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Agile Scrum Artifacts Explained

Learn about the main Scrum artifacts and extensions. Learn how they feed each other and together help guide the sprints toward product victory.

Motion Blog
at Motion
Sep 26, 2023
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Are you navigating the perplexing realm of Scrum? Do you feel lost in a sea of roles, artifacts, and jargon?

Don't worry, you're not alone! Mastering Scrum can be challenging, especially if you're new to this Agile framework.

To help, we’ll detail the different Scrum artifacts, from the three main ones to two extra extensions. We’ll also show you how to manage these artifacts using an easy-to-use tool: Motion.

What is Scrum?

Scrum is an Agile framework that uses an iterative approach to project management. It's a dynamic approach where values like teamwork, transparency, and adaptability take the lead.

Anyone new to Scrum might find its uniqueness a little challenging to adopt. It has distinct roles, elements, artifacts, ceremonies, and terms that people outside Scrum might not know. Take the Scrum master as an example; instead of a traditional manager in Scrum, they guide the team to autonomy and clear obstacles from their path. Or, they use sprint planning to achieve short-term sprint goals for the long-term product vision, compared to traditional project planning.

While Scrum stands out as its own framework, it shares common ground with other Agile frameworks. Projects are cut into sprints spanning one to four weeks, concluding with delivering a functional piece of the final project. After the initial review, the development team adjusts the new sprint and delivers another working piece. The team will repeat this process until the final product is complete and meets all the requirements.

What are Scrum artifacts?

Scrum artifacts are an integral part of the Scrum framework. Each builds upon the next one, leading to a successful product and Scrum project.

The whole process starts with the product backlog, which lists all the features and requirements of the product. The Scrum team then uses a sprint backlog, which is made from a list of tasks that aim to achieve the product requirements. Then, they create the product increment (the iterative developments), an ever-evolving result of the previous sprints.

The two backlogs carry information about achieving the product requirements and are made by the product owner, Scrum master, and Agile team. They help to make swift decisions, adapt to changes, and maintain the project's objectives. The product increment feeds off of these two documents to guide its development.

According to this survey, 66% of respondents use Scrum methodologies. Knowing what these artifacts are and how to use them plays a big part in a Scrum's success.

The 3 Scrum artifacts

The traditional Scrum guide mentions three artifacts: the Product backlog, the Sprint backlog, and the Increment.

Product backlog

The product backlog is a dynamic inventory that catalogs a product's features, improvements, and bug fixes. It is a living, breathing document that evolves and reflects any priorities or changes in user needs.

Product backlog example

‎Maintaining the product backlog is the responsibility of the product owner. As new insights emerge, the product owner works with the stakeholders, end-users, and the Scrum master to adjust the backlog accordingly. The product owner also plans future sprints with the Scrum master, feeding them critical backlog items. With a clear and organized product backlog, the Scrum team will know what essential tasks to tackle first.

To help ‌project teams work on the right backlog items, the product owner and Scrum master must also prioritize product backlog items. This process is often called backlog grooming or product backlog refinement. They often use techniques like the MoSCoW method, cost of delay, and value-based prioritizing:

  • The MoSCoW method categorizes items into Must Have, Should Have, Could Have, and Won't Have
  • Cost of delay focuses on the financial impact of delaying a feature
  • Value-based prioritization centers around the potential value a feature will bring to the project and stakeholders

A well-prioritized product backlog is like a recipe book for success. It helps the team know what to cook up next and helps them ‌focus on the most delicious features first.

Sprint backlog

The sprint backlog is a subset of the broader product backlog, only tailored for the tasks and current sprint goals.

Sprint backlog example

‎Let's say you're planning a cross-country road trip. The product backlog is like your master travel plan, listing all the places you must visit to reach your goal.

On the other hand, the sprint backlog is like the detailed itinerary for the current day's journey. It shows you where to go today to reach the bigger destination.

Managing and creating the sprint backlog is typically the responsibility of the Scrum master. However, it's best to do this as a team, as this follows one of the core values of Agile: transparency. It also creates a sense of shared responsibility for the team members.

After the upcoming sprint items have been selected, they're then broken down into smaller, actionable sprint tasks that team members can work on.

To help manage the sprint backlog, the Scrum master will often use a sprint board. These are created on either a whiteboard or an Agile project management app. It's divided into columns like “To Do,” “In Progress,” and “Done,” and as backlog items move through these phases, they move across the board. This board helps the Scrum master visualize the flow of work; it also helps them ‌spot any bottlenecks or delays.

Product increment

At the end of each sprint, the product increment emerges due to completed backlog items. And after all the sprint backlog items have been completed, the sprint final product, or increment, will emerge.

Product increment example

‎Let's say we're assembling a puzzle. Each puzzle represents a backlog item the Scrum team has worked on during the sprint. As the pieces fit together, the product increment takes shape. It's not the whole picture yet, but a clear part. Over time, these increments accumulate and contribute to developing a fully functional product.

Here's where it gets interesting. The product increment isn't just an isolated piece; it's connected to the bigger context of release planning. Picture this like chapters in a book. Each sprint contributes a chapter‌ — ‌the product increment‌ — ‌to the story of your project. When it's time for a new release, you get to select which chapters (increments) make it into the book (the release) based on business priorities.

The process of reviewing and prioritizing increments for release is like curating a playlist. You've got a bunch of great songs (increments), but you want the playlist (release) to flow and resonate with your audience (stakeholders). To do this, the Scrum master has to consider what fits the theme, what delivers the most impact, and what keeps everyone engaged.

Other Scrum artifacts by extension

There are two extensions that can significantly help with Agile sprints.

Sprint burndown chart

One of these extensions is the sprint burndown chart.

Sprint burndown chart example

‎It works as the sprint progresses and plots the remaining work against time. This shows you if you're ahead of or behind schedule in real time.

But it's not just about tracking work; the sprint burndown chart also serves as a guide. It shows you the pace needed to complete the remaining tasks within the sprint. You'll know where to pick up the pace if you fall behind.

The sprint burndown chart can also be an early alert system for potential delays. Observing an unexpected increase in the remaining tasks could indicate that something isn't going according to plan.

Definition of Done (DoD)

In Scrum, there's a useful concept that keeps everyone on the same page: the Definition of Done (DoD). Think of it as the rules that determine when a task or feature is complete, polished, and ready for delivery. It prevents any misunderstandings or assumptions about what “done” actually means.

The DoD is a shared understanding among the Scrum team about the work's criteria. This shared understanding becomes the standard that everyone adheres to.

Let's say your team is developing a new feature for a software application. The DoD might include acceptance criteria like:

  • The code is tested and bug-free.
  • It's integrated into the main codebase.
  • It's documented for future reference.
  • It's been reviewed by a colleague.

Only when all these boxes are checked can the feature be truly considered “done.”

Definition of Done example

‎The DoD isn't just about quality; it's also about setting a high bar for excellence. It's your way of saying, “We don't just want to get things done; we want to get them done right.”

Manage your Scrum artifacts with Motion

With a clear grasp of ‌Scrum artifacts and how they work, you're ready to go ahead and tackle some sprints. You can use a project management tool like Motion to help you manage and attain your Scrum artifacts.

With Motion's innovative Agile task manager, you can effortlessly organize and prioritize tasks to produce (sprint and product) backlog items and increments. Whether it's features, enhancements, or bug fixes, Motion's intuitive interface helps you to make sure every item finds its place.

Motion can build your schedule

‎But that's not all—Motion goes beyond manual assignments. With Motion, you assign tasks to team members with priorities, deadlines and dependencies. Motion’s AI automatically allocates to their schedule based on this and other work. It can even dynamically reorganize them when changes occur. Thanks to its automation prowess, tasks related to your backlog are effortlessly distributed among your Scrum team.

Ready to try Motion? Sign up for your 7-day free trial.

Motion Blog
Written by Motion Blog