What Are Scrum Roles

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This article is a continuation of our series on Scrum Methodologies and philosophies. So far, we have learned the basic principles of Scrum, the differences between Scrum and Agile project management, and the important values of a Scrum Team. This time around, we look at the different roles of a Scrum team and where developers and project managers fit into those Scrum Roles.

Before we go further, feel free to revisit our previous articles in this series:

Scrum Team Roles

What are Scrum Team Roles?

Scrum Teams are small units made up of three types of members. Within these three types, there are no sub-types or sub-teams. Neither is there a hierarchy. Scrum Teams – and the roles that define them – are all created equally. Every member has one purpose: the Product Goal.

Before we discuss the three different types of Scrum Roles, it is important to note that a Scrum Role is different from a job title. Even if you do not have a title that matches exactly with a Scrum Role, it does not mean that you do not fit a particular goal. Odds are you will fit into a role, and your actual job title will be viewed as an added “benefit” or “bonus” to the team.

The three types of Scrum Team Roles are:

  • Scrum Master: there can be only one!
  • Product Owner: there can be only one of these also!
  • Developers: 1-8 members typically.

Most Scrum Teams are ten or few members in size.

What is a Scrum Master?

The Scrum Master’s job is to ensure the Scrum Team understands the practice and philosophy of Scrum. This extends not just to the Scrum Team but the entire organization as well. Their main goal – and the thing they are accountable for – is for the Scrum Team to be as effective as possible in relation to the Product Goal. To achieve this, they rely on the Scrum framework and Scrum tools to help the Scrum Team improve its practices and performance.

  • Scrum Masters increase the Scrum Team’s effectiveness in the following ways:
  • Removing – or helping to remove – roadblocks that impede the Scrum Team’s progress.
  • Coaching the Scrum Team and enabling self-management.
  • Making sure the Scrum Team focuses on high-value increments of their Sprints.
  • Making sure that Scrum Events are productive and in the proper timeframe.
  • Ensuring the Scrum Team produces Product Backlog items that are clear and well-defined.

Further, the Scrum Master helps another role – the Product Owner – by:

  • Helping to define Product Goal and manage Product Backlog.
  • Create empirical product planning.
  • Enables stakeholder collaboration where applicable.

The Scrum Master also has responsibilities to the organization as well. The Scrum Master must train and coach the organization in the ways of Scrum. This includes the planning, leading, and advisement of Scrum implementations throughout the organization itself. That means that all employees and stakeholders need to understand – and act upon – the philosophies of the empirical approach to work. Finally, perhaps one of the most important roles of a Scrum Master is the removal of any barriers that might stand between stakeholders and Scrum Teams.

What is a Scrum Product Owner?

The next role we will look at in the Scrum Team is the Product Owner. Their primary function is to maximize the value of the Product that the Scrum Team is working on. They are also accountable for Product Backlog management. To do this effectively, they must:

  • Develop the Product Goal
  • Communicate to the Scrum Team and organization what the Product Goal is.
  • Create Product Backlog items.
  • Communicate Product Backlog items to the Scrum Team.
  • Make certain that the Product Backlog is clearly understood, visible to all team members, and is transparent.

What is a Scrum Developer?

Developers are the workhorses of the Scrum Team. Their job is to create portions of usable increments every Sprint. This includes creating the initial plan for the Sprint and the Sprint Backlog. They must also adhere to the vaunted Definition of Done. Each day, Scrum Developers are also accountable for adapting their plan toward the Sprint Goal and holding every other member of the Sprint Team accountable as professionals.

Scrum Considerations

We are just getting started in our understanding of Scrum, Scrum Teams, and Scrum methodologies as they relate to software development and project management. To better understand the articles in this series thus far – and to prep for future articles on the topic of Scrum, we recommend you check out Scrum.org’s Glossary of Scrum Terms.

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