The three roles of Scrum include the Product Owner, the Scrum Master and the developers. Each of these roles is significant and one cannot do without the other. While the Product Owner and the developers have tangible proof of their productivity, it is the Scrum Master who quietly works behind the scenes to ensure that the project goes on smoothly and without any glitches.
In this blog, we attempt to look at this important yet often overlooked role of the Scrum Master and understand: what does a Scrum Master do?
The Scrum Master is an indispensable role, especially when it comes to managing Agile projects and in guiding organizations that are on the path to Agile adoption. A Scrum Master is not just an agile coach but also a motivator, facilitator, problem-solver, thinker and mentor. Their primary responsibility is to serve the team along with the product owner and stakeholders.
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—Scrum Guide
Primarily, the Scrum Master has to ensure that the project is being implemented in the right way using Scrum and that the team is able to reach sprint goals. In short, they aim to improve the effectiveness of the Scrum team. And how do they ensure that? They do this by making sure that the team is following the right Scrum practices and there are no hindrances to their work. If there are, then the Scrum Master works immediately to remove the obstacles and create an atmosphere that is free of distractions for the team.
The Scrum Master is among the three roles or accountabilities, as defined by the Scrum Guide. A person in the Scrum Master role is expected to be an expert in Scrum values, practices and the Scrum framework. While the role does not have any actual authority like a project manager, it is needed to help create teams that are self-organized and are able to influence the team members.
The Scrum Master has responsibilities, not just towards the developers but also towards the Product Owner and the organization as a whole. Let us look at the responsibilities of the Scrum Master towards the other roles in the team.
In order to help the developers, the Scrum Master ensures that they can perform in an environment that is free of impediments or roadblocks. Scrum Masters aim to create high performing teams by coaching teams and helping them become self-managed and cross functional.
The Scrum Guide lists the following ways in which the Scrum Master serves the team:
The Scrum Master helps the Product Owner in ordering and maintaining the product backlog, an important activity in the Scrum sprint. The Scrum Master also helps the Product Owner in managing and facilitating stakeholder collaboration. Another area where the Scrum Master helps the Product Owner is in with setting up empirical processes. Scrum Masters use their past experiences to plan projects.
The Scrum Guide lists the following ways in which the Scrum Master serves the PO:
The Scrum Master’s major responsibility towards the organization is in promoting and helping in Scrum adoption through training and coaching. The Scrum Master spreads the awareness of Scrum in the entire organization and helps customers and stakeholders understand Scrum. The Scrum Master also leads implementations and scaling of Scrum at the organizational level.
The Scrum Guide lists the following ways in which the Scrum Master serves the organization:
There is often a lot of confusion between a Scrum Master’s role and that of the Project Manager. But what most organizations and HR personnel who try to fill these two positions do not understand is that the Scrum Master is more of a leadership role while a Project Manager is a management position. Let’s look at some of the differences in these two roles:
|Scrum Master||Project Manager|
|Management approach||Bottom-up, decentralized approach to software development||Traditional command and control, top-down approach|
|Interaction with Organizational Management||Seeks management approval to scale and implement Scrum||Works with upper management to ensure a scope and direction of a project|
|Role in project||Works with Scrum team to make sure project is on track and effective||Is the authority and a sole point of contact for the project|
|Interaction with team||Motivates team and helps the work effectively ||Focuses on product development rather than people and processes |
|Interaction with stakeholder||The Product Owner and not the Scrum Master is the main point of contact for the stakeholders||Has to frequently interact with stakeholders and customers|
|Team Size||Works best in small teams||Can handle large teams|
|Salary||Scrum Masters can earn a salary of up to $118,353 a year||Project Managers can earn salaries up to $111,000 on an average |
According to Indeed.com, Scrum Master certifications, especially the gold standard Certified ScrumMaster®, were the 9th most-requested certification this year. CSM was the only agile certification to make the Top 20. CSM® even beat out the PMP, which as the only other certification in the product and project management space to make the Top 20, came in at number 13—Scrum Alliance.
While there is no compensation for experience and knowledge and skills gained on the job, a certification is a great way to start your Scrum learning journey and get a foothold in this competitive Scrum industry. Certifications given by world renowned accreditation bodies like Scrum Alliance, Scaled Agile Inc., Scrum Inc. etc are highly recognized world over and help certification holders to effectively apply Scrum and drive value.
|Certification||Learning Objectives||Training duration||Certifying body|
|Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM®)|
2-day training from a Certified Scrum Trainer.
|Professional Scrum Master™ I (PSM I)|
2-day training from a Professional Training Network (PTN) member of Scrum.org
|Scrum Master by Scrum Inc.™|
16-hour training from an ATP of Scrum Inc.
|Certified SAFe® Scrum Master|
2-day course conducted by SAFe Program Consultant (SPC)
Scaled Agile, Inc
Once you gain these entry-level certificates, you can further increase your skills and career opportunities by going for more advanced certificates like Advanced CSM from Scrum Alliance.
The best way to ensure a successful Agile project or a successful Agile implementation is to get on board a Scrum Master. World over, organizations are going Agile and Scrum Masters are more in demand than ever. If you wish to capitalise on this demand then gaining one of the popular accredited credentials is a great way to go about it.