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App Development
10 minutes read

Scrum Ceremonies: A General Guide

by Jose Gomez
App Development
10 minutes read

When working on an app development project, many companies wanting to implement the Scrum framework are left wondering what Scrum Ceremonies are. These are essential to implement and use Scrum properly, and yet, many Scrum teams do not correctly understand what they are. Although the Scrum framework has become a powerful work tool, many teams fail to use Scrum Ceremonies properly. 

For a Scrum team to function effectively at the moment of developing an app, it is necessary to have a clear conceptual understanding of what Scrum Ceremonies are. Failing to do so may not only make it hard to benefit from Scrum. It may also render any project management effort entirely useless. That is why in this post, we explain what a Scrum ceremony is, its importance, and how to implement them correctly. Although this is not a detailed guide, it covers the fundamentals for anyone who just wants to have a general understanding of what Scrum and its ceremonies are.

What Is Scrum?

Scrum is one of many Agile project management methodologies that are often referred to as Agile frameworks. It is used to improve how teams work across projects by helping them manage complex tasks. This is the case of projects like app development and software quality assurance

Although this framework is best suited for teams working in software development, it can also be applied to a wide variety of projects. In general, any project that is subject to project management best practices can benefit from it. 

By using Scrum, teams follow a certain set of rules that dictate how workflows operate, helping define clear tasks and responsibilities. This allows each team member to be aligned with everyone else in the team, avoiding misunderstandings, and other difficulties that arise from a lack of communication. As a result, a Scrum team is able to deliver powerful results.

Scrum needs to be understood in its entirety instead of its individual components. That is why we will review some of its most important elements before explaining the details of what Scrum Ceremonies are. That way, you can be sure that you will be on the right track when using this powerful project framework. 

Scrum Principles: Empiricism and Lean Thinking

As stated in the Scrum guide, this framework relies heavily on two ideas: empiricism and lean thinking. The first refers to the importance of experience and observation. These two are key elements that help make better decisions.

Lean thinking refers to a way of addressing issues that focuses on very specific issues at a time. Lean relies heavily on continuous monitoring and use of data to fix issues in a timely manner while at the same time identifying the activities and processes that deliver greater value to users. This helps Scrum reduce the waste of resources by focusing exclusively on what is essential. 

Scrum Pillars

The Scrum guide shares the underlying pillars of Scrum. These are:

  • Transparency: those performing the work as well as those receiving the work should have visibility of what is being done and how it is being done. 
  • Inspection: keeping an eye on the goals is essential to guarantee a project’s success. Scrum ceremonies are essential to guarantee this.
  • Adaptation: sometimes projects take unexpected turns, and a Scrum team acknowledges this. That is why they are mentally prepared and empowered to pivot.

Use Scrum for Complex Projects

The Scrum framework is especially thought out for complex adaptive projects. In a complex project, there are many different elements involved, including tasks, agents, deadlines, and requirements. Because things can get complicated really quickly, teams have a lot to gain from using it. 

Scrum Teams

In Scrum, people are essential to guarantee a project’s outcomes. That is why the Scrum team is often referred to as the fundamental unit of the framework. In general, these teams are made up of a small number of people.

A team that uses Scrum is no longer an ordinary team. There are no hierarchies, and everyone focuses on achieving specific goals. These powerful teams are usually made up of a number of Scrum roles, which include but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Developers/Designers: they carry out the work involved in developing the project on a day-to-day basis.
  • Product Owner: the person responsible for the value of the product and making sure goals and priorities are clear and communication works.
  • Scrum Master: makes sure everyone understands the Scrum framework in theory and practice and makes it work. 

The members of a Scrum team develop a work culture that allows them to function in ways that ordinary teams can only dream of. However, this does not happen immediately. Reaping the benefits of Scrum requires discipline, commitment, and lots of effort on behalf of team members. This is better exemplified in Scrum’s values: Commitment, Focus, Openness, Respect, and Courage. A successful Scrum team understands that a product is best improved through multiple work iterations.

What Is a Sprint?

If teams are the fundamental unit of Scrum, Sprints are what make everything happen. A Sprint is a basic work unit that is organized in tasks throughout a period of time known as a timebox, based on careful planning of what needs to be done to the product. A Sprint is organized around a Sprint Goal by the Scrum team. It can be seen as an iteration schedule to improve a product. 

A Sprint helps teams transform specific tasks into valuable items for the end product, setting the pace of what needs to be done and how. The length of a Sprint is defined by the team, and they usually last one month or less. Once a Sprint is done, the next one starts, helping keep the continuation of the process. 

By organizing the workflow in Sprints, Scrum teams are able to inspect and adapt in case it is needed. This creates a flexible work environment that is constantly refined through iterations, allowing teams to prioritize tasks based on what a product requires.

Scrum Artifacts

Information is key to the success of any Scrum project. That is why Scrum artifacts exist. These ensure that the right information is monitored and shared with each team member. Additionally, artifacts help guarantee that the three pillars, transparency, inspection, and adaptation, are fulfilled. Lastly, they help plan, organize, execute, and review tasks to make sure that a Sprint Goal is being completed.  

The different Scrum Artifacts are:

  • Product Backlog: this is a list of the elements that are needed in order to improve the product. Scrum teams decide on which items of the list will be addressed first, and the time it will require for them to complete them. This item revolves around the Product Goal.
  • Sprint Backlog: this considers the reasons why the Sprint Goal is being done, what tasks from the Product Backlog need to be completed, and a plan that details how to achieve the Sprint Goal.
  • Increment: a customer deliverable that translates into concrete steps towards achieving the Product Goal. Increments add on the previous ones, and they must be usable in order to be considered as adding value to the product. A Sprint may contain various Increments.

These Scrum Artifacts help measure progress by keeping an eye on the Product Goal, Sprint Goal, and the Definition of Done; this last defines when a task is understood as completed.

The Difference Between Agile and Scrum

Many people tend to confuse Agile with Scrum, sometimes referring to the two of them interchangeably. However, there are some important differences between Agile and Scrum. To keep it short, Scrum is one of many project management frameworks that use Agile principles. 

Agile is a working philosophy. In other words, Agile is a set of principles and ideas that guide how work should be done. Scrum is a framework that uses Agile principles, but it provides a more detailed explanation as to how work needs to be done. That is why it is so important when executing Scrum to comply with its rules.

What Are Scrum Ceremonies?

A Scrum Ceremony is basically a meeting that takes place within the Scrum framework and in relation to its other elements. This means that a Scrum Ceremony should not be considered as an element by itself but rather as part of a larger system.

In order to achieve the goals established for the Product Goal or a Sprint, a Scrum team organizes four different types of Scrum Ceremonies:

  • Sprint Planning: the entire team gathers at the beginning of a Sprint and organizes itself in order to achieve the Sprint Goal. This involves estimating the amount of effort involved, allowing the team to establish the Sprint Backlog based on the Product Backlog. 
  • Daily Stand-up: the whole team meets every day, usually at the beginning of the day, for around 15 minutes to keep the team informed of what’s going on. Blockers, progress, and tasks are discussed. Details are not discussed, helping keep the stand-up short. To prevent it from extending, this is best done informally and standing up.
  • Iteration Review: work is shared with the team in a casual environment to get feedback from stakeholders. It is important to maintain the quality bar in order to make sure that a minimum level is guaranteed. It is also important to celebrate achievements in order to keep the team motivated and focused on the goal.
  • Retrospective: the team meets at the end of a Sprint in order to get a clear picture of what worked and what didn’t, helping maintain the Agile principle of continuous improvement. By doing so, a team can be sure that key aspects of the Sprint are discussed while they are still fresh to everyone. Retrospectives are no good if solutions are not thought out.

A bonus Scrum ceremony is the Product Backlog Refinement, also known as the Product Backlog Grooming. Unlike the other ceremonies, this isn’t actually a meeting and does not occur with a given frequency. This task falls under the Product Owner, who, together with his team, will make sure that the Product Backlog is up to date and organized based on the necessary priorities.

Final Thoughts on Scrum Ceremonies 

Scrum Ceremonies are an essential part of the Scrum Agile framework. By making use of them, Scrum teams can stay informed on what’s going on. Although they can be seen as only ‘meetings’, they help team members stay connected with each other. 

Scrum is a great way to implement Agile principles in an organized manner that revolves around constant iteration to improve a product. When developing your app development project, make sure to find a development partner that plays by the Scrum playbook. If their team has Scrum certifications, even better. By finding such a partner, you will be able to make the most out of your project, guaranteeing that everything is done in an organized manner, helping your app succeed.

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