Tag Archives: ScrumMaster

ProductOwnerScrumMasterFeaturedImage

Product Owner vs. ScrumMaster

The product owner and ScrumMaster are two different roles that complement each other. If one is not played properly, the other suffers. As the product owner, you are responsible for the product success — for creating a product that does a great job for the users and customers and that meets its business goals. You therefore interact with users and customers as well as the internal stakeholders, the development team and ScrumMaster, as the following diagram shows.

ProductOwnerRelationships

The grey circle in the picture above describes the Scrum Team consisting of the product owner, the ScrumMaster and the cross-functional development team.

The ScrumMaster is responsible for the process success — for helping the product owner and the team use the right process to create a successful product, and for facilitating organisational change and establishing an agile way of working. Consequently, the ScrumMaster collaborates with the product owner and the development team as well as senior management, human resources (HR), and the business groups affected by Scrum, as following pictures illustrates:

ScrumMasterRelationships

Succeeding as a product owner requires the right skill set, time, effort, and focus. So does playing the ScrumMaster role. Combining both roles – even partially – is not only very challenging but means that some duties are neglected. If you are the product owner, then stay clear of the ScrumMaster duties!


What the Product Owner should Expect from the ScrumMaster

As a product owner, you should benefit from the ScrumMaster’s work in several ways. The ScrumMaster should coach the team so that the team members can build a great product, facilitate organisational change so that the organisation leverages Scrum, and help you do a great job:

ExpectationsOnTheScrumMaster

The following table details the support you should expect from the ScrumMaster:

Service Details
Team coaching
  • Help the team collaborate effectively and manage their work successfully so that they can make realistic commitments and create product increments reliably.
  • Encourage the team to work with the product owner on the product backlog.
  • Ensure that the team has a productive work environment.
Organisational change
  • Work with senior management, HR and other business groups to implement the necessary organisational changes required by Scrum.
  • Educate the stakeholders about what’s new and different in Scrum, explain their role in the agile process, and generate support and buy-in.
  • Resolve role conflicts such as product owner vs. product manager and product owner vs. project manager.
Product owner coaching
  • Help the product owner choose the right agile product management techniques and tools.
  • Support the product owner in making product decisions and tackle product owner empowerment issues.
  • Help establish agile product management practices in the enterprise.

The ScrumMaster supports you as the product owner so that you can focus on your job – making sure that the right product with the right user experience (UX) and the right features is created. If your ScrumMaster does not or cannot provide this support, then talk to the individual, and find out what’s wrong. Don’t jump in and take over the ScrumMaster’s job. If you don’t have a ScrumMaster, show the list above to your senior management sponsor or to your boss to explain why you need a qualified ScrumMaster at your side.


What the ScrumMaster should Expect from the Product Owner

It takes two to Tango, and it’s only fair that your ScrumMaster has expectations about your work as the product owner. The following picture illustrates some of them:

ExpectationsOnTheProductOwner

The table below describes the ScrumMaster’s expectations in more detail:

 Service  Details
Vision and Strategy
  • Provide a vision to the team that describes where the product is heading.
  • Communicate the market, the value proposition and the business goals of the product.
  • Formulate a product or release goal for the near to mid term.
Product Details
  • Proactively work on the product backlog. Update it with new insights and and ensure that there are enough ready items.
  • Provide direction and make prioritisation calls.
  • Invite the right people and choose the right techniques to collect feedback and data, for instance, invite selected users the review meeting and carry out a usability test.
Collaboration
  • Be available for questions and spend time with the team.
  • Buy into the process and attend the sprint meetings.
  • Manage the stakeholders and make tough decisions; say no to some ideas and requests.

You can find more a more comprehensive description of the product owner duties in my post “The Product Owner Responsibilities“.


Learn More

To learn more about the collaboration between the product owner and the ScrumMaster attend my Certified Scrum Product Owner training course. Please get in touch if you have in questions or if would like me to teach the course on-site.

If you feel that your ScrumMaster would benefit from improving her or his work, then I recommend Geoff Watt’s book “ScrumMastery: From Good to Great Servant Leadership”.

The following list is a tongue-in-cheek collection of common mistakes in applying Scrum. They all influence product success negatively. Combined they are a recipe for certain failure.

  1. Apply the product owner role pragmatically: Spilt the role across several people or work with a product owner committee.
  2. Shoot for the maximum marketable product – a product that pleases everyone and has a myriad of features.
  3. Have a can-do attitude, say yes to every requirement, and put it into the product backlog. You don’t want to disappoint stakeholders and endanger the product success.
  4. Capture and detail all the requirements in the product backlog before the first sprint. This reduces uncertainty and risk, and it enables accurate planning and efficient execution.
  5. Don’t bother with prioritisation. All your requirements are certainly must-have’s.
  6. Don’t ask your customers for feedback on early product increments. You know what’s best for them!
  7. Leverage a big-bang release to surprise your competitors, impress your customers, and achieve complete market domination over night.
  8. When push comes to shove, add more features and cut quality. Customers love complex products. Don’t worry about technical debt. View it as an opportunity to create a new product in the near future.
  9. Tell the ScrumMaster to act as a proper project manager. Work the team hard. Sustainable pace is for wimps.

To avoid the mistakes above and to learn how to create great products with Scrum, refer to my book Agile Product Management with Scrum, or book yourself on one of my product owner trainings.

It’s not uncommon for me to visit a new client and to discover that the scrum teams change frequently, sometimes after every single sprint. Changing the team composition too frequently is undesirable for the individuals and the organization. To flourish, teams need stability. With markets, requirements and technologies frequently changing in an agile world, a stable scrum team provides security and continuity.

To create stable scrum teams, follow these recommendations:

First, carefully consider who should be on the Scrum team. Find the right individuals to play the product owner, ScrumMaster and team role in order to develop a great product. Having the right individuals on board is most likely the biggest success factor for any development effort.

Second, minimize any changes to the Scrum team within and across releases. It takes some time for a group of individuals to become a true team – a tightly knit unit with members that trust and support each other and that work together well. Changing the team composition makes this teambuilding process start all over again and, as a result, productivity and self-organization suffer. Avoid loosing team members while a release is being developed. A good time for people to leave and new members to join is after the release of a new product version. But ensure that the majority of the team members continue to work on the product to avoid loss of information, defects and delays.

Last but not least, establish a long-term partnership between a Scrum team and its product; every product should be developed by one or more dedicated teams. This not only facilitates ownership and learning, but it simplifies the allocation of people and resources.

The product owner should always be a permanent member of the Scrum team. This allows the individual to manage the entire product lifecycle, from gestation to its discontinuation. It also encourages balancing short-term wins with long-term success.

Find out more about employing stable teams by reading my book Agile Product Management with Scrum or by attending my product owner course.