What is a Scrum board?

A Scrum board is a project management tool designed to help Scrum teams visualize their progress and backlog items within a larger Scrum framework. The Scrum board organizes projects into time-boxed segments called sprints.

The Agile approach has revolutionized the way developers create software. Relying on constant learning, collaboration, planning, and improvement across cross-functional teams, organizations can apply iterative processes to quickly deliver applications and respond more flexibly to change. This approach makes it possible to deliver essential benefits throughout the software development process—rather than forcing end users to wait for these benefits until the project is finally completed. Within the suite of Agile project management tools, Scrum is one of the most widely used.

Scrum is an Agile framework providing structure to the Agile methodology and relies on multiple levels of accountability, a backlog detailing the complete body of work that must be completed, and the sprints where teams collaborate to complete and release product increments. Scrum and the Agile methodology make it possible to streamline development processes while reducing overhead, speeding up delivery, and increasing project adaptability. Unfortunately, working and collaborating at intense speeds can create confusion among team members. Scrum boards help ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Also called a “sprint board” or “Scrum task board,” a Scrum board is either a digital or physical representation of the progress and ownership of various tasks within the Agile sprint. Typically, the board is divided into four columns, each representing aspects of the sprint and where they are in terms of progress towards completion.

Scrum boards generally follow this structure:

User Stories

A “User Story” is a feature that must be implemented. Every story included in the Scrum board is assigned a ‘story point,’ detailing how difficult the feature may be to implement, alongside other relevant information about the targeted user. User stories help define the tasks that must be completed during the sprint.

To-Do

With the necessary tasks identified and defined, the “To-Do” column can now be populated with essential assignments that have not yet been started. Each task should include a due date and be attached to a specific team member (or owner) responsible for the work.

In-Progress

As work begins on specific to-do items, they are moved to the “In-Progress” column. This column visually represents the work that is currently being performed but has not yet been completed.

Done

Finally, when tasks are completed, they are moved to the “Done” column. As the sprint progresses, team members can easily see how much progress has been made by watching the number of items increase in the done column.
Just as the Agile methodology exists to improve adaptability within the development process, Scrum boards allow for increased flexibility to match existing processes. Columns may be added or further divided into sub-columns for improved functionality. For example, some organizations include “Review” before or as part of the “Done” column or may add an “On Hold” column for tasks that cannot move forward at the current time.

At its heart, a Scrum board is a map. It gives Scrum team leaders and individual members a visual depiction of their destination and how far along the path they currently are. This allows for certain key advantages within Agile development:

Improved Team Efficiency

Agile sprints are only effective when teams collaborate properly. The Scrum board creates a place where everyone involved can see where the project stands, who is assigned to what, and where help may be required. This promotes better communication within projects and helps streamline and optimize work efforts for improved efficiency.

Easy Deployment

Digital Scrum board tools are designed for ease of use and typically include intuitive drag-and-drop interfaces. They allow users to add and move tasks between columns at the push of a button and take advantage of built-in tutorials and guides to ensure that inexperienced users get up to speed quickly. At the same time, physical Scrum boards can likewise be deployed quickly, often using sticky notes or a whiteboard and placed within a communal area in the office.

Insight into Potential Problem Areas

A key aspect of the Scrum board is its comprehensiveness. Every feature is accounted for, as are all the tasks necessary to guide it to completion. Also, when tasks are progressing more slowly than anticipated, the Scrum board clearly highlights where these bottlenecks are so that they may be addressed and alleviated before they can negatively impact the project.

As previously mentioned, a Scrum board can take the form of either a physical board to which tasks are manually attached and updated, or a digital variation maintained in the cloud or on local servers.

Although the earliest Scrum boards consisted of physical boards and were deployed within shared workspaces, most modern Scrum boards exist virtually.

This is because digital Scrum boards are effective at coordinating remote teams—whether that means ensuring proper collaboration between offices or floors within the same building or across the globe. Digital Scrum boards can also be further enhanced through automated workflows and digital reports, and can be planned much further in advance. These boards update in real time, so that every user has access to the same information regardless of how remote they are.

Scrum boards rely on certain key factors to function properly. These include the following:

Sprints

Every Scrum board details a single, specific sprint, which is the time frame in which the team has to accomplish a predetermined goal (such as completing a specific element of the development project). The sprint can be any length of time but should be limited to a defined amount of work. Sprints are not time to do as much as possible; they are better suited to accomplishing specific, pre-identified tasks. Sprints typically consist of four types of events:

  • A planning phase in which the Scrum team defines the sprint goal and addresses any other issues or concerns in preparation for the sprint.
  • Daily 15-minute planning sessions (also called “daily Scrum”) where dev teams review the work from the previous day and plan out what needs to be done for the current day. Daily Scrums also identify any changes that must be made to the Scrum board and document the total sprint progress towards the goal.
  • A review held at the conclusion of the sprint to identify strengths and weaknesses and analyze all aspects of the current project (such as budgets, timelines, productivity, etc.).
  • A retrospective held separately from the review in preparation for the next sprint planning session to apply learnings from the previous sprint to improve effectiveness moving forward.

Scrum Artifacts

Scrum artifacts are essential elements that make up and support the Scrum board. These include:

  • Sprint backlogs outlining the specific tasks included in the current sprint. These tasks should be organized by priority so that the most essential tasks are accomplished as early as possible.
  • Product backlogs detailing what needs to be done to accomplish the overarching goal of the project and guide it to completion. This list of actions includes every task for the entire product, not only those attached to the current sprint.
  • Increments detailing which backlog tasks have been accomplished during the sprint.

Scrum Team Members

Perhaps the most essential element of the Scrum board is the team that operates it. Responsibilities within these teams include:

  • Product owners who oversee the sprint and are tasked with ensuring that jobs are assigned correctly, tasks are clearly defined, goals are relevant, and the sprint is progressing as planned.
  • Scrum masters who work with product owners and development teams to ensure that processes adhere to Agile Scrum principles. These individuals are responsible for facilitating Scrum events such as planning and review sessions while also helping organize and prioritize backlog items.
  • Development teams who are responsible for completing backlog items. Scrum development teams generally consist of between three and nine members, representing all the skills necessary to produce product increments.

Along with Scrum boards, Kanban boards are another type of framework used to visually represent the Agile process. But while the Kanban board may appear similar to a Scrum board (utilizing columns populated by tasks), it follows a different process and is designed to be used by more than just the development team.

Unlike a Scrum board, a Kanban board is not owned by a specific team and does not apply to a single sprint. Instead, Kanban takes a larger view to track progress across all teams within the company’s overall workflow. Kanban is limited to a fixed number of items that can be added to the “in-progress” column and does not include user stories or backlogs. Kanban boards are also simplified for non-technical users—they seldom include data visualization techniques and are instead surface-level solutions for seeing project progress across the board.

ServiceNow for effective Scrum board solutions

For those organizations that embrace an Agile methodology, the breakneck speed of deployment coupled with an ongoing need for adaptability can make visualizing and tracking project progress extremely difficult. Scrum boards within the Scrum framework provide a possible solution. But with so many Scrum tools currently available, how can businesses determine which one is the correct choice for their needs? ServiceNow Agile Development offers the answer.

Built on the industry defining Now Platform®, Agile Development brings Scrum planning, documentation, reporting, and project management to a single, centralized location. Coordinate multiple teams across multiple projects. Enjoy real-time visibility into project development. Integrate with a range of tools to ensure productivity and accuracy. Apply advanced automation to keep workflows moving quickly. And through it all, maintain comprehensive, easy-to-follow boards to help do more with less.

See how ServiceNow can bring the advantages of Agile planning, scrum board, and agility to your agile development teams development teams. Demo ServiceNow today!

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