Scrum is an agile project movement process. Agile project management, as opposed to traditional project management, is an iterative approach, suitable for projects where there is a high level of uncertainty. The project progresses in iterations, the team works closely with the customer to define the deliverables of each iteration, and the entire project team shares responsibilities of a traditional project manager. Scrum is a popular process for software development projects, and distinguishes itself from the other agile processes in many aspects.
Generally, in Scrum, the project iterations are up to one month long, and there is a partial deliverable completed at the end of each iteration. As in other agile processes, the customer’s feedback is needed in each iteration, and the emphasis is on collaboration among the team members and between the team and the customer. The teams are cross-functional, work together, and are accountable for the failure or success of each iteration and of the project in general. The project team has daily meetings, which means that Scrum requires collocated teams. Importantly, in Scrum, planning, controlling, creating schedules, and establishing responsibilities are decided by the team members.
Key Roles – Scrum Master and Product Owner
There are two key roles, the Scrum master and the product owner. The Scrum master is sort of a coach or mentor, helping the team apply the Scrum process to the project in the best way possible. The Scrum master should not be mistaken for the project manager or the team leader. This is because the role of the Scrum master is not to lead the team, since the team is empowered to make decisions, but to act as a mediator if there are issues, and a counselor for Scrum process, when needed. The product owner should not be mistaken for the customer, who is the owner of the deliverable created at the end of the project. In Scrum, the product owner’s role is to assist the project team in the creation of the project deliverables, according to the customer’s specifications. The product owner can also be seen as a mediator between the customer and the project team, or as a representative of the customer.
Project Manager or No Project Manager?
Even though there is not usually a project manager in Scrum, since most of the traditional roles of a project manager are split between the project team, Scrum master, and product owner, in some projects, especially the ones with multiple teams, there is a project manager. The Scrum “project manager”, although not a project manager in the classical sense, is mainly in charge of the communication (with the teams, the customer, the project management office) and of filling the other responsibilities that are not covered by the team members, Scrum master, and product owner.
Scrum for Small or Large Projects
Scrum is suitable for high volatility projects, and although typical Scrum teams have less than 20 members, Scrum can be applied successfully to projects where there are teams of hundreds of people. In this case, in particular, a project manager is needed to coordinate all teams and ensure effective communication. Even though Scrum requires collocated teams to facilitate close collaboration and organization of the daily meetings, sometimes Scrum can be used for distributed teams as well.
The reported benefits of using Scrum rather than traditional project management processes include higher team productivity and collaboration, higher customer satisfaction, and reduced bureaucracy since most of the communication is done in person, during the daily Scrum meetings.
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