While some people believe that there is not much difference between a project manager and a scrum master, this statement does not hold true. A project manager is a vast term with a core focus on getting the project completed whereas a scrum master’s job is to facilitate the projects being worked on in line with agile principles. Therefore, people who hold the belief that there is no difference in a project manager’s and scrum master’s job need to take a closer look and dive deep into the details of their roles. For this reason, a detailed description of the roles and the differences in the conduct of each has been explained below to end this scrum master vs. project manager debate once and for all.

The Role of a Scrum Master

To start with, a scrum master’s role emerged as a consequence of the Scrum development process which has been developed in accordance with the principles of Agile Project Management. Agile Project Management requires that a project’s long term goals be broken down into shorter tasks which are analyzed frequently for the sake of improvising them on the go. It also requires frequent short and face-to-face interactions of the team to work in close collaboration with each other while making sure that all team players are on the same page.

There are a total of 12 Agile Project Management principles. These include adapting to change, frequent delivery of work, excellent cooperation, keeping the team motivated and developing trust, ensuring customer satisfaction, keeping the tasks simple, self-organization, consistency in the pace of work and all other tasks, reflection on efforts made and incorporation of the best material available such as designs, technical excellence, etc. The process of scrum requires three parties to take part in it; the product owners, the developers and the scrum master.

When a company wants to get a job done by involving the scrum’s development process, it is basically asking for someone to overlook the process of project management and make sure that the principles of agile management processes are followed religiously. That ‘someone’ is a scrum master.

A scrum master’s main role is to foster the ongoing product/service development process whilst working on a team working towards a common goal.  It involves constant feedback, updates, adaptation and incorporation of change in plans or methodology in accordance with the already mentioned 12 principles of Agile Project Management. It also involves facilitating communication between the product owners and developers and overseeing all the operations from a safe distance giving each party the time and space they need to come up with suggestions/feedback.

In line with the explanation of scrum master’s role given above, to wrap it up, this role can be broken down into two parts; one involves overseeing the operation and protecting the team from distractions and the other involves taking feedback and organizing bird box meetings which hardly last 15 minutes.

Role of a Project Manager

The role of a project manager as described by Project Management Institute (PMI) includes devising realistic project timelines, setting smart goals, estimating the length and cost of the project, assuring the quality of processes and workflow, managing risk and procurement, integration and determining the scope of work. This definition includes almost areas of expertise as that of a scrum master except for a few.

project management, business planning, project manager

Difference between Scrum Master and Project Manager

There are a few differences that need to be highlighted in each role and its conduct. To begin with, a scrum master is a ‘servant leader’. This means that his task is to help people achieve their goals and meet deadlines by serving them. A scrum master facilitates a team’s communication and oversees processes, provides guidance wherever required, suggests changes, and helps with time management.

A project manager, on the other hand, is supposed to carry out the management process as per traditional management techniques. His role does not involve any kind of leadership. Additionally, his role involves managing costs and integrating the work into systems too, whereas a scrum master has got nothing to do with finances.

Another difference between a scrum master’s role and a project manager’s role lies in the extent to which they are assigned a task. A project manager is involved in-depth from conception to the end of the project and delivery of results whereas a scrum master is involved only at a surface level.

What is the Best Choice?

Both the project manager and scrum master’s roles are important for an organization depending on the task undertaken. Scrum is more of the iterative process with a focus on meeting short term goals on time and making changes according to the feedback. For a software development firm, frequent delivery of software holds prime importance. Thus, they need scrum masters to oversee their software development teams which can work in perfect collaboration under his umbrella and ensure timely delivery of the required product.

Similarly, organizations that involve heavy finances need the role of a project manager in their system who can manage a whole operation under his management and deliver the results without putting the money to waste.

It is important to note here that many of the tasks performed by scrum masters are already being performed by the project manager; a project manager’s role can be made flexible enough to mold it into a scrum master’s by teaching them how to lead people while serving them. Scrum masters, on the other hand, cannot take over the project manager’s role so easily. They would have to learn how to handle the financial aspect of projects which is of grave concern to organizations.

To sum it up, the difference between the roles of a project manager and a scrum master has been highlighted. Even though companies that wish to cut down costs can ask a project manager to act as a scrum master when the need arises after training them a bit, the best strategy is always to assign the job to the one it belongs to.