What does a scrum master do?
The Scrum Master is a key role in the development and execution of Scrums. A scrum is a framework or methodology that helps teams to work together to deliver an agreed outcome. With a focus on agile project management framework, Scrum framework includes a series of meetings, tools and roles which work together to deliver agreed outcomes.
Most commonly used in the development of tech or software products, the concepts of Scrum and Scrum Master, are derived from the role a scrum plays in sport.
Scrum framework encourages teams to learn through experiences, self organise while working on a task and reflect and improve on their successes and losses. Continuous improvement lies at the heart of Scrum framework and the role of the Scrum Master is key to a Scrum’s success.
The Scrum Master or Servant Leader sits at the heart of the Scrum framework and the teams. Alongside the Product Owner and the Development Team, the Scrum Master enables the delivery of complex solutions and products.
Scrum Masters facilitate and organise the Scrum. They act as coaches to the members of the Scrum.
They are charged with ensuring all scrum based activities are completely in a timely manner, this includes: defining and organising Scrum roles, sprint planning, daily scrum/ standups, sprint reviews and sprint retrospectives.
Together with the Product Owner and Development Team, the Scrum Master reviews and develops the scrum artifacts including product backlog and sprint backlog. They are responsible for keeping the Scrum moving, and continuously reporting on developments, celebrating successes, and defining, understanding and resolving roadblocks.
Scrum Masters are committed to the Scrum and work to define its role, outcomes and processes. They operate flexibly and are open to opportunities for the Scrum team to reflect on and improve their process and outcomes.
Scrum master responsibilities
- Fostering Communication - creating channels and translating Scrum nuanced language
- Protecting the team - acting as a buffer for disruptive product managers and management
- Tool Maintenance - administer the Scrum tools and framework
- Reporting - creating and delivering reporting framework for team members and management
- Meeting Facilitation - sprint planning, daily scrum/standups, retrospectives
- Agile Coaching - 1:1 with Scrum team members, stakeholders and management
- Team Support - facilitating communication and resolving disagreements, tech and comfort (ie coffee runs) support
- Remove Blockers - work with the team to understand blockers, work to remove them
The Scrum Master serves the Product Owner in several ways, including:
- Ensuring that goals, scope, and product domain are understood by everyone on the Scrum Team as well as possible;
- Finding techniques for effective Product Backlog management;
- Helping the Scrum Team understand the need for clear and concise Product Backlog items;
- Understanding product planning in an empirical environment;
- Ensuring the Product Owner knows how to arrange the Product Backlog to maximise value;
- Understanding and practicing agility; and,
- Facilitating Scrum events as requested or needed.
The Scrum Master serves the Development Team in several ways, including:
- Coaching the Development Team in self-organisation and cross-functionality;
- Helping the Development Team to create high-value products;
- Removing impediments to the Development Team’s progress;
- Facilitating Scrum events as requested or needed; and,
- Coaching the Development Team in organisational environments in which Scrum is not yet fully adopted and understood.
The Scrum Master serves the company in several ways, including:
- Leading and coaching the company in its Scrum adoption;
- Planning Scrum implementations within the company;
- Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact Scrum and empirical product development;
- Causing change that increases the productivity of the Scrum Team;
- Working with other Scrum Masters to increase the effectiveness of the application of Scrum in the company.
What skills does a scrum master need to have?
- Extensive Project Management Experience engaging in large-scale transformation projects
- Experience managing projects using, Scrum and the Agile and Waterfall methodologies
- Engaged in planning, analysis and implementation phases of the project
- Conducted change impact analysis to define and evaluate the scope and objectives of the project
- Defined project scope, goals and deliverables
- Developed the full-scale project plans and prepare communication guidelines
- Developed and implement the stakeholder communication plan ensuring successful stakeholder engagement at all levels
- Ability to adapt to changing and fast-paced environment, evolving the change solution ensuring delivery of flexibility and agility
- Understanding of efficient stakeholders engagement within a challenging business environment
- Outstanding interpersonal, leadership, communication and facilitation skills to establish and maintain excellent working relationships in a corporate environment
Common scrum terminology
- Daily Scrum
Scrum Master qualifications
Scrum Masters typically have strong project management backgrounds, developed either via a relevant university or similar higher education qualification such as in Business or Business discipline. Scrum Masters in the tech sector also benefit from qualifications in IT or other tech related fields.
Project managers seeking to develop their skills as a Scrum Master, should avail themselves of the many elearning courses available. Relevant material/topics include:
- Scrum Theory and Practice - agile theory, and applicability of scrum framework to digital products. Applicability to digital transformation
- Scrum Roles - Product Owner, Scrum Master, Development Team
- Scrum Methodology - including the various tools
- Scrum Ceremonies, including sprint planning, daily scrum/standups, sprint reviews and sprint retrospectives
There are many tools available, and training courses are available from service providers.
Certification for Scrum Masters is increasingly available via elearning and in person courses. Most courses presume that the participant has had existing practical experience in Scrums and/ or has availed themselves of elearning opportunities.
Benefits of certification include enhancing your skills and the value you can add to your scrum team and business. Certification also enables you to expand your career opportunities and will provide opportunities for you to engage with other Scrum experts.
Length of courses vary, but typically require 2 - 3 days including additional time for preparation and study.
Examinations upon the completion of course are common and provide gravitas to your certification.
Some roles also require sector specific experience, such as in banking, financial services sectors. Experience and qualifications in agile theory, and digital transformation are also recommended.
Typical career path of a scrum master
A change manager may report to different people depending on the type and size of organisation they are working in, and the project they are working on. In some businesses a change manager will report directly to the CEO, particularly if the organisational change is significant. Alternatively they may report into a CTO/CIO for major IT projects or to the Human Resources Director.
Seeking opportunities as a Scrum Master is a great career path if you’re a software developer or product owner. Becoming a Scrum Master will assist in advancing your career and boost the productivity of your team.If you have an interest in project management and agile theory, then Scrum Master will enable you to gain new skills and advance within your organisation. The skills will set you up to move into new subject matter areas and industries as it is a very transferable skill. To become qualified as a Scrum Master, refer to the section above. Typically a Scrum Master is responsible for a single team/ project. Once you have the appropriate qualifications as Scrum Master, through a mix of practical experience, elearning, and certification, the opportunities for advancement are many. The following pathway sets out the opportunities:
- Serve more teams - most Scrum Masters begin with a single team, but as their skills and efficiency increases, they can take on multiple teams. No more than three teams are advisable
- Scaled Scrum Master - this is a role which overseas various Scrum Teams and Scrum Masters within the organisation. Implementing entire scaled Scrum process, training teams, including Scrum Masters, and identifying and fixing problems across teams, such as resourcing and tech support
- Agile Coach - a role which may follow after you have extensive experience as a Scrum Master. This role is responsible for training Scrum Masters and Scrum team members.
- Manager - if your company has a strong focus on Scrum Teams and you’ve had considerable experience as a Scrum Master, you will be well placed to lead in a managerial role.
How much does a scrum master earn?
Depending on their level of experience and seniority, change managers can earn between AUD90-240k per year in a permanent role, or AUD450-1600 per day as a contractor.