How to Adopt Scrum: A Better Approach to Project Management

When development companies first consider adopting Scrum, there's often confusion about what Scrum is and how to get started. Transforming a company with Scrum requires more than adopting its language and mechanics. Following its process and filling its roles is just one condition for real, sustainable change. The challenge is not only finding the right people to fill Scrum's roles, but embracing the underlying values that enable Scrum's benefits. Here, Knowledge Center contributor Jimi Fosdick explains how to start doing Scrum in your company.

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The best way for organizations to get started with Scrum is for them to first develop a strong understanding of Scrum's language and mechanics. Once these basic aspects of the Scrum framework are understood, the hard work of enacting change and internalizing the framework's values can begin.

What follows is an introduction to Scrum's roles, artifacts and meetings, as well as advice for how organizations can successfully acclimate to a new approach to project management. After all, the language and mechanics of Scrum are quite simple, but its implementation is considerably more difficult.

The Scrum roles

In Scrum, products are built incrementally over a series of consecutive development iterations called "Sprints." Scrum defines three roles that are responsible for managing both the process and the product development effort: Product Owner, ScrumMaster and the Scrum Team.

When transitioning from traditional project management methods, it is important that individuals are chosen for the Scrum roles based on inclination, temperament, and skills-not their position within the corporate hierarchy. Forcing someone into a role for which they are poorly suited or lack personal interest is a recipe for failure. Let's look at each of these roles:

1. The Product Owner

According to Scrum co-founder Ken Schwaber, the Product Owner is "the person who is officially responsible for the project." Responsibilities include:

- Defining product features

- Understanding business/stakeholder needs

- Prioritizing feature delivery based on stakeholder needs

- Arbitrating requirements issues

- Defining development priorities at the beginning of each Sprint

- Negotiating acceptance criteria for features with the Scrum Team

- Accepting or rejecting results of each cycle

- Planning releases

The Product Owner decides which features will be built into a product and the relative priority of each item. Moreover, the Product Owner must be highly attuned to the value generated by these features to ensure high-value features are delivered as early as possible to encourage feedback that leads to maximum ROI.