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Project Management

Subbing for the Scrum Master to fill a project gap

We often hear the business analyst role described as a “Jack of all trades, master of none.” This is especially true in the consulting realm where this role spans all phases of a project from discovery to development to training and all the crevices in between. So when your project’s Scrum Master has to step away for a period of time, the business analyst may be the role that temporarily steps in to fill the gap.

I have performed every role in the typical Scrum structure despite lacking certification in any of them, except for writing code (you don’t want me touching the site CSS or defining AEM architecture). Here are some things to consider if you’re stepping into the Scrum Master’s shoes.

Business Analysts and Scrum Masters

When stepping into the role of Scrum Master, the two important tenets of Agile are:

  1. Individuals over processes and tools
  2. Self-organizing teams generate the most value

When learning about Agile, you will often hear that any individual can perform any role. That’s mostly true in the sense that the non-technical roles do not require specialized knowledge. With a reasonable understanding of Scrum methodology, it’s not terribly difficult to step into the role of Scrum Master.

The main thing to remember is that Agile is all about team communication and collaboration. Much like Scrum Masters (who are often described as servant leaders), Project Managers facilitate the removal of barriers and keep tasks organized so that the team can focus on delivering value at every stage of the project.

Moonlighting as the Scrum Master

Often a business analyst’s first foray into the Scrum Master role is when the “official” Scrum Master on a project is away for some reason and they must cover the daily activities as well as any Sprint Ceremonies. This can be an ideal way to step into the role. Especially if the project and team have already established a good cadence. It allows the business analyst to have already observed how the Scrum Master performs and solicit support of the other members on the team.

This is where those two tenets mentioned earlier come into play. While process is an important foundation to the Scrum Master, it’s the communication and collaboration within a team that is key. Yes, Sprint Planning, Stand Ups, Reviews, and Retrospectives should be on the schedule but those are in place to ensure dedicated time for the team to discuss short-term goals, current progress, and finished work. If any of these discussions reveal speed bumps or roadblocks, the Scrum Master is there to help facilitate the resolution.

Scrum Ceremonies & Responsibilities

These scrum meetings provide the necessary collaboration, transparency, and regular communication the team needs to be successful.

Sprint Planning
The Scrum Master doesn’t make the decisions but ensures consensus among the team members that

  • Candidate backlog items are well defined and properly estimated
  • Selected backlog items are within the team’s capacity for the sprint (accounting for known absences or conflicts)
  • Selected backlog items are appropriate for advancing to the project goal

Stand Ups
For Stand Ups and in casual conversations with team members, the Scrum Master listens for any concerns a team member may have or anticipates barriers to progress and helps to find a solution. That could mean tracking down documentation, finding the right person to grant access to a system resource, or even booking a conference room or online meeting and gathering the right people to discuss any issues.

Product Backlog
The Scrum Master regularly checks in with the Product Owner to confirm that User Stories are well understood and are progressing to a state of readiness for inclusion in a Sprint. This also includes asking developers to review stories to ensure they have the correct level of detail.

Sprint Review
The Scrum Master ensures that the appropriate stakeholders are in attendance and confirms that the goals of the sprint were met. If anything is unsatisfactory, the Scrum Master works with the team to determine the severity and urgency for resolution and how it might be incorporated into a coming sprint.

The Retrospective
Finally, the Scrum Master gathers the team to discuss the sprint. What went well? Did anything go wrong? Are there any improvements to be made? There are many tools available to facilitate this. But, again, it’s all about what the team needs to keep performing well.

What About a Scrum Master Certification?

Certification as a Scrum Master can provide you with deeper knowledge about the role and additional resources to employ against difficult situations. However, whether you are filling in temporarily or moving into the role on a more permanent basis, remember that communication and collaboration are your primary tools for promoting team unity and efficiency.

For more project management tips, tricks, and best practices, check out our other project management blogs here 

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Jay Huggins

Jay is a Lead Business Consultant in the Adobe Business Unit at Perficient. He has over 25 years of experience in the Technology Sector and over 10 years with Content Management Systems. He has delivered large and small projects for clients in Healthcare, Finance, Consumer Goods, Government, Real Estate, and Associations.

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