Differences between a Scrum Master and a product owner

These are two key positions in the modern era of software development. Even though they can work very closely, these are very different roles on which relies the success of the Scrum teams.

Luciano Fernández
3 min read

Agile methodologies represent the new paradigm in product management. More and more companies are hoping to align their teams to this concept that enables adapting the work methods to the needs of every project, leading to increased flexibility and a faster response. Teams implementing agile methodologies are able to manage their projects with greater autonomy and efficiency, optimizing productivity and costs. These methodologies include a framework called Scrum. In Scrum, there are three well-defined, complementary roles: development team, product owner, and Scrum Master. Let’s explore the last two.

Responsibilities and skills of the Scrum Master

Although the Scrum Master and the product owner work closely, both roles have very different profiles. Scrum Masters offer support to product owners, as they serve as links between them and development teams. They are mainly responsible for ensuring that teams work efficiently and all processes follow the established quality parameters and time frames. Apart from coordinating teams, a good Scrum Master should make sure that the line of work proposed by the product owner is understood and followed within the company.

 

Among their daily tasks, Scrum Masters are responsible for solving potential problems in Scrum teams, organizing daily meetings and demonstrations, and streamlining decision-making processes. The role of the Scrum Master is highly demanding and requires extensive social skills, as their task focuses on the people that make up the team and how they relate to one another. For example, Scrum Masters accompany the group of collaborators in retrospective sessions to review work methods, improve whatever is not working and create actions for continuous improvement.

 

Of course, they need to have excellent knowledge of agile methodologies and be able to convey their values and principles to the rest of the team. That is why communication skills are also highly valued for this profile. In short, the Scrum Master is like the coach of a team that must constantly encourage, support and convince its members in order to obtain the best results.

Responsibilities and skills of the product owner

The product owner profile, on the other hand, is very much business-related. This role implies having solid business and strategic abilities, as a product owner deals directly with clients or stakeholders and suggests solutions to suit their needs. Product owners, therefore, need to be knowledgeable about different areas: marketing, engineering, tech support, communication, among others.

 

They are in charge of building the product backlog—a list of essential functionalities that the product must contain—based on their experience in talking with and interviewing clients. They are not required to be present in the daily dynamics of the Scrum team (sprints), but they can do so to follow the process closely, without participating, and that way, be available to provide support or feedback.

 

To fulfill this role, product owners need to have a thorough knowledge of the industry and solid people skills. As a rule, behind any product, there is the product owner. They define its characteristics, establish project deadlines, priorities, and contents, and set a launch date. In sum, the product owner is responsible for a project from the commercial point of view and for delivering ROI (return on investment) to the company. For that reason, this is one of the most sought-after and best-paid positions in the software industry.

 

At Awkbit, we know inside-out each role as defined in an agile approach since we implement them to improve processes and deliveries to our customers. Are you ready to have it implemented in your company?

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Sources & further reading