Demystifying scrum project management

Our work-life was changing, and COVID-19 has permanently changed it forever. A remote workforce and a seemingly endless workload make it necessary to create small chunks of work that are handled by the most competent people for the job. Getting this right has a direct bearing on the productivity and morale of employees and the overall success of the project and organization. A crucial aspect of this model is the team manager responsible for ensuring that the team members complete a task within a scheduled period. This manager strives to remove any obstacles or blockers that impede work. All these are the essence of project management today and in this article, we will talk about a methodology or practice within project management called scrum.

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What is scrum project management?

A scrum is a form of Agile project methodology where a small team is headed by a team leader called the scrum master, and this person removes all obstacles and ensures that the relatively small goals/chunks of work are completed within the agreed timelines.

The core idea behind scrum project management is to quicken the pace of development and testing and, in the process, reduce the time to market for new products and services. More importantly, the team can quickly adapt well to changes in the client’s requirements, which is a key benefit in today’s dynamic world.

Scrum project management process

Now that we have an idea of what scrum project management is, let’s get into its detailed process.

It all starts when a client, external or internal, comes to a team with a problem that needs a solution. Immediately, the problem is split into many smaller pieces of work. Each piece is prioritized and scheduled accordingly, so every chunk of work has a timeline. These short schedules and goals are called sprints, and typically, a small number of tasks are completed in each sprint.

The team decides the length of the sprint, and this can be anywhere from one to a few weeks, and at the end of the sprint, the agreed feature or a part of the project is delivered.

Transparency is a key aspect of the entire process, so all members of the team and the scrum master are aware of the role of every individual, the presence of blockers, expected results, current progress, and more. This improves planning and keeps the team together as they collaborate to solve the issue on hand.

The scrum master promotes this transparency through daily standup meetings scheduled for about 15 minutes every day. During these meetings, the team members update their progress and bring up potential issues/impediments. All these add to the overall productivity of the team and boost collaboration and team spirit.

Principles of scrum project management

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Based on the above explanation, here are some of the key principles of scrum project management.

  • Collaboration: Transparency in the overall operations gives employees a lot of trust in each other and enhances collaboration and a friendly working environment.
  • Self-driven: Scrum gives team members a certain measure of flexibility in their actions and motivates them to work harder towards the defined goals.
  • Adaptation: The short sprints in scrum make it easy to adapt to the client’s changing requirements.
  • Prioritization: The tasks in scrum are prioritized based on their importance to the end goal and the value addition they offer to customers. Hence, this process ensures that the critical tasks are addressed first.
  • Performance evaluation: The retrospective at the end of every sprint helps to evaluate the contribution and performance of each member and help them to improve. Since there are measurable ROIs at the end of every sprint, it helps to evaluate performance and identify shortfalls for improvement.
  • Timed work: The presence of defined schedules and time limits enhance the productivity of team members and drives them to boost performance.
  • Iterative development: This interactive development process helps the team to address shortfalls and improve them to improve the quality of deliverables.

These guiding principles are the strength of scrum project management and contribute to its success and popularity.

Roles in scrum project management

There are three roles in scrum project management, and they are:

  • Product owner: This is the entity that decides what the team must work on. Typically, this entity (an individual or a team) breaks down the project into small tasks and assigns a priority for each, so the team can work on it.
  • Scrum master: This person is responsible for the smooth running of the team and handles any issues that team members may have. The scrum master acts as a liaison between the team and outsiders and resolves all problems within the team.
  • Team: The team comprises people of different skills such as an expert in frontend UI design, developers, testers, database administrators, and more, depending on the needs of the team and the nature of tasks handled. Each individual has a specific and defined role and takes responsibility for any tasks or issues in their respective areas.

If you see, each of these roles is critical for the success of the team and they come together to achieve the goals.

Are Agile and scrum similar?

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Agile and scrum are often seen as synonyms, but in reality, there are many differences between them.

Agile project management is a framework that helps a team deliver measurable ROI through an iterative approach, where, in each iteration, specific features are added to enhance a product. In many ways, it is a philosophy based on certain principles such as collaboration, transparency, trust, and communication.

There are many methods to implement this Agile philosophy such as scrum and Kanban.

In other words, Agile is a general philosophy or framework, whereas scrum is its specific implementation. As mentioned above, in scrum, the work is split into small chunks called sprints, and each of them is completed within an agreed timeline. At the end of the sprint, there’s a retrospective to learn from the mistakes and to avoid them in future sprints.

Though scrum encompasses the fundamental principles of Agile methodology, it is just one of the approaches to implement this philosophy. Specifically, there are three major differences between Agile and scrum, and they are:

  • Agile is a framework while scrum is its implementation.
  • Scrum is comprised of short sprints, and the focus is to deliver a tangible addition at the end of each sprint, whereas Agile methodology is more focused on the quality of the final deliverable.
  • Agile teams can comprise members from different teams; scrum assigns specific roles to each team member and all of them contribute to the deliverable at the end of every sprint.

Is it suited for freelancing?

More people today prefer to freelance because of the flexibility that comes with it. In fact, many organizations, especially startups, prefer to have a diverse team of freelancers who get to work from any part of the world.

In such scenarios, scrum project management becomes a critical function, and there’s a lot of responsibility on the scrum master to keep the team together and motivated.

Here are some tips to make scrum project management work for a team of freelancers.

  • Daily standup meetings are an absolute must for transparency and to talk about any issues or suggestions.
  • Leveraging tools such as Slack can greatly streamline communication and improve the overall transparency of the team.
  • If possible, the team can allocate a few minutes each week to learn about each other and to enhance the feeling of comfort among the team members.
  • Video conferencing calls can give a personal touch to the meetings.
  • Choosing a common time for standup calls is important, especially if the team members are based out of different locations/countries.

As you see, scrum project management is a specific implementation of an Agile methodology that breaks down a task into small chunks where each chunk is delivered at the end of a defined period called sprint. This iterative approach enhances collaboration, quality of the deliverable, and makes it more manageable.

So, what do you think of scrum? Have you implemented it in your organization? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Featured image: Pixabay

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