If you are at the cusp of making a career in Agile, you may be wondering which of the three Scrum roles to pursue. The developers, the Scrum Master and the Product Owner constitute the three pillars of the Scrum team. While each role has its own significance, the Product Owner and the Scrum Master are the rock stars of the team and gain the most visibility. One is the face of the team who drives value and engages with stakeholders, while the other is the servant leader who forms the backbone of the team and ensures that work progresses in an efficient manner.
Scrum Master Vs Product Owner is an age-old question, and if you have this question too, then we hope that this blog will clarify some of the doubts you have around these two roles.
The Scrum Master is accountable for establishing Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. They do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory and practice, both within the Scrum Team and the organization.
The Scrum Master is accountable for the Scrum Team’s effectiveness. They do this by enabling the Scrum Team to improve its practices, within the Scrum framework.—Scrum GuideTM 2020.
The Scrum Master is a leader who serves the team, which means that they exist solely to help the team and ensure that the team can work without any disturbances. This would include removing obstacles that may hinder the team’s productivity, ensuring that they follow the Scrum framework by helping them understand Scrum principles and values and working with the Product Owner to ensure backlog prioritization.
The Product Owner is accountable for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Scrum Team. How this is done may vary widely across organizations, Scrum Teams, and individuals.
The Product Owner is one person, not a committee. The Product Owner may represent the needs of many stakeholders in the Product Backlog. Those wanting to change the Product Backlog can do so by trying to convince the Product Owner.—Scrum GuideTM 2020.
A product owner works on the business side of a product and is a proxy for the customer. The product owner collaborates with key stakeholders and ensures that the product is delivered using Agile values while also managing, grooming, and prioritizing the sprint backlog.
This table will help you understand the differences between the two job roles:
|Scrum Master||Product Owner|
|Guides the team in using Agile and Scrum practices in development||Oversees the developers and helps them meet client expectations|
|Helps the developers and Product Owner create products that meet customer expectations||Helps the developers to create a good quality product|
|Resolves impediments that may stop the developers work||Defines the product vision and objectives|
|Performs the roles of servant leader for developers||Works closely with developers throughout the development process|
|Aids the Product Owner in backlog refinement and other issues||Accepts user stories from clients and developers and prioritizes them on the product backlog|
|Conducts daily meetings to understand issues and track progress||Schedules meetings to identify project issues and fix them|
|Helps the team become self-organized||Encourages customer-relevant ideas and solutions|
|Helps promote Scrum in the organization||Coaches the team and stakeholders to better understand Scrum|
|Product Owner||Scrum Master|
|Product Owners are highly motivated individuals who are more interested in the business side of projects. They are great communicators, thinkers, and problem solvers. They are also well versed with Scrum principles and processes and can step in as a leader to guide the Scrum team.||Along with the being a leader, a Scrum Master is also a facilitator and coach. Scrum Masters are great at motivating and guiding the team and should be well versed with Scrum principles and practices. They should be great at solving conflicts, tactful and skilled in leadership.|
|Scrum Master||Product Owner|
|Servant leadership: As a servant leader a Scrum Master must make sure that the team is able to perform without any impediments or blocks that hamper progress. You also aid the product owner in backlog refinement and overseeing the development process of the product.||Conflict resolution: Being a product owner in an Agile team means working with developers and stakeholders, not all of who will be amenable. Some may have ambiguous expectations and requirements and things may go of control in meetings. You should be able to handle conflict and diffuse tensions and misunderstandings.|
|Agile coach: You are an Agile evangelist and ensure that the team is following all Agile and Scrum processes during the development lifecycle. You coach not just your own team but also members across teams of the organization.||Scrum knowledge: As a Product Owner you have good knowledge of Scrum and Agile practices which you can use to guide developers and help uninitiated stakeholders understand the benefits and advantages of Agile product development lifecycle.|
|Knowledge of latest tech stacks: Knowledge of the latest tech stacks will help ensure that you are able to guide your developers if they are stuck or have issues. This also comes in handy when you must communicate with the PO.||Domain expertise: A product owner must have knowledge of the product domain and of technology that the product represents. This is important to define the vision to developers and suggest enhancements to stakeholders.|
|Organizational skills: You must have good organizational skills to allocate tasks among the team members effectively. Good allocation can be work effective and ensure higher productivity.||Prioritization skills: A product owner must have the ability to identify priority tasks in the product backlog. This will help the development team develop the right feature at the right time and help ensure customer satisfaction.|
|Communication skills: Being a servant leader to the developers means that you should be able to solve any problems that may be stopping the team from being productive. Being a good communicator and having empathy towards the team members will help them open and communicate their problems to you.||Communication skills: Working with multiple stakeholders, developers, management, scrum master etc mean that you need to have effective communication, presentation, and persuasion skills. You must be able to create a balance between the developers and the stakeholders and ensure that there is smooth communication between them.|
|Scrum expert: This is an obvious skill that a Scrum Master needs to have. As a Scrum expert they not only lead the developers on the path to Agile Scrum product development but also lead Agile and Scrum transformation initiatives at the organizational level.||Collaboration skills: You represent the client and, in a way, represent the developers to the stakeholders. You are the bridge between these two and ensure that there is a high degree of collaboration between both parties. Your skills as a collaborator are key to your success as a Product Owner.|
|Scrum Master||Product Owner|
|Helping the team: You will help and lead the team through the process of product development. You will work towards removing any impediments that is hindering work and ensure that the developers are always focused and motivated to deliver their best.||Defining product vision: The product Owner must define the vision, objectives and goals of the product being built. This will help the developers identify tasks and work in a manner which will lead to the end goal.|
|Promoting Scrum: As a Scrum Master your goal should be the adoption of Scrum and you can do this by becoming an Agile evangelist. You can promote Scrum not just in your team but across teams and departments and eventually in the whole organization.||Liaising between stakeholders and developers: The Product Owner forms the all-important bridge between the stakeholders and the developers, helping the developers understand the requirements of the stakeholders and helping the stakeholders understand if a certain requirement is unattainable.|
|Scheduling Stand Up meetings: Setting up and leading daily stand ups is an integral part of your day-to-day responsibilities. This will help you track progress and come to know of any issues plaguing the development team.||Meet with all involved: The Product Owner must hold meetings with all those involved with the project, including stakeholders, developers, Scrum Master, investors, and the management. Regular meetings ensure transparency and effective communication.|
|Setting up a productive environment: As a servant leader you will also ensure that the environment is conducive to innovation and creativity. The developers need to have a stress-free environment to work in so that they can offer maximum output.||Maximize product value: Maximizing value is the foremost responsibility of the Product Owner. This they do by managing the product backlog which in turn helps them be adaptable and flexible to customer needs and maximize value of the work done by the developers.|
|Supporting the Product Owner: While Scrum Masters support the PO at every step of the way during the development process, the most critical support they give is in backlog refinement. You can help the PO order and prioritize the backlog through product planning and by helping the team to identify backlog items.||Order Product backlog: The Product Owner will order and refine the product backlog ensuring that the high priority items are listed on top and lower priority items go down. Efficient ordering and refinement of the product backlog will ensure high productivity and release of high priority features first.|
|Scaling Scrum: While most Scrum Masters start by imparting Scrum knowledge only at the team level, they can eventually be responsible for scaling Scrum to the enterprise. By helping the organization go Agile, you can help it become lean, more productive, flexible, and adaptable to achieve benefits and improve bottom-line margins.||Explain Scrum: The Product Owner should be well versed with Scrum values and practices and guide the team during the development. This will ensure maximum efficiency and ensure that the stakeholders are getting what they have been promised.|
|Scrum Master||Product Owner|
|Depending on experience and number of years worked, the average Scrum Master salary can range from $92,431/ year to 118,000/year on an average in the United States of America.||Depending on number of years worked, the average Product Owner salary can range from $106,427/ year, to 118,000$129k/year on an average in the United States of America.|
From what we have listed so far, if you think that the Scrum Master can fill in the shoes of a product owner or vice versa, then the answer is an emphatic ‘no.’ Although it is still debatable, there is a clear distinction between the two roles.
These are two distinct roles by virtue of their responsibilities. While the Product Owner is necessary on the team to define the product vision, a Scrum Master leads the team on Scrum fundamentals. A Scrum Master at best aids the product owner in backlog management and ensures that the overall process is being carried out without any glitches.
These two roles require different approaches which is why having the same person as both the Scrum Master and the Product Owner will not work. In fact, it will no longer be a Scrum team or an Agile project if these two roles are combined.
Which one of these is you? Find out if you are better suited to be a Product Owner or a Scrum Master!
Now most people may think that these mean the same, but they are not. A strategist will focus on the bigger picture and produce a long-term plan. So, if you like the outcome more than the path that leads to it then you are a strategist. You will make a good Product Owner as your focus is on product vision, company objectives and market response.
A tactician on the other hand focuses more on the details. The goal to achieving the strategy should have many tactics. As a Scrum Master you will be a brilliant tactician, focusing on the day-to-day scrum activities and ensuring that the team can deliver successful sprints.
Irrespective of whether you want to become a Scrum Master or a Product Owner, you need to have effective communication skills. A Product Owner’s communication skills come in handy while interacting with the stakeholders and the team.
There are three main aspects to software development: the business side, the technical side, and the human side.
The business side of the development is the most important. After all what you develop is good only if it delivers a business value. So, if you are more interested in the business aspect of a product such as ROI, stakeholder needs, productivity etc then you are well suited to becoming a Product Owner. If the technical side of the project is what floats your boat, then the Scrum Master role is the right fit for you.
You are great at handling your stakeholders. You make sure to accommodate their needs and suggestions and even demands. But do you also know where to draw the line and say ‘no’ to unreasonable demands and ideas? If you are empathetic towards the developers and understand that the developers cannot develop every idea or feedback the stakeholders have, then you will be a great Product Owner.
If you do, then you are not a right fit in a Scrum team as either a Product Owner or a Scrum Master. A product owner oversees the product backlog and ensures that milestones are met as per customer requirements, while the Scrum Master is a leader who helps the developers reach the sprint milestones by applying Scrum principles. While both these roles are critical to the functioning of a Scrum team, neither of them can assume a manager or leader’s role. Agile and Scrum do not subscribe to the command-and-control structure but instead to the principles of self-organization where each team member is their own boss.
Both the Scrum Master and the Product Owner are integral parts of the Scrum team, guiding and motivating the team in all aspects and ensuring stakeholder satisfaction. Having these two roles in your organization and in your Agile project will help enterprises reap the benefits of Scrum and enhance organizational reputation in the market.