Scrum is a lightweight Agile framework that helps people, teams, and organizations generate value through adaptive solutions for complex problems. It focuses on responding to changing market conditions and encourages a high level of communication among team members. The Scrum Framework is quickly becoming an indispensable component for software development efforts that embrace agile methodology.
The term Scrum comes from rugby, where it describes when the whole team pounces on the ball. Scrum teams take a similar approach to product development. The central part of Scrum is the Scrum team and its corresponding scrum roles: product owner, scrum master, and development team. While there is only one Scrum Master and one product owner, there are generally several developers and QA engineers. The Scrum Team should be small enough to remain nimble and large enough to complete significant work within a Sprint, typically 10 or fewer people.
However, We’ve noticed a weird pattern: even though they work with Scrum, many companies do not hire a Scrum Master, thinking that one of the developers or QA engineers can be a Scrum Master at the same time. There are two questions to ask regarding that idea:
- Is one person good enough to lead the team and wear multiple hats, and flexible enough to abstract from the developer's point of view and facilitate the work from the team's point of view?
- Does it make sense to reallocate the time of such a person from development to Scrum Mastering instead of helping the team to create the potential increment during the sprint?
So before we can understand if it makes sense to have a dedicated Scrum Master or not, let’s clarify what a Scrum Master is.
What is a Scrum Master?
On a Scrum team, the Product Owner wants to create the right thing (the vision and plan for a successful product), the development team wants to build it correctly, and the Scrum Master wants to build it effectively.
The Scrum Master’s primary responsibility is to ensure that the Scrum team works, as well as possible, within the Scrum framework acting as a coach and protector to help ensure that feature requests, timeboxes, and expectations from the team members are reasonable within the Scrum framework.
The role of a Scrum Master is to operate in the background and not excessively participate in either the product development process carried out by the developers or the strategic planning done by the product owner. The Scrum Master is a liaison between product/business owners and development teams. Because agile processes are entirely dependent on people and collaboration, Scrum Masters must also combine soft skills with the latest tools and methods. After all, software development efforts involve many moving parts, and individual programmers can quickly lose sight of the broader scope when they are heads-down in code.
A Scrum Master, on the other hand, maintains a high-level view, helping teams to understand both organizational and technical dependencies while avoiding choke points. This creates a culture of accountability and enables teams to meet critical deadlines.
According to the Scrum Guide, a Scrum Master serves on three levels:
- the Product Owner by taking over tasks like facilitating and organizing events;
- the Development Team by coaching the development team in self-organization and cross-functionality;
- the Organization by helping to understand and implement Scrum as well as to reach the best level of productivity.
The Scrum Master is responsible for promoting and supporting Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. Scrum Masters do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory, practices, rules, and values.
The Scrum Master is a servant/leader for the Scrum Team. The Scrum Master helps those outside the Scrum Team understand which of their interactions with the Scrum Team are helpful and which aren’t. The Scrum Master helps everyone change these interactions to maximize the value created by the Scrum Team.
6 reasons why you need a Scrum Master
So the big question is, does it make sense to have a Scrum Master in your organization? To cut a long story short, without a Scrum Master, it is not possible to take full advantage of Scrum. Without a coach, the team may become a complete mess. Here are the top 5 things a Scrum Master can help your organization with:
1. Serve process ownership
The Scrum Master serves as a process owner for the team, creating a balance with the product's key stakeholder, who is referred to as the product owner. The Scrum Master serves as the coach for the development team and the product owner. One of their key responsibilities is to ensure that the team is sufficiently trained to understand Agile processes, the team members know their specific roles, and are dedicated to the product. In order to use Scrum effectively and have transparency over our progress and quality, they must create an environment that encourages and enables team ownership. They constantly look for ways to improve team performance and productivity.
2. Make the Scrum team effective
One of the essential things for a Scrum Master to do is to create an environment where the team can work effectively by facilitating daily Scrum meetings (standups), setting up retrospectives, sprint reviews, and sprint planning sessions. We help the team maintain burndown charts that show whether the sprint is progressing according to schedule. This technique helps identify issues as they arise so that they can be discussed during daily standups and focus on resolving them early to keep pace. A Scrum Master also shields the team from interruptions during the sprint and removes obstacles and distractions, which means maximum efficiency for the development team.
3. Implement best practices in project management
Taking care of building and onboarding teams so that they can work well together on a given product is also a Scrum Master's duty. They help the product owner get a clearer vision of the product and communicate it to the development team to achieve that vision. The Scrum Master implements the best agile practices in the development process to develop good quality software effectively. One of the roles of the Scrum Master is also to provide feedback to the team and drive the culture of agility and learning. This has a positive impact on the continuous improvement of a Scrum team.
4. Keep all parties well-informed and on-track
Daily scrums are an opportunity to identify impediments to progress within the Scrum Team. It's a great place to get initial insights and facilitate a separate meeting to understand and resolve any issues that may arise. In addition, this helps to make sure that the work stays on track and the team meets the deadlines with the desired result.
5. Introduce Agile engineering practices
Continuous Integration (CI) can be considered a pillar of the agile process. The Scrum Master will encourage the development team to implement it. They will also ensure that code quality and refactoring practices are addressed in the development team. Another agile technique that the Scrum Master advocates is a pair programming session, where two developers work together in real-time to solve a problem or implement a new feature. Overall, these technical practices shorten development time and improve the quality of the product.
6. Assist the product owner with the product backlog
Product Backlog refers to the list of tasks that the team needs to complete. The Product Owner's responsibility is to create and maintain the Product Backlog, which is constantly changing based on the current status of work and development needs. The Scrum Master helps the Product Owner refine and maintain the backlog using information from standup meetings. They schedule review meetings and prioritize work on user stories. That’s why collaboration with the Product Owner is also an important role of the Scrum Master.
Indicators of Scrum Master Success in Agile Development
Scrum Masters are essential members of any agile development team, responsible for leading their teams and ensuring quality work is delivered on time. Organizations can use several key success indicators to evaluate Scrum Masters' performance:
- Sprint success rate
- Team velocity
- Meeting effectiveness
- Team member engagement and satisfaction
- Stakeholder satisfaction
- Steady performance and continuous improvement
- Scrum Master's ability to facilitate effective retrospectives
Team velocity and sprint success rate are closely-linked metrics that show how well a team is performing, maintaining planned schedules, and delivering quality results. These metrics can be used by Scrum Masters to identify possible issues or bottlenecks that might be hindering the team's effectiveness.
Meeting effectiveness can be evaluated by factors such as meeting time, team attendance, and well-prepared action items. This measure assesses how successfully the Scrum Master can interact with a team and run productive meetings.
Team engagement is critical for keeping employees' morale and motivation high. Scrum Masters can encourage participation by fostering a collaborative culture, providing opportunities for professional growth and development of needed skills, and recognizing team members for their accomplishments.
Team satisfaction can be measured using retrospective meetings, internal surveys, or other feedback sessions. Scrum Masters can use this data to identify areas for improvement and create an optimal working environment that encourages collaboration and teamwork.
Stakeholder satisfaction is critical for ensuring that the team's work is in line with the company's goals and requirements. Scrum Masters can process stakeholder feedback on a regular basis to ensure that their needs are met and that their needs are incorporated into the development process.
Effective retrospective facilitation entails assisting the team in reflecting on their performance and identifying areas for improvement. Scrum Masters can use various techniques as well as action planning to assist the team in identifying and addressing issues and needs.
Coaching and mentoring the team or individuals can include giving technical advice, facilitating cross-functional collaboration, and assisting team members in developing soft skills like communication and leadership.
By focusing on these success indicators, Scrum Masters can help their teams achieve their goals, improve their performance, and add value to their organizations.
In software development, a Scrum Master is a coach who trains the team and takes care of the members, keeping their interests in mind. Despite this, the role of the Scrum Master is often neglected and misunderstood. However, filling this role in your organization can make the difference between the success and failure of your product.
Aside from the coaching and leadership role, a Scrum Master is a unique agile team member who spends much of their time helping other team members communicate and collaborate to achieve their delivery goals.
Get a consultation with Techstack experts in Scrum, if you want to discover new ways to streamline your team's workflow.