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What technical knowledge does a Scrum Master need?

7 reasons why a Scrum Master must be knowledgable about software development in 2022 – and 5 reasons why not!

I still remember the first time I worked with a Scrum Master in a project. Suddenly, we had a new teammate who made sure that we discussed current tasks every day and who wanted to know if there were any problems or so-called impediments. At first, we were a bit confused, but then it quickly became evident that it really helped a lot when there was someone who could support us, was there for us and who could arrange things we couldn’t within the organization.

At that time, Scrum Masters were usually experienced software developers and software architects who have additionally taken up this new role. Since then, I was also able to work as a Scrum Master and many companies had good experiences with employees from non-IT fields taking over this job.

So how important is it for a Scrum Master to have prior technical knowledge actually?

Why should Scrum Masters be knowledgeable about software development:

Reason 1: they are familiar with the processes and procedures

We don’t work in a void. Certain procedures and best practices in software development have proven successful – and they can be used to the project’s advantage. That’s why it’s very helpful to be at least familiar with the software development process – from analysis and requirements engineering, through brainstorming and implementation, to testing and rollout, to name just a few.

Reason 2: they understand the development team better

Software development teams are often heterogeneous and are made up of people with different backgrounds. Some developers are the “lone wolf” types, some have a “classic IT” background, while others come from the startup scene. Familiarity with the technical aspects of the job often provides the grounds for good communication and successful cooperation.

Reason 3: they can anticipate problems sooner

Experience has its merits: your “spider-sense” is tingling way before you can explain what caused it. That way, you can act while the issues are still small and easy to fix.

Reason 4: they consider themselves part of the team

Walk the walk, talk the talk – it’s good to know how it feels to walk in somebody else’s shoes. When a Scrum Master knows from experience what the developer job feels like every day, it helps build a good rapport and stick together.

Reason 5: they know the usual suspects

Each project is different, but the same problems appear pretty frequently. With a bit of a technical experience, it is easy to identify them or at least know what the cause may be.

Reason 6: they can look at the issue from other perspectives

Each developer is different, and they all see the world from their own perspective. This knowledge can be extremely useful.

Reason 7: they can be sparring partners for the developers

Complex programming tasks can be difficult to figure out on your own. It can be helpful to discuss them with others. But to ask the right questions, you need at least a little basic knowledge of the subject.

To put it simply: it doesn’t hurt to have the know-how, but the know-how is not everything. That’s why:

5 reasons why technical knowledge is not everything:

Reason 1: you can learn anything

Programming is not witchcraft (at least, not all of it). It is possible to learn the basics quickly. You can simply go to https://www.freecodecamp.org/ or try out a programming game on Nintendo Switch or PlayStation to get the basic understanding of the process.

Reason 2: people first

People have a certain picture of a developers in their heads but in many cases the problem in the project isn’t caused by the technical aspects. It can stem from human imperfections: inadequate communication, personal quarrels, or bad mood. It may prove useful to start here first.

Reason 3: you are less routine-blinded

Sometimes you don’t see the forest for the trees. Outside perspective can do wonders. Simply listen, take a step back, think outside the box for a change and try a solution from a different area.

Reason 4: you do things differently

Scrum Masters without the software development background often have a completely different approach to things and can bring a breath of fresh air to the development team. If you see things differently, you can help solve problems faster.

Reason 5: technology is not always the solution

We live in a highly developed world, and we tend to try to solve problems with technology. But do you really need another app for that? Maybe you can tackle the problem in a different way? If you only have a hammer, all problems seem to look like a nail. With the help of methods from other areas, such as Design Thinking, for example, you can broaden your repertoire and discover new paths together.

Technical background can be very useful, but it’s not everything. We would love to hear your opinion on that matter. Simply use the comment section below or send us a message at tim.struck@qualityminds.de.

If you want to find out more about the Scrum Master role, visit our website: https://qualityminds.com/services/agile-support/scrum-master/

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Tim Struck

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Tim Struck