Defining Roles within an Agile Sprint - dummies

Defining Roles within an Agile Sprint

By Mark C. Layton

In a project using an agile management model, each part of the scrum team — the development team, product owner, and scrum master — has specific daily roles and responsibilities. Any or all of these activities can be happening at any given time, and they don’t always occur in a linear way.

The role of the development team during an agile sprint

The sprint day’s focus for the development team is producing shippable functionality. If you’re a member of the development team, you also perform the following tasks during the sprint.

  • Select the tasks of highest need and complete them as quickly as possible.

  • Request clarification from the product owner when you are unclear about a user story.

  • Collaborate with other development team members to design the approach to a specific user story, seek help when you need it, and provide help when another development team member needs it.

  • Conduct peer reviews on one another’s work.

  • Take on tasks beyond your normal role as the sprint demands.

  • Fully develop functionality as agreed to in the definition of done.

  • Report daily on your progress.

  • Alert the scrum master to any roadblocks you can’t effectively remove on your own.

  • Achieve the sprint goal you committed to during sprint planning.

The role of the product owner during an agile sprint

For the product owner, the focus is on preparing the product backlog for future sprints while supporting the development team with real-time clarifications. The product owner has the following responsibilities during the sprint:

  • Make the investments required to keep development speed high.

  • Prioritize product functionality.

  • Represent the product stakeholders to the development team.

  • Report on cost and schedule status to product stakeholders.

  • Create detailed user stories with the development team so that the team clearly understands what it is creating.

  • Provide immediate clarification and decisions about requirements to keep the development team developing.

  • Remove business impediments brought to you by the scrum master.

  • Review complete functionality for user stories and provide feedback to the development team.

  • Add new user stories to the product backlog as necessary and ensure that new user stories support the product vision, the release goal, or the sprint goal.

  • Look forward to the next sprint and elaborate user stories in readiness for the next sprint planning meeting.

The role of the scrum master during an agile sprint

The scrum master is the agile coach and maximizes the development team’s productivity by removing roadblocks and protecting the development team from external distractions. If you’re a scrum master, your job during the sprint is to

  • Uphold agile values and practices by coaching the product owner, development team, and the organization when necessary.

  • Shield the development team from external distractions.

  • Remove roadblocks, both tactically for immediate problems and strategically for potential long-term issues.

  • Facilitate consensus-building within the scrum team.

  • Build relationships to foster close cooperation with people working with the scrum team. Scrum masters should never lunch alone — they should always be building relationships. You never know when you’ll need to call in a favor on a project.

Nonverbal communication says a lot. Scrum masters can benefit from understanding body language to identify unspoken tensions within the scrum team.