Succeeding with Scrum: 10 Tips for Product People

Roman Pichler
7 min readFeb 14, 2023
Photo by Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash

Scrum is not a product management framework. But it can be tremendously valuable for product people: It can help you make the right product decisions and deliver great products if it’s correctly applied. In this article, I share ten tips to help you maximise value delivery with Scrum.

🎧 You can listen to the audio version of this article on my podcast:

1 Complement Scrum with a Product Discovery and Strategy Process

Scrum is a simple framework that helps teams develop successful products. It achieves this by using sprints to create product increments, collecting feedback from users and stakeholders, and adapting the product with the insights gained.[1]

As simple as this sounds, there is a catch: To create value with Scrum, you must understand who the users and customers are, why people would want to use and pay for the product, which business benefits it should generate, and, in the case of commercial products, which features differentiate it from competing offerings. Otherwise, you might ask the wrong people for feedback on the increments and hence draw the wrong conclusions. What’s more, you’ll struggle to determine the right product backlog items. How can you capture the right user stories, for instance, if you are unsure who the users are and why they want to use the product?

You should therefore do just enough product discovery and strategy work before you start using Scrum and before you add any items to the product backlog. But don’t stop there. Continue the discovery and strategy work while the product is being developed. This includes interviewing and observing users, using key performance indicators (KPIs) to track the value of the current product version, keeping an eye on the competition, and monitoring market trends.[2]

If this sounds complicated, then think about common everyday activities like riding a bicycle. Before you can set off, you first have to consider where you want to go and how you will get there — much like the initial discovery and strategy work I mentioned. To move forward, you’ll have to pay attention to the execution: push the pedals, keep your balance, and change gears. But this is not enough. To get to your destination safely, you’ll have to continuously look ahead, avoid obstacles, and possibly adjust the route.

Scrum is like a bicycle; it helps you move forward. But it doesn’t tell you where to go and how to get there — that’s what the discovery and strategy work does.

2 Use Scrum for Products that Experience Uncertainty and Change

Scrum is often seen as the standard way to create digital products, and I have met more than one company where the product managers were told to be agile and do Scrum. But like any tool, Scrum has its benefits and limitations.

I find that the framework is best suited for products that are affected by a significant amount of uncertainty and change. These are typically brand-new and young products as well as products that are experiencing a bigger change, for example, to extend their life cycle by addressing a new market segment or by replacing some of the technologies.

But if your product is in a steady state, for instance, if it is mature, and you focus on incremental enhancements and bug fixes, then you may find it more beneficial to use a Kanban-based agile process instead of Scrum.

Product Life Cycle with Scrum and Kanban

To put it differently, there is no one right way to develop products and deliver solutions — just like there is no single bicycle that is perfect for every terrain. A road bike, for instance, is great for riding on smooth surfaces. But a mountain bike is better for riding offroad.[3]

3 Look beyond the Product Backlog

The product backlog can be a great tool to capture the outstanding work to deliver a product. But it’s not enough on its own. To successfully manage your product and maximise value delivery, you should use additional artefacts including the following five:

  1. An inspiring vision that describes the ultimate reason for offering the product;
  2. A validated product strategy that captures your approach to realise the vision and make the product successful.
  3. An outcome-based, goal-oriented product roadmap, which shows how you intend to implement the strategy and states the specific benefits the product should create in the next, say, twelve months;
  4. KPIs that measure the value your product creates and help you understand if the strategy is working;
  5. A business model that explains how you intend to realise the desired business benefits and in the case of a commercial product, how it is monetised.

Note that none of the five artefacts is part of Scrum. But this does not mean that they cannot or should not be used in combination with the framework. As I mentioned earlier, Scrum is not a product management framework. It therefore offers only limited support for product people.

4 Take Advantage of Product Goals

I like to think of a product goal as the specific outcome that a product should achieve in the next two to three months, for example, to increase conversion, to decrease churn, or to future-proof the product by removing technical debt.[4] Using product goals offers you the following four benefits:

First, they focus and direct the product backlog. Many backlogs I have seen were too long and too detailed. But such a backlog is difficult to prioritise, refine, and update. It makes it hard to successfully deliver a product. Using a product goal addresses this issue: You only add an item to the backlog if it helps you meet the goal. Otherwise, you discard it, at least for now.

Second, product goals provide a continuity beyond the current sprint and help align everyone involved in delivering the product: Everybody should be working on the same product goal at a given point in time.

Third, product goals help you connect the product roadmap and the product backlog, assuming that you use a goal-oriented plan like my GO product roadmap. Choose the next outcome on the roadmap as your product goal and copy it into the product backlog.

Product Roadmap and Product Backlog

Fourth, product goals help you discover the right sprint goals, which, in turn, direct the work of the development team. Simply ask yourself, “What is the next step we have to take to move forward and meet the product goal?”

5 Inspect and Adapt to Maximise Value

If applied correctly, Scrum removes most of the guesswork from delivering a product. Instead of writing down the requirements before any development has taken place and hoping that they are comprehensive and correct, you start with a sketchy product backlog, build a first increment, show it to users, customers, and stakeholders, and evaluate their feedback.

This enables you to quickly try out new ideas and learn which ones create value and which don’t. To put it differently, Scrum’s iterative nature allows you to make data-informed product decisions thereby maximising the chances of delivering a product that does a great job for the users and customers.

To successfully inspect and adapt your product, collect feedback early and often, for instance, by demoing or releasing product increments. Use the data you gather to validate your decisions and generate new ideas. Answering the following four questions with help you with this:

  1. Are you developing a product that is usable and beneficial for the users? Does it offer the right user experience (UX) and the right functionality?
  2. Can the product be successfully offered? For example, can it be effectively marketed, sold, and serviced?
  3. How can you further improve the product to maximise the value it creates, for example, by enhancing, adding, or removing a feature?
  4. What changes should you make to the product backlog? Will any of them impact the product roadmap and require an update?

Note that frequently adapting your product requires that it’s easy to modify the code. If the software is brittle and the code quality is poor, changing the product will take longer and be more expensive. It is therefore worthwhile to measure the code quality and minimise technical debt.

Read On …

To read the rest of this article and access the remaining tips, please head over to my website:

Learn More

You can learn more about successfully using Scrum to deliver great products by attending my workshops.

Reading my book Strategize will help you learn more about making effective strategic product decisions and connecting your product backlog with the product roadmap.



[1] You can think of a product increment as a reusable prototype, as a step towards a new product or a new product version/release.

[2] While I’ve developed a product strategy framework and strategy tools like my product vision board that connects to an agile, Scrum-based process, I am certainly not the only person to recommend complementing agile development practices with strategy and discovery ones. Shout out to Ellen Gottesdiener and Gabby Benefield for their work.

[3] For simplicity purposes, I ignore the option to use Scrum to carry out the strategy work using discovery sprints. As I explain in my book Strategize, I find that a Kanban-based process is a better choice for this job.

[4] Product goals are a comparatively new addition to Scrum. They were first introduced in the 2020 Scrum Guide.




Roman Pichler

Product management expert. Author of “Strategize,” “How to Lead in Product Management” and “Agile Product Management with Scrum.”