Magazines Register

Scrum and Your Publishing Workflows

In a time when publishing is fraught with challenges, most of us are looking for ways to work smarter. It’s in this spirit that many publishers are taking a page from the developer community, whose embrace of the Scrum methodology provides an effective collaborative framework for complicated projects. What is Scrum and how can publishers use it?

What is Scrum?

Scrum is an Agile methodology designed to help teams manage big projects. It allows workers to adapt to a changing environment while maintaining focus on a consistent goal. It is the perfect organizational application for software development, which requires a high level of innovation and self-awareness. Scrum outlines a series of staff roles, tools, and meetings to help teams structure and control their work.

Scrum is rooted in continuous improvement. It recognizes that a complex project should evolve throughout the process. Scrum focuses on an iterative process to support innovation as a project moves toward completion.

Waterfall vs. Scrum: What’s the difference in publishing?

Static problems are solved with a waterfall approach. Waterfall methodology assumes the upfront planning remains accurate even as you move through workflows to reach the goal. The problem is, markets are now too volatile to stay firmly fixed on an outcome without recognizing that environmental factors may change before you get there. The publishing market has shifted rapidly over the past two years, which begets the question: If applying Waterfall methodology to team organization doesn’t work anymore, could it be time to shift to Scrum? Doing so may help publishers improve internal processes so that they can flex as external and internal situations change.

Some of the major differences in the application of Waterfall vs. Scrum for team organization include:


  • Establish a static goal.
  • Define a set of tasks.
  • Work toward the goal.
  • Shelve ideas that arise during the process until the original goal is reached.
  • Set a new goal once the original goal is reached, which may incorporate ideas generated during the process.


  • Establish a big goal, such as building new software or publishing a magazine.
  • Establish short-term goals within the big goal, referred to as a sprint. Sprints typically are conducted in two-week increments. Each sprint kicks off with a sprint planning meeting where the team decides which backlog items (see below) will be worked on.
  • Put tasks into a “product backlog.”
  • Run brief daily standup meetings (15-minutes) to discuss the work.
  • Add new ideas into the backlog as they arise.
  • Conduct a sprint retro at the end of a sprint to discuss what happened in the previous sprint and what is coming up next.

Scrums pillars are threefold:

  • Transparency
  • Inspection
  • Adaptation

Scrum incorporates the iteration and continuous improvement process into the project on an ongoing basis. It can empower your workforce to have a sense of ownership in the product. In contrast, Waterfall is great when the goal is static, all your upfront planning is accurate, and there are no surprises in the form of changing customer demand or market shifts. But the truth is, none of us live in that kind of world anymore.

So, how can publishers use Scrum to their advantage?

How can publishing teams use Scrum?

Scrum embraces change. The idea here is to break big tasks into small steps, measure success, and iterate quickly as part of the process. How can we use this? Newsrooms like The Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post actively use Scrum for their digital platforms. Scrum naturally lends structure to what can seem like a free-for-all in the fast-paced newsprint world. Magazines like Neue Narrative use Scrum for three distinct strategic goals:

  • To discover new channels for growth.
  • To evolve into a decentralized digital publishing model.
  • To increase subscriptions.

Publishers can use Scrum to adapt to supply chain issues and effectively deliver on-demand digital publishing. The key to Scrum is,  “The team is self-organizing and should have all of the necessary skills to complete the work.” This kind of self-actualization could increase employee engagement, as well.

Contact your Sheridan representative or visit our contact page to ask how we can help you streamline your publishing processes, reduce costs, and keep up with changes in print and publishing strategies.

Proven Content