Agile Project Management with the Scrum Method – a Beginner's Guide


"We still need to add this to the Product Backlog before we start the next Sprint. Who can do it until the next Daily Scrum?" This or something similar was the talk in my team on my first day at Mindnow, back then as an intern. How I would have loved to volunteer. But honestly, it was all Greek to me.

 

Kaja Fuchs

UX Project Manager·UX Strategist

The beginning of my personal search for clues

POV: It's 2021, I'm a newbie in digital product development.

The many new terms were quite confusing at first. Then, as now, I always look first to see what my friend and helper Google means. While searching for the meaning behind the word "Scrum", I first came across a Wikipedia page on the subject of rugby, which didn't exactly reduce the number of questions I had. As it would later turn out, there are actually some parallels between scrum in rugby and scrum in project management, but more on that later.

So, having failed in my attempt to understand Scrum on the fly, I decided to turn to the best source of knowledge on agile methodologies: My colleagues at Mindnow.

At Mindnow, we have a lot of experience with Scrum. The agile mindset is what makes us tick and we've even developed our very own Scrum method, the "Mindnow Method". So who better to answer my questions? And since I'm not supposed to be the only one who benefits from this tracking, I'll share my findings with you here.

What is this Scrum anyway?

Scrum is a method to manage a project. The first distinctive feature of Scrum is the composition of the team consisting of Product Owner, Scrum Master and development team. At the beginning there is always the Product Owner as a direct line to our partners. After a product idea has been presented by the product owner - this can be very rough at the beginning - the other roles of the Scrum team are distributed.

All members of the Scrum team have different competencies and work together on different tasks of the project. What unites them: clear communication between all participants, total transparency about all work steps, continuous improvement and constant adaptation to new circumstances.

How the Scrum process works

It is the special workflow that makes Scrum so successful. The so-called "Scrum process" consists of 5 different steps that can be repeated at will and necessity.

In the Scrum method, a project is divided into phases. The 5 steps of the Scrum process together result in a phase, the so-called Sprint.

Product Backlog, the to-do list of the Scrum team.

All participants sit down together and develop the idea further. A "product backlog" ("product queue") is set up. This is a collection of features and characteristics of the product that is being developed. In other words, a kind of to-do list. Within the Product Backlog there are different priorities, some things are more important and have to be done first, with others you can wait.

Sprint Planning sets clear goals

In Sprint Planning the above mentioned phases, sprints, are then planned. These should not last longer than 4 weeks. Especially at the beginning of a project it is advantageous to keep the sprint duration shorter, usually 2 weeks. As soon as the project is fully underway and the team is attuned to each other, the phases can be extended.

In addition to the duration of a Sprint, Sprint Planning primarily clarifies these two fundamental questions:

  1. What can be done in the upcoming Sprint?

    During Sprint Planning, the Product Owner, Scrum Master and development team meet to define the scope of work for the next Sprint. They discuss which elements from the Product Backlog should be included in the Sprint. During this process, the developers themselves estimate their tasks.

  2. How will the work be done?

    In this phase of Sprint Planning, the selected tasks are analyzed in more detail and broken down into smaller tasks. The development team discusses how they will approach the work, what steps are required, and how they can complete the tasks most efficiently.

By the way, our "Mindnow Method" provides that the tasks to be completed are not measured and evaluated in claimed time, but in complexity.

Daily Scrum for day-to-day communication in the team

After all organizational issues have been clarified and goals defined, the actual work on the project begins. Within a sprint, the product backlog is worked through. To ensure the best possible collaboration, daily standups take place. These are daily, 15-minute meetings in which everyone talks about what they are currently working on.

  1. What have I accomplished since the last Daily Scrum?

    Each member of the development team briefly shares what they have accomplished since the last Daily Scrum.

  2. What will I accomplish by the next Daily Scrum?

    Each team member states what tasks they want to accomplish next. This helps set the goals for the day and ensure the team is on track.

  3. Are there any obstacles or problems?

    Team members also address in the Daily Scrum if something is not going well or they need support. This is important to identify potential problems early on and find solutions together.

Sprint Review - Evaluation of performance

At the end of a Sprint, a Sprint Review is held to discuss how successful the Sprint was. Everyone involved is present: product owner, scrum master and development team, but also stakeholders. This meeting is also about very specific questions:

  1. What was achieved in the completed sprint?

    The development team presents the completed work of the Sprint - that is, the work that was defined in the Sprint Backlog.

  2. What adjustments or changes are required?

    During the presentation, stakeholders can ask questions, give feedback, and discuss possible change requests or adjustments.

In addition, the Scrum team reflects on its own cooperation with each other. Did everyone communicate clearly with each other? How were the processes and what can we improve in the next sprint? Agile work is also a regular learning process. A well-rehearsed team that has been working together for a long time and knows each other is an incredibly valuable resource in agile product development.

Want an example? This is product design with Scrum

Meanwhile, my 1st internship day at Mindnow was a while ago and today I can proudly call myself "UX Strategist". As such, I take on the role of Product Owner on our agile projects. One of my first own projects was the Tool Cycle Report. The example fits perfectly here, because not only did we work on it according to the Scrum method, but the tool itself serves to make the Scrum process even better.

Cycle Report is a communication tool. It shows all processes clearly in an automated way and enables stakeholders to have full transparency of what is happening in the project - an essential part of the "Mindnow Method".

Okay, that 1.5 years pass from the idea to the beta launch is rather unusual in Scrum. This was due to the fact that we recognized a much larger need than originally anticipated. But that's also what agile work is about - we adapt to new circumstances, and so an idea for Mind Now's internal use turned into a product that was tested to the limit on the open market.

You can read more about this in my project report on Cycle Report.

However, projects can also go very quickly at Mindnow. This is proven by the example of car subscription provider Premcars. Within only 2 sprints of 2 weeks each, a 6-person Scrum team created an entire website, including a product catalog and a wizard quiz. For this project it was essential to work as efficiently as possible within the shortest possible time - which was achieved wonderfully with the Scrum method.

I myself looked over the Premcars team's shoulder as an intern. Although Cycle Report didn't exist at that time, I know that our customer Premcars naturally had insight into the project at all times and could set priorities accordingly. This is exactly what Scrum is all about, as I know all too well by now.

My conclusion: There is a parallel to rugby after all.

I still owe you the answer as to what the Scrum method has to do with rugby. In fact, the term "Scrum" has its origin there and was metaphorically transferred to the Scrum framework in the field of project management. A scrum in rugby is a game situation in which the players come together in a fixed formation to put the ball back into play.

You guessed it - teamwork is the magic word. The parallel to rugby scrum is the idea of closer collaboration and coordination within the team. It's about the team having a common goal, communicating clearly, supporting each other, and when there are problems, working together to put the ball back in play as quickly as possible.


Carina Glinik
Senior UX WriterEditor
I would be happy to tell you more about how you can take advantage of Scrum.
Kaja Fuchs·UX Project Manager
CR
Project·Cycle Report
More transparency for your clients with Cycle Report
Expertise
How I landed my first job in UX
Dean SpeerInternal Product Owner / Project Manager