Who Should Be In The Scrum Development Team

  • December 05, 2020
  • In Scrum

       Today, I'm going to be answering the question "Who should be in the development team?". In every Professional Scrum class that I have facilitated so far, most probably I will get this question "Who should be in the development team?". People often ask me: should Quality Assurance be in the development team? Should Business Analysts be in the development team? Should User experience (UX) professionals be in the development team? After all, they are designers, right? They are not developers. How about people from the audit? People from governance? People from risks? How about data scientists? Should they be in the development team? So if you also had the same question, stick around don't go anywhere as I'll be answering this question in today's video.

The concept of the development team in Scrum is actually very simple but sometimes people overcomplicate this simple concept because some people bring their own bias when they're looking at Scrum and some people map the development team concept to their own bias. In some cultures, the term developers refer to people who write the software codes. To understand the concept of a development team in Scrum we must first read the paper titled "The New Product Development Game" that was written in 1986 by two professors named Professor Hirotaka Takeuchi and Professor Ikujiro Nonaka. This paper was published on Harvard Business Review. On this paper the term Scrum was mentioned once because Professor Takeuchi and professor Nonaka described how awesome development teams work together towards the goal like a rugby team. Professor Takeuchi and Professor Nonaka observed the development process of awesome teams who developed awesome products. Professor Takeuchi and Professor Nonaka described how awesome teams work together and what are the characteristics of awesome teams. The teams that were observed worked at NEC, Canon, Fuji-Xerox and also Honda. As you can see from the names of these companies none of these companies are software development companies and the teams who work at these companies didn't work on software development. So the term development team in Scrum refers to product development team. The reason why Scrum is so popular within the software development community is that the two co-founders of Scrum Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland first tried the concept within their team which was a software development team after they read "The New Product Development Game" paper. They also tried it on several of their clients. And then in 1995 they presented Scrum in a software development conference named Object-Oriented Programming, System, Languages, and Applications (OOPSLA). One of the characteristics of awesome development teams that Takeuchi and Nonaka observed is cross-functional or multidisciplinary, which means the development team has all the required skills to develop awesome products.

The teams that Takeuchi and Nonaka observed consists of people from Research and Development (R&D), production or manufacturing, product design, engineering, Quality Assurance, even delegates from sales and marketing because people from sales and marketing are the ones on the ground to hear what the customers want. So the development team in Scrum does not only consist of engineers or only people who write codes. A cross-functional team is not the same as cross-functional individuals. This is one of the misconceptions I have found on the market. Many people think that every development team members must be a generalist. Scrum doesn't say that every team member must be a generalist, Scrum just says that all the skills required to develop the product must be within the development team. One team member might be a specialist in one area but every development team members have other skills that enable them to work and collaborate with other functions within the development team. So let's take an example of a User experience (UX) professionals in the development team besides having skills and knowledge in a user experience they may also have skills and knowledge in developing information architecture, developing product usability test scenarios, developing customer research, and even writing user manuals. Another example is Quality Assurance (QA) professionals in the development team besides having skills and knowledges in testing the product they may also have skills and knowledges in analysing customer needs, writing user manuals and even in some cases I've met many Quality Assurance professionals who have the capability to develop test automation codes. 

Besides cross-functional, other attributes that Takeuchi and Nonaka observed are overlapping development process and also self-organization. Unlike in a sequential development process where each function needs to wait for another function to finish doing their work, what Takeuchi and Nonaka observed, none of the team members need to wait on another function before they can work on something else. So what Takeuchi and Nonaka observed every team member will self-organize and do whatever it takes to ensure that the product becomes awesome. Another attribute that Takeuchi and Nonaka observed is subtle control from the management. The team was only given audacious, ambiguous, and ambitious goals to create an awesome product. There was a lot of empowerment and wiggle room for the development team. The development team was even empowered to experiment and challenge the status quo. So let's go back to the initial question "Who should be in the development team". As I said in the beginning, the concept of the development team in Scrum is really simple. Scrum is a framework for product development. The development team in Scrum develops the product for the customers. And when I said product, it must be tangible and valuable for the customers because the customer is the person paying for that product. So that's why it's important for the product to be tangible and valuable. So let's say you are developing an insurance product, the team consists of people but not limited to from sales, legal, marketing, underwriting, accounting, software engineering, operations, user experience, data science, and so forth. The team must be cross-functional. The team must have all the skills needed to develop the product. If the team is not cross-functional they will be dysfunctional. If they are dysfunctional they won't be able to develop an awesome product. 

So as I said in the beginning, the concept is that simple. To form the development team, first, you need to answer "what is your product?". This is a very fundamental question but I have found some companies or some organizations are unable to answer this very fundamental question. If you are not a software company, most of the time I have found that the product is not the software or the applications or the systems. For example, if you are an insurance company your product might be the insurance policy because that's what your customers is paying you for. If you are a bank your product might be home loans, savings, credit cards, and even investments. If you're the government your product might be policies, regulations, and restrictions. After you have defined the product, now you need to define who is your customer. Your customer is the person who is willing to take money out of pocket to pay you for that product. After you have defined the customer and the product, now you need to define all the skills and functions that are needed to ensure that the product becomes awesome and your customers can become more awesome because of your product. Now the team needs to be cross-functional otherwise they will be dysfunctional and if they are dysfunctional they are unable to deliver awesome products for your customers. So that is all from me today folks. I hope today's video answers your question about "who should be in the development team". As you can see, Scrum emphasizes simplicity and also collaboration.


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