Can a Scrum Team Have Just One Developer?

Can a Scrum Team Have Just One Developer?

#71. Daniel Kerridge says, "I'm the only developer in my team so I just wondered if there's a special version of Scrum that works in that scenario."

There are three sets of accountabilities in the scrum team: the product owner, the scrum master and developers. But how many developers do you need?

In the previous version of the Scrum Guide, the recommended minimum number of developers to have a cross-functional team was three. But that minimum was removed from the 2020 Scrum Guide.

Guy's & St. Thomas's NHS Foundation Trust ran a successful project to implement Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 using a tiny scrum team. Find out how in this episode.

Plus three conditions to meet if you have a tiny scrum team.


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Welcome to the Amazing Applications show -- for Microsoft Business Applications creators who want to build amazing applications that everyone will love.  

Hi, I'm your host, Business Applications MVP, Neil Benson. My goal on this show is to help you slash your project budgets, reduce your delivery timelines, mitigate technical risks and create amazing, agile Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Power Platform applications.

The question on today's episode comes from Daniel Kerridge, a Power Apps Developer at Inghams Group here in Queensland, Australia. G'day, Daniel!  

"Ni Neil, I just had a question. I'm the only developer in my team so I just wanted to know if there's a special version of Scrum that works in that scenario. Thanks in advance. Bye."
Just before we get into Daniel's question, I just wanted to celebrate Ben Knipp. He's Operations Analyst at groupHEALTH Benefits Solutions in Vancouver, Canada. He's a Dynamics 365 customer engagement and Power Platform enthusiast who recently took my Scrum for Microsoft Business Applications course and achieved his Professional Scrum Master certification with Congratulations, Ben. It's great to have you as part of the Customery community.

Daniel, can you have a scrum team with a single developer?  

Scrum is a framework for applying an empirical approach to complex problems. A complex problem is one where we don't know, and can't know, all the requirements upfront and don't know what the solution is going to look like before we build it.  

An empirical approach involves learning through experience and using our senses to gain feedback and adjust our future course. We work in short increments, inspecting and adapting the application we're building and checking with our users if what we've just built meets their needs.  

In the Scrum team, we have a product owner who is accountable for what the team builds by expressing the product goal and the backlog of requirements that emerges over time. We have a scrum master who coaches the team to refine their empirical approach. And we have developers who turn the product backlog items into increments of done product. I like to say that it's the developers who turn the product owner's business aspirations into business applications.  

There are three sets of accountabilities in the scrum team: the product owner, the scrum master and the developers.  But how many developers do you need?  

Earlier versions of the Scrum Guide said scrum teams should have all the skills necessary to develop the product. And they recommended at least three developers as the minimum number of developers to do that.  

The most recent version, the 2020 version, of the Scrum Guide, released in November last year, has dropped the minimum recommended number of developers leaving it up to us in our scrum teams to decide how many developers we need to build our product.  

About 10 years ago I was the only developer working in the scrum team on a small project at Guy's & St Thomas's NHS Foundation Trust in London. Working with my product owner, Peter, we built a new asset management application to help the Medical Physics department service all the hospital's complex medical devices. I acted as the scrum master and developer and within five or six sprints I had configured most of the application before we hired Greg Owens to develop the custom plugins we needed to automate service schedules. At the end of every sprint, we'd demonstrate the application to a group of engineers to get their feedback.

A tiny yet self-managing and cross-functional scrum team with three sets of accountabilities building a complex product using an empirical approach.  Scrum can definitely be a helpful framework when you have tiny teams, even scrum teams with just one developer.  

But there are a couple of caveats -- some words of advice Daniel before you try this on your own projects...

  1. Do you have all three roles in your scrum team? It's ideal if three different people hold the scrum master, product owner and developer responsibilities. But certain combinations are possible -- something I cover as a proven practice in my Scrum for Microsoft Business Apps course. But if your scrum team has only one developer and no one acting as the product owner or scrum master then it won't work. 
  2. Is your application complex? Scrum is useful for building complex products but if you're building an application where the requirements are reasonably well-defined and you know what the technical solution is going to look like at the start then an empirical approach, like Scrum, is probably not what you need. A classic, plan-based approach might be more suitable, or a flow-based approach like Kanban. For example, if you're migrating an Access application or Lotus Notes to Power Apps then it is a straight-forward lift-and-shift. Scrum is unnecessary. 
  3. Is your scrum team cross-functional? Do you one or two developers have all the skills necessary to build the application and release it into production. If you are dependent on other teams with expertise or privileges that your developers don't have then you need to somehow add those others into your scrum team. 

If your scrum team can answer yes to those three questions, Daniel, then I think you can succeed with Scrum even with a single developer.       

You'll find show notes for this episode at

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