What is a Scrum Team and How Do They Work?

Have you ever watched rugby? Well, if you have, you’ll feel familiar with the term “scrum”. This way of organizing production teams—much like a specialized sports team.

A sports team trains for a tournament, learns together through experiences, organizes themselves on the field while working through problems, and then reflects on their performance afterward. Essentially, this is exactly what a scrum team does too.

Scrum is a popular agile framework for innovative and complex product development efforts. It organizes teams of specialists to collaborate and work efficiently across multiple disciplines.

They work together using an agile framework to execute time blocks, a.k.a. sprints, to execute a wishlist (a backlog) of tasks. Theoretically, they have an efficiently built product at the end of multiple sprints.

In this guide, we’ll introduce you to scrum teams. Here’s what we cover.

  1. What is a scrum team?
  2. Who is on the scrum team?
  3. Advantages and potential disadvantages of a scrum team
  4. Scrum team FAQs
  5. Final thoughts

1. What is a scrum team?

A scrum team collaborates to develop a product or result across competencies. A scrum team usually includes the scrum master, product owner, and developers. This team uses the Scrum framework to plan, track, and execute tasks to meet product goals.

They work together to look at all aspects of a project, including design, development, testing, and maintenance. The goal of a scrum team is to build the most effective and efficient product possible using agile methods.

Want to learn even more about this vital product management framework? Take a deep dive with this guide to Scrum.

Why is it called a scrum team?

Scrum is a term borrowed from the sport of rugby, because the process is often compared to a rugby team’s collective efforts to dominate through short sprints. In rugby, a scrum is how they restart play after a minor infringement of the laws causes a pause.

2. Who is on the scrum team?

The scrum team is made up of five to nine people in multiple different skill silos. Their variety of skills allows them to collaborate and create a complete product.

Scrum master

A scrum master facilitates the scrum team. They ensure proper use of the Scrum Framework and enable the team to work together effectively. Their main focus is to protect the team from outside influences, remove roadblocks to progress, and ensure the agreed-upon processes are followed. They also coach the team and serve as a bridge between the team and its stakeholders.

Product owner

Product owners are responsible for ensuring products are helpful, valuable, and beneficial to the end users. They’re responsible for setting the product strategy and project management. They manage and assign the product backlog.

They work with the development team to get the right features implemented. Product owners also monitor product performance and customer feedback to meet users’ needs and expectations.

Confused about how they differ from product managers? You’re not alone. Check out our guide to product owners vs product managers.

Development team

The development team typically has three to five members. Each person on the development team has a niche skill that allows them to contribute focused functionality to the bigger project.

These team members help plan sprints, set goals, and collaborate to accomplish tasks. They also test the products to ensure they’re ready for distribution. They do the hands-on work to keep the product moving forward.

The development team may include one or more of these specialists.

  • software engineer
  • frontend developer
  • backend developer
  • mobile developer
  • UX designer
  • copywriter
  • data scientist
  • data analyst
  • cybersecurity specialist
  • marketing professional
  • quality assurance engineer

A scrum master moves tasks on the scrum team's Kanban board in the office.

3. Advantages and potential disadvantages of a scrum team

Scrum may seem simple from the outside, but it can take on a complicated nature in practice. Like every methodology, it has its upsides and its downsides. Here are five advantages and five disadvantages of using the Scrum method.

Advantages of scrum teams

For many startups and companies, Scrum’s advantages outweigh the costs. These are five advantages you might look forward to.

  1. Increased productivity: Some claim that Scrum can help your team do twice the work in half the time. Teams that use Scrum well can improve their productivity by 300% to 400%.
  2. Better quality: Teams who use the Scrum framework for all of their work experience 250% better quality than teams that don’t.
  3. Improved team collaboration: According to this Scrum survey, people who worked collaboratively in a team showed higher engagement rates, lower fatigue, and higher success rates.
  4. Increased customer satisfaction: Scrum teams focus on creating a product that meets customer needs 93% of businesses that adopted Scrum outperformed units that hadn’t.
  5. Flexibility: Scrum is a flexible process that can be adapted to fit the specific needs of any team or project.

Disadvantages of scrum teams

Scrum is a lightweight framework. So despite the advantages, you might see some hindrances as well. Here are five things that you might see as a disadvantage to Scrum.

  1. It requires full acceptance: If Scrum isn’t fully embraced it will fail. Everyone needs to be on the same page, exerting the same effort in order for it to work. Read on to learn more about the foundational principles of Scrum! 
  2. It only works for small teams: Scrum can be very difficult among large teams. Fundamentally, the team must be small enough to remain nimble but large enough to complete significant work. The Scrum guide recommends ten people or fewer.
  3. Experience is required: Each team member is responsible for all of their skillset. The back-end engineer is doing all of the back-end work; the UX designer isn’t leaning on a design team; the data scientist is doing all of the AI work; etc. Therefore every individual needs to be experienced enough in their assigned skill to complete the work required.
  4. Daily meetings aren’t for everyone: Scrum suggests daily meetings during sprints to stay on track. These can become frustrating for some, but can also be replaced by other options like asynchronous updates.
  5. Loss can be detrimental: If a team member leaves, is laid off, gets fired, or is pulled off of the project at any point, it can be detrimental to the entire project. The project may still be completed with a replacement but time will be lost bringing the new person up to speed.

4. Scrum team FAQs

Still have questions? We have more answers!

How do scrum teams work?

Unlike traditional teams, scrum teams approach their work in a series of time-boxed cycles called sprints. They iteratively plan, execute, and complete tasks using agile methodology.

Here’s how scrum teams are implemented:

  1. A team of five to nine people with the right competencies are formed.
  2. The team sets a sprint length between one week and one month long.
  3. A scrum master gets appointed to keep the group on track.
  4. A product owner is appointed to inform the stakeholders and set the product value goals.
  5. The team brainstorms a “backlog” a.k.a. a wish list of requirements for the project’s completion. This list is broken up into two parts.
    • Epics: high-level ideas that don’t yet have all of the details
    • Stories: detailed requirements based on user stories
  6. Now the team can plan and execute their first sprint.
  7. After the first sprint, the team regroups and assesses whether any remaining work should be executed in the next sprint or put back into the backlog.

What is the typical size of a scrum team?

The ideal size of a scrum team is typically between three and ten individuals, including the scrum master, product owner, and developers. It is important to ensure that the team isn’t too large. This can result in communication issues affecting the team’s productivity.

What are the principles of scrum?

Scrum theory is founded on lean thinking. This theory believes that knowledge comes from experience and observational decision-making focusing on the essentials.

Scrum…

  • is iterative and incremental in its approach
  • aims to optimize predictability and control risk
  • fosters cross-functional collaboration
  • encourages transparency
  • expects frequent inspection of work and problems
  • stimulates agile adaptation

The scrum team must become proficient in commitment to achieving its goals and supporting each other. It expects all team members to focus on the sprint at hand. Lastly, it encourages openness, respect, and courage among all collaborators.

What is the difference between Kanban vs Scrum?

The Kanban and Scrum methods are both popular agile frameworks for managing projects. The biggest difference between them is the focus of the methods. Scrum focuses on running sprints and completing tasks in a timely manner. Kanban is focused on managing workflow from start to finish, ensuring tasks are completed on time. Both methods aim to help teams manage their projects more efficiently and effectively.

You can learn even more about the differences in our full guide to Kanban vs Scrum.

5. Final thoughts

Scrum can be an incredibly efficient way to organize small teams of specialized folks. It’s great for product management and development with an experienced group of skilled professionals.

As long as the team is aligned with its goals, norms, and communication expectations, this method can lead to optimal outcomes. For more information on creating a scrum team, consult the official Scrum guide

While you might not necessarily be on one as a product manager, it’s very important to know what a scrum team is and how it functions.

If you’re interested in learning more about product, then sign up for this free introductory product management course.

Want to read more about Scrum and the world of product management? Then check out these articles:

What is CareerFoundry?

CareerFoundry is an online school for people looking to switch to a rewarding career in tech. Select a program, get paired with an expert mentor and tutor, and become a job-ready designer, developer, or analyst from scratch, or your money back.

Learn more about our programs