Who is the Scrum Master?

From a certain point of view, software development is much like team sports.

Imagine you’re putting together a team. We leave the discipline to you as long as it involves teamwork.

You need the players if you hope to win. That would be your software developers.

Who are the developers? Professionals, specialists skilled in their areas. They know how to translate requirements into “working software.” Without great players, your whole game falls apart.

Who else do you need to guarantee your team’s success?

You’ll need to find the manager. In software development, it’s the Product Owner (PO) who handles “maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Scrum Team.”

According to the Scrum Guide, “The Product Owner is also accountable for effective Product Backlog management, which includes:

  • developing and explicitly communicating the Product Goal,
  • creating and clearly communicating Product Backlog items,
  • ordering Product Backlog items,
  • ensuring that the Product Backlog is transparent, visible, and understood.”

But there’s one key player we haven’t considered yet—it’s the coach.

The coach’s superpower is to convert a group of excellent players into a winning team. The coach trains the team, looks after the team, keeps their interests at heart, and makes sure every member is taken care of.

Who is it in software development? The Scrum Master (SM), who can be the deciding factor in the success of your product.

The Scrum Master does everything in their power to help the team perform at its highest possible level.

In a Scrum Team, the synergy between the PO, SM, and Developers is everything. They should work together and lift each other up to produce the greatest results.

According to the Scrum Guide, “Scrum requires a Scrum Master to continuously foster an environment where:

  • a Product Owner orders the work for a complex problem into a Product Backlog,
  • the Scrum Team turns a selection of the work into an Increment of value during a Sprint,
  • the Scrum Team and its stakeholders inspect the results and adjust for the next Sprint.”

What are the Scrum Master roles and responsibilities?

First and foremost, the Scrum Master makes sure your team follows the Scrum framework.

Why should you care about this? “What is Scrum, anyway?” you may be asking yourself. Luckily, we’ve already answered that question in another article. Head over there to get more details on Scrum.

But what exactly can you expect from a Scrum Master? That’s a good question, as you might not even be aware of the many ways in which the SM can help your team achieve their goals, such as:

Process-related activities
  • “Causing the removal of impediments to the Scrum Team’s progress,” which means locating roadblocks and detecting problems, removing blockers and proposing solutions, identifying areas of improvement and suggesting changes, keeping an eye on the resolving issues
  • “Improving the Scrum Team’s practices to increase effectiveness,” meaning using hard data—facts and figures, introducing metrics that show the team’s progress
  • “Ensuring that all Scrum events take place and are positive, productive, and kept within the timebox”
  • “Facilitating teamwork and improving communication”
  • “Coaching the team members in self-management and cross-functionality”
Product-related activities
  • Helping the Scrum Team understand the need for clear and concise Product Backlog items, for example teaching how to split user stories and how to do estimations
  • Helping establish empirical product planning for a complex environment by providing the necessary data
  • Helping the Scrum Team focus on creating high-value Increments that meet the Definition of Done
  • Helping find techniques for effective Product Goal definition and Product Backlog management
Stakeholder-related activities
  • Facilitating stakeholder collaboration as needed
  • Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact an empirical approach to complex work
  • Removing barriers between stakeholders and Scrum Teams
Organization-related activities
  • Leading, training, and coaching the company in Scrum
  • Planning and advising Scrum implementations within the organization

Like a coach, the SM trains the team to be self-sufficient with as little help as possible. However, this doesn’t mean that you won’t need a Scrum Master at some point. When a team becomes self-sufficient in certain practices, there is always room for improvement.

The bottom line is that the Scrum Master uses hard data—facts and figures—to help the development team keep their focus where it belongs.

Scrum Masters look at the team as a whole, apply the best suited strategy, and trust each member to manage themselves. They believe it will yield the greatest results for everyone involved: the company, the team, and the client.

The point of having a Scrum Master is to boost the team’s performance and productivity, and the value of adding one to the team is rooted in your product’s life cycle.

The importance of the Scrum Master

If you’re still wondering whether hiring a Scrum Master would be beneficial to your company, consider this: can sports teams work at their best without a coach? The answer is simple: probably not. Even in individual sports, the athlete has a trainer.

You need a Scrum Master to have the best software development team like you need a trainer to have a winning sports team.

You can’t expect a developer or a programming specialist to become their own part-time Scrum Masters the same way you wouldn’t expect your player to be a part-time trainer. It requires its own set of knowledge and skills.

Most importantly, it is a waste of the developer’s precious time. The results are often poor and the frustration of the team increases, as the context switching distracts developers from their tasks.

What does the Scrum Master do?

The Scrum Master is not in charge of your developers’ precise workload. They neither distribute nor control the assigned tasks.

Scrum Masters don’t micromanage. Instead, they choose to follow the philosophy of servant leadership.

The idea behind servant leadership is simple but brilliant:

  • putting others before yourself,
  • sharing your power with others,
  • helping others do their best work.

Like any good coach, the Scrum Master stands on the sidelines and gives the team advice, at the same time leaving them to their own devices.

In that regard, the servant leadership of Scrum Masters embraces the principle of “win-win or no deal,” which is very close to our hearts.

Benefits of working with a Scrum Master

As we’ve shown in this article, there are plenty of areas where working with a Scrum Master could be beneficial both to your company, your software development team, and your clients.

Let’s name some of the key benefits of such cooperation:

  • your productivity reaches a consequently higher level (on average around 30–100% more than without the SM and Scrum) thanks to improving and adjusting the team’s delivery process to ever-growing and changing products;
  • ensuring the technical quality of your product becomes easier, faster, more effective, and takes up less capacity;
  • the relationships you build with your clients are more beneficial and long-lasting;
  • the team handles misunderstandings and conflicts through harmonious cooperation;
  • teamwork is better coordinated with regard to finding improvements, savings, and new opportunities;
  • the satisfaction level is higher on the side of both the team and the client in terms of work and communication;
  • the turnover rate is lower and change adoption gets easier.

Final thoughts on implementing the Scrum Master role into your development team

Thank you for reading our article! We hope it helped you learn everything you needed to know about the Scrum Master to understand why exactly you need an SM in your team.

At STX Next, we have many highly skilled Scrum Masters, who will gladly share their knowledge and experience with you, and ensure that your team uses their time and resources optimally to achieve your business goals with Scrum.

Our passionate Scrum specialists have already assisted and helped boost the productivity of many companies worldwide—you can check them out here. One of those companies was Evalueserve, who claimed Scrum played a key role in their “best year ever for product innovation.” Head over here to read the full case study.

If you enjoyed this article, we suggest you should also check out some other helpful, Scrum-related resources that we’ve created, such as:

If you’re expanding your team and would like some help with the team composition tailored to your individual needs, go ahead and contact us—we’ll be more than happy to support you with the best Scrum Masters on the market!