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What Is an Agile Team and How Do You Form Them?

An Agile Team is not just a random group of people or business analysts meeting regularly to create plans for the teams. Agile experts believe that great Agile teams embrace teamwork and consider it essential to deliver great software or a great product. After all, nothing is more rewarding than sharing the experience of building a product that brings the team together.Definition: What is an Agile Team?An Agile team is a multi-functional group that has everything required to create a product. The members of these teams are dedicated to their tasks or projects and do not move between or across teams as the demand increases or decreases.  This team shares accountability for the product they are working on, regardless of the results. They are also expected to acquire and hone expertise in the technical and business aspects involved in the project. This includes programming, testing, designing, and decision making, among others. Their responsibilities involve: Identifying new opportunities Continuously looking for improvement Challenging existing ideas to improve them Creating a platform for effective communication and smooth workflow How Do You Form an Agile Team?Before we describe what constitutes an Agile team, we must understand that they aren’t like other, ‘normal’ teams (this isn’t to say that Agile team members are abnormal). They are a bunch of people across functions who are continuously bouncing new ideas off each other and are busy challenging that status quo – all in a dedicated effort to come up with the best possible version of a working product.  So, if you find yourself in an Agile team at work, tasked with testing a new product update, be prepared for three things: You’ll have to contend with a lot more opinions and a lot more feedback than you expected. You’ll have to be okay with living next to the drawing board, because you’ll be revisiting process improvements continuously.  Nothing about an Agile team goes ‘by the book’.  You’ll start off trying to solve one problem, and you’ll find two additional issues along the journey. So, get used to creating new opportunities for improvement every single day. With this in mind, here’s how you form an Agile team: Understand Your Business Capabilities    When we talk about business capabilities, it refers to “what your business can do”. It is crucial to understand this correctly because there’s a big difference between what your business can do and what you think it can do. Once you have the clarity required, map your business capabilities to the project/case/product requirements. It is at this stage that you’ll encounter gaps, if any. If so, you then need to find ways to fill the void while sticking to the established project timelines. Align Them with Technical Architecture  Once you’ve figured out whether you have the business capabilities to develop the new product, the next step is to identify if you have the technical architecture for the same. This means finding out if your business has the existing technology required to develop the new product well. ‘Technology’ could mean anything and everything here – software and hardware requirements, network storage facilities like cloud computing, etc. If you do, great. All you need to do, then, is map them with the relevant business capabilities. Map Them with Organizational Architecture  Simply put – identify if you have the roles, processes, and people within these roles and functions to work on your new product, business process, etc. This will help you identify all the members that need to be a part of your central dedicated team working on it. And there you have it – this is how your cross-functional Agile Team comes about! Agile Team Qualities:Team Spirit and High-Performing TeamsThe only way to be a high-performing Agile team is if all members clearly understand the value of team effort. Every team member needs to realize that they are responsible for the development and delivery of the product at hand.  With this in mind, they should also build an atmosphere of respect and continuous improvement.  Whether it’s developing software or setting up processes, an Agile team and its formation hinges on the factor of respect between team members. Everyone should value what the other brings to the table, which will help every single person to feel respected and recognized. This is a critical factor in preventing burnout as well. Agile Teams are Cross-Functional This shouldn’t come as a surprise because you need individuals from various teams to come together and give their feedback about your product. This applies to every organization, even if you’re not a typical ‘IT’ company dealing with products.  Let’s say you’re a ridesharing platform that operates mainly through an app. If you’re working on an app update, you need multiple perspectives. Product and Tech need to fix earlier glitches. Design will look for feedback on the latest app layout. Marketing will tell you what features to highlight because they are the ones that sell it to the end-consumer.  As you can see, when multiple teams come and work together, you’ll create magic by fixing bugs you never thought you’d encounter. This leads to more enthusiasm among team members, which is a welcome bonus for working so closely together. Agile Teams Contain Two Specialty Roles Agile teams typically contain two specialty roles – a Product Owner and a Scrum Master. If you’re the product owner, it is your job to ensure that every step in the product development is happening as per the vision of the company and roadmap laid out to achieve the same.  You also need to keep yourself abreast of all the latest updates or developments because you’ll have to answer questions from both your team members and higher management. You will also clearly communicate User Stories (work divisions) to and accept the same from the team.  If you’re a Scrum Master, you’re responsible for ensuring significant value with every product/process update. To achieve this, you have to eliminate every possible obstacle in your team’s way. All of this while ensuring that your team reaches every project milestone within the set deadline – keeping it Agile with a capital A!   Agile Teams Have Well-Defined Responsibilities Despite continuous efforts to keep your Agile team is a well-oiled machine, conflict, if unchecked, can quickly derail your team’s efforts. The most effective way to minimize conflict is to define each team member’s roles and responsibilities clearly. This makes the workflow within the team more efficient because there’s no overlap or imbalance in terms of work distribution. Everyone knows what they’re accountable for and the deadline within which they must deliver.   Agile Teams are Organized Around Value With Agile teams, it’s all about creating and delivering value to your stakeholders and customers in your products and services. In an Agile team, the focus is always on how the current product update has more value (instead of just being ‘better’) than its previous iteration. It’s less about what each team member does than it is about what value they created.  For example – did they resolve the earlier glitches that were reported earlier? Were they able to accommodate new functionality to make the customer experience easier? Agile team members focus more on events like this instead of just ticking things off a checklist. Agile Teams Typically Blend Agile MethodsWhen you’re talking about increasing the value of your product, it’s evident that there’s no single tried-and-tested method that might work for you. An Agile team and its formation entail understanding multiple perspectives and working with multiple feedback.  Similarly, it’s also natural to blend Agile methods to achieve your objectives. Depending on the task at hand, you might choose to combine the best of both Scrum and Kanban to enhance the value of the project you’re working on. Remember, in an Agile team, it’s all about creating value, but within set deadlines. Agile Teams Are on the TrainWhen we talk about trains concerning Agile teams, we are referring to Agile Release Trains (ARTs). Just like an actual train has a final destination to reach while stopping at multiple stations along the way, an Agile team is also a train of sorts.  The contributions that your cross-functional team members make are the passengers or luggage that your train picks up along the journey. The project/product/update that you’re working towards delivering is the final destination that your ‘train’ reaches. An Agile Release Train is a schedule that all team members follow in order to stay on track with the product being delivered on time. Common Pitfalls An Agile team and its formation can get into multiple pitfalls if the process isn’t handled thoughtfully. The smaller the team, the easier it is to define roles and responsibilities. If it’s a large team, workflows and tasks can become very ambiguous.  It’s always better to keep the strength of your Agile team within three to ten members. This is because smaller teams promote better collaboration among their members. It’s also worth noting that every team member should be aligned to its vision and the task at hand. They should also bring a varied skill-set that doesn’t overlap too much with other team members’ specialties. Most importantly, members of an Agile team cannot, under any circumstances, be members of another team. Collaboration and CultureNo team can call itself an Agile team without a shared commitment to meeting the organization’s vision while not compromising on value. Each team member should be fully committed to delivering the overall team goals, no matter what. When it comes to dependencies in other teams, every Agile team member should continuously meet the project goals and eliminate hurdles that come in the way. There should also be a culture of trust and respect so that it’s easier for members of an Agile team to work on feedback more effectively. Constantly communicating will lead to better decisions being made across the board daily. ConclusionAs you might have gathered from the above article, Agile teams are characterized by communication, collaboration, trust, respect, and a commitment to the company's vision. A high-performing team needs to have all these attributes, which are very hard to come by. So, it’s always recommended to give time to your team members and have patience with them, as fostering a culture of trust and respect takes considerable time. But you can always start to grow an Agile team by sowing the seeds of motivation, commitment, and performance among its members. 

What Is an Agile Team and How Do You Form Them?

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What Is an Agile Team and How Do You Form Them?

An Agile Team is not just a random group of people or business analysts meeting regularly to create plans for the teams. Agile experts believe that great Agile teams embrace teamwork and consider it essential to deliver great software or a great product. After all, nothing is more rewarding than sharing the experience of building a product that brings the team together.

Definition: What is an Agile Team?

An Agile team is a multi-functional group that has everything required to create a product. The members of these teams are dedicated to their tasks or projects and do not move between or across teams as the demand increases or decreases.  

This team shares accountability for the product they are working on, regardless of the results. They are also expected to acquire and hone expertise in the technical and business aspects involved in the project. This includes programming, testing, designing, and decision making, among others. 

Their responsibilities involve: 

  • Identifying new opportunities 
  • Continuously looking for improvement 
  • Challenging existing ideas to improve them 
  • Creating a platform for effective communication and smooth workflow 

Agile Team

How Do You Form an Agile Team?

Before we describe what constitutes an Agile team, we must understand that they aren’t like other, ‘normal’ teams (this isn’t to say that Agile team members are abnormal). They are a bunch of people across functions who are continuously bouncing new ideas off each other and are busy challenging that status quo – all in a dedicated effort to come up with the best possible version of a working product.  

So, if you find yourself in an Agile team at work, tasked with testing a new product update, be prepared for three things: 

  • You’ll have to contend with a lot more opinions and a lot more feedback than you expected. 
  • You’ll have to be okay with living next to the drawing board, because you’ll be revisiting process improvements continuously.  
  • Nothing about an Agile team goes ‘by the book’.  

You’ll start off trying to solve one problem, and you’ll find two additional issues along the journey. So, get used to creating new opportunities for improvement every single day. 

With this in mind, here’s how you form an Agile team: 

Understand Your Business Capabilities    

When we talk about business capabilities, it refers to “what your business can do”. It is crucial to understand this correctly because there’s a big difference between what your business can do and what you think it can do. Once you have the clarity required, map your business capabilities to the project/case/product requirements. It is at this stage that you’ll encounter gaps, if any. If so, you then need to find ways to fill the void while sticking to the established project timelines. 

Align Them with Technical Architecture  

Once you’ve figured out whether you have the business capabilities to develop the new product, the next step is to identify if you have the technical architecture for the same. This means finding out if your business has the existing technology required to develop the new product well. ‘Technology’ could mean anything and everything here – software and hardware requirements, network storage facilities like cloud computing, etc. If you do, great. All you need to do, then, is map them with the relevant business capabilities. 

Map Them with Organizational Architecture  

Simply put – identify if you have the roles, processes, and people within these roles and functions to work on your new product, business process, etc. This will help you identify all the members that need to be a part of your central dedicated team working on it. 

And there you have it – this is how your cross-functional Agile Team comes about! 

Agile Team Qualities:

Team Spirit and High-Performing Teams

The only way to be a high-performing Agile team is if all members clearly understand the value of team effort. Every team member needs to realize that they are responsible for the development and delivery of the product at hand.  With this in mind, they should also build an atmosphere of respect and continuous improvement.  

Whether it’s developing software or setting up processes, an Agile team and its formation hinges on the factor of respect between team members. Everyone should value what the other brings to the table, which will help every single person to feel respected and recognized. This is a critical factor in preventing burnout as well. 

Agile Teams are Cross-Functional 

This shouldn’t come as a surprise because you need individuals from various teams to come together and give their feedback about your product. This applies to every organization, even if you’re not a typical ‘IT’ company dealing with products.  

Let’s say you’re a ridesharing platform that operates mainly through an app. If you’re working on an app update, you need multiple perspectives. Product and Tech need to fix earlier glitches. Design will look for feedback on the latest app layout. Marketing will tell you what features to highlight because they are the ones that sell it to the end-consumer.  

As you can see, when multiple teams come and work together, you’ll create magic by fixing bugs you never thought you’d encounter. This leads to more enthusiasm among team members, which is a welcome bonus for working so closely together. 

Agile Teams Contain Two Specialty Roles 

Agile teams typically contain two specialty roles – a Product Owner and a Scrum Master. If you’re the product owner, it is your job to ensure that every step in the product development is happening as per the vision of the company and roadmap laid out to achieve the same.  

You also need to keep yourself abreast of all the latest updates or developments because you’ll have to answer questions from both your team members and higher management. You will also clearly communicate User Stories (work divisions) to and accept the same from the team.  

If you’re a Scrum Master, you’re responsible for ensuring significant value with every product/process update. To achieve this, you have to eliminate every possible obstacle in your team’s way. All of this while ensuring that your team reaches every project milestone within the set deadline – keeping it Agile with a capital A!   

Agile Teams Have Well-Defined Responsibilities 

Despite continuous efforts to keep your Agile team is a well-oiled machine, conflict, if unchecked, can quickly derail your team’s efforts. The most effective way to minimize conflict is to define each team member’s roles and responsibilities clearly. This makes the workflow within the team more efficient because there’s no overlap or imbalance in terms of work distribution. Everyone knows what they’re accountable for and the deadline within which they must deliver.   

Agile Teams are Organized Around Value 

With Agile teams, it’s all about creating and delivering value to your stakeholders and customers in your products and services. In an Agile team, the focus is always on how the current product update has more value (instead of just being ‘better’) than its previous iteration. It’s less about what each team member does than it is about what value they created.  

For example – did they resolve the earlier glitches that were reported earlier? Were they able to accommodate new functionality to make the customer experience easier? Agile team members focus more on events like this instead of just ticking things off a checklist. 

Agile Teams Typically Blend Agile Methods

When you’re talking about increasing the value of your product, it’s evident that there’s no single tried-and-tested method that might work for you. An Agile team and its formation entail understanding multiple perspectives and working with multiple feedback.  

Similarly, it’s also natural to blend Agile methods to achieve your objectives. Depending on the task at hand, you might choose to combine the best of both Scrum and Kanban to enhance the value of the project you’re working on. Remember, in an Agile team, it’s all about creating value, but within set deadlines. 

Agile Teams Are on the Train

When we talk about trains concerning Agile teams, we are referring to Agile Release Trains (ARTs). Just like an actual train has a final destination to reach while stopping at multiple stations along the way, an Agile team is also a train of sorts.  

The contributions that your cross-functional team members make are the passengers or luggage that your train picks up along the journey. The project/product/update that you’re working towards delivering is the final destination that your ‘train’ reaches. An Agile Release Train is a schedule that all team members follow in order to stay on track with the product being delivered on time. 

Common Pitfalls 

An Agile team and its formation can get into multiple pitfalls if the process isn’t handled thoughtfully. The smaller the team, the easier it is to define roles and responsibilities. If it’s a large team, workflows and tasks can become very ambiguous.  

It’s always better to keep the strength of your Agile team within three to ten members. This is because smaller teams promote better collaboration among their members. It’s also worth noting that every team member should be aligned to its vision and the task at hand. They should also bring a varied skill-set that doesn’t overlap too much with other team members’ specialties. Most importantly, members of an Agile team cannot, under any circumstances, be members of another team. 

Collaboration and Culture

No team can call itself an Agile team without a shared commitment to meeting the organization’s vision while not compromising on value. Each team member should be fully committed to delivering the overall team goals, no matter what. When it comes to dependencies in other teams, every Agile team member should continuously meet the project goals and eliminate hurdles that come in the way. There should also be a culture of trust and respect so that it’s easier for members of an Agile team to work on feedback more effectively. Constantly communicating will lead to better decisions being made across the board daily. 

Conclusion

As you might have gathered from the above article, Agile teams are characterized by communication, collaboration, trust, respect, and a commitment to the company's vision. A high-performing team needs to have all these attributes, which are very hard to come by. So, it’s always recommended to give time to your team members and have patience with them, as fostering a culture of trust and respect takes considerable time. But you can always start to grow an Agile team by sowing the seeds of motivation, commitment, and performance among its members. 

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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Sprints are time-boxed, usually lasting two to four weeks, and allow the team to break down complex projects into short, doable tasks.As the team catches up on a daily basis, as well as at the end of every Sprint, work becomes transparent and obstacles, if any, are ironed out before they escalate out of control and hinder progress.  The project becomes more flexible and adapts to changes easily, as requirements are re-evaluated and task priorities are re-grouped at the end of every sprint.Scrum Roles and the Scrum TeamThere are three clearly defined roles in Scrum.  The Product Owner is the person who creates the Product vision, sets the direction for each sprint, and acts as the bridge between the team, customers and stakeholders. The PO maintains and manages the Product Backlog which determines the progress of the product development.The Scrum Master is the one who holds things together, helping the PO to define value, and communicating that value to the team so that they can deliver it. He or she creates and facilitates an environment that is conducive to Scrum success.The Scrum Team is a cross-functional, self-organising group of developers who are jointly responsible for product delivery. A team usually comprises not more than seven people, who are required to communicate and collaborate well together.  There is no hierarchy on a Scrum team, and the Scrum Master is considered their ‘servant leader’ and not their manager.Scrum Best PracticesWhether you’re a product owner, Scrum master or a team member, here is a set of best practices that can help to improve your efficiency and set you on the track to team success!Teamwork and meetings1. Create Product Backlog in conjunction with stakeholders.The stakeholders can contribute effectively to creating the product vision, and must be roped in for the inputs while creating the product backlog. During the negotiations on the backlog and while re-prioritising tasks, the team and stakeholders can come to a better understanding of the vision and what is expected to be delivered.2. Stakeholders must participate in Scrum meetings.When stakeholders and Product Owners participate in Scrum meetings, they will understand the workflow and the ways in which the team works. In turn, they can offer valuable feedback on the progress of work and about the deliverables during each sprint.3. Try not to regroup teams.When a team has worked together successfully on previous projects, they will already be sharing a rapport and understanding of each other’s capabilities. Rather than breaking the work rhythm, the best practice would be to keep productive teams together. This, of course, is not always possible as some projects will need regrouping due to different skill requirements.4. Work on team building.Team building is a practice that should never be neglected or sacrificed for want of time. A group that is cohesive will work better and faster, and the Scrum Master should use team-building techniques and activities to foster cooperation and collaboration.5. Don’t sit down during Stand-ups!.The reason why the daily meeting is called a Stand-up is because people are expected to stand up, and not sit down! Typically, meetings where everyone is standing up are shorter and get the expected results, while sit-down meetings tend to drag on and on.6. Nurture remote communication.When teams are distributed across geographies, or work-from-home mandates are in place, it’s important to set guidelines for remote communication. Important details could be missed out on calls, and critical notifications should be documented over a shared tracker so that they are flagged. Collaboration software makes it easy to set up notification messages to all the people concerned.Planning and estimates7. Keep stakeholder in the loop while estimating.It is always better that the principal stakeholder should be present during estimating meetings. If the team has any doubts, they can get cleared at once. What’s more, the stakeholder will understand the why, what and how behind estimation and this will help to establish trust and accountability.8. Plan a new sprint only when the backlog has enough items.Only when the product backlog has enough items for the next two sprints, is it time to plan the next one. Scope creep happens when there is uncontrolled growth in the scope of the project, because there was poorly defined scope for the next few sprints in the backlog.9. Set goals clearly.Unless the goals for each sprint are clearly laid out, it could become very difficult to prioritise the tasks in the backlog. The team and customers must align their objectives in order to set the goals that the team will achieve during each sprint. Based on the goals, the Product Owner in conjunction with the team will choose the tasks that must be completed during the sprint.10. Estimate using Planning Poker.Planning Poker is a proven, easy to use technique for estimating and planning. Using this simple technique, accurate and doable estimates can be achieved.11. Set time aside daily for risk mitigation.By planning a six hour day and leaving two hours aside each day for risk mitigation, it is possible not to fall short on time estimates. Many unexpected things could happen that turn timings awry, and by doing this it is possible to be prepared for unforeseen circumstances.12. Do not stretch or cut short sprint timings.The time frame for a sprint should not be stretched or curtailed, as otherwise the team will be tempted to neglect set timelines in the expectation that they will be reset. Even if a story is unexpectedly big and cannot be completed in a sprint, at the end of the agreed-upon timeframe the sprint should end, and the items that were not completed should be moved to the top of the backlog for the next sprint. At the same time, if the stories are completed ahead of time in a sprint, then some smaller stories could be added to help keep the schedules on track.Managing backlogs13. Keep sprint backlog separate from product backlog.The product backlog is updated regularly, while the sprint backlog is kept frozen and can be referred back to at any time. Do not mix up the two or combine them.14. Use task prioritisation techniques.Task prioritisation techniques such as MoSCoW, Business value approach, Kano model, Walking skeleton and so on can be used to prioritise tasks in the product backlog. Simple excel documents can list out backlog tasks and show the status and priority (must, could or should are most frequently used terms). Use the technique that makes best sense for your team, and that everyone is able to understand.15. Itemise user stories by assigning IDs.To cut through ambiguity, assign an ID to each user story so that the team knows exactly what is being discussed. Two user stories may sound similar but be different, and team members may think that a different story is being discussed.16. Map functional and technical dependencies.Dependencies could be functional (defined by stakeholders) or technical (defined by the engineering team). By mapping both types of dependencies, the workflow is smoothened and optimised, and bottlenecks can be identified and removed.17. Use a Scrum board.Many people work better when they have visual aids to guide them. A Scrum board is a very useful tool in this regard. The board is a visual representation of User stories, tasks that are yet to start, in progress and done. It can also indicate blocks, testing tasks and reviews from the Product Owner.  Tools like JIRA and Trello are very easy to use and understand, and offer great value to the team.Tracking and predicting18. Use sprint burndown charts.Burndown charts that visually depict the progress of the sprint are a great visualisation tool that detects issues when they appear, and helps to resolve them before they escalate. Completed tasks per day are mapped against the planned tasks, giving an indication if the progress goes off track.19. Use release burndown charts.Release burndown charts depict the sprints that are needed to complete, or release, the product. The team can decide whether they need to adjust the timeframe or not. Using these charts is a good practice to follow, especially if the product backlog was updated over the course of the project with new user requirements.20. Chart velocity.By calculating the velocity, the progress of work can be charted against initial estimates, and used to better predict team commitments and results. If the velocity is changing a great deal, then the sprint planning must be revisited and made more reliable.21. Invest in good quality software.Tools that are built for Agile teams can help with project planning, time tracking and measurement of metrics. JIRA, Toggl, Git, and Slack are popular tools that are very supportive and can help to streamline and optimise workflows.To sum up…Implementing a smooth, streamlined Agile workflow could take a lot of planning and strategizing, but with the right mindset, approach and collaborative tools, it doesn’t have to be difficult!  Each team is different, and you might need to experiment with a few approaches and Scrum best practices till you find the one that’s right for you.After all, the main premise of Agile is that you should be flexible, and adapt when the need arises!
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Top 21 Scrum Best Practices for Efficient Agile Wo...

Scrum, arguably the most popular Agile framework i... Read More

Product Owner vs Scrum Master: Key Differences

Scrum Master vs Product Owner: The two most important roles in a Scrum team. Though they seem similar, there are significant differences between the two. The pandemic has accelerated your organization’s need to go agile. But in your quest for digital transformation which roles will you hire for? The Scrum Master vs Product Owner has been a long standing debate, despite the fact that both are indispensable roles in the Scrum software development methodology and play their part in Agile transformations. Let’s look at these two roles, their specialities, differences and contributions to the digital landscape. Who is a Scrum Master? “The Scrum Master is accountable for establishing Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. They do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory and practice, both within the Scrum Team and the organization. The Scrum Master is accountable for the Scrum Team’s effectiveness. They do this by enabling the Scrum Team to improve its practices, within the Scrum framework.”—Scrum.org Who is a Product Owner? “The Product Owner is accountable for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Scrum Team. The Product Owner is one person, not a committee. The Product Owner may represent the needs of many stakeholders in the Product Backlog. Those wanting to change the Product Backlog can do so by trying to convince the Product Owner”—Scrum.org Scrum Master vs Product Owner The Scrum Master and Product Owner are different roles with different responsibilities, yet they complement each other. The Scrum master should support the Product Owner in every step possible.   There should be an amicable relationship between the Product Owner and the Scrum master. Disputes may arise between the two, if the roles are not clarified. The Scrum Master’s main aim is to ensure project success, by assisting the product owner and the team in using the right process and adhering to Agile principles. Scrum Master Product Owner Servant leadership: The day to day activity of a Scrum Master involves servant leadership where they are involved in performance planning, coaching, self- organization, removing obstacles, resolving conflicts and serving the team. Stakeholder satisfaction: The first responsibility of the product owner is customer satisfaction and this they carry out by ensuring that customer requirements are given priority and there is transparency between development team and stakeholders.   The product owner guarantees stakeholder satisfaction by ensuring product success, and building a product which meets business requirements.   Coach and teacher:  Agile coaching is a Scrum Master’s primary skill. Teaching Scrum skills, especially to new Scrum teams is a huge part of the Scrum Master’s responsibility.   They need to ensure that the team is working as per Scrum and Agile principles and following processes. Conflict resolver: Product owners may often come across unreasonable or difficult to handle stakeholders.   Having conflict resolution skills will come in handy to diffuse any untoward situations or escalations that may arise with stakeholders or development team members.     Technical familiarity:  There is no doubt that having some technical competence will help a Scrum Master be better at the job.   Technical acumen will help a Scrum Master remove any impediments the team faces and build better products by providing the correct tools and techniques. Collaborator: A product owner is a great storyteller, which means that they are able to explain the vision of the product to the developers.   They need not necessarily have the technical skills to prepare user stories but they can effectively collaborate with those who can.     Organizational skills:   As someone who leads and guides the Scrum team, having good organizational skills is a must-have in a Scrum Master’s repertoire.   SMs must ensure that work is allocated correctly, there is no slippage of tasks and deadlines are met.   Prioritization skills: The Product Owner must have inherent prioritization skills in order to prioritise items on the backlog. Soft Skills: A Scrum Master should have great interpersonal skills, should be a conflict manager with the ability to solve internal and external conflicts, should be an excellent communicator and must have empathy towards team members. Soft Skills:  Good communication skills and being business savvy are paramount to being successful as a Product Owner.   Having to work with stakeholders and other parties means that Product Owners must be able to communicate the status of the product and other technical knowledge that the customer may wish to know.   Similarly, they must be able to communicate to the team about the vision of the product and stakeholder expectations.   Scrum knowledge: What is a Scrum Master without Scrum knowledge? The primary responsibility of the Scrum Master is to guide the development team on all things Scrum and make sure that the development of the product is taking place according to Scrum and Agile principles and values.   This will ensure that all benefits that are associated with Scrum and Agile are realised during the course of the project.   Scrum knowledge: The product owner must have knowledge of the product roadmap, release management, product backlog management, sprint planning, review and retrospectives, in order to maximise product value. Scrum Master vs Product Owner – A Responsibility Comparison Scrum Master Product Owner Aiding the team: As a servant leader, the primary responsibility of the Scrum Master is to help the development team perform. This includes removing obstacles that may impede the team from performing. Defining the vision:   The Product Owner’s main task is to define the vision of the product to the development team. This involves helping them understand the reason for the product being built, its usefulness for the clients and stakeholders, how it can evolve in the future and what it is expected to achieve. Giving the development team a correct vision of the product will help them work better. Helping team members do Scrum:   A Scrum Master is well versed with Scrum processes and tools. It’s the Scrum Master’s primary responsibility to ensure that the team adheres to Scrum processes during the development of the product. Being the bridge between stakeholders and team:   As the go-between the development team and the customers, it is the Product Owner’s responsibility to get each party what they need to be happy. In the development team’s case, the product owner has to ensure that they have understood without any ambiguity, what needs to be built and with respect to the stakeholders, product owner has to ensure that they get the product that they have asked for.   At the same time, the product owner must maintain a correct balance between the two and ensure that there is complete transparency and there is no over commitment on requirements to either side.   Arranges stand up meetings: The daily stand-up meetings are an essential part of Scrum. The Scrum Master facilitates these meetings and ensures that all issues are addressed and the team is able to perform towards reaching its sprint goal. Meet with all those involved with the product: This includes meeting stakeholders, development team and all those who wish to discuss the product roadmap. These discussions could range from current product backlog items to future releases to any technical information the stakeholder may need. Sets up an environment where the team can perform more effectively: The development team develops the product, and a happy team means a well-built product and satisfied customers.   The team must be allowed to work in an environment that is free of distractions and conducive to innovation and research.   The Scrum Master makes sure that such an environment is provided to the team. Maximises Product Value:   The Product Owner maximises product value by identifying what items in the product backlog need to be tackled first. Continuous prioritization and ordering of product backlog is an important responsibility of the product owner to ensure that high priority work gets into production first for release. Helps Product Owner with product backlog:   The Scrum Master aids the development team and the Product Owner with effective product backlog management.   This they do by facilitating Scrum events, product planning and by helping the team to identify backlog items. Manages Product Backlog:   Creating and updating the backlog is a major part of the product owner’s responsibility. They have to sequence, prioritise and ensure that the development time is not wasting time or resources in doing the wrong tasks. Updating the product backlog is an on-going responsibility of the Product Owner.   Promoting Scrum in the enterprise:   The Scrum Master has a greater responsibility than that of leading the team, and that is the promotion of Scrum and transformation of the entire organization.   This they do by coaching and helping teams and departments understand Scrum and develop an Agile mind-set. Explaining Scrum:   You may be working with a team that is new to Scrum or stakeholders who are not aware of Scrum processes.   As a Product Owner you will be expected to help your team understand about the Scrum processes that will be followed during every stage of product development while also helping the stakeholders understand how Scrum is being used to develop the product.   Here are some of the frequently asked questions around Scrum Master vs  Product Owner Which is the one most important service a Scrum Master provides to the Product Owner? The most important help a Scrum Master gives the Product Owner is in the management of the product backlog.   While the primary responsibility of the product backlog management lies with the Product Owner, the Scrum Master pitches in when there are too many things to handle and the Product Owner is unable to perform all activities simultaneously. The Scrum Master is also the perfect bridge between the Product Owner and the development team, helping the team understand the vision of the Product Owner and helping them realise this vision. Are Scrum Master and Product Owner the same person? This is a highly debated question in the Agile world. Some experts are of the view that there are clear differences between the two roles and hence there should be two individuals to manage these two roles.   The Product Owner should have an overall vision of the client’s requirements. Due to this reason, the Scrum Master needs the Product Owner; whereas the project team requires the Scrum Master to help them deliver by creating an atmosphere conducive to development and innovation. Who validates the product delivered in Scrum? The product backlog is ordered on the basis of the value of the items being delivered. Though the value is influenced by several factors including the complexity, risks associated and criticality, these are not the basis for calculating value.   The value of the product is validated by the Product Owner who orders the product backlog. Conclusion The Scrum Master and the Product Owner have mostly overlapping roles and responsibilities as well as overlapping skills.    The Scrum Master ensures project success, by assisting the product owner and the team in using the right Scrum processes for creating the end product and establishing the Agile principles. The Product Owner interacts with the users and customers, Stakeholders, the Development team and the Scrum Master to deliver a successful product.    The Product Owner and the Scrum Master are both invaluable members of a Scrum project team, as they build the perfect relation with the development team and strive to deliver the best results.
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Product Owner vs Scrum Master: Key Differences

Scrum Master vs Product Owner: The two most import... Read More