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Why There’s No Scrum Master In My Agile CRM Teams

12 September 2016

When Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland presented the Scrum agile framework in 1995, they borrowed the word scrum from the 1986 HBR article ‘The New New Product Development Game’ by Takeuchi and Nonaka. Nonaka and Takeuchi used the term scrum in a terrible analogy between rugby and new product development.

I’m guessing that Schwaber and Sutherland had more experience playing Dungeons & Dragons than rugby. How else would they have arrived at such a lame name: Scrum Master? Does that job come with a pointy hat and a wand?

(For the record, I was a Dungeon Master at the Irish and European role-playing games championships when I was a kid and was a winger for Edinburgh Northern 1st XV).

There’s definitely a role on an agile CRM team for someone to mentor the stakeholders and the team on the principles and practices of agile software implementation, and to guide the team toward maximum velocity. Let’s just call it at Agile Coach.

Role of the Agile Coach

The Agile Coach serves the Product Owner, the CRM team, and the consulting firm and the customer in different ways.

The Agile Coach serves the product owner by helping him or her envision the features that will have the most impact and providing backlog management coaching.

The Agile Coach serves the team by facilitating sprint events, helping the team find and adopt practices that maximise the value they deliver and by removing impediments to the team’s progress. The Agile Coach ensures the team doesn’t over commit to too many stories in a sprint; a good coach ensures they are not becoming complacent either.

The Agile Coach serves the consulting firm by mentoring the CRM team’s resources. They also serve both the customer and the consulting firm by managing risks and issues, and looking after the project’s budget.

Do we need a CRM Project Manager?

There is also a role for someone to perform the traditional project manager responsibilities in CRM projects performed by a consulting team for a client.

Lots of Scrum purists reject the notion of traditional project management. I agree with them that the Agile Coach’s role is not to produce project plans or to assign work to resources, but let’s agree that issue logs, budgets, and status reports are still useful artefacts on agile projects.

In a Customer Agility project, the Agile Coach also looks after risks and issues, budgets and resources and whatever project status reports are required by the client and the consulting firm.

In future articles, we’ll revisit the role of Agile Coaches on CRM projects and discover how they can really maximise the value created by the CRM team.

What’s your opinion on the Scrum Master role — are you more of a Dungeon Master or Scrum Half?

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