Scrum is one of the simplest yet powerful Agile frameworks which is used to implement processes in software development and other domains. Scrum uses an iterative and incremental approach of integrating features which consists of the short duration of work called Sprints. Sprints consist of Scrum Events such as Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospectives. The team begins a project with the minimal essential features required for the project and later adds more features to the product based on the internal and external feedback. This framework may differ from other Agile frameworks such as Kanban where workflows continuously. Scrum has three key accountabilities: the Scrum Master, the Product Owner, and the Developers. There are other stakeholders and positions such as Business Analysts and Architects who are an integral part of the Developers. In this article, we discuss why a Scrum Master is important and what accountability they play during the development process.
What is a Scrum Master?
According to Scrum Guide 2020, the Scrum Master is a true leader of the Scrum team who is responsible for establishing Scrum as defined in the guide. They are responsible for running the process of product development smoothly and providing guidance to the team and Product Owner. Their key accountability is to ensure that all the Agile practices are followed by the team members and serve the business, team members, Product Owner, individuals, etc. The productivity and effectiveness of the Scrum team are the responsibility of the Scrum Master. They have to ensure that the team understands Scrum theory and practices concerning the Scrum Team and the organization at large. A Scrum Master has to also ensure that the team collaborates and divides the work according to their skills and efficiency. They also have to resolve any conflict in the team and make sure all processes run smoothly such that the product is delivered on time.
Importance of Scrum Master to the Scrum Team:
The Scrum Master is valuable to all the team members in various ways. For a Scrum Team, the Scrum Master serves the following accountabilities:
- A Scrum Master is a guide to the Scrum team; they help the team understand all Scrum practices. Hence, one of the prime accountability of a Scrum Master is to mentor the team members and educate them about the Scrum practices.
- Any conflict among the Scrum team is resolved under the supervision of the Scrum Master. This implies that the Scrum Master facilitates the process of development and tries to resolve any issues that come along the way.
- As Scrum believes in building self-managing and cross-functional teams, the Scrum Master must build these qualities in the Scrum Team members.
- The work done by the Developers can be verified by the Scrum Master to ensure that they have met the definition of done.
- The quality of the product delivered by the Scrum team is the shared responsibility of the Scrum Master along with the Developers and the Product Owner.
- The effectiveness and productivity of the team depend on the guidance of Scrum Master on how they handle all the work process from planning to execution.
- A true Scrum Master would bring out the potential in fellow team members such that they can make their own decisions and become a self-managing team with excellent decision-making skills.
- The Scrum Master removes all the impediments that a Developer faces such that they could move forward with the product development. These impediments would be discussed every day in the Daily Scrum meetings.
- Conducting Scrum events and making sure that they turn out to be productive and positive and also ensuring that they happen as per the time duration in the Scrum guide.
The Scrum Master is accountability that serves as true leadership to the budding Scrum team members. Mentoring the Scrum team and guiding them to make their own decisions needs dedication, knowledge, and patience. The members of the Scrum team learn many skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, conflict management, etc. from a true leader. This helps the team become more experienced in projects and hence, the team becomes more familiar with handling projects and could make decisions on their own without involving the Scrum Master. Scrum Master has to work along with the Scrum team in all aspects and monitor their progress. Any reward which the team achieves is the reward the team won under the guidance of the Scrum Master.
Importance of Scrum Master to the Product Owner:
The Scrum Master carries out many duties which help the Product Owner to plan the product development process. Few of the important accountabilities performed by a Scrum Master to help the Product Owner are:
- Planning and finding effective product goal definitions and Product Backlog items which would fit the product vision.
- Becoming a medium of communication between the Developers and the Product Owner so that the Product Backlog items and goals could be made clear to the Scrum team.
- Helping the Product Owner to establish empirical product planning which would be suitable for the complex environment of the organization.
- Helping the communication between the stakeholders and the Scrum team whenever needed or requested.
The Product Owner communicates the requirements of the product from the stakeholders to the Developers. Often, the Product Owner may require a helping hand to make the Developers understand the vision and requirements of the product. Also, the Product Owner needs to understand the perspective of the Developers of whether a feature or User Story is possible and how much time and effort it may take. A Scrum Master could represent the Developer’s point of view and put forward the concerns of the duration given to complete a specific functionality. The Scrum Master could also explain the perspective of the stakeholders and help Developers choose the appropriate tool to go forward with a specific feature of the product. This ensures that communication and collaboration in the Scrum team run smoothly and the product upgrades and increments are delivered on time.
Importance of a Scrum Master to the Organization
There are several ways in which a Scrum Master would serve the organization. A few of them are:
- The Scrum Master is the primary person who facilitates the adoption of Scrum framework in any organization.
- The Scrum Master makes people understand the principles and practices of Scrum. This implies that the Scrum Master leads, trains, and coaches the members of the organization to have an effective Scrum adoption.
- Advising and planning the implementations of Scrum in the organization is also one of the major accountabilities performed by Scrum Masters in the organization.
- Scrum employs an empirical approach towards complex work which people who are new to the framework may find difficult to understand. Scrum Masters have expertise in this area where they coach the employees and the stakeholders about this approach used in Scrum.
- The barriers between the stakeholders and the Scrum teams are removed by the Scrum Master.
Skills required to be a Scrum Master:
- A skilled Scrum Master can connect to people and build and maintain relationships with the stakeholders, the team members, and the Product Owner.
- The Scrum Master should have a deep understanding of how the delivery process of their organization works and also knows the steps taken to bring the products to the market.
- While performing the accountability of Scrum Master, they also understand how other Agile processes such as kanban, Lean, SAFe, etc. works.
- The Scrum Master involves the team members during the process of setting up and also recognizes any conflict between the team members and takes action immediately before it becomes disruptive.
- The Scrum Master has the skill to confront and also inspire the team members and have the ability to get the job done effectively.
- They also train the Agile teams in a manner that helps them remain on a clear and successful path. A true leader encourages ownership, shares experiences, and coaches their team members professionally.
- The Scrum Master has a strong understanding of all the concepts and components of Scrum. They help other team members interpret Agile concepts and methods in effective ways which is productive to the team members and the organization.
- The Scrum Master needs to maintain proper management and transmission of information such that all the data about the project is transparent to all the people involved in the project.
- Skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making are of utmost essential for becoming a successful Scrum Master.
Levels of Scrum Master
Based on the experience and skills of a Scrum Master, various levels can be found in organizations such as below. These are not formally defined in the Scrum Guide but are practical adaptations depending on the organization’s need.
- Rotating Scrum Master: Here, the Scrum Master accountability is rotated among the Scrum team members where the administrative accountability of the Scrum Master is performed by an individual in each sprint.
- Part-time Scrum Master: In this case, one particular person takes the accountability of Scrum Master in addition to their development accountability on the Scrum project.
- Full-time dedicated Scrum Master: One individual whose sole responsibility is the Scrum Master’s accountability is appointed. This model is best suited for teams who are new to the Scrum framework and need guidance in their work.
- Full-time Scrum Master for more than one team: In bigger teams, there is a sole person appointed to act as a Scrum Master and with experience, this person could handle more than one team.
- Agile Coach: This person could be an expert in Agile concerns and works with several teams but only on specific needs.
Based on the level of certification, there are also several levels of Scrum Master. They are:
- Certified Scrum Master: The CSM course is one of the most popular Scrum courses in which individuals who are interested in the process part of the development enroll. This course does not require any prerequisite and anyone interested can participate.
- Advanced Certified Scrum Master: The ACSM course is the advanced level of the CSM course. A person having a CSM course and 1-year experience as Scrum Master after the CSM course can attend this certification.
- Certified Scrum Professional®-Scrum Master: This course is taken by individuals who have completed the A-CSM course and are looking for higher opportunities in the Scrum framework. These practitioners make an impact at the organizational level.
All of these courses are offered by Scrum Alliance and are the best courses for any individual who is aspiring to become a great Scrum Master.
A Scrum Master is a true leader which is required by the Scrum Team, the Product Owner, and the organization. Many companies may not consider having a Scrum Master, however, they are crucial for the smooth process of product development. With a Scrum Master, there could be better communication between the team and the stakeholders, lesser conflicts among the team members, and smooth collaboration. The Scrum Master plays a crucial role in facilitating the project and mentors the team members whenever they are stuck with any impediments. Also, the team members get to learn more about the Scrum framework which encourages them to take their career to the next level. Having a Scrum Master would also be helpful as the Scrum Master acts as a guide to new Scrum professionals. The Productivity and effectiveness of the Scrum team would also increase which means the company meets its business targets, generates revenue, and also maintains customer satisfaction.