Scrum Master vs Product Manager

Product Manager And Scrum Master

Product managers often find themselves grappling with the can of worms in the initial stages while dealing with and understanding various technical jobs. 

As you must have observed, many organizations use scrum in their agile software development framework. 

That is why scrum masters are often part of the development teams

We have observed that there are particular qualms regarding 

‘Who is a scrum master, What is their job etc. etc.

Scrum Master: Jobs And Duties

A scrum master is a person who takes care of scrum processes in agile and product backlog priority.

Let’s understand some of the duties of the Scrum master.

  1. The goal of a scrum master is to guide team deliverables efficiently without compromising on quality factors like timeline or budgeting aspects (technical risks). 
  1. Scrum master creates the product backlog with help from a business analyst depending upon the project requirements. 
  1. The scrum master also helps product owners prioritize product backlog based on product features or product release date. They are responsible for prioritizing product backlog items according to product development life cycle and business value, which helps estimate work packages done by scrum teams. Their primary job scope involves breaking down product backlog into manageable sprints, performing risk analysis, defining acceptance criteria, etc.
  1. A scrum master maintains proper transparency among all cross-functional roles like product owner, scrum teams & stakeholders since transparency ensures better coordination. 
  1. Scrum Master is that one person who coordinates with other roles involved in project delivery. This coordination helps in achieving a balanced approach. 
  1. A good scrum master is a product manager’s best friend. They handle all issues related to product development, from specifying and prioritizing product backlog to managing product vision and release goals.

Difference Between Scrum Master And a Product Manager

Let’s now see a few differences between Product Manager and Scrum master:

Product Manager Leads The Team, While Scrum Master Helps In Product Enhancement:

A product manager is the one who leads an organization to build a product roadmap. He researches the product market, creates product vision, thinks about product strategy, and guides the product development cycle. A product manager’s job is to formulate product ideas into something users will love.

Scrum master helps the scrum team in product enhancement which means he makes sure that they develop all features following scrum methodology guidelines with full transparency among team members. 

The focus of Scrum Master is to remove any friction in communication channels among team members by making sure everyone follows scrum protocol correctly.

A product manager has the responsibility of product development, product design, and product marketing. They are also responsible for product revenue.

The scrum master has only one responsibility: to make sure that scrum methodology guidelines are followed correctly by scrum team members.

Product Manager Conducts Customer Research While Scrum Master Supports Team In Implementing Requirements

The product manager – as already mentioned – plans and prioritizes product backlog based on product market research. 

They conduct market research to determine what users want from a specific product to develop a product that will fulfill these requirements. The product manager participates in daily scrum meetings.

On the other hand, scrum master supports scrum teams in implementing requirements according to approved product backlog items.

Product Manager Owns The Backlog, While Scrum Master Owns The Roadblock

Experienced product managers are aware of the product backlog, and Product managers are also aware that the product owner has the responsibility of the backlog. 

They should work closely to create a high-quality product. Although product manager & scrum master work in collaboration, scrum master usually owns any roadblocks.

One of the biggest mistakes a new product manager makes is overloading them with multiple responsibilities. It is widespread among some product managers who try to learn everything quickly while taking up more responsibility than they can handle.

As a solution, many companies emphasize specialization where they also have scrum masters, responsible only for product roadblocks and the scrum. 

This segregation eases the job of the product manager, and it, in turn, helps the organization function more effectively. 

Product Manager Expertise In The Product Go-To Expert, While Scrum Master Is The Methodology Expert

Product manager expertise in management and leading cross-functional teams in the company. His role is multi-dimensional.

In contrast, the scrum master guides product managers about scrum methodology and the product owner’s role

They should work together to ensure product delivery. The scrum master should have expert knowledge about product management, product development & all the scrum roles. 

They are responsible for working with the product manager to remove any team impediments. 

Additionally, it’s entirely up to the product manager and scrum master to decide how to make better product delivery.

Product Manager Should Be A Subject Matter Expert (SME), While Scrum Master Is An SME For Agile Methodology

A product manager knows their product best; therefore, they act as an SME (Subject Matter Expert) for that particular product. During requirements gathering sessions, the product owner finds necessary information from the product manager to work on the product backlog.

In contrast, the scrum master is an SME for agile methodology, and product owners need their help in understanding how they can develop a product with agile processes. 

The product owner doesn’t have any experience being a part of a scrum team or process, so they need guidance from the scrum master throughout the project’s lifecycle. 

Product owners should always approach product managers when necessary. However, communication between product owners and product managers is essential because their collaboration delivers better results.

Scrum Master Has To Empower Product Owner, While Product Manager Has The Authority

The Scrum Master’s has to ensure that the scrum team follows certain principles like failing fast, continuous learning, etc. Therefore, the scrum master should constantly find ways to remove the product owner’s impediments. 

Scrum Master has to empower product owners by helping product owners during product backlog refinement, prioritizing product backlog items, etc.

If, on the one hand, Scrum master empowers product owner, product manager, on the other hand, traditionally holds a lot of authority of their own and power. 

Product managers need to maintain their communication with product owners. Still, product managers shouldn’t over-empower product owners because that can result in scope creep, which becomes difficult for scrum teams to deal with in the future.

Only Scrum Master Has To Be Part Of Daily Scrum Meeting

The product manager can be part of the daily scrum meeting if they want to, but only the scrum master is required.

The product manager’s primary role involves product vision, strategy, roadmap planning, and product backlog management. 

Although product managers are typically involved in what happens daily within their product teams, they need not attend every stand-up meeting along with the team.

Product Manager vs. Scrum Master Concerning Accountability For Product Success

The product manager has the responsibility of the product’s market success. At the same time, the scrum master is responsible for the team members’ adherence to the scrum process, which includes frequent delivery of shippable increments. 

A product manager might seek advice from a scrum master on how best to handle pressing issues related to implementing scrum in product development.

Product Manager And Scrum Master Concerning Disagreement On Product Vision

The product manager has the responsibility of the product’s features, product definition, and product strategy, while the scrum master helps keep the team committed to delivery. 

When product managers’ product strategies are at odds with scrum masters, there will be a lot of friction between them, leading to poor working relationships.

Product Manager And Scrum Master Concerning Expectation Difference Between Stakeholders

The product manager works with stakeholders to build products that meet stakeholder expectations. In contrast, the scrum master aims to achieve an efficient scrum process that meets all the deadlines set by the organization. 

If stakeholders are unaware of how scrum works, they might expect something different from what they are given. Product managers should work to resolve this expectation gap.

A product manager is responsible for meeting stakeholder expectations, whereas a scrum master encourages product development teams to self-organize and meet deadlines. 

Stakeholders might expect product managers’ product strategy to align with scrum masters’ product delivery process, leading to an expectation mismatch if they are unaware of scrum’s work. 

Product management best practices need to be communicated to stakeholders to understand what product managers need from them to meet their requirements.

Scrum Master And Product Owner Concerning The Different Roles They Play

The roles of product manager and scrum master have similarities but differences that can cause conflicts between them when there are miscommunications or lack of product management best practices.

As a product manager, you might expect scrum masters’ product delivery process to align with product strategy leading to an expectation mismatch if they are unaware of how product managers work. 

Product management best practices need to be communicated to stakeholders to understand what you need to meet your requirements.

Scrum Master role is distinct from the product manager role as the scrum master manages the product delivery team and facilitates tasks. 

In contrast, the product manager plays more strategic roles by making decisions on features/products based on market research, customer needs, company’s vision, competition analysis, etc. 

Product managers have the responsibility of developing products and business strategies, while scrum masters play a technical role by ensuring that the development team delivers products in a scrum method.

The product manager and scrum master both serve in supporting roles to the product’s success, and each specializes in different parts of product management. 

The product manager is accountable for market success, while the scrum master ensures that the team follows the scrum process to achieve product success

A product manager may seek advice from a product master on how best to handle pressing issues related to implementing scrum in product development.

Conclusion

Product managers and scrum masters are essential for the team, so product management is a more multi-dimensional field, While Scrum Master is a more specific field. 

We recommend that you always have a product manager on board if resources are scarce.

Crafting great product requires great tools. Try Chisel today, it's free forever.