Over the last few months, we have been discussing New Ways of Working for Market Researchers in our seven-part series. Recently we have covered Agile and one of the most popular frameworks for Agile processes, Kanban.
This month we are discussing another popular Agile framework: Scrum. We’ll be discussing what it is, the key roles in a Scrum team, and what benefits Scrum can bring to market research.
First, an important matter to highlight: Agile and Scrum are often confused as the same thing but they are not. Agile is a set of principles and project management philosophies that work with different frameworks such as Kanban and Scrum. Scrum is a specific Agile methodology and a framework to manage how a job is to be completed, which we will discuss below.
How are Agile and Scrum relevant to market research?
Scrum is most commonly and originally used by software development teams, however, this style of project management can be applied to market research and other industries. It can help teams work together and encourage teams to improve on both the product and the team itself. This is done through reflecting on experiences and improving on them in cycles. Market researchers can utilize this framework to improve both the product they wish to develop and their teams.
Scrum involves a set of roles that collaborate to help teams organize and manage their work. Scrum teams require three roles that we will discuss below.
Role 1: The internal product owner or external client
The product owner or the client is the proxy of stakeholders and/or a business. The person in this role fully understands what the final product needs to be and what needs to be added, omitted, or improved upon. The product owner must be consistently kept in the loop with the team to ensure that both parties are aligned.
Product owner responsibilities include:
- Developing product goals with the team.
- Communicating the needs and uses of the product concisely.
- Giving feedback on project deliverables.
- Understanding timelines and constraints to the project.
Role 2: The Scrum master or team leader
The team leader ensures that the project is running smoothly and that all deliverables are being delivered on time. The team leader is tasked with the formation of the team, ensures the team possesses the skills needed for the job, and takes into account the needs of the product and the team.
Team leader responsibilities include:
- Forming a team based on the project’s needs and deliverables.
- Managing and updating the list of project deliverables based on priority.
- Ensuring the to-do list is transparent and everyone knows their roles.
- Managing and communicating feedback to team members.
Role 3: The team members
The team members are responsible for working through the to-do list and delivering the work.
Team member responsibilities include:
- Executing the project deliverables throughout the Sprints (more on Sprints later in the article).
- Continuously improving based on feedback.
- Meeting the required deadline for their part of the work.
The Scrum environment: Sprints
Sprints lie at the core of Scrum. They enable teams to work more efficiently and deliver the output of work in cycles, rather than at the end of the project.
A sprint is a set period, usually one to four weeks, where the team works to complete a set number of items on the list of things to do. There are usually several sprints within a project, each one taking into account client feedback, and building and improving upon the previous one.
The four main phases within a Sprint
There are four primary phases within every Sprint. These are as follows:
Phase one: Planning
Before starting a Sprint, it is imperative to plan what you will be working on. This involves the product owner, team leader, and team thoroughly understanding the product needs and listing out what must be completed. The team leader and team members prioritize which items need to be worked on and completed for that sprint, and form a list of things to do.
Phase two: Implementation
This is where team members start working and executing the items on the list. The goal is to complete the listed items, which are delegated to different team members.
During the implementation stage, team members hold daily meetings to check in and discuss any problems that may have arisen, and identify how to solve these problems. By way of daily meetings, teams can work more efficiently, come to an understand on where everyone is at, and provide support as needed.
Phase three: Sprint review
This is where the team leader and team members gather to discuss the work that has been completed for the sprint cycle. The team leader and members present the work completed and receive feedback from everyone, internally and externally. This helps the team understand if they need to improve or adapt any of the work done.
Phase four: Sprint retrospective meeting
This meeting is at the end of the Sprint where the team leader and team members reflect on the working process of the last sprint and discuss any successes and failures. These learnings can be applied to the next Sprint and enable the team to work more effectively.
Benefits of Scrum
Scrum offers teams many benefits. For example, here are three:
Scrum helps teams solve complex problems
Scrum, with its different roles clearly defined, is a project management framework that helps teams work together to create adaptive solutions to complex problems. Actors in the Scrum framework understand their responsibilities and whom to liaise with in a step-by-step process.
Scrum helps teams manage large projects
As work is done in cycles and smaller chunks, Scrum teams are able to break down projects into smaller sets of deliverables and meet these within the time frame. Each time the team finishes a cycle, work is reviewed and feedback is given. This ensures that the team is on the right track throughout (rather than at the end of the project).
Scrum helps teams improve their working process
It’s not just the product that improves – the team also evolves over the course of each sprint! The retrospect phase of the Scrum framework allows the Scrum teams to work toward improving their working process by way of the lessons they have learned from each product delivery. This builds an ever more effective team.
In next month’s Monthly Dose of Design entry, we’ll discuss how we can combine Design Thinking, Lean, and Agile for market researchers.