One vague area in Scrum is vision and strategy. Most discussions about Scrum fall within the boundaries of daily scrums and release plans. What is needed is more understanding of how Scrum and a company’s vision work together. To help senior management comprehend the limitations of Scrum and to help Scrum teams visualize the big picture, each organization that wants to implement Scrum needs a strategist –someone responsible for creating a level playing field where all stakeholders and participating parties in business can contribute and add more value. The strategist’s role should be to evaluate ever-changing market trends, sales, and the organization as a whole to make sure that what engineering builds is not just feasible but valuable.
Value, in this case, is not about metrics. Value is the perceived financial gain or goodwill that a product or innovation will create. Potential sales or new business are often used as measures of this value. It is important that a strategist be able to research this kind of data and have it available before taking up a project for implementation. Feasibility is equally important in determining value. Market opportunities must be balanced against organizational capabilities. Too often companies enter markets where they do not have sufficient capabilities to compete effectively. The strategist’s job is to act as ScrumMaster of the organization, recognizing the market opportunity but evaluating it against existing capabilities, not just of the engineering team but of the entire organization.
Scrum will help a team deliver a quality product but a Scrum team, in the end, can only deliver what it was asked to create. If what was asked for is too expensive given the current capabilities or not appropriate for the existing market, the company ultimately won’t receive the value for its investment. This isn’t the fault of the Scrum framework. It’s a function of garbage in, garbage out. A strategist is essential in a Scrum organization to ensure that the needs of the market are balanced against the capabilities of the organization.
You may wonder, isn’t this the product owner’s job? I don’t think so. Not only does the product owner have enough on his plate already, he is usually not in a high-enough position to be able to see the whole picture. The strategist must be someone in the organization who has a global view and a data analysis background: a traditional strategist or senior management executive. Below are several reasons why I recommend a strategist in addition to a product owner.
- The product owner is more intrinsically oriented to the development of the product. The product owner usually comes from a business analyst or project manager background. Taking on the strategist role would require that the product owner spend too much time away from the team.
- A traditional strategist operates agnostic to the technicalities of a product and bases her job around market trends. A strategist’s strengths are non-project-management areas such as market research and trend analysis.
- A strategist has the unique ability to translate market needs into terms of financial gain for the senior management team and into terms of engineering work for development. These two components create a road map for organizational prosperity.
- A strategist acts as a liaison between senior management and the product owner to streamline communication and help both parties make well-informed decisions.
Overall the strategist should enhance the value added by Scrum. Having a strategist ensures that what senior management envisions and what the engineering team paints are in harmony not only with each other but with the market as a whole.