In Scrum Software Development Methodology, Scrum Master and Product Owner are two main roles, which are responsible for separate areas of the project being key roles for a successful project.
In Agile Methodology, the Scrum Master is a bridge between the Product Owner and Development Team.
What does the Scrum Guide say about Scrum Teams?
The Scrum Guide doesn’t use a lot of words for this topic: “The Scrum Team consists of a Product Owner, the Development Team, and a Scrum Master.”
So... Let's take them one at a time:
1. Scum Master
We know the Scrum Master is a crucial player on new Scrum teams, but what exactly does a Scrum Master do?
A Scrum Master takes on the administrative, coaching and leadership roles that make Scrum development possible. Because the role is at the border between the business, PO, Agile Team and individuals, the Scrum master’s responsibilities will vary depending on the unique needs of each business and team. Some Scrum masters also serve as a team’s project manager. Some also fill the role of an organizational Agile Coach.
That means he’ll usually spend his days:
- Facilitating (not participating in) the daily standup
- Helping the team maintain their burndown chart
- Setting up retrospectives, sprint reviews or sprint planning sessions
- Shielding the team from interruptions during the sprint
- Removing obstacles that affect the team
- Walking the product owner through more technical user stories
- Encouraging collaboration between the Scrum Team and the Product Owner
Due to the exhaustive list of responsibilities that Scrum Masters have, a specific skill set is required in order to be truly effective. This set of essential qualities can be broken up into two categories: hard skills and soft skills.
- Strong Scrum and Agile training
- Technical familiarity
- Organizational skills
- Coaching abilities
- Conflict facilitation
- Servant leader
Finding the right Scrum Master can make a world of difference in the success of a development project. Both hard and soft skills come into play here. Scrum Masters must be able to strike a healthy balance in order to be a strong leader.
Scrum Masters with a strong technical background and good mentoring skills provide a strong basis for the team to find technical help as well as a healthy and high-performance environment, where they feel motivated and passionate about their work.
So... If you want to use the word “excellent” instead of “okish...” when describing your results, then the Scrum Master is a critical role. This is the person who understands your team’s capabilities, and has the skills and know-how to help you create world-class software.
2. Product Owner
The role of the Product Owner is one of the most hotly debated roles in product development. Since this is a role that is not very well understood; it can be seen in very different ways from person to person, team to team and company to company because of its complexity. You can take a look here for a better understanding of the 5 most common patterns of product ownership: The Scribe, The Proxy, The Business Representative, The Sponsor, and The Entrepreneur.
What is a Product Owner?
The Scrum Guide describes the Product Owner role as being:
“Responsible for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Development Team.”
What exactly does a Product Owner do?
- Defining goals and creating a vision for development projects
- Managing the product backlog
- Prioritizing needs
- Overseeing development stages
- Anticipating client needs
- Acting as primary communicator and link between stakeholders and teams
- Evaluating product progress at each iteration
What’s the pathway to becoming a Product Owner?
There are two main ways of becoming a Product Owner:
- Being promoted from the development team
- Business people taking over the responsibilities of Product Ownership
Why POs can make or break your business?
As previously said — the role is misunderstood and implemented differently from company to company.
One of the simplest ways to start an agile journey is to choose a PO from the development team — this gets you going fast but has two major flaws:
- not choosing an owner of the product but mostly someone that is a translation belt between business and the development team
- betting on someone that is probably highly motivated to do the role but needs to learn it as well as learn the business
Therefore, this choice comes with serious problems — mostly problems of flow and also of not creating the expected business value. The fix of these problems is in many cases getting a PO that has experience in the role. But this rarely creates significant improvements; the new PO might have the skills but will lack business understanding and ownership to take decisions about how to best create business value.
So in addition to the skills, the understandings, the mindsets & the experience that a Product Owner must have to make your business successful — the fact that the PO makes or breaks your business it’s also about how the company understands and empowers this role.
For your Agile project to succeed, not only do you need strong commitment and involvement from the business but you need a damn good Scrum Master and a damn good Product Owner!
Here at Upstack, we want to work with the best people in the world. If you are a Scrum Master or a Product Owner who fits this description or a company looking for the top 1% freelancers in development — contact us!