Scrum: Moving the ball forward in product development

From an observer’s perspective, a rugby scrum may look like a disorganized mass of players desperately battling for possession of the ball. The scrum is actually close teamwork geared toward a desired outcome. The term was introduced in the context of product development in the mid-1990s, and Scrum process management has been refined ever since.

What is Scrum?

Scrum is an innovative framework for product development which recognizes and compensates for changes and obstacles in the process. It leverages the strengths of teams to breakdown complexity and strives to create an environment where changes and obstacles are less volatile. Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland are recognized as the creators of Scrum as product development methodology. It is feedback-driven and relies on a high level of visibility to all team members assigned to the process. At its foundation are three pillars: transparency, inspection, and adaptation.

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Roles in Scrum Framework

Scrum is designed for teams, and there are specific roles for team members:

Product Owner – A Scrum team has one product owner who represents the stakeholders. The product owner is ultimately accountable for ensuring the team delivers on stated goals and promises. This role has a high degree of interaction with the stakeholders and the development team so communication is a primary responsibility.

Development Team – Typically made up of 3-9 individuals, the development team does most of the “heavy lifting” in the Scrum process. They are cross-functional and responsible for analysis, design, development, testing, and anything else necessary to deliver on goals at various stages of the process.

Scrum Master – The Scrum methodology is implemented by a Scrum Master who is responsible for guiding the team to consensus on direction, as well as what can be accomplished over a given time-frame. A major aspect of the Scrum Master’s role is the removal of any obstacles to progress by the team, and shielding the team from distractions. To stay on task and drive the process, the Scrum Master holds daily meetings called “Scrum huddles” to essentially restart the project and maintain momentum. The following three questions are asked during these short meetings, often held while everyone is standing to underscore brevity:

  1. What did you do yesterday?
  2. What will you do today?
  3. Are there any obstacles in your way?

Powerful-sounding title aside, the Scrum Master is NOT the project leader and is not directly responsible for outcomes. His or her job is to keep the team focused and facilitate an efficient process. It is, therefore, a critical role requiring an individual trained in a variety of personnel and process management disciplines. Master Scrum Training is recommended for businesses looking to implement the Scrum framework in their own organizations.

Product development can be a painful process. Anyone who has been involved in product development knows how progress can stall and how outside distractions can often become new priorities. Scrum product development management may benefit organizations looking to change the game and keep moving the ball forward.


Jennifer Winget

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