Job profile: Become a Scrum master
Scrum is a framework designed for teams to solve “complex adaptive problems,” giving them the space to be creative and productive so that they can work together to deliver products of optimum value. “Adaptive” is a key word in the context of rapidly changing market realities and business needs. Agile technologies enable organizations to quickly adapt to changes without compromising quality.
In the Scrum methodology, work is organized into “sprints” or short iterations, and reviewed at the end of each sprint. During the review, issues are addressed, and necessary changes implemented, following agile principles. These sprints continue, one after the other, until the project is closed.
The Scrum master is one of the three roles in Scrum. The other two are product owner and Scrum team member. A Scrum master is the mentor and coach of the Scrum team and supervisor of the agile development process. He (or she) functions as a conduit between the business, product owner, and the team.
It is the Scrum master’s responsibility to support and guide the product owner and the Scrum team, facilitate the adoption of agile practices, and coordinate interactions between the organization, product owner, and team members. She (or he) must be well-versed in agile methodologies. The three professional organizations that support Scrum methodology are Scrum Alliance; Scrum.org; and Scrum, Inc.
What does a Scrum master do?
According to The Scrum Guide by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, it is the responsibility of the Scrum Master to promote and support Scrum. This involves helping Scrum team members and other stakeholders “understand Scrum theory, practices, rules, and values.”
The Scrum Guide describes the Scrum master as a servant-leader. She (or he) is a link between the business, the product owner, and the Scrum team. At the organizational level, he (or she) is responsible for creating a supportive, harmonious, and productive environment wherein stakeholders can collaborate with each other to produce optimum value for the organization.
The Scrum master helps the product owner plan the development process and carry out the same within the Scrum framework. Coaching is one of the Scrum master’s key responsibilities. She (or he) coaches and mentors the team, enabling them to understand and follow Scrum practices and values.
Responsibilities of the Scrum master include the following:
— Take leadership for the adoption of Scrum in an organization. This involves educating stakeholders on the benefits of adopting Scrum in the workplace, coaching team members, and facilitating the adoption of Scrum.
— Plan the implementation of Scrum.
— Help team members and other stakeholders learn Scrum and apply Scrum principles during the product development process. Educate team members about the advantages of applying the empirical process in product development.
— Coordinate exchanges between the team and stakeholders who are not part of the team by helping the latter realize which interactions with the team are constructive and which are unnecessary.
— Implement whatever changes are necessary to enhance the team’s productivity.
— Help the team prioritize in order to ensure continuous improvement.
— Assist team members in Sprint planning and help them concur on what can be achieved within a certain timeline.
— Lead daily scrums and help the team agree on what needs to be done.
— Train the team to follow agile principles.
— Implement rules and help the team to follow rules.
— Assist in eliminating obstacles to progress.
— Ensure that external events don’t disturb the team.
— Close out the project and document lessons learnt.
Keeping up with Scrum
The Scrum Guide has changed quite a bit since it was first published in 2010. There have been several revisions, which you can peruse online. As a Scrum master (or aspiring Scrum master), you need to be up-to-date with the latest version. The official most current version is dated Nov. 2017.
For example, the Daily Sprint is now defined as an event that lasts 15 minutes at the most. Also, the development team now holds a Daily Sprint every day of the Sprint to plan their activities for the next 24 hours.
Prepare yourself to be a master
Recruiters expect an effective Scrum master to have certain attributes. Many companies require at least a year of demonstrable experience leading or participating with a Scrum team. Depending on the industry and type of projects, recruiters may also require some level of university business degree.
An increasing number of Scrum master job ads also list certification as one of the qualifications. Many organizations consider leading certifications an indication of fundamental knowledge of the Scrum framework and the ability to lead an agile workforce.
Other attributes include an analytical approach, ability to think fast and adapt to frequent changes, solid communication and interpersonal skills, and excellent team management capabilities.
A Scrum master is also known as a “servant-leader,” because he (or she) serves the team by leading daily scrums and facilitating removal of hindrances to progress. She (or he) must be able to lead and coach teams of professionals and engage them to collaborate with each other toward a common business objective. He or she needs to be conversant with agile and scrum methodologies.
Candidates are usually expected to demonstrate knowledge of techniques and the ability to integrate software into work processes so as to enable quick and precise integration of changes in order to optimize work outcomes in line with evolving business realities. It is also crucial to remain focused on the project goal and help the team to progress toward its Sprint goal each day.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for certified Scrum masters increased by 24 percent in 2018. Companies across industries view reliable certifications as proof of relevant training and expertise. The most valued credentials are managed by the two leading Scrum certification bodies, Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org. Key certifications include:
The Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM®) credential from Scrum Alliance validates knowledge of Scrum values, familiarity with applicability of Scrum in the real world, and preliminary understanding of agile practices. The certification process tests the ability to help Scrum team members learn the Scrum framework, improve their performance, and avoid internal and external disturbances.
This Scrum Alliance offering is designed for Certified ScrumMaster®s who aspire to further their fundamental knowledge of Scrum and Scrum implementation skills.
Another credential from Scrum Alliance, the CSP®-SM credential is suitable for A-CSM℠s who intend advancing their career to the next level. This certification validates in-depth experience and superior knowledge of Scrum.
The CSD® credential is intended for programmers. It validates applied knowledge of Scrum and Agile principles, Agile engineering expertise, and the ability to use key tools and processes in order to develop effective software for Scrum environments.
This certification is suitable for professionals who are interested in the business aspect of projects. It demonstrates the ability to “create the product vision”, and ensure the team achieves an outcome that satisfies the customer.
Scrum.org offers the Professional Scrum MasterTM certification, which is available at 3 levels of proficiency: PSM I, PSM II, and PSM III.
Though there are no prerequisites for the PSM I test, it is a challenging test and one needs to have a fundamental understanding of Scrum principles and professional experience of applying Scrum methodologies to pass the test.
Go join the Scrum
An increasing number of organizations are realizing that it is crucial to be agile in order to adapt to tech markets that are changing faster than ever. The demand for Scrum masters to lead the transition to agility is growing.