By now, most dev teams have replaced aged Waterfall methodologies with the Agile manifesto. Scrum masters are tasked with the tough task of ensuring the Agile development team stays on track from the first sprint to the final product delivery to the client.
Ensuring the team stays on task and follows all the agreed-upon values is one of the hardest jobs on a software development project. It’s an honor to be trusted as a scrum master, however, the excitement of being chosen can fade very quickly.
The Organization is key to a successful sprint…
What does a scrum master do, exactly? Well, there are things a scrum master must focus on in order to make Agile development a success, and deliver a marketable, working product that will fill a given market need that the customer is happy with:
- Is it possible for the dev team to deliver all the features the client requires?
- Have you gone over those requirements extensively with the client, to make sure no time is wasted on tasks irrelevant to the end goal?
- Can you realistically deliver the finished product in the time allotted?
- How will you organize each sprint — which features should be explored first?
- What’s the team’s plan to overcome small snags and large roadblocks during a sprint?
These and other considerations are a real concern for both new and experienced scrum masters. Here are 3 tips to keep Agile development moving forward:
1. Be conservative
An aspiring artist needs to reach for the stars. Devs need to be conservative as to what they can deliver on. Planning is key to ensuring individual backlog tasks don’t overwork individual team members as they commit to those tasks.
Spend as much time as possible planning and going over each phase with the team. Then, keep your eyes and ears on everyone to make sure they’re not overwhelmed. Ask questions, don’t assume everything is getting done, and challenge those who appear to be falling behind.
2. Prioritize the backlog
Ideally, the product owner will have experience and create a backlog that makes sense. Each backlog task needs to be ordered according to importance — Ie., what needs to be included first. Consider how a car manufacturer builds a vehicle:
- Frame and chassis are assembled by some team members.
- At that same time, the engine and engine computer are being manufactured.
- The engine is installed in chassis and verified to be working.
- Body panels, doors, interior parts, accessories, and finally paint are applied before being sent out to customers.
Throughout the process, quality control tests and inspects the vehicle before one process is marked complete and the next one begins. Painting the car before everything else is working and considered roadworthy would be silly. In order for a scrum master to lead their team to a successful sprint review, they must ensure daily stand-ups are being prioritized with the right features being added and tested first.
3. Don’t leave the door open for disconnect from the product owner
Testing and demos need to be done VERY regularly in order to ensure the product owner’s end-goals are being met. It’s common for the slightest misunderstanding during the meeting and planning phase to create a product that’s only place is in the proverbial scrap bin!
Sit with the product owner, don’t get up until you’re confident everyone is on the same page, then assign another team member to be the eyes and ears for the product owner and their goal for the dev. If the product owner is you or a manager and not a client, this process will be much easier.
Hold daily scrum meetings of 15 minutes or fewer, at the beginning of each day, where team members go over their completed tasks. Answer the following questions:
- What was finished yesterday?
- What’s in store for each team member today?
- What are any perceived roadblocks getting in the way of those backlog tasks?
Answering these tasks opens the door for brainstorming and collaboration, to ensure the project is always moving forward — and again, that nobody’s struggling unnecessarily with backlog tasks that you or others can help smooth over. This way, you can move from sprint to sprint review, and move onto the next one (relatively) seamlessly.
You and your team have spent their time getting education and experience in software development. Don’t let yourself feel intimidated about being the scrum master. Let your experience as a dev shine through, support your team any way you can, and you’ll soon find projects being finished quicker, with fewer hiccups and delivering a higher-quality end result to the product owner.