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Agile Project Management with SCRUM

What is Scrum?

There are multiple definitions of the SCRUM framework but my preferred one is: “SCRUM is an agile framework that helps you fail in 30 days or less!”Have you heard about “Fail fast”?

This is a better approach for product management especially because it helps you in validating the process of an idea and in this way you are efficient, meaning that all the resources are consumed efficiently.

Most of the people are assuming that Agile = SCRUM. And this is a mistake... SCRUM is actually the most well-known framework from Agile. Agile is not a framework, it is a mindset as I stated right here. There are other frameworks that work under the Agile umbrella, including:  

  • Extreme Programming (XP)
  • Kanban
  • Lean
  • Crystal
  • Feature Driven Development, 
  • DSDM, etc.

All of these methods adhere to the Agile Manifesto and its associated principles and they can also be used as a combination of them. 


Roles and Responsibilities defined in SCRUM

There are only three roles in Scrum, the: 

  • ScrumMaster
  • Product Owner
  • Team
The metaphor that I like to use in order to explain the process better is a race car where:
  • the team's role is to build the car
  • the ScrumMaster is the one focusing on engine
  • in the driver seat there is the Product Owner 

SCRUM Master role

It is the advocate and the protector for the team. They remove obstacles, facilitate team communication, mediate discussions within and outside of the team. Above all, they exist in the service of the team - from my humble experience they are servant leaders, guiding the agile project management methodology. 

Product Owner role

The customer's voice is heard through this role and he has the authority to make decisions about the project or product. It is the owner of the product who backlogs and who is responsible for communicating the vision to the team and defining and prioritising together with the team backlog items. He works with the team on a daily basis to answer questions and to provide product guidance (even if in practice he is not really happening like this, at least in theory is stipulated in this way :) ) 

The Team

It consists of at least 1 developer, but in a SCRUM team at least 3 persons should exist. They own the estimates (meaning they are responsible as a team - they succeed or fail together), make task commitments, and report(actually is not report but more as an acknowledge on what everybody is working) daily status to each other in the daily scrum. In other words, the team chooses how to build product features—the team owns the “how,” while the Product Owner owns the “what.” 

The most important question is certain: Who owns the “Why”?

The entire team! - this can be formed by members from the supplier side but from the client side as well.

What Happened To…? ...Gantt charts and other documentation?

They are not part of Scrum frameworks' definition, but for sure it could be used by anyone who wants to. Burn-down charts (both sprint burn-downs and release burn-downs), task boards, backlogs, sprint plans, release plans, and other metrics charts(could be seen in software tools for Agile Project Management) are used instead to communicate progress, status, and forecasts.

Just a few artefacts are required by SCRUM, meaning:

  • the product backlog
  • sprint backlog
  • release burn-down
  • sprint burn-down.

The level of documentation is up to the team to decide. The agile rule of thumb is that if the customer is paying because is receiving value, then the artefact should be created.

...the Project Manager(PM)?

The Scrum Master is usually associated with the PM role. Of course this is not always the case.
This is a list with common activities:
  • Managing people in an unpredictable and stressful environment
    • PM should ensure that the sprint/iteration is completed on time.
  • Motivating everyone to remain focused on reaching the goal
    • PM motivates his team members to avoid any issues that degrade employees’ performance. 
  • Modifying work-pressure and timelines to keep the pace
    • PM assigns tasks to individual and balances the workload.
  • Managing issues and escalating to the right authorities
    • PM informs the right person at the right time to resolve the issue.
  • Communicating changes to the stakeholders
    • PM informs all the stakeholders about the status of the project.
  • Fighting for the proper resource
    • PM manages approvals for required resources from the authorised people.
  • Preparing project plans and making changes
    • PM helps to prepare project plans and ensure the project plan is being followed.
  • Developing risk management plans
    • PM identifies risks and develops risk management plans.
  • Resolving issues to keep the project moving
    • PM ensures that any kind of issues, technical skill scarcity, will not harm the project success

... using detailed tasks and task estimations to generate projections?
Traditional estimating and planning uses a bottom-up method, where all requirements must be fully defined, with tasks then created and estimated based on this fixed scope.

Agile estimating and planning uses a top-down method to forecast. Gross level estimating at the feature level is often done using a technique called planning poker, with estimates given in points using the Fibonacci sequence.

Project manager as a Scrum Master (SM)

As a SM, a successful PM attains a daily meeting with the team members. This helps the PM to identify any issues that the team members have faced or shared the update among all the team members.

Then the PM is responsible for sharing status reporting, communicating changes, risks, project plans and to identify any missing roles. Contrary to waterfall method, roles are distributed among all the team members. The key people in an agile method are the team members, scrum master, and the client.

Project manager as a Product Owner (PO)

As a PO, the PM should serve as a domain or subject matter expert(SME). It's better to keep the roles separated but this depends on the team how they prefer to be accountable. 

A PM should assure that there is a tactical person by translating the product manager’s strategy into actionable tasks, and work with cross-functional agile teams to make sure they are executing on those requirements.

Some (final) thoughts shape-1

Depending on the nature/size of the project a PM can play different roles like SM or PO. Even if the Agile Project Management is not part of the framework definition this doesn't mean that PMs cannot practice Agile Project Management.


This article is part of a bigger topic called Agile Project Management

Agile Project Management

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