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The Agile methodology is an alternative to traditional project management. Following this method, teams break down projects into short segments, or sprints, that they can work on at pace. When done well, this approach fosters adaptability and flexibility. To know how to apply this method with your team, let’s explore the Agile team roles.
This article seeks to clarify what Agile team roles are needed and why, the responsibilities of those key Agile roles, and how to incorporate these roles into your organization.
An Agile team is made up of individuals from across different functions, brought together to work collaboratively. The idea of such teams is that they can work faster and be more adaptable than traditional project groups. Agile teams are designed to work iteratively, completing one part of the project at a time, which increases productivity and reduces risk.
For this to work, Agile teams need to operate around the principles of self-organization, meaning individuals on the team have to take on key responsibilities.
In each Agile team, there are several important Agile team roles. How many you use in your organization will vary according to the size of your team and the complexity of your project. However, at a minimum you need two team roles:
Product owners manage the product roadmap and prioritize the backlog. They also define the product vision and manage stakeholders. They have the authority to make key decisions and in particular, are responsible for making sure the team is working on the right items. It is helpful for the product owner to be able to communicate effectively with stakeholders.
The Product owner should be able to understand what customers want and make adjustments accordingly. They can liaise between engineering and business teams, and they can offer insights to marketing and sales teams about the product if needed.
An Agile team consists of more than one developer, but these are the next essential role after the product owner. Developers will build your product, and they are responsible for programming, testing, and debugging the product.
Scrum masters facilitate scrums – the Agile framework that focuses on time-boxed iterations called sprints. Scrum masters act as coaches to the rest of the team. They facilitate daily stand-up meetings and oversee sprint planning meetings where they help to keep the team focused and prevent scope creep. They manage sprint reviews and gather feedback, and they also remove roadblocks that could hamper the team’s productivity.
Where the scrum master is a role specific to scrum, the team leader is a role in an Agile team using Kanban methodology.
Team leaders are there to ensure that the team is following the Agile process, while also facilitating effective communication within the team.
As the name suggests, stakeholders are anyone internal or external to an organization who has an interest in the project being worked on. Internal stakeholders work for the organization developing the product and can include employees and managers – all the same up to senior leaders. External stakeholders tend to include customers, suppliers, partners, and investors.
Stakeholders count as part of the broader Agile team because they provide the input on how the product should develop. They can also help to decide how to deal with any issues that arise during development.
Integrators are responsible for larger projects with multiple separate teams and sections, and therefore for integrating these different aspects into a cohesive whole. This Agile team role is usually only needed in larger teams developing complex systems, or where multiple teams are working together on a larger project.
This is another Agile team role that is largely optional and usually only needed on complex projects. Independent testers and auditors are there to catch any mistakes the Agile team has made before delivering the project to a client, much as an editor at a magazine checks articles before sending them to be published.
When integrators and independent testers are both involved in complex projects, they collaborate closely on testing. This helps to function as a kind of quality assurance to prevent mistakes and errors from slipping through and reaching the client or customer.
These are often brought into a team on an ad-hoc basis to help overcome specific challenges. They advise on technical decisions to ensure a project is technically coherent and meets the appropriate standards.
They will manage the technical aspects of a solution and approve it before deployment. They are also likely to have the final say on any differences between members of the Agile team when it comes to technology.
Architects may be needed to ensure a solution works within the context of an enterprise structure. They do not set the architectural direction of a project but they facilitate architectural decision-making and planning. There can be multiple architects in a single sub-team, depending on the complexity of the project.
Probably the easiest way to remember the potential roles and responsibilities in an Agile team is to track them in a matrix like this:
|Agile team roles||Responsibilities|
|Product owner||Manage product roadmap and prioritize the backlog|
|Developer||Works on prioritized work by product owner in the sprint|
|Stakeholder||Identify customer needs and feedback to product owner during the course of the project|
|Scrum master||Remove obstacles to team progress, including scope creep, and support team|
|Team leader||Remove obstacles to team progress|
|Tester||Work with product owners to define acceptance criteria and check for mistakes before sending the product to the client|
|Architect||Maintain the agreed-upon structure of the product and ensure that it meets the requirements|
|Technical and domain expert||Advise on technical and technological decisions in line with agreed project scope|
|Dev Ops||Work on version control, testing, security, integration and deployment|
|UX designer||Work with the product owner to come up with designs for product|
When building Agile team roles, it’s important to focus on the three key tasks of balancing teams, improving communications, and mitigating failures or obstacles. For all teams, you need a product owner and developers, as well as key stakeholders. In smaller teams, the product owner can double as scrum master or team leader. In larger teams you’ll want a separate person to adopt that role, otherwise, the workload could simply become too great.
Part of success revolves around everyone on the team accepting personal responsibility and pulling their weight. Each team member has a role to play in maintaining good communication, spotting obstacles, and feeding back on potential issues. This way, you can create an Agile environment and mindset, which will make you more likely to succeed.
If you’d like to find out more about Agile and how it could work for your organization, check out our growing library of Agile content.
If you’re specifically interested in finding out more about Kanban as an Agile methodology, take a look at our Kanban content.
Or why not get in touch with us to see how Teamhood could help solve your Agile challenges?