communication and understanding of project requirements. Clients receive a functioning product after every Sprint and are given the opportunity to provide their feedback at every stage to ensure they are completely satisfied with the end result. 

Decrease Time to Market 

Agile Scrum helps encourage faster delivery times in comparison to traditional working methodologies. The main reason for this is that the development team is provided with a prioritised list of tasks and a functioning product or feature is produced after each Sprint. This means that clients do not have to wait for the whole project to be complete in order to release the product to the market.  

Increase Return On Investment 

Scrum projects produce a higher return on investment as projects take much less time to complete, demonstrating value to the customer every 2 to 4 weeks. In fact, Scrum has been proven to deliver value to the client apprxoinatemy 30-40% faster than traditional working practises. Additionally, the Scrum framework involves constant evaluation and corrections which reduces risk and prevents errors which could be costly and time-consuming.  

Boost Team Morale  

A Scrum team is self-organising, which enables members to arrange themselves in roles most suited to their strengths and be more experimental, creative and innovative in their work. Daily stand-ups can also help to reduce friction or frustrations between team members caused by miscommunication and provide an opportunity for members to learn from one another, which contributes to better team morale overall. In addition, the sustainable and disciplined nature of the Scrum framework means that teams are less likely to experience burnout from excessive workloads or irregular periods of intense work. 

Encourage Collaboration and Responsibility 

All Scrum team members work in close collaboration and take part in a daily stand-up meeting to outline priorities. This means that everyone knows what they are responsible for within the project and can take ownership of performance. Daily stand-ups also provide an opportunity for team members to seek support from other team members and raise any concerns. 

More Product Control and Governance 

Throughout a Scrum project, team members have the opportunity to constantly reflect and improve, resulting in better control over product performance overall. With every Sprint, the product can be refined according to stakeholder feedback and any issues can be addressed before the end product is delivered.  

Improve Project Progress Visibility 

All project timelines and budgets are based on real performance data and provide a realistic goal to work towards. As a result, the Scrum team is able to provide clients with better visibility across the project which increases customer satisfaction but also helps keep progress on track internally. This is communicated clearly to all stakeholders and Scrum team members for full transparency and maximum efficiency. Daily stand-up meetings are key for identifying any potential progress blockers and providing solutions to keep the project going smoothly. 

Reduce Risk 

Agile Scrum follows an adaptable process which enables teams to easily incorporate changes on an ongoing basis and mitigate risks to prevent project failure. Traditional development teams can often waste time and money without demonstrating value and providing ROI as there is less evaluation and correction throughout the project. Whereas, with Scrum, a tangible product is produced after every Sprint and any failed products can be discontinued early. 

Agile vs Scrum 

Here are some key similarities and differences between Agile and Scrum methodologies: 

Agile is a development philosophy  Scrum is a type of Agile framework 
Agile is an iterative and adaptive approach to project management, with high levels of stakeholder engagement Scrum is broken down into Sprints, providing a incremental flow of deliverables 
Agile teams are cross-functional Scrum teams have very specific team roles, but are encouraged to be T-shaped (to supplement their expertise in one area with additional but less-developed skills in associated areas)  
Not all Agile frameworks conduct Sprints In the Scrum process, the product is delivered after each Sprint for customer feedback before continuing with the next Sprint 
Design should be kept simple to ensure maximum efficiency with little risk Design can be more experimental  
Agile requires face-to-face interactions within teams (can be both physical and virtual)  As an Agile framework, Scrum projects involve a daily  scrum meeting (or event). These interactions (can be both physical and virtual) 

The Scrum Team: what to expect when working under Scrum Project Management 

The Scrum framework can only function when a dedicated team is brought together to fulfil the requirements of an organisation. One of the main and most important characteristics of a Scrum Team is the fact that they are self-managing. This means that they hold themselves accountable as professionals and are flexible and creative in order to accomplish their work in the best way possible. A Scrum Team consists of a Product Owner, a Scrum Master and Developers who are responsible for different aspects of the project. 

Here is a brief overview of a Scrum Team: 

Product Owner 

There is only one Product Owner per Scrum team, who is accountable for the work required. They are knowledgeable about the product and business requirements, and accountable for maximising the value of the work generated by the Scrum team. The Product Owner articulates the intent by having a clear product goal that is communicated with the Scrum team.  

Scrum Master 

The Scrum Master plays the role of a coach, mentor and leader to those within the Scrum Team, and is responsible for the promotion of Scrum within the wider organisation. They ensure that individuals internal and external to the team understand the theory behind Scrum, best practises, rules and Scrum values. 

The Scrum Master has two accountabilities:  

  1. Enacting scrum as per the Scrum guide  
  1. Maximising the effectiveness of the Scrum team 
The Developers  

The Developers are a team of at least three and a maximum of eight people. This is the optimum number, since less than three would lead to a decrease in interaction and more than eight would be too difficult to coordinate, which contradicts one of the key principles of Scrum teams – self-management. The Developers work together within a timeframe, known as a ‘Sprint’, to produce a ready-to-release product, in line with the definition of “Done”. They participate in ‘Daily Scrums’ and ‘ Sprint Reviews’ where they collaborate, inspect their performance and forecast what is required in the upcoming Sprint work. At the end of each Sprint, the entire Scrum Team participates in a Sprint review to inspect the work done, how it was executed and decide what to do next, adapt the product backlog if needed, which is the list of all activities that are needed in the product. 

To find out more about a Scrum Team, Events and Artefacts, please see the Official Scrum Guide

How Agile Can Work With Remote Members 

Traditionally, Agile teams thrive on face-to-face interactions and streamlined communication. However, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Agile teams have been forced to adapt and find new ways of working remotely. Agile teams can work efficiently from different geographical locations which is ideal to accommodate modern flexible working arrangements and global workforces. This way of working is called a distributed Scrum team. According to Gartner, “By 2022, 90% of agile development teams will include remote work as part of business continuity planning”, so onboarding remote practises within Scrum teams will become essential.  

The key to effective remote Scrum teams is communication, starting with the daily Scrum meeting. It is important to keep a set time for the daily scrum meetings and ensure everyone participates. It may also be useful to use interactive whiteboards, video conferencing or screen sharing.  For this, you will need to ensure all team members have secure and reliable technology from wherever they are based. 

Agile Scrum Approach VS Other Agile Approaches 

There are a range of other Agile approaches including Kanban, DevOps,  SAFe and Lean, however Scrum is the most widely used. Agile Scrum Framework remains the simplest method that has been tested over 20 years and proven to provide maximum productivity. Like other Agile Frameworks, Agile Scrum is particularly effective for complex systems and is adaptable depending on requirement changes, however what sets Scrum apart is its purpose. Agile Scrum is focused on continuous improvement. Let’s take a look at some other Agile approaches…  

Scrum vs Waterfall 

 Waterfall takes a linear approach to Project Management: Project requirements are gathered at the beginning of the project and a roadmap is created accordingly. Waterfall gets its name from the way each stage of the project flows into the next. One of the key differences between Waterfall and Scrum are the level of involvement from stakeholders and the size of the project. Waterfall is more suitable for smaller projects whereas Scrum works well for larger projects. 

Scrum  vs Kanban 

Kanban is a type of framework that uses a tool, called a Kanban board (hence the name), which visualises work processes. A Kanban board includes columns which each represent a stage in the project and contain sticky notes underneath for each task to be completed, which move across the board horizontally as progress is made.  

The main difference between Kanban and Scrum is that Kanban is a workflow management tool, focusing on continuous and more fluid processes, whereas Scrum is based on short, structured work Sprints.   

At FDM, we teach in multiple working frameworks, including Agile, Waterfall and Scrum. This training ensures our consultants are adaptable and have the ability to succeed in various working environments with our leading clients. 

Agile Scrum at FDM 

FDM is leading the way in Agile working, in particular with Scrum, and provides expert training in Agile Scrum Framework to all our team members and trainees. Product Owners across FDM have introduced Scrum through multiple Agile Pods this past year. As a result, both FDM consultants and our clients have seen first-hand how effective Scrum is in a business working environment, where flexibility and collaboration are key to achieving tangible business products and results. 

If you’re looking to kickstart your career in technology, check out the FDM Technical Graduate Programme to find out more.