Friday, July 24, 2009

Does a SM have to be technical?

Kyle Smith asked the following question in the Agile Coaching LinkedIn group:
Often job postings prioritize extertise in a specific technology over attributes defined by Agile. Can a CSM succeed w/o being a subject matter expert for a particular technology or industry?
Keith Sterling responded with:
I don't think you need to be a subject matter expert, but I personally believe you have to have some level of understanding of the technology involved, otherwise you will find facilitation extremely difficult.
As a scrum master people will be looking for you for guideance, when you are planning and cutting tasks its important that you atleast know what the team is talking about and why tasks and plans are being proposed in a specific way.
Scott Duncan made several good points including this one:
Sometimes, skill-specific requirements are there because the org's culture will not "respect" someone in a more "mgt" or consultative position without low-level tech'l skills regardless of the fact that the role will not require them to actually use those skills.
My points were the following:
It depends on the team. Without getting into a debate of which is academically better (though I have an opinion), I see two types of agile teams...

1- a team of developers
2- a blended team of roles including dev, analyst, test, usability, etc

In option 1, it is important. You need to speak the language of the team since the team is speaking tech and you need to be the translator to the business.

In option 2, it is not. The team is a holistic group, let the tech folks speak towards business goals and value. Everyone should be focused on what is being delivered in business terms. The non-tech folks need to understand tech and vice versa. In this scenario, the CSM needs to be in between the knowledge of the tech and non-tech groups.

I haven't coded in 7+ years, but I leverage my computer science background to bridge the gap. I'm more effective due to my tech background, but I hardly ever have expertise in the specific language/tools. I have had success without being an SME of the particular technology.
It should be interesting to see if anyone takes the counter point of view.

No comments:

Post a Comment