A question that has been around since the beginning of Scrum is whether a Scrum Master (SM) needs to be tech-savvy or not. This study by the Scrum Alliance found that most Scrum Masters are working in software development teams (44%) or IT teams (33%). It also suggests that a Scrum Master's skills depend on the team they lead.
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Since Scrum is used in so many areas, including R&D and sales, many people believe that a Scrum Master can be helpful in any department. However, some teams have found that having someone with technical expertise as a Scrum Master makes it easier for them to work together. A group of such technical-savvy Scrum Masters has been doing wonders for technical teams lately.
So, while it's not necessary to have a high level of technical knowledge to become a Scrum Master, it can help you do your job better if you understand specific project areas. Let's take a look at the differences between technical and non-technical Scrum Masters.
Who Is A Scrum Master?
Scrum Masters are a type of agile coach who provides organizational leadership for the development of software products. The aim of this role is to ensure that the Scrum process is followed in order to deliver high-quality and valuable software products with maximum benefits to the end-user. In other words, they lead projects from start to finish in a way that optimizes every team member’s abilities.
“The Scrum Master is a servant-leader for the Scrum Team. The Scrum Master helps those outside the Scrum Team understand which of their interactions with the Scrum Team are helpful and which aren’t. The Scrum Master helps everyone change these interactions to maximize the value created by the Scrum Team.”
–The Scrum Master, Scrum Guide
Furthermore, Scrum Masters are responsible for ensuring that team members are all on the same page and able to work together in order to achieve their goals. They also play a crucial role in making sure that the organization's management is aware of the progress being made and any problems the team is facing.
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Should SM Be A Technical Person?
No, you don't need to be technical to be a scrum master. The only necessary skills are understanding the mechanics of the Agile process and how to work with people effectively. You also need to have a good understanding of your team's strengths and weaknesses, as well as some experience in managing projects.
When we look into the agile method, especially scrum, three roles come into mind: SM, PO, & Developers. There is a clarity on developers, Product Owners (POs), but when it comes to Scrum Master, there is always confusion about whether the SM is tech-savvy or not.
To provide a clear answer to this question, we explore the pros & cons of SM with and without technical knowledge.
- Tech-savvy SM has a great influence on product development and can provide suggestions in any technical conversation.
- SM can help product owners to prioritize product backlogs and assign work to every increment.
- Do the timebox correctly so the agile team can be motivated to work as it can actually get the job done.
- The team will be pleased with the SM’s technical skills, so it will be easy for them to share their opinions.
- The entire management team is driven by SM and can reach the business objectives quickly.
- Technically responsible SM keeps the team from thinking alone. The individual skills of every member are limited. They don't think because they get handy solutions.
- PO can lose focus and rely on SM.
- SM will force the team to do it their own way, and that will cause problems for the team.
- Team alliance will deteriorate and few will aid the SM, leading to biased decisions.
- They can choose the right time, but often they don't follow it as they can constantly spread their ideas and prevent the team from speaking. This leads to lengthy discussions and even a daily scrum meeting takes more than 15 minutes.
- In general, technical SM will not allow everyone to play their part effectively as it will have an impact at every stage.
- Non-technical Scrum Masters will ask simple but effective questions to help the programmer in the thinking process. This helps them find the right solutions to the questions they are asked. The team begins to organize itself and begin to pursue its goals and at the same time pursue the business goal.
- SM consistently resembled schedules and did not engage in any technical planning that would help team members stay focused, go their own way, and meet deadlines.
- SM would act as an intermediary between the developers and PO, and the PO would connect with the development team and carry out its duties efficiently.
- The non-technical SM assumes the Product Owner's acceptance criteria and may ask questions when necessary.
- The team can create a product with a process and delivery gap because SM doesn't care about the product details and may not notice the work.
- The team can tell SM anything that SM may accept due to a lack of technical capabilities. This can confuse management and gradually make the person arrogant.
By definition from Scrum Guide, a Scrum Master is the person responsible for encouraging and maintaining Scrum; a servant leader or coach who helps each team member maximize productivity and value delivery.
Therefore, if your team is delivering a technical product, you might want to consider hiring a technical scrum master to overcome obstacles and help the team produce more. However, if your team is large and distributed, it might be better to hire a non-technical SM who can motivate teams without confusing them with technical details.
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