Translating Scrum Terminology

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Recently reviewed I am constantly being asked to translate the terminology used in Scrum to the often more sensible terminology of other agile methods such as Extreme Programming (XP) and Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD). The primary goal of this brief article is to provide such a translation, hope you find it useful. One of the philosophies of Scrum is to use different terminology to help people understand that what Scrum describes is different than what people are currently doing. The problem is that much of the Scrum terminology, taken from rugby, is really questionable at best when you step back and think about it. The table below lists the existing Scrum term, my thoughts about it, and in some cases shares one of the wonderful Chicken and Pig cartoons (click on each cartoon for a link to the source article) by Mike Vizdos and Tony Clark.

Scrum Term Translation Chicken and Pig's View
Burndown Chart This isn't such a bad name, although in practice people generally use the term iteration burndown chart for tracking the work left for the current iteration and release burndown chart for the work left for the current release of the system.
Chickens and Pigs Mike Vizdos' really cool cartoons aside, labeling people chickens and pigs is arguably disrespectful. Why agile team members would want to be considered pigs to begin with is questionable, and calling non-team members chickens? Yikes.

Might have to draw this one myself. ;-)

Daily Scrum Daily Stand-Up is a much more accurate term. The term "daily scrum" only sounds like a good idea to anyone who has never actually played rugby. Scrums in rugby are rough things, for those on the inside, where people's ears can get bitten, teeth are knocked out by elbows, and other bad things happen.
Product Backlog Work item list is probably a better term, although for simple situations I can see how "product backlog" makes sense. The Scrum concept of having a prioritized stack of requirements, the product backlog, is pretty good at level 1. However, you quickly discover that you need to manage more than just functional requirements, you should also handle defects (which are arguably requirements). The lean concept of treating these things as a collection of options that you pull from when you have capacity to do so, instead of as a prioritized stack that you have to maintain, is arguably more even more advanced.

Coming soon!

Product Owner This term actually makes sense. Score one for the Scrum community. On-Site Customer and Stakeholder Representative are also common alternatives.
Scrum Master Team Lead or Team Coach are much better terms. I suppose that "Scrum Master" makes sense to people into the leather scene, but for everyone else it's just goofy.
Sprint Iteration is a better term, one that's used by pretty much every other method, although time-box is also a good option. Sprints follow each other constantly, and nobody sprints through a race.

Coming soon!


Suggested Reading

Disciplined Agile Delivery This book, Disciplined Agile Delivery: A Practitioner's Guide to Agile Software Delivery in the Enterprise describes the Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) process decision framework. The DAD framework is a people-first, learning-oriented hybrid agile approach to IT solution delivery. It has a risk-value delivery lifecycle, is goal-driven, is enterprise aware, and provides the foundation for scaling agile. This book is particularly important for anyone who wants to understand how agile works from end-to-end within an enterprise setting. Data professionals will find it interesting because it shows how agile modeling and agile database techniques fit into the overall solution delivery process. Enterprise professionals will find it interesting beause it explicitly promotes the idea that disciplined agile teams should be enterprise aware and therefore work closely with enterprise teams. Existing agile developers will find it interesting because it shows how to extend Scrum-based and Kanban-based strategies to provide a coherent, end-to-end streamlined delivery process.

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