Understanding the Place of Scrum Artifacts in the Scrum Methodology
An artifact refers to anything that’s been deliberately crafted for a specific use. In the scrum context, the term artifact refers to the product backlog, the sprint backlog, and the product increment. All of these are tangible scrum assets designed around two targets, which are:
- To maximize transparency into the project management process
- To create a shared vision of work
Just like how archaeological artifacts help in determining historical facts, scrum artifacts convey a single truth to the entire scrum team. This way, it’s easy for the team to get work done fast and more efficiently, which is one of the main objectives of Scrum.
In this article, we’ll be exploring how scrum artifacts fit in the Scrum Methodology, how they affect your team, and how to leverage them for project management success.
What are the different scrum artifacts?
There are basically three scrum artifacts, namely:
- The product backlog
- The sprint backlog
- The product increment
These three tools are assets used to organize the project management process and to measure success.
In order to get a better understanding of the place scrum artifacts occupy in Scrum, we’ll be breaking them further to see what they are, what they’re used for, why they’re used, and how they work.
1. The product backlog
The product backlog is an organized list of all the new features, changes to existing features, and other activities a team works on.
It’s a comprehensive collection of all current user needs, expressed as user stories, suggestions, bug fixes, etc., that are planned to be built in the future. The product backlog is essentially a long-term view of where the product is headed, based on the demands of the end-users.
What elements make up the product backlog?
The product backlog is an ordered record that holds:
- User stories
- Envisioned product features, and
- Envisioned feature reworks.
It combines all that the scrum team has identified as relevant features into a list, where they are prioritized and gradually released for execution.
Who is responsible for the product backlog?
The product owner is responsible for managing the product backlog. She updates it, prioritizes the different action items, and determines those to be moved forward for execution.
How does the product backlog fit into the scrum methodology?
The product backlog forms the basis of incremental improvement. It serves as the point where all necessary additions to the product are identified and gradually released for execution.
Without the product backlog, there’ll be no coordinated source of target items, no way of prioritizing upcoming features, and no way of growing the product incrementally. All the team will have is a bunch of to-do items that they’ll jump through without finishing any—which will disqualify them as a scrum team.
The product backlog helps in organizing the product vision. The team can then focus on one user story at a time, deliver it, and increase the odds of success.
2. The sprint backlog
The sprint backlog is a collection of tasks set to be executed in a sprint.
It’s essentially a bunch of product backlog items that have been selected for delivery and broken into tasks so they can be worked on. The sprint backlog gives a short-term overview of what the scrum team intends to achieve at the end of the sprint. The product backlog can change with the scope but the sprint backlog, once decided, remains the same for the current sprint.
What elements make up the sprint backlog?
At the sprint planning stage, user stories are selected from the product backlog and moved to the scrum team. The scrum team breaks down those backlog items into the tasks that’ll add up to them. Those tasks are what make up the sprint backlog. They are then assigned to team members by the scrum master.
A sprint backlog usually includes:
- The product backlog items marked for delivery
- The tasks which the product backlog items have been broken into
- A course of action detailing how each task will be delivered
- A way of tracking progress on the tasks as the sprint progresses
Who is responsible for the sprint backlog?
Once the product owner hands the product backlog items to be delivered over to the team, the scrum master takes charge.
The scrum master, with his team participating, breaks those user stories into tasks. She oversees those tasks and works to see them fully delivered by the team by the end of the sprint.
How does the sprint backlog fit into the scrum methodology?
The sprint backlog serves as a mini-dashboard for managing the sprint.
It offers the scrum team one place where they can:
- Track project progress, i.e. if and how fast they’re approaching their sprint targets, and
- Manage tasks and action items
The sprint backlog helps the scrum team manage the sprint coherently so they can focus all their strengths on delivering the tasks for the sprint.
3. The product increment
The product increment is the sum of all the product backlog items that were successfully delivered during the sprint. As the name implies, the product increment refers to the new features that were successfully added to the product at the end of the sprint.
At the end of the sprint, the scrum team holds a review session where developed product features are tested. Here, completed backlog items are analyzed to confirm whether they meet the functionalities requested by the users.
Product features that pass successfully are now considered part of the product increment, while those that don’t are reworked until they suit.
The product increment is a summary of the team’s efforts in a sprint and defines the growth the product has undergone over the duration of the sprint.
What elements make up the product increment?
The product increment includes all the envisioned improvements to the product that have been successfully developed over the duration of a sprint. The only element that defines the product increment is the collection of backlog items that have been successfully completed. Completed meaning that those target items meet the scrum team’s definition of done and have a reasonable level of functionality to be added to the entire product body.
Who is responsible for the product increment?
Overall, the entire scrum team holds the responsibility for taking backlog items from to-do to done. But specifically, the product owner owns the product increment and oversees testing to see that it meets the intent expressed in the user stories.
How does the product increment fit into the scrum methodology?
The product increment is the tangible result of all the scrum team’s efforts, from story collection to the sprint. It is the summary of all the effort the scrum team puts into the scrum process.
For the scrum team, the increment validates the scrum methodology and gives them an avenue to refine its strategy for better results.
It takes an intelligent application of the knowledge of the scrum artifacts to consistently generate results with scrum. Likewise, it takes a simply designed, team-centric agile project management to organize all your team’s knowledge right in one place.
With that, you can easily build, maintain, and refine the three scrum artifacts we’ve addressed here.
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