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Should Scrum Master Have Technical Skills?

This is an age old question, almost as old as Scrum itself—should a Scrum Master be technical or not?    This survey from Scrum Alliance , which revealed that Scrum Masters were mainly dealing with teams with 44% in software development and 33% in IT, would have us believe that a Scrum Master’s skills would depend on the team that they are leading.   After all, Scrum is not only used in software development, but finds acceptance in other departments such as research and development, sales and marketing, finance/accounting, human resources, and more.  While many are of the opinion that a Scrum Master only needs to facilitate Agile team activities, some emphasize the necessity of a Scrum Master with basic technical knowledge. In fact, a whole new cohort of technically sound Scrum Masters has worked wonders in Agile teams in the recent past.   So while extensive technical knowledge is not a mandate for a Scrum Master, a familiarity with project-specific domains can greatly enhance the Scrum Master’s function in the Scrum team.  So how different will a technical Scrum Master be from a non-technical one? Let’s find out   Scrum Master with technical background Benefits of a Technical Scrum Master (TSM) A Technical Scrum Master (TSM) can play many crucial roles from that of a servant-leader to a technical facilitator.   A SM is not a team member per se, but can be considered to be a team coach. A technical coach plays a key role in successful Agile adoption, and in identifying possibilities to implement its usage to maximum effect.   A Scrum Master with technical skills can get involved in the software development activities by understanding them from a technical perspective.  A technical Scrum Master: Can empathize with an engineer’s point of view in addition to working with a product owner   Can triage first level issues before they get assigned to engineers   Can ask questions regarding story pointing and estimation   Can help sequence roll outs based on technical priorities/complexities   Can facilitate meetings between technical teams to arrive at solutions for technical problems  It is necessary for a Scrum Master to have basic technical skills in order to speak the same language as the developers. It can help the Scrum Master develop credibility amongst other senior management.  Issues with having a Technical Scrum Master (TSM) on board If the Scrum Master is too technical, it could lead to the blurring of responsibilities of the engineering team and the Scrum Master.   The Scrum Master, with all his or her technical knowledge, may come with preset biases and ideas that will interfere with the role of not just the development team but also with that of the product owner. So instead of improving team health, this may actually undermine the team’s morale and cohesion.  A TSM can affect the Scrum team in many ways.   He/she may:  Act as a technical SME (subject matter expert) and try to handle services  Ask team members some questions on their assessments  Force the team to adopt and use a particular technology  Guide the team on how to disintegrate stories into tasks  Guide the Product Owner on how to evaluate the work  Try to handle the project that the team is working on  Both the team and the organization should understand what a TSM is doing and when he/she is going beyond the scope of their role.  Scrum Master with non-technical background Benefits of a Non-Technical Scrum Master Q: Should a Scrum Master necessarily have a technical background? A: Definitely not!   It is not mandatory that a Scrum Master should be technical, but it is very essential for an SM to have excellent communication and management skills.   The main role of a Scrum Master is to assist the team to follow the processes properly and the team is completely responsible for the enhancement of its technical practices.    Scrum Masters with a lack of technical skills do not bring in their opinions or biases, thereby giving engineering teams freedom to work from their own perspective.  But it is still the Scrum Masters job to facilitate meetings between various technical and engineering teams and resolve any barriers that they may face during product development.  A Scrum Master need not necessarily know the domain details that the team members are working with. This is because everyone in the team has certain responsibilities, such as:  The Product Owner is responsible for having knowledge on what needs to be done  The development team is responsible for identifying how to execute this in a better way  The Scrum Master is responsible for enabling them to do what they need to do​ Issues with a Non-Technical Scrum Master A Scrum project’s failure can be attributed to a number of reasons; but can it be attributed to the non-technical credentials of the Scrum Master?   Here are certain scenarios which could lead to that:  No follow-up with the team on their understanding of the User Stories An experienced Technical Scrum Master follows up with the team and helps them execute the task.  May not be of help when mapping technical user stories  While a TSM may not be required for non-tech stories, in case of technical stories or technical products, the TSM can help fill gaps in user story mapping when the architect is busy with other technical assessments.  Acceptance Criteria given by the Product Owner (PO) is taken up without any discussion  Sometimes we need to examine whether the Product Owner has taken a comprehensive view while considering the acceptance criteria. A TSM can help here to negotiate the acceptance criteria  in case anything needs to be considered additionally.  Unit testing is ignored frequently  A Non-Technical Scrum Master does not understand the importance of unit testing. But a TSM understands its essence and helps the team by arranging a meeting on unit testing.  No particular plans to address the defects  A Technical Scrum Master can take on some of the responsibilities of the development team, update the program on his/her machine, run unit tests, fix the bugs, and finally ask the testing team to check them once. A non-technical Scrum Master may not be able to help a busy team in this way. Final Thoughts: Technical Scrum Master or Non-Technical Scrum Master? A Scrum Master by definition is someone responsible for promoting and supporting Scrum; a servant leader who helps everyone in the team to maximize their productivity and deliver value.    Therefore in teams that deliver technical products, a technical Scrum Master may be the best fit to help smoothen the roadblocks for the team and ensure high productivity.    On the other hand, a non-technical Scrum Master may be the best fit in large distributed teams that need a significant amount of co-ordination and motivation.  

Should Scrum Master Have Technical Skills?

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Should Scrum Master Have Technical Skills?

This is an age old question, almost as old as Scrum itself—should a Scrum Master be technical or not?   

This survey from Scrum Alliance , which revealed that Scrum Masters were mainly dealing with teams with 44% in software development and 33% in IT, would have us believe that a Scrum Master’s skills would depend on the team that they are leading.  

After all, Scrum is not only used in software development, but finds acceptance in other departments such as research and development, sales and marketing, finance/accounting, human resources, and more. 

While many are of the opinion that a Scrum Master only needs to facilitate Agile team activities, some emphasize the necessity of a Scrum Master with basic technical knowledge. In fact, a whole new cohort of technically sound Scrum Masters has worked wonders in Agile teams in the recent past.  

So while extensive technical knowledge is not a mandate for a Scrum Master, a familiarity with project-specific domains can greatly enhance the Scrum Master’s function in the Scrum team. 

So how different will a technical Scrum Master be from a non-technical one? Let’s find out  

Scrum Master with technical background

Benefits of a Technical Scrum Master (TSM)

A Technical Scrum Master (TSM) can play many crucial roles from that of a servant-leader to a technical facilitator.  

A SM is not a team member per se, but can be considered to be a team coach. A technical coach plays a key role in successful Agile adoption, and in identifying possibilities to implement its usage to maximum effect.  

A Scrum Master with technical skills can get involved in the software development activities by understanding them from a technical perspective. 

A technical Scrum Master:

  • Can empathize with an engineer’s point of view in addition to working with a product owner  
  • Can triage first level issues before they get assigned to engineers  
  • Can ask questions regarding story pointing and estimation  
  • Can help sequence roll outs based on technical priorities/complexities  
  • Can facilitate meetings between technical teams to arrive at solutions for technical problems 

It is necessary for a Scrum Master to have basic technical skills in order to speak the same language as the developers. It can help the Scrum Master develop credibility amongst other senior management. 

Issues with having a Technical Scrum Master (TSM) on board

If the Scrum Master is too technical, it could lead to the blurring of responsibilities of the engineering team and the Scrum Master.  

The Scrum Master, with all his or her technical knowledge, may come with preset biases and ideas that will interfere with the role of not just the development team but also with that of the product owner. So instead of improving team health, this may actually undermine the team’s morale and cohesion. 

A TSM can affect the Scrum team in many ways.  

He/she may: 

  • Act as a technical SME (subject matter expert) and try to handle services 
  • Ask team members some questions on their assessments 
  • Force the team to adopt and use a particular technology 
  • Guide the team on how to disintegrate stories into tasks 
  • Guide the Product Owner on how to evaluate the work 
  • Try to handle the project that the team is working on 

Both the team and the organization should understand what a TSM is doing and when he/she is going beyond the scope of their role. 

Scrum Master with non-technical background

Benefits of a Non-Technical Scrum Master

Q: Should a Scrum Master necessarily have a technical background?

A: Definitely not!  

It is not mandatory that a Scrum Master should be technical, but it is very essential for an SM to have excellent communication and management skills.  

The main role of a Scrum Master is to assist the team to follow the processes properly and the team is completely responsible for the enhancement of its technical practices. 
 
Scrum Masters with a lack of technical skills do not bring in their opinions or biases, thereby giving engineering teams freedom to work from their own perspective.  But it is still the Scrum Masters job to facilitate meetings between various technical and engineering teams and resolve any barriers that they may face during product development. 

A Scrum Master need not necessarily know the domain details that the team members are working with. This is because everyone in the team has certain responsibilities, such as: 

  • The Product Owner is responsible for having knowledge on what needs to be done 
  • The development team is responsible for identifying how to execute this in a better way 
  • The Scrum Master is responsible for enabling them to do what they need to do​

Issues with a Non-Technical Scrum Master

A Scrum project’s failure can be attributed to a number of reasons; but can it be attributed to the non-technical credentials of the Scrum Master?  

Here are certain scenarios which could lead to that: 

  1. No follow-up with the team on their understanding of the User Stories

An experienced Technical Scrum Master follows up with the team and helps them execute the task. 

  1. May not be of help when mapping technical user stories 

While a TSM may not be required for non-tech stories, in case of technical stories or technical products, the TSM can help fill gaps in user story mapping when the architect is busy with other technical assessments. 

  1. Acceptance Criteria given by the Product Owner (PO) is taken up without any discussion 

Sometimes we need to examine whether the Product Owner has taken a comprehensive view while considering the acceptance criteria. A TSM can help here to negotiate the acceptance criteria  in case anything needs to be considered additionally. 

  1. Unit testing is ignored frequently 

A Non-Technical Scrum Master does not understand the importance of unit testing. But a TSM understands its essence and helps the team by arranging a meeting on unit testing. 

  1. No particular plans to address the defects 

A Technical Scrum Master can take on some of the responsibilities of the development team, update the program on his/her machine, run unit tests, fix the bugs, and finally ask the testing team to check them once. A non-technical Scrum Master may not be able to help a busy team in this way.

Final Thoughts: Technical Scrum Master or Non-Technical Scrum Master?

A Scrum Master by definition is someone responsible for promoting and supporting Scrum; a servant leader who helps everyone in the team to maximize their productivity and deliver value.   

Therefore in teams that deliver technical products, a technical Scrum Master may be the best fit to help smoothen the roadblocks for the team and ensure high productivity.   

On the other hand, a non-technical Scrum Master may be the best fit in large distributed teams that need a significant amount of co-ordination and motivation.  

KnowledgeHut

KnowledgeHut

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KnowledgeHut is an outcome-focused global ed-tech company. We help organizations and professionals unlock excellence through skills development. We offer training solutions under the people and process, data science, full-stack development, cybersecurity, future technologies and digital transformation verticals.
Website : https://www.knowledgehut.com

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Starting Feb 2019, renewal would require 20 Scrum educational units(earned in last 2 years only) and a renewal fee of USD 100 PricePSPO - 200 USD for certification license only. Attending the workshop could cost around 500 USD.CSPO - 500 USD. The cost varies based on the location from which you attend the workshop.Need for training PSPO - No need to take up a training course.CSPO - To earn CSPO certificate, you must attend 2 days CSPO classroom training from  a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) from Scrum Alliance.After Exam CertificationOnce you pass the PSPO I exam, you will get industry-recognized "PSPO I" certification, along with a PSPO I logo that you can use to identify your achievement. There is no exam for CSPO, and you will get a certificate from Scrum Alliance on completing the 14-16 hour training from a CST.Passing ScorePSPO - 85%CSPO - None. Activities to be completed to achieve the credential is at trainer discretion. Time limit: PSPO - 60 minutesCSPO - NoneNumber of Questions: PSPO - 80CSPO - NoneFormat: PSPO - Multiple Choice, Multiple Answers and True/FalseCSPO - NoneLanguage: PSPO - EnglishCSPO - NoneDifficulty levelPSPO - IntermediateCSPO - NonePSPO has subsequent complexity levels in the form of PSPO I, II, IIICSPO has subsequent complexity level in the form of A-CSPO. Password Expiration DatePSPO - When you purchase a password, it is set up in Scrum.org system and emailed to you within one business day. All Students completing a PSPO course are emailed a password upon completion of the course (typically within 3-5 business days). No expiration date for passwords.CSPO - Depends on the online workflow set up by the Certified Scrum Trainer.MembershipPSPO - Membership of Scrum.org and the membership do not expireCSPO - 2 Year Membership with Scrum Alliance. You are eligible to join local user groups and social networks, enjoy discounts on global events, search for careers on our online job board, and more.Other benefitsPSPO:  Once you get certified, your name will be listed on Scrum.org.CSPO: Once you receive the credential, your name is listed on Scrum Alliance portal.The verdict:The main aim of the CSPO certification is to understand the working of Scrum and the role of the Product Owner playing in a Scrum team. While the objective of the Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO) certification is to develop a solid understanding of the Product Owner to maximize the value of the software products and systems.PSPO has a level of difficulty associated with it. The things which I like about PSPO certification is that the certification does not mandatory require you to attend an in-person workshop. You can prepare all on your own and directly proceed to the examination. Also, PSPO has a lifetime validity. once acquired, no need to renew the certificate. To evaluate the value of any certification we need to consider:How knowledge or competency in a subject is evaluated by the certification assessmentHow rigorous is the assessment processThe cost involved with attaining the certificationThe validity of the certificationBut before you make up a decision on whether to pursue the CSPO or PSPO, remember that while earning certifications is the best way to get noticed by potential recruiters, get your skills endorsed and demonstrate your willingness and commitment to self-improvement, it is also important to prove your worth to your employers by being productive, confident and self- reliant.Note: Please note that the opinions expressed here reflect my personal views only.
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CSPO Vs PSPO: Deciding Between the Two Scrum Certi...

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Who is the Target Audience for Certified Scrum Master Certification Course?

Who is the target audience for Certified Scrum Master certification course? It is easy to understand the Scrum rules, but it is difficult to implement it in real-time projects. CSM course is the best to learn both in detail. It not only teaches you the principles and practices of Scrum but empowers and energizes you to make meaningful changes. Certified Scrum Master course focuses mainly on the Product Owner, Scrum Master and the Team in a software development company. Who will be benefited from this course? Certified Scrum Master course is helpful for everyone who wants to become smart in implementing Scrum in their organizations. Doing a certification course in Scrum strengthens the Scrum Master's experience.  This learning event is highly productive and effective for both leaders and members. As the course is completely revolving around the Scrum Master role, individuals who are planning to take up this role will get benefited more from this course. There is one reputed company in Denmark that sends all the employees from receptionists to senior management to the Scrum training, in order to make them knowledgeable about Scrum concepts and enhance operations throughout their company.  Target Audience There is no such fixed set of target audience for the Scrum Master Certification course. It is designed not only for Scrum Masters but also for the complete project or product delivery teams and anyone interested to work with the Agile teams. You may be a- Software Engineer Product Manager Project Manager Team Leader Business Analyst Development team member Testers etc. Irrespective of your current designation, there are a few basic qualities you should have as a Certified Scrum Master.    It is best for organizations or teams who need memorable and practical instructions. Even students can join this course to get real-time work experience in Scrum by Certified Scrum Trainers (CST) such as: Understanding Scrum framework Building a backlog Estimating a project Different techniques to improve team productivity Effective, project-proven exercises You will also find a CFO, CIO, or CEO in the Certified Scrum Master training classes and others as well who are intended to expand Scrum throughout their organizations. The State of Scrum in 2017 The 2017 state of Scrum report by Scrum Alliance suggested that most of the successful businesses are using Scrum irrespective of the sizes. Agile and Scrum are not limited to only software and IT departments, they are being applied to different industries such as government, education, manufacturing, banking, and finance. Moreover, some other departments such as human resources, finance, and accounting, sales and marketing reported their ongoing Scrum projects. Here are 3 statistics by Scrum Alliance: 89% of Agile users said that they use Scrum approach. 86% reported that they hold a daily Scrum meeting.  83% reported that Scrum was responsible and important to improve the team’s quality of work. Taking a 2-day CSM course, qualifying the CSM exam, and accepting a license agreement primarily establishes you as a Certified Scrum Master. This certification is a way to tell your peers and the world that you have strong knowledge of Scrum and are fit to work as a Scrum Master.  After all, in the Agile confines, CSM certification is the ultimate answer and the way forward.
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Who is the Target Audience for Certified Scrum Mas...

Who is the target audience for Certified Scrum Mas... Read More

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