Agile Roles and Responsibilities – From Theory to Practice
Dive into Agile Scrum roles with a twist! Discover the daily life of each team member beyond theory. A must-read for App Owners seeking real-world insights.
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Are you curious about the roles in an Agile Team and their responsibilities? How do these roles contribute to the success of your product? What do they do all day?
I’m Beata, the Scrum Masters Team Lead at Droids On Roids. I’ve been working with digital product development for 5 years now. In this article, I’ll share the key responsibilities of each role and give you a glimpse into a typical day from each perspective.
What is Agile?
Agile is the answer for developing products in complex environments such as software development. This approach focuses on the continuous and frequent delivery of a product to its users. Agile promotes continuous attention to technical excellence and sustainable development. It brings Business and Developers back together to build products around motivated individuals.
What is an Agile Team?
An Agile Team consists of motivated individuals collaborating for the success of a product. Within this group, there are no sub-teams or hierarchies. Members are cross-functional and self-organizing. Ideally, such a team should comprise of less than 10 people to maintain agility and productivity.
Agile Team vs. Scrum Team – is there a difference?
Agile refers to a set of principles and practices that prioritize adaptability and collaboration. Among its various frameworks, Scrum is one of the most popular.
Scrum has three main roles: the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Developers. Since Scrum is fundamentally a form of Agile, I’ll use terms like ‘Scrum Team’ and ‘Agile Team’ as well as ‘Scrum roles’ and ‘Agile roles’ interchangeably in this article for simplicity’s sake.
Keep in mind, though, that while every Scrum Team follows Agile principles, not all Agile Teams utilize Scrum. My goal is to give you an overarching view, but also zoom in on the specific intricacies of Scrum.
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What are the main roles in Agile Scrum Teams?
In most Agile Teams there are three primary roles:
- Product Owner – Responsible for maximizing product value. The PO sets the direction for the product and establishes the goal for the entire team.
- Scrum Master – Ensures the team’s effectiveness. The SM’s role is to help both the team and the organization utilize Agile practices and principles effectively to achieve their objectives.
- Developers – Committed to creating any aspect of a usable product in each iteration. By “developers,” we’re referring not just to programmers but also to designers, testers, business analysts, and UX researchers. We’ll delve deeper into this later in the article.
Scrum roles vs. job titles
Your role in a Scrum Team might differ from your official job title, and that’s perfectly fine; they’re two distinct things. You might hold the title of “Design Team Leader” within an organization, with specific responsibilities tied to that position. However, in a Scrum Team, you might serve as a developer, responsible for delivering a usable product every iteration. The intent behind defining roles in Agile is to clearly establish accountabilities essential for product development.
In the following section, I’ll dive into each role, discussing its core responsibilities and providing a glimpse into a typical day in that role at Droids On Roids.
Product Owner role
The Product Owner (PO) is the most business-centric role within a Scrum Team. An ideal PO is deeply familiar with the product domain. They can inspire the entire team with the vision of their product and prioritize tasks based on the return on investment. A top-notch PO pays close attention to user feedback and stakeholders’ needs, and isn’t afraid to make tough decisions when necessary.
However, no one is perfect and we do not live in an ideal world. At Droids On Roids, we collaborate with POs, many of whom are embracing their role for the first time. Often, the PO is you, the App Owner, or someone you trust. We believe that the best Product Owners possess two qualities: decisiveness and availability to their team. Everything else can be learned during product development.
While stepping into the PO role might feel daunting, our 8 Scrum Masters have broad experience guiding new Product Owners through the process. Our developers can clearly communicate the secrets of software development and are great at advising on business solutions.
What will I do as a Product Owner at Droids On Roids?
Each product and each team is unique, and we approach each one with a tailored strategy. The examples I’ve outlined are the most common.
- You’ll communicate your product vision and business context. At the outset of development, we aim to fully grasp both you and your product’s domain. We’ll ask you many questions, but it’s okay if you don’t immediately have all the answers. This understanding will empower us to propose the most suitable technical solutions.
- Together, we’ll define the Product Goal and success metrics. We’ll establish benchmarks for what we want to accomplish in the upcoming 1-3-6 months, and the criteria to determine our success. The ball is in your court for these decisions. Our team will bolster your choices with proven goal-setting techniques and our expertise in software product development.
- You will learn new tools. Our Scrum Master will introduce you to Scrum practices incrementally, aiding your growth in this role. You’ll comprehend what a Product Backlog entails and its utility in prioritizing tasks. You’ll become familiar with Jira, learning the nuances of crafting user stories. You’ll also discover how Miro can enhance remote workshops and teamwork.
- You will set a goal with us for the upcoming iteration. We call it the Sprint Goal. It is one step towards achieving the Product Goal. The Sprint Goal gives the team context as to why what we are doing now is important and supports team collaboration to achieve that goal. The Scrum Master will support you in naming a good sprint goal until it gets into your blood.
- You will answer questions from Developers. Additional questions can arise during an iteration. Sometimes you will have several design options to choose from. Sometimes we’ll notice a bug in a very extreme case, and we’ll ask if it’s worth fixing or if we should focus on something else. We use Slack for everyday communication. It’s very easy and intuitive. The team shares a common channel so, anytime you have any questions, you can reach everyone you want.
- You will give us feedback, and we will share ours. We want to know what you honestly think about our work and the emerging product. At the end of each iteration, we will ask you for feedback, and as a whole team, we will talk about how we can improve our cooperation.
- You will be able to test your product after each iteration. You will have access to each new version of your product. You will be able to download the app on your phone and play the role of a user.
- You will be aware of the whole development process. We will introduce you to every aspect of the team’s work and the creation of a digital product.
A day in the life: Product Owner at Droids On Roids
Imagine that it is the day before the end of the iteration. Tomorrow, you will meet with the team to talk about what has been achieved in the last two weeks. You will check what the overall progress looks like in relation to the Product Goal and budget. You will discuss what went well and what could have gone better. Then you will plan a goal for the next iteration with the whole team.
What can the Product Owner do the day before the end of the iteration?
- Check the overall progress on the Jira board. Here, you can see all the tasks with current statuses like “in progress”, “in test”, or preferably “done”. Thanks to this, you know what to expect the next day.
- Make sure that you know what you want to achieve in the next iteration and that you are able to express it to the team. Think about the form of a Sprint Goal. You don’t have to do it alone. The Scrum Master and Product Owner often meet the day before to talk about it. Check if the tasks related to this goal are refined with the team.
- Confirm with stakeholders if they’re joining the Sprint Review. The great power of the PO is that he or she can invite anyone they find useful to the Sprint Review meeting. That’s the part when the team shares what they managed to achieve in the next sprint and how the overall progress is going. Stakeholders can provide the team with feedback, and the team is able to use it the next day.
- Verify your budget. Make sure you know how much each iteration costs, and what the budget usage is. This will help you determine the next Sprint Goal.
It’s best to hear a first-hand opinion from someone who performs this role on a daily basis. I’ve asked one of our Product Owners the question “What do you like about being a Product Owner with Droids On Roids?”.
Working with the Droids On Roids team in my capacity as Product Owner has been a very productive process. I highly value the team’s organizational skills, discipline, and ability to think outside the limited definition of each team member’s role. These faculties have contributed to delivering a high quality product every time I worked with them on the Sarwa app. – Mohamed Marei, Chief Executive Officer at Sarwa Investment
Developer is a broad term for all roles in the team that directly develop the product. They are specialists who know how to turn the business vision of the owner’s product into reality. They are able to choose the best solutions for the product depending on what stage of development it is at. They care about the high quality of the product and the use of good engineering practices.
All Developers are accountable for creating a valuable and useful product increment every iteration, aligned with the agreed Product Goal and its success metrics.
What types of Developers will I be working with at Droids On Roids?
It depends on what your business and your product needs at the moment. The following listed specializations are the most common in teams.
- Programmers at Droids On Roids
This includes Flutter Developers, iOS Developers, Android Developers, and Web Developers. These are the roles responsible for creating the code.
As a member of the Agile Team, and thus empowered to self-manage their own work, each developer is responsible for all product-related activities from stakeholder collaboration, verification, maintenance, operation, experimentation, research and development.
- Product Designers at Droids On Roids
The Product Designer is responsible for the design and the logic of the product.
They ensure that the interface meets usability standards, fulfills the user’s needs, and is intuitive for them.
The Product Designer will share their ideas for each screen with you and adjust them to your feedback.
- Quality Assurance Engineers at Droids On Roids
The Quality Assurance Engineer is responsible for ensuring the optimal quality of both the delivered product and the entire product development process.
Using relevant product metrics, they watch over the quality of a product and software development process. Using data from the metrics, they actively collaborate with the Product Team on solutions to improve the development process and, as a result, to also improve the product’s quality.
QAs often report bugs with reproduction paths for programmers. They also add tasks for suggested improvements in the application.
- Business Analysts at Droids On Roids
The Business Analyst ensures that the product has well-defined goals and metrics aligned with the product strategy. They ensure that those aspects are clearly reflected and prioritized in the Product Backlog while collaborating with the PO, stakeholders, and the rest of the Scrum Team members.
Likewise, the Business Analyst helps to decide what user actions are worth tracking in the product and helps to read and analyze the data from analytics to make wise decisions about product priorities.
- UX Researchers at Droids On Roids
The UX Researcher is responsible for eliciting user feedback, and gathering data from users and the market in order to discover what type of digital product solution is needed to allow the Agile Scrum Team to develop the right product that users will use.
They are responsible for offering UX research to clients, designing and conducting UX research, and spreading knowledge on this topic within the organization.
A day in the life: Developers at Droids On Roids
Let’s see how the last day of the iteration may look from a Developer’s perspective.
Tomorrow, they will meet with the Product Owner and stakeholders to talk about the progress of this interaction and the Product Goal in general.
What can the Developers do the day before the end of the iteration?
- They cooperate to deliver their commitments. Quality Assurance Managers are testing the app and reporting the bugs to the Programmers. The Programmers are fixing the bugs, and preparing a staging app for the Product Owner and stakeholders to be able to test it by themselves.
- They share responsibilities for the Review meeting. They choose among each other who will present the demo of the newest changes in the app, who will explain what are the statuses of tasks that are not done yet, and/or who will share conclusions from the research.
- They prepare for the next interaction Planning. They make sure that the tasks for the next iteration have clear acceptance criteria and they estimate the tasks.
- They suggest what is worth discussing in Retrospective. It’s a space to figure out what we can do to improve the quality of our process and product.
What do our Developers thinks about this? I’ve asked one of our Developers the familiar question of “What do you like the most about being Developer with Droids On Roids” and here is the answer.
There are a few things I like most about being a Droids developer: the helpful atmosphere, the focus on solving problems, the emphasis on the quality of the written code and the fact that we are constantly looking for new, better, and more modern solutions.
Scrum Master role
The Scrum Master is the most process-centric role in the Agile Scrum Team. The purpose of the SM role is for teams and the organization to be able to effectively use the practices and principles of the agile approach in achieving their goals.
They provide Transparency, Inspection, and Adaptation in the teams’ work. The SM is responsible for the overall effectiveness and supports the predictability of teams. They also educate teams and clients in the agile approach.
Within the team, the Scrum Master offers the perspective of a person looking at the situation from the side. This is called the meta position. Thanks to this, the Scrum Team has a bigger picture of their collaboration.
What does a Scrum Master do all day long at Droids On Roids?
It depends. That’s what I love about my work in this role. Every Scrum Team, every Product Owner, and every day is different. Let’s take a look at my main tasks from the last month:
- Supporting Product Owner. I’ve helped the PO to reduce the need to manage dependencies between the members of the team. We discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the current approach and decided to give more control to the team. It helped the PO to have more time to focus on business stuff.
- Facilitating meetings. I’ve made sure that each meeting has its clear goal and I’ve navigated the discussions to meet that goal and keep attendees active.
- Conducting workshops. Workshops are an interactive form of working out specific effects. This time, we worked on methods of effective time management by team members.
- One-to-one meetings. I’ve conducted one-to-one meetings with each Scrum Master in the organization, asking about their perspective of working in Droids On Roids. The answers often give us direction for the next goals in our company.
- Feedback sessions. I initiated a feedback session with team members. Everyone had a chance to give each other constructive and positive feedback.
- Being available to help in removing current impediments. There were some unpredictable things that needed to be dealt with quickly. This included confusion about the difference between low-fi designs and hi-fi designs in the team, and a delay in delivering the Bluetooth connection tool.
- Supporting the organization and sharing knowledge. This month I’ve conducted a facilitation workshop to help others keep their meetings effective. I’ve conducted training for the Growth department to help them better understand our way of working. I’ve helped to visualize risk to the predictable delivery at the beginning of development, and I’ve helped to frame cooperation rules with the new client.
A day in the life: Scrum Master at Droids On Roids
Let’s see how the last day of the iteration may look from the Scrum Master’s perspective. Tomorrow, after the Review, the team will discuss what went well and what went wrong during the last iteration. That’s the space for action points to improve collaboration and to use them in the next iteration.
What can the Scrum Master do the day before the end of the iteration?
- Supporting the Product Owner in crafting the next Sprint Goal. By asking open-ended questions, the SM challenges POs about their priorities. They make sure that the Sprint Goal brings value to the end user. Thanks to this, the PO has a chance to organize their thoughts better and share them with the team.
- Preparing a template for the Retrospective. The SM prepares a space for the team to share their thoughts about the last iteration. The challenge is to engage everyone in the Scrum Team and create a space where they can feel comfortable to share. We don’t want it to be boring, so each Retrospective is different.
- Helping the team to organize for Review and Planning. If the team is new, the Scrum Master shows and teaches how they can prepare for these meetings and prepare the agenda. Later, the team is able to do it by themselves.
- Updating team metrics. We use specific metrics to help the team talk about the improvements. Metrics are information about the performance of the team. Based on that information we can draw conclusions and hypotheses we want to test in the next interactions.
That’s my perspective. I’ve asked Karolina, one of our Scrum Masters “What do you like about being Scrum Master at Droids On Roids” and here’s what she said:
My favorite thing about being a Scrum Master at Droids On Roids is that Scrum is not everything. Our first point of focus is always the product, users and the value they get, which is why we often think beyond the framework.
You can also experience the power of Karolina outside of Droids On Roids. Quality guaranteed. For more details, please visit Karolina’s LinkedIn profile.
Agile Team in the real world
Scrum Teams are not detached from reality. They work for the success of the product. But for the product to succeed, they need to be in constant touch with its Stakeholders.
Who are the Stakeholders to the Scrum Team?
According to scrum.org, a stakeholder is “a person external to the Scrum Team with a specific interest in and knowledge of a product that is required for incremental discovery.”
We can distinguish 2 main categories of stakeholders:
- The Users of the Product: People who directly use the product because it meets their needs. These can be the End Users of the application, as well as Administrators using the Admin Panel.
- The Customers: People responsible for making funding decisions about the product. They know the market and can decide if and how much they are willing to invest in product development. These can be external investors and grant-giving companies, but also the company’s management or CEO.
The Users and Customers are represented in the Scrum Team by the Product Owner. They are welcome to join the Sprint Review to get familiar with the progress and share their feedback about the product.
Why is it worth creating a mobile app in the Agile Scrum Team?
- Scrum Teams are fast – they release products quickly and often in order to gather market feedback.
- Scrum Teams are product-centered – they are working for the success of the product, not just to finish the project.
- Scrum Teams are constantly improving – they improve their practices and standards to be better and better with each iteration.
Agile Teams at Droids On Roids
At Droids On Roids, we have worked in Scrum Teams for 12 years. We have launched over 130 apps this way. Our team of Scrum Masters consists of 8 experienced professionals.
Product development is not only at a high level but also a lot of fun – to us and to the Product Owners we work with. If you are thinking about a software partner that will help your product to succeed then contact us.
Summary – One Agile Team, different responsibilities
As you can see, a single Agile Team can comprise numerous individuals, each with distinct responsibilities. Importantly, they all complement each other. The Product Owner focuses on What the Product Goal for the upcoming phase is, while the Developers decide How to reach this goal through product development. The Scrum Master ensures the team’s process is efficient and constantly refined. Additionally, consistent communication with Stakeholders is essential, as it significantly enhances the chances of success.
Let me know in the comments how roles in your Scrum Teams look in practice and if they differ significantly from the theory 🙂