Agile Team Roles: The 7 Most Important People in Agile Project


Agile Project Roles

The agile methodology is an incremental and iterative approach that involves breaking down a project into short segments, which can be developed and iterated quickly. Agile practices and values continue to gain popularity in the software development sphere due to the high success rates of projects developed using the agile methodology. The approach upholds various principles including quick delivery of software, cooperation between developers and business people, and building projects around motivated and trusted individuals.

A cooperative effort is necessary for successful completion of agile projects. This calls for the working together of collaborative teams to guarantee successful control, implementation, and delivery of projects. Different individuals are involved in various development cycles (sprints) with each performing an important role in the success of the entire project.

Following are the most important people in agile project and their roles.

1. Product Owner

A product owner is very important in agile project development because the person has a clear understanding of business needs and the expected product. This understanding helps the individual to know the features that are required to bring change or improvement, when they can be implemented, and the items that must be prioritized. The product owner carries the vision of the end product and has great insight regarding ways in which the product will fit into the organization’s long-term goals.

This role bridges the gap between the development team, business stakeholders, and the customer. The product owner works with stakeholders to understand their requirements in the right sense and helps users to formulate requirements that they may not be aware of or realize at the time. Additionally, this individual makes the development team understand the requirements and vision regarding the expected product.

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The product owner ensures that the product backlog is up-to-date and items are prioritized appropriately while ensuring that every detail translates to the vision. In doing so, this critical person ensures that the product will create value for the company, stakeholders, and customers. Essentially, the product owner expedites product decisions and champions the product at all stages. The other roles performed by product owners include supervising development phases, anticipating clients’ needs, assessing product progress at different iterations, and clarifying questions about the product.

When working on a technology product, a product owner doesn’t necessarily need to have a technical background to deliver project success. This is because the individual does not perform any technical tasks like coding and architecting. Instead, the product owner manages the product in coordination with the development team and other stakeholders. As such, successful product owners concentrate on product management and not development. Nonetheless, some product owners may be required to understand the technological aspects of a company and interact with the developer to successfully bring about the expected benefits and outcomes.

2. Project Sponsor

The role of a product owner is influenced by and related to the sponsor’s role. Successful initiation of agile projects is based upon sponsorship. If a project is not well-funded, it will not have the necessary financial base to carry out related tasks and activities, achieve set objectives, and address identified problems. A project sponsor is an organization or individual that is mainly responsible for financing a project and approving key decisions. In doing so, the sponsor sets the project towards successful completion and realization of envisioned goals.

In practice, a project sponsor empowers the product owner to act on their behalf in different phases of project development. This happens particularly where the sponsor is not knowledgeable about agile project development and what it takes to realize the expected benefits. In such a situation, both the sponsor and product owner communicates regularly to guarantee the execution of the project as expected. While the sponsor may be involved in championing stakeholders outside the organization, the work of a product owner revolves around the project team. In small organizations or when undertaking less tasking projects, the role of a sponsor and product owner can be performed by the same person.

Other than providing finances and approving major decisions, the sponsor facilitates the product owner to understand the strategic vision of the project and ensure that it is strategically aligned with organizational goals. Other roles performed by a project sponsor include ensuring the project is economically viable and managing large scale risks. 



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3. Scrum Master

The scrum master is mainly tasked with facilitating the project owner and the development team to effectively carry out development activities. This person ensures that the team follows the Scrum process while complying with the agreed scrum practices, principles, and values. The scrum process begins by determining product goals. To comprehend the envisioned goals, the scrum master works together with the product owner to understand the vision of the product. The product owner helps the scrum master to develop user stories that explain what users want.

Then, the scrum master holds meetings with the development team to convey the user stories and plan what will be implemented in every sprint. Through these meetings, issues that might delay the project are identified and addressed accordingly by the scrum master. In every sprint, this individual works with the scrum team to maximize productivity and propose ideas that would boost efficiency on the subsequent sprints. At the end of each sprint, the scrum master collects feedback from both the stakeholders and developers regarding how to enhance the product. The scrum master facilitates the development team to concentrate on producing a product that produces the desired outcomes by addressing disruptions and challenges that arise during the scrum process.

4. Agile Mentor

The main role of an agile mentor is to help an individual or teams to improve and adopt agile practices and approaches. This aids in enabling people to change and rethink how they implement projects. An agile mentor plays the role of a coach in helping team members implement what they learned during their training. Sometimes, people get trained but encounter difficulties when applying acquired skills in some settings. In such a situation, the coach guides individuals to incorporate agile in specific environments including helping them resolve impediments in their daily work. The mentor can also advise them on adapting the methodology and challenging the existing environment.

Notably, even the most comprehensive agile training courses may not address every eventuality or detail that a team will come across. For this reason, the mentor acts as an advisor concerning practical aspects and matters that were left out during training. Therefore, an agile mentor is a change agent who motivates change and helps to make it happen. Although every agile mentor employs their approach to a project, there are three broad categories of mentors. First is the technical mentor who mainly works with the coders to support them in applying test-driven development, refactoring work, and trying new techniques and approaches.

The second type of mentor is an expert who works closely with various stakeholders including product owner and business analyst who make work happen. Unlike a technical mentor, this expert does not focus on technology but requirements, management, and process. This person performs mentorship in meetings with stakeholders and facilitates events that bring about improvement and change. The third type denotes a person who drops the persona of an expert and works with every team member to help them solve their problems. Although agile teams may function without a coach, they may not necessarily attain peak performance.

5. Development Team Members

The development team members are right at the center of agile project development. The team constitutes individuals who are proficient in different areas of expertise. In software development, people with a hands-on role in application development such as programmers, data engineers, writers, designers, and testers make up the development team. When setting up this team, it is vital to consider the crucial skill set needed for successful development, testing, and delivery of product increments at every sprint.

This makes the development team members self-sufficient such that they can undertake product development successfully without requiring outside help. Additionally, the team is self-organizing and cross-functional. Whenever a new skill is needed, the developments team members can decide to build that know-how within the team or add a new member.

The members of the development team are tasked with the development and delivery of the product. This involves performing work sprints based on the requirements obtained from the product owner and co-ordinated by the scrum master. The development team members usually hold regular meetings with stakeholders including product owner and scrum master to ensure transparency of the development process and facilitate the team to incorporate feedback and changes as necessary. Moreover, the development team is responsible for creating tasks by splitting sprint items and making estimates regarding those items.

6. Development Team Lead

Conflicts are bound to arise among individuals and groups that are working together including the development team members. The development team lead is responsible for guiding the team to get to a consensus on various issues concerning product development. More importantly, the person acts as a facilitator or referee. For instance, when the development team members disagree on the design to employ, the team lead ensures that everyone has an equal say. This role is particularly important when the design path to be followed is not clear. In this case, the development team lead functions as an arbiter on proposed solutions.

A development team lead can make a strong team by setting a good example in product development, for example, practicing good coding. More importantly, the team lead should enforce good practices on various aspects of project development. This can be done directly by assessing members work or by creating a working culture that will motivate team members to do so. The development team lead represents the development team in meetings with other stakeholders. It is impractical for the entire team to attend every stakeholder meeting.

The team lead does not just communicate the team’s progress and needs in such meetings but also obtains stakeholders feedback including changes that should be incorporated in subsequent sprints. The team lead is the point of contact such that any information or message related to the development teal should be conveyed to him or her. This prevents unnecessary interruptions of team members when working. Effectively communication skills are essential for a development team lead to facilitate the team members in understanding product requirements and stakeholder feedback.

7. Stakeholders

Stakeholders play an important role in shaping product development and the working of different teams. They constitute persons that will influence a project as well as those that will be affected by the end product. Groups of stakeholders are diverse and can range from persons within an organization to institutions and entities outside the organizations. Notably, stakeholders vary depending on the type of project. They may include executives, sponsors, the development team, end-users, product owner, legal experts, and marketing professionals. Input from these people, particularly the key stakeholders, is vital as it directs the progress of a project.

Stakeholders help to align the development process with product expectations and business goals. Moreover, they play a key role in helping the developer to understand the challenges facing a business or company. Although it is not mandatory, all stakeholders must be communicated and contacted from time to time. In doing so, one obtains their thoughts and opinions at every sprint and ensures that potential risks to the development of the product are minimized or eliminated.

In every agile project, stakeholders offer key insights concerning a product and its application. During the sprint, the key stakeholders work hand in hand with the product owner to ensure their requirements are addressed satisfactorily. During sprint review, they provide their feedback, which helps to improve and align the final product with business goals and requirements.

Conclusion

The agile project development approach gives emphases to daily and close cooperation between developers and stakeholders. This means that business and customer expectations will be satisfied if the highest level of cooperation among all stakeholders and entities is exercised. Moreover, you can increase productivity by assigning people to roles that they perform excellently.

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