What a Technical-Minded Scrum Master Brings to the Table
Written by Dean Duffing
5 Advantages of a Technical-Minded Scrum Master
Each member of a scrum team has a role to play in contributing to the team’s success similar to any sports team. All successful teams need a coach to foster cohesion, remove barriers, and generally support the rest of the team enabling them to focus on their roles, be the best they can be, and help the team navigate the contest and deliver value. In Scrum, the Scrum Master has these same objectives as a sports coach.
Whether their knowledge is acquired through playing or watching, good coaches develop a mindset about their sport that gives them an edge, allowing them to provide unique value to their team. In today’s business world, where technology has seemingly permeated everything, and companies are at varying stages of their Agile transformation journey, a technical mindset can offer a similar edge to a Scrum Master.
Better communication and empathy with the dev team
In many IT organizations, the dev teams feel like they aren’t being heard. Having a Scrum Master that can speak in their language and understand their challenges may build trust with the dev team, providing them advocacy and support and help to communicate more clearly with the business and management.
Ability to help the Product Owner field and filter some technical questions and issues to the business
Sometimes business stakeholders have technical questions based on their own research. A technical minded Scrum Master can aid in translating information from the dev team to business stakeholders. They can also answer many technical questions presented by business stakeholders, saving time for the dev team by only pulling them in when they are truly needed.
Success in coordinating the removal of technical barriers
Occasionally, dev teams face technical barriers but need help from outside the team to resolve them. It is helpful to have someone that can communicate technical issues at a high level and facilitate discussions to find resolutions.
Enhanced communication of team technical accomplishments within the organization
Often the level of effort delivered by a Scrum team in overcoming technical complexity and risk are not adequately communicated to the organization, and therefore pass by without celebration. A technical minded Scrum Master has the ability to elaborate more and translate the scope of these accomplishments to the stakeholders and organization as a whole in various higher-level meetings.
Adeptness to facilitate Scrum Team technical discussions
Sometimes technical resources have difficulty communicating within the team due to personalities, experience levels, and communication styles. A technical minded Scrum Master can more easily identify these issues, read the room, and serve as a translator or “the non-techie” ensuring clarification is provided to everyone on the team. Additionally, a technical minded scrum master can also help identify the appropriate level of technical documentation – in the user stories or other documents – to provide clarity and efficiency for all team members in advance of those discussions and refinement sessions.
Two Pitfalls of the Technical-Minded Scrum Master
At the end of the day, a technical mindset does not guarantee Scrum Master success as the pitfalls above will prove. Through my work, I have found the technical mindset as a value to the customers that I’ve worked with even though the expectation of Scrum Master technical knowledge varies from organization to organization. Applied appropriately, a broader technical knowledge can help to remove roadblocks and provide a higher level of support for the team, allowing the team to focus on what they need to – delivering technical solutions and innovation.
Beware of assuming a Tech Lead/Solution Architect role
With a technical mindset it is easy to assume a team Tech Lead role or Solution Architect role (in your own mind). While a Scrum Master role is a leadership role – it is that of servant leader in a team with no hierarchy. Your role is to support and advocate for the team and rely on their expertise. Architecting and developing the solution to meet the business need is the role of the dev team.
Know your technical limitations
With a technical mindset, a Scrum Master can be of service to the team by answering some general technical questions of business and management stakeholders. This allows the team to maintain velocity by reducing interruption. However, a Scrum Master can also “get in over their head” answering questions they are not qualified to answer, which in the end will result in more work for the team.