We often see the terms of Project Manager and Scrum Master used interchangeably in the agile approach. Their roles tend to get blurred in the current work environment. A Project Manager manages project risks and the ultimate success or failure of a project depends largely on the project manager’s capability and tasks such as sprint planning. Scrum Master is the guiding light of the project team functioning as coaches and facilitators assisting the project’s development based on the customer’s requirements. Both the roles sometimes overlap in the agile process as both contribute to the planning, execution, and closing of projects.
In an IT stakeholder context, Agile enjoys established fame where the requirements are not clear and keep changing during the product development cycle. This is where an incremental and iterative approach is more suitable, and the Scrum Master follows the adaptive model and endorses the Scrum process. In an Agile environment, the Project Manager works indirectly with the team, having the Scrum Master manage team communication and teamwork overall. A project manager works with the traditional waterfall methodology as well as the iterative development of agile methodologies.
Difference between Scrum Master and Project Manager
- Scrum Masters are some say “the magic glue” keeping the team together and always looking out for ways to increase team efficiency in the agile framework from various team members and project/product owners. Project managers, on the other hand, are typically strong leaders invaluable to businesses implementing complex processes such as agile software development.
- The emphasis of Scrum Master is on individuals and interactions between people such as cross-functional teams, over workflow processes and tools. The Scrum Master’s main focus is on the scrum team members, whilst the Project Manager’s focus tends to lean towards the project, it’s overall functionality within the company and its outcome.
- The Project Manager’s role focuses on ensuring that the project is successful, whereas the Scrum Master’s role focuses more on promoting team collaboration and achievement. Both focus on continuous improvement, but the Scrum Master is more flexible to changing requirements due to their more agile methods.
- Concerning Agile project management methodology, the responsibility of the Scrum Master is slimmer than the project manager who has higher authority in prioritized tasks such as the final decision making.
- The Project Manager keeps the customer’s interests and needs in mind whereas the Scrum Master focuses on the development process during each time frame, liaising between the Project Manager and the developer team with daily scrum meetings for instance.
- A Scrum Master helps the team to build trust, task ownership and job accountability with greater creativity and innovation to attain the business value. Whereas a Project Manager’s responsibility is around managing project plans with scope, budget, risks, timelines and job delegation.
- A Scrum Master is in charge of the self-organizing teams, small with high-quality and user-focused work outcomes. On the other hand, a Project Manager’s role involves upholding overall responsibility for the performance of all development project teams.
- The Scrum Master is a servant leader of the Scrum Team, moderating and facilitating interactions as a team coach. Whereas the Project Manager functions handle the entire framework for the project’s activities, from identifying resources, setting project milestones, to final delivery.
Can Scrum Master be a Project Manager and Vice versa?
An interesting point to note is a Scrum Master is not required to don the mantle of a Project Manager. Scrum methodology notes that he or she is first and foremost a facilitator, a coach or referee who runs the process and administers the delivery, not necessarily in charge of the project. A Scrum Master can become a Project Manager, for example, as a Technical Project Manager, the Scrum Master is mainly responsible is to efficiently manage the development sprints from planning to execution and be accountable for on-time, on-budget, high-quality software project deliveries.
A Project Manager also has scope to become a Scrum Master but first and foremost needs to change the mindset of having command and control. He or she needs to understand what a servant leader is and how to empower a self-organizing team. The transition gets easier for the Project Managers who enjoy solving challenging problems, building team rapport and consensus, and investing in understanding both the small and big pictures.
What is Kanban vs Scrum?
While we won’t focus too much on Kanban in this post, comparing Scrum and Kanban is often asked. Both strategies can work for agile development or project management iterations. Scrum projects are more focused on short sprints and/or reducing sprint backlogs in the development lifecycle, while Kanban is more long term based, with fluidity across various projects. Both can help with continuous improvement for the company overall and use flexible approaches such as the Kanban board vs Scrum Board – which we’ll save for another post.
Conclusion: Agile vs Scrum
The Scrum Master and the Project Manager both require a particular set of skills and the right mentality to make things happen across agile teams. The responsibilities, deliverables and duties of both may vary from one organization to another. It is important to point out that both roles are vital to guide the team and to warrant project success.
Transitioning from Scrum Master to Project Manager and vice versa is possible but can’t be achieved overnight. It can be challenging but it is a rewarding journey. Both roles require an in-depth understanding of different aspects of the business with short and long-term goals, and one needs to have laser-focus and determination to deliver the required objectives.
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