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What Is Scrum?

Scrum is one of several techniques for managing product development organizations

You might already be familiar with the terms Scrum and Agile. Perhaps you’ve been tasked with implementing an agile process in your organization. Whatever the reason, starting with a clear, shared definition of the relevant terms is always helpful.

Scrum is one of several techniques for managing product development organizations, lumped under the broad category of agile software development. Agile approaches support iterative, flexible, and sustainable methods for running a product engineering organization.

Among the various agile techniques, scrum is particularly well suited to organizations that develop products such as websites and mobile software. Focusing on developing cohesive, modular, measurable features that can be estimated relatively, tracked easily, and may need to adapt quickly to changing market conditions makes scrum particularly appropriate for these types of projects.

Scrum encourages teams to work in a focused way for a limited period on a clearly defined set of features, understanding that the next set of features they may be asked to work on could be unpredictable because of changes in the marketplace and customer feedback or any number of factors. Scrum allows teams to improve their ability to estimate how much effort it will take to produce a new feature based on the work involved in features they’ve developed before. And scrum allows a team to reflect on the process and improve it regularly, bringing everybody’s feedback into play.

Don’t Confuse Merely Applying Scrum Terms with Actually Using Scrum

A familiar anti-pattern in non-agile organizations looking to mask their process problems is using the terminology of scrum as a labeling system on top of their waterfall techniques and tools. That can create confusion, and even negative asso- ciations among people who have seen these terms used incorrectly, and who mistakenly believe they’ve seen scrum in action.

You’ll learn more about how scrum functions as we go through this book. You will be introduced to all aspects of scrum, including its rituals, artifacts, and the roles it creates for the people in an organization. We’ll introduce you to a team of people working in a scrum environment and show you how they adopted scrum in the first place and adapted to it.

Before we get there, taking a moment to position scrum in its historical context is worthwhile. After all, scrum isn’t the only way to organize product development. Scrum came into existence right around the time web development emerged on the engineering landscape and flourished as mobile technology became part of our daily lives. Considering how scrum works, where it came from, and how we apply it, I think you’ll see that there might be a reason.

Scrum’s Odd Vocabulary

The vocabulary of scrum is distinctive, and may sound odd. That’s intentional. Scrum uses terms such as ritual, artifact, and story to make it clear that these concepts are different from related ideas that may be encountered in other project management approaches.