The Scrum Board - Where it all happens
Scrum teams work in time-boxed iterations called sprints. A sprint can be anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks long, with 2 week sprints being the most popular among software development teams. These sprints are tracked on the Scrum Board.
Your sprint revolves around your board. If you aren't looking at it, you're probably talking about it.
The Scrum Board is a huge, tangible part of your Scrum process, a visible indicator of the status of your current sprint, and a constant cheerleader pushing you to accomplish more before your sprint ends.
The Scrum Board usually consists of a whiteboard or a wall space with columns drawn in and sticky notes used to mark different items. A basic Scrum Board has 3 columns, "To do", "Doing", and "Done". If your team is on their first Scrum project, or if you're trying your hand at running your own personal sprint, these columns can work wonders in showing you how effective your work becomes when tracked in this manner.
Visualizing your work across status columns gives you an instant insight into the amount of work currently on your plate—what you're done with and what's still pending.
Just like how a clean desk drives you to work more efficiently, when your task list is visualized properly without clutter, it can help you get organized and decide what needs to be done next.
A sprint can be anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks long, with 2 week sprints being the most popular among software development teams.
How to get the most out of your Scrum Board
Each Scrum team operates differently based on the nature of their project, their team culture, and what they've learned from experience. The Scrum Board is highly customizable—in keeping with the pioneering spirit of agile, some Scrum teams may even experiment with their boards to discover how their workflow could be improved.
A standard Scrum Board has only 3 columns: "To do", "Doing", and "Done". Simple, yet effective.
A Scrum team usually works with user stories which are then broken down into tasks. They add another column to map stories to their tasks. It's also a common practice to save the leftmost column for backlog items.
When teams follow a precise workflow for each task that they do, they customize their Scrum board accordingly. Listing out each stage in the workflow helps to identify bottlenecks and delays.
For teams who want to try something different, some have chosen to use a Scrum Wheel, which uses rings for task statuses. The outer rings begin with "To do", with tasks moving inwards to the innermost circle of "Done". Each user story or user is given a separate segment based on how the team divides tasks.
If you think Legos are just for kids, you are wrong. Dig up the Legos you've hoarded all these years to build your own Lego Scrum board. You can use punch holes in your index cards, and use 2 Lego blocks to secure them to your lego base.
For teams that don't share a common location or don't have a convenient place to keep their board, an online Scrum board works just as well.
Other things to think about:
Definition of done
Does "Done" mean you finished development, or that you finished development along with bug fixes? Each team has its own definition of "done" and acceptance criteria to determine when a user story gets completed.
Takeaways from retrospectives are used to improve the next sprint, so they are often pinned on one part of the board as a reminder to integrate them in future practices.
A burndown chart plots the estimation points you "burn" in your sprint across time. It is one of the key indicators for measuring progress in Scrum. Teams often find a place for this chart on their board.
Daily Standups are short meetings held every day to discuss work and different challenges the team is facing. These meetings are done standing around the Scrum Board, so it's a good idea to have the board in an open space.
- 01 - Definition of done
- 02 - Retrospectives
- 03 - Burndown charts
- 04 - Daily Standups
Online vs physical boards
The choice between an online or a physical board is a common question that Scrum teams have to make. There are pros and cons to both options, and there is no one right answer, so let's take a look at both.
A physical board
Here's why a good old white board with sticky notes can work for you:
- It works for local teams. If your entire team works on the same floor, it's convenient to have your board in a place that's visible to everybody.
- It can serve as a constant visual reminder. Keeping the board in the center of your workspace can help your team stay more focused on their goals.
- You can hold daily standups around your board. The space around your board can serve as a meeting place for discussions and quick meetings.
- It can be customized. You can reorder your workflow or rearrange your workboard after every sprint. You can even go crazy and decorate it with a different theme every month! Your board can be "fun-ctional"!
An online board
A physical board is cool, but here's why an online board is a better choice in the long run:
- It works well for remote teams. Whether you work with a team from another country, or on another floor, an online scrum board makes more sense than a physical one.
- It's accessible to everyone. If you're working from home or away at a conference, it's easier to keep updated on an online Scrum board.
- Your online board can also be customized. With online Scrum software, you get the option to view what you want. You can use filters to only see your items on the board, while your manager might prefer the swimlane view.
- You get real-time updates about changes. You don't have to constantly check the board for updates, and the QA team doesn't have to ping you personally every time testing is done for your task.
- It's easier to plan your Epics and long-term projects. Viewing and working with data across sprints is seamless.
- Online Scrum Boards generate automatic reports. This feature gives online boards a clear edge over physical ones. Teams need reports to evaluate their performance. With an online Scrum tool you get both velocity reports for your Scrum master and project dashboards for your management.
- Boards and reports can be stored and shared easily. When you have to send your reports to both your product owner and their supervisor in another country, you will be grateful that you opted for an online tool.
- A physical board
- An online board
Why do you need an online Scrum Board?
With the exception of very small, local teams, an online Scrum board clearly has the upper hand for almost any team. With companies going global, collaboration across boundaries and visibility across hierarchies has become crucial to making work, well... work!
Teams are no longer in the same building, let alone on the same floor. Everyone needs real-time updates, with zero delay. Management needs reports to get visibility on what's happening at the ground level. The Scrum master uses reports to understand the progress of a sprint and identify bottlenecks. With an online Scrum tool, you can automatically generate specific reports that your Scrum master can track and others that your product owner can understand. Your sprints over a year can be easily tracked when they're online with no extra documentation efforts from your end. Once it's online, it stays there.
For any team that is going to scale up, an online scrum board is a critical investment.