The scrum methodology is one of the better-known strategies for completing product releases. While this strategy is quite popular, the specific scrum board is slightly lesser-known. In order to better understand the scrum board, we will define it, provide a visual aid, and give some larger scrum context to explain how the board can be of best use. If you want to learn more about how you can integrate a scrum board with visual collaboration, check out Fresco.
Scrum Board Definition
What is a Scrum Board?
A scrum board is a visualization tool that teams use to better organize their sprints and efficiently move through their workflow. It is most commonly organized into the backlog, in progress, and completed columns, with another section for macro-level stories or goals. This organization makes it possible for entire teams to share a visual workflow and proceed with maximum efficiency.
The scrum board is widely applicable and, due to this flexibility, it’s one of the most popular task management boards that exists. The most frequent use cases of scrum boards come from software development teams, but the aforementioned popularity and flexibility mean scrum boards can be used by anyone. To put it briefly, a scrum board is a dynamic visual representation of your sprint and a tool that helps outline the tasks that are required for success.
The Scrum board usually consists of columns or buckets that have different statuses associated with them. These statuses are meant to denote the status of the task that is placed in that area, and when certain tasks are completed, they will be moved from their column/bucket into the completed section. This method of visual task orientation is incredibly helpful to align teams to the same end goals and familiarize everyone with the team’s overall workflow.
A key part of a scrum board is a retrospective analysis. Retrospective boards are used to analyze previous sprints and make improvements going forward, and we’ll discuss their role in scrum as we move into the process as a whole. If you want to learn more about the scrum-specific values retrospective, check out our article on it here.
What is the Scrum Process, and how does it apply to the Scrum Board?
Even if you have a solid grasp on scrum boards, you might not be able to effectively apply them if you don’t have a solid understanding of how they can be integrated into a workflow. This requires an analysis of the scrum process in general and how it is an advantageous addition for teams.
Scrum is a workflow process that takes some ideology from the agile methodology and tries to incorporate efficient, consistent work progress into your team’s workflow. Scrum is the daily process that teams use to achieve specific goals and complete sprints, while agile is the mentality/methodology that goes into implementing scrum sprints.
Fundamentally, scrum is an iterative framework that attempts to break down sprints into actionable tasks that can be categorized and completed. It is a methodology that prioritizes efficiency and forward progress through the simplification of projects into action items and achievable shared goals.
Even though the scrum process has precise guidelines on how it directs projects, it’s not a restrictive way of solving problems. Scrum focuses mainly on open communication between team members and approaching problems with a trial-and-error mentality. This means that while you might have an idea of how to solve your problem and complete your sprint, when something changes, you need to be ready to shift your focus and tackle the challenge in a different way.
Through trial-and-error problem solving, you can see that the scrum process is one that is focused mainly on continuous learning and adaptation to new problems. This flexibility is transcended through the whole team and allows everyone to pivot fast to find innovative solutions to new problems. When teams are able to quickly adjust their workflow and tackle problems from a new angle, it makes moving between sprints incredibly easy and the work product, in general, more efficient than ever.
Scrum teams have multiple roles, mainly the product owner, the scrum master, and the rest of the team. Everyone communicates within the team the same way, while the scrum master controls the cadence and priority of tasks and the product owner guides the overall goal completion and vision for the completed project.
Scrum Board Explained
Now that we’ve established the workflow for the scrum process in general, let’s lay out the basic structure of the scrum board.
The product backlog is the most macro-version of a backlog that exists on the scrum board and details the overarching goals and tasks that need to be accomplished. During each sprint, teams will select the product backlog items that make the most sense to complete or need to be completed in chronological order and use these items to begin focusing on the project at hand.
Once one or multiple product backlog items have been selected, it’s time to move onto the sprint backlog. The sprint backlog holds items that make up the larger product backlog and is a more in-depth breakdown of the tasks required to complete your goal.
In other words, when selecting a product backlog item, this will then be broken down into multiple different tasks in the sprint backlog, and these tasks are the action items that the team used to proceed with the project.
The in-progress section is where you move the sprint backlog items when they are being completed. This is only reserved for the tasks that are currently being worked on and the ones that hold the highest priority.
The tasks that get selected to be worked on will assume a natural progression in order of priority and the workflow, and can also be collaborated on by the team to figure out the most efficient ways to tackle the tasks in the backlog. When selecting tasks from the sprint backlog, it’s important to have open communication with your team to make sure you are moving forward in the most efficient way and completing the tasks that hold the highest priority.
The completed section is reserved for tasks that have been fully completed and signed off on. This section will vary depending on the definition that your team has of completed items but should usually refer to tasks that shouldn’t need to be touched again.
Regardless of when it happens, it’s important to keep the tasks here until the project is fully completed because some might need to be rehashed as the process moves towards completion. By keeping the completed tasks in this bucket, you can easily assess what’s already been tackled which helps quickly find errors and prioritization miscues.
There are a couple of main meetings that organize the scrum process. There are the daily standups, the organizational meeting to launch the project, integration with virtual workshops, and sprint retrospectives. Retrospective templates are of utmost importance to any team using a task management tool and are critical to achieving a successful scrum sprint.
The takeaways gathered from retrospective boards are used to improve the next sprint and build constructive feedback on how the workflow can be improved in the future. By looking at previous projects with a constructive eye, you can easily sort out what went well and what went wrong, while cherry-picking the features of the sprint that you really liked to carry into your next project.
Given the iterative nature of Scrum sprints, using retrospectives is a very natural progression and allows for increased cyclical efficiency for your team. We definitely recommend implementing them for every sprint and even using them on the same board as your scrum template.
Scrum Board vs Kanban Board
If you’re reading this and are familiar with the Kanban board, you might be noticing a lot of similarities. There are many overlaps between using kanbans and scrum boards, but there are also some key differences that are important to distinguish when deciding between the two.
Here we will lay out some of the basic differences between scrum and kanban boards to help provide a clear understanding of what they are and how they can be effectively implemented.
Kanbans are defined in our comprehensive guide as “A Kanban board is a task-based project management system meant to visualize the workflow of an entire team. Used correctly, it can circumvent possible bottlenecks and improve overall efficiency. Kanban allows you to visualize the task-based procedure of projects while also thinking about the overall workflow and efficiency.”
This definition is fairly similar to the definition of a scrum board but there are some important distinctions between the two when it comes to how they’re applied. Here are the biggest differences between scrum and kanban.
- Kanban boards are meant to be fluid and continuous
- Kanban boards are focused on visualizing your work and limiting the limbo of things in progress while finding ways to maximize efficiency. By iterating in a continuous workflow kanban teams are able to find the perfect balance that gets them quickly from start to finish
- Kanban teams are more fluid when it comes to specific responsibilities, and they all work to collaborate on everything to get it done within the specified timeframe
- Scrum boards are meant to denote short, organized, cyclical sprints
- Scrum teams focus on shipping software (or other products) through sprints where the goal is to create efficient loops of work that can be repeated and improved upon
- Scrum teams have very defined roles as part of their sprint and they use these roles to dedicate certain tasks to certain people
While these differences are important to acknowledge, you don’t have to make a strict decision to use one or another. In fact, you can apply kanbans and scrum boards effectively with each other as part of the same workflow.
Scrum methodology is one of the most effective ways for teams to increase their efficiency when working in cycles, and it’s made even more efficient when they are able to utilize them with online whiteboards. If you liked this article, make sure you check out our most recent post on the QuestionPro blog about Empathy Mapping.