The Scrum Body of Knowledge Guide (SBOK Guide) has very well defined Scrum roles for successful implementation of Agile Scrum Methodology for product development and project delivery.

In the previous chapter, we provided an overview of how agile methodology came to life and how it gained popularity over the years and was widely accepted across industries.

Continuing our efforts to help you gain more insights into the agile methodology, we would like to help you understand the basics of the Scrum Team and Scrum Roles.

Take a look at the below image to understand how the Scrum Roles are constituted and look in an actual Scrum implementation.

Scrum Core Team
Image Source: SBOK Guide 3rd Edition

The Major Scrum Roles are

  • The Product Owner
  • The Scrum Master
  • The Development Team
  • The Scrum Team or the Scrum Core Team
The major Scrum Roles are

The Product Owner

Product Owner (PO) is undoubtedly the "voice of the customer". He owns the product end to end and is responsible for the overall product delivery.

As explained by the Scrum Guide -

"Product owner is a scrum development role for a person who represents the business or user community and is responsible for working with the user group to determine what features will be in the product release."

Having said that it is important to understand the characteristics or expertise of the Product Owner.

He has the most challenging role of wearing multiple hats throughout the product development journey.

  • Communicator
  • Subject Matter Expert
  • End User Advocate
  • Business Advocate
  • Decision Maker
The Product Owner

A Product Owner plays a crucial role in disseminating the vision and intent of the product, its detailed features, design and the single person to maximize the return on investment of product.

His leadership skills are tested to the core as he is one tasked with conflicting goals, opinions and make decisive final call.

For all practical purposes he is the Backlog Owner. The end to end responsibility of managing, prioritizing and deciding what goes in and out of the backlog lies on the Product Manager.

Some of the key activities in Backlog Management include:

  • Expressing the Product Backlog Items in detail.
  • Ensuring that the Product Backlog is transparent and understood by everyone who would be impacted by the product.
  • Ordering the Product Backlog in such a way that it optimizes the value of work done by the development team
  • Making sure that the Product Backlog raises transparency to the extent that it is clear what the Scrum team is going to work on next.
  • Raising the transparency of Product Backlog to a level where stakeholders can see how value is being added to the Product.
  • Helping Development Team with Product Backlog Items (PBI) refinement.

Another important responsibility of the Product Manager is to define the "Acceptance Criteria" and ensure that they are met.

SBOK Guide also maintains that -

"The Product Owner is one person, not a committee. The Product Owner may represent the desires of a committee in the Product Backlog, but those wanting to change a Product Backlog item's priority must address the Product Owner."

The Scrum Master

As the name indicates, the Scrum Master is one of the most important members of the Scrum Core Team.

A Scrum Master is a "Servant Leader". He is expected to have maximum influence and impact but has minimum to almost no authority.

The primary objective of the Scrum Master is to promote the Scrum Methodology as per the SBOK Guide and help everyone involved understand the Scrum theory, values, practices, roles and events.

The Scrum Master

But, overall a Scrum Master is a "facilitator". He ensures the development team are provided with a conducive environment to function in a self-organizing manner.

The Scrum Master helps the Development Team and the Product Owner to identify and remove impediments.

Scrum Master also helps the Product Owner understand, adopt and practice scrum to perform his activities successfully.

Overall a Scrum Master is a SME and enables scrum adoption across the organization.

Let us look at the Scrum Master's service to the Product Owner, Development Team and Organization in detail below.

Product Owner Development Team Organization
Finding techniques for effective Product Backlog management Coaching the Development Team in self-organization and to work cross functionally Leading and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption
Helping the Scrum Team understand the need for clear and concise Product Backlog items Helping the Development Team to create high-value products Planning Scrum implementations within the organization
Understanding product planning in an empirical environment Removing impediments to the Development Team’s progress Helping employees and stakeholders understand and practice Scrum and empirical product development
Ensuring the Product Owner knows how to arrange the Product Backlog to maximize value Coaching the Development Teams within the organization Enabling changes that increases the productivity of the Scrum Team
Understanding and practicing agility Help understand and adopt Scrum Methodology Enable Scrum adoption to achieve business value
Facilitating Scrum events as requested or needed Facilitating Scrum events as requested or needed Working with other Scrum Masters to increase the effectiveness of the application of Scrum in the organization

The Development Team

The Development Team consists of professionals who do the work of delivering a potentially releasable Increment of "Done" product at the end of each Sprint.

Only members of the Development Team create the Increment.

Basic Attributes of the Development Team:

  • Self-Organizing: The Development Team selects the work that it is supposed to do during the Sprint. No one, not even the Scrum Master/PO tells the Development Team how they are going to deliver the potentially releasable increment.
  • Cross-Functional: The Development Team has all the necessary skill-set required to convert the selected Product Backlog items into a potentially releasable increment.
  • Size: The optimal size for the Development Team is 3-9 members. With less than 3 members, the Development Team may not have enough skill-set to create the potentially releasable increment. Having more than 9 members on the Development Team may create additional complexity which might be difficult to be managed with the empirical process.
  • Title: There is only one title in the Development Team and that is "Developer". Scrum recognizes no other titles. It also discards the notion of sub-teams.

Accountability:

The Development team is accountable for delivering an increment of potentially releasable "Done" product at the end of the Sprint. The Development Team is also accountable for the quality of the "Done" product increment as per the acceptance criteria.

Overview of the Development Team

  • Cross-functional, multi-learning and self-organizing, and while individuals often have specialized skills or areas of focus, accountability belongs to the team as a whole
  • Build and deliver the potentially shippable product increment from planning, analysis, design, programming and testing
  • Development Teams tend to have between 3 to 9 team members. Preferably dedicated.
  • Responsible for building the actual product Increment
  • Performs the development and testing of the product
  • Outlines the tasks that need to be completed in order to develop a feature/user story
  • Should be full-time
  • Ideally, membership should change only between sprints
  • Strong Cross Matrix of skillset with Developers having enough insight to ask business questions
    • Works with the Product Owner to drive ambiguity lower
    • Works to continuously improve the application and the methods/processes the team utilizes
  • Members are dynamic with enough experience to be able to handle a variety of coding elements, for example:
    • .NET developer who is able to perform a DBA low level task
    • DBA/ETL duties should be combined within a single resource
    • All resources should be geared toward Test Driven Development and be able to perform testing
    • Business Analyst should have Data Analyst skill set with a Quality Assurance mindset and ability to formulate Acceptance Criteria with Product Owner

Summary

Agile Methodology maintains distinct roles and responsibilities of the Scrum team thereby enabling absolute collaboration, swift conflict resolution and increases the team’s accountability and ownership.

The guiding principle being "self-organizing" goes a long way in making the team responsible towards their goals. They choose what going to be done with in a sprint and how long will be the sprint.

Overall, a product increment is delivered faster and with quality as the focus is on an increment instead of a huge delivery thereby reducing distractions and improving execution.