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Roles and Responsibilities: A Guide To the Scrum Master Role

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Have you been wondering whether it’s worthwhile to explore scrum for your business? Let’s discuss scrum in general and the roles and responsibilities of a scrum master in particular.

What Scrum Is

Scrum Team

Scrum is a framework that lets people work together so that teams can create, deliver, and maintain a complex product. Scrum teams manage their work by deciding on sets of fixed time periods called sprints and then achieving preset product development goals within those sprints. The scrum way of working began in software development but has spread to other fields. 

What a Scrum Team Is

Scrum Team

A scrum team consists of the development team, product owner, and scrum master. 

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The Development Team

This is a group of programmers, writers, designers, and others who work on the project. They’re the ones with the required skills to build the product. 

The Product Owner

This person is a representative from the business that owns the project. The product owner represents the business owner and stakeholders in the project by making sure the product accurately reflects their vision. While the development team works on the project, the product owner makes sure the work done is in line with the business’s priorities and goals. 

The Scrum Master

The product owner may not understand the development workflow. Therefore, it’s the scrum master’s job to help the product owner define the project’s priorities and values while helping the development team deliver the project according to business priorities. It’s a tough job! 

The scrum master acts as a mediator between the development team and the product owner, coaching team members and facilitating the project as needed. Whatever agile framework you’re using, you can find scrum masters. You can even find scrum master roles in multiple agile frameworks, such as SAFe (scaled agile framework) and LeSS (large-scale scrum). 

The major difference between SAFe and LeSS is simply the frequency of multi-team meetings and the number of team members from each team at a meeting. 

  • With SAFe, everyone attends the meeting, and there’s a meeting every two to three months.
  • In contrast, with LeSS, just a few representatives from each team attend, and there are meetings at regular intervals.

Even if a project uses the SAFe or LeSS method, it’s still important to have a scrum master to coach team members and shepherd the project. 

So, how does a scrum master do all this? Let’s get into the specifics. 

Scrum Master Role and Responsibilities

The scrum master achieves his or her goals by carrying out the following roles. 

Planning Meetings

The scrum master not only plans meetings but also provides a timeline showing how often meetings should be scheduled and determines who will attend meetings. Planning of meetings may also include daily stand-ups. Here are the scrum master’s responsibilities when it comes to planning meetings. 

  • The scrum master helps in sprint planning by estimating tasks and breaking down those tasks into smaller chunks (subtasks).
  • He or she occasionally plans for sprint reviews and captures feedback from the development team and product owner.
  • The scrum master should facilitate stand-ups between the product owner and development team as required.
  • The scrum master should ensure that attendance in meetings is required and that members of each team express themselves.

Coaching

Coaching is an important responsibility when it comes to scrum. It’s the responsibility of the scrum master to coach the development team into delivering products of value according to the specification and priorities of the product owner. Here are the coaching responsibilities of the scrum master. 

  • The scrum master should be ready to meet with the development team and stakeholders as needed to iron out disagreements about project process and workflow.
  • He or she should encourage the scrum team to plan retrospectives, noting areas that require improvement and preparing actions for the next step.
  • The scrum master has to always ensure that sprints are up-to-date and the scrum tools are functional. Discuss with team members any tasks that have fallen beyond their due dates, and put actions into place to stop this from happening again.
  • He or she should talk with the product owner to help clarify business priorities and values while creating sprints.

Mediating

The scrum master is the mediator between the product owner and the development team. It’s the responsibility of the scrum master to make building the product easier by exercising these responsibilities: 

  • The scrum master should be able to hold stand-ups and collaborate with team members and the product owner, using this time to note challenges and figure out a way forward.
  • The scrum master should make sure the product owner knows about all the tasks the team has accomplished.
  • He or she should create reports for the product owners and other stakeholders so they know about progress.

What a Scrum Master Is Not

“Isn’t ‘scrum master’ just a fancy name for a project manager?” you might ask. “Can’t the scrum master and the product owner be the same person?” These three roles have significant differences. 

  • Project manager: The role of a product manager is totally different from that of a scrum master. A project manager is the project lead for a product and is responsible for managing the project and making decisions. But it’s important to note that in scrum, there is no official project manager role. This is because the project manager can take the position of the development team, product owner, or even the scrum manager, depending on her skillset or desires.
    In contrast, the scrum master is a facilitator and a coach, serving as a mediator between the development team and the product owner.The project manager adds cost analysis, risk assessment and procurement to coaching and facilitating. These skills allow the project manager to switch to any scrum role.

  • Product owner: The scrum master and product owner have two different roles. The product owner creates and maintains the product backlog (the list of everything the product needs) and ensures it matches the company’s priorities and values. In contrast, the scrum master’s role is to ensure the development team works according to the product backlog. For example, the scrum master might work with the product owner to make sure the product backlog is up to date.

Qualities of an Effective Scrum Master

What qualities are must-haves for a good scrum master? 

  • Teamwork: A good scrum master should be able to work with everyone in the development team and the product owner. After all, being a mediator is a vital part of this job.
  • Persuasive skills: In addition to having technical skills, the ideal scrum master can inspire and motivate team members to meet the customer’s goal.
  • Negotiation skills: The scrum master also must be ready to bargain when necessary because the team members, product owner, project manager, stakeholders, and others all may have different goals and perspectives.
  • Knowledgeable and observant: A valuable scrum master should be able to anticipate and assess challenges facing the development team. He or she should be knowledgeable enough to help the scrum team generate possible solutions.

Conclusion and Further Reading

In this article, you’ve learned what scrum is, what a scrum team is, and who a scrum master is. You’ve also learned about the scrum master’s roles and responsibilities. Now you know that a scrum master can exist beyond just scrum, including SAFe and LeSS. You can read more about value stream management and how it can help you manage building your product here: Safe and Value Stream Managment. You can find many more articles related to these issues on Plutora’s blog.

Ukpai Ugochi Ukpai Ugochi

Ukpai is a full-stack JavaScript developer (MEVN), and he contributes to FOSS in his free time. He loves to share knowledge about his transition from marine engineering to software development to encourage people who love software development and don't know where to begin.