One of the main tenets of agile is working in cross-functional teams. This means that individuals in the team each have their own functional expertise,together working towards a combined goal. Having different functions working together increases the chances of creating a great solution; one team member will be able to highlight issues that the others didn’t think about. A person’s blind spots are usually compensated for by others in the team.
But cross-functionality often doesn’t go far enough. Bottlenecks can still manifest. If the next stories on the backlog need some serious analysis, you will find that the BA becomes the bottleneck and the development slows down. Similarly, if the developers have finished the development of a story and that story needs a lot of manual testing, you’ll find that stories start backing up and can’t be marked as “Done”. Sometimes the Scrum Master needs to spend a lot of time dealing with external stakeholders dealing with dependencies and the team may lose focus without the Scrum Master on the floor. Too often a project involving many technology layers may need a specialist in a certain technology who is supporting a few teams and the velocity of the team slows down while they wait for that specialist to complete their tasks.
In these cases it helps to have poly-skilled team members. Testers could perhaps pair up with the BA to do some of the analysis, as they usually understand the underlying systems very well. Developers could lean in and help the testers with some of the manual test cases (We all know it’s more important to get a story through to “Done” rather than have multiple stories in progress, don’t we?) BAs often stand in for the Scrum Master when the Scrum Master isn’t on the floor, as the BA is intimately aware of the business priorities and can help keep the team focussed.
Developers can pair with the technology specialist to help transfer the skills and become more “full-stack” in their capabilities.
So instead of a team comprised of specific roles with one person performing a role, we end up with a team of people, each with a variety of skills, picking up any tasks that they can do, and learning more skills as they go along. That’s when things really start to groove.