Posted by Rowan Bunning on 16 March 2016
More Australian organisations than ever are seeking IT professionals with Agile-related skills. While you may already have experience with a ‘hybrid Agile’ approach, those looking to further their knowledge and careers should obtain the most widely used Agile method – it will deepen your understanding and expand your opportunities.
What is the world’s most widely used Agile method? The answer is Scrum. The 2015 State of Scrum Report showed that 71 per cent of respondents across the world use Scrum. The Scrum methodology is so widely adopted that in many parts of the world it is confused with the ‘Agile’ umbrella term. Time to clarify:
What is Scrum Methodology?
The official definition of Scrum by its inventors: “Scrum (n) A framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.”
Instead of locking in scope for a product or project at the outset when knowledge is sometimes limited, Scrum allows a business decision-maker to make well-informed trade-off decisions throughout development. This avoids time wasting and reduces costs when it comes to software development.
Simply put, Scrum is a mirror that reflects back to the organisation how well it is doing its work and how valuable its product is. Done well, Scrum acts as a self-correcting and self-optimising mechanism on both the organization’s work practices and work products.
How is Scrum different to Agile?
In a simple metaphor: if Scrum was a car, Agile would be transport. Scrum is a type of Agile method just as a car is a type of transport. They are two very different things conceptually. Other Agile frameworks exist in addition to Scrum just as other transport exists in addition to cars.
If you are familiar with Agile, you will know that the method hosts a general set of values and principles. Scrum methodology, however, defines a set of concrete roles, artefacts and events from these values. By working as a ScrumMaster to implement Scrum, you are providing employers with the most well-proven, practical way to enact the values and principles of Agile, thereby making it a desirable skill as a potential employee.
Becoming a ScrumMaster
If you have been a developer, you have doubtless debugged software code. Think of a ScrumMaster role in a similar way, but for business. As a ScrumMaster, you debug not the software but the organisation that produces the software. In terms of career, such a skill within an organisation is highly valuable.
Becoming a ScrumMaster will assist in improving your:
- Process optimisation skills
- People skills
- Leadership skills
- Group facilitation skills
- Technical leadership skills
- Problem-solving skills
There are some key attributes that a qualified ScrumMaster needs to obtain in order to be effective in a business. You will be the ‘change agent’, who leads the way with Agile adoption in the business.
- Is a team builder who helps a cross-functional team collaborate and sprint as one.
- Assists the team to adopt technical practices that help them complete high-quality work smoothly.
- Coaches the business to steer development. This means making well-informed trade-off decisions to maximise value for money.
- Leaves the problematic ‘command and control’ style of management behind in favour of facilitating participatory group decision-making, mentoring and coaching. Unlike traditional management roles, a ScrumMaster does not just work within the current status quo but leads the way in improving on the status quo.
Rising demand for ScrumMasters
In Australia, the need for good ScrumMasters is growing rapidly and many businesses are hiring ScrumMasters to replace the old-school project manager, iteration manager and team lead roles. Naturally, this opens up a big space to fill and a great opportunity for you as an IT professional.
What impact can a ScrumMaster have on a career?
More than just a great salary, IT professionals with ScrumMaster qualifications tend to have more rewarding working lives. In the 2015 State of Scrum Report 87 per cent of respondents indicated that Scrum had improved the quality and productivity of their work life. As a ScrumMaster, you are the person who contributes most to this and to the positive working culture of the organisation.
Moreover, as a respected leader of the team, ScrumMasters have the ability to minimise the number of unnecessary meetings within the workplace (in fact, doing this is part of the job). It is not uncommon for a ScrumMaster to be thanked by colleagues for turning boring old meetings into engaging, productive workshops.
Furthermore, ScrumMasters are often thought of as ‘servant leaders’. This is a trailblazer who leads people to maximise their potential by being of service to them. Servant leadership as a style of leadership was originally intended for company executives. Any way you look at it though, possessing such skills, even for non-executives, is a big tick on your resume and for your career.
How do you become a ScrumMaster?
The best way to understand what is expected of a ScrumMaster is to complete an intensive training course on Scrum. There are various courses available but the most popular Scrum training course is the Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) course. It is open to anyone with knowledge of Agile and interested in improving their work processes using the Scrum method. Being a certified ScrumMaster is one of the most respected IT certifications in Australia.
Another very popular Scrum training course is Certified Scrum Product Owner® (CSPO), which focuses on Scrum from the perspective of the product owner, those coaching a product owner and those assisting to clarify requirements.
The CSM course provides the springboard from which you can jump into the ScrumMaster role along with pursuing further learning. The insights you can expect to gain from a CSM or CSPO course go well beyond what you will pick up from reading online and even most Agile-related books.
What is the best choice for Scrum accreditation?
In Australia, the accreditation body that offers the most popular Scrum accreditation is the Scrum Alliance. Scrum Alliance is the world’s largest Agile membership organisation and has been operating since 2003.
Unlike other accreditation bodies, Scrum Alliance is a not-for-profit organisation and is not exclusively focused on software development. Be wary of accreditation bodies that do not believe Scrum should be a minimalist framework and base their curriculum on a document of over 300 pages rather than the official Scrum Guide written by the inventors of Scrum.
Scrum training accredited with the Scrum Alliance is led by a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST)®. Such trainers have attained one of the most elite levels of Agile accreditation in the world for which the bar is arguably the highest for any Agile accreditation. CSTs are required to not only have many years of experience in a variety of Scrum roles, but also need to be highly skilled in adult education.
If you are looking for more information on transitioning from Agile to Scrum or opportunities in IT and technology, take a look at the current positions here.
Rowan Bunning is an Australian pioneer of Scrum and a Certified Scrum Trainer® and Agile coach since 2008. As a coach, he has a track record of facilitating rapid Agile transformations including cross-functional team building, management consulting and cultural change at organisations ranging from startups to global brand-name enterprises across the banking, media, video games, food, building security, data security, real estate, collection and content management industries, as well as the public sector.