Scrum is a product development framework, not a project framework. Why is it discussed in Project Management?

Those who don't know Scrum and project management, may think that Scrum is a project management methodology and try to figure out how to apply Scrum for managing projects. This can be a source of confusion.

I suppose it would be better to create a Product Management forum and discuss Scrum there.

  • 8
    This is more a META question :) May 16 at 10:35
  • Could you elaborate: what does Product Development mean? How does it differ from Project Management? May 20 at 6:22

Scrum is an Adaptive Solution-Delivery Framework

Your premise is incorrect. Scrum is not solely a product development framework, although it certainly works particularly well in the software product development space. The Scrum Definition says:

Scrum is a lightweight framework that helps people, teams and organizations generate value through adaptive solutions for complex problems.

Whether you agree that it is "lightweight" or that it is a good fit for a given problem domain is certainly arguable, but it's a framework based on empiricism and lean techniques that are successfully used (in whole or in part) in many different industries and domains besides product development. It is also used as a core underpinning for many other frameworks such as SAFe.

Anecdotally, I've successfully implemented Scrum in multiple service industries such as property preservation, business administration, and kennel management. While one occasionally has to take some liberties with the notion of "product" as it relates to the backlog, and "developer" as it relates to the people executing against the Product Backlog, it works almost anywhere that you are able to deliver a product or service in iterative and incremental stages, and where the delivery can benefit from empirical process control.

  • Painting the word “cat” on the side of an elephant doesn’t make it fit in your lap. It’s neat that Scrum has a canonical answer to this, but your anecdotal evidence is the much stronger supporting argument.
    – fectin
    May 22 at 19:30

Scrum is a great framework for managing projects so it is very much on-topic here. A project is just a temporary piece of work that has a predicted/expected end point. PMSE does claim to be a forum for PMs but the real topic of discussion is ways of organising work, whether that work is "project" work or not.

In Scrum you can view each sprint as a separate project or any sequence of sprints as a project. When dealing with software products, projects often matter very little. It could be argued that most software development gets done outside of any project remit and that if your development teams are sufficiently elastic and adaptable then projects become mostly irrelevant.

  • What kind of projects do you mean? PMBoK projects can not be done by Scrum.
    – Daniel
    May 16 at 15:42
  • Many different kinds of project are done with Scrum, not just software development projects. The PMBoK Guide is a guide to a number of different practices and ideas in project management, including Scrum. There is no such thing as a "PMBoK project".
    – nvogel
    May 16 at 15:58
  • 1
    @Daniel In Scrum the triple constraint is managed through sprint planning and prioritisation. This is a topic discussed extensively in these forums but is different to the question you asked here. Maybe you should start a new question. Scrum is great for achieving transparency and accountability, delivering on scope and meeting deadline and budget targets. However many people will tell you that if you attempt to fix time, scope and cost at the start of any complex software development work then your project is probably heading for trouble right away.
    – nvogel
    May 16 at 16:31
  • 2
    @Daniel The problem with any complex adaptive project is that predictions made at the start are probably wrong. It is certain that no framework or recipe of any kind can deliver on your estimates if they are wrong, but Scrum gives you an excellent chance of setting and meeting the right expectations whenever it is feasible to do so. If you doubt that then please start a new question.
    – nvogel
    May 16 at 17:29
  • 3
    @Daniel The use of the PMBOK doesn't offer a money-back guarantee that you can simultaneously fix scope, time, and cost either, much less quality. In fact, the received wisdom in project management is that you can generally fix at most two of these constraints, and the others will need to flex. All project management frameworks are essentially used to establish controls, not to guarantee outcomes. There is no silver bullet.
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    May 17 at 3:34

PMBOK define as project as: "a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result".

I think a lot of people equate this "result" with a scope, a defined list of things that need to be done to achieve the result. While Scrum does contain some useful process control element and predictive tools, the adaptive core of it doesn't fit in this environment. There's nothing to learn, there's just stuff to do.

On the other hand, it the "result" is the thing the team is shooting for, then new things will be learnt about how to best achieve that goal on the way. Course correcting and adaption are going to be a natural part of the process.

So it's more that Scrum is incompatible with projects where a business goal has been replaced with a rigid plan.


To me, "Scrum is a sometimes-useful project organizational technique." It emphasizes the use of short, iterative, development cycles ("sprints") which – so to speak, "after planning what it's going to do next, it throws a few balls up in the air, juggles them, then brings them back down into your hands before doing it again."

It is a valuable tool of project management, although it does not address every valid project-management concern and really isn't intended to do so. It certainly isn't a religion.

"The Scrum Guide" is exactly that: a guide. It presents a cohesive but abstract picture of a project organizational strategy that you inevitably adapt in some way to achieve a concrete implementation that works in your particular case.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.