In October of 2013, CIO.com published an article by Jennifer Schiff titled “7 Top Wishes of IT Project Managers.” Even though it is directed to IT professionals, the list—based on their research—undoubtedly meets with little or no argument from experienced project managers everywhere. From being brought into a project after important decisions that really needed their input have been made to working with unclear project objectives and requirements, the list identifies some of the most discouraging obstacles project managers face on a regular basis.
The first two of the seven things IT project managers wish for most are definitely available with Scrum. The top of CIO’s list is the wish “to be involved from project inception.” This wish comes true whenever an organization adopts the Scrum methodology. Before we demonstrate how that is done, it is important that we clarify a point about Scrum and project managers. In Scrum the responsibilities and activities of the traditional project manager are distributed to the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Scrum Team. The majority of the project manager’s role is taken by the Product Owner and in this role Scrum grants five of the top seven wishes.
According to A Guide to the Scrum Body of Knowledge(SBOK™ Guide), “the Scrum cycle begins with a Stakeholder Meeting, during which the Project Vision is created. The Product Owner then develops a Prioritized Product Backlog which contains a prioritized list of business and project requirements written in the form of User Stories.” The Product Owner is a key player in the Stakeholder Meeting and is directly involved in turning the stakeholders’ requirements into descriptions of work that can actually be accomplished during the project. The stakeholders include customers, users, and sponsors. CIO.com quotes Chet Anderson of Trissential making the point that the wish “to be involved from project inception” means including the project manager from the very beginning to make sure that “the right resources are budgeted for, correct assumptions are made and the right questions are asked.” During the Project Vision session of the Stakeholders Meeting, the Product Owners are there to identify needed resources, ask the right questions and clarify the assumptions being made.
Clarifying project requirements continues as the stakeholders and Product Owner meet to create the Prioritized Product Backlog—the project to do list. Not only does the Product Owner learn what must be done, but also what order is most important to the customer and key players.
The second top wish on CIO’s list is the “ability to put — and keep — together the perfect team for each project.” The first phase of a Scrum project is the Initiate phase. According to the SBOK™, an important process in this phase is to identify the Scrum Master and Stakeholders. It asserts that “identifying People Requirements is one of the initial steps in selecting the Scrum Master and the Stakeholder(s). It is important to document the roles and responsibilities of all those who would be involved in completing the tasks in the project,” and suggests using the Organizational Resource Matrix and Skills Requirement Matrix for this step. The term stakeholders is being used here to refer to the individuals who will represent the different stakeholder groups—customers and sponsors— throughout the development process. The Product Owner is directly involved in selecting the person who will be the Scrum Master and those stakeholders who will “frequently interface” with the Scrum Core Team.
The Scrum Core Team includes the Product Owner, the Scrum Master and the Scrum Team—those who develop the project and produce the project’s deliverables. Another activity in the Initiate phase is the Form Scrum Team process. In this process the two people who shoulder most of the responsibilities and activities of the traditional project manager work together to select members for the team of professionals who will do the actual development work. They will be able to select from the Organizational Resource Matrix the “perfect” team for the project at hand, thereby fulfilling wish number two.