Agile Scrum Roles – Scrum Master, Product Owner and Development Team

If you are reading this article, it is probably because you're interested in understanding more about Agile Scrum practices. If you’re looking to understand the meaning of Agile and Scrum, you can find a more detailed description in this article.

There are 3 main roles related with Agile and Scrum practices, listed below.

3 Roles of Agile Scrum

  • Scrum Master;
  • Product Owner;
  • Development Team;

It's important to stick to these roles, and only these roles, to avoid any misunderstanding or the creation of barriers and silos inside the cooperation and communication of the Scrum teams.

There are 5 important characteristics that are extremely important for Scrum teams:

  • Teams must be Self-Organized. All team components must manage their own efforts to complete the assignment that has been given. In Agile Scrum there is no figure of the Team Leader or Line Manager. Everybody must be committed enough to perform their own activities and contribute to the success of the team. If one fails, everybody fails.
  • Teams must be Cross-functional. All team members together must possess all required knowledge and skills to deliver a service or product that is well done and ready to use. A specialist can be used in necessary cases, but only as a coach who transfers the knowledge to the team to fulfill a specific gap.
  • Being a Product Owner Requires a Business Vision. The Product Owner represents the voice of the customer and needs to translate their needs to the Scrum Master and Development Teams. This is usually a full-time job.
  • The Scrum Master is not a Line Manager. They help to provide the required coach to the Development team and also help to remove any barrier that the team faces.

No More than 9 Team Members. Everything that you need to deliver and all the skills that are required to deliver a product or a service must be achieved by only nine team members. The group must be small enough but sufficient enough to collaborate together to bring the product and/or the service live and ready to be used.

Product Owner Role

One thing is certain: every single team MUST have a Product Owner to provide the business vision and requirements for the service and/or product. Imagine the result if we only developed services and/or products based on technical requirements without considering the customer’s needs? In the beginning, it would probably work, but in the long term this is unsustainable because the features will not meet the customer’s needs and desires. Who is going to pay the bill?

The Product Owner will fill the bridge between the Business and the Technical Teams, or in other words, the Scrum Teams. There is one Product Owner for each product or service, and only one. She/he will represent the voice of the customer, and help to maximize the value of the project, product or service. The role of the Product Owner does not necessarily require technical knowledge, but the Product Owner must be competent in a number of other areas, such as:

  • Service Level Management

Management of target dates and an understanding of best approach methods will help a Product Owner. The whole team is responsible for delivering the features according with the target date. But it is the Product Owner that will perform the negotiations with the customers.

  • Product or Service Planning

Management of the Product Backlog is a basic skill that must be developed for those looking to become a Product Owner. Of course, the Scrum Master and Development Team will be able to evaluate and attend planning, but the responsibility of keeping the Product Backlog still belongs to the Product Owner.

  • Architecture Design and Application Design

This skill is not quite as important as the others on this list, but I always like to think that when a business person possesses at least a vague technical knowledge, it helps to define better requirements and goals.

  • Needs Identification

The Product Owner will be responsible for understanding the requirements for the product and/or service, as well as the translation of these needs to the Scrum Master and Development Team. Later this will become part of the Product Backlog and transformed into the User Story. A good Product Owner definitely needs to know how to identify business needs. There is no room for discussion on this subject.

  • Project and Portfolio Management

In Agile Scrum there is no role of Project Manager, but the Product Owner must manage the Product Backlog. This means that she or he must understand how to manage the features that are going to be delivered within the User Story as part of the Product Backlog.

  • Relationship Management

In Agile Scrum there is no Line Manager, because teams are self-organized. This means that establishing and managing a relationship is quite important to better balance the way that assignments are given and also manage the relationship with the business and customers.

  • Business Change Management
    • Changes in the project are always welcome in Agile Scrum practices. But more than that, business sometimes can change not only the product and/or the service, but also the business itself and its stakeholders, and the Product Owner must be ready to manage it and perform the changes that are required.

The main responsibilities of the Product Owner are:

  • Develop the direction and strategy for the products and services, including the short and long-time goals;
  • Provide or have access to knowledge about the product or the service;
  • Understand and explain customer needs for the Development team;
  • Gather, prioritize and manage the product or service requirements;
  • Take over any responsibilities related to the product or service budget, including its profitability;
  • Determine the release date for the product or service features;
  • Work together with the development team on a daily basis to answer questions and take decisions;
  • Accept or reject completed features related to the Sprints;
  • Show the main realizations of the development team in the end of each Sprint;
  • Responsible for the Product Backlog.

Scrum Master Role

The Scrum Master plays a crucial role inside the Agile Scrum practices, he or she will be responsible for managing the Scrum Process but not the Development team. The Scrum Master is a servant leader, responsible for removing any barrier and impediments that arise during the project. Additionally when it is required, the Scrum Master also will help other parts of the organization (outside of the Development team) to understand Agile Scrum practices – sometimes this can be very helpful, especially when an organization is adopting these practices.

Why doesn’t the Scrum Manager manage the Development Team? This is because the Teams must be self-organized enough to deliver what is being required by the business, so the Scrum Master is responsible for guiding the Team and coaching them, but not being their Line Manager.

Sometimes organizations believe that past experienced technical professionals can become great Scrum Masters, and this is neither true nor false. Becoming a good Scrum Master is about having the right skills, which is completely independent of past background. Listed here are some of the skills that I believe are important for a good Scrum Master:

  • Service Level Management

The Scrum Master needs to understand how to guide the Development team to reach the goals that are being defined during the Sprint Planning. Without this knowledge or prioritization, the Development team may take a turn in the wrong direction;

  • Architecture Design

The Development Team must be guided sometimes about how to design solutions that will fulfill the business and customer needs. It's quite important that the Scrum Master understands basic concepts related to certain different components, so that they can use them to design a complete solution.

  • Component Integration

This skill is closely related to Architecture Design, and the same explanation applies.

  • Testing

In Agile Scrum practices the services and products must be delivered with quality and efficiency. This means that the features must be completely tested before being released to the business/customer. The Scrum Master can guide the Development Team into deciding which kind of test should be used for a specific feature and how to do it.

  • Education and Training Provision

The Scrum Master is responsible for coaching and guiding the Development team around Agile Scrum practices, and additionally (as described above) other parts of the organizations can be trained by the Scrum Master. This skill will guarantee that Scrum Masters operate on a higher level, being able not only to coach, but also to train team members in the Agile Scrum practices within the organization.

  • Personnel Development

Some components of the Development Team will require more attention from the Scrum Master, some of them because they are completely new in Agile Scrum practices. They must be coached and developed to attend the development in an appropriate way.

  • Project and Portfolio Management

The Scrum Master should have Project Management skills to facilitate the understanding of the teams about how to manage the necessary activities to complete the Sprints.

  • Risk Management

A bunch of decisions will be made during a project, including how the development team should build a feature for the product or the service. Usually the Scrum Master needs to understand the risks of developing a feature in a certain way instead of another. When this happens, a good risk assessment will help to define the appropriate way to build the feature.

  • Process Improvement
    • Agile Scrum is about continuous improvement, including the process. This means that during the reviews at the end of the delivery, the Scrum Master can guide the team to chase improvements that will help to ease the next development.

The main responsibilities of the Scrum Master are:

  • Act as a coach, helping the team to follow scrum values and practices;
  • Help to remove impediments and protect the team from external interferences;
  • Promote a good cooperation between the team and stakeholders;
  • Facilitate common sense within the team;
  • Protect the team from organization distractions;

Development Team (Team) Role

The Development team is formed with from 3 to 9 people who MUST fulfill all technical needs to deliver the product or the service. They will be guided directly by the Scrum Master, but they will not be directly managed. They must be self-organized, versatile, and responsible enough to complete all required tasks.

Usually when a new team starts to work, it takes time until they have enough affinity to combine their knowledge. This is completely normal, and they will face a learning curve that will be facilitated by the Scrum Master on a daily basis. It's not recommended to change team components very often, in order to avoid any kind of productivity decrease due to personal changes.

The main responsibilities of the Teams are:

  • Create and deliver the products or services;
  • Be self-organized and self-managed. The Teams must be able to determine its own tasks and how they will perform it;
  • Cross-functional. Teams are not combined with a single skill, but multiple different skills;
  • Are dedicated for a product or a service.
  • Recommended to work in the same work space.

For a deeper understanding of artifacts and events of Agile Scrum, check out some of our other articles, available here.


Ademar Albertin

EXIN Program Manager