Agile, Scrum, Kanban… Every industry has its jargon and so does the tech world. For someone who doesn’t have a software background, it can be quite a challenge to keep up with all the vocabulary. But if you want to know what you’re talking about, you’ll need to understand at least part of the terminology. To help you become fluent in tech language, we’ve created a Gapstars Scrum Cheat Sheet for Beginners. Of course, it’s not an exhaustive list, but it sure is enough to get you started!
What is Scrum?
First things first, let’s start off with a brief description of Scrum. A few weeks ago we talked about Agile software development: a set of values and principles meant to help develop software faster, with greater adaptability and customer collaboration. Within the Agile approach there are several project management frameworks and Scrum is one of them. In fact, Scrum is one of the most popular Agile development methods out there at the moment.
Rather than just a way to build software, Scrum is an overall approach to solving problems. It’s a (business) philosophy that can be used in any domain. As Scott Morris puts it: “Scrum is the opposite of a to-do list – instead, it’s a way of approaching group projects with flexibility.” The fact that it’s mostly known for its use by IT developers is merely a coincidence.
Before we get to our Gapstars Scrum Cheat Sheet for Beginners, it’s good to briefly outline the Scrum values. As we said, Scrum is an Agile framework, which implies that it’s in line with the principles of the Agile Manifesto (we wrote about the Manifesto before, go here if you want to refresh your memory). What it boils down to is this: in order to successfully work according to the Scrum philosophy, teams need certain values that function as a guideline. Think of Focus, Courage, Openness, Commitment and Respect as 5 essential Scrum values.
A Scrum Cheat Sheet for Beginners
I. The People
The Scrum framework distinguishes 3 main roles:
1. The Product Owner
The Product Owner is the one with the bright ideas that need to be turned into products. He or she is also accountable for the results the team delivers and ultimately the person who makes the decisions.
A good Product Owner is like the ultimate Jack of All Trades: they know their technical stuff, but have great business sense and – perhaps most importantly – excellent people & communication skills too.
2. The Scrum Master
The Scrum Master makes sure that the project is carried out according to the rules, values and processes of Scrum. He or she is responsible for the team, the meetings and generally is the one that keeps things going. The Scrum Master is also there to train the team and help them out when and where needed.
3. The Team
The Team consists of developers, testers and business analysts. Together, the team members build the product. They may play multiple roles; someone who writes a piece of code today may be testing tomorrow or vice versa. Scrum Teams have the freedom to organize themselves and manage their own work. According to Scrum principles this maximizes the team’s effectiveness and efficiency.
II. The Ceremonies
There are 5 different ceremonies within the Scrum scheme:
A Sprint is a specific cycle in which a Scrum team builds (parts of) a product. One cycle consists of 4 elements: 1) the planning 2) build what’s been planned 3) test what’s been built and 4) the review. After the review there either is a shippable, incremental release of the product or the whole thing starts again. A single Sprint cycle can be anything between 1 week and one month – its exact length is – of course – determined by the Team.
2. Sprint Planning
That planning we just mentioned? It takes place during the – what’s in a name – Sprint Planning. All of the involved, meaning our Product Owner, Scrum Master and of course the Team, participate in these meetings. The idea is to determine which particular features the Team will deliver in the Sprint. How they do that is up to them, because as we said, Scrum teams are self-organizing.
3. Daily Scrum
Daily Scrum meetings are nothing more than short morning meetings led by the Scrum Master. The entire Team attends and each member usually answers 3 questions: What have you done since yesterday’s Daily Scrum? What are your goals for today? And what are the obstacles (if any) that prevent you from completing your tasks?
Teams sometimes get a little bored with Daily Scrums, since the whole question-and answering thing can become a tad repetitive. To spice things up a bit, introducing a token can be good fun. From our own experience at Gapstars we know that one of our clients has divided its teams ‘Game of Thrones style’. Meaning there’s a House Stark, a House Lannister and so on. Their token could be a Deathwalker action figure for example. During the Daily Scrum, the team member answering the questions holds the action figure and hands it over randomly once their turn is over.
4. Sprint Review
Once the Sprint cycle ends, there’s a Sprint Review (or Demo). The Team presents the product to the Product Owner, explains what new features have been developed during the Sprint and explains what went well and how they solved problems.
5. Sprint Retrospective
The Retrospective – or Retro – also takes place after a Sprint. The Scrum Master and the entire Scrum Team are present and together they discuss what improvements can be made so that the next Sprint cycle becomes even more productive.
III. The Artefacts (or to put it simply, the Docs)
The term Artefacts sounds a little heavy, but it’s nothing more than a collection of physical records with the details of the project.
1. Product Backlog
The Product Backlog simply is a list of all the product requirements. This is where the Product Owner files all the items that could go into the product. Features are ranked in terms of priority, with the most important ones on top. The Product Owner is in charge of the Product Backlog, but decides together with the Team on adjustments, if and when necessary.
1.1. Backlog Grooming
Strictly speaking this is not a document, but an activity. Backlog grooming is closely linked to all things backlog though, hence the slight segue way here. You can think of backlog grooming as the refinement of the backlog: the Product Owner and (part of) the team review the list of product requirements. They do this because they want to be sure that: 1) The backlog includes the right items 2) That these items are correctly ordered priority-wise and 3) That the ones on top of the backlog are ready to be delivered.
2. Sprint Backlog
This is yet another list, we’re talking documents after all. The Sprint Backlog contains all the items from the Product Backlog that the Team needs to work on during the Sprint. Each team member signs up for those tasks in the Sprint Backlog that correspond best with their skills; fully in line again with the self-organising Scrum philosophy.
3. Sprint Burn-down Chart
The Burn-down Chart shows the daily progress on the different Sprint tasks. As time goes by, tasks get completed and the Chart should naturally drop to zero.
Feeling a little overwhelmed?
Not to worry, what it boils down to is this: Scrum is a way for tech (and other) teams to work together. As for the jargon, it’s the same as when you’re learning a foreign language, the more you practice it, the easier it gets. Only this time you get to have a peek at our Gapstars Scrum Cheat Sheet whenever you’re not sure.