Scrum Master vs. Product Owner

The war against traditional, archaic development techniques is well under way with the Agile Manifesto inspiring the agile revolution. Agile encapsulates common ideas from multiple frameworks, such as Scrum, to aid in the collapse of legacy project management techniques.

For Scrum to work successfully for organizations, each role has to have a purpose that’s clearly defined so everyone understands who is accountable and for what. So when we compare Scrum Master vs Product Owner, what are each of their roles responsible for on the Scrum team? Let’s dig in.

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What Does the Product Owner Do in Scrum?

Product Owners are value maximizers.

What do we mean by that? Let’s say you have a dollar to spend. The Product Owner will find a way to make that dollar have the greatest impact on your customers. They will likely work more directly with customers and stakeholders to understand precisely what customers need and want. The information they gather provides a market focus for the Scrum team.

At the end of the day, the Product Owner is laser-focused on product success; ensuring that the product being developed is better for their customers.

Responsibilities of a Product Owner

Unlike traditional management techniques, the Scrum framework doesn’t expect a Product Owner to be able to do everything. With the customers’ needs top of mind, the Product Owner has a wide variety of specific responsibilities on the Scrum Team. They are accountable for duties such as: 

  • Working with customers and stakeholders to understand their problems and identify the most important next steps
  • Reporting progress toward releases
  • Gathering and expressing product requirements 
  • Reviewing metrics critical to understanding customer behavior and what features are best delivered soon 
  • Ensuring customers are as happy as they can be given the finite resources available to the Scrum team
  • Clarifying the work that has already been deemed the most valuable
  • Optimizing the value of the Development Team’s work

A Product Owner’s duties focus on drawing the most value while operating within the existing system. Meanwhile, Scrum Masters work towards ensuring the system is capable of maximum effectiveness.

How Does the Scrum Master Differ?

Scrum Masters promote and support Scrum.

They are focused on the means by which value is delivered. Tactically, they may help development teams perform at their peak by revealing and helping to remove any roadblocks that may block the path to getting the most value to customers as soon as professionally possible. Scrum Masters should help Product Owners identify value and how to maximize it, as well as work closely with both management and the Scrum team.

Responsibilities of a Scrum Master

Above all else, the Scrum Master is responsible for facilitating the implementation of Scrum. As a Servant Leader, they serve the Development Team, the Product Owner and the Organization by focusing on teaching, coaching, mentoring and advising. Scrum Masters are accountable for duties such as:

  • Making sure the need for change is understood throughout the organization
  • Empowering team members by allowing them to succeed without intervening
  • Teaching new ordering techniques to the Product Owner
  • Helping leaders understand how their behaviors affect the team
  • Offering guidance wherever necessary to help maximize a development team’s potential
  • Identifying and helping to remove impediments, such as poor support from management or internal team conflicts
  • Helping the Organization with training new Scrum teams

Working Together in Perfect Harmony

When comparing Scrum Master vs Product Owner, they may be fighting on different fronts, but they are both battling the same war against traditional development and unsuccessful legacy methods of delivering products to market. Scrum Masters focus their efforts on the internal implementation and success of the Scrum framework. Product Owners are ensuring the most valuable output is released to customers. 

It is important to know that neither role mimics a traditional project manager. Scrum uses alternative mechanisms to manage delivery. These include incremental delivery, small-batch execution, continuous feedback, and high levels of internal communication. This ensures the right thing is done, at the right time, allowing for maximum change responsiveness.

Since no individual can give 100% to both customers and their development team without compromising one, Scrum Masters and Product Owners work together to deliver the most value to each. Both should be focused on breaking away from the management structures that have slowed the pace of innovation and dissatisfied millions of customers. 

Become a Certified Scrum Master or Product Owner

So the question arises: Are you ready to take your place in the agile rebellion

With Responsive Advisors, you and your team can rid yourselves of the tried and failed methods of management. Our training classes for both Scrum Masters and Product Owners offer a pragmatic mix of both theory and practical skills to ensure your ability to implement Scrum successfully in the real world.

Robert Pieper

Robert Pieper has been a licensed Professional Scrum Trainer since 2014 and National Public Speaker since 2013. Robb holds an MBA from Marquette University and an Electrical Engineering Degree from Milwaukee School of Engineering. Robb has 15 years of professional software development experience with a passion for making Scrum work delivering real products and services