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What Is Scrum?

One of the most popular Agile methods is Scrum. Scrum is a framework designed to deliver significant value quickly and throughout a project. It uses cross-functional, self-organized teams (ideally 6-10 members) who divide their work into short, concentrated work cycles called Sprints. [1]

Although Scrum is simple to understand, it is difficult to master. [2]

When to Use Scrum?

With the help of Scrum, you can address complex problems that are subject to change. [3]

The Scrum framework can be used in small projects and in large projects, programs, and portfolios. These require coordination across multiple teams and therefore need an enhanced Scrum approach. [1]

One such approach is The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). [4] However, these large-scale approaches are not addressed in this Insight.

Scrum Roles

Scrum roles fall into two broad categories: [1]

  1. Core roles which are mandatory for producing the project’s product or service.
  2. Non-core roles which are not mandatory for the Scrum project.

These may include team members who are interested in the project and may interface with the team but have no formal role in the project team.

Note that the responsibilities described below are summaries and non-exhaustive. The actual responsibilities are project dependent and should always be discussed and agreed in detail.

Core Roles

  • Product Owner. Represents the voice of the customer towards the team, responsible for articulating customer requirements and achieving maximum business value for the project, manages the communication with stakeholders.
  • Scrum Master. A facilitator who ensures that the Scrum processes are being followed and the team is provided an environment which helps to complete the project successfully.
  • Scrum Team. The group or team of people responsible for understanding the requirements specified and creating the deliverables of the project.

Other Roles

  • Stakeholder(s). Customers, users, and sponsors – people who frequently interface with the Scrum core team, influence the project throughout the project’s development, and/or are impacted by the project.
  • Scrum Guidance Body (SGB). An optional role. This usually consists of a set of documents and/or a group of experts who are typically involved with defining objectives related to key organizational parameters like quality, government regulations, or security.
  • Vendors. These can be both internal and external individuals or organizations, who provide products and/or services that are not within the core competencies of the project organization.

Where Is the Manager?

In a Scrum Team, there is no role other than the three previously mentioned core roles. This means that there is no Project Manager. Complex adaptive problems are typically multidimensional – for this kind of problem solving, it is desirable to leverage the collective wisdom of all members of the team. The Scrum Team takes full ownership and self-organizes their work to solve the challenges. [5]

Although the Project Manager role is eliminated, there are still management positions within Scrum. The Scrum Team collectively manages the project tasks and their own work. Everyone – the Product Owner, the Scrum Master, and the Development Team – has their own responsibilities. As for the existing Project Manager, one of these management positions can be chosen. [5]

Scrum Artifacts

To track the information about the product and the work, Scrum uses three artifacts: [2]

  1. Product Backlog. An ordered list of all features, functions, requirements, enhancements, and fixes that are known to be needed in the product. It is the single source of requirements and never complete. The Product Owner is responsible for the Product Backlog.
  2. Sprint Backlog. The subset of the Product Backlog items chosen to be delivered in the Sprint (see Scrum Events below), plus a plan of how to deliver them. The Development Team modifies the Sprint Backlog throughout the Sprint; hence it emerges during the Sprint.
  3. Increment. The sum of all the Product Backlog items completed during a Sprint. At the end of a Sprint, the new Increment must meet the Scrum Team’s definition of “Done”.

Scrum Events

To create regularity and to minimize the need for meetings not defined in Scrum, prescribed events are used in Scrum. All these events are time-boxed – in other words, they have a maximum duration. The five Scrum events are: [2]

  1. The Sprint. The heart of Scrum – a time-box of one month or less during which a product Increment is created. Sprints contain and consist of the four Scrum events listed below and the development work.
  2. Sprint Planning. Each Sprint begins with a Sprint Planning meeting in which the team plans the work to be delivered in the coming Sprint. Sprint Planning is time-boxed to a maximum of eight hours for a one-month Sprint. For shorter Sprints it is usually shorter.
  3. Daily Scrum. A 15-minute time-boxed event for the Development Team which is held every day of the Sprint. In it, the Development Team members synchronize their progress with each other and confirm the next 24-hour plan.
  4. Sprint Review. At the end of the Sprint the team makes the progress visible to the stakeholders in an informal meeting. The team and stakeholders collaborate on the next things that could be done to optimize value. This is at most a four-hour meeting for one-month Sprints. For shorter Sprints, it is usually shorter.
  5. Sprint Retrospective. After the Sprint Review and prior to the next Sprint Planning, the team creates a plan for improvements to be enacted during the next Sprint. This is at most a three-hour meeting for one-month Sprints. For shorter Sprints, it is usually shorter.

Scrum Processes

There are 19 nineteen fundamental Scrum processes which address the specific activities and flow of a Scrum project. These processes can be grouped into five phases as listed below. Each process includes inputs, tools, and outputs – some of these are mandatory, some optional. [1]

  1. Initiate: in the first phase a project vision is created, stakeholders are identified, a scrum team is formed, epic(s) are developed, a prioritized backlog is created, and release planning is conducted.
  2. Plan and estimate: in this phase user stories are created, estimated, and confirmed, tasks are identified and estimated, sprint backlog is created.
  3. Implement: in this phase deliverables are created, daily standups are conducted, the product backlog is groomed.
  4. Review and retrospect: in this phase the sprint is demonstrated and validated, a sprint retrospect is held.
  5. Release: in the final phase deliverables are shipped, project retrospect is held.

How Is Progress Measured in Scrum?

A Scrum Team may internally use some measures such as Sprint Work Planned vs. Completed (Burn-down), Rate of Completion (Velocity), etc. However, these are not indicators of progress for stakeholders, but only internal metrics used by the team. [5]

There is no clearly defined single approach for determining progress with stakeholders. As such, this is outside of the scope of this Insight.

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  1. SCRUMstudyTM (2017). A Guide to the Scrum Body of Knowledge (SBOKTM Guide) (Third Edition).
  2. Scrum Guides. The Scrum GuideTM. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  3. What Is Scrum? Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  4. Scaled Agile, Inc. SAFe Framework. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  5. Mohammed Musthafa Soukath Ali (2016). A Lightning Introduction to Scrum.