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How to make non-functional requirements visible in Scrum


In the realm of Scrum, a popular agile framework, the focus often lies on delivering functional features that directly impact the end-users. However, non-functional requirements, which describe the general attributes of how the system behaves, are equally crucial. These requirements, though vital for ensuring a product’s quality, performance, and user experience, often lurk in the background. The challenge, therefore, is to bring these non-functional requirements into the limelight, ensuring they’re not overlooked during the development process.

This article will describe how to make non-functional requirements visible in Scrum, through:

  • regular engagement with the product owner
  • regular reviewing and updating NFRs
  • using tools and techniques
  • incorporating them into the Definition of Done.

What are Non-Functional Requirements?

Non-functional requirements (NFRs) define the system’s behavior, setting the standards for performance, reliability, scalability, and other critical attributes. Unlike functional requirements, which describe what a system should do, NFRs describe how the system should do it.

For instance, while a functional requirement might state that a system should allow users to log in, a non-functional requirement might specify that this login process should not take more than two seconds. It’s clear that while functional requirements drive the features of a product, non-functional requirements ensure the product’s overall quality and user satisfaction.

The Evolution of Non-Functional Requirements in Scrum

non functional requirements visible scrum

Over the years, as Scrum has solidified its position as a leading agile framework, the understanding and handling of non-functional requirements have also evolved. Initially, many Scrum teams struggled with integrating these requirements, often relegating them to the background. However, as the nuances of product development under Scrum became clearer, the importance of NFRs began to shine through.

Making Non-Functional Requirements Visible in Scrum

In the Scrum framework, visibility is paramount. Every team member should have a clear understanding of the tasks at hand, including non-functional requirements. Here’s how to make them stand out:

  • Separate List on the Scrum Board: One effective way to highlight NFRs is by maintaining a dedicated list on the Scrum board. This ensures that these requirements are always in the team’s line of sight, reminding them of their significance. A separate column or a distinct color can be used to differentiate them from functional tasks.
  • Incorporate into the Product Backlog: The Product Backlog is the heart of any Scrum project, housing all the tasks to be tackled. By adding NFRs to this backlog and ensuring the Product Owner is updated about the expected effort, teams can ensure that these requirements are given the attention they deserve.
  • Integration and Regression Tests: Before concluding a Sprint, it’s crucial to run integration and regression tests. These tests can highlight if any NFRs have been inadvertently overlooked. Any pending tasks can then be captured and added to the Sprint Backlog for the subsequent Sprint.

Best Practices for Handling Non-Functional Requirements in Scrum

Engage the Product Owner

The Product Owner plays a pivotal role in Scrum, acting as the bridge between the development team and the stakeholders. It’s essential that they have a deep understanding of both functional and non-functional requirements.

Regular interactions and reviews can ensure that NFRs are prioritized correctly. Since many non-functional requirements are quite technical in nature (especially ones around performance or availability), they may come from developers in the team, rather than the Product Owner. Remember, the Product Owner is accountable for the Product Backlog, but other people can add things to it! (as long as they get agreement from the PO to do that).

Regularly Review and Update

Just like functional requirements, NFRs can evolve over time. Regular reviews can ensure that the NFRs in the backlog are still relevant and in line with the project’s goals. Teams can do this through regular backlog refinement (an activity briefly described in the Scrum Guide – it used to be called Backlog Grooming, but please don’t call it that any more).

Use Tools and Techniques

There are numerous tools and methodologies designed to highlight NFRs in Scrum projects. Tools like JIRA or Trello can be customized to make NFRs stand out. Additionally, techniques like user story mapping can help in visualizing how NFRs fit into the overall product landscape.

Definition of Done

A great way to get visibility and priority on NFRs (especially those that span across multiple stories or epics) is to put them in the Definition of Done! This is a very important commitment that the team makes about quality expectations for all of its backlog items. Adding NFRs into the Definition of Done will mean that all backlog items must meet those NFRs to be considered Done.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What should we do with non-functional requirements to make them visible?
    • It’s wise to add them to the definition of done, ensuring they are addressed in every Sprint.
  • How do Scrum teams typically handle non-functional requirements?
    • Scrum teams address non-functional requirements by adding them to the product backlog as independent tasks or by constraining them within functional requirements.
  • Why are non-functional requirements crucial in Scrum?
    • Non-functional requirements, while not directly impacting functionality, play a vital role in ensuring the product’s overall quality, performance, and user experience.

LSI and NLP Keywords Related to “How to Make Non-Functional Requirements Visible in Scrum”

  • Scrum board
  • Product Backlog
  • Definition of “Done”
  • Sprint cycle
  • Product Owner
  • Integration tests
  • Regression tests
  • Agile development
  • Scrum methodology
  • Product development

Relevant External Links with Anchor Text

For those looking to delve deeper into this topic, here are some invaluable resources:


In the world of Scrum, where the focus is often on delivering tangible features, it’s easy to overlook the non-functional requirements. However, these requirements are the backbone of any successful product, ensuring it not only meets but exceeds user expectations. By making these requirements visible and giving them the attention they deserve, Scrum teams can ensure they deliver products of the highest quality. Remember, in the end, it’s not just about what your product does, but how it does it.

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