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What is Scrum? How is it used to manage projects and teams? November 25, 2009

Posted by HubTechInsider in Agile Software Development, Definitions, Management, Project Management, Software.
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As I continue to move in the Boston software development / high tech job market and talk to more and more people in the area, I not only come across the term “Scrum” in many job descriptions, but it is a word that is frequently bandied about by both recruiters and hiring managers. It is clear that there is alot of confusion in the Boston area about what “Scrum” really is, and how it relates to Agile.

There is no substitute for the experience of running Scrum daily for years, as I have done. My heartfelt advice to anyone looking to adopt Scrum in their organization is to be flexible, take it easy on the cutsey names, and keep the daily meetings very brief. If you are the “ScrumMaster”, stay organized and lead the conversation around the room, notating all limiting factors, as that becomes your to-do list. Drop me a line with your own insights or comments on Scrum!

Scrum, as some people already know, is a project managemnt methodology named after a contentious point in a rugby match. The Scrum project management method enables self-organizing teams by encouraging verbal communication across all team members and project stakeholders. At its foundation, Scrum’s primary principle is that traditional problem definition solution approaches do not always work, and that a formalized discovery process is sometimes needed.

Scrum’s major project artifact is a dynamic list of prioritized work to be done. Completion of a largely fixed set of backlogged items occurs in a series of short (many of 30 days duration) iterations, or “sprints”.

Every day a brief meeting or “Scrum” is held in which project progress is explained, upcoming work is described, and impediments are raised. A brief planning session occurs at the start of each sprint to define the backlog items to be completed. A brief postmortem or heartbeat retrospective occurs at the end of each sprint.

A “ScrumMaster” (my advice is to never call yourself this in actual human life in an office of programmers and IT personnel…but know the job well and do it well nevertheless if you are the individual who finds themselves in this role) removes obstacles or impediments to each sprint. The ScrumMaster is not the leader of the team, as they are self-organizing, but rather acts as a productivity buffer between the team and any destabilizing influences.

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I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurship, ecommerce, telecommunications and software development, I’m the Director, Technical Projects at eSpendWise, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of Tshirtnow.net.


1. Project Management Hut - November 26, 2009

It’s worthy to note that the word “Scrum” has become more of a cliché and less than what the word should mean (especially when it comes to interviews: Do you know Scrum?).

As for the role of ScrumMaster, it is very similar to that of the Project Manager (check this article on the ScrumMaster role). The main role of the ScrumMaster is communication, which is at the heart of the PM role and responsibilities. Not to mention that the Scrum Master is also responsible for removing roadblocks (risk management, conflict management) . Although most Scrum practitioners refuse to say it, I believe that the ScrumMaster is another word for Project Manager, but in a different project management context.

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