Let’s look at the Artifacts involved in Scrum – items or objects that provide Transparency and allow us opportunities for Inspection and Adaptation.
The Product Backlog is an ordered list of all the features that might be required in a product. The Product Owner is responsible for the content, ordering and availability of the backlog.
The Product Backlog is a living artifact, that is, it is never complete. Items are removed from the backlog when they are selected for a Sprint. Items can be added to the backlog at any time, but are most commonly added during Backlog Refinement.
Initially the backlog holds only the best known requirements, but as the product and its environment change, items are added to the backlog.
The items in the Product Backlog are ordered by their priority. Higher ordered backlog items are usually clearer and better understood than items lower down the list. As items increase in priority, they are refined so that the Development Team have a better understanding of them.
The Product Backlog is an information radiator – a large, easy to see, display of data that is accessible to all. It allows individuals to see the upcoming features for a product and liaise with the Product Owner if they think an important requirement is missing. However, only the Product Owner can add items to the backlog.
The Sprint Backlog consists of the Product Backlog Items selected for the Sprint, plus a plan of how to turn those items into an Increment.
During Sprint Planning, the Development Team decides which items it can implement during the Sprint, and these items are selected for the Sprint Backlog. The Development Team then formulates a plan on how to complete the work.
As more information becomes available during the Sprint, the Sprint Backlog may change, with new items being added or unneeded items being removed. The plan to implement the items may also change.
The Sprint Backlog is owned by the Development Team. Only they can decide how much work can be completed in a Sprint and only they can change the Sprint Backlog.
The Increment is all the Product Backlog Items that have been completed during the current Sprint, plus all of the previous Increments. The Increment is a “Done” piece of software functionality that is potentially releasable to the customer. It is the decision of the Product Owner if the Increment is actually released or not. The Increment should allow the Sprint Goal to be satisfied.
So that artifacts can be inspected, they must be transparent. This allows decisions based on the state of the artifacts to be made in order to control risk and increase business value. If artifacts are not sufficiently transparent, then they cannot be successfully inspected and risks may increase, costs may rise and decisions can be made incorrectly.
A good level of transparency has been achieved when the state of an artifact allows it to be easily inspected. This can be achieved by creating an open and blameless culture and ensuring that all members of the Scrum team are easily accessible. Stakeholders should be able to easily visit the Development Team in their office, as long as this doesn’t negatively affect the work of the team e.g. by stakeholders trying to add work to the Sprint without the consent of the Product Owner.
The Scrum Master works to ensure that all artifacts have the required level of transparency. They can do this by inspecting the artifacts, looking for patterns and noting differences between expected and actual results. For example, a Cumulative Flow Diagram can show where backlog items have been stuck in progress, causing a bottleneck. However, if a Scrum Master is made aware of an impediment, but this isn’t reflected in the cumulative flow diagram, this can indicate that the progress of a backlog item hasn’t been updated i.e. the Sprint Backlog doesn’t have full transparency.