Agile Roles and Job Titles
When the Agile world meets the corporate world
22 September 2016
For many organizations, Agile is a new approach to software development. This means breaking some old habits and creating new ones. While talking to a fellow ScrumMaster and mentor, I mentioned an issue we were having with a tester. “A tester!” she exclaimed. “I didn’t know your team had titles other than ‘development team.’”
I was embarrassed because I knew she was right, but I also think she was being tough on me. While Agile defines three roles — product owner, ScrumMaster, and development team — it does not address job titles, which exist in the corporate world.
In most information technology organizations, there are business analysts, developers, testers, database administrators, and many more. These job titles serve a valuable purpose for organizations and their employees. Before we explore that, let’s talk about the difference between titles and roles.
Titles versus roles
Simply stated, a title is what you are called, and a role is what you do. Sometimes the title describes the role, but not always. A window washer’s role is to wash windows, but a marketing associate’s role may be to conduct market research, help create marketing materials, or perform many other tasks within the marketing department.
The same is true with a Scrum Team. A Scrum Team may have a lead developer, developers, tester, and a business analyst but their role on the Scrum Team is to deliver product increments in sprints.
We don’t have these titles in Agile, but we work for organizations that do
Job titles serve a valuable purpose in organizations. They reflect a person’s place in the corporate hierarchy. Authority, expertise, and scope can all be conveyed through titles. This helps resource managers build teams with a mix of experts and junior and lower-level professionals. Additionally, they help define one’s area of expertise. (I promise you, you do not want me writing code!) Finally, they are used to create a career path within the organization by adding prefixes such as “associate,” “junior,” “senior,” or “lead.”
Is there room for corporate titles on an Agile Team?
As long as we work for organizations that use these titles, the answer is yes. In the context of the Agile Team, we must accept that we are all development team members. In the context of the organizational hierarchy, these titles help create a robust and diverse Scrum Team because a tester looks at a user story differently than a business analyst does, a business analyst may have more diverse knowledge than a developer or a tester, and a lead has the expertise to teach the junior . . . just as my mentor did with me.
When leading an Agile Team, the challenge for ScrumMasters is to embrace these titles effectively enough to satisfy organizational needs yet with enough vision to remain Agile.
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