Scrum Master vs Project Manager

Many professionals believe they can easily switch from project manager to a Scrum Master without having their role change very much.   If you are new to Agile, you may not realize the differences.  You could easily assume being a project manager or Scrum Master is the same thing.  When going into an Agile organization, you must understand the clear and distinct differences between the two.  In Scrum, the project manager role from the days of Waterfall is gone and gets mostly gets replaced with Scrum Masters, Product Owners, and their Agile squads.  

The Role of the Scrum Master

Scrum Master vs Project Manager

You want to think of a Scrum Master in Agile as a coach and facilitator.  The Scrum Master has the task of working with the team to make sure they are following their Agile norms.  If teams have agreed to prioritize User Stories in a certain way, the Scrum Master holds them to that.  The Scrum Master is also a facilitator.  The Scrum Master has the goal of Agile project success, team cohesion, driving Agile ceremonies, and overall open/honest communication.

The Role of the Project Manager

When you hear the term project manager, you immediately think of Waterfall.  For teams that still use project managers, this role is driving all of the work, managing the budget, the return on investment, project plan, and more.  Project managers do not fit into Scrum, though.  Replacement is a combination of the Product Owner and Scrum Master. 

Project managers may exist in agile organizations, but they will do more of the monitoring of performance indicators, acting as stakeholders to witness work by the agile squads.  They are not managing the efforts at all.  

Project Managers Are Waterfall

Project managers are known and tied to Waterfall development efforts.  They are there for decision points.  Project managers used to drive the decisions of the team as to what they prioritize, to work on next.  That is no longer the case.  It is now the Product Owner with the say around if a team can complete five features in a Sprint, which are the features that come first?  What is the one that could fall to the next Sprint?  It is the Product Owner in Agile calls those shots.  The Product Owner will also remove blockers if the Agile team requires.

agile team

A Complete Agile Team

It is important to split up the responsibilities of any project so that everything gets the necessary attention, and no lines get crossed.  When you transition from Waterfall to Agile, it can be challenging to get to where all of the different lines of communication lie.

The Scrum Master tasks are not spot on to any given deliverable.  Instead, they are the servant leader of the squad.  They work to help the team be as effective and efficient as possible.  They motivate, promote communication, and even coach the product owner on what to be doing in an Agile environment. 

Scrum Master vs Project Manager Summary

The world of Agile continues to take over the business and information technology landscape.  Former project managers are posting positions as Agile Product Owners, but the roles are not the same.  Understand that and also know the part of Scrum Master vs project manager to better your chances of Agile project success!  When everyone knows and accepts their responsibilities and works in cohesion, Agile can help companies get to the finish line much faster and with a higher value over time.