Scrum Master or Product Owner: What Suits You Better?

It took some time, but Agile has definitely taken over the more traditional approaches to managing projects, especially in the software development industry. As a result, the demand for Scrum Masters and Product Owners is on the rise, as is the interest in courses that would provide the knowledge and the certificates needed to become a Scrum Master or a Product Owner.

If you have been thinking about these courses and certifications but aren’t sure which of these two roles would suit you better, you’ve come to the right place. This article will ask questions and the way you answer them will give you an idea of whether you would make a better Scrum Master or Product Owner.

You can start by learning more about the Scrum Master vs Product Owner division of responsibilities, just to get the general feeling of what the roles entail.

Are You a Strategist or a Tactician?

When getting work done, some people have a strategic approach in mind, always thinking about the big picture and a number of steps ahead. Others are better at finding quick solutions to emerging problems and putting out fires. The two roles we are discussing today roughly correspond to these.

On the one hand, you have the Product Owner who needs to be aware of the big picture at all times, to see the product as a whole and who can prioritize and plan out the course of action for the team months ahead. The Product Owner also takes care of the Product Backlog and successfully predicts the work that will lead to a successful product.

On the other hand, the Scrum Master is more of a tactician, someone who notices issues and reacts to them in a way that removes the impediments but also empowers the team as a whole. The Scrum Master ensures that new input does not disturb the team and that it is prepared to handle the newly-arisen situations efficiently.

It should be pointed out that this is a generalization and that both these roles will sometimes require the alternative approach. That being said, in general, strategic minds will be better Product Owners, while the tacticians will have more success as Scrum Masters.

How Good Are Your Communication Skills?

Communication is crucial in Agile, regardless of the role. However, there is one role in particular that requires great communication skills—the Scrum Master.

The majority of the Scrum Master’s responsibilities revolve around interactions with other members of the team and external stakeholders. The Scrum Master is the one who coaches the team in Agile practices, the one who ensures that the Product Owner understands the abilities and the capacities of the team, and who makes sure that the rest of the organization supports the team and does not impede it with non-Agile requests.

All of this needs to be communicated in a way that no one feels managed or coerced by the Scrum Master, as that would deny the whole purpose of Agile. The Scrum Master has to convey their messages in a calm, factual matter and give the other team members the chance to notice the problem and come to the solution on their own.

This is the best way to help the team grow and become better.

Of course, this is easier said than done and this is why communication skills are key for being a good Scrum Master. In other words, if you feel like you have great communication skills, you will most likely excel in the role of the Scrum Master.

Are You Comfortable With the Business Side of Software Development?

No software product exists for its own sake. It always has a certain business logic behind it, in terms of the problem it solves, the customers and the end users. In the software development world, there are two types of people—those who enjoy contemplating, discussing and being involved in this business aspect of developing software and those who don’t.

If you are one of the former, then the Product Owner role is perfect for you. The Product Owner is the one in Agile who takes care of the majority of the business side; interacts with the stakeholders, prioritizes the Product Backlog and ensures the rest of the team understands the business logic behind the product.

If you do not feel comfortable with this, the role of the Product Owner will be a chore for you, plain and simple.

How Empathetic Are You?

Being empathetic, noticing and understanding people’s feelings, is a useful trait no matter what you do or what role you have in the business world. In Agile, particularly empathetic people will find the most success as Scrum Masters.

For one, empathetic people will be able to notice certain problems within their team that the team members may not be willing to share directly. By doing so, empathetic Scrum Masters can not only resolve these issues, but also let their team members know they can count on them.

Empathetic Scrum Masters will also better understand the various relationships that develop as part of the everyday functioning of the team, between the Product Owner and development team, between external stakeholders and the Product Owner, etc.

If you are particularly perceptive of other people’s feelings and unspoken opinions, you would probably make for an amazing Scrum Master.

Do You Like Ordering People Around?

If you are a big fan of ordering people around, we have some bad news for you - neither the Scrum Master nor the Product Owner is a fit for you.

In fact, in such a case, Agile may not be for you.

Agile is all about self-organized and empowered teams. The Scrum Master and the Product Owner are there to assist such teams, coach them and ensure they are given every chance to succeed.

Closing Word

Hopefully, these questions will help you make the decision on whether to become a Scrum Master or a Product Owner. Of course, you will want to do additional research on the required hard skills for each, but these question should point you in the right direction.

About the Author

Jug BabićJug Babić

Jug Babić is a marketer at VivifyScrum, a company behind the eponymous Agile project management tool. He has spent the better part of the decade in digital marketing, focusing on how new technologies are reshaping the world of business. He guest blogs for Simplilearn on various Agile, Scrum and product development topics.

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