A Return to Agile Roots: Étienne Lanaud’s Vision as a Alithya’s Scrum Master

Published November 19 2018 by Communications Team
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Étienne Lanaud recently joined Alithya’s Digital Solutions Center as a Scrum Master. Just arrived from France this summer, he became part of the team in September and already feels very much at home. A strong advocate for the return to agile roots, he shares his vision of the Scrum Master’s job.

Seventeen years after the 2001 publication of the Agile Manifesto, the core values and principles of agility have been somewhat diluted in the information universe. So much so that it sometimes seems that the agile model could be applied to any context. As Étienne reminds us, however, it is above all a state of mind. In the Manifesto, agility is based on four key values: we focus on people rather than processes; we prioritize operational software over extensive documentation; we collaborate with clients rather than negotiate contracts; and we choose to adapt to change rather than follow a predetermined plan.

The Scrum Master is actually a facilitator, “someone who helps developers plan their work and improve their practices,” explains Étienne. The Scrum Master can also use his programming experience to understand the developer’s reality. In fact, Étienne began his career five years ago as a developer. During his training, he worked on projects that were managed using the waterfall model (known as the “V-model” in France), and wasn’t familiar with the practical applications of agility. “I had to experience agility, learn a new way of thinking,” he says, “and I discovered its benefits.”

The agile model’s main strength is to increase interactivity with business lines, and to get closer to the client. In fact, the focus is on product management, rather than project management. We talk about product backlog, rather than specifications. It’s not a static document; it’s alive and includes a feature list to implement in order to create a product. Product backlog items are added, deleted and broken down, and development priorities are adjusted. In this way, we can better adapt to the client’s evolving needs, and deliver the product gradually, with higher added value.

Another advantage of agility is the close collaboration developed between members of a multidisciplinary team. The goal is to create a self-organizing system around an internal client, the product owner (PO), who shares the end client’s vision and the user’s needs with the team. “The PO will tell the product’s story, explaining, for example, the different features of a new software that the user needs in order to work effectively,” says Étienne. The Scrum Master is the framework’s guardian. He coaches and supports his team in the research and development of product features.

Visionary, facilitator and guide, the Scrum Master succeeds at his mission when his team has reached full autonomous operation. This is paradoxical, but, according to Étienne, it’s also the entire point of the Scrum Master’s job: to guide, and then to step back. It’s necessary, therefore, to exercise both leadership and humility to succeed at this job.

Étienne is delighted to have discovered this vision of agility, a return to roots, at the Alithya Digital Solutions Center. He particularly appreciates the focus on collaboration and listening. “As soon as I arrived, I felt very welcomed,” he says. “My manager and I talked at length over a meal; I was able to share my vision of Agile software development, and we discussed what I could bring to the Center.”

Team spirit, creativity, audacity, and respect—not to mention the fact that managers share open-plan offices with teams—it all creates a real desire to move forward together. It’s an undeniable asset for developing innovative and effective products that are closely adapted to clients’ needs. And this, specifically, is the Scrum Master’s raison d'être.

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