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Glossary of Scrum Terms

12 March 2007

Victor Szalvay

Glossary of Scrum Terms

Burndown Charts

Burndown charts show work remaining over time. Work remaining is the Y axis and time is the X axis. The work remaining should jig up and down and eventually trend downward.

The Scrum books define a sprint burndown chart as a place to see daily progress, and a product burndown chart as where to show monthly (per sprint) progress.

Daily Scrum Meeting

A fifteen-minute daily meeting for each team member to answer three questions:

  1. "What have I done since the last Scrum meeting? (i.e. yesterday)"
  2. "What will I do before the next Scrum meeting? (i.e. today)"
  3. "What prevents me from performing my work as efficiently as possible?"

The ScrumMaster ensures that participants call sidebar meetings for any discussions that go too far outside these constraints.

The Scrum literature recommends that this meeting take place first thing in the morning, as soon as all team members arrive.


Anything that prevents a team member from performing work as efficiently as possible is an impediment. Each team member has an opportunity to announce impediments during the daily Scrum meeting. The ScrumMaster is charged with ensuring impediments get resolved. ScrumMasters often arrange sidebar meetings when impediments cannot be resolved on the spot in the daily Scrum meeting.

Product Backlog

The product backlog (or "backlog") is the requirements for a system, expressed as a prioritized list of product backlog Items. These included both functional and non-functional customer requirements, as well as technical team-generated requirements. While there are multiple inputs to the product backlog, it is the sole responsibility of the product owner to prioritize the product backlog.

During a Sprint planning meeting, backlog items are moved from the product backlog into a sprint, based on the product owner's priorities.

Product Backlog Item

In Scrum, a product backlog item ("PBI", "backlog item", or "item") is a unit of work small enough to be completed by a team in one Sprint iteration. Backlog items are decomposed into one or more tasks.

See also backlog effort estimation unit.

Product Backlog Item Effort

Some Scrum practitioners estimate the effort of product backlog items in ideal engineering days, but many people prefer less concrete-sounding backlog effort estimation units. Alternative units might include story points, function points, or "t-shirt sizes" (1 for small, 2 for medium, etc.). The advantage of vaguer units is they're explicit about the distinction that product backlog item effort estimates are not estimates of duration.  Also, estimates at this level are rough guesses that should never be confused with actual working hours.

Note that sprint tasks are distinct from product backlog items and task effort remaining is always estimated in hours.

Product Burndown Chart

In Scrum, the product burndown chart is a "big picture" view of a project's progress. It shows how much work was left to do at the beginning of each sprint. The scope of this chart spans releases; however, a release burndown chart is limited to a single release.

The following example illustrates a product burndown chart, for an example (ACME ) product:

ACME Sample Product Burndown

For more on product and release burndown charts, please see:

Product Owner Role

In Scrum, a single person must have final authority representing the customer's interest in backlog prioritization and requirements questions.

This person must be available to the team at any time, but especially during the sprint planning meeting and the sprint review meeting.

Challenges of being a product owner:

  1. Resisting the temptation to "manage" the team. The team may not self-organize in the way you would expect it to. This is especially challenging if some team members request your intervention with issues the team should sort out for itself.
  2. Resisting the temptation to add more important work after a Sprint is already in progress.
  3. Being willing to make hard choices during the sprint planning meeting.
  4. Balancing the interests of competing stakeholders.


The transition of an increment of potentially shippable product from the development team into routine use by customers. Releases typically happen when one or more sprints has resulted in the product having enough value to outweigh the cost to deploy it.

"The product is released to customer or marketplace obligations. The release balances functionality, cost, and quality requirements against date commitments." (Schwaber/Beedle, Agile Software Development with Scrum, p. 80).

Release Burndown Chart

In Scrum, the release burndown chart is a "big picture" view of a release's progress. It shows how much work was left to do at the beginning of each sprint comprising a single release. The scope of this chart is a single release; however, a product burndown chart spans all releases.

For more on product and release burndown charts, please see:

Scrum Roles

There are three essential roles in any Scrum project:

  • Product Owner
  • ScrumMaster
  • Team

ScrumMaster Role

The ScrumMaster is a facilitator for the team and product owner. Rather than manage the team, the ScrumMaster works to assist both the team and product owner in the following ways:

  • Remove the barriers between the development and the product owner so that the product owner directly drives development.
  • Teach the product owner how to maximize return on investment (ROI), and meet his/her objectives through Scrum.
  • Improve the lives of the development team by facilitating creativity and empowerment.
  • Improve the productivity of the development team in any way possible.
  • Improve the engineering practices and tools so that each increment of functionality is potentially shippable.
  • Keep information about the team's progress up to date and visible to all parties.

Source: Agile Project Management with Scrum, Ken Schwaber

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An iteration of work during which an increment of product functionality is implemented. By the book, an iteration lasts 30 days. This is longer than in other agile methods to take into account the fact that a functional increment of product must be produced each sprint.

The sprint starts with a one-day sprint planning meeting. Many daily Scrum meetings occur during the sprint (one per day). At the end of the sprint we have a sprint review meeting, followed by a sprint retrospective meeting.

During the sprint, the team must not be interrupted with additional requests. Guaranteeing the team won't be interrupted allows it to make real commitments it can be expected to keep.

Out of practical necessity, some teams choose to bend this rule by declaring some team members 80 percent available at the outset so they still have some cycles left for "Priority One" bugs and emergencies. But this is a slippery slope and should be avoided whenever possible.

Sprint Backlog

Defines the work for a sprint, represented by the set of tasks that must be completed to realize the sprint's goals, and selected set of product backlog items.

Sprint Burndown Chart

A sprint burndown chart (or "sprint burndown graph") depicts the total task hours remaining per day. This shows you where your team stands regarding completing the tasks that comprise the product backlog items that achieve the goals of the sprint. The X-axis represents days in the sprint, while the Y-axis is effort remaining (usually in ideal engineering hours).

To motivate the team, the sprint burndown chart should be displayed prominently. It also acts as an effective information radiator . A manual alternative to this is a physical task board .

Ideally the chart burns down to zero by the end of the sprint. If the team members are reporting their remaining task hours realistically, the line should bump up and down chaotically. The profile shown below is typical, and demonstrates why the "percentage done" concept of traditional project management breaks down. Assuming we started measuring on July 26, what "percentage done" were we on July 28?

Sprint Goals

Sprint goals are the result of a negotiation between the product owner and the development team.

Meaningful goals are specific and measurable. Instead of "Improve scalability" try "Handle five times as many users as version 0.8."

Scrum focuses on goals that result in demonstrable product. The product owner is entitled to expect demonstrable product (however small or flimsy) starting with the very first Sprint. In iterative development, subsequent Sprints can increase the robustness or size of the feature set.

Have your team commit to goals that anyone will be able to see are met (or not met) at the end of the sprint. At sprint review meetings, the sprint demonstration is conducted after which the team asks the product owner whether (s)he feels the goals were met.

While some specific product backlog items may not be done at the end of a sprint, it should be very unusual for a team not to meet its sprint goals. Scrum requires the team to notify the product owner as soon as it becomes aware it will not meet its goals.

Sprint Planning Meeting

The Sprint planning meeting is a negotiation between the team and the product owner about what the team will do during the next sprint.

The product owner and all team members agree on a set of sprint goals, which is used to determine which product backlog items to commit from the uncommitted backlog to the sprint. Often new backlog items are defined during the meeting. This portion of the sprint planning meeting is time-boxed to four hours.

Typically the team will then excuse the product owner from the room and break the backlog Items down into tasks. The product owner is expected to be on call during this phase (previously called the sprint definition meeting) for renegotiation or to answer questions that affect the time estimates. This portion of the sprint planning meeting is time-boxed to four hours. Sometimes teams insert placeholder tasks (with rough estimates) for the product backlog items they don't expect to start working until later in the sprint.

Sprint Retrospective Meeting

The sprint retrospective meeting is held at the end of every sprint after the sprint review meeting. The team and ScrumMaster meet to discuss what went well and what to improve in the next sprint. The product owner does not attend this meeting.

The sprint retrospective should be time-boxed to three hours.

Kelley Louie (Certified Scrum Practitioner) writes: "The sprint retrospective meeting is an integral part of the inspect and adapt process. Otherwise, the team will never be able to improve their overall output and not focus on the overall team performance. The ScrumMaster must pay attention to this meeting and work towards resolving the impediments that may be slowing down the team."


Sprint Task

In Scrum, a sprint task (or task) is a unit of work generally between four and sixteen hours. Team members volunteer for tasks. They update the estimated number of hours remaining on a daily basis, influencing the sprint burndown chart. Tasks are contained by backlog items.

Scrum literature encourages splitting a task into several if the estimate exceeds twelve hours.


A team (or "Scrum team") is optimally comprised of seven plus or minus two people.

For software development projects, the team members are usually a mix of software engineers, architects, programmers, analysts, QA experts, testers, UI designers, etc. This is often called "cross-functional project teams". Agile practices also encourage cross-functional team members.

During a sprint, the team self-organizes to meet the sprint goals. The team has autonomy to choose how to best meet the goals, and is held responsible for them. The ScrumMaster acts as a guardian to ensure that the team is insulated from the product owner.

Scrum also advocates putting the entire team in one team room.

Team Member

In Scrum parlance, a team member is defined as anyone working on sprint tasks toward the sprint goal.


In Scrum, velocity is how much product backlog effort a team can handle in one sprint. This can be estimated by viewing previous sprints, assuming the team composition and sprint duration are kept constant. It can also be established on a sprint-by-sprint basis, using commitment-based planning.

Once established, velocity can be used to plan projects and forecast release and product completion dates.

How can velocity computations be meaningful when backlog item estimates are intentionally rough? The law of large numbers tends to average out the roughness of the estimates.

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Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

Article Rating

Current rating: 3.8 (16 ratings)


Anonymous, 5/15/2007 2:17:59 PM
Thanks for this great resource! There are a few broken links on the page that need to be fixed.
Anonymous, 5/15/2007 2:19:30 PM
Thanks for the comments. You're right, there were some problems with this article. The broken links are a result of the move from the old website to the new website. The editorial team is working to fix these.
Anonymous, 5/17/2007 9:13:35 AM
Difficult to deliver large comprehensive tasks. The 30 day delivery often requires partial implemenrtations that require significant refactoring at the beginning of next sprint.

The race is won by strategy, steady pace, and a spring at the end. Not sprinting the whole way.
Mike Lowery, CSM,CSPO, 7/16/2007 5:31:07 AM
We have found that 2 week sprints work better for us as we can fit 2 weeks into our heads but 1 month is hard to think about.
Chris Markiewicz, CSM, 10/8/2007 12:07:18 PM
I would like to thank you for the resource as well. I find it important to review the finer points from time to time as they seem to get lost after a while. By the way we utilizing 3 week sprints... 2 weeks were just not enough and we felt that 4 weeks would be too much. For us the idea was to pick enough work that everyone could understand and keep focus on for the duration of the sprint.
David Bock, CSM, 6/18/2008 7:35:45 AM
Nice resource. A suggestion for this site would be to have a 'collaborative glossary', where people can provide and refine definitions and others can vote on them. Not quite a wiki, more like
James Perry, CSM, 10/29/2008 3:55:35 PM
I agree, this is a great resource. I use this list often. The only definition I found missing was one for the sprint review meeting. Is that something you could add? Thanks.
Kalle Hallivuori, CSM, 12/18/2008 5:22:42 AM
On Sprint Task: "update the estimated number of hours remaining on a daily basis, influencing the sprint burndown chart."
Should probably be: "update sprint burndown chart when a task is finished."

Otherwise you're following time spent rather than work completed. Latter seems wiser.
Mikko Wilkman, CSM, 1/5/2009 7:16:00 AM
Kalle, I think it's critical to update the task estimates daily. Otherwise the team won't be able to see continuous progress or impediments of the tasks. Even a one hour task might change to an eight hour task (or multiple tasks..) due to new information found out during that one hour that was the original estimate. The key point is not to focus on how many hours the team got done on the task, but how many hours really are remaining. The daily update should never be: "I worked on that for four hours, so you can take four hours out of the estimate", but rather a real estimate on how much work still needs to be done based on current knowledge.
Andrew Kazarinoff, CSP,CSM, 1/6/2009 12:42:32 PM
On Sprint Task: Kalle's view is correct, but only if the burndown is expressed in story points.
Abhijeet Selukar, CSM,CSPO, 3/19/2009 12:16:40 PM
Useful! Couple of quick suggestions; one is to remove the link for Sprint Retrospective Meeting ( which is not working anymore. And add Sprint Review in the gloassary.
Mariusz Dula, CSM, 12/1/2009 4:06:21 PM
Ehh, this link -- -- is still not working (leads to domain for sale) :(
Nirmaljeet Malhotra, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 1/3/2010 11:05:37 PM
Some information about the Sprint Review meeting will be helpful.

Rostyslav Seniv, CSM, 1/12/2010 11:08:24 AM
I think The Team should be separated from The Scrum Team. According to Scrum Guide, discussions on and Ken Schwaber, The Team means everyone except PO and SM while The Scrum Team consists of these three roles together.
Holger Tewis, CSM, 5/10/2010 5:18:59 AM
The link is still not working. Is there any information about the scoreboard?
Cihangir Deniz Ă–zdemir, CSM, 12/29/2010 3:39:19 AM
Why the Product Owner should not attend the Sprint Retrospective? Greez
Mike Cohn, CST,CSP,CSM,CSPO,REP, 1/22/2011 11:11:17 AM
The statement that the product owner does not attend a sprint retrospective is definitely wrong.
Izikovich Shlomi, CSM, 2/3/2011 6:50:35 AM
The link for "Scrum scoreboard" in the sprint retrospective section isn't working. Can you please update it?
Joshua Chi, CSM, 3/5/2012 8:52:36 PM
In sprint, we don't track how much work has been done. We track how much work left. Also, we change from hour estimation to effort estimation recently. And I found abstract effort estimation is really cool. You don't have to find how many exactly hours you need for a single task. What you want to know is if you can finish it in this sprint or not.
Allen Matheson, CSP,CSM, 5/4/2012 10:06:21 AM
The product owner attends the sprint retrospective (per Schwaber, Sutherland, and Cohn):
Jim Constant, CSM,CSPO, 11/4/2012 5:22:38 PM
Hi Victor, I'm not sure where the idea that the Product Owner shouldn't attend the retrospectives came from, but I think it's generally accepted by most SCRUM practitioners to be a good thing for them to do. At my company the PO attends and it's proven to be a good way for the team and the POs to improve the way they work together.
Michael James, CST,CSP,CSM,CSPO,REP, 4/15/2013 9:22:21 PM
In the time since this article was first published, these definitions have been revised and incorporated into the Scrum Reference Card ( ) and the Scrum Training Series ( ).
Arjan Noord, CSM, 8/2/2013 9:39:58 AM
Regarding the product owner not attending the retrospectives, I believe that depends on the situation. According to the Scrum primer he is optional at that meeting.
In the case where you are running scrum for a client, with the product owner being someone from the client and the team being from an external organisation I would be hesitant to include the PO, as it likely limits the openness of the team. The same goes for if the PO is the manager of one or more team members. It is easy to see a conflict of interest arise then.
Richard Bell, CSM,CSPO, 9/27/2013 3:33:20 AM
On sprint burn down and estimating remaining effort, I normally prefer to only burn the (completed) tasks themselves (and apply a mini-DoD to them) rather than keep trying to re-estimate how much work is still required on them. As additional work (e.g. emerging requirements, impediments, etc.) is discovered these are added as additional tasks which increases the remaining work in the sprint. Assuming enough tasks exist (> 3 per day) then the average mitigates the inevitable assertion "but not every task is the same size!"
Ajay Kumar Singh, CSPO, 8/26/2014 8:08:30 AM
Product owner must be part of retrospective meeting then only outcome of such meeting can be useful for project/organization.
John Norman, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 2/3/2016 7:16:55 PM
I love this.

But it doesn't define "product."

Here's an interesting comment from our CTO:

"John: are you thinking scrum processes could be rolled out to other departments as well? ie. Operations, Clinical Operations, Accountable Care, Finance etc.? I think some of those teams are craving to get some sort of process framework going, I haven't heard of scrum being applied outside of product/engineering."

Uh, yes. But given the targeting of the delivery of "product" by Scrum, this document craves a definition of "product."
Krishnaswamy Babu, CSM, 8/20/2016 5:04:44 PM
Agree with John Norman. It is useful to add Product Increment to the glossary, in addition. After all, the output of a sprint is expected to be a product increment.
Simonas Bruzas, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 11/18/2016 1:26:25 AM
From my practice the best way to use PO in retrospective is to invite him/her at the end of the meeting when all impediments are written and direct questions to PO or answers can be given.
Success of retrospective is to tell all impediments to everyone and it could be challenging when PO is attending from the beginning.
Simonas Bruzas, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 11/18/2016 4:29:25 AM
From my practice the best way to use PO in retrospective is to invite him/her at the end of the meeting when all impediments are written and direct questions to PO or answers can be given.
Success of retrospective is to tell all impediments to everyone and it could be challenging when PO is attending from the beginning.

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