Scrum Boards: Why Are They Important and How Do They Work?

• Agile

The scrum board has always been at the center of the Scrum methodology. It’s the visual display of a project’s progress throughout its development cycle and it helps teams to stay focused on the tasks that remain and update their priorities.

It holds the vital backlog items from the ongoing sprint and unites the team around a single goal, promoting iterative and incremental delivery.

What is a scrum board?

A scrum board or a scrum task board is a visual project management tool used to visualize the necessary information regarding an ongoing scrum project. It visually represents all the stories and the sprint backlog which allows anyone to get the general idea of what’s happening with a glance.

Scrum boards can either be virtual or physical. Virtual ones are often created by online scrum board software while physical scrum boards can be created on any regular whiteboard. Regardless of their type, the job of these boards remains the same which is to show the progress of the team in the ongoing sprint.

How does a scrum board work?

A Scrum board, like most of the workflow management tools out there, basically helps you visualize your tasks, maximize efficiency, and help you complete your project in an organized and timely manner.

In its basic form, a scrum task board is a table of rows and columns, with user stories represented in the rows and the progress in the columns. The columns move from left to right and are divided into three categories.

scrum board overview

Figure 1: A typical scrum board

  • User Stories: The standalone objectives to be completed in a sprint. The stories are further divided into different tasks that are separately completed.
  • To do: task segments from a single story that haven’t started yet.
  • Work in progress: task segments that are currently being worked on.
  • Completed: the completed task segments.

To understand how task boards work, it’s imperative to know the core values of the Scrum methodology and how it can help optimize your operations.

Core scrum concepts and how they affect a scrum board

Before we go ahead, let’s discuss a few Scrum terminologies that are closely related to scrum boards.

Product backlog

The product backlog is a compiled list of everything that needs to be done in a project. The product backlog is accessible by anyone but can only be changed by a product owner.

From the product backlog, tasks are incremented to the sprint backlog. The sprint backlog is a list of user stories or segmented tasks that will be selected prioritized before the actual work begins.

This is the first step while forming a scrum board, the team will decide what task to take on based on what they think can be completed in a sprint. This step takes time as this is where the sprint planning is done and tasks are picked or identified and sprint time is decided.

The sprint itself is the most integral part of the scrum board, it’s a schedule sheet represented on a scrum board in vertical columns described above. The sprint is time-dependent and this period, ranging from a week to four weeks is decided by the team before the work begins.

The time of sprint once decided cannot be changed and the main goal is to move all the tasks from to the rightmost or the completed column.

Burn-down chart

The burn-down chart is a graphical representation of completed and left-over work. It represents the hours of work put into the sprint vs the decided sprint time. This helps the team understand their progress and complete the sprint in the allotted time.

Daily scrum

Daily scrum and sprint reviews are usually done during and after the sprint in order to make sure the sprint is completed. If unforeseen issues arise, they are accommodated by communication and the combined effort of the team to tackle it.

Once the sprint is ended, a retrospective session is held to review the overall performance of the team. Shortcomings are addressed and suggestions for improvements are made and revised planning is done before the next sprint begins for increased efficiency.

How can scrum boards help you?

Scrum task boards have now become an essential tool for any scrum team due to the sheer number of advantages they bring to the table. A functioning scrum team can experience all of the following positive outcomes even without using the board. However, with increasing complexities, it’s better to use every single tool at your disposal to maximize your team’s potential.

Following are some of the advantages of using scrum boards for your project sprints:

  • Enhanced operational efficiency
  • Greater accountability
  • Affordability
  • Simple setup

Scrum board vs Kanban board

Scrum and Kanban stand together as the most used Agile methodologies being used in the industry today. People often feel confused about the differences between these two Agile methodologies because of the small differences between them.

Similarly, scrum boards and kanban boards have the same outline of different columns indicating the progress of tasks where completed tasks are moved to the rightmost column. However, they have some significant differences that set them apart from each other.

The biggest difference between scrum boards and kanban boards is the way they track progress. Scrum boards focus on sprints and are cleared out after it ends. Kanban boards, on the other hand, continue to flow during the lifecycle of the project and do not need to be cleared out.

Another difference between the Scrum task board and the kanban board is their progress limits. Scrum board only allows you to work on tasks that were decided for a particular sprint beforehand. During the sprint, your team can work on all the tasks simultaneously or work on them sequentially.

On the other hand, Kanban boards are designed to prevent members from being overwhelmed with too many tasks therefore they come with a limitation on the number of tasks that can be ‘in progress’ simultaneously. In the case of scrum tables, there are no indications of a particular person being responsible for a single task as the whole team shares responsibility.

Kanban tables are the opposite. Each task is assigned to a single team member who is responsible for its completion. In case of any unforeseen problem, members that do not have any tasks join into work together and resolve it as soon as possible.

Finally, another difference between kanban boards and scrum task boards is ownership. Scrum teams have ownership of the scrum board and after the scrum has started, the product owner cannot add or change anything in the scrum board. Kanban boards, however, give the product owner the authority to make changes.

Digital vs physical scrum boards

People often feel confused about choosing online scrum boards and physical ones. There is no right answer in this case. It all depends on the team’s capabilities and location.

For example, if your team members are from different departments and are located in different locations then a digital scrum board is a better choice for you. Similarly, if you want the team to interact more with face-to-face meetings and updates to build teamwork, a physical board will be better.

online vs physical scrum board

Online scrum boards are often favored in modern workplaces due to the freedom and customizability they offer. Having the best project management software comes with visualization capabilities to make attractive and intuitive scrum boards.

With online project management tools, you can easily track the progress and generate important reports for the upper management with a single click.

Conclusion

Scrum boards are a great way of enhancing the overall potential of your team through proper visualization and interactivity. They will help you in making the entire process transparent and encourage a sense of accountability within the team. With the help of online project management tools like Kissflow Project, these boards are quite flexible and will prove to be a great stimulant for increasing the efficiency and productivity of your team.