Ideally, completing a long-term project should involve minimal backtracking, and end with a satisfied customer or client. In reality, this isn’t always the case. The ‘Scrum Collaboration Methodology’ – or simply ‘Scrum’ – attempts to prevent setbacks and improve customer satisfaction by tackling project development piece by piece.
In this article, we’ll explain the Scrum method and its benefits over more traditional project management strategies. Then we’ll provide steps on how to implement Scrum for your next project.
Let’s get to it!
An Introduction to the Scrum Collaboration Method
In order to understand what Scrum is, we first have to understand the Agile method. Initially created to help software developers to manage projects more effectively and efficiently, Agile refers to a set of values, principles, and practices. Development teams use Agile as a guide as they complete projects.
Scrum is a methodology that applies Agile values and principles. Like Agile, Scrum was first used by software developers. However, it has spread and is now used by other product developers, entrepreneurs, and anyone else trying to take on a complex project.
Usually, Scrum involves a collaborative team made up of five to seven people. There are three roles within the Scrum team: the Product Owner, the Scrum Master, and the general team members. The team members will be the ones doing the work of developing the product.
The Product Owner is the project’s key investor, or your client. Their role is to provide the general team members with direction by compiling information on the end product’s essential needs. The Scrum Master helps make sure the team is implementing the methodology correctly.
The Scrum team works in short, one to three week bursts called ‘sprints’. Each sprint will have a certain set of goals for the team to accomplish. Throughout the sprint, the team holds regular meetings to share updates, delegate, and provide feedback to one another.
The Benefits of Scrum Over Traditional Development Methods
Besides Scrum, one of the most popular project management strategies is the Waterfall Method. It consists of a linear plan in which the team carries steps through to completion one at a time. Projects using the Waterfall Method usually start with a planning period, during which the team attempts to design the product in its entirety before going to development.
However, a common problem with this method is that the team will move from one step to the next, only to realize their initial plans won’t work, or are incomplete. This sets the team back, as they have to return to the planning stage and start the process over again.
Sometimes, teams using the Waterfall Method will present the final results to the client, only to hear that what they’ve built doesn’t really fulfill the client’s needs. This sometimes results in lack of payment, or the team having to start the project over from the beginning.
Scrum is meant to be more efficient and effective than this method because it provides the team with clear and focused goals. It’s designed to be adaptable – one of the key Agile qualities – to prevent major setbacks. Additionally, Scrum incorporates feedback from the Product Owner throughout the process to prevent client dissatisfaction.
How to Implement the Scrum Collaboration Method (7 Key Steps)
Scrum involves a very specific process, incorporating certain documents and meetings along the way. While it can seem a little prescriptive at first, the steps actually provide teams with more flexibility, and make it possible to adapt to unforeseen issues.
Step 1: Create Your Product Backlog to Outline Essential Features
As we mentioned before, Scrum divides projects up into sprints. A team can run as many sprints as it needs to create the best version of the end product. The first sprint starts with the Product Owner creating the ‘Product Backlog’.
This is a document that includes all of the end product’s essential features. The Product Backlog shouldn’t specify low-level tasks that might go into creating the product, but rather should focus on the big picture. The initial Product Backlog only needs to incorporate the most basic necessary characteristics of the end product.
For example, if you were using Scrum to build a house, the initial Product Backlog might include the house’s foundation, walls, and roof. It wouldn’t specify things such as flooring or light fixtures, since those are technically small finishing details.
Step 2: Hold a ‘Sprint Planning Meeting’ to Determine Your Goals
Once the Product Owner has completed the first Product Backlog, your entire team should hold a ‘Sprint Planning Meeting’. In this meeting, you’ll determine the goals for the upcoming sprint, which will take place over the next one to three weeks.
This meeting shouldn’t look like the extensive planning sessions used in the Waterfall Method. Instead, your team should examine the Product Backlog, then determine which goals you can realistically complete within the sprint’s designated time period.
To go back to our example of the house, at the first Sprint Planning Meeting you might determine that your team only has time to lay the foundation and frame the house in the upcoming sprint. These are the only tasks you would discuss during the meeting. You would leave the rest of the goals in the Product Backlog for the next sprint.
Step 3: Add Items to Your Sprint Backlog to Stay on Task
Once you’ve determined the goals for your first sprint, your team can create a ‘Sprint Backlog’ – another document designed to help keep your team on task. Many teams create Sprint Backlogs using a whiteboard and sticky notes organized in three columns: ‘to-do’, ‘in progress’, and ‘done’.
The sticky notes should contain specific tasks related to the goals selected from the Product Backlog during the Sprint Planning Meeting. Team members can move the sticky notes between the columns as they work on their tasks. This way everyone always knows what’s being worked on and what still needs to be addressed.
In our example, some tasks related to the goals of laying the foundation and framing the house might be gathering materials, mixing concrete, and cutting boards for the frame to the correct lengths. These items could be written on sticky notes and added to the Sprint Backlog.
Step 4: Incorporate Daily Stand-Up Meetings to Maintain Communication
Every day during each sprint, a short meeting of no more than fifteen minutes should be held by your team. These are sometimes called ‘Daily Stand-Ups’, and are usually held standing in a circle. During these meetings, team members can give updates on the items currently listed as ‘in progress’ in the Sprint Backlog. You might also delegate tasks still listed in the ‘to-do’ column.
This is a chance for the team to discuss any problems that have arisen and might cause setbacks. The team can give suggestions for troubleshooting or reallocate resources to help solve the issue before the end of the sprint.
Step 5: Present Sprint Results to Your Product Owner for Feedback
At the end of the sprint, the team should present the product to the Product Owner. They will evaluate whether it’s ready for release, or if another sprint is required before making the product available. This is how Scrum incorporates client feedback into the process to help prevent their dissatisfaction.
An additional sprint could be needed for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the goal for a sprint is only to fit the product with its most essential features, as in our example of the house. The Product Owner could choose to sell the house with only a foundation and frame. However, it will be more valuable if another sprint is held to add features.
Sometimes, the end of a sprint will reveal that essential features aren’t actually necessary. In this case, the team could modify the product in the next sprint to remove them. The Product Owner may also realize a need for features they hadn’t previously thought of, and choose to run another sprint to incorporate these new ideas.
Step 6: Hold a Sprint Retrospective Meeting to Discuss What Your Team Can Improve
At the end of each sprint, the team should hold a ‘Sprint Retrospective Meeting’ to discuss what they can improve. This is a chance to talk through issues that came up in the previous sprint, and note areas where your team can increase efficiency.
The purpose of this meeting isn’t to put one another down or complain about other team members. Instead, try to look at the group as a whole. The Retrospective Meeting should strive to improve communication among team members, and focus on the development process rather than the product.
Step 7: Repeat the Previous Steps to Create a Complete End Product
After the Product Owner reviews the product and the team holds the Sprint Retrospective Meeting, the team can prepare for the next sprint. The Product Owner should revisit the Product Backlog to add or remove any features discussed during the product review. Then, a new Sprint Planning Meeting should determine the goals for the next sprint.
Your team can continue running sprints until the Product Owner is completely satisfied with the end product. The Product Owner might choose to release versions of the product along the way, with additional releases as the product improves. Goals and tasks may get more specific from sprint to sprint.
Long-term projects can end in defeat if repeated setbacks lead to missed deadlines and sub-par results. You client may even decide your end product doesn’t satisfy their needs, causing all your hard work to go to waste. The Scrum method seeks to avoid these problems by implementing client feedback, setting clear goals, and building collaborative teams.
Now you’ve learned the basics of Scrum, you can incorporate it into your next team project. Take care in gathering your team members, using documents like the Product and Sprint Backlogs, hosting regular meetings, and incorporating your Product Owner’s feedback to create the best possible version of your end result.
Do you have any questions about the Scrum Collaboration Method? Ask them in the comments section below!
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