5 Agile Scrum Board Best Practices for Every Project
August 27, 2021
You’ve got a killer team together — they’re bright, professional, and ready to tackle your project. You’ve got someone to take ownership of the board, you have your priorities set, and design and marketing are good to join. So, what’s stopping you from plowing forward and getting this project done? Organization is key when tackling a big project, and that should start with an effective organizing platform, like an Agile Scrum Board.
An Agile Scrum Board takes the basics of a Scrum board (a visual representation of a task’s process for the whole team to share) and blends in Agile methodology (an iterative process where work is done in stages and not delivered all at once). Design teams, product software development teams, and customer service departments could find an Agile Scrum board helpful in organizing team projects. In order for an Agile Scrum Board to work, there are a few important steps that ensure its success.
1. Adhere to Agile Scrum Ceremonies
Agile Scrum ceremonies are steps that move the tasks of a Scrum board from one stage to another. They can be incorporated fully, or they can be used in pieces.
The Scrum ceremonies include:
Daily scrum (aka daily standup) — a quick 15-minute meeting that takes place every day to go over the board to see if there are any problems, to identify any obstacles to task progression, or to have a team discussion. It’s also known as a stand-up because it’s a good idea to have all members of the team standing during the meeting to focus their attention.
Sprint planning — the process where you plan what tasks from your to-do list (or product backlog/user stories) will be placed on the board, the time frames for deadlines (usually two weeks), and the responsibilities for your team.
Sprint review — at the end of the Sprint, teams should meet to discuss the project’s progression with stakeholders. Your boss has been waiting two weeks to see where this is headed; the Sprint review is your chance to show them.
Sprint retrospective — the Sprint retrospective is different from the Sprint review because it’s mainly for the team’s benefit. In the Sprint retrospective, teams gather to discuss what went wrong, what went right, and what could be improved before they move on to the next Sprint.
Why Is It Best Practice? You should adhere as closely as possible to Agile Scrum ceremonies, which are put in place to ensure every step of the process goes smoothly. Omit one, and you will face problems later in the project cycle. For instance, without the daily standup, your team could flounder without direction, with team members waiting for instruction on how to proceed. This is especially important in mission-critical projects like software development.
2. Get Scrum Roles Identified Quickly
Scrum roles are titles that delineate who is responsible for what during the process. The three main roles are:
Product Owner — The Product Owner is the boss. They look over the backlog and identify priorities among the User Stories/Tasks. They answer to anyone in your company’s hierarchy who has ordered the project’s delivery.
Scrum Master (or Scrum Leader) — The Scrum Master is the person responsible for making sure the team adheres to Agile Scrum ceremonies and collaborates efficiently. The role of Scrum Master has become so significant recently that some companies require certification.
Developer — Developers are team members who take the Tasks/User Stories and develop the Sprint planning, defining the goals of each task, and estimating the time needed for completion.
The Product Owner sets up the tasks, the Scrum Master puts them on the board, and the Development Teams get the job done.
Why is it best practice? Without quickly and clearly establishing roles, teams will have a hard time identifying who to go to when things go wrong. For instance, without a Scrum Master, management of the Scrum Board becomes a free for all. Without a Product Owner, tasks won’t be prioritized. And without a Development Team, tasks won’t be completed. Fortunately, MURAL has a template that teaches the Scrum framework to help teams get acclimated.
3. Make Sure to Prioritize User Stories Before Your Project Gets Started
User Stories (or Tasks) are the most important part of an Agile Scrum Board. These are the actionable items that must get done — including features, enhancements, and fixes for your product or service. But it’s not as simple as cherry-picking what you want to do and placing the tasks on the board. These tasks go into a kind of well, called the Product Backlog. Then they are distributed by a Product Owner in order of priority, team resources required, or other relevant factors such as company mission or directive. Finally, they go into the Sprint Backlog.
The Sprint backlog is the responsibility of the Scrum Master and the development team. This is a subset of the Product Backlog, and these are the Tasks/User Stories the development team decides can get done in a reasonable Sprint. Think of the Product Backlog as a big picture and the Sprint Backlog as a smaller picture that is more likely to get done.
Why is it a best practice? It’s absolutely necessary to have the priorities set before the development team gets to work. Without a solid, definitive list of what needs to get done, teams could start working on projects out of order or prioritizing projects based on their personal needs. This will inevitably cause delays and a backlog of issues that need to be worked on. If you need help organizing your user stories, check out this template from MURAL (or click on the image above to get started).
4. Focus the Daily Stand Up for a More Efficient Workflow
The Daily Standup or Daily Scrum is the only time during the day where the team meets to discuss the tasks on the board and calls out problems or obstacles.
Since you only schedule 15 minutes for these meetings (to keep focus and not waste anyone’s time), it’s crucial the meetings have an agenda and important issues are prioritized. A Scrum Master may want to review the board at the end of the day and come up with actionable agenda items for the next standup.
Why is it best practice? Time is a factor in everyone's busy day. Wasting time isn't an option with an Agile workflow, where everything is done in pieces, and the pieces are constantly moving. Focus in the daily standup will create a more efficient workflow. You can find a template (see the image above) for Ultimate Team Standups at MURAL.
A Sprint retrospective is a post-mortem collaboration that lets the team go over what was done, what was done right, what went wrong, and what could be done better. But an ineffective Sprint Retrospective can be just as time-wasting as an ineffective daily standup.
Why is it best practice? Like the daily Stand Up, the Retrospective should be focused on the most important issues, and an agenda should be set. This could involve the Scrum Master and the development team huddling before the end of the project to find talking points before the Retrospective. Or, you could use a template to plan out the Retrospective. MURAL has a template that lets you pick emojis to gauge the team’s feelings that day and then write down what each team member found to be problematic. Those answers are collated, and common themes are grouped and discussed.
Use an Agile Scrum Board to Make Organization a Priority
Incorporating these best practices into your Agile Scrum Board will lead to a more focused process, help advance your project regardless of size or scalability, and foster more cooperation among your teams. If the devil is in the details, you don't want to lose control of the details. Following Agile Scrum board processes faithfully will lead to increased productivity and decrease wasted time.
Want to run these agile exercises? Check out these guides for common agile ceremonies: