Why Scrum with JIRA Software?


Posted by
Anand UNADKAT

July 14, 2016

I recently attended a Scrum Master training session and one thing that the trainer said over and over again was: “Post-its over tools!”. I couldn’t ignore the pure hatred that the trainer had towards these tools (even though some of it was sarcastic – he really meant it!)

The reasons for his dislike were:

  • When you write down something, you understand it better
  • Writing something down means you have a view of it at all times
  • Your daily Scrum becomes more interactive because you are physically moving the post-its
  • The product owner and the Scrum Master always have a view without asking the developers

But among all these reasonings, my thought remained: “But you can get all of these with JIRA. Why waste paper when the whole world is about keeping the environment green?”

Anyway… before we dig into answering the question of why JIRA can help in implementing a Scrum framework, let’s try and understand what Scrum actually is.

The key principles of Scrum

So what exactly is Scrum?

“Scrum is a framework for developing and sustaining complex products.” (2014 Scrum.Org and ScrumInc).

As stated in the definition, Scrum is a framework, not a process. A lot of organisations do not use Scrum how they’re meant to – instead, they apply multiple process such as Agile + waterfall + SAFe into Scrum and call it “Scrum”. This is not how Scrum should be used.

The framework for Scrum is actually quite simple, yet almost every organisation fails to follow it.

  • You DO NOT have project managers – a Scrum team consists of a product owner, developers and a Scrum Master. There are no job titles getting in the way!
  • You start with a product backlog – an ordered list of everything that might be needed in the product. This is your single source of requirements.
  • This product backlog is broken down into different clusters, called a sprints backlog – this is done by the dev team and the dev team only during a sprint planning where the product owner explains the backlog items.
  • Sprint planning should not last more than three hours for a one-month sprint.
  • Each sprint backlog is delivered in increments called sprints – these can last from one to four weeks, and no more than that. The idea of a sprint is to deliver the product backlog in increments.
  • Once a sprint has commenced, you have a daily catch-up called daily Scrum – this is only for the dev team and it should not be more than 15 minutes.
  • At the end of a sprint, you have a sprint review – this is where the Scrum team and stakeholders go through what has been achieved during the sprint.
  • You also hold a sprint retrospective, where the Scrum team inspects itself and creates a plan, including all the improvements for the next sprint
  • And you start the cycle again!

Scrum Framework

Why use JIRA Software for Scrum?

There’s a simple reason why you should use JIRA Software for Scrum – it has the Scrum framework built into it – known as the Scrum board.

It ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to the framework itself. JIRA gives you:

  • A product backlog
  • A sprint backlog
  • A Scrum board, so when you start a sprint it can be used for daily Scrum
  • A version section listing all your releases
  • The ability to estimate your tasks
  • Core reporting for Scrum – sprint burndown and release burndown

That sounds like Agile…

Yes, it’s true that there are some aspects of Agile methodology in there, but Scrum is a framework within which you can employ various processes and techniques. Ideally one, as this way you don’t lose the core principle of Scrum. Since Agile is quite close to Scrum framework, it fits in really well. The Agile aspects that you see in JIRA Software are:

  • Epics
  • User stories
  • Story points
  • All the additional reporting

However, the rest of it is pure scrum.

JIRA + Scrum = happy teams

So, going back to the trainer and his hatred for tools. JIRA firmly overrules all his reasons why you shouldn’t use tools:

  • When you write down something, you understand it better – in JIRA, you are typing it instead, therefore you are registering everything you are typing
  • You have a view of it at all times – you can display the board on a big screen.
  • The daily scrum becomes more interactive because you are physically moving the post-its – if everything’s on a big screen, all you’re doing is dragging stuff to another column – or even better, have a touch screen!
  • The product owner and Scrum Master have a view without asking the developers – again, if all of your information is displayed on a screen, then both your product owner and Scrum Master have a view. With JIRA, you can even share the board, so they have a view right at their desk.
  • And there’s an additional advantage – you can use it with multiple teams across the globe. Simply because you can share the boards – instead of post-its being stuck on the wall in different countries!

There you have it – I hope I’ve given you enough reasons as to why JIRA works really well with the Scrum framework, without losing its core principles.