Understanding Agile team member roles and responsibilities

by Leigh Espy

Do you have a clear understanding of agile team roles, structures, and responsibilities? If not, here’s a quick look into how agile teams work together effectively.

Agile teams operate differently than traditional waterfall teams. Because of this, Agile team member roles and responsibilities can be different in the Agile framework. Understanding these roles keeps everyone aligned and clear on who is responsible for what. Each role is critical to the success of the implementation. Here are the different roles and areas of focus and responsibility for each:

Product owner

Product owners determine the direction of the team. They meet with the customer to determine their needs, translate those needs into functionality and features, and prioritize how the work is to be addressed. They understand the vision and translate it to the team to ensure everyone knows what the team will create.

The product owner works with the customer to determine the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to be delivered in the shortest amount of time. They also work with the team to create the user stories that help the team deliver what is needed.

The product owner understands how the product fits within the larger strategy and can effectively communicate that to the team. The product owner also prioritizes the work to be done. He/She communicates this priority to the team and has to communicate any changes in priority with a clear understanding of how those changes impact the team.  

Product owner responsibilities:

  • Understands the vision and communicates this to the team and others.
  • Works with the customer to determine the MVP to be delivered in the shortest time. Serves as the voice of the customer.
  • Develops the roadmap for product delivery.
  • Defines requirements and features to be developed. These, in turn, can be broken down into user stories.
  • Understands Business Value for the work to be done, so that the team focus is placed on delivering value.
  • Prioritizes the work to be done, creating the team backlog.
  • Owns the team backlog and continually ensures that it is prioritized appropriately going forward. (The backlog is not a static list of work to be done. It is actively managed and changes as needs change based on feedback and changing market and business conditions.)

Scrum master

The scrum master helps guide the team through the sprint and ceremonies. The scrum master facilitates the daily scrum meeting, retrospectives, and other team ceremonies. He/She coaches the team and helps team members strive for continuous improvement. They also remove roadblocks that prevent the team from accomplishing items in the backlog.

The scrum master role is often referred to as a servant leader. His/her goal is to help the team stay productive and successful.  

Scrum master responsibilities:

  • Facilitates ceremonies and events – such as the daily Scrum Meeting – throughout the course of the sprints.
  • Protects the team backlog to ensure that once the sprint plan is in place, the team can move forward executing the sprint plan.
  • Removes impediments to ensure the team can successfully complete the user stories prioritized during sprint planning.
  • Coaches team members for continuous improvement.

Team members

The development team members create the product. The team is normally made up of developers, testers, and those who can create the necessary documentation. They help groom the backlog and ensure that user stories are clearly understandable. They also play an active role day to day in communication. They might work independently on user stories or collaborate when needed. They are expected to be self-motivated and reliable.

Team member responsibilities:

  • Work on items in the backlog.
  • Attend and participates in ceremonies.
  • Report progress and demonstrate transparency in communication.

Clearly understanding these Agile team roles will help your team ensure they are all addressed appropriately as your team becomes more familiar with Agile. Agile stresses constant improvement. Each team member works to get better and better through each Sprint. Revisit these Agile team roles as needed to ensure your team has all items covered and carries out the roles as needed. Agile takes discipline, transparency, and alignment and can provide great value when done correctly.


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