Updates to the Scrum Guide 2020: Facilitating adoption in non-IT Industries

Scrum came into being as a simple and effective framework, with the primary aim to build better software using agile principles. Since its inception in 1995, it has been used to build complex products through an iterative and incremental process. Though intended specifically for the software industry, with an initial focus on software development, it has been gaining popularity in other fields. As agile adoption spread around the world, Scrum started becoming popular in many other fields such as research, sales, marketing, and other technologies.

Changes to Scrum Guide

Familiarize yourself with the Key Updates to Scrum Guide 2020

The Scrum Guide has been developed and maintained by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland since it came into being 25 years ago. It provides a clear definition of the methodology, describes the roles, events and artifacts, and emphasizes the relationship between these factors and the way they are all bound together. The founders have maintained the guide over the year through the feedback provided by specialists and users, updating changes every few years to make the guide clearer and more transparent. The Scrum Guide in 2017 had insinuated that the guide can be used in a context other than software.

On November 18th, a virtual, live event was hosted where the latest changes in the Scrum guide were introduced. The key insights from the founders and other key practitioners regarding the changes were discussed. The changes to the guide are making it crisper, leaner and more transparent. The 2020 Scrum Guide has just reinforced the stance that products and services; from medical to finance and marketing, and industries that face complex changes and environments like those in software development, can all make use of Scrum’s focus on transparency, empiricism and self-management to get work done.

  • The new guide is more concise and to-the-point. Complex statements and redundancies have been removed and the key elements and rules of Scrum are clearly stated making it usable to a much wider audience. The language in the previous guides made a lot of inferences to IT such as testing, designing etc. The IT jargon has been replaced by a more universal and general use of language.
  • Over the years, updates and changes have been made to the Scrum guide making it more prescriptive. New elements have been added and described making it a lot more complex than its initial intent. The whole idea of Scrum is that it is a minimalistic framework. The founders have kept to their promise in this update and have reduced the complexities and prescriptive nature to make it more useful for a wider range of uses. The Daily Scrum Questions have been deleted, the retrospective items in the Sprint Backlog have been simplified.
  • The concept of a Product Goal has been introduced in this version, which was not present in previous versions. This Product Goal acts as a vision and is the direct focus of the team. The inclusion of the product goal gives a larger objective that all the sprints are working towards. The product backlog, which includes all the activities that the Scrum Team is doing is now aligned to the product Goal. This ensures that all the work done by the Scrum team has a specified direction. It provides a tangible relationship between the work done during the sprint and the overall business strategy of the organization. The effort of all the sprints will be aligned towards a single goal. The fact that the word ‘product goal’ has been used makes it more inclusive towards all other organizations and entities and not just software and IT.
  • Sprint Planning has also become clearer. In addition to the What and How, the ‘Why’ has been included which provides a clear indication of what the sprint is trying to achieve. Each work done by the Scrum Team is more focused on the reasons for the particular activity and the result is analyzed in proportion to the sprint goal. This is important as every Sprint is an investment in terms of time and money and why that particular sprint is being done is important to create a vision for the sprint.
  • The focus is now on a Self-managing team as opposed to a self-organizing one. The team members are empowered to choose who, how, and what to work on. Team members will be more inclined to do their part if they are part of the decision-making process and are responsible for its completion.
  • The scrum artifacts all have specific commitments. These commitments are focused on the goals of each artifact and therefore the focus is shifted from tasks and onto goals.
  • The roles are now referred to as accountabilities. Though this change is subtle, its purpose is to emphasize that the scrum members don’t have a job to do but rather they have a set of responsibilities that are necessary for the implementation of a successful sprint and that they are accountable for it.

Removing certain elements from the previous guide doesn’t mean that the importance of these ideas has been reduced. They can still be used in different situations. However, the mandatory nature of such action has been eliminated so that the guide can be usable for a wider audience without forcing certain tasks that may not be applicable for that organization. The core principles of scrum; Empiricism, Inspection, and Adaptation are still inherent in the framework. The changes have only been made to encourage the practice of the scrum framework, not only in IT but in other industries as well. Due to the additional clarity inherent in the new guide and the elimination of the prescriptions, practitioners will be able to adapt and finetune the scrum practices to deliver valuable products and services.

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