Agile 2018

Agile 2018
Speaking at Agile 2018

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Little Respect for the Scrum Master

I spend my days working with software developers and helping them get work done better, faster, and with higher quality than they did before.  This week,
Building software is not for the meek!
I wanted to take some time out and talk about why being a scrum master maters.  Technology is one of the hardest things in business to manage and it helps put things into perspective.

One of the key things everyone in technology needs to understand is that the ability to write code is rare skill.  For every thousand people working in accounts receivable, there may be only five able to write software which manages the accounting systems.  Because of relative scarcity of people with these skills, there is always too much work for too few people.  This makes business people testy because they are taught that customer service should be instantaneous and to be forced to wait for IT seems like a waste of time.  Often business people accuse IT departments of being lazy or non-responsive.

 Also many people outside technology think that putting together good working software code is as easy as composing a power point slide or an excel spread sheet; this is a gross misunderstanding.  So they see the eccentric people who develop software as detriment to the business.  Combined with how expensive software developers are to hire, it is no wonder that there is so much push for off-shoring.
The funny thing is that off-shore teams and no different than their domestic counter-parts.  A developer in India or Northern Ireland is just as rare as they are in the United States.  They are paid higher rates than their peers and make a very good living because they still very rare compared to the world population.  They are less expensive that American or European developers but they are still an expensive labor force.  They are also just as over-worked as their on-shore colleagues.

Now add to the mix a twelve or thirteen-hour time difference, child care concerns, and the cultural obstacles which obviously crop up between two nations and you have a recipe for disaster.  Fortunately, software developers being smarter than the average person have learned to deal with the obstacles and build software.  It is not pretty at times but the work gets done.

It is up to scrum masters to get development teams working together and efficiently.  We have to bridge the ocean gaps and make our off shore partners feel like they are making a difference.  It is up to us to put together a vision and then direct others to make that vision possible.

I was attempting to explain my job to others and it is hard.  Some people get offended that I work with off-shore teams because they think I am enabling the loss of jobs in the United States.  Others think that what I do is not real work because all I do is participate in conference calls.  The truth is that scrum masters who work with distributed teams are essential parts of the global economy.  We keep the projects going.  We make sure the software is delivered on time.  We keep the promises executives and sales people make to their clients each day.  It isn’t like being a nurse or a fire fighter but it is just as important.  

So if someone says they are a scrum master give them a little respect. They are the people who make sure the global economy does not collapse into a big ball of mud.

Until next time.