Windmill Experts: Sarika Kanade – Product Owner/Scrum Master
In this edition of our Thought Leadership series, we spoke to Scrum Master/Agile co-ordinator and Product Owner Sarika Kanade. Sarika shared with us insights about her role and knowledge regarding the different facets of Scrum, agile transformation, and product management, among many other things.
What are your three main responsibilities as product owner and scrum master?
Sarika Kanade: Product owner and scrum master should act as the main client/partner liaison and point of contact regarding the product definition and release roadmap. They should create constructive and positive relationships with the client using remote tools, working directly with clients to understand their business goals for the software and objectives for the product.
Secondly, they should work with the Scrum team to provide vision and direction to ensure that the software project delivery meets the business and technical goals and delivers the “right solution.”
The Scrum Master plays an active role in mitigating impediments impacting successful completion of release/sprint goals. They also mentor colleagues and improve Windmill processes and methods of work.
What are the benefits of having one person performing both the Scrum Product Owner role and the Scrum Master role?
SK: Initially when I started working in this role there were a couple of challenges I faced. Firstly, as product owner, my responsibility was to get maximum value delivered by the team. Then, as a scrum master, I am also responsible for coaching them in removing impediments and unblocking issues.
Hence, I decided to bring a level of integrity in my mind and working style so that I can do this. I have explored it as great combo. However, there were several benefits that I discovered during this transition and execution of the product lifecycle.
A person can maximize value and help the team to self-organize and become high performing. Furthermore, wearing each hat at the right time helps deliver the desire outcome the product owner as well as the Scrum Master’s responsibilities. A typical day will include a good combination of work done on the product side, time spent on ceremonies, and working with people in resolving impediments. An individual who has product authority, servant leadership skills, and a small team is well-suited to work with product delivery, processes, and practices.
Important note: We have explored this model with the help of a small product and mature team that does not need lot of attention from the Scrum Master and has an experienced PO.
Is there a difference between Agile and Scrum?
SK: Yes, Agile is a mindset which includes a set of values and principles. Inside the Agile umbrella there are various frameworks like Scrum, XP, Crystal, FDD, and Lean. Scrum on the other hand, is a development framework based on empirical process control. In Agile, leadership plays a vital role in implementation. Whereas in Scrum, a cross-functional team is the key to product delivery.
With Agile, you can quickly respond to changes whereas Scrum is a rapid method with limited room for frequent changes. Customer satisfaction is the highest priority in Agile. In Scrum, empirical process control is the highest priority. Lastly in Agile, simplified designs and execution take place, whereas in Scrum, innovative and creative design and execution takes place.
What are the main artefacts of the Scrum process?
SK: There are three important artefacts of Scrum: product backlog, Sprint backlog, and product increment. They are owned by the product owner, Scrum Master, and the development team.
Product backlog is prioritized according to the features/functionality that are needed in the product. Product backlog is dynamic and never complete. It exists until the product exists. Each product backlog item has an order, value, description, and estimate attached to it. Product backlog items are ordered based on business value, cost of delay, dependencies, and risk. It is a living artefact and changes in business requirement, market conditions, or technology may cause changes in the product backlog.
A sprint backlog is a set of product backlog items selected for a Sprint and a plan for creating a product increment. It includes all the work that the development team identifies as necessary to meet the Sprint goal. As a part of continuous improvement, the Sprint backlog includes at least one action item that the Scrum team has agreed on in a previous retrospective.
The Product Increment shows all the backlog items completed during the Sprint. The development team works with product backlog features during the sprint and produces a product increment, which it delivers with completely tested quality user stories to achieve the Sprint goal. The purpose of product increment is to help and guide team members on how to deliver working software in each Sprint.
What are some advantages and disadvantages of using Scrum?
SK: Some advantages of Scrum are that it is better suited to deal with complex problems where there is lot of ambiguity and need for inspection and adaption cycles to shape the product. It is iterative and incremental in nature and the continuous feedback from customer helps. Scrum is also effective for dynamic development environments, requires expert Agile personnel throughout the product life cycle, and can accommodate changes at any time.
Some disadvantages are that it is not suitable for large systems and has strict controls on the team, which can lead to a demotivated team environment. It is costly for stable development environment where there are not a lot of changes to be made. It also has a limitation of experienced team members, and if the team consists of new team members, then the cycle time increases. Scrum also has a shorter length in each iteration.
What is a “user story” in Scrum?
SK: User story is a general natural language description of a feature given by end user.
As we all know Card, Conversation, and Confirmation are 3Cs of a user story. User stories are manually written on “cards” to keep it constructive and have 3 components: “As a user [user type], I want [goal] so that I can accomplish [business value]”.
‘Conversation’ plays a key role in collaborating with team members on a shared understanding of the story on the card and get more details. Lastly ‘Confirmation’ is an acceptance criterion with a list of predefined requirements that must be met to mark a user story complete.
INVEST and SMART techniques are frequently used to write effective user stories. It has benefits such as value-added delivery, is independent and negotiable, keeps everyone coordinated, facilitates collaboration and transparency, and delivers the incremental product.
What skills does a Scrum Master need?
SK: Scrum master is a servant leader who leads through influence and focuses on people development while owning the process. Scrum master needs to wear different hats in different situations but from our point of view, these skills are a must-have:
While working with agile teams on transformational activities, we have observed that there are many areas when coaching really helps to shift the mindset of the team/organization. To become an efficient coach, one should work on their coaching abilities and start exploring the best practices around it.
Scrum Master helps the development team learn technical practices.
As we work with a diversified working model across the global, conflicts may occur from time to time since we work with different mindsets, working styles, and personalities. If the conflict does not get resolved by the team, then it is the Scrum Master who should handle it actively and resolve it. Scrum Masters are well-versed with different models of conflict resolution and by following those tools and techniques it becomes easy to categorize and track them.
Serving development team to achieve smooth delivery—mentoring, agile trainings, removing impediments, and facilitating Scrum ceremonies.
When it comes to their service to the product owner, they help him understand product backlog maintenance, ensuring sprint goals are aligned. They coach product owner with clear and concise product backlog items and guide on practices on how to maximize value.
In their service to the organization, to increase effectiveness of Scrum in the organization, the Scrum master should contribute to coaching and training. They also help the organization understand the impact of implementing Scrum on the organization’s structure/design and traditional management.
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