How Is a Scrum Product Owner Different From a Scrum Master?

If you are new to Scrum, you may be wondering what the difference is between a Scrum Product Owner and a Scrum Master.  Following are some of the key competencies of each role, with an emphasis on soft skills and technical or business competencies.

Scrum Product Owner

A Product Owner (PO) is an important member of the Scrum team. The primary responsibility of the product owner is to develop, maintain, and order the Product Backlog. The PO also is responsible for presenting and explaining the Product Backlog to the Development Team. The PO also manages the overall vision, return on investment, and release of the product.

In addition, the PO is also responsible for satisfying the customer and is ultimately accountable to the customer for the overall success of the project. PO’s will typically spend half their time with the customer/sales/marketing and the other half working closely with developers, clarifying specifications.

A well-rounded Product Owner will have strong communication and relationship-building skills, along with solid product experience. Experience with the product may require some level of technical expertise to explain technical features to customers and to understand the development process as well.

Scrum Master

The Scrum Master ensures that goals, scope, and product domain are understood by everyone on the Team. In addition, the Scrum Master is the coach that works to ensure that Scrum is adopted correctly within the organization. Arguably, the most important role of a Scrum Master is to remove impediments and coach the Development Team to function efficiently through self-organization and cross-functionality.

Solid coaching and mentoring skills are critical for a Scrum Master to be successful. Additionally, communication, observation, and listening skills will help the Scrum Master to discuss best practices and share experiences that help the team and organization work together and develop strong cohesiveness.

While the skill sets of the Scrum Master and Product Owner may differ, the roles do compliment each other. Both roles require the ability to collaborate and communicate. These overlapping skills help to develop a strong partnership between the Scrum Master and Product Owner, which in turn, helps to maintain high morale and productivity within the team.

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