How important is the role of the Scrum Master? Is it a crucial position, as the Agile Manifesto claims, or can you be successful without hiring a person to this role? Sometimes executives question whether hiring a Scrum Master is really necessary. However, here at Belatrix we believe that the Scrum Master is one of the key roles that comprise the Scrum methodology of Agile software development. Along with the Product Owner and the Scrum team, they play a decisive role in building high quality results. In this blog, we examine why the Scrum Master is so important.
Why do we put a Scrum Master in our teams?
The Scrum Master is a mentor or a coach who makes sure that the values, principles and procedures of the Scrum methodology are followed and respected. They are in charge of assisting the team by removing any impediment or distraction that might be standing in their way. They work under the principle of self-organization and play the role of a mediator between the product owner’s interests and the team so the whole process can reach balance.
The mediation role of the Scrum Master can bring benefits in two ways. On the one hand, they are able to protect the team from an aggressive product owner who might demand an unsustainable pace in their desire for functionality. As a result, the team does not commit to work that they will not be able to execute during the sprint, thus avoiding mistakes that could occur if quantity is prioritized over quality. On the other hand, the Scrum Master protects the team from complacency. This means that he or she is constantly encouraging them to learn and build better results.
The Scrum Master also helps the team achieve one of the most important elements of Agile: self-organization. The work of the Scrum Master focuses on being a “servant-leader” for the team, which means that instead of having authority, they provide the tools for decision-making and problem solving. Thereby, each member of the team develops a deeper sense of responsibility as autonomy is given to them. Also, the absence of direct orders allows the team to focus on the overall outcome. This means that developers are not trying to solve specific tasks as an isolated part of the project, but they have a notion of the demands and the desired result as a whole.
The Scrum Master also guides the team to develop metrics and estimates, and periodically evaluates the process so they are better able to make accurate predictions, and reduce possible risks. They regularly report the status and any issues of the project to the product owner, making sure that transparency is at the core of the methodology.
What’s the value added of a Scrum Master?
There are a variety of benefits from having a Scrum Master. Besides the coaching and leadership role, they take on administrative functions to make sure the team has the proper equipment and environment to perform their tasks. He or she also manages the infrastructure needed for the daily meetings in which open questions are asked, and deadlines and concerns are communicated.
The Scrum Master ensures there is effective communication among the different members of the project. They are constantly sharing information and knowledge with the client and facilitating this information with the team in order to avoid misunderstandings and ensure a better workflow.
Besides, the Scrum Master doesn’t just seek to enhance the existing skills of their team. Challenges and changes are vital for better performance, and that is why a key part of their role is to encourage the team to constantly learn, such as via conferences, texts and meetups, to stay abreast of the latest changes and innovations.
However, the team is not the only one who benefits from these strategies; Scrum Masters themselves grow and evolve from this work along with the team, in a way that all members can enrich their knowledge and experience from a shared process.
Does the team really need a Scrum Master?
Sometimes when Belatrix talks with prospects who are not familiar with Agile development, they question whether hiring a Scrum Master is a necessary investment. And it is absolutely true, that some companies choose not to have a Scrum Master. However these are typically companies that already have extensive experience with Agile, and have adapted the methodology to their needs.
One of the most common questions around the role of the Scrum Master is whether their work consumes 100% of their time. Some companies consider that a member from the team can “informally” take over the role of a facilitator and also get involved in development activities. But this strategy can cause conflicts of interest, and there is a risk of disorganization. When development activities get tough and the pressure of deadlines come, the team needs a person that is focused on being a coach. That is why here at Belatrix, we believe that having an experienced Scrum Master is a critical role in ensuring your software development project achieves excellent results.
The most important feature of having a Scrum Master is perhaps the autonomy that they help each developer to acquire. The Scrum Master is above all a coach and although they have authority over the process, they do not have authority over the team itself. They will not assign tasks to anyone but rather will provide insights and suggestions on how the process could be more effective to achieve better results.
Meanwhile Scrum Masters with a strong technical background, and good mentoring skills, provide a strong basis for the team to find technical help as well as a healthy and high-performance environment, where they feel motivated and passionate about their work.
In conclusion, if you want to use the word “excellent” instead of “good” when describing your results, then the Scrum Master is a critical role. This is the person who understands your team’s capabilities, and has the skills and know-how to help you create world-class software.