Spot the Difference between Scrum Master and Project Manager

Implementation often presents a stiff challenge for organizations especially when they are new to Agile and Scrum. One wrong move can end up committing some fatal blunders. One of the most common and overlooked problems is the lack of clarity especially in the roles of the Scrum Master and the project manager.

I am sure for many of us Scum Master vs. Project Manager is more like comparing apples with oranges. There was a time when a project manager was considered as a Scrum manager and the other way around. But if you ask me to define who a project manager is? He is a person who applies knowledge and skills of project management that might lead to accomplishing a project right from start to finish. But do you know that sphere of influence and responsibilities of a PM goes far beyond a project; i.e., from integration management, scope management, schedule management, costs management, quality management, resource management, communication management, risk management, procurement management, stakeholder management and of course, leadership, industry awareness, business acumen.

Scum Master, on the other hand, is a coach and facilitator who serves the team when needed. His roles and responsibilities include removing blockers or impediments that hinder project progress, monitoring the development of the spirit, helps the team to estimate and increase velocity, promotes communication on the continuous basis, motivating the team, facilitate spirit planning and other scrum meetings and the list goes on.

While on the other hand, a project manager’s role tends to manage the projects and ensure that the project meets the requirements. In addition to this, he defines the project scope to the team, plans project target, prepare the work schedule, gather requirements, prepare the budget, assuring quality, mitigating the risks, monitoring the plans, getting users feedbacks and so forth.

Aren’t there any similarities?

Of course, there are. First of all, project manager and scrum master are both humans, and they both make mistakes. They both debug and learn from the mistakes. They both communicate, receive feedback, mitigate the risks and enable a great bonding within a team.

Can you tell me who is the supreme authority, a project manager or a scrum master? Well actually, no one! The project manager has to report to the client or stakeholder while scrum master who requires reporting the product owner alongside the stakeholders and clients.

Both Project Manager and the Scrum Master could fail when they ignore the basic principles that are supposed to be adhered to. Their failure does not reflect their negligence, but also they are less skilled regarding professionalism. Sometimes, they may also fail when they disrespect the team members’ opinions.

Time to spot differences

#1 Role Focus/ Priority:

  • Project Manager- Managing the triple constraints of scope to cost to timelines incorporation with the quality of the process is something that the PM focuses on.

  • Scrum Master- The focus for the Scrum Master is to enable an Agile Values & Mindset and drive through continuous improvements at a team level.

#2 Management Approach:

  • Project Manager- A PM is somebody who is empowered to bring in and drive changes. The PM on the project is held responsible for the success of the program.

  • Scrum Master- Many times referred as “Servant leader,” Scrum master focuses on removing impediments and enabling the team to perform beyond expectations.

#3 Engagement Models

  • Project Manager: Any model of engagement can be taken into consideration such as Fixed Price Fixed Time, Time & Material, Retained Teams, etc.

  • Scrum Master: Works well with Time & Material or Retained Teams; the SM’s will struggle to operate in a Fixed Price Fixed Time model given the underlying challenge with Agile Methodology.

#4 Customer Engagement / Management:

  • Project Manager: As the name implies, he must be deeply involved in managing customer expectations and outcome. In addition to this, they converse with the customers or customer proxy to manage expectations.

  • Scrum Master: On the other hand, a Scrum masterwork in the backend when it comes to managing customer expectations; the Product Owner in Scrum Teams takes the lead on communicating priority and progress.

#5 Level of Involvement:

  • Project Manager: Do you watch football or hockey, then I am sure you will know regarding terms like being “Centre Forward” of the team. A project manager is the same he endeavors hard to drive through the outcome.

  • Scrum Manager: This person works as a facilitator who works hard to nudge the team in the right direction. However, they aren’t expected to intervene as the team is to own and manage success.

Author Bio:

Manya Kesten is a project manager at which is a software development company in UK. Vikash has also published on the major publication like Entrepreneur, SapBlog, and many more.

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