As a user, what is my place in Scrum?

Scrum and the stakeholders, episode 1

Willem-Jan Ageling
· 6 min read

The ‘Scrum and the stakeholders’ series discusses the place of several stakeholders in Scrum. All its articles have this theme and can be read on their own.

Picture of a woman’s hand using a smartphone
Picture of a woman’s hand using a smartphone
Picture by https://unsplash.com/@robman

Introduction

Scrum knows 3 roles: Product Owner, Development Team and Scrum Master. People from outside the Scrum Team are addressed as ‘stakeholders’. On top of that the Scrum Guide mentions ‘committee’, ‘employees’ and ‘organisation’, but the umbrella term in Scrum is ‘stakeholder’.

Often stakeholders have no insight in what kind of role they can play. The series ‘Scrum and stakeholders’ aims to clarify the place of the different stakeholders within Scrum.

Every Scrum environment is different, so there is no clear-cut answer that applies to all situations. Therefore we will discuss the different options to help you decide what is the best solution for you.

The first article will discuss the user. This is the person that will make use of the product that is being created and delivered by the Scrum Team.

One Scrum Team can have thousands of potential users, another team can only have a handful of users. Scrum Teams can have internal users, but they can also be external from the company or a mixture of internal and external users. This all determines the place of the users within Scrum.

The purpose of Scrum

Scrum is:

“A framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.” — Scrum Guide 2017, Schwaber and Sutherland

As a user you may be able to help determine this value. If this is the case, then your feedback is likely highly valued. Here’s how such a user can play a role.

Sprint Review

The most logical way for a user to be involved is at the Sprint Review. The Sprint Review is all about feedback from and discussions with the stakeholders:

“During the Sprint Review, the Scrum Team and stakeholders collaborate about what was done in the Sprint. Based on that and any changes to the Product Backlog during the Sprint, attendees collaborate on the next things that could be done to optimize value.” — Scrum Guide 2017, Schwaber and Sutherland

According to the Scrum Guide not all stakeholders are automatically invited:

“Attendees include the Scrum Team and key stakeholders invited by the Product Owner” — Scrum Guide 2017, Schwaber and Sutherland

Every Product Owner has a different view on who she/he see as key stakeholder to invite to the Sprint Review. That being said: Scrum is an environment where transparency, inspection and adaptation are vital. My personal stance is that it is always wise to invite users that wish to contribute and give feedback, as this is the whole point of a Sprint Review.

It may not always be practical to invite users. As an example: there might be too many users to be invited for a Sprint Review. Scrum Teams could then look for other ways to receive feedback (UX testing, interviews, feedback forms, etc…). These other ways are practices that could be complementary to Scrum, but are not part of the Scrum framework. This is why I won’t discuss them in detail.

During the Sprint Review stakeholders — which can include the users — help to determine what to do next. This is important information for the next Sprint Planning. As a stakeholder the user also gives feedback on developments on the marketplace and — most likely— provides feedback on the use of the product. This influences what is the most valuable thing to do next. The user also may have important viewpoints on the next anticipated releases of functionality or capability of the product.

Sprint Planning

The Sprint Planning is the event where the Scrum Team determines the Sprint Goal and the work to be performed to achieve this Sprint Goal. It will probably be very rare that a stakeholder of the type user is asked to be present and help with this.

Daily Scrum

The Daily Scrum is an event for the Development Team. This is the part of the Scrum Team that creates a potentially releasable increment of the product. At the Daily Scrum they plan the work for the next 24 hours. If others are present then they should not disrupt this event:

“The Daily Scrum is an internal meeting for the Development Team. If others are present, the Scrum Master ensures that they do not disrupt the meeting.” — Scrum Guide 2017 Schwaber and Sutherland

This applies to the Product Owner, the Scrum Master and to the stakeholders (like users).

Sprint Retrospective

The Sprint Retrospective is an internal event for the Scrum Team (Product Owner, Development Team, Scrum Master) to inspect itself and plan for improvements. Scrum Teams address what went well, but also what needs improvement on people, relationships, processes and tools. This calls for an environment that allows them to feel safe to be effective. This is why this typically is no place for the stakeholder, which includes users.

Refinement

Refinements exist to make Backlog Items ready to be picked up in a Sprint. It can be a good idea to invite stakeholders, like a user, to clarify what is needed.

Having users to help with the refinement can increase the energy and enthusiasm of the Scrum Team when they witness that they can improve somebody’s daily life.

Outside of the Scrum events

There’s life outside the Scrum events. And there are all kinds of informal ways to interact with the Scrum Team. A user might interact with a Product Owner to discuss how to maximise the value of the product. A user might also engage with the Development Team to provide feedback on what is being built. How this is done all depends upon the Scrum Teams who choose how best to accomplish their work

The user as a Product Owner

It is entirely possible that a user is a suitable Product Owner, responsible for maximizing the value of the product resulting from work of the Development Team. It is not uncommon that a main user of a product is the best pick for this role. As an example: a member of the finance team could become the Product Owner for the new billing product.

The user as a member of the Development Team

It is also possible to have one or more users as part of the Development Team to help build a potentially releasable product increment. Development Teams are cross-functional. Users could be playing an important role to help build an increment. As an example: our organisation has a Scrum Team to help improve the organisational procedures. Many of us are active users of these organisational procedures.

Conclusion — Discover your best way to involve your user!

Scrum is a framework that is suited for a wide variety of environments. One Scrum Team could have a handful of users, another could have thousands. Some teams have internal users, others have external users or a mixture of internal and external users. These are factors that determine the place of the users within Scrum.

What is very important to note is that Scrum is a framework to deliver products of the highest possible value. There are many ways to assess the value of the product or parts of the product. One of these ways is by involving the user. Now it’s up to you, together with the Scrum Team, to find the best way to achieve this.

Serious Scrum logo with link to Slack community as a comment.
Serious Scrum logo with link to Slack community as a comment.
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Willem-Jan Ageling

Written by

Interested in ways to work better together. I love the discussion with open-minded people.

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Content by and for serious scrum practitioners.

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