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What Is Scrum and How Is it Used?

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The first time someone mentioned “Scrum” at work, it conjured images of people in jerseys standing in a circle and crashing into one another. But I quickly figured out that capital “S” Scrum is actually a widely used product development strategy that began in the software industry and has since spread to universities, the military, the automotive industry, and beyond. There’s no limit to the types of businesses that use Scrum, and it’s an essential skill to list on a resume when applying to jobs—tech world or otherwise.

Trying to learn Scrum with a Google search (or worse, when you’re thrown onto a Scrum team without any know how) can be baffling. Don’t be put off by all the terminology—we’ve broken the system down into digestible pieces so you don’t get overwhelmed. You just might find you’re like our team here at Skillcrush—we love Scrum and run our whole company on the system. Welcome to the club.

So what is Scrum?

The term “scrum” was first introduced by professors Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka in their 1986 Harvard Business Review article, where they described a “rugby”-style approach to product development where a team moves forward while passing a ball back and forth. Software developers Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland each implemented Takeuchi/Nonaka-inspired development strategies at their respective companies, and in 1995 the two came together to present and define their version of Scrum, AKA the system we use today.

Scrum is an overall approach to problem solving that avoids strict specifics versus a rigid, step-by-step set of instructions, according to Eric Naiburg, Vice President of Marketing at Scrum.org. Because teams, people, and projects change and evolve over time, “[h]aving a single way to do something just doesn’t enable growth,” Naiburg says. Simply put: Scrum is the opposite of a to-do list—instead, it’s a way of approaching group projects with flexibility.

The Scrum framework is made up of four distinct categories: values, roles, events, and artifacts. Let’s break these down.

What are Scrum values?

The defining Scrum values are simply guidelines for working together as a team. They are:

  • Courage—especially when it comes to solving hard problems
  • Focus
  • Commitment to the shared team goals
  • Respect for your team members
  • Openness about work and any challenges that might come up.

By embodying Scrum’s values, the team takes on a shared responsibility for success and avoids the pitfalls of a silo mentality. Unless each Scrum Team member sticks to these values, a team won’t have the foundation it needs to be successful. And whether or not your team follows the Scrum framework, these are solid values for any team.

Who does what in Scrum?

The Scrum framework is defined by three core roles: the Scrum Team, the Scrum Master, and the Product Owner.

The Scrum Team is exactly what it sounds like—the people working together to deliver products. Scrum Teams are given the freedom to organize themselves and manage their own work to maximize the team’s effectiveness and efficiency.

The Scrum Master is the team’s resident Scrum expert and facilitator, responsible for helping all team members follow Scrum’s theories, rules, and practices. They make sure the Scrum Team has whatever it needs to complete its work, like removing roadblocks that are holding up progress. (Don’t worry—if you’re new to Scrum, nobody’s going to ask you to be the Scrum Master right off the bat.)

The Product Owner is accountable for the work the team is supposed to complete, whether they do much of that work themselves or delegate it to other team members. The Product Owner is always a single person and not a committee; while they can take input from others when it comes to their decisions, final decisionsultimately come down to the Product Owner.

How is time organized?

The Scrum framework is marked by five Events (these include meetings and longer blocks of time). These are the Sprint, Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective.

A Sprint is a specified time period (usually ranging from one week to one month long) during which a Scrum team produces a product (like a big project, report, or something like an app). The work to be done during a Sprint is planned out during Sprint Planning, with help from the entire Scrum team. During this meeting, the team clearly defines deliverables for the Sprint and assigns the work necessary to achieve that goal.

The Daily Scrum (sometimes called a Stand-Up or Daily) is a 15-minute daily meeting where the Scrum Team has a chance to get on the same page and put together a strategy for the next 24 hours. Work from the previous day is analyzed, while work for the following day is plotted out.

The Sprint Review takes place after a Sprint ends. During Review, the Product Owner explains what planned work either was or was not completed during the Sprint. The Scrum Team then presents completed work and talks through what went well and how problems were solved.

The Sprint Retrospective also takes place after a Sprint. Retros include the entire Scrum team and provide a dedicated forum for the team to analyze their process during the previous Sprint and make adaptations as needed. At Skillcrush, we typically start with some kind of icebreaker game (it’s more fun than it sounds) to get the feedback going and give ourselves the opportunity to honestly communicate with our teammates.

What the heck are “artifacts?”

Hefty title, simple concept. Artifacts are physical records that provide project details. Scrum Artifacts include the Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, and Product Increments.

The Product Backlog is a complete, ordered list of all product requirements, and acts as the sole reference for any necessary product changes. The Product Owner oversees the Product Backlog, including how it’s made available to the team, its content, and how it’s ordered. The Product Owner and Scrum Team work together to review the Product Backlog and make adjustments when necessary, as product requirements change and evolve.

The Sprint Backlog is a list of all items from the Product Backlog to be worked on during a Sprint. This list is put together by prioritizing items from the Product Backlog until the team feels they’ve reached their capacity for the Sprint. Team members sign up for tasks in the Sprint Backlog based on skills and priorities, following the self-organizing Scrum framework.

A Product Increment is the sum of product work completed during a Sprint, combined with all work completed during previous Sprints. The goal of a Sprint is to produce a Done Product Increment. It’s up to the Scrum team to agree on what defines an Increment’s “Done” status, but all team members need to agree on and understand the definition.

Have a headache from all these terms? Don’t worry. The gist is this: Scrum is a framework for teams to get work done together. The jargon easily becomes second nature once you’re using it, and you can refer back to this cheat sheet whenever you get stuck.


Scrum is just one example of how tech companies keep themselves nimble, adaptable, and cutting edge. If you’re ready to ditch the old way of doing things for a new way of thinking and working, download the free Ultimate Guide to Getting a Remote Job You’ll Love.

You’ll learn why remote jobs are nothing like regular 9-to-5 office jobs, hear about the first steps you can take TODAY to get ready for the remote job market, and get an idea of what a day-in-the-life is like for real remote workers.

Get Our <span>FREE</span> Ultimate Guide to Getting a Remote Job You Love

Get Our FREE Ultimate Guide to Getting a Remote Job You Love

Make a plan for learning the tech skills you need to land a new remote job with this 60+ page FREE ebook!

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  1. Horacio Minatra Replied

    Aw, this was a very nice post. Spending some time and actual effort to generate a good article… but what can I say… I put things off a whole lot and don’t manage to get anything done.|

  2. Syed Khalid Bukhari Replied

    Good article for me it was refreshing course.

  3. Piotr Replied

    Are You sure you are using the term “scrum team” correctly? In scrum guide Scrum team = Product owner + Scrum master + Development team (which in this article You call Scrum team). Beside that – nice article!

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