Role of the Scrum Framework in Machine Learning Projects

In the fast-changing field of machine learning, projects can be tough to manage because they are complicated and hard to predict.
An agile mindset or methodology like Scrum can improve how we manage and do machine learning projects by being flexible, taking small steps forward, and aiming for clear goals.

I am talking about how Scrum helps with making ML-based projects, and why it is good and useful.

Scrum is a way of managing projects quickly and flexibly, mainly for making new software. With Scrum, teams can manage big projects and make valuable products by breaking tasks into smaller parts and working on them one after the other. Important parts of Scrum include lists of tasks, planning sessions, short work periods called sprints, daily meetings, reviews, and looking back at what was done to improve.

Core Elements of Scrum:

Scrum Team: Composed of a Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Developers.
Sprints: Time-boxed iterations where a set amount of work must be completed.

Product Backlog: A list of tasks or goals that must be achieved, and prioritized by the Product Owner.

Sprint Planning: Meetings that set the goals and define the workload for the upcoming Sprint.

Daily Scrum: Daily meetings to synchronize team progress and obstacles.

Retrospective: Meetings that review the work done and discuss improvements for the next Sprint.

Scrum Your Way to Success

Machine learning projects work well with Scrum for a few reasons:

Handling Complexity and Uncertainty:

Machine learning is all about dealing with lot of uncertainty and complexity. Scrum helps because it breaks the project into smaller parts, making it easier to evaluate and change things quickly when needed.

Iterative Development:

Despite regular software projects, machine learning needs constant tweaking. Scrum lets teams adjust their models based on feedback, making them better over time.

Collaboration and Communication:

Scrum helps teams work together better. This is important in machine learning because different experts, like data scientists and engineers, need to work closely to reach their goals.

How Scrum Helps Machine Learning Projects?
Fast Testing:

With Scrum, teams can quickly try out new models and see how well they work. This is super important in machine learning because testing often leads to better models.
Prioritize tasks:
Scrum helps teams focus on the most important tasks first. This means they can change what they are working on based on what’s most valuable at the time.

Getting Better All the Time:

After each round of work, the team talks about what went well and what they could do better. This helps them keep improving their models and how they manage data, making them even better over time.

Challenges of Using Scrum in ML

1. Unpredictable Development Cycles:

 • Scrum relies on fixed-length sprints with pre-defined tasks.
• In ML, however, the time needed to train and refine a model can be highly variable.
• Finding the right data, cleaning it, and experimenting with algorithms can take longer than expected. This can lead to missed deadlines or incomplete features within a sprint.

2. Data:

• Data acquisition, cleaning, and labeling can be time-consuming and require ability outside the core development team. This can create bottlenecks within a sprint.

3. The Art of Evaluation:

• Scrum emphasizes working software with measurable progress. Evaluating ML models can be complex, requiring various metrics and considerations beyond simple functionality.
• Deciding success criteria for an ML model can be subjective and involve trade-offs. This makes it difficult to define clear “done” states for user stories related to model development.

4. Change is Expected, but Expensive:

• Scrum encourages flexibility and adapting to changing requirements. In ML, altering the model’s architecture or retraining with new data can be a significant undertaking.
• Mid-sprint changes involving the model’s core functionality can have ripple effects, requiring rework and potentially changing other parts of the project.

Overcoming the Bottlenecks

Despite these challenges, Scrum can be successfully applied to ML projects with some adjustments:

1. Focus on learning sprints where data exploration and experimentation take center stage.

2. Break down user stories into smaller, data-centric tasks to track progress within a sprint.

3. Incorporate data scientists and engineers into the Scrum team for effective collaboration.

4. Define success criteria for ML models that consider trade-offs and incorporate them into user stories.

5. Adopt a failure fast, learn fast mentality to adapt to changing data or model performance.


If teams get how Scrum works with machine learning projects, they can use its structure and teamwork to do a fantastic job and make a significant difference. But it’s important to remember that using Scrum with machine learning means being ready to change things and work differently to deal with the unknowns that come with using data.


Muhammad Kamran
Associate Director QA & Testing
POMS Division
Contour Software
Subsidiary of Constellation Software

Leave a Comment