Scrum Framework in the Pandemic Context

The Agile methodology and the Scrum framework have become increasingly popular in recent years in IT and in other fields, too, aiming at finding solutions to complex problems, providing a better structuring of the way of working.

Scrum Framework in the Pandemic Context

written by Roxana Crainiciuc (Project Delivery Lead) and Sarolta Rupi (Project Delivery Manager), in the October 2022 issue of Today Software Magazine.

Read the article in Romanian here

Looking at all the things that are happening around us, from restrictions caused by COVID-19, to climate anomalies or tense political situations, we can see that we are going through a period of major change, affecting both our personal and professional lives.

The pandemic context has brought with it unprecedented changes in the professional field, especially in terms of the way we work, namely the transition to full remote or hybrid working.

The Agile methodology and the Scrum framework have become increasingly popular in recent years in IT and in other fields, too, aiming at finding solutions to complex problems, providing a better structuring of the way of working.

Taking into account that they are based on direct and physical interaction between people helping to facilitate communication and cohesion of teams, we analysed the Scrum framework in a pandemic context in a full remote or hybrid working mode, following the direct effects on teams and the way they are coordinated.

The main concepts of the Scrum framework were first mentioned in 1986 in the article "The New New Product Development Game", featured in the Harvard Business Review. The idea was to define a fast and flexible process for developing new products, with an emphasis on self-organised teams, overlapping development phases and the role of management.

The term "scrum" was taken from rugby, inspired by the moment when the team resumes play after a rule violation has occurred or the ball has been knocked out of play. In those tense moments, team members try to be as close to each other as possible, passing the ball alertly from one to the other, denoting a very close collaboration (Takeuchi & Nonaka, 1986) (Rubin, 2013).

In 1995, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland presented the Scrum framework as a development process for the first time in the paper “Business Object Design and Implementation” (Schwaber, 1995). This was later followed by the publication of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development in 2001 (Agile Manifesto) and the first edition of the Scrum Guide in 2010 (Schwaber & Sutherland, 2020).

According to the Scrum Guide, Scrum is a simple framework designed to help teams and organisations find adaptive solutions to complex problems.

The team, made up of software developers, a product owner and a scrum master, works iteratively and incrementally and is encouraged to learn from past experiences and reflect on their successes and failures to identify potential problems early and have a continuous improvement process.

Frequently, continuous feedback and learning are essential to developing a product tailored to customer needs. A few elements that underpin effective collaboration and successful product development are the Scrum’s three pillars (transparency, review and adaptation) and its five values (commitment, focus, openness, respect and courage).

Within this framework, a team works in sprints, i.e., a month or less, in which a functional increment of software is delivered. Each sprint is structured in the same way and contains a series of ceremonies that promote transparency and collaboration, namely:

  1. Sprint Planning (setting tasks to be processed to develop a functional increment);

  2. Daily Scrum (checking progress towards the sprint goal);

  3. Sprint Review (reviewing the functional increment at the end of the sprint and setting next goals);

  4. Sprint Retrospective (reviewing process-related successes and failures to implement improvements).

To these can be added Sprint Refinement (defining and prioritising next tasks for future product increments), which is not officially mentioned in the Scrum Guide.

Agile methodology and the Scrum framework ensure efficient and tight team collaboration, as it focuses on people and their interactions instead of processes and tools.

This idea is found in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development and was put to the test during the pandemic, when there was a shift to a full remote or hybrid way of working, making it difficult to maintain constant and dynamic interactions between team members.


Thus, physical interactions of colleagues turned into virtual meetings, spontaneous discussions became planned discussions, and short interactions between colleagues during breaks became almost nonexistent. These changes also significantly impacted team coordinators, as this new context made it difficult to identify problems, tensions and possible misunderstandings between team members.

Given these issues, a big challenge for leaders was maintaining motivation in teams and creating a flexible context in which teams felt safe, their members had more regular and effective interactions, and client results and goals were achieved.

A year after the pandemic began, an internal company survey revealed employees' preferences on how to work. The survey found that 50% of employees prefer hybrid working, 25% would like to work 3 days from home and 2 days from the office, 12.5% would prefer to work only from home and 12.5% would choose to work only from the office.

Subsequently, two years after the start of the pandemic, employees were subjected to another survey on the effects of the Scrum framework on collaboration in a full remote or hybrid context between team members. The survey involved two sets of questions, each with a different target group: the first group was represented by team leaders, while the second was made up of members of the teams they lead. The aim was to capture the different perspectives of the two groups.

According to the results, 66.7% of the leaders felt that the Scrum ceremonies, being scheduled with a certain recurrence, provided an organised and stable context that favoured obtaining an overview of the teams' progress and the impediments that their members face.

They were also an opportunity to come up with immediate solutions to problems and at the same time to clarify possible misunderstandings in order to prevent early delays in delivery.

How has the Scrum framework been adapted to ensure the social side? First of all, the activation of cameras during each ceremony contributed to a better understanding of the team members' state and motivation level. Secondly, each ceremony was allocated a short discussion session to share various experiences, both from professional and especially personal life.

Leadership style in an online context has meant continuous adaptation, closer attention to the state of teams, motivation and how to manage work time and delimit it from personal time.

Importantly, face-to-face interaction cannot be replaced, and the Scrum way of working was more of a tool to facilitate interaction. In addition, flexibility, adaptability, and prioritising the needs of teams to socialise, to be helped, involved and listened to were the key element of successful collaboration, even if this meant sometimes breaking the rules of the Scrum methodology, mainly by exceeding the time allocated to a particular ceremony.


As among leaders, team members felt that the Scrum way of working helped maintain relationships with colleagues and clients by constantly finding an opportunity to socialise. It also helped to develop a strong sense of belonging and an awareness that they are working together towards a common goal.

Although it came with several drawbacks, the full remote or hybrid way of working emphasised the importance of developing and integrating social skills. Paying attention to each other's needs, actively listening, asking clear and objective questions to check on the state of others, empathy and supporting colleagues at key moments are just some aspects that fall within the range of emotional intelligence.

Other skills developed in this context were: communication and collaboration skills, effective time planning, coping and motivating oneself and others.

Considering the perspectives addressed, we can conclude that during the pandemic, the Scrum framework also facilitated communication and collaboration between team members, helping them to be successful and achieve customer goals.

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