Scrum is one of the most popular frameworks for implementing agile project management (PM). Nearly 60 percent of organizations currently practicing agile use scrum, and an additional 18 percent use a modified version of scrum.
Whether you’re considering adopting a non-traditional approach to PM or you’re an experienced scrum team, there are a variety of tools on the market that can help support your processes.
We’ve created this guide to help you better understand the scrum software available to you, as well as how these tools fit into the larger project management space.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Before we dive into scrum and scrum software, here’s a quick review of what agile is and how it differs from traditional, waterfall, project management:
Agile PM is designed to help teams manage change over the duration of a project. Rather than planning out a project from start-to-finish before kickoff, teams work on projects in incremental phases and incorporate more opportunities for feedback into their workflows. This helps teams address and better respond to changing needs and requirements over the course of a project life cycle.
Conversely, waterfall PM is sequential, i.e., non-iterative. Requirements are laid out at the start of a project and work flows from one phase to the next until completion. Waterfall PM is typically change averse, and the success of the project is measured by how closely the project delivers on initial benchmarks for scope, budget and timeline.
Scrum is an iterative approach to managing projects. Using scrum to implement agile involves three main functions:
Transparency: Processes should be highly visible and defined by a common standard. This transparency and standardization creates a shared understanding of workflows, project (or product) strategy and metrics for success.
Scrum teams use the following for transparency:
Inspection: Frequent and recurring examination of project goals, roadmap and incremental progress toward those goals.This helps with early risk detection and identifying areas for improvement.
Scrum teams use the following for inspection:
Adaption: Through transparency and inspection, scrum teams and stakeholders are able to continuously assess, adapt and re-prioritize as needed to deliver the most value.
Scrum teams use the following for adaption:
Incidentally, the other very common agile framework aside from scrum is called kanban—check out our kanban guide to learn more.
Scrum software helps agile teams accomplish transparency, inspection and adaption in several ways, including:
Creating a “single view”: Acts as a centralized repository for all project documentation or “artifacts,” and shows sprint progress and project status at a glance via team scrum boards. Teams can use these boards to inform their daily stand ups and can use past boards as a reference when planning future iterations.
Mapping/tracking workflows: Teams can use labels and filters to define workflows, which helps to standardize processes. This is also valuable during daily stand ups, because users know where an action item is in the workflow and what still needs to get done on it, as well as during sprint planning, as it helps users more accurately estimate the degree of effort required to complete certain tasks. Users specifically developing applications might be interested in dedicated ALM tools.
Facilitating collaboration: Teams can easily share files, loop in another user either via @ mentions or by following a specific task and can stay up to date with overall progress by using an activity feed and/or checking the scrum board. Additionally, users can set up alerts to receive notifications about status updates, re-prioritization of key action items or impending due dates.
Aid with roadmapping and measuring the achievement of project goals: Teams can use labels and filters to maintain the project backlog and assist with sprint planning. Items from the backlog can also be dragged-and-dropped into an upcoming sprint. Color-coding as well as visual hierarchy can also provide status updates at a glance.
Look for the following terminology and scrum software capabilities as you evaluate solutions:
Common Scrum Software Capabilities
|Task management||Assign user stories to team members and schedule start and end dates. Track the progression of stories and tasks as they move through the different columns on the scrum board. Set up notifications to alert users of status changes, updates and/or impending deadlines. Create custom fields and save story templates for reuse. Attach files to stories and invite team members to collaborate with @ mentions.|
|Estimating||Stories are assigned a number of points based on their complexity and the level of effort, skill and time required to complete them. Some scrum tools include story-point estimating scales or a database of story templates with pre-configured points to help standardize estimating across teams.|
|Issue tracking||Also called “bug tracking,” issue tracking allows teams to separate issues from regular project tasks and prioritize them accordingly. This process involves identifying a bug, processing it within the system and tracking its resolution.This capability is especially critical for software development teams.|
|Reporting||Transparency is crucial in scrum, and dashboards and reporting help teams and stakeholders stay on top of project progress. Teams often run daily burndown reports and review velocity periodically during sprint planning and review. These reports can be set up to run on a set schedule or on an ad-hoc basis, and users can customize dashboards according to their needs.|
Although agile PM, and scrum specifically, initially gained traction within the software development community, this iterative approach to managing projects is becoming popular with other fields as well, including finance, sales, marketing and advertising—even government.
It’s increasingly apparent that successfully deploying scrum matters less about your industry than your workflows and team/company aversion to or acceptance of change.
In fact, according to VersionOne’s 11th annual State of Agile report, some of the top challenges associated with implementing and scaling agile include:
However, teams and organizations that take the necessary steps to introduce agile practices—including processes and tools to assist with transparency, inspection and adaption—report great success, including:
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