Scrum Master vs. Project Manager

by Rohit Kulthe on August 4, 2020
Precision Blog

We are frequently asked questions about scrum masters and project managers. For example, how are they different? How are they similar? What responsibilities does each role hold in a project? In this blog, you will find the answers to all of these questions and more.

As you know, scrum is an agile framework for developing and delivering projects. Scrum masters ensure that the teams within a project follow processes and practices through the agile values. Project managers provide the planning and management for projects through the waterfall methodology. Both roles follow similar guidelines, but they carry out the project in different ways.

One of the biggest similarities between scrum masters and project managers is that they are essentially leading the project. Both roles are accountable for the outcome of the project. In both cases, the team’s success is also their success. When it comes to the teams, both roles must be able to interact with them efficiently. Both scrum masters and project managers need to be aware of what works best for the team in terms of how meetings are conducted, timelines, and, overall, how the teams work successfully. In this sense, it does not matter that project managers use the waterfall methodology and scrum masters use the agile methodology, as long as the teams work together efficiently and complete the project successfully.

As mentioned before, the biggest difference between these roles is that typically project managers use waterfall and scrum masters use agile. Starting with project managers and their waterfall approach, they are managing all aspects of the project from initiation to closing. There are different phases in the waterfall methodology including analysis, design, build, testing, and the close-out. The project manager has to ensure that all of the requirements are being created before the project starts. Once the project has started, the requirements must be analyzed throughout. Project managers have more authority over the teams because it is a leadership role and you need to provide direction to the teams when necessary. Project managers also need to maintain the schedule and make sure that the different phases of the project are finished on time.

As a scrum master, you need to take a step back. This is because the role is not of a leader, but of a servant leader. A scrum master serves more as a coach and a facilitator with the goal of empowering the teams. It is the scrum master’s duty to make sure the teams are thinking on their own, rather than you giving them orders. With the agile methodology, the teams ideally are self-managed. Since scrum masters work in smaller increments, they need to ensure backlog is being refined and stories for the next sprints are being planned periodically. Proficient knowledge of agile and the ability to interact with teams properly is the main role of scrum masters.

Characteristics and Skills: Scrum Master
I previously discussed that the role of a scrum master is of a servant leader. A servant leader requires that you are less of an authoritative figure and more of a coach and facilitator. Scrum masters provide a safe space for team members to ask questions and state their doubts and concerns. There are many soft skills that are involved in the role of a scrum master. Besides having a proficient background in agile, scrum masters must have great communication and listening skills. They are interacting with teams on a daily basis, and they must be able to understand when things are falling short and be able to help people excel in the process and meet their goals. The main focus is team success. If the team succeeds, the project also succeeds as a result.

Characteristics and Skills: Project Manager
There are many overlapping skills with both scrum masters and project managers; however, there are a few differences. For example, project managers are in charge of the many different phases in a project. They are also in charge of the timeline, the scope of the project, the requirements that are being generated as well as the resources and financial aspect of the project. These characteristics are typically not needed for a scrum master. It is also important for project managers to have technical knowledge. In this case, technical knowledge refers to scheduling, cost control, contract negotiations, and more. These are all skills a project manager needs, but the most important skill is leadership.

Responsibilities of Scrum Masters
Overall, scrum masters are responsible for facilitating a safe environment for teams. They are also responsible for steering their team away from any external noise. Scrum masters also work with the product owners to ensure the back log is refined and also with Release Train Engineers to make sure dependencies are being identified. Scrum masters also identify and mitigate risks that come up within teams. They also need to continuously improve with the support of their teams using various opportunities like Sprint retrospectives, Inspect and adapt session etc.

Responsibilities of Project Managers
Because project managers work in waterfall, they go through the different phases of projects. This includes initiation, analysis, design, build, testing, and close-out. Project managers need to know what goes into each phase. For example, the technical design document needs to be completed in the design phase. This then feeds into the next phase, which is the build phase. The teams cannot move into another phase until the previous phase is completed, and it’s the project manager that ensures that everything is completed within the timeline. Like in agile, project managers must be able to identify dependencies and fix them accordingly. A project manager must monitor milestones and financials throughout the project to minimize variances and to mitigate any risks that may cause a project to fall behind schedule or over budget.

Project managers and scrum masters have many similarities and differences when it comes to implementing projects. The main takeaway is that both of these roles ensure that projects run successfully. If you have any questions regarding your scrum master or project manager career, please contact us.

About Precision
Precision Technologies Corp. (PTC) is a leading full stack IT Company with a diversified portfolio comprising staffing services, application development, and mobility solutions and beyond. Since 2010, our clients have leveraged our staffing and consulting experience to obtain escalated technical services across the industries. We often are told that our solutions are very precise, cost-effective and process driven, thereby delivering intended results.