The 3 Scrum Roles and Responsibilities, Explained

Written by Coursera • Updated on Aug 17, 2021

A Scrum team is made up of three roles: the Scrum master, the product owner, and development team members.

A Scrum master leads a kick-off meeting with her Scrum team

Scrum, a type of project management methodology, has many fans. It’s the most commonly used Agile methodology by far, with 81 percent of Agile adopters using Scrum or a Scrum-related hybrid, according to a Digital.ai survey published in 2021 [1]. Scrum was also among the most in-demand tech skills in July 2021, according to data from Burning Glass—project management was the first [2]. So what exactly does it look like to work with Scrum? Here are the three roles you can expect to find on a Scrum team.

What are the three scrum roles?

A Scrum team consists of three distinct roles: the Scrum master, the product owner, and development team members. While there is only one Scrum master and one product owner, there are generally several development team members. 

Scrum teams are small; the Scrum Guide recommends ten or less total members to make sure communication and productivity is optimal [3]. Let’s take a closer look at what the responsibilities are for each of these roles.

Read more: What Is a Scrum Master (and How Do I Become One)?

1. Scrum master

A Scrum master is the person responsible for making sure a Scrum team is operating as effectively as possible with Scrum values. This means they keep the team on track, plan and lead meetings, and work out any obstacles the team might face. Scrum masters might also work in a larger role within an organization to help it incorporate Scrum concepts into their work. Because they are both a leader and a behind-the-scenes supporter, they are often described as the “servant leader” of the Scrum team.

Scrum can look different from organization to organization and team to team, making the specific tasks of a Scrum master varied. Broadly, however, a Scrum master might have the following responsibilities:

  • Facilitate daily Scrum meetings (also called “daily standups”) 

  • Lead sprint planning meetings

  • Conduct “retrospective” reviews to see what went well and what can be improved for the following sprint

  • Keep a pulse on team members, through individual meetings or other means of communication

  • Manage obstacles that arise for the team by communicating with stakeholders outside of the team

Read more: 7 In-Demand Scrum Master Certifications 2021

2. Product owner

A product owner makes sure the Scrum team is aligned with the goals of the overall product that the team is contributing to. They understand the business needs of the product, like customer expectations, and market trends. Because they have to understand how the Scrum team fits into bigger picture goals, product owners usually stay in touch with product managers and other stakeholders outside the team. 

Product owners might find themselves with the following responsibilities:

  • Manage the product backlog by ordering work by priority

  • Set the product vision for the team

  • Communicate with external stakeholders and translate their needs to the team

  • Make sure the team is focused on hitting product needs through communication and evaluating progress

3. Development team

A development team is composed of the professionals who do the hands-on work of completing the tasks in a Scrum sprint. This means development team members can be computer engineers, designers, writers, data analysts, or any other role needed to reach sprint goals. The development team doesn’t just wait for orders; they usually collaborate to map out goals and plans for achieving them.

Not all development team members will always have the same responsibilities. For example if you’re updating a website, you might have a front-end engineer, UX designer, copywriter, and marketing professional all working on the same Scrum team. The responsibilities of a development team will also depend on the end goals of the Scrum team. Broadly speaking however, you might find that a development team can be tasked with the following:

  • Help in sprint planning and goal setting

  • Lend expertise to program, design, or improve products

  • Use data to find best practices for development

  • Test products and prototypes, plus other forms of quality assurance

Getting started with Scrum

Whether you’re an aspiring Scrum master or trying to incorporate Scrum principles into your team, the first step to getting started is to learn more about the project management methodology. If you’re looking for a place to start, check out the Google Project Management: Professional Certificate. A course dedicated to Agile and Scrum concepts can provide you with a solid foundation to get started.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

How much does a Scrum master make?

Professionals who are dedicated Scrum masters make an average salary of $97,757 in the US, according to Glassdoor data as of August 2021 [4]. Senior Scrum masters make an average base salary of $115,167, Glassdoor reports.

Should Scrum roles be merged?

Distinguishing the three roles in Scrum—Scrum master, product owner, and development team—is meant to heighten the transparency, efficiency, and adaptability of a team. In classic Scrum teams, the three roles are considered vital to success.

However, many organizations adapt Scrum principles to best fit their needs. For example, seasoned developers might find that they can distribute the management of a project amongst themselves and operate without a Scrum master. If you’re considering merging roles, make sure to have processes in place to make sure product priorities are considered, and Scrum principles upheld.

Is a Scrum master a project manager?

Scrum masters can be considered a type of project manager, but their definitions differ in some basic ways. While a Scrum master keeps a Scrum team on track and in sync with Scrum principles, a project manager is more concerned with elements of a project’s success—things like staying within budget, meeting timelines, and hitting goals. Keep in mind that Scrum is a specific type of project management. So if you’re a project manager, you might be asked to take on Scrum master roles.

Do I need a Scrum master?

If you want to stick to Scrum as it’s spelled out in the Scrum Guide, you’ll want to have a Scrum master. Scrum masters can be especially crucial if no other team members have practiced Scrum before. That said, many teams might practice Scrum without a Scrum master if they have a good amount of experience with Scrum already.

Some companies hire a Scrum master specifically for this role. Others tap project managers within their organization to help a Scrum team get started.

Article sources

1. Digital.ai. "15th State of Agile Report, https://stateofagile.com/." Accessed August 17, 2021.

2. Dice. "Project Management: Biggest Tech Skill in Demand, https://insights.dice.com/2021/07/08/project-management-biggest-tech-skill-in-demand/." Accessed August 17, 2021.

3. Scrum Guides. "The Scrum Guide, https://scrumguides.org/docs/scrumguide/v2020/2020-Scrum-Guide-US.pdf." Accessed August 17, 2021.

4. Glassdoor. "Scrum Master Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/scrum-master-salary-SRCH_KO0,12.htm." Accessed August 17, 2021.

Written by Coursera • Updated on Aug 17, 2021

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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