Even the most innovative product, with an experienced dedicated development team and advanced technology stack, is at risk of failure if not adequately managed. In particular, you may need specialists to control and direct the project for team and process management and communication. The Project Manager and Scrum Master usually perform this role.
The latter is responsible for implementing the Scrum framework, providing the dedicated development team with the necessary flexibility and helping to adapt almost instantly to software specifications that change frequently during development. On the other hand, Scrum must be competently implemented: improper planning of the length of tasks and the need for regular reporting can significantly reduce team spirit, and even lead to emotional burnout.
So can the Project Manager take responsibility for the entire team and process management, including implementation of Scrum practices? What are the Scrum Master vs Project Manager differences in general? Is it worth hiring a specialist for only one job position? Let’s discuss what these specialists are in the context of management and consulting services, how they differ from each other, and whether it makes sense to have only one or both specialists on the team.
Before we start comparing the Scrum Master vs Project Manager, let’s take an outside look at how the project management process works in general.
In essence, the traditional project management model implies a waterfall method. This means that those who manage the project choose a certain strategy for initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, and controlling, and stick to it throughout the life cycle of the project.
In turn, the Scrum framework refers to an Agile methodology with an iterative approach that provides teams with the ability to quickly respond to changes. The skills of an ordinary Project Manager for the effective implementation of this framework are not enough, which means that a separate specialist is needed for this. This is actually the Scrum Master. Let’s talk in more detail about the difference between Scrum Master and Project Manager.
The Project Manager is a specialist whose main goal is to lead the team to the timely implementation of the project within the pre-agreed budget. This is why it is so important for this position to carefully plan the scope of work and prepare documentation at the very stage of the project. The Project Manager also monitors the progress of the project, takes into account risks and obstacles, organizes and manages teams, sets up project workflows, collects feedback between teams and customers, and also ensures end-to-end quality control and delivery of products on time.
Thus, the Project Manager must satisfy the needs of three parties in the project: the client, the authorities and company, and the team that develops it.
As for the best practices of project management, they involve the development of business cases. In particular, the Project Manager (PM) should always be able to look at the project from the outside to analyze the resources and processes available for its implementation and external and internal obstacles that may arise. This comprehensive approach helps the PM become a part of long-lived projects that can maintain competitiveness for many years.
In addition, Project Managers are often responsible for creating the project brief, a concise document that includes the client description, project overview, SMART goals, task scope, success metrics, budget, deadline, resources, and deliverables. As work on the project progresses, the Project Manager should review the brief and, if necessary, adjust it. More specific tasks such as RACI matrices, risk and problem logs, task schedules, overhead expenses, and change requests are also usually reviewed by the PM. This approach helps them complete the project since the team’s successful work will mean the absence of unresolved issues on all these artifacts.
You can also learn about the Project Manager’s responsibilities here.
Now let’s go through the main set of skills that the average Project Manager should have:
Also, a desirable requirement for a specialist of this level will be a basic understanding of the technologies, tools, and programming languages that the development team uses. If you want to learn more about the must-have qualities of a Project Manager, please check out this article.
Here’s a list of certifications that may indicate a competent Project Manager:
Together with the outstanding prospects for implementing Scrum, this process can be challenging. And even if in one project it was possible to achieve optimal results without prior adaptation, in another one this framework can do harm.
In this case, you can hire the Scrum Master, who will help your team to contribute to its development and problem solving. In general, all the actions of this expert are always aimed at improving and simplifying the work processes for the team. But what exactly is the difference between Project Manager vs Scrum Master?
First, let’s recall the essence of the Scrum software development framework. In a nutshell, this is an approach from the Agile methodology that implies rapid adaptation to changes and, due to the iterative approach, requires dividing the project into equal periods of time, called sprints. Sprint (iteration) is a period of 1-4 weeks during which a working, suitable-for-use version of the product is created. At the end of each sprint, the team holds a rally, reporting on the work done.
Solutions created by Scrum are created in small stages, each of which is sequentially tested to receive feedback from end users and/or the product owner. Thus, the team gets an understanding of where to go next. Also, they take part in such Scrum events as backlog grooming, sizing, Scrum planning, daily Scrum, and retrospective.
Scrum Masters, together with Project Managers, optimize the work of Agile teams, allowing them to maintain the necessary level of flexibility. At the same time, the development team itself and product owner remain the key parties with which Scrum Masters interact.
Typically, the responsibilities of a Scrum Master include:
Thus, the Scrum Master helps teams be more flexible in planning, especially when the project is complex, both in terms of requirements and the composition of the team itself. The Scrum Master is an expert who implements Scrum values such as openness and a growth mindset, courage on the organizational level, respect for customers and their feedback, and awareness of the sprint goal.
Now let’s look at the list of skills that a Scrum Master should have:
The list of skills for a Scrum Master may seem rather abstract. However, in reality, this is not the case.
In reality, Agile and Scrum are much more comprehensive concepts that, if not approached correctly, can only harm your team’s performance and put more tasks on the shoulders of its members than ever before. Here you can find out what KPIs you should check to maintain the needed performance of a team using the Agile methodology.
At the same time, all of the above skills required by the Scrum Master prevent such a negative outcome and, moreover, help the team achieve better results than when using classical software development methodologies.
Here is a short list of recognized Scrum Master certifications:
In general, the Scrum Master performs all the tasks associated with the effective implementation of the Scrum framework (distribution of tasks, providing increased flexibility, and optimizing interaction within the team). This is crucial for large projects, as well as projects for which requirements may change over time.
Now it’s time to understand the differences between Project Manager and Scrum Master.
The main goal of the Scrum Master is to effectively implement Scrum for a specific project. This is achieved by wise scheduling sprints and ensuring that all team members understand and can use Agile practices.
As for the differences between Scrum Master and Project Manager, the latter actually oversees the project, taking into account possible risks, deadlines, the scale of the project, and, of course, its budget.
As you now understand from our Project Manager vs Scrum Master comparison, the Scrum Master is responsible for the correct implementation of the Scrum framework. From a practical point of view, this means holding Scrum events, tailoring Scrum practices to a specific team and project, and eliminating errors and negative feedback from the team in which this framework was implemented.
Regarding the Project Manager in this Project Manager vs. Scrum Master overview, this specialist takes over the product backlog previously agreed upon with the product owner, leverages problem-solving techniques for issue resolution, motivates the team, applies critical thinking skills for decision-making, uses analytical skills for risk detection and mitigation, and ensures that each of its members works efficiently within the allocated budget, time, and tools.
What about differences in feedback between Scrum Master vs Project Manager? In a nutshell, the Scrum Master collects feedback from both the product owner and the team, while the Project Manager only communicates with the product owner, the client, and the team.
As for Scrum Master vs Project Manager flexibility, the main focus of the former is to ensure comfortable work within the team according to Scrum. In fact, this is a person who leads all its members along a new road, making it convenient and, at the same time, focused on the result that stakeholders, the client, and the target audience of the product expect to receive.
Regarding the differences between Scrum Master and Project Manager, the Project Manager acts as a link between the client side and the team, transforming business requirements into clear and consistent tasks and monitoring the performance and quality of the team members.
There are some differences in Project Manager vs Scrum Master interactions with teams. When the Project Manager builds project teams, assigns tasks, resolves in-team issues, and manages stakeholders relationships, a Scrum Master acts in an empirical way, guiding the team according to the Scrum framework, fostering collaboration, assisting in resolving impediments, and mentoring the team itself.
While a Project Manager has authority over the whole project and the results obtained, a Scrum Master only is responsible for Scrum processes, tools, and values. At the same time, the former is also responsible for the result—not for its quality in general, but for ensuring the maximum value of the product.
What about differences in used tools in Scrum Master vs Project Manager comparison?The most popular tools for an ordinary Project Manager are Gantt charts, schedules, and tools for tracking, monitoring, and issue fixing. As for the Scrum Master, they usually use Agile boards, white boards, spring boards, sprint burndown charts, and so on.
Now let’s find out the things Projects Managers and Scrum Masters share in common.
Both Project Managers and Scrum Masters interact closely with team members. However, the Project Manager is responsible for distributing tasks among team members, checking their quality of execution, and processing feedback from the client, while the Scrum Master implements and monitors the correct adherence to the principles of the Scrum framework, removing all obstacles to getting work done.
As for the core Scrum Master andvs Project Managerwork principles, Scrum Masters have a set of clear rules defining the incorporation of the Scrum framework into the team’s workflow. Therefore, to some extent, they can be similar to Project Managers and perform some of the same tasks. At the same time, Project Managers can use some Scrum principles in their management duties as well. Both these specialists solve their main task: providing flexibility in the project and closer in-team interaction.
To sum up the Project Manager vs Scrum Master comparison, it’s worth understanding that the project should always have a project manager in the first place, since this specialist covers a wider range of tasks, being responsible for the results to the client, assigning tasks to the team, and also tracking budgets.
In turn, the Scrum Master is more likely to be responsible for a certain upgrade in management. However, for Agile-based large projects, the list of tasks usually assigned to the Project Manager is already excessive, and entrusting them to introduce the Scrum framework may not bring the desired results (due to overload from other tasks and a lack of a thorough understanding of exactly how Scrum works). This is where the Scrum Master comes in handy.
In general, it’s essential to have both specialists for large projects. For small projects, if it’s not possible to hire both, it makes sense to give preference to the Project Manager.
As you can see, in the battle Project Managers vs Scrum Masters there are no winners or losers. Besides, these team members have similarities in their duties and goals, but they aren’t interchangeable roles in team management. The fact is that the Scrum framework is quite difficult to implement—it’s not enough to understand only how it works,it also needs to be adapted individually for each project.
Our team has both specialists, and both have their own non-overlapping responsibilities. Depending on the specifics of the project, as well as the needs and wishes of the client, we form and calibrate teams in such a way that they are most effective, feel comfortable when interacting, and achieve excellent results.
Project Managers have a broader range of responsibilities—when monitoring the implementation of tasks, communicating with clients, and estimating risks and budgets, we always start by involving this specialist. If it’s necessary to provide increased project flexibility and a more precise distribution of the workload—and the budget allows—we bring on Scrum Masters.
In this case, these two specialists communicate closely to take a comprehensive approach to management, optimizing the distribution of tasks and the workload of employees to meet deadlines and budget and working side-by-side to provide businesses with the maximum value and tangible results.
Now that you know the differences between Project Managers and Scrum Masters, you can decide whether you need both roles for your current project or only a Project Manager.
At the same time, if you don’t want to bother with planning a roadmap for your project and staffing a team for its implementation, you can entrust your project to us. NIX will take care of it from the tech development side, as well as provide strong management processes. We are good at planning and can build a team with both specialists so that you don’t have a Project Management vs Scrum Master dilemma, but rather you’ll see in practice the benefits of implementing both specialists in your project.
We will select the experts specifically for your project and calibrate the team members so that the management is clear, the teams are motivated, and you get exactly what you need. Contact us, and we’ll guide you from collecting the requirements for your project to its release, as well as provide tech support services and launch updates.
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