Scrum Master vs Project Manager: Key Differences

Isn’t this the most talked about catchphrase when it comes to technology and project management? There is a constant juggle between the Scrum Master role and the Project manager role who one should contact. Most of you might be struggling to understand what difference both these job roles bring to an organization. This is not just a job role but it is a strategic choice of how each one will benefit your business in the long term. Scrum Master vs Project Manager? In this blog, we will walk you through the different facades of scrum master and agile project manager that may sound similar as well as different too. This will help businesses decide on one of the types which can boost the customized software development process.

To start with, let us understand these terms from a grassroots level.

1. What is Scrum?

The Scrum word has been derived from the Ruby game concept where the players can restart the whole game and take over possession anytime. The same concept is applied in Scrum. “Scrum is a lightweight framework used by enterprises to develop value from complex and cumbersome applications. It is a type of agile framework that is centered and takes up a continuous improvement approach which is based on agile principles and agile methodology.”

2. What is a Scrum Master?

Definition of Scrum Master: “A Scrum Master is a designated role that demands the person to look after all the scrum processes taking place in the Scrum framework.”

Scrum Framework

Often ambiguously used between Product Owners, Project Owners, Product Managers, and Project managers, The Scrum Master is a completely different role. Scrum Master’s responsibilities also differ from these roles. As per the name, it is someone who masters the specific framework of Scrum. As we know, Scrum is not a method or tool but is a framework that brings solutions to complex business challenges and ensures high business value.

With a knack for scrum principles and Scrum theory, the Scrum Master must follow the rule book to deliver higher business value. It operates on agile methodology and adaptive software development methods to streamline the process and accelerate productivity and quality. Scrum Master serves and coaches multiple teams to collaborate and guides them to follow Scrum principles to increase productivity.

The certified Scrum Master has the responsibility to assist people in understanding and achieving Scrum theory, rules, values, and scrum practices. The Scrum Master is also popularly called servant-leader as it helps the Scrum Teammates to collaborate and interact easily.

3. Role and Responsibilities of a Scrum Master

The Scrum Master has to bear many responsibilities when it comes to a specific domain of work-Scrum. Scrum Master plays the role of a facilitator or agile coach who empowers the team and plans for scrum implementation in the organization. Since there are product owners, and developers involved in this entire scrum process, this makes the scrum project management more attentive and detailed. Let’s dive deep into the roles and responsibilities of a Scrum Master.

  • The scrum master helps product owners to manage the product backlogs with the help of methodologies.
  • The scrum master role demands communicating and collaborating seamlessly with the development team to get every update of the development process.
  •  Scrum master should offer hassle-free events.
  • Eliminate roadblocks and help developers amend changes and monitor the overall performance of the scrum teams.
  • Based on scrum rules and principles, The scrum master leads a scrum team and facilitates some of the scrum events, such as sprint planning, and sprint review. 
  • Adopt the Iterative scrum method and follow the blueprint of implementation based on the same scrum rules.
  • The Scrum Master has to align the entire development team on the same page. The scrum team adopts and adheres to the scrum framework that maximizes the value generated from the implementation.

The debate around scrum Master is surrounded by the confusion which needs to be confronted. But we know that Scrum works on a predefined set of rules but a definite framework. But what about the Project manager, what do his responsibilities encompass? The sphere of responsibilities isn’t limited to just one project of a team, it is a comprehensive role that demands multiple responsibilities. Let us now dive deep into the profile of a Project manager.

4. What a Scrum Master Doesn’t Do?

After discussing the scrum master’s roles and responsibilities, let’s go through a few things that he shouldn’t do while communicating and managing.

  • Creation and management of the business case.
  • Creation and management of the project plans, like Project Initiation, Planning, and Gantt Charts.
  • Measuring and tracking project & team members’ progress.
  • Track Scrum teams’ performance and HR management processes.
  • Manage project results.
  • Manage project changes and their change requests.
  • No role in the business requirements like product backlog.

5. What is a Project Manager?

Project Management Process

The project manager’s role is inclusive of a wide spectrum of duties where he/she has to execute his knowledge and expertise to make the project successful. In the real world, the roles and responsibility of a project manager are not limited to definite rules on paper but it goes far beyond other things.

The role of a project manager starts with the initiation of the project, and then there is constant modification in the management starting from ideation, planning, execution, monitoring, deployment, and final maintenance. It adapts the project management approach wherein the whole team is under the project management portfolio. The team is inclusive of developers, testers, business analysts, a business development team, and a project support team.

Starting from project initiation, the scope of requirements, time management, schedules, quality Risk management, and much more. Project managers are sometimes responsible for project support and team management.

The activities in this process are Project Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitoring, and Closure. In the Project Initiation phase, the development teams create a business case that can justify the needs of the client and study it to prove that the case can be executed in predefined time and cost.

Project Planning Process

The Project Planning process starts after the approval of the business case. Here proper guidance is given to the software development teams about the execution and controlling phase of the project.

After planning comes, the Project Execution phase. The software developers start working on the plan and try to develop a product as expected. The project gets completed here and then it is delivered to the client or stakeholders.

Then, there is the Project Monitoring Phase. Here the project development teams ensure the quality of the end product and check whether it is compromised or not. If the quality of the end product is not compromised then the clients get a quality assurance report.

Project Closure is the last stage in the project management process. After the project is approved, the resources are released to the clients, the development teams complete the project documentation, and after everything is signed off, the project is officially closed. 

6. Project Manager Roles and Responsibilities

Other than accessing and preparing oneself for the project development challenges, the role of a project manager has no boundaries. The primary responsibility of a program manager is to serve the team and stakeholders. In fact, there is a guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge called PMBOK Guide that helps Project managers to understand it from the ground level. The project manager, unlike Scrum Master, is responsible for the performance of various project teams. Let’s dive deep into the roles and responsibilities of the Project Manager.

  • Business and team formation and management.
  • Managing demands and modifications (to Scale-up, Time, and Budget).
  • Managing the projects of the organization.
  • Creation and maintenance of project plan, including the initiation paper for the project, project scope, the project schedule, project progress, Gantt charts, and others.
  • Tracking and evaluating success in the projects/teams.
  • Efficiency monitoring.
  • Project risk identification, monitoring, and management.
  • Delivering project administrative services.
  • Project monitoring and evaluation that boosts overall project team dynamics.
  • Advice on project management tools and configurations.
  • Administering the Change Control Approach’s configuration management procedures.

7. What a Project Manager Doesn’t Do?

After understanding the roles and responsibilities of the Project Manager, let’s discuss the things he shouldn’t do while managing the projects and their liabilities.

  • Accountable for a project’s success or failure.
  • Project Managers don’t have to provide undivided direction to the project.
  • Provide sustained and visible support to other Project Managers.
  • Provide authorized funds and resources to the project.
  • Make sure that the project solution meets the requirements of the users.
  • Project Managers don’t have to supply the benefits information to the project board.
  • Make communication easy between the project manager and users.

8. Common Characteristics of Scrum Master and Project Manager

When it comes to the job profile and skill set of the Scrum Master and Project Manager, there are many common skills and characteristics they both share. Some of these common traits of Scrum Master and Project Manager are – 

8.1 Leadership Skills

Though the leadership type between the  Project Manager and Scrum Master can be different but having a leadership skill set is very important. The Scrum Master is like a Servant Leader who has to lead and manage the implementation (Scrum Framework) and the growth of the organization. On the other hand, the Project manager is in charge of everything that goes around the project. He has to stand as a great leader with excellent managerial skills.

The Project Managers motivate the team members, lead developers to the right path for the project process, and more. Basically, the Project Manager works in a dictative style while the Scrum Masterworks in a much more liberal manner. But their work is similar, i.e. to lead the team.

8.2 Communication Skills

When it comes to communication skills, both Scrum Master and Project Manager should be able to communicate very well with the stakeholders, customers, team members, management, suppliers, users, and other staff members of the organization. If any of them lacks communication skills then it can affect the workflow and the project development process.

8.3 Organizational Skills

Organizational skills mean being well-organized with your work and your private life. In short, balancing work-life is very important for both Scrum Master and Project Manager as they are not only responsible for their tasks but also for their team members.

After exploring more about Project Manager vs Scrum Master and their job authorities, let us now go through the tabular comparison of Scrum Master vs Project Manager.

9. Scrum Master Vs Project Manager – Comparing Various Parameters

Scrum MasterProject Manager
Scrum Master(SM) primarily focuses on the scrum team and the team members.The Project Manager(PM) primarily focuses on the entire project of the client.
The Scrum Master has to only manage one team at a time. The Project Manager has to manage various projects and align them with the business objectives to make them a success.
SM is like a Servant Leader. He has to work with an aim of making the team responsible for the project. The PM is like a Leader of the team. He has a single point of view and that is to have an objective of managing the entire project.
The focus of Scrum Master is to work on projects that are IT-specific or related to similar industries.The main focus of the Project Manager is to work on n number of projects from different business industries.
The role of the Scrum Master is to be an effective and efficient promoter, activator, supporter, tutor, and minder to the development professionals.The role of the Project Manager is to be an efficient and effective decision-maker, motivator, interpreter, manager, and negotiator to the organization.
Scrum Master requires the certifications of CSPO/CSM from the Scrum Alliance.The Project Manager requires certifications of PMP.

10. Conclusion

Through this blog, we hope that we have tried to give you an answer to your million-dollar question on who will perform best for your project. We all know that the Agile and Scrum method will be an ideal choice in current-day scenarios. The key difference is that the Project Manager owns a project and is solely responsible for its success or failure. But companies willing to hire a role that covers almost all types of business responsibilities then PM is an ideal choice. Your business can harness the power of its technical and theoretical skills and apply them to your projects. Your Scrum master can take over the duties of a project Manager and play both roles. Now that you know how both of them function, decide on which one will work best for your business and make a decision wisely.

comparison table

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Itesh Sharma

Itesh Sharma is core member of Sales Department at TatvaSoft. He has got more than 6 years of experience in handling the task related to Customer Management and Project Management. Apart from his profession he also has keen interest in sharing the insight on different methodologies of software development.

Comments

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    1. Udaymaan

      What I learned from this article is that project manager is more of a leadership role on the other hand scrum master includes more of a facilitation and coaching role. This blog definitely has cleared my misconception that the project manager role can be transferred to scrum master but both have unique duties.

      1. Arju J

        Yes, It is important to recognize the differences between the two, Identify where some tasks may overlap, and recognize how they complement one another in large-scale projects.