Breaking Down the Role of the Developers

Imagine this scenario—a high-level exec makes overarching decisions about a product without really understanding the “why” behind the original blueprint. Meanwhile, the people on the ground are left scratching their heads and awaiting the inevitable doom of the completely disconnected decision. Sound familiar?

There is a better way. One of the major benefits of an Agile approach is that there isn’t really an assumed hierarchy, which results in a more flexible, iterative method of product development. Still, though, deemphasizing hierarchy doesn’t mean that there aren’t important roles that must be fulfilled for a Scrum Team to be successful. Here, we break down the role of Developers.

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What are Developers… In the World of Scrum?

Complex product development, in general, benefits from teams that are independent, self-managing, and understand business constraints. Agile teams inhabit the virtues of empirically-based adaptability and flexibility in environments of informational transparency and trust.

As laid out in the Scrum Guide, a Scrum Team consists not only of a Scrum Master and a Product Owner but also Developers. Developers are responsible for creating usable Increments for each Sprint which are the concrete stepping stones toward achieving the Product Goal.

On Scrum Teams, Developers bring efficiency and innovative solutions to product development that execs who aren’t on the team wouldn’t even be able to imagine.

What are Developers’ Primary Responsibilities?

Good Scrum teams have flexibility in their skill sets. Even when specialists are present, it’s helpful for those specialists to be able to pitch in when their specialist skill isn’t the best way to help the team meet the Sprint Goal. Scrum respects no hierarchical distinctions. That is, there’s not a specific person whose job it is to, say, deal with QA, or testing, or documentation, etc. The team works together, as a unit. This isn’t to say your organization doesn’t have job titles, but they should not be used as the mechanism to make decisions if Scrum is to work well.

Of course, creating complex products does require that specific tasks are achieved. As such, using the example of software development, modeling, database architecture, UI/UX, documentation, coding, testing, and everything else that goes into the creation of a successful product, must be done. Development decisions are made on the basis of immediate needs and appropriate skill sets and availability, as opposed to titles.

In Scrum, technical quality and solution delivery ownership belong to all developers, which contrasts with traditional product development practices where tasks are assigned and individually owned. Distributed ownership means that responsibility for the success of all work is also distributed, once again contrasting with traditional management structures in which success or failure is assigned to the overseeing manager.

How Does The Role Differ in Scrum?

Scrum is a particular application of Agile principles. The role of Developers on Scrum Teams is to create high-quality solutions that will put the team and the product closer to the Product Goal of each Sprint. In Scrum, there is some continuity with more general Agile approaches to development, including distributed responsibility and an emphasis on general skill sets.

But Scrum is unique in its implementation. So what do Scrum Developers do?

  • They help create Sprint Goals, forecasts, and details, plans in the form of the Sprint Backlog.
  • They maintain technical excellence and ensure quality by helping specify and deliver solutions that meet a Definition of Done.
  • They adapt plans quickly and flexibly in an empirically-informed way to achieve Sprint Goals as effectively as possible.
  • They work together, holding each other accountable and striving for continuous learning and improvement.

How to Set Developers Up for Success

The best teams work within an environment of trust in which they can self-manage independently. Part of self-management involves participating in the creation of goals and continuous improvement. If Developers have access to good information, they can help create goals and be confident that they’re legitimate.

Since those goals are based on accurate and timely information, the goals aren’t arbitrary. They’re not mandated by some archaic hierarchical management structure that isn’t intimately connected with the immediate requirements of the development process as it hurtles toward the Product Goal. Independence, transparency, and trust are the bedrock for Developers being able to focus on achievable goals.

A successful environment for Developers starts with focused time on legitimate goals, minimal organizational disruptions, and direct access to key people and information. Would you want your surgeon to work with anything less? Developers will have opportunities to learn and improve from every Sprint. Developers will leverage outcomes from Sprint Retrospectives to improve quality and effectiveness set the stage for success.

Gain Expert Insight

Creating, coaching, and ensuring the longevity of solid Developers requires experience with Agile practices. Prepping Developers to engage with other roles on a Scrum Team requires extensive knowledge of why and how Scrum works.

At Responsive Advisors, we have that experience and that knowledge. We’ve engaged with organizations across the industry spectrum to help build and maintain Agile principles and practices that last.

When it comes to advising companies on putting together a strong development team, there’s no one better than… well…us. We tailor everything we do to your company’s needs and requirements–not only helping recruit and establish quality Developers but also providing them with a deep understanding of their greater role in Agile development methods, including Scrum. 

We offer on-the-ground consulting as well as a cornucopia of classes in Scrum business practices. And it’s our mission that the content is fun and engaging. No more blankly staring at the camera in a Zoom call hoping to be ANYWHERE else. Those days are over with Responsive Advisors. 

Robert Pieper

Robert Pieper has been a licensed Professional Scrum Trainer since 2014 and National Public Speaker since 2013. Robb holds an MBA from Marquette University and an Electrical Engineering Degree from Milwaukee School of Engineering. Robb has 15 years of professional software development experience with a passion for making Scrum work delivering real products and services
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