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A New Role in the Agile Development Process: the Subject Matter Expert

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By: and
July 03, 2013 | Topic: Agile   Software Product Development  
A New Role in the Agile Development Process:  the Subject Matter Expert

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There are many roles played in a standard agile development process (developer, dba, interface designer, client and so on) but at Belatrix, we’ve added one more to the mix – the Agile Subject Matter Expert (SME).

The SME knows all aspects of the way projects are developed in the agile lifecycle and plays the role of overseer to ensure that the outsourced product development project runs smoothly.   In addition to improving the overall capabilities of an agile development team, the SME allows for technically skilled, but less-experienced, developers to work on a project while still reaping the benefits of a more seasoned developer.

Agile Development SME Skills

Language Skills. SMEs know the language(s) being used on the project. This goes beyond just the syntactical knowledge, though, and represents a deep-seated understanding of how the language works, and what it’s best (and worst) at. This means knowing what type of questions need to be asked to ensure success during planning scrums.

Strategies. One of the most important roles of the SME is to know which tools are needed and how to best apply the tools in different situations. For example, a SME can step in and help on the configuration of team management or peer review of code for a project. The SME can see when a design pattern is not really being used in the actual code. They can then direct or provide strategies to better execute the outsourced software development. All of this can occur during a sprint so that they can provide ongoing feedback and corrections before the normal agile review periods.

Technical Expertise. A SME is often older and much more experienced than other developers on the team, providing programming wisdom and expertise. The SME does not serve as an additional boss to the project, but rather steps in to provide senior-level technical support, suggestions and idea generation. We will usually assign at least one SME per project, but have assigned multiples to larger projects to ensure that the technical development is supported thoroughly.

Problem Solving. The SME is a great problem solver, able to step in, on‑demand, to provide solutions. When a team is struggling with a portion of development, such as elaborate QA automation techniques, the SME will step in to solve the problem right away. This keeps projects running smoothly and efficiently, and also allows the use of technically skilled, but less-experienced, developers on projects.

Bringing Technical Expertise to the Scrum Team

Where a Scrum Master or team leader excels at managing a project, a SME adds programming expertise that not all Scrum Masters have. This person can be dedicated to the project either full-time or part-time, depending on the software development needs.

Looking for assistance with your agile development project? We can provide you with a full team to outsource your agile development needs. Contact us today to benefit from a wellrounded technical team of developers. 


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