Saving resources in Scrum

by Bjorn Conjaerts ©

Do or don’t?

Often companies struggle with their budget to hire one person for every role in their project organization. The ideal solution here would be to combine multiple roles and have one person be responsible for it. In theory this sounds like a great idea, but is that really the case? In this post we will be talking about combining two of the most common roles in an Agile Scrum project organization: developer, scrum master and product owner.

Developer and scrum master

Even though it does not appear to be a big issue to combine these roles, it is far from ideal because of the different focus of these roles.

The developer should mainly focus on developing and delivering all the tasks that are planned for a sprint. The scrum master is there to make sure there are no impediments and facilitates the team in achieving their sprint goal. So, the scrum master needs to have the bigger picture, while the developer needs to get into the details. Not many people out there can do both roles with a completely different mindset at the same time. And then we are not even talking about the difference in roles between a scrum master and a developer during sprint planning and retrospectives.

Scrum master and product owner

This is just plain wrong. The product owner’s job is at the business side in order to get as much accomplished as possible in the least amount of time.  The is the person that prioritizes the backlog.  The scrum master’s job is to protect the team, to keep focus and not to make decisions on scope and priority level. Combining these two roles will always end up with at least one unhappy party, whether it is the business or the team. There is never a winner.

Developer and product owner

Same scenario as the previous combination. It is for more or less the same reasons a poor combination. The product owner should be working with the business on the vision and the backlog of the project. If he plays his role well, there won’t be any more time to develop, because he needs to keep up with an entire development team. The team usually burns quicker through a backlog than the time it takes for a product owner to add to it.

Conclusion

Even though Scrum allows you to adapt to your organization, it isn’t really a great idea to combine roles.

Nevertheless, if you really need to combine roles, the better option is to combine developer and scrum master. This has the least amount of impact. But then you need to change the way you do a planning meeting or a retrospective meeting. Because in the end, the developer is a part of the development team as well.

Bjorn