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What does a scrum master do?

Last updated

6 May 2023

Reviewed by

Jen Lee

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Businesses are exploring new ways to collaborate and increase productivity in their teams and projects. One emerging trend involves the adoption of a scrum master role. 

If you're new to the concept and role, the position inspires teamwork in its most efficient and iterative forms. 

Keep reading to learn more about what scrum masters are, what they do, and how they can be pivotal for your projects.

What is a scrum master?

A scrum master is responsible for keeping everyone accountable to the scrum framework. They use coaching methods to support engineers and ensure the development team understands their tasks. 

The goal is to serve in a leadership role and oversee the sprint lifecycle and development process. With a phenomenal scrum master leading, it contributes to an environment of continuous improvement for the developers.

Scrum master vs. product manager

A scrum master is different from a traditional product manager. 

product manager leads a team lead aiming to multiply the platform’s value and solve user problems. They also determine what the company should develop next from roadmap data.  

A scrum master is essentially responsible for: 

  • Motivating, coaching, and training the development team

  • Troubleshooting programming hiccups

  • Facilitating scrum meetings

  • Creating burn charts

  • Increasing development productivity

Scrum master vs. project manager

Project managers are also different from scrum masters. 

A project manager oversees the entirety of a project. This may include creating and managing budgets and calculating risk management. 

A scrum master is a key player in the development team’s performance.

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What is a scrum master’s role?

Understanding the role of a scrum master means taking a closer look at what they do. However, each project will vary in responsibilities and scope of tasks. 

While scrum duties vary, we’ve developed a foundation and typical routine you can expect:

  • Establishes scrum processes

  • Coaches and educates the team on scrum values and goals

  • Assists the team in resolving development hiccups, conflicts, or challenges

  • Protects the scrum team from influence, interference, and distractions

  • Leads team meetings, including sprint planning, sprint retrospectives, and daily scrum

  • Reduces friction throughout the sprint cycle and monitors improvements  

  • Creates burn charts and other relevant documents for their role and the agile framework 

Who needs a scrum master?

Scrum masters tend to be prevalent in the software development space. 

However, countless industries, niches, and projects can directly benefit from scrum master leadership. 

A scrum master can be instrumental in achieving results in any industry that has a specific product to develop or platform to launch. 

A scrum master can make a positive impact in:

  • Technology

  • Product development

  • Design

  • Marketing and advertising

  • Government and municipal projects

  • Office administration

  • Construction

Benefits of employing a scrum master

When you work with a scrum master, you can expect many advantages for your project’s development team. 

Scrum masters will improve delivery by identifying and removing obstacles, ensuring quicker turnaround. This is essential in rapidly changing project environments. 

A scrum master ensures quality assurance testing isn't just an end-of-sprint activity, undertaking early testing and discovering issues sooner. 

Moreover, scrum masters bring: 

  • Improved progress visibility

  • Fact-based decision-making

  • A more collaborative environment for the engineers

The scrum master brings a broader project perspective, ensuring the team meets deadlines. 

How to be an effective scrum master

If you’re looking to become a scrum master, you need certain skill sets and characteristics to make a smoother transition from your current position.  

Here are some tips on being effective in your role:

  • Be diligent about coaching and guiding teams first.

  • Explore methods to make scrum ceremonies more collaborative.

  • Gain consensus on the meeting and scrum approach the team wants to take.

  • Confirm the scrum structure is in place.

  • Build strategic and supportive relationships with the product and technical teams.

  • Engage with team members individually to cultivate trust and productivity.

  • Improve communication skills between team members and stakeholders.

How to become a scrum master

While it helps to be a great coach and project leader, you can obtain certifications and take courses to achieve a scrum master designation. 

Qualifying yourself and the company you want to work for is a good idea. This ensures alignment as each scrum master job outlines the criteria and requirements for the position.

However, completing an Advanced Certified Scrum Master® or a Certified Scrum Master® is also encouraged.

Coursework from Certified Scrum Trainers introduces best practices and responsibilities. These teach scrum masters how to be effective within their responsibilities.

What skills are essential for a scrum master?

Maybe you're looking to hire a scrum master for your company, or you're interested in a new career. 

Do you possess a scrum master’s foundational skills? Consider these top qualities:

  • Naturally focused on team cohesiveness

  • Organized

  • Good at problem-solving

  • Technical knowledge with a mechanical view of processes

  • Able to relate to non-technical teammates 

  • Enthusiastic about helping team members grow and develop

  • Flexible and dynamic 

  • Empowers others

  • Able to see the big picture

  • Understands priorities and goals

  • A top-notch communicator

  • A well-versed relationship builder

What scrum master certifications are available?

With several certifications available, you can start by learning the standard Certified Scrum Master® or continue with the Advanced Certified Scrum Master®. 

There are many different types of Scrum Master certificates, including:

  • Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)

  • Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO)

  • Professional Scrum Master (PSM I)

  • Certified Scrum Professional (CSP)

  • SAFe Scrum Master (SSM)

  • Professional Scrum Product Owner I (PSPO I)

  • Certified Scrum Developer (CSD)

You can also find a course taught by a Global Registered Education Provider (REP) of Scrum Alliance or a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST®).

Scrum masters are becoming popular as performance drivers for project-driven businesses and among career seekers looking for a collaborative leadership role. 

If you believe you have the necessary transferable skills, start researching the role. Explore how your workday would look as a scrum master and the various certifications that can help relaunch your career. 

If you're a business looking for an innovative, more effective way to manage projects and teams, a scrum master could increase your team's efforts, capacity, and process workflow.

FAQs

What is a scrum organization?

Scrum is a management framework that coordinates team tasks and efforts into an organized and systemic approach to achieve a common goal. 

Scrum methodology is usually associated with development tasks in software environments. 

When an organization or department adopts the scrum model outside of software, it provides an environment where teams: 

  • Learn to self-manage

  • Gain experience

  • Adapt to challenges and change more effectively

What are the leading scrum certificate organizations?

The three leading organizations offering scrum certifications are: 

  • Scrum.org

  • Scrumalliance.org

  • Scruminc.com

You can also consider other affiliate programs with certified instructors.

What kind of organizations use scrum?

Some departments or industry niches that regularly hire and leverage scrum master leadership include: 

  • Retail

  • eCommerce

  • Energy companies

  • Financial services

  • Insurance companies

  • Advertising agencies

  • Marketing firms

  • Government entities

These global brands rely on scrum masters for various projects:

  • Honeywell

  • BOSCH

  • Deloitte

  • Google

  • Apple

  • IBM

  • Adobe

  • Airbnb

What is scrum vs. agile?

Agile framework is a philosophy with a set of practices that adopts scrum management. In this sense, agile is akin to thinking and practices that achieve effective results. 

While scrum is a subset of the agile methodology, scrum is the more precise version of agile methods to directly facilitate a project or reach a goal.

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