What is Scrum?
Scrum is an iterative, incremental process for developing any product or managing any work. It produces a potentially shippable set of functionality at the end of every iteration. It's attributes are:
Scrum naturally focuses an entire organization on building successful products. Without major changes -often within thirty days - teams are building useful, demonstrable product functionality. Scrum can be implemented at the beginning of a project or in the middle of a project or product development effort that is in trouble.
Scrum is a set of interrelated practices and rules that optimize the development environment, reduce organizational overhead, and closely synchronize market requirements with iterative prototyes. Based in modern process control theory, Scrum causes the best possible software to be constructed given the available resources, acceptable quality, and required release dates. Useful product functionality is delivered every thirty days as requirements, architecture, and design emerge, even when using unstable technologies.
Over fifty organizations have successfully used Scrum in thousands of projects to manage and control work, always with significant productivity improvements. Scrum wraps an organization's existing engineering practices; they are improved as necessary while product increments are delivered to the user or marketplace. As heard about Scrum, "oh, that's just my idea X by another name". Except, Scrum is spelled out as values, practices, and rules in a development framework that can be quickly implemented and repeated.
Scrum has been used to produce financial products, Internet products, and medical products by ADM. In every instance, the organization was logjammed, unable to produce shippable products for such a long period of time that engineers, management, and investors were deeply concerned. Scrum broke the logjam and began incremental product delivery, often with the first shippable product occuring with the same quarter.
Scrum as applied to product development was first referred to in "The New New Product Development Game" (Harvard Business Review 86116:137-146, 1986) and later elaborated in "The Knowledge Creating Company" both by Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi (Oxford University Press, 1995). Based on their ideas and research in process theory performed in collaboration with DuPont Advanced Research Facility, Scrum was first formulated and presented to the Object Management Group in 1995. The Scrum process is fully described in a recent book from Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle, Agile Software Development with Scrum (Prentice Hall, 2001). An excerpt of that book can be read here.