If you’re an active Scrum practitioner, you would have heard the term ‘Scrum Artifacts’ tossed around a lot. What are the various Scrum Artifacts, and how can you use them effectively to generate product value? How can the right use of Scrum Artifacts help to increase transparency and provide opportunities for inspection and adaptation during product development?
In this article, we outline the three main artifacts: Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog and Increments, and tell you how to use them to master Scrum.
Scrum is the most popular Agile framework, used by teams to generate products of value through an incremental and iterative approach. Large, complex projects can be broken down into smaller stages(called Sprints), with a review at the end of each stage. By adapting to evolving requirements along the way, customer and stakeholder satisfaction is guaranteed.
Scrum stands apart from other agile processes through its explicitly defined ideas and practices, which are lightweight and easy to follow.
Scrum Artifacts are by-products created during product development, that help the Scrum team to achieve pre-set goals. They can be described as “information radiators” which sum up the shared understanding of the team at certain points in time.
All the Scrum Artifacts are designed around the three pillars of Scrum: transparency, inspection, and adaptation. They allow for clear communication between all the team members, increasing communication and smoothening out any misunderstandings that may arise. They lay out shared information about the various activities that go into the development of the product, talk about the aspects that must be considered for a product to be “Done”, and outline the incremental plan.
There are three Scrum Artifacts:
In the most simple terms, a product backlog is a dynamic list of all the items or features that are required in the product. Customer requirements are stored in the Product Backlog, and are broken down into functionalities and features.
It is the Product Owner’s responsibility to manage the Product Backlog, make sure items listed are clear and transparent, and optimise the process so that there is no ambiguity.
After every sprint, the PO will ‘groom’ the backlog, adding and deleting items and changing the priorities of the tasks as per the evolving requirements. He or she will take into consideration all the reviews and feedback from stakeholders, and work on adapting the product to the market needs.
Items that are at the top of the backlog are given more importance and detailed out, while items that are lower down will be moved up and details added when the time arises. At the end of a Sprint, the Backlog items should be “Done”. Items that are still not completed will be added to the next Sprint Backlog.
The Sprint Backlog can be considered to be a subset of the Product Backlog. It is a to-do list that itemises the product functionality that should be developed during each Sprint, and is created during the Sprint Planning meeting, before the start of the sprint.
To create the Sprint Backlog, the development team chooses items from the Product Backlog as per the priority, and breaks down the task into smaller items to add to the Sprint Backlog. A plan, called the Release Plan, is created to deliver this functionality and achieve the Sprint goals.
The development team regularly updates the Sprint Backlog, allowing all the members to have a real-time idea of the work that is in progress and what remains to be done. This increases transparency across the team and facilitates work progress.
The most important of the three Artifacts is the Product Increment, which sums up all the Backlog items that are completed during the Sprint, and the value of the previous Sprint increments. It comprises potentially deliverable items, which tick all the acceptance criteria in the team’s “Definition of Done”.
Once the Product Increment is completed, the Product Owner will inspect it and decide whether it is in good enough shape to be released. While it doesn’t actually need to be released, it should be in a releasable state.
In addition to the three main artifacts, there are a number of additional artifacts that are not explicitly defined in the Scrum Guide, but also add value and insights during the cycle. These include the following:
Burndown charts are graphs that visually depict the completed tasks, enabling easy tracking of team progress toward the achievement of goals.
It can be used to help determine the execution velocity of the team, so that they can judge whether tasks are likely to be completed or will need to be reprioritized.
The Scrum Master updates the Burndown chart at the end of every Sprint.
The release plan is a document that outlines all the tasks to be completed during each Sprint.
The “Definition of Done” is an artifact that must be clearly documented and shared with all the team members, so that they know the end goals that they have to work toward achieving. This gives them the utmost clarity on what remains to be done when they are reviewing open tasks.
Using this definition, the team will know exactly when a task can be considered to be completed and can move on to the next task.
Customer requirements are stored in the Product Backlog, which is a living document and undergoes regular updates in line with the changes in the customer expectations.
The Product Owner prioritises the requirements on the Backlog, and grooms and maintains it at the end of every Sprint. Tasks which are completed are deleted, and the priority of tasks is revisited to keep the work progressing smoothly in line with goals.
Scrum processes are empirical, where progress is measurable and is squarely based on experience and evidence. The three pillars of empiricism are Inspection, Adaption and Transparency.
Which are the Scrum artifacts that provide transparency and opportunities for inspection and adaptation?
All the Artifacts—Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, Product Increment and the Burndown Charts, Release Plan and Definition of Done allow for complete transparency across the team, the SM and PO.
In keeping with the spirit of transparency, facts are presented with clarity and there is no room for ambiguity. Using these artifacts, every single member of the Scrum team knows what his or her role and tasks are and is aware of what others are doing. They can see the bigger picture and have clear views into the overall progress.
Inspection and adaptation are woven into the process at every stage, and are undertaken by everyone on the Scrum team. Through the continuous process of inspection, the product, processes, practices, are evaluated on a daily basis, and measures are set up to adapt to changing requirements and pave the way for ongoing improvements.
A Last Word
The Scrum artifacts lay the foundation for Scrum implementation, and are powerful tools that help to add transparency in operations and improve project efficiency. It is the responsibility of Product Owners and Scrum Masters to regularly review, discuss and analyse the Artifacts with the development team.
You can learn more about Scrum Artifacts through our Scrum Tutorial.
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