Updated June 27, 2023
Overview of Scrum Master vs Project Manager
As distinct as their titles, their roles differ! However, there is a lot of confusion and misinterpretation regarding both roles due to a lack of clarity. Many professionals who have stepped into the domain of project management often are confused and struggle to understand the difference between scrum master vs project manager. With the transition from waterfall to agile delivery, the concept of Scrum Master might seem identical to that of a Project Manager on the exterior.
However, let’s recognize the difference between both functions and understand where a few tasks might overlap, though they are quite radically different. Scrum Master plays the role of a facilitator or mentor who empowers & motivates a team and has a certain level of technical proficiency. At the same time, Project Manager helps to manage and monitor the resources, project schedule, and scope to meet business objectives to make the project successful.
Head-to-Head Comparison Between Scrum Master vs Project Manager (Infographics)
Below are the top 10 Comparison between Scrum Master vs Project Manager:
Key Differences Between Scrum Master vs Project Manager
Considering their roles & responsibilities and how they operate, let’s understand the key differences between the scrum master vs project manager:
- The primary difference is that the Project Manager owns a ‘project’ and is solely responsible for its success or failure. And a Scrum Master is responsible for agile practices whose focus is to bring out the best in the ‘team’ and make the team accountable for a project.
- When it comes to ‘leadership’, Project Manager has to be the ‘Leader’ who, with an objective, can lead the project successfully. At the same time, Scrum Master is more like a ‘Servant Leader’ who has to think for the team before considering himself.
- The project Manager has to possess expertise in successfully implementing the project, exhibiting sound knowledge of project planning & scope, budgeting & resources, scheduling & risk management. The Project Manager has to be good at negotiation & communication to deal effectively with the customers & stakeholders. On the contrary, Scrum Master has to be a good trainer of agile practices with expertise in using the Scrum process. No wonder he has to be a team player with a friendly attitude who encourages openness and honesty among the team members. Thus, helping to facilitate genuine feedback from the team members and bringing in continual improvement on a given project. Also, Scrum Master has to support the product owner in managing the product backlog to keep it in good condition.
- Another key difference is that the role of a Project Manager is full-time and requires managing multiple projects. At the same time, the Scrum Master is not a full-time role and allows flexibility to work on other tasks.
- Last but not least, unlike the Scrum Master, Project Manager has to be a critical thinker who can identify and manage risks associated with a project. The Project Manager must prepare the mitigation plan for the identified risks to limit the risks a project might undergo. At the same time, Scrum Master has to safeguard the project team from external interventions and bring in team efforts to facilitate continual improvement.
Scrum Master vs Project Manager Comparison Table
Below is the topmost comparison between Scrum Master vs Project Manager
|Scrum Master (SM)||Project Manager (PM)|
|Focus: The primary focus of the SM is on the scrum team & its team members.||Focus: The primary focus of the PM is on the ‘project’.|
|Role: To act as a mentor to the product owner & stakeholders of the project to guide the team to improve & promote team dynamics continually.||Role: To manage multiple tasks such as project scheduling & budgeting, scope, communication & Human Resources.|
|No. of Tasks: SM has to manage one project team at once.||No. of Tasks: PM has to manage multiple projects to align with the business objectives & make the projects successful.|
|Risk Management: SM does not bear any risks associated with the project.||Risk Management: PM bears the risks associated with the project without holding the team accountable.|
|Leadership: SM is a team facilitator who makes the team accountable for a project. He acts like a ‘Servant Leader’.||Leadership: Generally, a PM is the single point of contact who owns the objective of managing a project. He acts like a ‘Leader.’|
|Industry: SM works on projects specific to IT or allied industries.||Industry: PM works on various projects that belong to different industries.|
|Knowledge & Expertise: SM has to possess sound knowledge of the scrum process and serve as a good coach to the team.||Knowledge & Expertise: PM has to possess expertise in the planning, execution & closure of a project to make it a success.|
|Skill-sets: SM has to be an efficient Activator, Promoter, Tutor, Supporter & Minder to a team.||Skill-sets: PM has to be an efficient Motivator, Decision-maker, Manager, Negotiator & Interpreter to an organization.|
|Reporting: SM reports to the Product Owner.||Reporting: PM reports to the stakeholders/clients.|
|Certification: SM requires CSM/CSPO certification from the Scrum Alliance.||Certification: PM requires PMP or Prince 2 certification.|
The million-dollar question: who would justify the role better? In the agile world, Scrum Master would be a better fit. And the companies that follow the conventional waterfall model, a Project Manager would be a good option. While for companies that are in the transitory phase from waterfall to agile, both roles can be interchanged. As there are no set rules as to Scrum Master has to be necessarily technically sound, basic technical knowledge is required to follow the processes correctly. Thus, in such cases, a Scrum Master can take over the responsibility of Project Manager and vice-versa, whichever is suitable for the project. Now that we know what makes them distinct and how they operate it’s clearer to comprehend ‘who’ can fit ‘where’ and in ‘what’ circumstances!
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