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Agile Scrum - Team Composition

Many of us have experienced projects that drag on much longer than expected and cost more than planned. Companies looking to improve their software development processes are now exploring how Agile can help their Enterprise more reliably deliver software quickly, iteratively and with a feature set that hits that mark. While Agile has different "flavors", Scrum is one process for implementing Agile. This newsletter is one in a series of newsletters that will discuss the Agile Scrum process and will end with variants of Scrum that can be used to aid in improving your software releases.

Team Composition

Managing Scrum development requires a major change in how teams work together. In traditional Waterfall development, teams normally have a project sponsor, a project manager, analysts, designers, programmers, testers, and documentation specialists. Each team member has specific duties which normally do not normally overlap and they have a specific reporting structure (most team members report to the project manager).

With Scrum, you have just 3 team roles and is normally limited to 7 or less individuals (however, you can have multiple Scrum teams in sets of 7 or less):

  • Product Owner - This is the person that identifies and prioritizes the features that will appear in a 30 day sprint. This is normally the Product Manager, CTO, in some cases the CEO, or some other high level stakeholder that ultimately is responsible for shaping the roadmap of their product. Before a sprint begins, the Product Owner communicates the goal of the sprint to the team and what features should be analyzed for the release. This does not mean that all the desired features will make it into the sprint, the team estimates and prioritizes items for the sprint (during the Sprint Planning sessions), and only the items that can fit in the sprint are done.
  • ScrumMaster - The ScrumMaster is akin to the Project Manager in Waterfall environments, but does not manage the team deliverables at a micro level. Instead, this person is responsible for ensuring that the 30 day sprint stays on course, no new features are added to the sprint, code inspections happen, and ensuring everyone plays by the rules. The ScrumMaster coordinates and runs the daily sprint meetings. The ScrumMaster is not a task master, they are a leader that empowers the team members to deliver the assigned tasks and to help eliminate roadblocks that slow them down.
  • The Team - With Waterfall, a team consists of analysts, designers, testers and documentation specialists. With Scrum, each team member is empowered and expected to self-manage themselves and to participate in all duties needed to deliver a feature. This includes analysis, design, coding, testing and documentation. The Team is responsible for staying focused on assigned tasks, soliciting help as they encounter road blocks, fully testing their code, refactoring code, logging their time daily (including estimated time remaining on each task), and for checking their code daily or more often if possible.

Our Experiences with Team Composition

In our experience, it is unrealistic to assume that The Team can handle quality assurance and documentation well. We have improved the team composition to include 2 additional roles:

  • Software Quality Engineer - This individual is responsible for the quality of the sprint. In our experience, programmers do not test code with the same mentality as a Software Quality Engineer (SQE). Once specific requirements are defined, the SQE develops a set of test cases (manual or automated) to test each requirement fully. Before coding begins, the test cases are made available to the programmers on the team. The programmers are expected to run each test case before marking coding as being complete. Once a requirement is marked as being complete, the SQE is responsible for running the test cases again to ensure they all pass. The SQE also runs a weekly regression to ensure that legacy features are not compromised by the release. If the SQE has developed automated test cases for regression, those are run daily or more frequently, if needed. The SQE does not wait until the end of the sprint to begin testing, they test once a requirement is completed. By the end of the sprint, all testing has been done and regression has been run frequently.
  • Documentation Specialist - The Documentation Specialist (DS) is responsible for creating User Guides, Administrator Guides and other training materials. In our experience, programmers do not always have the written communication skills to write documentation in a way that a laymen can interpret it, that is why it is important to have a separate resource for this function. Once a requirement has been fully tested by the SQE, the DS begins the documentation of that requirement. The DS does not wait until the end of the sprint to begin this, the end of the sprint includes all completed documentation.

What's Next?

Be sure to check out our other newsletters about the Agile Scrum process:

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Helpful Tools and Templates for Agile Scrum

Below are some helpful tools and templates to aid you in your Agile Scrum development efforts and to deliver software on-time and on-budget:

About the Author

Steve Miller is the Vice President of ALM Solutions for AutomatedQA. With over 25 years of experience, Steve has extensive knowledge in project management, software architecture and test design. Steve publishes a monthly newsletter for companies that design and develop software. Be sure to check out our other newsletters.
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