IT workers are highly specialized, like the pika is for his habitat.

IT workers are highly specialized, like the pika is for his habitat.

One of the key features of Scrum is the small number of named roles.  According to Capers Jones, the information technology field has more named specialties than any other profession. In practice this means that individuals are spread across more project teams so they can practice their specialty.  This degree of overspecialization leads to complexity by making the logistics of planning and delivering work more difficult.  Just making sure a the correct specialists are available at the right time can be a nightmare.

The roles of the core team called out by Scrum are:

  1. The product owner who represents the voice of the business,
  2. The development team that transforms ideas into functionality and
  3. The Scrum Master who facilitates the team and process.

Scrum teams work when they have the following common features.

  1. Cross-functional teams: the team includes the disciplines needed to accomplish the agreed upon functions.
  2. Self-organizing teams: the team decides who does what and how they do it.
  3. Self-managing teams: the team uses peer pressure, group consensus and discussion to make sure the work gets done.
  4. Business representation: the team includes the business representative.  The business representative acts as the voice of the customer, and even more importantly, the voice of change.
  5. Backlog-driven: work is selected from the backlog by the product owner. Sprints build to releases rather than being driven by brittle schedules.

These attributes help teams form boundaries, develop the relationships needed for trust and then to succeed in delivering real business value, forming a virtuous cycle that reinforces team cohesion.

The one role not explicitly identified in Scrum that causes the greatest concern is the project manager.   The common roles of the traditional project manager are:

  1. Measurement – How are we doing?
  2. Tracking status – Where are we?
  3. Reporting – Telling others how things are going.
  4. Communication – Are the right people are talking to each other, internally and externally?
  5. Risk management – What are the risks and what is to be done if they happen?
  6. Process compliance – Are the processes are being followed?

In the Scrum framework all six of these common project management tasks are absorbed by the core team, under the auspices of self-organization and self-management.

IT specialties developed because the knowledge required to perform certain tasks were needed.  Whether that task was development, testing, business analysis or project management, the education and knowledge to perform these tasks are needed by the team.  Specialization that stops team members cross functional creates bottlenecks that reduce productivity and flow.