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How to connect Development Teams and customers?

A Scrum Team consists of Product Owner, ScrumMaster and Development Team. The Product Owner is responsible for maximising the value of the product resulting from work done by the Development Team. The Development Team consists of professionals who do the work of delivering a potentially releasable Increment. They are structured and empowered by the organisation to organise and manage their own work.

The Product Owner is a highly collaborative role, working with various units within the organisation such as Sales, Marketing, Legal, HR etc., and closely working with Development Teams, middle management teams, senior leadership roles, end-users etc. Hence there is a huge need to connect and collaborate between Development Teams and several stakeholders.

A Product Owner may leverage some of the following techniques to connect Development Teams directly to customers and users.

Job shadowing

Job shadowing means working with another person who might have a different job in hand, have something to teach, or be able to help the person shadowing him or her to learn new aspects related to the job, occupation, organisation, certain behaviours or competencies. Organisations have been using this as an effective tool for learning.

A Development Team member shadows an end-user to understand a few questions below amongst others:

  1. What is his/her daily job routine?
  2. What are the user’s needs, concerns, struggles and expectations?
  3. What can improve quality and/or productivity in the user’s day?

Usability testing

This is a technique used in user-centred interaction design to evaluate a product by testing it on users. This can be seen as an irreplaceable usability practice, since it gives direct input on how real users use the system. It is more concerned with the design intuitiveness of the product and tested with users who have no prior exposure to it. Such testing is paramount to the success of an end product as a fully functioning product that creates confusion amongst its users will not last for long.

Development Team members can monitor the usability of the product or the application while real users test and use the product or the application. They can directly collect feedback and new ideas while testing the usability.

Usability testing focuses on measuring a human-made product’s capacity to meet its intended purpose. Examples of products that commonly benefit from usability testing are food, consumer products, web sites or web applications, computer interfaces, documents, and devices. Usability testing measures the usability, or ease of use, of a specific object or set of objects.

User research

User research focuses on understanding user behaviours, needs, and motivations through observation techniques, task analysis, and other feedback methodologies. This field of research aims at improving the usability of products, services, or processes by incorporating experimental and observational research methods to guide the design, development, and refinement of a product.

Customer observation

Involves watching and listening carefully to users as they work with a product. Although it is possible to collect far more elaborate data, observing users is a quick way to obtain an objective view of a product.

Simulating customer experience

The word “simulation” implies an imitation of a real-life process in order to provide a lifelike experience in a controlled environment. It can be thought of as somewhere to learn from mistakes without doing any damage. Simulation-based learning is a constructivist learning model that provides learners with an experience of working on a usually simplified simulated world or system. Development Teams can create simulations (or real world like experiences) for the users.

Advantages of simulations:

  1. Conditions can be varied, and outcomes investigated.
  2. Critical situations can be investigated without risk.
  3. It is cost effective.
  4. Direct interaction will bring more transparency, in terms of understanding user’s needs and behaviours.

Sprint Reviews

A Sprint Review is one of the events in Scrum framework. It is held at the end of the Sprint to inspect the Increment and adapt the Product Backlog if needed. During the Sprint Review, the Scrum Team and stakeholders collaborate about what was done in the Sprint. Based on that and any changes to the Product Backlog during the Sprint, attendees collaborate on the next things that could be done to optimise value.

While the Product Owner leads the Sprint Review discussions, the Development Teams showcase work done during the Sprint to the stakeholders, ask for feedback and adapt for upcoming Sprints. Stakeholders, apart from providing feedback, also discuss about current product trends, market expectations etc.

Product Backlog Refinement

Product Backlog refinement is the act of adding detail, estimates, and order to items in the Product Backlog. This is an ongoing process in which the Product Owner and the Development Team collaborate on the details of Product Backlog items. During Product Backlog refinement, items are reviewed and revised.

A Product Owner can also invite stakeholders to the refinement sessions. This gives the Development Team an opportunity to directly interact with customers and users, understand their perspective and hence create or refine the product accordingly.

Benefits of connecting teams directly to customers and users:

  1. Build deeper understanding of user expectations and develop empathy.
  2. Early understanding of user needs, reduces gaps in understanding
  3. Helps shifting left and hence reduce time to market.
  4. Fosters collaboration amongst various groups within as well as outside the organisation.
  5. Increased transparency.
  6. Optimises the Development Team’s overall efficiency and effectiveness.
  7. Creates value for the organisation, hence better Return on Investment.


  • Wikipedia.
  • Scrum Guide from www.ScrumGuides.org.

About the author:

The author, Suresh Konduru, is a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) certified by Scrum Alliance, and is based out of Hyderabad, India. He has 22 years of working experience in Fortune 500 companies globally.

He conducts workshops for Scrum Alliance flagship certifications such as Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO). These are interactive zero power-point sessions conducted across Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Delhi, Chennai, Kochi and other cities in India; as well as outside India. Suresh uses real-world examples, group learning activities to make the workshops learning as well as fun. Suresh also consults for Fortune 500 organisations in product development, Agile transformation and change management initiatives.

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