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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Participants in Scrum

In the previous couple of articles, we covered the basics ofScrum and its history. Though we took a very high level look at the 3 key participants, we haven’t covered them in great detail yet. In fact, apart from those 3 key participants, there are also other participants. The purpose of this article is to cover these roles.

The Key Participants in any Scrum Project are:
  1. The Scrum Team
  2. The Product Owner
  3. The Scrum Master

The Product Owner:

The Scrum Product Owner is the hybrid combination of a Business Stakeholder and a Business Analyst in regular Project Management Terminology. The Product Owner is responsible for achieving maximum business value, by taking all the inputs from the customer or end-user of the product, as well as from Team Members and stakeholders and translating this into a prioritized list of business requirements. In some cases, the Product Owner and the customer may be the same person. In most of the cases, the customer is someone different from the Product Owner.

  • The person responsible for maximising the return on investment of the development effort 
  • Responsible for the product vision
  • Constantly re-prioritizes the product backlog, adjusts the long term expectations like release plans
  • Final arbiter of requirement related questions
  • Accepts or rejects the product increments
  • Decides whether to ship the increment produced by the development team
  • Considers Stakeholders interest
  • Plays a Leadership and Decision Making Role 

 The Scrum Team:

The Scrum Team is the team that will be building the product that the customer is going to use, for ex: The software product or website. The team in Scrum is “cross-functional” which means that, the team already has all the expertise necessary to deliver the potentially shippable product during each development Sprint. On top of this, the team is also “self-managing” which means that the team has a high level of autonomy and accountability. In the world of Scrum the team doesn’t need a manager to make sure they work properly.

The team in Scrum is typically five to ten people (In most cases). However, teams as large 15 are also known to work effectively. For software projects, this team will include analysts, developers, interface designers and even testers. The team builds the product, but they also provide input and ideas to the Product Owner about how to make the product better.

In real life, there may be scenarios where team members split their time between Scrum Projects and other projects. Though this is very possible, the team members would be more productive if they are fully dedicated to the scrum project at hand. Similarly, there may be situations where team members have to be changed when moving on from one sprint to another. Though this is inevitable, retaining the same team for subsequent sprints can be greatly beneficial in retaining the productivity of the team.

Projects with larger teams are organized as multiple Scrum Teams, each focused on a different aspect of the product development, with close coordination of their efforts.

  • A Cross Functional Team which includes members with different skillsets like development, testing, business analysis etc. 
  • Self-Organizing and Self Managing (No Project Manager is assigned to manage the work)
  • Negotiates on delivery commitments with the Product Owner – one iteration/sprint at a time
  • Has autonomy regarding how to reach these commitments
  • Very collaborative
  • Preferably co-located (in the same room or office) at least for the first few sprints
  • Preferably a stable team instead of moving people between teams or splitting peoples time between teams
  • Preferable team size 6-8 pax 
  • Team has decision making authority on their work as well as the product scope being considered for the sprint

The Scrum Master:

The Scrum Master is one of the most important elements of Scrum Teams success. The Scrum Master does whatever is in their power to help the team succeed in their attempt at building the product.

The Scrum Master is not the manager of the team; instead, the Scrum Master serves the team, protects the team from outside interference, and guides the team’s use of Scrum. The Scrum Master makes sure everyone on the team understands and follows the practices of Scrum, and they help lead the organization through the often difficult change required to achieve success with Agile methods.

Since Scrum makes visible many impediments and threats to the team’s effectiveness, it’s important to have a strong Scrum Master working energetically to help resolve those issues, or the team will find it difficult to succeed. Scrum teams should have someone dedicated full-time playing the role of Scrum Master. In case of smaller teams, the same scrum master could play that role for multiple projects.

An Important Point to note here is that - The Scrum Master and the Product Owner Cannot and Should Not be the same individual. This is because; there may be times when the Scrum Master may have to push back on the Product Owner. A classic example would be when the Product Owner wants to introduce new requirements/deliverables when the Sprint is mid-way through.

  • Facilitates the Scrum Process
  • Resolves impediments
  • Creates an environment conducive to team self-organization
  • Captures empirical data to adjust forecasts
  • Shields the team from external distractions 
  • Enforces Timeboxes
  • Maintains scrum artifacts 
  • Does not have any authority over the team or decision making capability reg. the product 
Difference between a Scrum Master and a Project Manager:

The Scrum Master does not tell people what to do or assign tasks like a traditional project manager. The Scrum Master facilitates the process as well as supports the team as it organizes and manages itself. If a Project Manager is taking over the role of a Scrum Master he/she would need to significantly alter their mindset and style of interaction in order for the team to be successful with Scrum.

Other Participants in a Scrum Project Environment

Apart from these 3 Key participants in a Scrum Project, there are other roles in a Scrum Project Environment. They are:

Stakeholders – The term Stakeholder is a blanket term that includes customers, users, sponsors and everybody else who may be involved or impacted by the project. Though the Product Owner acts as the liaison between the scrum team and the business stakeholders in real-life the team may end up interacting with these stakeholders directly as well.

Scrum Governance Body/Group – Just like we have a PMO’s office in traditional project management world that sets up the standards and guidelines for Project Management in the Organization, the Scrum Governance Group will set up the guidelines and standards in the practice of Scrum in the organization.

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