An intro to Scrum

Scrum is one of the most popular structures for implementing agile here at RoS. You can brush up on your agile knowledge here with our handy blog ‘How agile underpins a successful project’ (what are the chances?!)

Welcome back. So now you know that scrum and agile are not actually the same thing we can ask what differentiates scrum from other agile frameworks, such as kanban or XP for instance.  Well, while all are ways of implementing agile methodologies in software development, with kanban typically showing work visually on boards (physical and online) for example, scrum is all about the timescales…

And the timescales are usually short! ScotLIS, the brand new digital Land Information Service for Scotland is being built incrementally by a dedicated team here at RoS, with each cycle of development, or ‘sprint’ as they are known in scrum, lasting just two weeks.  Argh, the pressure.

Why would this be a process of choice you ask? Well, actually giving a development team a specific, regular timeframe has numerous proven benefits, including:

  • Tangible progress / improvements are made in short periods of time
  • These ‘milestones’ provide a focus for the team
  • When milestones are achieved, they can provide a burst of energy to help propel the team onto the next part of the build
  • The team get fast feedback on what has just been tested

Ok, sounds good. How does this work in reality though? Good question.

As with many things, success is all in the planning! Scrum requires four meetings to provide the structure, these are called ceremonies:

  1. Sprint planning: A team planning meeting with the dev team, scrum master and product owner, this meeting determines what will be completed in the coming sprint.
  2. Daily stand-up: A short 15-minute meeting where the dev team cover some really important points. It is called a stand-up for a reason, everyone stands to help keep it short! For example, what I completed yesterday, what am I working on today, are there any issues blocking that?
  3. Sprint demo: A meeting where the team shows what they’ve accomplished in that sprint. This might be called a ‘team update’, ‘show & tell’ or ‘showcase’ and other stakeholders are invited along, allowing for more feedback.
  4. Sprint retrospective: A meeting to discuss what went well and importantly what didn’t with the aim of improving the next sprint.

Just as planning is key in scrum, so is team work and again there is a specific set of roles needed to make it work. Take one product owner, add a scrum master, mix in the development team and there you have it – a scrum team. 3 it would seem is the magic number.

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