A beginner’s look at Agile and Scrum

When you hear the word scrum, you may think ‘Crouch, bind, set’, as you would hear on the rugby pitch. You can imagine this rugby-fanatic’s disappointment on her first day at Manifesto then when she realised that we do not go around barging into one another, jostling for an egg-shaped ball. Scrum, in this case, is a methodology of project management. No egg-chasing here.

I’ve been at Manifesto for a few months now (almost 3 – where does the time go?) and in that time, you could say I’ve learned a thing or two!

Well, actually, more than two things. As with any new job, you are in a constant state of learning for the first few months. Here at Manifesto, scrum is the method used to manage our projects. As someone who had never used agile or scrum before I certainly know more about it now than I did a few months ago.

First things first, what is scrum?

Well, put simply, Scrum is a flavour of agile project management. It is a method of managing the design and build of a digital project in iterative increments i.e. short bursts called sprints.

Using this method of project management allows for flexibility on both sides – product owners and project deliverers – to adapt to any changes, new ideas or new functionality that is required for the project.

To produce a project on time, the ScrumMaster and the product owner need to sit down together and discuss exactly what features and functionality is needed.

These are then broken into stories along the lines of

‘As a user I can sign up for email notifications so that I can get the latest news from Company X’.

This tells the development team that email sign up functionality needs to be added and so this becomes something that the developers will work on during a sprint.

When the backlog is completed, the designer will then be able to formulate some template designs for the product owner to review. When designs are signed off, only then does development begin in sprints, short bursts of, usually, 2 weeks (but can be as long as 4).

During development, the team have a 15-minute catch up every day called a stand-up where they discuss what they did yesterday, what they’re working on today and if there is anything blocking them from carrying out their work. This allows everyone to know what the team is up to and where we are with the overall development of the project.

After each sprint, there will be a demo to show stakeholders what has been achieved in sprint and then a meeting to plan what happens in the next one.

The Scrum team

The role of the ScrumMaster is to act not as a leader but as facilitator to allow the team to remain creative and productive by removing any barriers or impediments.

They work as both a go-between and a team coach. They provide all necessary information to the team so that they can get their work done and they encourage the team when needed i.e. they’re awesome!

The developers spend endless hours/days/weeks in front of computers turning a blank page into something beautiful i.e. they’re awesome too.

The designers spend a long time looking at other websites for inspiration – what is good, what is bad – to provide the product owner with ideas on what the new product will look like (they’re equally as awesome!).

The product owner is the person who is the voice of the product being produced and will work with the scrum master on the piece of work being developed (and yes, they are also awesome!).

So what have I learned?

Since I have been at Manifesto, I have seen the benefits of using agile methods to manage projects.

For one, this method allows for cross-team responsibility. It’s not up to one person to get the job done, it’s very much a team effort and up to everyone to deliver on what they said they would during the sprint. It’s all very High School Musical because…. (*starts singing and dancing) ‘We’re all in this together….’

Yes, I just went there.

Another thing I’ve learned is that it’s always necessary to have a product owner.

In order for scrum to work as it should, there needs to be one person making decisions on design and deciding what is most important in the backlog to be worked on next. This is the role of the product owner and they will act on behalf of stakeholders prioritising what gets done first.

At Manifesto, we really love agile. I mean, really really. And in the short space of time I’ve been with the company, I have learned a ton about scrum

But believe me, there is plenty more still to go!

And if you want to learn more about Agile or Scrum take a look at Jim Bowes’ excellent series of posts in the Agile category.

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