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Scrum and Project Management

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Volume 4 | Issue 6 | June 2010

Daniel Vitek, MBA, PMP

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI) Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) a project is defined as a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.

Scrum is one of several Agile management methods. Its primary objective is delivering value early and often yet remaining ready to adapt to change at any point throughout the project life cycle.

Scrum is an iterative development methodology that cycles through project work in fixed durations referred to as Sprints. Each Sprint is planned and executed, typically lasts 2-4 weeks, and contains components of the full product life cycle, including planning, requirements, design, and testing. During each Sprint, work is performed collaboratively by the project team with focus on face-to-face interaction over written documentation. At the end of each Sprint stakeholders reevaluate project priorities and begin work on the next iteration.

Scrum is distinct of any defined project management processes such as The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Enterprise Performance Life Cycle (EPLC). Scrum is simply a foundation utilizing an iterative development approach on which to apply project processes and management oversight. This iterative approach to delivery enables project teams to remain flexible and quickly adjust to change and also supports the transparency of effort needed to effectively manage delivery performance.

Although Scrum is typically used for software development the concept of agile, iterative delivery can be applied to other types of efforts that may benefit from such an approach. However, to successfully implement and utilize Scrum organizational support from leadership, managers, subject matter experts, clients, and other stakeholders is necessary.

Key Scrum Principles:
Overarching Scrum principles include focusing on the following. While there is value in the items on the right, greater value is achieved by focusing on the items on the left.

  • Individuals & interactions over processes & tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

These overarching principles guide the Scrum process consisting of elements/activities such as:

  • Product Roadmap: A high-level view of project components that are implemented to ensure successful completion.
  • User Stories: Traditional requirements designed to develop a working piece of software at the end of each sprint. Serves to represent the end product which the stakeholder desires for the software development.
  • Product Backlog: A prioritized list of software requirements organized in ranking order with the highest priority items near the top.
  • Product Burn-Down Chart: Utilized in other project management techniques and serves to provide visual representation of projects, which is broken down into several segments based on goals.
  • Sprint: An iterative process that depicts a phase completed throughout the project life cycle. The timeframe of a sprint is determined based on a project’s needs and is often distinct in terms of the duration (i.e. 2-4 weeks).
  • Sprint Planning: A process conducted during the initial phase of the sprint.
  • Sprint Backlog: Identifies all prioritized areas during the initial planning phase to complete based on technical needs. The project team collectively works to determine tasks for completion.
  • Daily Scrum: Team stand-up meeting integral to the success of Scrum.
  • Sprint Review: Meeting at the end of each sprint.
  • Working Software: Represent the deliverable (i.e. product) developed at the end.

Traditional projects are typically divided into phases of delivery to allow for better control over project progress. A traditional waterfall approach contains life cycle phases such as requirements, design, build, test, and implement. This approach typically involves a great deal of investment early in the project, well before any real business value has been achieved. Product development is also pushed later into the life cycle further delaying delivery of value and potentially yielding earlier requirements obsolete.

The benefits of combining Scrum with traditional project management methods has also been recognized by the HHS EPLC as illustrated in the lower-center of the EPLC image below.

Scrum techniques and approaches can be leveraged in just about any collaborative environment that has executive support for a targeted development approach to delivering incremental benefit throughout the project life cycle. Benefits of Scrum combined with traditional management may include:

  • Providing multiple views of a project
  • Handling rapid customer changes, which often common to research oriented environments
  • Promoting the faster completion of more software
  • Communicating during daily Scrum meetings provides focus and encourages project team to rapidly address problems
  • Fostering leadership involvement and serves to inform all parties of the project’s activities

Portions of this newsletter were paraphrased from a presentation by Chase Beasley, CSM and Tom Brinks, PMP, CSM delivered during the May 2010 meeting of the CDC Project Management Community of Practice (PMCoP). 

For more information and tools related to the topic(s) covered in this newsletter, the CDC Unified Process, or the Project Management Community of Practice please visit the CDC Unified Process website at

Please also visit the CDC Unified Process Newsletter Archive located at for access to many additional newsletters, articles, and management related topics and information.


The CDC UP offers a short overview presentation to any CDC FTE or Non-FTE group. Presentations are often performed at your location, on a day of the week convenient for your group, and typically take place over lunch structured as one hour lunch-and-learn style meeting.

Contact the CDC Unified Process at or visit to arrange a short overview presentation for your group.


The CDC Unified Process Project Management Newsletter is authored by Daniel Vitek, MBA, PMP and published by the Office of Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services.

For questions about the CDC Unified Process, comments regarding this newsletter, suggestions for future newsletter topics, or to subscribe to the CDC Unified Process Project Management Newsletter please contact the CDC Unified Process or visit



  • January 29, 2010
    Topic: Art of Project Estimating
  • February 26, 2010
    Topic: Project Management Career Paths
  • March 26, 2010
    Topic: Project Management and Scrum, Together
  • April 30, 2010
    Topic: Value of Project Management to CDC
  • May 21, 2010
    Topic: Managing Project Scope and Risk
  • June 25, 2010
    Topic: Controlling Project Execution
  • July 30, 2010
    Topic: Microsoft Project Server 2007 (Desktop & Server)
  • August 27, 2010
    Topic: EPLC Tailoring
  • September 24, 2010
    Topic: Effective Stakeholder Communication
  • October 29, 2010
    Topic: Leadership and Mentoring
  • December 10, 2010
    Topic: Managing Projects in a Virtual World


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