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Should ScrumMasters Have a Technical Profile?

11 December 2015

Geraldo Farias
Concrete Solutions


In a post titled "What does the ScrumMaster Do?" (I recommend reading it; however, the post is in Portuguese), Rafael Auday, product manager at Concrete Solutions, says, "The ScrumMaster is focused on leveraging the work of the Scrum team, using his or her knowledge of Scrum, people skills, facilitation, communication, and conflict resolution, among others. The ScrumMaster helps the product owner and the development team to be more effective in carrying out the work."

If ScrumMasters are to help the development team to become effective, they always ask this question: Is a ScrumMaster with a technical profile more contributive or more prejudicial for a Scrum team? Must the ScrumMaster know the technical details that support the implementation of a product? The answer is no.

A ScrumMaster's basic knowledge must consist of the Scrum framework and its facilitation. But how many times in a Daily Scrum or in a sprint retrospective have you observed that the development team is taking too much time to deploy a process, or that some team member has suggested that the shared repository have version control? In addition, as the ScrumMaster, you have noticed an overcharge from your quality assurance analysts. For each problem identified, there is a technical solution that could help the team to improve the work.

Imagine that you are the ScrumMaster for a mobile project. If the terms continuous integration, repository, automated tests, BDD, TDD, push, and pull sound familiar to you, congratulations! You speak the same language as your team, understand the technical terms, and know, at least, where to begin solving a technical impediment. However, if these terms sound like Greek to you (and you do not speak Greek), it is time to start speaking your team's language. In my experience as a ScrumMaster, it is not cool to be the odd man out in a Scrum team.

I am not saying that you should be an expert in programming or be a technical Level 1 specialist to help your team improve its performance. Neither should you define the technical solutions your team must adopt. However, knowledge of the main concepts of Agile engineering and good practices will certainly help you and your team to achieve your main goal as Agile professionals and deliver the best product possible for your customers. After all, one of the 12 Agile principles says, "Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility."

At Concrete Solutions, we say that the work of a ScrumMaster has four main dimensions: Scrum Framework, Engineering, Removing Impediments, and Governance/Policy. Therefore, we believe that, at the very least, ScrumMasters should know the technical terms and good practices associated with Agile engineering.
 
Four-dimensions.png

The four dimensions of a ScrumMaster, according to Concrete Solutions
 
What do you think the answer should be? Should a good ScrumMaster have a technical profile? I'd like to hear your opinion.
 

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.



Article Rating

Current rating: 4 (2 ratings)

Comments

Rohit Ratan Mani, CSP,CSM, 12/11/2015 2:52:50 AM
Geraldo,
As a SM, I have always understood engineering terminologies. Though not hands-on but able to participate in healthy discussions to improve engineering practices. It really helped me get that trust from the Team. It has also helped me work on getting impediments removed.
So I believe SM should focus more on processes, training and continuous improvement but also understand engineering/technology (not necessarily hands-on).

Many might not agree to these points but it has worked for me.

Rohit
Geraldo Farias, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 12/11/2015 3:19:46 AM
Thanks a lot for your opinion Rohit! It has been working for me too.
Jonathan Schneider, CSP,CSM, 12/14/2015 12:40:07 PM
100% agree Geraldo. As a developer at heart, I find it crucial for scrum master to speak "dev" in order to gel with the team. Developers tend to trust and respect Scrum Masters who have can provide input into a solution or even "hop in" when needed during a sprint.
Pauline Shvayakova, CSM,CSPO, 12/21/2015 5:35:54 AM
I totally agree with the author. SM may not have a technical education, may not be a programmer or tester, however he/she needs to speak the language of the team. I guess if SM is familiar with the technology he/she is tempted to impact the decision the team makes on the way things need to be done. And in my opinion it should not happen. the question 'how' is up to the team. And it leads to another interesting topic, whether SM should be a dedicated person for a team and do nothing else but SM-ing, or he/she should share the responsibilities of a team member.
Austin Vandever, CSM, 1/6/2016 7:26:06 PM
As a PM coming from a non technical background, what/where do you suggest to pick up the engineering and technical concepts you are speaking to? Is it taking specific introductory programming language classes, CS/Engineering 101 courses, etc.? I've done some of this but am curious as to your suggestions. Thanks.

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