Agile without the Scrum master is like an orchestra without a conductor. In my years of Agile, this person is always the central person in the team.
Who is the scrum master in agile? The scrum master is the organisor of an Agile development. Think of this person as the process manager of Agile or if you like, the linchpin that brings all the related project team together to follow the Agile process.
Now that you understand from a high level what a scrum master does, you need to understand exactly what they do and how they fit into the process. If this interests you, please read on for more information.
During an Agile scrum all project team members huddle together for a quick “stand-up” meeting. The reason it’s a stand-up meeting is so it physiologically reduces the expected duration.
Meaning it is likely to be shorter and concise if you do not sit down, well that is the idea.
The Scrum Master is effectively the organiser of the scrum and really wants to establish three key peieces of information from each scrum meeting attendee:
Even though this may sound like the scrum Master is similar level to a project or programme manager, in reality this is not the case. The scrum master is just responsible for facilitating the scrum, not the outcome of the project or programme o work.
During the scrum, we just established what the scrum masters role is. But what is their objective you may be thinking? Well they have a challenging task of keeping the team focused and most importantly avoiding blockers that could prevent progress within the current, or future sprints.
As well as this, they have to make sure the team is in agreement with the direction of the day. For example, if you are asked “what is your plan today?”. Your response may be: “Work on the second drop down list data feed”.
There is a chance that your response my cause an objection or suggestion to this a bit different. This is where scrum master is valuable to keep everyone on track and reach an agreement.
As discussed earlier, the scrum master is not a project or programme manager. And in fact they may not have any real project level authority at all. However they do own the “process”.
What does this mean? Basically they can decide how the scrum is organised, who speaks next. Or even if they want to make alterations to the sprint duration.
Bare in mind, all of this is in theory. However, in my experience of testing throughout the years, the real authority to make these decisions stick depends on the politics of the company you work for and how respected that individual really is. But on paper, they should have the ability to do this.
Apart from the actual scrum itself, the Scrum Master also ads value to the Product owner. In particular making sure that the team fully understand the product backlog and importance of having very clear and understandable backlog items designated to each sprint.
The value add here is helping the development team come up with the highest quality products that they can. This is mainly by helping to remove any blockers that may be preventing their progress within the current sprint. Also making making sure they understand the sprint plan and how that related to the product backlog.
In general the scrum master works to help the organisation understand and adopt the scrum process. Initially it can be hard to get a project team to conform because they are not used to the new process. This is where the scrum master really adds value.
According to glassdoor, a scrum master in the United states earns, at the time of writing, $115.992 and in the UK, approx £50,000. Obviously these are averages and depending on where you live, the company you work for, this can vary quite significantly.
Do you need a degree to be a Scrum Master?
You don’t need a degree to become one, but you do need to have a good understanding of Agile Scrum. In addition to this, it is advisable that you have a good idea of how your company works, the products they use and the culture of the organisation.
This is because the Scrum Master needs to work with a lot of people of varying levels of skills and hierarchy, and to gain their respect and do well, you will need these skills.
To become a qualified Scrum Master you will need a qualification. For example the Certified Scrum Master. However, this is a certificate, it will be the stepping stone in your carrer, much like an ISTQB foundation qualification is a stepping stone in testing.
My point is, you will still need some experience in the company to really be considered for the role. Also, bare in mind in reality there are people out there now fulfilling this role of Scrum Master without this qualification, much the same as there are testers without ISTQB qualifications.
What is the Certified Scrum Master (CSM) Exam? CSM is a certification provided by the Scrum Alliance. Once you have complete the CSM training you can can take the exam and have the opportunity to be certified. The course training is typically done over two days with a qualified trainer. These trainers are referred to as “Certified Scrum Trainers”.
How long is the CSM exam? The exam is about an hour and is done using an online system. It is possible to pause, resume during the exam, so the duration is the actual time. The elapsed time could be longer if you pause and take longer to complete it, if that makes sense.
To pass the exam you need to get at least 24 out of the total 35 questions that are asked. The great thing about this exam is that once you submit your answers you can get an instant score. This is because it is a multiple choice question exam, meaning you have fixed answers.
What happens if you fail the CSM Exam? If you fail the exam you get the chance to re-take it again. As long as you do this within 60 days you won’t be charged. However, if you fail it again there will be a fee tat you’ll need to pay to try again.