Scrum Team Roles and Responsibilities: Scrum Master and Product Owner

Scrum Team Roles and Responsibilities:

I’m sure that by now we all must have been very clear about Agile Manifesto from our last tutorial.

This tutorial is designed for Scrum Team Members who are new to Agile Software Development to learn about their roles and responsibilities.

The tutorial will also help those who are already working in the agile model to brush up their skills and to those who simply want to know about these roles. It will also provide an insight into the responsibilities, and each of the role it withholds.

scrum team roles responsibilities

There is a lot to each of the role other than what we have cited in our tutorial, however, the readers can definitely get a gist of each Scrum Role precisely without any doubt.

Scrum Team Roles and Responsibilities

The Scrum team chiefly consist of three roles: The Scrum Master, Product Owner & the Development Team.

Anyone outside the core team doesn’t have any direct influence over the Team. Each of these roles in the Scrum has a very clear set of responsibilities which we will discuss in detail later in this tutorial. Under this section, let us focus on the attributes of the Scrum Team as a whole and the ideal team size.

Scrum Teams Attributes

Given below are the 2 attributes of the Scrum Team:

  • Scrum Team is Self-Organizing
  • Scrum Team is Cross-Functional

Self-Organized Scrum Teams are self-reliant and self- sufficient in terms of accomplishing their work without the need for external help or guidance. The teams are competent enough to adopt the best of practices to achieve their Sprint Goals.

Cross-Functional Scrum Teams are the teams having all the necessary skills and proficiency within the team to accomplish their work. These teams do not rely on anyone outside the team for completing the work items. Thus, the Scrum Team is a very creative amalgamation of different skills that are required to complete the entire work item.

Each team member may not necessarily have all the skills required to build the product but is competent in his/her area of expertise. Having said that, the team member need not be cross-functional but the team as a whole has to be.

The teams with high Self-Organization and Cross Functionality will result in high productivity and creativity.

Scrum team

Scrum Team Size

The recommended Development Team size in Scrum is 6+/- 3 i.e. from 3 to 9 members which do not include the Scrum Master and the Product Owner.

Now, let us move ahead and discuss each of these roles in detail.

The Scrum Master

Scrum Master is the person who is responsible for facilitating/coaching the Development Team and the Product Owner to work on the day to day development activities.

He is the one who ensures that the team understands the Scrum Values and Principles and is able to practice them. At the same time, Scrum Master also assures that the Team feels enthusiastic about Agile in order to achieve the best out of the framework. Scrum Master also helps and supports the team to become self-organized.

Apart from educating and training the team members regarding the importance of Agile, he is also responsible to make sure that the team feels motivated and strengthen at all times. He also works on boosting up the communication and collaboration amongst the team members.

Scrum Master is a Process Leader who helps the Scrum Team and the others outside the Scrum Team to understand Scrum Values, Principles, and Practices

Roles and Responsibilities

#1) Coach – The Scrum Master acts as an Agile Coach for both the Development team and the Product Owner. The Scrum Master in a way acts as an enabler for proper communication between the Development Team and the Product Owner. The Scrum Master stays responsible to eliminate the obstacle between both the other roles.

If it is noticed that the Product Owner is not getting involved or not giving proper time to the Development Team, then it is the Scrum Master’s job to coach the Product Owner regarding the importance of his involvement to the overall team’s success.

#2) Facilitator – The Scrum Master also acts as a facilitator for the Scrum Team. He facilitates and organizes all the Scrum Events requested by the Scrum Team Members. The Scrum Master also facilitates the Team in making important decisions that would increase the productivity of the Scrum Team as a whole.

The Scrum Master never orders the Team Members to do something rather, he helps them in achieving it by coaching and guiding.

#3) Removing Impediments – The Scrum Master is also responsible for removing the impediments that impact the team’s productivity in delivering business. Any impediment that the team members cannot resolve on their own comes to the Scrum Master for resolution.

The Scrum Master prioritizes these impediments based on their impact on the team’s productivity and business and starts working on them.

#4) Interference Gatekeeper – The Scrum Master also safeguards the Scrum Team from outside interference and distraction so that the team can remain focused on delivering the best value to the business after every sprint.

The interference can be of a greater concern if the team is working in a Scaled Scrum environment where multiple Scrum Team is working together and have the dependencies amongst them.

The Scrum Master makes sure that the team stays out of any irrelevant discussion and focuses on the Sprint items whereas he himself takes the responsibility of addressing the queries and concerns coming from outside.

Scrum Master is responsible to protect the team from outside interference and for removing the impediments in order to let the team focus on delivering the business value.

#5) Servant Leader – The Scrum Master is often referred to as a Servant Leader of the Scrum Team. One of his most important responsibility is to ask the Scrum Teams for their concerns and to make sure that they are addressed.

It is the duty of the Scrum Master to confirm that the essential requirements of the team are prioritized and met to let them work effectively and produce high performing results.

#6) Process Improver – The Scrum Master along with the team is also responsible for regularly improvising the processes and practices employed to maximize the value being delivered. It is not the Scrum Master’s responsibility to get the work done but it is his responsibility to enable the team to devise a process that would let them complete their sprint goals.

Scrum master


The Product Owner

Another very crucial role that we are going to discuss in this tutorial is the Product Owner. Product Owner is the voice of the customer /stakeholders and hence is responsible for bridging the gap between the development team and stakeholders. Product owner manages the gap in such a way which would maximize the value of the product being built.

Product Owner is set to be involved throughout the Sprint Activities and Development efforts and plays a very crucial role in the success of a product.

Roles and Responsibilities

#1) Bridging the Gap – Product Owner works closely with the internal and external stakeholders to gather the inputs and synthesize a vision to place the product features in the Product Backlog.

It is the Product Owner’s responsibility to understand the requirements and preferences of the stakeholder/customer community as he is the one who is acting as their representative and shoulders the responsibility of building the right solution.

At the same time, the Product Owner ensures that the Development Team understands what needs to be built and when. He collaborates with the team on a daily basis. Product Owner’s engagement with the Team increases the feedback frequency and response time which as a result boosts the value of the product being built.

Absence/Less Collaboration of a Product Owner can lead to disastrous results and ultimately Scrum failure.

Product Owner ensures that the Product Backlog items are transparent & clearly expressed and everyone in the team holds the same understanding of the item.

#2) Manages Product Backlog – As an outcome to the above point, the Product Owner is responsible for the creating and managing the Product Backlog, ordering the items in the Product Backlog to best achieve the Stakeholder’s requirements i.e. prioritization of Product Backlog items and finally he should always be available to answer or give clarification to all the Development Team’s queries.

Overall, he is responsible to groom the Product Backlog in order to improve the delivered value.

Anyone who wants to add/remove an item in the Product Backlog or needs to change the priority of an item should be directed to the Product owner

#3) Certifying a Product – His another responsibility is to certify the features being built. In this process, he defines the Acceptance Criteria for each of the Product Backlog Item. The Product Owner might also create the Acceptance Tests representing the Acceptance Criteria defined by him or might take an assistance from the SMEs or the Development Team in creating them.

Now, he is the one who ensures that the Acceptance Criteria are met by executing the Acceptance Tests. He may choose to execute these Acceptance Tests on his own or can ask the experts to do so to ensure that the functional and quality aspects are fulfilled and expectations are met.

This activity is usually done throughout the sprint as and when the items are completed so that the mistakes could be uncovered and can be fixed before the actual Sprint Review Meeting.

#4) Participation – Product Owner is a key participant in the Sprint related activities. He works closely with the Development Team in explaining the Items, their scope and the value it holds.

He also acts as an enabler for the Development Team to be able to pick up the Product Backlog items that they are supposed to deliver by the end of the Sprint. Besides Sprint activities, Product Owner also works on the Product Release activities.

During the Product release activities, the Product Owner engages with the Stakeholders to discuss the items of the next release. One of the key success factors for a team to flourish is that the entire team should respect the Product Owner and his decisions. No one other than the Product Owner should tell the team what items to work on.

It is recommended to have a single full-time product owner for a single product. However, there can be an arrangement where the product owner is a part time role.

Proxy Product Owner

Proxy Product Owner is a person enrolled by the Product Owner himself who can take over all his responsibilities, his absence and support him. Proxy Product Owner is liable and accountable for all the responsibilities that he has been delegated to but the responsibility of the work being done eventually still lies with the actual Product Owner.

The Proxy Product Owner is also empowered to make the necessary decisions on behalf of the actual Product Owner.

Product Owner

The Development Team

Another very important part of the Scrum Team is the Development Team. The Development Team is comprised of developers proficient in their own area of expertise. Unlike the other Scrum Team members, the Development Teamwork on the actual implementation of the potentially deliverable software/increment which is to be delivered at the end of each Sprint.

The Development Team may consist of people having specialized skills like Front-end Developers, Backend Developers, Dev-Ops, QA Experts, Business Analyst, DBA etc., but they are all referred to as Developers; No other titles are allowed. The Development Team cannot even have sub-teams within it like the testing team, requirement specification team etc.

The Team is set up considering all the essential skill set required to successfully develop, test & deliver the product increments every Sprint without the outside help. Thus, the team is expected to be self-sufficient and cross-functional. The Development Team doesn’t take any help from outside the Scrum Team and manages their own work.

The accountability of developing Increments always lies with the Development Team as a whole but everyone in the Scrum Team is responsible for the overall delivery.

It is solely the Development Team’s decision to add/remove a Team Member. If a new skill set is required, the Development Team can choose to build that expertise within the team or add a new member to the team.

Roles and Responsibilities

#1) Development and Delivery – The Development Team is responsible for creating a done increment based on the ‘Definition of Done’ at the end of each sprint. The done Increment may not necessarily be a part of the next production release but it is definitely a potentially releasable functionality that an end user can use.

It is the Product Owner’s call to decide what needs to be part of the release. The Development Team though is accountable for developing and delivering the Done Increment every Sprint that meets the criteria under Definition of Done.

#2) Tasking and Providing Estimations – The Development Team is also responsible for picking up the User Stories/Items from the prioritized Product Backlog to be delivered in the next Sprint. Thus, these Items then constitute a Sprint Backlog. Sprint Backlog is created during a Sprint Planning meeting.

Another very important responsibility that a Development Team does is to create tasks by breaking down the Sprint Items and providing estimates to these Sprint Items.

Nobody tells the Development Team what and how to do things. It is the Development Team’s responsibility to pick up the items from the Product Backlog that can be delivered in the next Sprint. Once the Sprint is started, the items cannot be changed/added/removed.

Development Team Size

Development Team size should be chosen wisely as it can directly hamper the productivity of the team thereby impacting the product delivery. The Development Team should not be very large as it might require a lot of coordination amongst the team members.

However, for a very small team, it would be very difficult to have all the skills required to deliver an Increment. Thus, an optimal number should be chosen for the Development Team Size.

The recommended Development Team size is from 3 to 9 members excluding the Scrum Master and Product Owner unless they are also developing the Software Increment along with the other developers.

dev team

Summary

Scrum Team

Roles

  • Product Owner
  • Development Team
  • Scrum Master

Size

  • Scrum Team Size – 3 to 9

Self-Organizing Team

  • Knows the best way to complete their work.
  • No one tells the self-organized team what to do.

Cross-Functional Team

  • Has all the skill sets required to complete their work without needing any outside help.

Product Owner

  • Represents the committee or is influenced by it.
  • Collaborates with the Stakeholders and the Scrum Team.
  • Manages product backlog
    • Explains the product backlog items.
    • Prioritizing the work items.
    • Makes sure that the product backlog is easily understandable & transparent.
    • Clearly defines what items to work on.
    • Ensures that the development team understands the item in the product backlog
    • Anything to be added/removed/changed in the Product Owner should come through the Product Owners.
  • Take a call as when to release the work items.

Scrum Master

  • Makes sure that the Scrum is clearly understood and adopted by the team.
  • Is a servant leader for the Scrum Team.
  • Removing Impediments
  • Safeguard the team from useless interactions to maximize the business value created by the Scrum Team.
  • Facilitating Scrum events whenever requested.
  • Ensures that the meetings are time boxed.

Development Team

  • Delivers a potentially releasable Increment of “Done” product at the end of each Sprint.
  • They are self-organizing and cross-functional.
  • No one tells the Development Team what and How to do.
  • No Titles are allowed. All are developers on the team.
  • No sub-teams can be created.
  • They stay accountable to work on the Sprint Items.
  • Development Team is responsible for tasking and providing the estimates.

That is all we had in store on Scrum Teams Roles and Responsibilities. We discussed the responsibilities that each of the team members holds and how they work as a whole team.

Stay tuned to know more on Scrum Artifacts in our upcoming tutorial, where we will discuss on the by-products such as Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, and Increments.

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