Agile software development is not one single methodology — it is a category that includes many different methodologies and frameworks. These include kanban, scrum, lean, and others. What do all of these methodologies have in common? A commitment to adaptive planning, iterative development, and continuous improvement.
The most popular agile development framework is scrum. In scrum, development teams complete work within a fixed period of time (typically two to four weeks). Within these iterations, or sprints, teams aim to deliver an increment — defined as usable and valuable functionality — to customers. Scrum follows a prescribed set of artifacts, meetings, tools, and roles to help agile teams manage workflow efficiently and generate more value.
This dictionary provides a list of definitions of agile and scrum-related keywords to help you better understand the methodologies. Not all of the terms are unique to scrum, but all are important to implementing scrum.
Requirements that must be met for a specific item in the product backlog to be considered complete. Acceptance criteria is helpful for estimating time and resources needed during sprint planning. Note that although they seem similar, acceptance criteria is different from definition of ready (DoR).
Items that represent work to be done in order to deliver value against the product goal. Scrum artifacts include the product backlog, the sprint backlog, and increments.
A list of work items. In scrum there are two backlogs: the product backlog and the sprint backlog.
Process of adding detail and estimates to items in a backlog. During backlog refinement (or “backlog grooming”), large items may be broken down into smaller units.
A visual graphic showing work against time allowed. Burndown charts are a reporting tool used by scrum teams to understand progress within a sprint.
A visual graphic showing the amount of work that has been completed during a sprint. Burnup charts are used by scrum teams to track progress toward a sprint goal and ensure work falls within the sprint's scope.
A measurement of the amount of work that can be completed during a sprint. Capacity is based on the number of hours an individual or a team has available to complete work during a given sprint.
One of the five scrum events, this is a quick meeting with the scrum team to review the day’s work, assess progress, and capture any roadblocks.
Definition of done (DoD)
An organization's formal definition of when an increment of work meets the quality measures required for release.
Definition of ready (DoR)
An organization’s formal definition of quality. Once an item reaches DoR it becomes an increment.
An event, collaboration, or piece of work that relies on involvement from another team(s). Dependencies must be completed in order for an agile team to finish a sprint item.
Engineers who complete work during a sprint. Developers, who typically work in groups of three to nine people, are responsible for all aspects of delivering a working and tested increment.
A prediction made by the scrum team about the amount of effort it will take to complete an increment of work, often measured in user story points or time.
A scrum artifact that defines the value that will be delivered to customers upon completion of a sprint. Increments typically build on each other and are stepping stones to delivering a Complete Product Experience (CPE).
A prioritized inventory of features, defects, prioritized ideas, or technical work that has yet to be worked on. The product backlog should include work that is considered valuable from the product owner’s perspective.
Product managers are outwardly focused on the market, customers, positioning, and pricing. They are responsible for setting vision, goals, and major initiatives for the product. They do high-level product planning and own the product roadmap.
Product owners are inwardly focused. They influence the product manager’s responsibilities, such as release planning and feature definition. They represent the customer and advocate for the business case on the scrum team. They are the only member of the team who can change the order of features in the product backlog and choose whether to release a sprint.
The Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) is a set of guidelines for implementing agile and lean principles at scale. SAFe® includes its own set of core principles and guidance for action across three main levels of an organization: team, program, and portfolio.
This is where the sprint happens. A scrum board is a visualization of all of the work in an ongoing sprint. Items are typically displayed across different workflow stages, which helps teams stay organized, assign work, and track progress. Scrum boards are fairly rigid and bound to the goal of sprint completion. Other agile teams use more flexible tools like kanban boards to visualize their work.
Scrum of scrums
A time-boxed meeting designed to coordinate the work of multiple scrum teams working on the same project — integrating outputs and eliminating any impediments.
The scrum team member who helps the development team stay on task, maintain alignment with scrum techniques, and eliminate roadblocks. Scrum masters play the role of coach and motivator — not enforcer.
An agile methodology that combines elements of scrum with elements of kanban. Scrumban teams blend the structure provided by scrum with the flexibility and workflow visualization of kanban.
Originating from Extreme Programming, a spike is a type of user story or feature that is created to dedicate time to research. Instead of producing shippable work, a spike is focused on finding answers to problems and gathering necessary information for upcoming work.
A time-boxed iteration of work that typically lasts between one and four weeks. A sprint includes defined features or user stories to complete with the goal of delivering usable functionality to customers.
A list of upcoming work to be completed in a sprint — in the form of user stories — that is often displayed on the scrum board. The sprint backlog fills up when the engineering team and the product owner work together to divvy up planned releases into sprint cycles.
The stated objective of a sprint. Sprint goals help development teams align on priorities and understand why they are building the current increment.
The planning meeting at the start of each sprint. The product owner, scrum master, and development team meet to determine the set of items from the backlog that will be completed during the sprint.
A separate meeting from the sprint review where the team discusses what went well and what did not go as planned during the sprint. The goal of a retrospective is to identify opportunities for future improvement.
A review meeting that happens after the sprint is complete. The development team typically gives a demo to show what they accomplished, and stakeholders provide feedback to help the product owner decide if the sprint's objective has been reached.
A unit of measurement used to estimate the amount of effort necessary to complete a development task. The number of story points assigned to a user story is based on factors like the volume of work, complexity, and risk.
A measurement of system maintenance costs that result from choosing a limited short-term solution over a higher quality solution that requires more time and resources. Technical debt refers to the overhead of maintaining and eventually reworking such a system.
A metric for determining how much work a team can accomplish during a sprint. On a basic level, velocity is calculated by adding up the completed user story points at the end of a sprint.
In scrum, WIP refers to the total number of work increments that the engineering team is currently working on. Scrum teams may set WIP limits to focus on fewer tasks at a given time.
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- What is agile software development?
- What is an agile roadmap?
- What are the most common agile development methodologies?
- Agile vs. lean
- Agile vs. waterfall
- What is the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®)?
- What are best practices of agile development teams?
- What is unit testing?
- What is DevOps?
- What are some DevOps best practices?
- DevOps and "continuous everything"
- What is an agile retrospective?
- Introduction to agile metrics
- What is a burndown chart?
- What is agile transformation?
- What is issue tracking?
- What is the role of a software engineer?
- Agile glossary