The problem with SCRUM these days is that there is too much information available about what it is all about, and not enough guidance about how to go about implementing it correctly. Knowing the basics of SCRUM roles is all well and good; however, you must also know how and why each role is needed in your team or organisation.
There are three main roles within a SCRUM team: Scrum Master, Product Owner and Team Members (or ‘Development Team’ as it is also known in some industries). There are however, two more roles that are key to a SCRUM team’s success and these are Stakeholders and Users. These two roles are not official parts of a SCRUM of the team, but they are, nonetheless, crucial to its framework and output, and so deserve a mention here.
Like the sport of Rugby where the Scrum name originates, teams huddle together on a regular basis to plan, and more importantly push forward but unlike the game of rugby, there is usually a mixture of people and it is less rough, most of the time.
The SCRUM Master is responsible for ensuring that all processes are understood and enacted. He or she does this by ensuring that the rest of the team adheres to the understood theory, practices, and rules of SCRUM. The Scrum Master is a servant-leader for the Scrum Team, helping those outside the main SCRUM team understand which of their interactions are helpful to the overall process and which are not. The SCRUM Master helps everyone change and adjust these interactions as required to add value and ensure cohesion with the team.
The Product Owner is responsible for maximising the value of the product and the work of the Team Members. The Product Owner is solely responsible for managing the project backlog, which includes:
- Highlighting and identifying project backlog items
- Organising project backlog items to best achieve objectives/goals
- Supporting and optimising the value of the work carried out by Team Members
- Ensuring that the project backlog is visible, transparent, and clear to all, clarifying what the SCRUM Team is working on next
- Ensuring Team Members understand how to handle items in the project backlog and can work to the level needed
The Product Owner can opt to do the above work themselves, or oversee one or more Team Members doing it; however, he or she will always remain accountable for its successful completion.
Team Members consist of professionals who do the work to fulfil the requirements of the project and deliver the finished service or product. Teams are structured and empowered by the organisation to manage their own work and are expected to demonstrate the following characteristics:
- They are self-organising. No-one (not even the SCRUM Master) should tell the Team how to turn project backlog into Increments of potentially releasable functionality
- Team Members are cross-functional, combining all the necessary skills to create a product Increment
- SCRUM does not recognise any titles for Team Members
- Scrum also does not recognise sub-teams within the main Team. Even when different individual members work alone on their specialised areas, the accountability of the entire project rests with the Team as a whole. It stands or falls together
Teams should be small enough to remain nimble and large enough to complete significant work without needing significant outside resources to be brought in.
Stakeholders have a legitimate interest in the project as they are a key part of why the product or service is being created in the first place. Stakeholders have certain requirements and preferences around how the product or service is delivered; thus, in business terms, their input and opinion must be considered as an extremely important part of the process. It is the responsibility of the entire SCRUM Team to fulfil the requirements of the Stakeholders and to satisfy them.
In return, Stakeholders review the SCRUM team’s progress and provide continual feedback as the product or service is developed.
Users are not traditionally regarded as part of the main SCRUM framework. Rather, they are a more agile concept. Their role is to help Team Members understand and conceptualise the project’s requirement and how it will be received on completions. Users can also be called ‘personas’ and are helpful guides to keep the product or service on track.
SCRUM implementation is especially successful if it is adopted in its entirety and not in a diluted manner. The different roles are a very important part of the SCRUM methodology, and yet they are often the most diluted component. Many a times, SCRUM team roles are shared or even, which can skew the approach and unbalance the amount of responsibility places on each member of the team