Scrum is a widely-used Agile methodology for software development. It relies heavily on the concept of tasks, which are essentially small, manageable chunks of work that contribute to the delivery of a product increment.
Our team uses Scrum for most projects. Anything where the client requirements aren't set in stone (like a small headless website project) is a great candidate for Scrum. However, it's not always clear who should be creating the tasks. Should it be the project manager who doesn't have the same technical knowledge as the developers? Or should the developers write the tasks even though they don't understand the design or QA processes?
It’s important to understand who creates these tasks in Scrum since it ensures the effective functioning of a Scrum team and the successful delivery of a product on time and on budget.
The answer isn't black and white. In this article, we'll explain who should be responsible for creating tasks, the role of the development team in creating tasks in Scrum, as well as the relationship between the development team and the product owner in this process.
Understanding the role of the development team
The entire development team is responsible for creating tasks in Scrum. The job doesn't fall to one person.
To clarify, a development team is essentially a group of people who are working on a software project. There doesn't need to be a tighter definition than this. A project team can technically be a single person, but it's usually a handful of specialists working together.
In our case, the Scrum team comprises one or two web designers, frontend developers, backend developers, and project managers.
One of the key features of the development team in Scrum is that its autonomous. This means that it’s self-organizing and self-managing. The team is responsible for determining how best to turn the product backlog into a releasable product increment.
Usually, how this happens is the team is presented with a set of requirements. They have a chance to think through how they'll build what's required, then get together and discuss the ideas. They talk through what's needed from the other roles (i.e. frontend dev needs a new button from the designer and API from the backend developer), and these needs turn into tasks.
This level of autonomy allows the development team to be highly engaged and motivated. It also means the team is in the driver's seat, lending their expertise to how the project should get done, rather than simply tasking order.
Before the requirements are written up, the team starts by breaking down the work outlined in the product backlog into smaller, manageable chunks that can be completed during a sprint. This process is known as task decomposition and it's crucial for ensuring that the team can deliver a releasable product increment at the end of each sprint.
Task decomposition with the team involves:
- Reviewing the product backlog items and identifying the tasks that need to be completed to deliver the item.
- Breaking down these tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks of work. This typically involves breaking down larger user stories into smaller, more actionable tasks that can be completed within a sprint.
- Ensuring each task is well-defined, actionable, and clear by defining acceptance criteria for each task, which outlines the conditions that must be met for the task to be considered complete.
- Writing acceptance that are measurable, testable, and verifiable way, which helps the team understand what needs to be done and how to do it.
- Assigning story points to each task to help estimate the effort required to complete the task. In turn, this helps the team to save time by prioritizing important tasks while ensuring that the team is committing to tasks that can be completed within a sprint.
- Accounting for dependencies between tasks and making sure that tasks are structured logically.
Task decomposition is an iterative and dynamic process. The development team should continuously review and refine their task decomposition practices to ensure they are meeting the needs of the team and the product. This includes regularly reviewing the sprint backlog and making adjustments as necessary to ensure that the team is on track to deliver a releasable product increment.
The product owner and the product backlog
The product owner represents the stakeholders' interests, including the end-users, customers, and the business.They are also supposed to maintain the product backlog, a prioritized list of all the work that needs to be done on the product. You can also think of it as a dynamic document, constantly updated and refined throughout the product development cycle.
The product owner has to ensure the product backlog is well-defined, actionable, and clear and that the items in the backlog are prioritized based on their value to the stakeholders.
In our experience, there's a strong overlap between the project manager, or technical manager, and the product owner. Most clients have their own jobs to worry about and don't have the capacity or experience to sit down and review a Jira backlog. The project manager does this on their behalf and relays the changes in a weekly meeting.
Regardless of who is is actually wearing the "Product Owner" hat, this is what their responsibilities boil down to:
- Identifying the needs and requirements of the stakeholders, including the end-users, customers, and the business.
- Translating needs and requirements into user stories, which are short descriptions of a feature or requirement that will be implemented in the product.
- Prioritizing the user stories based on their value to the stakeholders and their alignment with the overall goals and objectives of the product.
- Continuously reviewing and refining the product backlog to ensure that it is meeting the needs of the stakeholders and that it is aligned with the overall goals and objectives of the product.
- Working closely with the development team to ensure that the backlog is well-defined, actionable, and clear and that the items in the backlog are prioritized based on their value to the stakeholders.
- Ensuring that the development team understands the items in the backlog and that they are aware of any dependencies or constraints that may impact their ability to deliver a releasable product increment at the end of each sprint.
Ultimately, the product owner is responsible for ensuring that the development team works on the most valuable items and works closely with the development team to ensure that the product backlog is always in a releasable state. With this approach, the development team can work efficiently, knowing they are working on the most important tasks at any given time.
It's important to note how the development team uses this information to plan and execute their work. With that in mind, let’s delve into the relationship between the product backlog and the sprint backlog and how it forms the foundation for the development team's task decomposition and commitment during sprints.
Product backlog & Sprint backlog
The difference between the product backlog and sprint backlog is worth noting.
The product backlog is a prioritized list of features, requirements, and bug fixes that need to be implemented in the product. It serves as the primary source of requirements for the development team and is maintained and prioritized by the product owner.
On the other hand, the sprint backlog is a list of items from the product backlog that the Development Team commits to completing during the upcoming sprint.
The relationship between the two is the development team selects items from the product backlog to be included in the sprint backlog based on the priorities set by the product owner.
During the sprint planning meeting, the development team and the product owner work together to identify the most important items in the product backlog that need to be completed during the upcoming sprint.
The development team then commits to completing a set of items from the product backlog, and these items are added to the sprint backlog.
During the sprint, the development team works on the items in the sprint backlog and makes progress towards completing them. As the development team completes items, they are removed from the sprint backlog and new items are added to the sprint backlog (as needed).
At the end of the sprint, the development team holds a review meeting to demonstrate the completed items to the stakeholders and the product owner. The product owner then updates the product backlog with any new requirements or changes based on feedback from the stakeholders.
Managing and Tracking Tasks
Without some careful maintenance, the tasks required to complete the project can become complete chaos. Under Scrum, tasks are manager and tracked in order to keep the project moving forward.
One popular technique for managing tasks is a task board, which is usually something that looks like this (illustrated below).
A task board visualizes the display of tasks.
Task boards are commonly divided into columns, such as "to-do", "in progress", and "done", and can be used to organize and prioritize tasks, assign responsibilities, and track progress.
Best Practices for effective task management in Scrum
When it's done well, Scrum can solve a lot of the management headaches complicated software projects present. Without trying to complicate the approach, these are the "best practices" your team should consider.
- Set clear and achievable goals for each task. This helps to ensure that all members of the development team are working towards the same objective and are aware of what needs to be accomplished.
- Assign clear roles and responsibilities to each team member. This can help to streamline communication and increase efficiency.
- Regular communication, such as through stand-up meetings, is crucial in order to stay on track and address any issues that may arise.
- Break down large tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks. This can help to keep the development team focused and motivated and also makes it easier to track progress.
- Use task boards and user stories as effective tools for organizing and prioritizing tasks. These can also be used to assign responsibilities and track progress.
- Be flexible and adaptable when it comes to task management. Unexpected obstacles and changes may arise, and being able to handle these in a timely and efficient manner is crucial for success.
- Continuously evaluate and improve task management practices in order to ensure long-term success in project delivery.
Frequently asked questions
1. Who is responsible for creating tasks in Scrum?
The Development Team is responsible for creating tasks in Scrum. Each team member is assigned specific roles and responsibilities, and they work together to break down the project into smaller, more manageable chunks.
2. How are tasks organized and prioritized in Scrum?
Tasks in Scrum are organized and prioritized using tools such as task boards and user stories. These tools allow the Development Team to assign responsibilities, track progress, and make adjustments as necessary.
3. What are some best practices for effective task management in Scrum?
Some best practices for effective task management in Scrum include setting clear and achievable goals, assigning clear roles and responsibilities, regular communication, breaking down large tasks into smaller chunks, using task boards and user stories, being flexible and adaptable, continuously evaluating and improving practices, and reading articles, books or videos on the topic.
Scrum is a powerful framework for managing tasks and projects in the tech industry. By breaking down work into smaller, more manageable chunks, the Development Team is able to effectively prioritize and complete tasks. The Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog provide a clear framework for organizing and tracking progress, while tools such as task boards and user stories help the team to effectively assign responsibilities and make adjustments as needed. With the right approach and best practices in place, teams can work together more effectively and efficiently to achieve their goals.
However, it is important to remember that Scrum is an iterative process, and it will require continuous improvement, learning and adaptation to the changing requirements and context. It is also important to remember that Scrum is not a silver bullet; it is a framework that may not be suitable for all types of projects and teams and may require customization and adaptation to the specific context.
Tim is the face of the company. When you want to kick off a new project, or an update on your existing project, Tim is your man!