A Quick Guide to Scrum Artifacts

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Scrum is a flexible framework that’s designed to help self-organized teams execute projects quickly in an agile environment.

Clients or customers often change ideas mid-stream. The dynamic nature of these projects makes evident the need for each team to offer transparency and share information quickly and effectively.

Thus, successful agile sprints make use of scrum software and scrum artifacts to convey key information, deliver transparency and keep the project rolling on time.

What Are Scrum Artifacts?

Scrum artifacts are ways to describe the work that must be done, and they always add value during a sprint. Scrum artifacts can be seen as nuggets of vital information for the scrum team. They capture shared information for the team at a particular point in time.

This is vitally important, especially for distributed teams who may work from home, because it provides a platform where they can see how they’re doing on a particular sprint. This keeps everyone on the same page, no matter where they are.

Scrum Artifacts in Detail

There are three main scrum artifacts, according to the scrum guide. We’ll explain each of them below, along with an additional staple of any successful sprint.

1. Product Backlog

A product backlog is a list of everything that needs to be achieved on a project, broken down into individual items. This is where the baseline requirements of every feature needed for the end product are prioritized by the product owner for the scrum team.

It is not a list of unchangeable tasks, and it often evolves over time. For example, if there is a change in the business environment, marketing conditions or technical demands, the product backlog will reflect those changes.

The product backlog is made up of three different types of items.

  • User stories, which are high-level descriptions of a feature, told from the perspective of the end-user of the product.
  • Bugs, which are problems that arise that the product owner wants fixed.
  • Tasks, which are assigned to the scrum team to complete.

The backlog grows as the product is being built. When changes are added they can include more detail, estimates or a change in priority. The product owner and the team are regularly working on refining the product backlog. This can occur at any time.

The more important the product backlog item, the more detailed it is. When the items in the product backlog are chosen for the next iterative sprint, they are further refined to be developed during the sprint. When the item on the product backlog can be delivered by the team in one sprint, then they are ready for a sprint planning meeting.

Refining the Product Backlog

Refining the product backlog includes activities such as reviewing the user stories of highest priority at the top of the backlog, and asking the product owner questions about them. This includes, if necessary, deleting user stories and then writing new ones. This is followed by reprioritizing the product backlog.

Then these new user stories need to be estimated in terms of the time it will take to complete them, or others will need to get a new estimate of their duration. Other user stories should be prepared for future sprints, while not losing sight of the big picture of the product architecture as the backlog evolves.

2. Sprint Backlog

The sprint backlog is the part of the product backlog that the team will be working on in their sprint. Think of it as the to-do list for the sprint.

The sprint backlog is further broken down into tasks for the team to execute. Every item on the sprint backlog needs to get developed, tested and documented. The product owner helps the scrum team come up with a sprint backlog during their sprint meeting.

The sprint backlog is often represented as a task board, which is broken up into columns that represent the workflow. They tend to have the following titles:

  • To Do, which are tasks that have yet to start
  • Doing, where the work has begun
  • To Verify, which are completed tasks that are waiting for verification by another scrum team member
  • Done, which means no more work is required

Refining the Sprint Backlog

The sprint backlog, like the product backlog, is a living document and can be changed by the scrum team. Work is discussed regularly at the daily scrum and the sprint backlog is modified as needed. This is all happening during the short sprint, and only the scrum team can make these changes as they occur during the sprint.

If there is a requirement for new work, it is added to the sprint backlog. Then as the work is completed, the estimate for what work remains to be done is updated. If there are items that become unnecessary, they are removed.

Related: 7 Backlog Grooming Tips for Beginners

But, again, only the scrum team can do this. They have ownership over the sprint backlog and this process. The sprint backlog is highly visible and provides a picture of the sprint as the team is working on it.

3. Product Increment

This is the most important scrum artifact. The product increment is all the product backlog items that have been completed during a sprint.

Each sprint is potentially creating shippable product increments, and so the product increment must fit into the team’s definition of done and be acceptable to the product owner.

The definition of “done” is a shared one among the scrum team, although it is different for each scrum team. The definition of done evolves as the team matures: it grows more expansive or stringent as the project continues.

The product increment is not only the sum of all the project backlog items completed over the course of a sprint, but it is also the value of the increments over the last number of completed sprints. This is transparency not only for the team, but for the stakeholders in terms of where the product is at the moment.

4. Burndown Chart

Though not always considered part of the essential scrum artifacts, the burndown chart is important not to neglect. It is a graphic that shows how fast the team is completing the user stories or items on the product backlog. Therefore, a burndown chart is illustrating the total effort against the amount of work for a sprint.

The purpose of a burndown chart is to make sure that the project is staying on track, and that the deliverable is going to meet expectations and arrive on schedule.

The rate of progress of a scrum team is called velocity, which is the number of story points in the user story that have been completed during the sprint. Partially finished work isn’t calculated into velocity.

ProjectManager.com for Scrum Teams

ProjectManager.com has the features that scrum teams need to easily manage their scrum artifacts. Because it is a cloud-based project management software, it’s especially convenient for remote teams, who can stay in the project loop no matter where they are or when they’re working.

Multiple Ways to Manage a Project

There are multiple project views in ProjectManager.com, making it flexible enough to serve agile teams, teams who work in a more traditional methodology and even a hybrid of the two. The kanban board view is ideal for scrum teams.

Product backlog items can be collected in kanban cards, that can be tagged, due dates added, progress tracked, and assigned to one or more team members.

A kanban board in ProjectManager.com
A kanban board in ProjectManager.com

ProjectManager.com also has unlimited file storage, so goals, user stories and other related sprint materials can be attached to the cards. It’s the perfect tool to manage your product backlog.

Easy Backlog Grooming

The kanban board can also be used for the sprint backlog. Columns are customizable to fit the way your team works. Cards can be dragged and dropped from one column to the next as they move through the workflow.

Cards can have personalized to-do lists, and team members can collaborate by commenting on the card. They can even tag the product owner or scrum master, who will get notified by email and brought into the conversation. This provides great transparency for the whole scrum team.

Real-Time Tracking

Instead of using a simple burndown chart, ProjectManager.com calculates your sprint velocity automatically by tracking six project metrics, which are fed instantly to the real-time dashboard. Product owners can monitor task progress, team workload, cost and more to make sure that the sprint is on track.

ProjectManager.com Dashboard Tracks Progress
Always know the status of your sprint thanks to our real-time dashboard.

ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based project management software that helps scrum teams better manage their sprints and product owners control the backlog. A real-time dashboard acts as your burndown chart, so you always know where you are in the project as it’s happening. See what else ProjectManager.com can do for your scrum team by taking this free 30-day trial today.

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