The Manager and the Master: Choosing Between A Scrum Master and Project Manager
If you’re transitioning from a waterfall to an Agile model of software development, you might be wondering about the roles of scrum master vs project manager.
What’s the difference between the two roles, and aren’t they basically the same thing? Isn’t a scrum master just an Agile project manager? In short: No, they’re not the same, and it’s essential to be clear what the responsibilities of each position are in project management.
While there are many similarities between the role of project manager and scrum master, the differences are more than just semantics.
You can’t employ one person to act as both scrum master and project manager. Similarly, if you’re moving from a waterfall development method to Agile, don’t just rename your project manager as “scrum master.” Adopting an Agile methodology is about much more than just changing the language you use.
Agile project management is quickly becoming the industry standard for good reason. But some web and app development companies are adopting Agile practices without having a sound understanding of the 12 Agile software development principles.
Likewise, the term “scrum master” has become somewhat of a buzzword, and more and more teams are employing one. But having a scrum master doesn’t necessarily negate the need for a project manager.
The scrum master sits between the development team and the customer’s requirements, supporting the product owner, and coaching the team.
Rather than acting as manager, the scrum master’s role is more facilitator. They act as “supports”, guides, observers, and protector and nurturer of ideas and processes within the scrum.
The scrum master is a servant leader for the scrum team, meaning that they focus on the needs of the team so they can serve the customer better.
The scrum master is not involved in decision-making, and so their role is narrower than that of the project manager. The scrum master is responsible for:
The project manager’s role, on the other hand, is to communicate directly with the customers, allocate tasks to the development team, and make decisions that affect the project.
Some of the key responsibilities of the project manager include:
Project manager and scrum master are both important roles. But how do you decide which of these positions you need to hire for?
You need a scrum master if:
You need a project manager if:
In summary, the two roles have fundamentally different focuses and viewpoints. To attempt to cross or merge the roles would produce a conflict of interest.
The project manager’s focus is on the project and making it a success, whereas the scrum master’s priority is the team and ensuring their success.
Ultimately, the project manager answers to the customer and must prioritize their needs along with the interests of the development company or organization as a whole.
The scrum master, on the other hand, is responsible for encouraging, supporting, and enabling the team to produce the best product they can, shielding them from disturbances and threats. This includes any disturbances from the customer or other project stakeholders.
Regardless if it is a Scrum Master or a Project Manager who guides you through the project, here at Attrecto we always provide the most relevant support to our clients. Throughout the last decade we always kept up with the market changes and adopted the latest (proven) trends to best meet the business needs and requirements of our clients. That is why besides a waterfall approach, where the team is led by a PM, we also provide agile methodology (already since 2012), with seasoned Scrum Masters.
As at the “first step” at the very beginning of each project, we have a consultation phase, when we perform deep client interviews, with the purpose of finding out the most about the client’s business needs , the project’s complexity and the underlying tech-stack (if already available).
After we get a more comprehensive and accurate assessment, we can decide which approach best fits for the client and the project.
Generally, we go on with an Agile methodology when the requirements are not “set in stone” by the customer. In this methodology, clients may even ask for changes in the requirements during the development process. With this strategy and the comfort of the Scrum Master’s (SM) experience, we can:
– break down the processes into smaller parts
– respond promptly to the needs of any changes
– and provide faster review cycles, so the client is always up-to-date in terms of the status of the development.
With the guidance of the SM, the developer team can focus on its primary goal, which is to create an outstanding product.
The classic Waterfall methodology comes into play at Attrecto when customers have their exact specifications ready (and have no intention to change them later). After we agree on the terms of the engagement, the project kickoff is already set up by the designated PM, who also remains the point of contact to the product owner of the client. In this case it is our PM who makes sure the delivery team works well together and there is no communication barrier between us and the client.
Summing, when you have clearly defined roles and assign them appropriately, every individual in the organization can work efficiently and achieve their highest potential, depending on their individual skills. This results in a more productive team, better communication at all levels, and ultimately a better product – and a happy client.
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