What is a scrum master? The roles and responsibilities

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scrum master f
scrum master f

Scrum, can simply be defined as a project management framework, which helps in the successful completion of a project through agility, effective teamwork, coordination, and strategies to work towards a common goal. A scrum framework is popularly used as a software development tool by SaaS providers. However, due to its flexible features, it can be used to accomplish any project that requires dealing with complex tasks. 

The term “scrum” is originally a rugby concept, which denotes organized tactics and utmost coordination amongst team members to tackle their opponents in the game. The players join their heads together to decide on their strategies to win the game. Similarly, a Scrum project management framework is designed in a way where all the members associated with a particular project put together their thoughts and minds to address their issues for delivering successful results. It facilitates teamwork among the members by driving their actions towards a common objective.

How does it work?

  1. The working of a scrum commences with deciding on the product backlog by the scrum team. Product backlog refers to a set of features that are required to be either introduced or modified in the product. The Scrum team meet for a brief period and decide on the item(s) on the product backlog to work on.
  2. The next step is sprint planning. Sprint can be defined as a short time period in which the team works together to complete a set of work. A sprint is generally not longer than 30 days. The team decides the items from the product backlog to be worked upon in each sprint. The items, which are put in the sprint are termed as Sprint backlog. Once the sprint backlog is determined, the strategies are set out to complete the assigned tasks. One the sprint backlog is finalized, no member can make any modifications in it.

  3. A daily meeting of the team is mandatory to coordinate each other on the scope of work and activities undertaken to be complete on the same day. This way, everyone stays ahead of each other’s work for the succeeding day until the sprint period. The meeting is strictly to be concluded within 10-15 minutes.

  4. At the end of the sprint period, the entire team meets to review the performance along with the stakeholders/owners of the product. The purpose of this meeting is to provide the owner the opportunity to use the feature developed or modified on the product to receive feedback on the same. Such feedbacks are placed in the product backlog for future consideration.

  5. After the sprint review session, the team discusses their previous Sprint performance to identify faults or mistakes, which could be corrected or adjusted in the next sprint backlog.

What is a Scrum master?

Just like the way every project requires a project manager, a scrum team, too, needs a master who will be responsible for managing the processes carried on through the scrum. He is a person who is an expert in running scrum frameworks and can guide/assist team members when they face any issue performing the processes in the framework. A scrum master does not take part in decision-making.

Roles and responsibilities of a scrum master:

The role of a scrum master does not enjoy any authority. Yet it is an important role to be filled in by deserving personnel to smoothen the scrum process. There is a set of roles and responsibilities every scrum master owes to the product owner, the development team, and the organization he/she is a part of. 

The roles and responsibilities of a scrum master are mentioned below:

Roles and responsibilities towards the Development Team

  1. He/she should explain the goals and scope of the project and ensure everyone understands them in the best possible manner.

  2. It is his responsibility to train the team members on every aspect of the scrum, it processes and performing cross-functionality through the scrum framework.

  3. The Scrum Master is responsible for improving interactions and coordination between the Scrum Team and the organization.

  4. The Scrum Master should facilitate arranging daily scrum meetings.

  5. He/she is responsible for arranging planning sessions and sprint reviews and retrospective sessions whenever required or requested by the team.

  6. He/she should make sure each team member strictly adheres to the scrum rules and guidelines and do not violate them.

  7. The scrum master should focus on efficiently preventing any hurdles or obstacles faced by the team in its road to progress

  8. He/she should answer every query of the member relating to the scrum processes and their adaptability.

Roles and responsibilities towards the Organization

  1. Like any other software development tool, the implementation of a scrum framework is painstaking. The scrum master has to guide the organization and its employees to tactfully adapt to the scrum platform.

  2. He/she should take part in the strategic planning of the implementation process in a seamless manner

  3. He/she should keep a track of the productivity of the team and shall recommend changes if deem fit to increase the productivity of the team.

  4. An organization might be working on different projects through a scrum framework. It is the responsibility of the scrum masters to coordinate with amongst themselves and establish an effective communication mode to keep each other updated about the projects’ success and other technicalities involved.

Roles and responsibilities to the product owner

  1. The scrum master should suggest the best techniques for the product owner for effective Product Backlog management.

  2. He/she should keep the product owner updated progress on each sprint through effective communication.

In a nutshell, the Scrum master’s job is to keep the scrum team protected from unforeseen contingencies and make them focused on the agreed-upon rules and guidelines of the scrum. He/she should not only see that the scrum processes are followed correctly but should also ascertain if the way of work could be adjusted further to derive the maximum productivity and benefit.

Challenges faced by a scrum master

The role of a scrum master is no cakewalk for it comes across numerous challenges on its way. Some of the common challenges of a scrum master are mentioned below:

  • Every road towards a “change” is filled with resistance in different forms. He/she has to deal with these roadblocks now and then. One needs to have effective tactics in place to deal with them and motivate the team members to adapt to the new changes.
  • Though the role of a scrum master is only confined to complying with the scrum processes and managing the scrum team, sometimes they need to take up higher roles and dig deep into the process. Sometimes, they might also need to take certain decisions in the scrum process for the sake of the project. It becomes difficult for a scrum master to fill in these roles without much experience.
  • Many expert reports have suggested that most people believe that they understand scrum when in reality they don’t. They start facing difficulties in its implementation and commit mistakes due to such misunderstandings. This leads to great hurdles in the process, thus leaving the scrum master in a complicated situation.

Difference between a scrum master and project manager

  • A Project Manager assumes a leadership role. He leads the team throughout every aspect of the project. Whereas a scrum master leads the team only to coach it for understanding the scrum, its processes, and implementation. 
  • A project manager is responsible for managing the timeline, resources, and deciding on the team members as well. A scrum master will only work on improving the coordination of the scrum team, which has already been decided by the project manager. 
  • The team is accountable to the project manager and not the scrum master. However, in the case of scrum related queries, they approach the scrum master.
  • A project manager is responsible for taking decisions on the project whereas the scrum master generally has no say in the decision-making process unless it is something related to the framework or its processes.

How to Become a Scrum Master?

The first thing one need to be is an expert in the scrum. The expertise can be availed by taking up a scrum master certification course on the fundamentals of a scrum framework and its processes. The curriculum of the course involves 2-3 days of practical training by a certified scrum master. The duration of the course differs from institute to institute. After the end of the course, the candidate has to appear for a CSM exam to gain the license agreement.

 

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