​Pros & Cons of being a Developer and a Scrum Master

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on 13-Feb-2018

Sitting on two chairs

There's a lot of disagreement when it comes to merging the developer and the scrum master role, and the main question is "How is that scenario beneficial for the final product?".

I am part of a three member team, which consists of two developers, one scrum master and one product owner. Yes, you've read it right - three individuals, four jobs. My team works on a project where we have that scenario. One person (in this case I) is both a developer and a scrum master.

We've been using Scrum since the beginning of our project, and our senior developer played the role of SM for a while. As we got to know each other better, got familiar with agile and the project itself, our senior developer was promoted to product owner. So it became natural for another team member to take the role of scrum master.

Scrum master and developer

As I was part of the project from the very beginning, and our third colleague was fresh on the team, I became the new scrum master. I took some courses on a very short notice, expanded my knowledge of the scrum master role, and started a new phase in my career.

As time went by, through dealing with both roles, I had some positive and some less positive experiences. Here are the pros and cons, from my point of view:

Pros:

  1. Technical experience - scrum master as a developer has the technical experience within the project and their specific field. This way, they can contribute to the process even more. I, myself, am more efficient in solving impediments that my colleague experiences with his tasks, if I understand the problem better.
  2. Trusting relationship - scrum master that has been a part of the team before may already have a trusting relationship with the rest of their team. Developers are all in the same boat. And when you do have that kind of relationship, others will accept your advice more easily. You will get better feedback and have better communication.
  3. Headcount reduction - No additional headcount or investment is needed.

Cons:

There were some downsides for me, during the process of juggling both roles at the same time. I would mention just one, because I think it's the only one that applies to everyone; others vary from person to person.

  1. One can not be fully devoted to both roles - Through this time, I had difficulties with the clear separation of my duties so I could do my best in both roles. Sometimes there is a conflict of interest between scrum master and developer's responsibilities. When the team is under pressure of completing the sprint, I catch myself giving priority to my developer tasks. I focus on those, while I should also make sure that the rest of the team is committed to tasks, with all impediments removed.

Conclusion

Pros and cons included, the benefits of being a developer and a scrum master as well, depend on several facts:

  • The size of your team;
  • How well your team is organized and familiar with SCRUM;
  • How much experience your team members have, and how mature and professional they are as developers.

I think a smaller, already organized team, of 2-3 members, can have better results with merging the roles of developer and scrum master. It is easier for that person to contribute as a developer, as well as scrum master. This way, the pros outweigh the cons.

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