Scrum is without a doubt one of the most used Agile project management methodologies in the field of IT development. The Scrum master guarantees the implementation and application of the Scrum methodology within the project team. He ensures as well that the team can be independent with the method in order to obtain good productivity. It is important to note that there is no hierarchical relationship between the Scrum master and the rest of the team, to which he is perfectly integrated.
Role of the Scrum Master
If the project manager in a conventional project management methodology (V cycle or cascade, for example) has a role of coordinator and decision maker, this is not the case with the Scrum master, who has more of a role of facilitator.
The Scrum master is fully part of the project team and has several missions.
Guarantor of the Scrum methodology
The first consists of ensuring that the Scrum methodology is properly applied. He/she verifies that the various method concepts are acquired and accepted and that roles are correctly distributed and understood by all (product owner, developer …). If all skills necessary to use the Scrum methodology are not assimilated, he/she has the opportunity to train team members who may need them in Agile methods. He/she thus has a role as an Agile coach within the team (product owner included).
His/her role is not to lead the project team, but to help it move forward, always working on the various areas for improvement. The Scrum master is also the organizer and facilitator of the various methodology “rituals”, such as daily scrum meetings (short meetings, 15 minutes maximum, allowing each person to present what he or she did the day before, what he or she intends to achieve during the day and the problems encountered), the planning pokers (estimating and planning the different functionalities to be carried out) or the agile retrospectives (meeting at the end of a sprint allowing everyone to express themselves on what worked well, on what has been a drag on the team and on the areas of improvement on which to work during the next sprint).
His/her second mission is to be a facilitator. The Scrum master must identify any problems arising in the project that may reduce the team’s productivity or slow down their work in order to eliminate them as quickly as possible. If a problem of material, human resources, premises or other occurs, the Scrum master will work to solve it, or to quickly contact the people who can do so, in order for the team to continue working in proper conditions. The Scrum master also serves as an interface between the outside world and the project team, so that the latter may work independently and so that neither its concentration nor its functioning are impaired by disruptive elements.
Finally, the Scrum master needs to update progress burndown charts in order to keep track of developments occurring in past and current sprints, and to monitor the predictability of future sprints. Communication with management (as well as with the development team and the product owner) has to be done in a completely transparent way. Thanks to the various agile tools and to Scrum “rituals”, including the daily scrum meeting, it is possible to follow the evolution of the project every day.
Qualities of a Scrum Master
The Scrum master must have communication facilities and be able to use diplomacy to manage conflicts that are likely to arise during the project. He or she may have to carry out negotiations.
As an Agile coach, he or she must also be able to demonstrate teaching ability, in order to train the team members in the Scrum methodology if necessary, or to ensure that the assigned roles are respected.
The Scrum master must know how to remain humble because he is not there to lead the team. There is no hierarchical relationship; he is not the superior of anyone and his main objective is to help the team to work and to advance, in order to deliver added value to the product and therefore to the client. He is part of the team and engages with it in the same way as any of its members.
Finally, the Scrum master must have leadership qualities and be able to motivate his team to be their best.
Skills of the Scrum Master
1- Mastering the Scrum methodology
Naturally, as a guarantor of its application, it is imperative to master Scrum perfectly.
2- Technical skills
It is not absolutely necessary to have technical skills to become a Scrum master, however, some technical experience and / or business knowledge of the future application will make it easier to communicate with the technical team and the product owner.
3- Mastering project management skills
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Scrum Master curriculum
The Scrum master usually comes from IT training, such as that for a computer engineer or developer. This technical knowledge subsequently allows him or her to communicate more easily with development team members as well as with the product owner.
He or she has then completed training specific to the Scrum methodology and more particularly to the role of Scrum Master, resulting in a Scrum Master certification.
Scrum Master Salaries
The salary scale of a Scrum master falls within the following ranges:
- Junior (1-2 years of experience): from 42k to 51k USD
- Confirmed (3-5 years of experience): from 51k to 60k USD
- Senior (more than 5 years of experience): more than 62k USD
Employment and career development
Most Scrum master positions are offered by web agencies, start-ups, software publishers or ESNs. It is usually a matter of integrating teams initially with 6 to 10 people that will work on small projects, then, gradually, to take more and more important projects.
A Scrum master may evolve and become a Product owner, Project manager or full-time Agile coach (usually as a freelancer).