Breaking Down Scrum Essentials: Benefits and Principles

Nikolay Tsonev

Nikolay Tsonev

Product Marketing | PMI Agile | SAFe Agilist certified

Table of Contents:

Scrum is an Agile framework that focuses on iterative development and delivery of products. It's a popular framework for Agile development that enables teams to release products faster to the market and adapt to changing customer requirements.

Scrum is characterized by self-organizing, cross-functional teams and time-boxed sprints for work management.

What Are the Main Benefits of Scrum?

The Scrum framework is popular for its ability to create an adaptive process that empowers teams to deliver products successfully in a volatile environment. Some of the main benefits of Scrum are listed below.

  • Adaptability - The Scrum process is iterative, and the goal is to release a potentially shippable product at the end of each cycle (sprint). This opens up a feedback loop in the process where teams gather new requirements from customers or adapt to changes.
  • Accelerated Delivery - In Scrum, the time to market is significantly reduced compared to traditional project management. Most cycles (sprints) continue between 2-4 weeks, and the teams' goal is to deliver something functional within that period.
  • Improved ROI - Scrum combines frequent market delivery with the idea of releasing the most valuable functions of a product first. Therefore, companies can start realizing profits from a given solution before it's fully developed. This results in a competitive advantage and increased ROI.
  • Satisfying Customer Expectations - One of the main traits of Scrum teams is that they work in sprints and look to deliver working products frequently. As a result, customers can inspect them early in the process and return their feedback. This contributes to building higher-quality products that meet expectations.
  • Lower Costs - Continuing from the last point, due to the ability to continuously gain feedback, Scrum also allows teams to deal with risks or defects in a timely manner. This reduces the likelihood of reworks which decreases project costs.

The 6 Principles of Scrum

To successfully embrace the Scrum process, you need to get yourself familiar with its 6 principles.

1. Empirical Process Control - It's related to making decisions based on observations rather than upfront planning. In other words, empirical approaches are applied to situations where the unknown prevails, and there isn't a laid down path to follow. Empirical process control relies on 3 elements: transparency, inspection, and adaptation.

2. Self-Organization - Scrum promotes self-organization rather than micromanagement. This principle stems from the idea that teams are closest to a project's details, so they would have the best judgment on how to execute the actual work. Self-organization also creates a sense of belonging to projects, which increases team motivation.

3. Collaboration - It is related to the idea of constant team interaction in order to deliver the greatest value. It encourages an open environment where everybody is free to share their ideas and work together toward achieving a shared vision.

4. Value-Based Prioritization - To fully satisfy customers, work should be prioritized based on actual business value. This principle is based on the thinking that the most valuable features of a product should be released as early as possible.

5. Time-Boxing - As time is one of the most important constraints in a project, teams using Scrum limit it. This happens through fixed time-boxes for different processes in a project. Those are in the form of sprints which take a certain amount of time (usually 2-4 weeks). This helps teams focus their attention on a specific amount of work and increases their productivity.

6. Iterative Development - It emphasizes the need for iterations when developing products that can change their details alongside the production cycle (ex., software solutions). As new details can emerge during the development process, the idea is to constantly seek customer feedback and use it to adapt to the requirements.

What Are the Roles in Scrum?

There are three officially defined roles in a Scrum team. Let's discuss the Scrum roles and responsibilities in more detail.

1. Scrum Master

The Scrum Master is responsible for establishing an effective work process by coaching the team or other parts of an organization on the best Scrum practices. This person acts as a servant leader to the team, making sure that the development work moves smoothly. This includes removing impediments to the team's progress and occasionally taking on administrative work. 

Scrum masters also clearly communicate the project or the Product Goal with the team and ensure that everybody understands the definition of "Done" for the process. 

Scrum masters assist product owners in establishing clearer customer requirements and communicating them with the developers.

2. Product Owner

The Product Owner owns the product backlog in a Scrum team. They gather customer requirements to create PBIs (Product Backlog Items) and act as the bridge between the product and development work. Product owners are mainly responsible for writing user stories and epics, and prioritizing them based on business value.

Product owners should create a Product Goal based on the data gathered from the customers. They also work with the developers to create acceptance criteria for work items.

3. Developers

The developers are a team of professionals who execute the actual work on a project. In Scrum, the focus is on small development teams (less than 10 people) that are cross-functional and self-organizing.

The idea is to ensure that team members don't have a "this is not my job" attitude and can plan their own work activities. This contributes to more collaboration, increases the team's involvement in the project, and speeds up the final delivery.

What Are the 3 Main Scrum Artifacts?

Scrum artifacts represent the project work that should be done to produce value for the customer. They are designed to display key information about work activities and keep everybody on the same page.

The main Scrum artifacts are listed below.

1. Product Backlog

The product backlog is an ordered list of new features, epics, bug fixes, changes, or any other work activities that a Scrum team needs to execute.

The function of the product backlog is to provide transparency into the details of the upcoming work and define a Product Goal. The items in the backlog are broken down, estimated, and better defined, which usually happens after a backlog refinement activity.

The backlog refinement is an ongoing process that ensures that certain work activities become more understandable to the developers and are small enough to fit a single iteration (2-4 weeks). It should be noted that only the items which hold the next higher priority are refined.

2. Sprint Backlog

The sprint backlog contains a list of work activities that have been chosen by the developers to be executed next. This happens during sprint planning events where teams pull refined items from the product backlog.

The Sprint Backlog's function is to visualize a commitment of what is realistic to be executed within the current sprint. It also defines the Sprint Goal, which the team should strive to achieve with their development work. This represents the definition of "Done" for the sprint, which holds everybody accountable and puts them on the same page.

3. Increment

The increment represents the work that has been completed within the sprint and is a stepping stone toward the wider Product Goal. Every increment contains something valuable to the customer. Scrum's main idea is to progressively release usable increments that build on the previous ones.

We should note that one sprint can be responsible for multiple increments. Every increment also has its own "Definition of Done", which should be met before the work is released for customer inspection.

The 5 Fundamental Scrum Events

The Scrum events are Agile ceremonies that occur during the sprint (including the iteration itself) and are used to plan new work and review increments as well as the whole process.

There are 5 Scrum events defined by the Scrum guide.

1. Sprint

The Sprint is the main time-boxed event in Scrum and represents an iteration during which the planned work activities are executed. The recommendation is for every sprint to continue between 2-4 weeks. The sprint shouldn't be too long because that endangers the opportunity to learn about changes sooner. In turn, this increases the risk of incurring larger costs on the project.

Every sprint starts with a planned amount of small workpieces that define the Sprint Goal and contribute to the overall Product Goal. The next sprint begins immediately after the completion of the previous one.

During the sprint, it's recommended to make no changes to the current work activities.

2. Sprint Planning

Sprint planning is a time-boxed meeting that occurs at the start of the sprint. The main function of this event is to plan items for execution and pull them from the product backlog into the sprint backlog. During this meeting, teams agree on commitments and define the Sprint Goal.

The process includes determining the team's velocity based on previous iterations to define what can be done in the current sprint. Simply said, velocity is the average amount of work that teams historically deliver. Moreover, during the sprint planning meeting, the product owner and developers can further decompose PBIs and estimate separate tasks in more detail.

Usually, this ceremony should be concluded within a maximum of 8 hours.

3. Daily Scrum

The daily scrum (AKA stand-up meeting) is an event that usually occurs at the beginning of every workday. Its purpose is to provide transparency into the current work in progress and identify roadblocks.
The daily scrum is a quick 15-minute meeting that is mainly for the developers and happens in front of a visual board. It's facilitated by the Scrum master and the developers answer 3 questions related to the work in progress. Those are: "What did you do yesterday?", "What will you do today"?, "Is there something impeding your progress"? The main idea is to keep everybody on the same page, create an actionable plan for the day ahead, and point out impediments.

4. Sprint Review

The sprint review in Scrum is the event that occurs at the end of every iteration. It's the opportunity for the entire team (including the product owner and the scrum master) to present to customers the finished product increment. This allows them to gain relevant feedback and adapt to changes.

As a result of the Sprint Review, the product backlog could be adjusted. The product owner might gather new requirements or changes in the existing solution that should be then prioritized. This could mean cutting out low-priority features to add higher-priority ones.

The Scrum sprint review is a working session that shouldn't go beyond 4 hours for a one-month sprint.

5. Sprint Retrospective

The Sprint retrospective in Scrum is the final event that concludes a given iteration. It is the lessons learned session that aims to enable teams to continuously improve.

In every Scrum retrospective, the team reflects on what happened during the sprint and assesses the effectiveness of the overall process. The entire team collaboratively discusses what went well and what went wrong. The Scrum Master facilitates the meeting and aims to engage every single team member to express their feedback about the sprint.

The main idea is to discuss potential improvements, prioritize them, and then create an action plan for their execution.

What Is the Difference Between Scrum and Kanban?

The difference between Scrum and Kanban is that the former is a descriptive framework while the latter is a tailor-made approach for Lean/Agile project management. While Scrum focuses on time-boxed Sprints, Kanban emphasizes continuous flow. In other words, Kanban teams can deliver work to customers as soon as they're ready with it. Unlike Scrum, Kanban is a method for workflow management that doesn't have defined roles, artifacts, or events. This makes it easy to implement without the need for revolutionizing your current processes.

A common question about which method works better comes naturally when comparing the two approaches. Deciding between Scrum and Kanban is a matter of individual experimentation. Teams and organizations should evaluate their specific needs, constraints, and preferences to determine which framework best aligns with their goals and objectives. 


Even though Scrum continues to lead, the use of Kanban is growing within organizations and areas. Another research shows that 86% of individuals surveyed state that their organizations intend to expand their Kanban adoption company-wide (Source: State of Kanban Report

Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to whether Scrum or Kanban is better. Each work management approach comes with its strengths and is suitable for different contexts. 

What Is the Difference Between Scrum and Agile?

When trying to understand what is Agile project management, people frequently confuse it with Scrum without realizing there is a fine difference between the two. Agile is a mindset that doesn't prescribe the single best way to do it. It aims to embrace uncertainty in volatile projects and enable organizations to better adapt to market changes. Scrum, on the other hand, is one of the many ways to put the Agile mindset into practice.

What Is the History of Scrum?

The term Scrum was first used in 1986 in the context of improving collaboration on product development projects in manufacturing.

Later, Jeff Sutherland initiated the first Scrum project in 1993 and together with Ken Schwaber presented the Scrum process for knowledge work projects in 1995. The Scrum alliance was then founded by Schwaber in 2002 and the first Scrum guide was published in 2010.



Nikolay Tsonev

Nikolay Tsonev

Product Marketing | PMI Agile | SAFe Agilist certified

Nick is passionate about product marketing and business development and is a subject matter expert at Businessmap. With expertise in OKRs, strategy execution, Agile, and Kanban, he continues to drive his interest in continuous improvement. Nick is a PMI Agile and SAFe Agilist certified practitioner.