Product Owners and Scrum Master : Roles and Responsibilities

Agile project management - most notably Scrum - is a progressive framework for development teams aiming to complete tasks more efficiently and effectively. 

Agile project management is not just another buzzword, and it’s not a superficial paradigm shift teams should make simply for the sake of doing so. Rather, agile project management allows for maximum productivity throughout a project’s lifespan, and keeps teams working to their highest potential at all times.

Scrum Project Management
Scrum Project Management
Agile Project Team Members

Of the many differences between traditional and agile project management, perhaps most obvious are the shift in responsibilities members of the development team have in the completion of projects.

This section will describe the responsibilities of each of the following team members:
  • Product Owners
  • Scrum Masters
  • Development Team



Keep in mind that, while each of these individuals or groups of workers have their own set of responsibilities, agile project management dictates they interact with each other throughout the process.

Product Owner

  • In a traditional setting, Product Owners would generally provide information upfront to a development team, then allow them to take over entirely. 
  • The next time the Product Owner became involved would be after the project was completed.           
  • With agile project development, the Product Owner stays in touch with the rest of the team throughout the entire process. 
  • He provides frequent feedback regarding how the project being built matches his vision, and provides insight into what his overall goal for creating the product is. 
  • In doing so, he helps the team prioritize features and functions, allowing them to focus on what’s most important. 
  • Product Owners should no longer expect to hire development teams to take complete control of a project. Of course, this might not be so easy to swallow for Product Owners who are used to throwing money at a problem until someone else solves it. 

  • However, Product Owners need to understand that the new way is much less of a gamble than traditional project development. By becoming more involved in development, they’re much less likely to be unpleasantly surprised by a shoddy final product.

Since the Product Owner is much more involved in the process of agile project management, he must be able to:
  • Communicate his vision effectively
  • Manage priorities according to his mission
  • Make informed decisions on the fly

ScrumMaster

  • Though it sounds like some sort of rugby-karate hybrid title, the ScrumMaster is simply an agile project manager (specifically relating to Scrum project management - a subset of agile). 
  • Unlike in traditional project management, the ScrumMaster is less of a boss and more of a leader. 
  • Rather than providing his team members with explicit instructions as if from a movie script - and then micromanaging them throughout the process - the ScrumMaster gives his team an overview of the project at hand, then allows them to take control. 
  • He will conduct daily meetings with his team to discuss progress, changes, and surprises - and work with the other members to create a tentative plan for the next steps. 
The ScrumMaster cannot simply sit back and ask his team to “tell him when they’re finished.” Instead, he must:
  • Track his team’s progress and remedy issues
  • Facilitate communication between team members and the Product Owner
  • Streamline processes throughout the project

The ScrumMaster is most likely a former “boss” who has been looking for a way to manage his team more effectively but hasn’t been sure of the best way to do so. 
With an open mind and proper training, the right leader can become a top-notch ScrumMaster and lead his team to true success.

The Team

  • In traditional project management, the team was essentially nothing more than worker bees doing their bidding for the queen (or boss, if you will). 
  • Though members of the team are still responsible for the “on-the-ground” work relating to projects, agile project management provides them with much more autonomy and freedom to complete tasks in the most efficient ways possible.
  • Rather than being given specific roles by a boss-like figure, agile project teams communicate with each other to decide who is best-suited for each task that needs be done. 
  • In turn, team members take ownership of their work, knowing not only that their team members are relying on them, but also that they have been voted the best person for the job.
In addition to being able to complete their specified tasks efficiently, members of agile project managed teams also need to be able to:
  • Keep their colleagues motivated and on task
  • Accomplish tasks individually and as a team
  • Assess their abilities honestly and effectively.

For most developers, becoming members of an agile team is a dream come true. Rather than having to robotically go through the motions day in, day out - only to see their “boss” get credit for a job well done - agile team members can approach each project prepared to do their best work possible.
Swapnil Wale

Written by

Swapnil Wale is an IT Professional based in Sydney, Australia with over 10 years of experience in technology and project management. He is a passionate blogger and focuses on project management and BRMS articles.

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