Scrum Ceremonies: A Beginner’s Guide to Agile Events


The secret to agile and scrum project management is simplicity, even in the face of complexity. And although scrum ceremonies are simple, they can be difficult to master. Scrum requires self-organizing teams that can quickly solve problems in agile environments. In order to provide transparency and regular communication in the midst of such environments, scrum ceremonies are held. Scrum ceremonies or agile ceremonies are meetings that are unique to scrum and agile teams.

What Are Scrum Ceremonies?

Scrum ceremonies are meetings that ensure that the scrum master, product owner and development team are in-sync. These ceremonies, or scrum events, are held at key instances in the agile sprint cycle, which we’ll outline below. There are five scrum ceremonies, sprint planning, daily standup, sprint review, sprint retrospective and product backlog grooming.

Scrum is an agile project management framework, so there can be confusion around terminology. For instance, the terms scrum ceremonies, agile ceremonies, scrum meetings and agile meetings are often used interchangeably. However, even though the agendas for these events are similar, it’s important to note that there are key differences between agile and scrum teams.

They do share at least one thing in common, the need for collaborative project management software. ProjectManager is a cloud-based work and project management software that connects hybrid teams. Our kanban boards let teams manage their backlog, plan sprints, comment and share files in real time so no matter where they’re working everyone is on the same page.

ProjectManager's kanban boards are great for agile and scrum teams
ProjectManager’s kanban boards are a very useful tool for agile and scrum teams Learn more

Who Participates in Scrum Ceremonies?

Scrum ceremonies are important and it’s key to have all involved parties in attendance. That means you’ll have the product owner, scrum master and the entire scrum team.

The development team will also participate in the scrum ceremonies. In fact, even outside stakeholders have been known to attend, though by invitation only. It’s a rare occurrence but illustrates the open and collaborative nature of the scrum ceremony.

This allows everyone to comment on the current product backlog and for there to be feedback from the scrum team to clarify any confusion. The scrum ceremony is like a questions-and-answers session to fully understand the user’s needs and goals for the upcoming spring.

There’s a lot of information to document, store and manage. Scrum masters and product managers use scrum software to keep track of all these events.

The Five Types of Scrum Ceremonies

Scrum is executed in what are called sprints, or short iterations of work lasting usually no more than two weeks. A sprint employs four different scrum ceremonies to ensure proper execution: sprint planning, daily scrum, sprint review and sprint retrospective. Let’s dig a little deeper and explore each scrum ceremony in depth.

1. Sprint Planning

This ceremony helps to set up the entire team for the coming sprint, creating a smooth pathway for a successful sprint. Sprint planning requires the participation of all the scrum roles: the development team, scrum master and the product owner. The planning, of course, is prior to the sprint. It typically lasts for an hour or two.

The product owner comes to the meeting with a prioritized list of the product backlog items, which is presented to the group. The items on the list, which are also called user stories, are then discussed with the development team. Together, they estimate what it will take to complete the items on the list. From this information, the development team makes a sprint forecast. They will outline how much work the team can complete from the product backlog. This will be known as the sprint backlog.

Some sprint planning ceremonies will flesh out details of each user story. This will make sure that everyone involved understands the scope of the work. Though, some will have a separate story refinement meeting or ceremony. By doing this, the actual sprint planning ceremony is shorter and directed only towards user stories that will be tackled in the upcoming sprint. Then the team can use a scrum board to plan their sprint.

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2. Daily Scrum

This short scrum ceremony makes sure that everyone knows what’s happening. It’s a way to ensure transparency across the team. This is not the time to dive into the weeds. A detailed status meeting this is not, but rather a light and fun informative meeting. It’s a space for each team member to answer the following questions: what did you complete yesterday, what are you working on today and are you blocked by anything?

The daily scrum is, as it says, a daily occurrence, which usually takes place each morning with the development team, scrum master and product owner. The ceremony is short, usually 15 minutes, which is why it’s also called a standup meeting. That will make sure it doesn’t drag on.

The great thing about the daily scrum is that is demands accountability. People report honestly on what they did, what they plan on doing and how they might be getting blocked in the process, and this is all done in front of their peers. Having to report in such a social setting sets up the team for success because it would be embarrassing to not be showing progress in front of others.

Daily scrum is not limited to teams that share a physical location. If the teams are working remotely, the ceremony can be conducted with video conferencing or another group chat.

3. Sprint Review

After the sprint has been completed, it’s time to get the team together to demo or showcase their work. Each team member reviews the newly developed features or whatever it was that they worked on during the sprint. This provides a space for the team to congratulate themselves on a successful sprint, which is important for morale. It also demonstrates the finished work for the entire team, so they can provide feedback and also get feedback from the stakeholders in the project.

Here, unlike other ceremonies, the review can last as long as it takes to demo all the work done by the team. Again, the participants are the development team, scrum master and product owner, but also in this instance, other teams involved in the project and the stakeholders.

These demos are not partial but a full review of the work. If not, then the point of the sprint review is diminished. The reviews must meet the quality level set up by the team or they’re not considered complete and shouldn’t be demoed in the sprint review.

4. Sprint Retrospective

The last scrum ceremony is called the sprint retrospective. It occurs at the end of a sprint, after the review, and is usually an hour in duration. The retrospective includes the development team, scrum master and product owner.

Because scrum is part of an agile process, it is all about change, which includes getting feedback and quickly acting on it. Scrum seeks continuous improvement and the retrospective is a method to make sure that the product and development culture is constantly improving.

The retrospective is a way for the team to understand what has worked well and what didn’t come together over the previous sprint. The post-mortem exposes fault lines in the team and its process, so they can buttress those weak spots and approach the next sprint in stronger form.

The sprint retrospective isn’t a blame game but a means to identify and rectify issues that have come up over the course of the sprint. It is also an instrument to congratulate the team on a job well done when there were no issues. But, if the mantra of scrum is to always seek to improve, then the retrospective must be critical, too, but only as a steppingstone to improvements. Constructive criticism is key here.

5. Product Backlog Refinement

Product backlog refinement, also known as product backlog grooming, is a meeting that takes place towards the completion of a sprint. The reason for the meeting is to review the backlog and keep it clean and orderly so that it’s ready for the next sprint.

The scrum team and product owner participate in the product backlog refinement meeting. As they look over the top items on the backlog, the team will ask the type of questions that usually arise in sprint planning meetings.

Some of the queries include: what should we do if the user’s data is wrong, are all users accessing this part of the system and other what-if scenarios. These questions allow the product owner to answer them and help the team understand what they need to do.

The purpose of the product backlog refinement is not to fully resolve issues but more of a chance for the scrum team and product owner to make sure the backlog is accurate. Therefore, the whole team usually doesn’t participate.

There’s More to Know

Scrum ceremonies are almost an outdated term. They’re started to be called events. It was first officially noted in the 2011 Scrum Guide. So, even in the fast-moving world of agile, some things change more slowly than others.

But the basic concepts are the same, as is the need to constantly be reviewing and looking at ways to improve. That includes one’s knowledge of scrum and scrum software. We’ve only scratched the surface. Scrum is simple in concept and difficult in mastery.

How ProjectManager Helps with Scrum Ceremonies

ProjectManager is a cloud-based work and project management software that can help with every scrum ceremony. When you’re sprint planning, you need to have access to that product backlog and be able to filter the user stories to prioritize them. To free your team up, we have custom workflows and task approvals, so the scrum team can focus on what’s important and product owners can change the status when they feel it’s done.

ProjectManager's workflows and automations, ideal for scrum ceremonies and agile teams

There are multiple project views on ProjectManager, one of which is the kanban board, which is ideal for managing backlogs, user stories and sprint workflows. From the kanban view the scrum team can be assigned the most important user story on the product backlog to work on for that sprint. To keep the scrum team focused on their tasks, we have custom workflows and task approval settings. Automation frees your team of busywork and helps product owners have more control over the status of the work

Collaborate for Better Scrum Ceremonies

Both the daily scrum and sprint review meetings are helped by ProjectManager. Communication is key to getting everyone on the scrum team together about what to do during the sprint. Our software facilitates a collaborative environment. Each user story on the kanban board can be commented on and an unlimited amount of files can be attached to further foster better communications.

ProjectManager offers collaboration tools for scrum ceremonies, such as this real-time chat

Notes from the daily scrum can be added to the product backlog and any recommendations for future sprints can also be put into the product backlog for the next sprint. ProjectManager allows scrum teams to prepare for the coming sprint and learn from it afterward, collecting all that critical data in one place.

Get Insightful Analysis with In-Depth Report

Finally, when executing a sprint retrospective, ProjectManager has one-click reports that help get a picture of how the sprint went. These reports can be filtered to get just the information you need to start the next sprint. ProjectManager gives scrum teams the tools they need to work better in an agile environment.

ProjectManager's status report filter

Scrum ceremonies are a great way to move fast and change quickly as needed when working on a project. To facilitate this agile process, though, one must have the tools to allow them to identity fast and then get the whole team to pivot. ProjectManager is a cloud-based project management software with features that do that. From visualizing workflow with Kanban boards to a real-time dashboard that keeps you current with the project’s process, ProjectManager is the only Scrum tool you’ll ever need. See for yourself, by taking this free 30-day trial.