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What is the difference between a Scrum Master and a Product Owner?

The difference between a Scrum Master and a Product Owner really boils down to their focus.

A product owner thinks about the customer, represents the customer, and makes sure that the customer’s problem is solved.

The product owner ensures that the right product is being built. They are actively looking for the best fit they can to support that customer. To achieve customer delight.

So, a product owner is going to be thinking:

  • What are the items that need to be built?
  • What are the features that need to be built?
  • Are we talking to the right customers?
  • Are we building the right product for the right customers?
  • Are there different customers out there that we need to be thinking about?
  • Who are the stakeholders and what is most important to them?

These are just some of the questions that a product owner is going to be focused on. A product owner is very much like the CEO of a product. They ought to own everything to do with the product and be the final decision maker.

A Scrum Master, whilst interested in the product, is not focused exclusively on the product. That isn’t their role. What the team is delivering is the responsibility of the development team and the product owner. Scrum Masters need to be looking at other parts of the business.

A Scrum Master is looking at impediments.

  • What is in the way?
  • What is preventing the team from achieving their goals and objectives?
  • What is coming up during the process that can be removed to ensure that the team are able to excel within their environment?

In addition to this, they are looking at the team in a broader light.

  • What could be causing problems within the team?
  • Are the team learning to be self-organising, self-managing and autonomous?
  • Are the team learning to take responsibility and ownership for their own actions?

The Scrum Master has a very different focus. It does not matter what the development team are building because the Scrum Master is looking at other things. They are acting as a coach and seeking to create an environment where the team can consistently excel.

A Scrum Master will also be engaging with other parts of the organization to assist the team remove any impediments to progress and will act as the ambassador for the Scrum Team in assisting the team to achieve their goals and objectives.

Their focus is on servant-leadership in service of the Scrum Team. Visit ‘what is a Scrum Team’ for more information on each role within the Scrum Team.

If you are interested in becoming a Scrum Master, visit the Certified Scrum Master page. If you are interested in becoming a Product Owner, visit the Certified Scrum Product Owner page.

Frequently Asked Scrum Master Questions

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