A Scrum Master is a professional who works as the facilitator of an agile development team. They are held accountable for establishing Scrum as per the Scrum guidelines. Alternatively known as the servant leader of the Scrum team, a scrum master works as the team coach and is responsible for making the team follow the rules and practices of the Scrum framework appropriately.
Speaking of Scrum, it is an agile framework that helps the team work together on any complex software-building project. It is one of the top project management approaches and is extensively used for fast-moving projects. This Scrum methodology lets the team respond to changes on an immediate basis.
What Is a Scrum Master?
Scrum is an agile framework that allows the team to work cohesively on developing any complex software project. This methodology utilizes short-period development cycles, called sprints, to complete a specific amount of work.
In this framework, the Scrum Master plays a crucial role by acting as a leader of the Scrum project development team. They ensure that the team and stakeholders follow the rules and practices of the Scrum framework. They help the team understand this framework’s defined practices and also provide guidance on how to implement them effectively. They confirm that all tasks are aligned with the framework while adhering to the set project timeframe.
Although Scrum Masters abide by stringent protocols, they should remain flexible to improve team workflows as the project proceeds or remove any unexpected impediments that arise.
What Does a Scrum Master Do?
The Scrum Master works as a coach for the Scrum team that can have 5-9 members and ensures that every member adopts and implements the Scrum process. Although they are allowed a multitude of duties and responsibilities, their primary task is to ensure a smooth workflow. They do this by proactively performing various activities, such as facilitating standups, addressing and eradicating roadblocks, and ascertaining if the product backlog is under control.
Apart from this, they also break the product backlog into sprints. Sprints are the recursive time-boxes during which the team must accomplish a stipulated amount of work. The length of the sprint can last from 1-4 weeks, however, two weeks is mostly considered ideal.
Moreover, the Scrum Coach also acts as a bridge between the team and stakeholders, providing a pivotal point of contact.
Note: Scrum Masters play a vital role in Scrum project management, but they do not act as the project manager, nor are they responsible for the project’s success or failure. Still, without them, the whole Scrum framework is at high risk of derailment.
Roles & Responsibilities of a Scrum Master
The Scrum Master executes a myriad of tasks. Some of their key roles and responsibilities are categorized below:
Coaching the Scrum Team
- Coach and assist the Scrum team in bringing the Scrum framework into practice.
- Guide the team members in self-management and cross-functionality.
- Help the Scrum team understand the product backlog items and prioritize the user stories on the backlog list as per the requirements.
- Guide the team to provide the required deliverables for each sprint without compromising quality.
Conducting Scrum Meetings
- Arrange stand-ups daily or at regular intervals and take the Scrum team’s feedback to promote clear visibility of project activities.
- Hold meetings with the internal stakeholders and apprise them about the current sprint status via various modes, including product backlogs and burndown charts.
- Meet with stakeholders and team members one-on-one for better team building. Note, however, that in some organizations, Scrum coaches opt for communal meet-ups only and avoid time-consuming face-to-face interaction with every team member.
- Facilitate the stakeholder’s collaboration with the team and iron out roadblocks between the stakeholders and the team.
Analysis of Sprints
- Vet the burndown chart on a regular basis; this chart measures work done by the team per day against the projected rate.
- Evaluate the project’s progress and examine whether the expected result can be achieved within the specified timeframe or not.
- Work as an administrator of the Scrum board and ensure all the software tools are up to date.
- Assist in keeping track of burndown charts and conduct sprint retrospective meetings for better sprint planning for the future.
- Streamline the project workflow by eliminating external and internal roadblocks.
Does Your Team Need a Scrum Master?
In some organizations, teams work independently without a Scrum Master and handle the above-stated responsibilities on their own. Therefore, some firms prefer to hire Scrum Masters as consultants instead of full-time employees. Despite this fact, most companies rely on Scrum Masters as part of their project management approach because the problem of implementing Scrum increases without their assistance.
As per a report published by Scrum Alliance, around 89% of respondents report that Scrum is at least one of the Agile approaches used in their organizations. Among 62% of those users prefer an in-house coach. Therefore, the majority of organizations surveyed believe that having a leader with expertise in the Scrum framework can really help them step up their game.
Difference Between Scrum Master, Product Manager, and Project Manager
Some people presume that the role of Scrum Master overlaps with other non-scrum functionalities. However, the roles and responsibilities of a Scrum Master differ from those of the product and project managers in several ways. In general, the product manager works on strategy, project managers look after timelines, developers write programs, and the Scrum Master handles the Scrum framework; this holistic approach leads to a high-functioning Scrum.
The difference between these three roles are further outlined below.
Scrum Master Vs. Product Manager
The product manager is someone who leads the team to produce and deliver a specific product. They research the product market, create the product development strategy, and finally execute the product development cycle.
On the other hand, the Scrum Master guides and assists the team in product enhancement, ensuring that the team develops all the features required in the product. Here, the product managers are occupied with the long-term roadmaps, while the Scrum Master is more focused on assessing the daily activities of the Scrum team.
Scrum Master Vs. Project Manager
A project manager is a non-technical counterpart to the Scrum Master. Both the Scrum Master and project manager solve workflow problems that pop up in the team. But, the project manager is primarily focused on establishing the project’s timeframes and tracking its progress, budget, timelines, etc. Their major job duties revolve around mapping out project plans, including scheduling and risk management. In a nutshell, the project manager focuses on the activities related to the project, while the Scrum Master assesses the team’s daily activities.
How to Become a Scrum Master
There are numerous organizations that conduct Scrum Master training and certification programs. For instance, the Scrum alliance provides a Certified Scrum Masters program, and the Project Management Institute conducts a ‘Disciplined Agile Scrum Master’ training program.
Scrum Master Skills
To be a proficient Scrum Master, certain skills are required to manage teams and workflows effectively. Some of the most common yet crucial skills one should have for this role include:
Agile projects often demand dynamic changes to requirements; therefore, Scrum Masters need to be adaptable so they can make quick changes to achieve the desired output.
Good communication skills are necessary to collaborate and communicate effectively with the team, as well as with stakeholders.
Whether they’re planning sprints, setting the priority of the user stories, or facilitating regular standups, a Scrum Master must have good management skills. They should know how to tread lightly with stakeholders and how to mitigate setbacks.
Problem-solving is one of the most imperative skills that any Scrum Master must have. This skill helps them steer through complex project hindrances and aids them in identifying and resolving issues.
Final Takeaways: The Scrum Master plays a vital role in the Scrum process by streamlining the workflow and narrowing down the chances of flounders and failures. Therefore, having a Scrum Master can ramp up the overall productivity of the team by assisting them in achieving communal goals while keeping Scrum practices in effect.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Scrum Master a technical role?
No, Scrum Master is not a technical role; employees don’t require any technical knowledge to become a Scrum Master. Anyone from a non-technical background with certified training can pursue a career as Scrum Master.
What is the difference between a Scrum Master and an agile coach?
An agile coach is an experienced Scrum Master with advanced training who has significant expertise in handling large Scrum teams. On the contrary, an agile coach works independently and is not a part of any specific Scrum team; they can manage several teams at the same time. In contrast, a Scrum Master typically handles only one small team at a time.
What are the three roles of the Scrum Master?
The three primary roles of a Scrum Master are: conducting daily meetings, assisting the Scrum team in following Scrum principles, and conducting sprint retrospectives to improve sprint planning.