Who collaborates on understanding the work of the sprint?

Sprints are the very heart of agile work. They are short periods of time where the development team works to achieve a set of predetermined tasks. Working this way allows teams to focus on small goals to add as much value as possible.

A couple of specific roles can be found within agile and scrum teams, including the Scrum Master and Product Owner. Each role has a set of responsibilities and tasks. However, ownership of the project as a whole is shared by every single person involved.

So, the answer to our question, “Who collaborates on understanding the work of the sprint?” is simply “Everyone.” But, there are still some things that need to be performed by specific individuals.

With that in mind, let’s break down the responsibilities of each role during a sprint. See if you can identify where the roles intertwine because understanding the connection between each position is the key to building a symbiotic and efficient team.

Who collaborates on understanding the work of the sprint?

Scrum master

Scrum masters are the facilitators of scrum. Scrum masters act as coaches to the rest of the team and are committed to the scrum foundation and values. However, a good scrum master needs to remain flexible and open to opportunities for the team to improve their workflow.

A great agile/scrum team should be a self-organized powerhouse, but unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. Teams that adopt agile practices tend to lean on the Scrum Master for guidance due to a lack of knowledge. While this is technically what a Scrum Master is for, the role is more about empowering development teams self-organize and guiding them gently.

It’s essential to integrate the Scrum Master into the development team. They don’t need to be a figurehead, and it’s not a supervisor or management role. Scrum Masters should simply be development team members who know the ins and out of agile and can coach others.

The responsibilities of a Scrum Master can include:

Product owner

As you may have guessed, the Product Owner is responsible for ensuring the team builds as much value into the product as possible. To do this, they need to define user stories and prioritize the product backlog to streamline the development process while maintaining the conceptual and technical integrity of the product.

Product Backlog management involves a range of activities, including (but not limited to):

  • Developing and explicitly communicating the Product Goal
  • Creating and clearly communicating Product Backlog items
  • Ordering Product Backlog items
  • Ensuring that the Product Backlog is transparent, visible, and understood

For most small businesses, or those just moving to agile, the Product Owner role is new and critical. Unlike the Scrum Master role, the Product Owner role typically translates into a full-time job, with each agile team having a Product Owner to support them.

This role has significant relationships and responsibilities outside the local team, including working with customers and stakeholders. They provide the bridge between the development team and outside parties to ensure everyone is aligned.

Product Owners should understand the business’s goals, perform research on customers and the market, test and analyze competitor products, influence the stakeholders in their business towards a particular strategy, analyze their market, define the product, and more.

Ultimately, the role of the Product Owner is to support the team. To do this, they need to focus on the following:

  • Working with the implementation team to execute the sprint goals
  • Participating in sprint planning
  • Taking part in the daily stand-up
  • Finding opportunities for growth and improvement during retrospectives
  • Effectively prioritizing and maintaining the product backlog
  • Providing needed documentation and resources for team members
  • Working with their product manager to clarify requests
  • Communicating progress to their company
  • Addressing any issues that arise with their team during the development process

Development Team

The Development Team is made up of individuals with responsibilities that include (but are not limited to) product development. These people make product visions a reality and form the core of any agile team.

The team takes cross-functional responsibilities necessary to transform an idea or a requirement into a tangible product for the end-users. The required skills might be wrapped up in one or more development team members, which can include a range of talents, including:

  • Product designer
  • Writer
  • Programmer
  • Tester
  • UX specialist

Not every member needs to be an engineer, as long as their skills can help the project proceed at the required pace and can add value to the product.

As we mentioned earlier, the ideal development team will be a self-organized powerhouse that can perfectly balance efficiency with quality. This may not be possible at the beginning of your Agile journey, but with time and coaching from the Scrum Master, the team will grow into a collaborative, competent team that shows continuous improvement with each project.

While the main responsibility of the development team is to finish the product, there are several other responsibilities they need to be aware of to maintain agile working:

  • Ensure transparency by participating in daily stand-up meetings
  • Collaborate within the team to achieve the best possible result
  • Take responsibility for any issues by alerting the product owner ASAP
  • Product and feature testing
  • Participating in sprint planning
  • Getting involved in sprint reviews
  • Taking part in the daily stand-up
  • Finding opportunities for growth and improvement during retrospectives

Each agile role needs to be clearly defined and respected. But, ultimately, for a great agile team to achieve its goals, each member needs to work together in a transparent, collaborative environment. To that end, it may be worth removing the idea of an individual team member from your mind, as individuals don’t perform agile projects. Teams do.

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