Agile techniques have become very popular and effective approaches to delivering benefit on a project. For this reason, we will focus on Agile frameworks, techniques, principles and ideas as well.
Agile SCRUM is one of many Agile frameworks. SCRUM is a very specific framework that focuses on the following roles.
- Scrum Master
- Product Owner
The following graphic depicts each role and the relationship of the role with the other SCRUM roles.
The Scrum Master Role
The Scrum Master, despite popular belief, is not the Agile term for a project manager. In fact, the Scrum Master serves a very different purpose. The Scrum Master does not have responsibility for delivering the project. Rather, the Scrum Master is a facilitator, coach and champion of the Scrum framework and process.
The biggest challenge to applying Scrum within an organization is not the actual Scrum process. It is the cultural change and acceptance of the new roles that an organization finds most difficult (e.g., the enhanced power of the Team to commit to a Sprint goal, and to deliver it with little interference from “management”). More on the differences later, but because the organization does need to accept a significant change in philosophy, there is a need for a Scrum Master, who serves as the coach, mentor, facilitator, champion, and cheerleader.
Adopting Agile Scrum framework is as much about a change in philosophy as it is a change in processes. This is because Agile Scrum places distinct responsibilities on each of the roles. Agile Scrum does not allow anyone to play more than one role. And the tension among the roles is there for a reason — almost like a balance of power among the roles so that no one role has an unfair authority over the other roles.
It is for the above stated reasons that a full-time Scrum Master is recognized as the authority on Scrum and needed to continue to facilitate and champion the process, to ensure that the process is followed as intended, and to coach members as needed.
Specific Scrum Master responsibilities include the following:
- Communicate the value of Scrum
- Teach the organization on Scrum to maximize business value
- Facilitate Sprint Planning, Daily Scrums, Sprint Reviews and Retrospective Meetings
- Create the Task Board and Sprint Burndown Chart at the start of every Sprint
- Attend all Scrum meetings
- Preserve the integrity and spirit of the Scrum framework
- Maintain the focus of the Team
- Make the Team aware of impediments and facilitate efforts to resolve them
- Serve as a coach and mentor to members of the Team
- Respectfully hold the Team, Product Owner and Stakeholders accountable for their commitments
- Continually work with the Team and business to find and implement improvements
The Scrum Team (Team) Role
The Team is ultimately responsible for committing to a Sprint goal and promising to deliver it within the timeboxed Sprint. The Team is self-managing and self-organized. The Team works with the Product Manager to determine what items from the Product Backlog they can deliver in a Sprint. They Team decomposes the Product Backlog into a series of activities that must be accomplished as part of the Sprint. Since the Team commits to the Sprint, they must ensure that they can deliver on what they promised. Sprints cannot be extended or delayed. So the Team wields great power, but the Team is also held accountable for delivering on their commitment.
Specific Team responsibilities include the following:
- Commit to, and self-organize, around a Sprint Goal (A Sprint Goal is different from the Sprint activities. The Sprint Goal is the intended spirit and purpose of the Sprint. So if the Team realizes in mid Sprint that a required activity for the Sprint is missing, the Team should add the activity to the Sprint so that they can deliver the Sprint Goal)
- Work with the Product Owner to analyze and decompose the Product Backlog items
- Help create and maintain the Sprint Backlog, Sprint Burndown Chart and Task Board
- Demonstrate the product at the end of each Sprint — during the Sprint Review
- Implement action items that come out of Retrospectives (essentially lessons learned)
- Facilitate Sprint Planning, Daily Scrums and Retrospectives if the Scrum Master is not able to do so for any reason
- Attend all Scrum meetings
- Collaborate and share knowledge and experience among the Team, Product Owner, Scrum Master and Stakeholders
- Help other members of the Team
- Look for ways to continually improve
The Product Owner Role
The Product Owner is responsible for delivering product value. This means working with the Stakeholders to understand their needs and developing a Vision and a Product Backlog that aims to achieve the Vision. This role might be the closest role to a classic Project Manager role. However, there are still significant differences. For example, the Product Owner does not control what the Team commits to completing. The Product Owner prioritizes the list of items on the Product Backlog in sequential order (from 1 to n). But the Product Owner cannot force the Team to commit to delivering beyond what the Team feels comfortable. Since the Sprints are timeboxed (usually 2 weeks to 30 day Sprints), the Team is ultimately responsible for defining what they can deliver.
Specific Product Owner responsibilities include the following:
- Maximize business value by the Team
- Maintain and prioritize the Product Backlog sequentially (1 to n)
- Create and maintain the Release Burndown Chart
- Help the Scrum Master organize Sprint Review Meetings
- Attend Scrum Meetings
- Clearly communicate the business case to the Team and Stakeholders
- Build and maintain a relationship with the Stakeholders
- Support the Scrum Master to help the Team become self-organizing
- Report progress to the Stakeholders regularly
- Ensure the proper use of corporate resources and assist the Team to obtain resources as needed
The Stakeholder Role
The Stakeholder is anyone who has an interest or stake in the project. This can be the direct managers of the Team members, the persons providing funding for the project, the Project Manager — yes I said Project Manager. Combining Agile Scrum with traditional project management is not unusual. In fact, Scrum does not account for many of the things often required for a project such as project management documents and artifacts. This might be because of organizational policies and procedures that require a level of oversight that requires specific documents be created (e.g., Risk Management Plan, Quality Assurance Plan, Project Management Plan, Procurement Management Plan, etc.). These responsibilities still fall under a Project Manager role.
Within the Scrum framework, Stakeholders are responsible for communicating their needs, and providing feedback on the product.
Specific Stakeholder responsibilities include:
- Work with the Product Owner to develop and maintain the Product Backlog
- Attend Sprint Planning meetings as needed to provide feedback and expertise
- Provide direct feedback to the Team during Sprint Reviews
- Remove roadblocks and impediments for the Team, Product Owner and Scrum Master
- Avoid distracting the Team during a Sprint — after the Team has committed to the Sprint
- Support the Scrum Framework