What are Scrum Artifacts and the Types of Scrum Ceremonies?
Scrum is a framework that helps in delivering software in an Agile fashion. It is characterized by a short fixed schedule of release cycles with adjustable scope known as Sprints.
Scrum management has specific concepts and practices, that are grouped in Artefacts and Ceremonies. In this post, we share the basic info about them.
Scrum Artifacts are aimed to capture the shared understanding of each team member at a particular point in time. They are like “information radiators” for the entire team.
The artifacts help teams to reflect on how they are doing with the Sprint goal. They are designed to maximize the transparency of core information.
Artifact 1. Product Backlog
A product backlog is an ordered list of everything that your product may need. It is the only source of requirements for any changes to be made to the product.
The backlog breaks the product into a dynamic set of elements, including features, improvements, and fixes. It’s recommended to change it frequently to reflect business objectives, market conditions, or users’ feedback. The backlog is dynamic and it clearly defines the exact “What” that will be created.
A Product Owner is a person who controls it. He/she is responsible for its availability, content, and its constant prioritization.
All items that the backlog contains should be prioritized and sorted by business value. The items with the top priority define the next development activities. Typically, the items with higher priority look more clear and have more detailed information than items with lower priority.
All the items in product backlog items should be established during the release planning. Then they will be updated in Sprint planning or during the Backlog grooming activity.
Artifact 2. Sprint Backlog
A Sprint Backlog is a subset of the Product backlog. It is the list of “To Do’s” that the development team should work on during the current Sprint. It takes the specific items from the product backlog that will focus on during the present Sprint and organizes them.
A Sprint backlog represents quite a clear picture of the real-time work of the team. It is controlled by the development team but sometimes can be set by a Product Owner and overseen by a Scrum Master.
The Sprint backlog also contains work items that are broken down further into tasks. All these items should be developed, tested and documented to achieve the commitment.
The aim of the Product Owner is to help the team to define the Sprint goal during the Sprint planning meeting and the team can change the Sprint backlog as it evolves. Only developers may change a Sprint backlog during the Sprint.
Artifact 3. Increment
Product Increment is often titled the most important Scrum artifact. This is a piece of functioning software that is the total of the completed product backlog items from the current Sprint and previous Sprints.
Every single Sprint is a potentially shippable product increment. This increment must align with the “Definition of Done” and must be acceptable by the Product Owner. This product increment must be the sum of all the Product Backlog items completed during the current sprint and the value of the increments produced during all of the previous sprints.
The team may also create some other optional artifacts such as task boards and Burndown charts.
Now when you know the basic info about Scrum artifacts, it’s time to dive deeper into the four Scrum ceremonies.
Regardless of the product on which you’re working or the project management tool you use, the Scrum ceremonies are designed to deliver better results.
Of course, your team should be bought in with a shared understanding of what every ceremony is for.
Teams differ and there are no ideal processes. Try to think about your Sprint ceremonies as a product: keep iterating and improving. Here they are:
1. Sprint Planning Meeting
The first Scrum ceremony is Sprint Planning. It is designed to make sure the team is ready to perform every Sprint in a proper way.
The main idea of Sprint Planning is to make team find the answer to the question “What are we going to work on and how are we going to do it?”
Before beginning the Sprint, the team must have a clear goal and a shared commitment to this goal – the list of items they plan to work on. The items from this list are broken down into tasks (usually no bigger than a 2 days’ worth of work).
The meeting typically lasts 4 hours (2 weeks Sprint) or 8 hours (4 weeks Sprint). It requires the presence of a Product Owner, a Scrum Master, and the whole team.
This meeting consists of 2 parts:
- The first part – when the team defines What is to be developed. The Product Owner presents the Product backlog items and describes the Sprint goal to the whole Scrum team.
- The second part – when the team determines How the Sprint goal will be delivered. At this stage, it’s important to plan tasks that are necessary to fulfill the Sprint goal and deliver the forecasted backlog items according to the team capacity.
Here are some quick tips on how to improve the Sprint Planning meeting:
- Brake user stories into smaller tasks and assign them to let everyone know what they’re held accountable to.
- Make the ceremony collaborative and encourage team members to sketch out tasks and bugs that are required during this Scrum meeting.
- Try to measure the team’s velocity before Sprint Planning begins.
- Do not forget about days off, vacations, holidays, or other scheduling details important during the Sprint.
- Stick time frames and keep eye on the clock.
- Try not to get sidetracked by items that haven’t been determined by the Product Owner.
2. Daily Scrum Meeting
The daily Scrum (Daily Stand-up) is a 15-minutes status update meeting. It is the key inspect during a Sprint.
The meeting is aimed to inform team members about what’s going on across the team. It includes the three basic questions the interested parties should answer. These questions are:
- What did we do yesterday?
- What will we do today?
- What obstacles are in our way?
Here are the main benefits that characterize a daily scrum meeting:
- Adapting the daily plan and Sprint Backlog.
- Identifying and removing development impediments.
- Tracking progress.
- Synchronization of teamwork.
- Improving team collaboration.
The Stand-up meeting requires the participation of a Scrum Master, a Product Owner, and the whole team.
How to improve a Daily scrum meeting?
- The Scrum Master should be responsible for keeping pace at this meeting.
- Try to hold it at the same time and place.
- Hold it with the entire team standing up so as to not prolong the meeting for more than 15 minutes.
- Each team member should answer the 3 questions mentioned above.
- He/she should take no more than 3 minutes to answer.
- Leverage video conferencing software, if you have a distributed team.
- Use a ball to indicate who should be speaking at any given time.
3. Sprint Review Meeting
The Sprint Review meeting is another Scrum ceremony that is aimed to showcase to stakeholders all work completed by the team during the Sprint.
The event takes place at the end of each Sprint. It involves all team players, while the stakeholders of the project can attend optionally.
The Sprint Review is a great opportunity to demonstrate the value and functionality. It is also the time for feedback from the stakeholders and the Product Owner. Stakeholders are able to see things sooner than later and they often inspect or adapt the product as it emerges.
How to improve the Sprint Review Meeting?
- The Scrum Master must assume all administrative issues, ensure meeting rooms are booked and presentation aids are available.
- Make sure all feedback received during the Sprint Review should be converted into new product backlog items.
- Make sure you have rehearsal time necessary to set the team up for success.
- Focus this kind of meeting on user experience and business value.
4. Sprint Retrospective Meeting
The Sprint Retrospective is the final Scrum ceremony that allows the team to look back on their work that was just completed.
The Sprint retrospective typically happens at the end of each Sprint. It usually lasts about 90 minutes and is aimed to help to incorporate continuous improvement into the team culture and into the Sprint cadence.
The attendees of the meeting are the Scrum Master and the development team. The Product Owner can be also attended, but it is not mandatory. During the event, they review how the team worked during the last Sprint, propose feedback and work together to make tweaks and improvements for the future Sprints.
There are some common questions that are asked during the meeting:
- What was well over the last Sprint?
- What was not so well?
- What could we do differently to improve?
How to improve the Sprint Retrospective Meeting?
- Collect information based on facts, not just feelings.
- Consider various ways to engage the team during this meeting.
- Generate meaningful insights from the feedback and discussions.
- Use a space where the conversation more easily flows.
- Revisit previous suggestions to determine if the team should keep doing them.
- Motivate team members to be self-organize.
Scrum artifacts and ceremonies are immutable and they create a cadence in which the team is able to maximize productivity, maintain transparency, promote collaboration, and inspect and adapt to the way they go.
They should be continuously improved to lead you to better results. So do not hesitate to learn from one another. Feel free to share your experience and leave comments about running scrum ceremonies and using the artifacts.