The 3 Elements of Scrum

Scrum is the framework that we use for the Agile process here at CivicActions. (Our experience transitioning to Scrum was interesting, and you can read about that in our Agile Applied blog series.)  In the spirit of following the roadmap that Scrum has laid out, this blog series will be focused on Scrum tips and quick reminders. I will briefly discuss the high level elements of Scrum in this post, and then in later entries, I will talk about specific aspects of Scrum, how to apply the rules, and what to do with the challenges.

There are 3 Elements of Scrum: Artifacts, Timeboxes and Roles.


There are three artifacts in Scrum: The Product Backlog, the Sprint Backlog and the Burndown Chart

The Product Backlog is the bucket for all the requirements. These are the user stories and the high level feature descriptions, all of which have business value priorities. This backlog is constantly changing. The Product Owner (this is one of the roles I will discuss below) owns this backlog, and will gather feedback, suggestions and requirements from stakeholder to add to the backlog. In other methodologies, there are heavy requirement documents, technical specs, etc. In Scrum, the Product Backlog replaces these and the agility is well used with the ability to easily adjust the content of this.

The Sprint Backlog is a subset of the Product Backlog. This is the repository of the highest priorities deemed by the Product Owner. These requirements are broken out into tasks, estimated, and clearly defined by the Scrum Team. Once we start a Sprint, the Sprint backlog does not change.

The Burndown Chart is a chart that indicates how much work is remaining in the Sprint. This chart is hung up in an area that everyone can easily see, including the Scrum Team, the Product Owner and Management. This is updated on a daily basis by the ScrumMaster, after hearing from the team what they have accomplished in the Daily Scrum Meeting.


There are three roles in Scrum: ScrumMaster, Product Owner and Scrum Team

The ScrumMaster is the coach and the gatekeeper. As a coach they ensuring the framework is being followed, and provide guidance and education where necessary. As gatekeeper, they have the responsibilities to remove impediments and protect the team from outside distractions.

The Product Owner is the subject matter expert. This is the person who knows what the stakeholders want and will define and gather the requirements. They will communicate their vision to the team and set priorities.

The Scrum Team is the group doing the work. The team will be made up of 7 members (plus or minus 2) and may be comprised of engineers, designers, architects, testers, etc.

NOTE: It is very important to note that while the ScrumMaster may be part of the Scrum Team (i.e. as a tester or engineer) the ScrumMaster can NEVER be the Product Owner. These roles must be held by separate people.

Time Boxes

Everything in Scrum is timeboxed. This helps us stay on track and on schedule, because every meeting has a timebox and the length of the work period also has a timebox.

Sprints, the period in which we working on the project, are 2-4 weeks long and should be consistently the same length throughout the project.

There are 5 meetings within a Sprint. At the beginning of the Sprint we have the Sprint Planning Meeting (8 hour max) and the Sprint Commitment Meeting (4 hour max). At the end of the Sprint we have the Sprint Review Meeting (4 hour max) and the Sprint Retrospective Meeting (3 hour max). Everyday we have the Daily Scrum Meeting, which is 15 minutes.


Scrum is simple – only three main elements that I’ve covered above. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. There are hurdles to jump and cats to wrangle. The good thing is that it’s all very worth it!

Stay tuned for more tips and reminders about Scrum! If you have questions or comments about how to apply Scrum, please post them in the comments below.

2017-03-31T06:20:04+00:00 Categories: Agile, Project Management|

About the Author:

Elizabeth joined CivicActions in 2010 as an Agile Project Manager, leading teams of developers and designers through successful digital projects for nonproft and government clients. Her impeccable attention to quality and enthusiasm for human connection propelled her to become Director of Professional Services in 2014. In this role, she oversees hiring, business development, team leadership, client relationships, and thousands of small details per day — all while helping team members remain present and productive.

Elizabeth excels at facilitating change, encouraging growth, and empowering people. She brings an aura of confidence and balance to even the most complicated projects, inspiring her teams to problem-solve and collaborate until victory is achieved. She has served on a myriad of projects for CivicActions clients such as the Department of Defense, the City of Los Angeles, C2ES, Denver Public Library, EatFresh (San Francisco Human Services Agency), FosterClub, GlobalMDP Program (Columbia University), Netpop, and SACNAS.

As a certified ScrumMaster, Elizabeth is passionate about spreading the positive impact of agile project management in public sector organizations. She helped establish and expand Agile Government Leadership (AGL), a community powered network of agile professionals working to increase user-centered, iterative processes in government. She collaborates with the AGL working group to provide resources, arrange partnerships, host events, and facilitate conversation so agencies can be empowered to start using agile methods. Elizabeth has also moderated and spoken at a number of events across the country on the topic of agile government.

Before joining CivicActions, Elizabeth served as Director of Project Management for the software company Casting Networks, where she helped form the PM and QA groups, along with introducing and implementing agile methodologies.

Elizabeth holds a BFA from Wayne State University and lives in the Bay Area with her husband and young daughter. She appreciates the flexibility of working full time from home, hanging out with her kiddo during lunch breaks, and practicing yoga for mental balance and physical health. Elizabeth also enjoys reading the funnier side of the internet or getting outside with her family — being in California, this means the beach and the mountains.