I think, a successful engagement needs successful completion of all the stories given in the following backlog.
- Programming – knowledge of technology
- Customer management – this is a niche skill
- Communication – this is a soft skill, communication becomes very sensitive as you start interacting with various stakeholders
- Building relation with various stakeholders – does not come naturally to everyone
- Consultancy beyond programming – proactive approach
- Finding repeat business and explore more business opportunities – need vision and business outlook
- Foresee risks and handling escalations – typical management areas
- Resourcing decisions and resource movements – need to have companywide resourcing perspective and vision, knowledge of the contract
- Bailing project out of crisis when in serious trouble – out of box thinking, crisis management experience
I wonder how many items of the above backlog a technical team along with scrum master can pick up. The software development team who is too focused (team must be focused) in development, playing with technology every minute – it’s hard for them to focus in all of the above mentioned areas. I am not saying it is impossible. There are teams who have done this. But this is something which is not possible for every individual and every team to follow successfully. First of all – it needs good amount of time which a team focused on technology and feature development cannot find it too easily. Then it needs all together different perspective. It does need experience and niche skills. Teams may have all of these but at times, may not at that level and to that extent where it is required. That’s why you need someone who can pick non-technical stories from the above backlog and help team’s effort align with these. You don’t want to call this role as manager, absolutely fine (I know some of the Agile practitioners are allergic to the word ‘manager’) but there needs to be someone for sure. I think it is over ambitious to expect from a technical team to pick up all of the above mentioned 9 stories. Although the non-technical stories are relevant in any scenarios, they become even more important when development is done in distributed mode.