The Agile approach has risen as a practice of choice for many organisations, particularly those within the software development sector. Scrum is the most popular Agile framework, a lightweight structure that supports teams in the delivery of their work through short task iterations known as “sprints”, and regular meetings, or “scrums”. Scrums are held as often as daily to bring team members together to review the delivery of each project component from commencement, until final delivery and handover.
In Scrum Agile methodology, there are three critical roles; the product owner, the Scrum Master, and the team members. Here, we analyse the role of the Scrum Master, a vital position for the success of a project.
What is a Scrum Master?
A Scrum Master is the pivotal leader within a Scrum team, entrusted with championing the project and guiding the team and the product owner. Their primary responsibility is to ensure the adherence to Agile practices by team members. Facilitating communication and collaboration between all stakeholders, the Scum Master plays a critical role in leading the team as the agility expert, as well as initiating change to enhance the productivity of the Scrum team.
The specific duties of a Scrum Master can vary significantly based on the unique requirements of each business and project. In some cases, they may also function as a team's project manager or an organisational agile coach, while others may not take on these additional roles.
The key responsibilities of a Scrum Master will also differ depending on the team members they are collaborating with. For example, at an organisational level, the Scrum Master will facilitate a working environment that is safe, creative and collaborative. At a product level, they assist with planning, comprehension and implementing Scrum principles into practice. While with teams and individuals, they may guide, coach and assist with problem-solving while encouraging focus and productivity.
What is the difference between a Scrum Master and a Project Manager?
While a Scrum Master's focus is on agile facilitation and team support, a Project Manager takes on a broader spectrum of responsibilities, managing a project holistically from conception to completion.
A Scrum Master serves as a facilitator and coach in agile methodology, ensuring the success of the final outcome through the delivery of short task iterations. Their responsibilities might include:
- Supporting product owners
- Leading Scrum meetings and rituals
- Providing team support during sprint planning and execution
- Coaching Agile teams
- Enforcing Agile principles
- Assisting with backlog management
- Overcoming delivery obstacles
- Fostering successful collaboration with stakeholders
On the other hand, a Project Manager assumes a comprehensive leadership role across all project phases, including planning, leading, managing, monitoring, and closing. Their duties involve:
- Identifying and documenting project requirements
- Managing scope, tasks, milestones, timelines, budget, and resources
- Enforcing adherence to project governance
- Mentoring project teams
- Assigning tasks and priorities
- Monitoring resources
- Managing project timelines and quality
- Devising risk management strategies
- Liaising with stakeholders
- Communicating progress and changes
- Ensuring goal fulfilment
- Project closure, and analysing lessons learned.
Is a Scrum Master a Sound Career Choice?
Yes, in fact, Scrum Masters are in demand across almost every industry. According to one report, career opportunities for Scrum Masters increased by 104% year-on-year from 2016. According to Seek.com the average salary for Scrum Masters in Australia can range from $125,000 to $145,000 making this not only a secure career choice but one that remunerates very well.