• Cezary Kałandyk

Scrum for beginners. Part 1: team & roles

Operating in the IT industry, you may have heard terms like "DS", "retrospective", "Scrum" more than once and you are interested in what stays behind them? Alternatively, are you looking for new, interesting solutions that will help you run complex projects? In this article, I will simply show what Scrum is and what its rules are.


I will not focus on details and popular errors, and I will limit precise definitions to the necessary minimum. Lets focus on the pictorial representation of this framework, so that people who have never dealt with it or just briefly know the topic, can understand its basic assumptions and principles. 

What is Scrum?

Scrum is a framework for building complex products, in our example we use it for creating software. Its originators, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, who had many years of experience in the industry, were looking for an effective solution to help them run comprehensive development projects. They teamed up in the early '90s, and Scrum became the result of this collaboration.


Scrum is a framework, not a methodology

Due to the fact that Scrum is a framework, not a methodology, it can be efficiently combined with known methodologies, as long as its principles presented, inter alia, in this text are observed. One of the more common examples of this combination is the use of Kanban and additional benefits while remaining in the empirical environment of Scrum. We can use and combine other processes, methodologies depending on our project, team or industry to meet our needs best.


Scrum was based on empirical processes, assuming that knowledge comes with experience and decisions should be made on the basis of what is known. It has a division into roles, events and artifacts, which will be described below. 


What are the roles in the Scrum team?

The highest Scrum unit is the "Scrum Team" that consists of three entities:


  • Development team

  • Scrum Master

  • Product Owner.




What is the role of the development team?

A development team is a group of people consisting of 3 to 9 people. There cannot be more or less of them. Similar restrictions, which are present in Scrum, are extremely important and must be observed. This group works directly to achieve their common goal. In Scrum, each member of the development team is called a developer, although they may have different skills and specializations. For example, there can be various degrees and types of programmers, testers, but also analysts, project managers.


Each development team member is equally important

The team consists of people who are necessary for the team to accomplish its work and goal. The development team manages itself and should be self-sufficient. The whole team, not a specific person is responsible for the tasks assigned. Scrum is not provided with the top unit management team. This means that no one can tell the development team how to work to achieve the intended goal. The team decides and is jointly responsible for all tasks to do the best job. And thanks to appropriate events, it develops constantly a better and better product.


Scrum Master and Product Owner are not included in the development team unless they perform additional work bringing the team closer to achieving the assumed goal. However, this is not recommended due to possible conflicts of interest.


What is the role of Scrum Master?

The next role is the Scrum Master referred as "servant-leader". This means that SM is not a team leader, but supports and guides them in the Scrum process. Scrum Master is also a specialist in the Scrum framework itself whose job is to cultivate and ensure that Scrum is understood and used properly. This should be done by teaching members of the Scrum team how to proceed and why, not by instructions and orders.


This support can be divided into three parts:

  • supporting the development team,

  • supporting the Product Owner,

  • supporting the organization.

Scrum Master supports the development team by teaching and explaining doubts about scrum processes, self-management, and inter-functionality. SM does it by observing the team's behavior and then performing the appropriate coaching to improve the team's behavior in problematic or incorrectly performed elements. SM also helps to solve problems limiting the development team's progress, such as the lack of appropriate tools or skills (suggesting a solution). If necessary and when asked, SM also supports the course of Scrum events (meetings) in which he normally does not have to participate.


Scrum Master also supports the entire Organization by implementing Scrum processes, planning how to use them correctly in the company, teaching and helping employees (not just Scrum teams) to understand the Scrum framework.


The next person who receives help from Scrum Master is the Product Owner. PO role is supported in terms of planning product development in an empirical environment and maximizing value when planning work (functionalities) to be carried out by a development team. The Scrum Master also coaches the Product Owner in terms of tools and techniques used in effectively performing their work in accordance with Scrum. As with the development team, SM can assist in carrying out scrum events.


What is the role of the Product Owner?

The last role that has to be described is the Product Owner. By definition, PO is responsible for maximizing the value of the product and the work of the development team. In practice, it means that the Product Owner defines the priorities and work to be offered to the development team.


PO is not the team leader, but the "commander" and person responsible for the product. It is very important for the person performing this function to be able to efficiently make decisions regarding the developed functionalities (product), for example in the case of a query/problem in the development team. This function cannot be a collective, and the person performing this function cannot be only an intermediary and "documenter" of stakeholder recommendations. PO must have their full confidence, but also a deep understanding of the direction of the product development and the priorities.


Summary

To sum up, we have three main roles in Scrum: a development team responsible for achieving the goal, a Product Owner responsible for the product vision and a Scrum Master who supports them so they can perform their tasks in the empirical Scrum environment.


All these roles are important and necessary in a Scrum framework. Each role is a significant part of the Scrum structure. Members of the Scrum team performing the roles described in the article complement each other and allow achieving the goals set at each stage of work.


In the next part we will focus on the events that occur in Scrum, we'll get to know Sprint, Daily Scrum and others.