What are the pros & cons of scrum?

How to decide if Scrum is right for you.

July 31, 2023
Two people pointing at a whiteboard

When making a decision, it’s helpful to list out the pros and cons. If you’re considering Scrum, you might be wondering:

What are the pros and cons of Scrum?

This list will give you a quick survey of the benefits you’ll experience and the challenges you’ll face. If you want a deeper dive, be sure to check out the definition of Scrum or the Everyday Scrum Guide.

New to Scrum? The Scrum meeting checklist has all the details you need to run effective Scrum meetings.

Pros of adopting Scrum

  • Early Progress. Teams can make meaningful progress even when requirements are still being discovered.
  • Flexibility. Because Scrum iteratively organizes the work into sprints, the team can change as needed.
  • Focus. Work only gets added at the beginning of each sprint, allowing the team to focus on what’s a priority.
  • Delivery. The team quickly delivers functional features with the most value by working off a prioritized backlog.
  • User-Centered. The team receives feedback from both internal and external stakeholders by reviewing regularly delivered value.
  • Visibility. Transparency is built into the process allowing high visibility into the work being done. 

Cons of adopting Scrum

  • Scope Creep. Without a clear end to the project, sometimes more gets added than should be later in the project.
  • Scaling. Adopting Scrum across multiple teams can be difficult at first.
  • Fit. Some projects by nature are sequential, and Scrum isn’t best for every kind of project.
  • New Meetings. Some people don’t like the idea of daily meetings at first, though this usually changes with time.
  • Team-Driven. This one isn’t a con (it’s actually a strength) unless the team becomes unhealthy. Team health has a high impact on the successful delivery of the product.
  • Experience Required. For the team to produce quality work requires a team of experienced professionals.

How can you use Scrum?

Scrum is a robust framework for getting things done. Maybe you’re interested in using Scrum but wondering, Will Scrum work with the kind of work I do? Do I need to customize it to make it work?

Most of the content written about Scrum assumes a software development context, but you can apply it to so many other types of work.

I’m continually experimenting to see how Scrum can help me and others get essential work done. Here are examples where I’ve applied Scrum to different kinds of projects.

Leaning Scrum for the first time can be a bit overwhelming. There are many new terms and concepts in Scrum.

Well we’re here to help.

While Scrum is a simple framework, there can still be a lot to learn, especially at first. If you want to learn more about Scrum, here are some topics I think will be helpful to you.

Action Plan

To learn more about Scrum, check out my What is Scrum? A Guide for Everyday People to Learn Scrum. If you have more questions, please feel free to reach out on LinkedIn.

Frequently Asked Questions

Scrum design

What are the three pillars of Scrum?

Scrum is founded on three essential pillars, and each leads the team to ask a critical question.

  1. Transparency. How does this make things more visible?
  2. Inspection. Where does this create space to evaluate?
  3. Adaptation. When does this encourage growth?

Learn how to apply the three pillars of Scrum and then explore the most common terms in a Scrum glossary.

What are the values of Scrum?

There are five values critical to the practice of Scrum: commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect.

  1. Commit to achieving the goals of the Scrum Team.
  2. Courage to do the right thing and work on challenging problems.
  3. Focus on the Sprint's work and the Scrum Team's goals.
  4. Open about all the work and the challenges with performing the work.
  5. Respect each other to be capable, independent people

Learn how to align Scrum values with your organization and then explore the most common terms in a Scrum glossary.

What is the sprint goal in scrum?

The sprint goal encapsulates the product owner’s vision into a concrete statement for the development team to measure the sprint against. The sprint goal provides a theme for the sprint’s work helping the team see how all the parts come together. 

Learn more about the role of the sprint goal in scrum and explore the essential Scrum glossary.

Scrum elements

What is the definition of done?

The definition of done is a list of what must be true to consider a PBI done. The whole team creates and agrees to what is in the definition of done and is updated as needed for the team to function effectively. 

Learn to use the definition of done and explore acceptance criteria vs definition of done.

What is the increment in scrum?

It is the next complete piece added to build the product. The increment is complete in the sense that it should be ready to release to the end-user even if the team chooses to wait.

Learn more about incremental and iterative development or explore the essential Scrum glossary.

Scrum team

How does a scrum team work?

The scrum team is made up of the product owner, scrum master and development team. They each play important roles.

  • The product owner maximizes the value delivered by the product.
  • The scrum master maximizes the impact of the development team.
  • The development team transforms the product vision into reality.

Learn more about how a scrum team works together. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

Is a Scrum Master a project manager?

Project managers and scrum masters differ in where they focus and what they emphasize. 

The project manager is focused first on the work. Does the project have everything it needs to get done? The scrum master is focused first on the people. Are they the best team they can be to get projects done?

Continue learning about the relationship between a scrum master and a project manager. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

Can a scrum master be a developer?

This combo is very doable, but it depends on the person. Some people are great team contributors but are not good scrum masters. 

Often, people suggest the type A personality to be the Scrum Master because they seem like the typical leader type. Unfortunately, what usually happens here is that person begins to act like the team's boss, which is not the role of the scrum masters.

Learn more about the roles of a scrum team. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

What’s the right scrum team size?

With less than three, you don’t get much of the benefit of collaboration or shared momentum. More than nine, and the logistics of coordination start to eat away at the benefits of coordination.

Learn more about how a scrum team works together. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

Scrum backlog

What is the backlog in Scrum?

There are actually two backlogs, the product backlog and the sprint backlog. They each contain the definitive list of work to be done. The product owner keeps the backlog ordered by priority. 

Learn to use the backlog in Scrum and check out the sprint backlog vs product backlog in Scrum.

How are the product backlog and sprint backlog different?

The product backlog prioritizes the features needed in the product. It is a singular visible source of requirements for the product.

The sprint backlog represents the work to do in a given sprint. It is a definitive list of all the scrum team is being asked to produce for the sprint. 

Learn more about the sprint backlog vs product backlog in Scrum.

What is a PBI (product backlog item)?

Each item in the backlog represents precise work and value to deliver. Often these PBIs are written using both user stories and acceptance criteria. The PBIs are what gets refined during the backlog refinement session, and if one is too large, it may be broken down into smaller PBIs.

Learn more about how backlogs are used in scrum, the sprint backlog vs product backlog in Scrum and explore the essential Scrum glossary.

What is the Scrum sprint backlog?

The Scrum sprint backlog is a prioritized list of items from the product backlog that the development team plans to complete during the upcoming sprint.

It is a plan for the Sprint and is created during the Sprint Planning meeting where the Development Team decides on how to build the functionality that meets the Sprint Goal. The Sprint Backlog typically includes user stories, bugs, technical work, and other items that the development team needs to work on during the sprint. Each item in the Sprint Backlog has a clear definition of done, so the team knows when the item is considered complete.

The Development Team is responsible for creating and updating their Sprint Backlog throughout the Sprint, making sure they are on track to meet the Sprint Goal. The Sprint Backlog is a working document that helps the Development Team visualize their progress and make any necessary adjustments to their plan as they go along. The Sprint Backlog is also transparent, allowing stakeholders to see what work is being done during the Sprint.

Learn more about the backlogs of Scrum.

What is the Scrum product backlog?

In Scrum, the product backlog is a prioritized list of features, bugs, technical work, and other product-related items that need to be addressed by the development team.

It serves as a single source of truth for what needs to be done on the product.

The items in the product backlog are ordered based on their importance to the product owner and the value they bring to the end-user. As the project progresses, the product backlog is constantly updated to reflect new priorities, changes in requirements, and feedback from stakeholders.

The product backlog is a living document that evolves throughout the project's lifecycle. It provides transparency and enables collaboration among all members of the Scrum team.

Learn more about the backlogs in Scrum.

Scrum roles

What are the roles in scrum?

There are three roles in Scrum:

  1. Scrum Master 
  2. Product Owner
  3. Development Team

Learn more about the scrum roles. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

What if I don’t have all the scrum roles on my team?

You really can’t run Scrum without a product owner or scrum master, so someone will likely have to wear multiple hats. Here are some recommended combos:

  • One Scrum Master for multiple teams
  • Scrum Master + Development Team member
  • Product Owner + Development Team member

A combo you want to avoid is being both the Product Owner and Scrum Master at the same time.

Learn more about what to do if you don’t have all the scrum team roles. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

Who are the stakeholders in scrum?

A scrum team has stakeholders on two sides.

  1. Organizational leaders.
  2. Customers or end-users.

Success depends on identifying and serving the goals and motivations of both groups of stakeholders. The product owner is responsible for harmonizing and prioritizing the needs of both.

Learn more about the different scrum roles. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

Is an agile coach a scrum role?

Often an agile coach serves as someone who can come in from the outside to help an organization evaluate their practice of scrum or implement it for the first time. 

An agile coach should also have competency around agile practices beyond just scrum.

Learn more about the roles in scrum or the difference between scrum and agile. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

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