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What You Need to Know About the 2020 Scrum Guide

On November 18, 2020, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, the creators of Scrum, released an updated version of the Scrum Guide. The news that couldn’t be avoided in the Scrum community. At Rosberry, we’ve practiced Scrum since 2016 and have always been trying to keep up with every update in the area, learn new best practices and have Scrum Masters and Product Owners certified. So as a part of this community we would like to introduce the most striking updates of the Guide, which you need to know today.

Has everything changed ?… Or how serious it is

It isn’t that dramatic, the very first thing to realise is that Scrum is still Scrum. The Scrum Guide is not updated frequently and fundamentally. As the last changes were made in 2017 in order to bring more clarity and to address common misunderstandings, this time isn’t the exclusion.

What has been removed

The Guide shortened from 19 to 13 pages. On the one hand, it happened because a big part of the update is re-organisation and simplifying of how the Scrum Guide reads.

On the other, the Guide became less prescriptive and less detailed in things that are considered as practices or implementation details. For example, the recommended but previously also optional three questions for the Daily Scrum: What did you do? What will you do? Are there any impediments in your way? not in the Scrum Guide anymore.

Also, listing out the activities that are part of the Sprint Review has been removed, there is only a short description of this event left.

Another change relates to the concepts of the Scrum team and the Development Team that used to be a part of it — the term Developer is a new accountability that replaces the Development Team role in the 2017 Scrum Guide. The Scrum team consists of the Product Owner, Scrum master and Developers from now on. As known, Scrum does not imply hierarchy and therefore now, team-level interaction has become even more single-level, there is no longer a “team within a team” thing.

What has been added

The most significant change in the 2020 Scrum Guide is the addition of the Product Goal. The Product Goal and Product Backlog relationship could be considered similar to the relationship between the Sprint Goal and Sprint Backlog. Both the Product Goal and the Sprint Goal help create focus towards progress. They just operate at different time horizons.

Product Backlog→ Product Goal

Sprint Backlog → Sprint Goal

How to implement a Product Goal in practice is up to the team to decide, as well as all the other Scrum intentions.

For Scrum Masters

The terminology “self-organisation” changed to “self-management”. This also doesn’t really mean a drastic revolution and only addresses transparency to increase the general understanding of the term. As a Scrum Master you will still work with every member’s engagement and their equal and shared accountability.

The Scrum Guide no longer states the recommendation of always having at least one process improvement item from the retrospective in the Sprint Backlog as a rule. It’s still a very good idea, however, no longer ‘mandatory’ to Scrum.

The term “potentially releasable” is no longer used to describe the Increment, but it’s not assumed to deliver products with no usable value. This has a lot to do with making Scrum more accessible and easier to understand, for decades Scrum has been used for non-software teams, and “potentially releasable” term can be confusing.

These are obviously not all the updates that we will have to learn and apply in the future. In order to get more and to get better understanding, I would recommend you to read it yourself, especially since it has become much easier and concise. Here’s the link to the updated Scrum Guide.

What about certification

All the changes will certainly affect the content of exams and courses that are held in the relevant organisations. For example, Scrum.org reports that all the certification tests will be based on the previous 2017 version until January 9, 2021. So pay attention, if you have recently been preparing for it. As for the Scrum Alliance, they will be updating their resources for the next several months.

In conclusion, there is even more room for interpretation now. The Guide is easier to read, which could be helpful for those who are just diving into the framework, and especially for those whose English level isn’t that advanced yet. But safe to say that the simplifying and less prescriptive narration could be dangerous for those newbies too, since the roles and accountabilities (that’ve been already difficult to understand) have become even more blurred.

In the following articles we will share our experience in applying updates and best practices through Scrum. Stay tuned!

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Mobile app design and development insights

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Mariya Starishko, Scrum Master

Mariya Starishko, Scrum Master

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