Agile vs. Scrum: What’s the Difference?
If you think of agile methodology as a work philosophy, scrum is then an application of that philosophy. “It borrows concepts from agile, such as respect for people, self-organization, ways to deal with the unpredictability of software development,” says Jim Mercer, a research director for DevOps and DevSecOps at IDC. Scrum then builds those concepts into an actionable means for teams to deliver software goals that can rapidly change.
How Can Scrum Methodology Be Applied?
Scrum is best applied to smaller software projects, such as bug fixes, user stories, mobile apps or new features in an application. “Instead of implementing the entire user interface that you see in Spotify, for example, you might have someone building the search button,” says Diego Lo Giudice, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester.
Lo Giudice offers a helpful guide for deciding where to apply scrum methodology. “I suggest organizations start in areas where you see quick wins, where you’re doing innovation, seeing the results, being able to get feedback and where there’s not too many hard dependencies between the teams,” he says.
How Does Scrum Methodology Work?
Within a team of up to 10 people, scrum offers three key roles. First is the product owner, who oversees the product backlog. “The backlog is a series of ordered small user requirements and features that get prioritized all the time,” says Lo Giudice.
Second, there’s the scrum master, who acts as a master of protocol rather than a team leader deciding who does what. “The scrum master makes sure that the ceremonies and the practices are applied,” says Lo Giudice. Last, there’s the scrum team itself. “The team should rally around particular features rather than everybody going off and taking their own feature or user story and working on that individually.”
Those features are broken down into small tasks that, together, will complete the project. Ensuring the steps are small is an important part of scrum, because it affords the means to make easy course corrections should anything come up along the way.
The actual work that happens in scrum occurs during what are called sprints, which last anywhere from two to four weeks. “Each sprint is an entity in itself that provides a complete result,” says Lo Giudice.
Sprints are the quick bursts of work that help whittle tasks away to achieve a larger goal, and it often takes several sprints to complete a feature or project. “It’s a very iterative and incremental process,” Lo Giudice says.