Scrum Master and Project Manager: Same or different ?

It’s a recurring question: Is the Scrum Master role the equivalent of the Project Manager. In this article I want to clear up the landscape on this issue by approaching the subject from the perspective of the responsibilities that each one has in the broader picture of managing a project.



Within the context of managing an IT project there are several procedures that are associated directly or indirectly with the over application development life-cycle. The following table lists the various typical processes that are shared by most methodologies used.

PROCESS SCRUM MASTER PROJECT MANAGER
Project Mandate Receipt YES YES
Project Budget YES
Human resources YES
Project Controls* YES
Tasks YES (Backlog) YES
Task Assignment  YES
Planning  -** YES
Quality Assurance Planning and Coordination YES
Construction Tracking YES YES
Testing coordination  YES YES
Product Delivery  YES YES
Project Closure Partially *** YES

*Communication Plan, Methodologies, Coordination with external contractors etc.
**Sprints are built from Product Backlogs so it is included in tasks
***Partially in Review and Retrospective
From the above it becomes clear that the Scrum Master owns part of the responsibilities that a Project Manager has. Practically, the Scrum Master roles focuses on the construction application while the Project Manager is additionally involved in its preparation.

In the context of the Scrum methodology , the roles of the Project Manager and the Scrum Master can coexist. Regarding the people who perform these roles, there are 2 options:
a) Seperate people own the 2 roles: Most likely this is happening in complex projects where:

  • the Project Manager is responsible for all of the prerequisites of the project as well as planning and coordination at a high level
  • the Scrum Master takes ownership of the supervising the construction on a daily basis
b) Performed by the same person : It’s the practice whereby an expert Project Manager with knowledge of the Scrum methodology is responsible for both aspects of the project.
It should be noted here that there is no restriction in in using a different project management methodology (e.g. a waterfall) for the responsibilities of the Project Manager that are not in scope of Scrum e.g. PRINCE2 or PMI.

In conclusion, the roles of Project Manager and the Scrum Master are in reality complementary and mixing them both in the right way, enables us to have the best of both worlds !!!

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