Editor’s note: This is the third of a three-part article written by Joseph Mercier, a certified ScrumMastrer with Charlotte-based Mariner.

By Joseph Mercier, Project Manager, Mariner

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Let’s break down an Agile/Scrum project and the role of the

In Agile/Scrum projects:

• Organizations break large initiatives down into smaller projects or releases.
• High-level, feature-driven plans evolve over time, replacing speculative, task-based details.
• Continuous, “Just In Time” planning methods are substituted for detailed, upfront plans.
• The business sets the priorities. Teams self-organize to determine the best way to deliver the highest priority features.
• Cross-functional teams break projects down into short, frequent iterations that incorporate all aspects of development – e.g., planning, analysis, design, development, testing, and integration.
• Features are worked on collaboratively and delivered in the order of business value.
• All stakeholders (executives, managers, customers, developers, testers, etc.) are involved throughout the delivery cycle to ensure ongoing alignment with evolving market needs.
• Working, tested system components serve as the primary measure of progress.
• Visibility into project status and progress is based on the undeniable truth of working software.

And the ScrumMaster plays a key role by:

• Representing management to the project, as the Scrum PM (Project Manager), filled by a PM or Team Leader.
• Being responsible for enacting Agile and Scrum values and practices (as described above).
• Ensuring that the process is followed – daily scrums, Sprint Reviews, and Sprint Planning and Sprint Retrospective meetings.
• Ensuring that the team is fully functional and productive.
• Being responsible for removing barriers (impediments) in coordination with the Product owner and stakeholders.
• Enabling close cooperation across all roles and functions.
• Refereeing conflicts.
• Shielding the team from external interference.

The ScrumMaster leads the Scrum process, and is the person who tries to optimize the productivity of the whole team (including software development and business management). The SM helps balance the tension that is typically generated between the two sides. The SM exerts minimal external authority and is not identified by the team as a “taskmaster project manager.” The SM’s key role is removing (or assuring removal of) the biggest impediments for the team.

In most companies, development is slowed down by many issues identified as impediments during daily meetings or planning and review meetings. With Scrum, these impediments are prioritized and systematically removed, further increasing productivity and quality. Well-run Scrums achieve the Toyota effect: four times industry average productivity and twelve times better quality.

Applying Agile/Scrum to the software development process is beneficial for both the business and technology participants in projects – whether development is done by an outside firm or by an internal IT department. By enabling open communications and providing a platform that engages and accomplishes change as an integral part of the development process, the completed software is on point and generally exceeds project expectations without undue stress on project participants.

About the Author

Joseph Mercier has more than 30 years of experience in project management of software development projects and provides project management and technology consulting services to clients as well as strategic planning, enterprise problem solving and implementation support. He is currently engaged in developing and delivering data warehouse and business intelligence solutions for education clients.

Mr. Mercier has Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a Masters certificate in Project Management from The George Washington University, and holds certifications as a Project Management Professional (PMP) and a Certified Scrum Master (CSM).

Mr. Mercier is a member of the Agile Alliance and Project Management Institute (PMI). He is actively involved in several national PMI Special Interest Groups and to the Metrolina PMI Chapter.

About Mariner:

Mariner specializes in business intelligence, data warehousing, business scorecards and performance dashboards to help clients improve productivity and decision making in a variety of industries including the education, utility and healthcare industries. Mariner is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner with specializations in Business Intelligence and Performance Management Solutions, Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner of the Year for 2008 in Performance Management Solutions and TDWI’s Best Practices Award Implementation Partner for 2009.