How can Scrum be a part of Project Management?

June 26, 2019 By

Role of a Project Manager in Scrum

The role of a project manager within the Scrum setup is often debated. Its relevance, function and authority in the volatility of an agile atmosphere are thought to be conflicting. The anarchy in the absence of a project manager is disastrous.

On the other hand, with change management being a part of almost every business’ strategy, it is not surprising why scrum masters are in high demand in organisations across industries.

The certified Scrum master would have an important role in specialised projects. Given its relatively new role in the market, Scrum masters are in charge of coaching the team, protecting the employees’ best interests and ensuring their quality compliance.

But in most cases, the two roles often overlap, especially in average projects with a low-risk profile. The downside is that it would lead to ‘over-managed’ teams, who would be frustrated with two opposing parties to report to.

However, for relatively large and unstructured projects, the role of the project manager in terms of agile scrum is best described as the facilitator of relationships and communication.

Let’s look into detail at the different responsibilities of the project manager in a Scrum setup.

What Are The Scrum Master’s Responsibilities in Project Management?

1. Minimizing the implications of the product backlog

The project manager within a scrum setup is involved in all the details that define the project.

From financial management to every other aspect, he/she is a hands-on champion of the team. It also includes being involved in all the areas where the product’s release or delay will be impacted.

The role would also entail studying the backlog closely to weed out unnecessary items, with a focus on improving the important ones. In other words, it assesses incoming priorities before deciding to override existing ones. It makes sure that the features remain relevant through changing priorities.

In addition, there are also certain methodologies such as agile and scrum, which can be subscribed to for your project, before you can move onto structuring backlogs and releases.

2. Managing stakeholders both internal and external

It is imperative that project managers understand the feasibility of timelines, which is also an important aspect of agile project management. An overall consensus on project deadlines would help maintain realistic dates for main project milestones.

This will protect both the interests of the deadlines as well as the team’s workload while at it.

Timeline negotiations can be a rather niche area to just be the responsibility of the manager. Drawing feasible timelines and preventing unsolicited changes are crucial for the successful delivery of a Scrum project.

And the manager’s inability to do so wreck the team’s spirit, drive and general well-being. Given the develop-evaluate-repeat process that Scrum follows, release dates will practically be the most crucial aspect to manage.

3. Establishing seamless communication

As teams get categorized within their niches in an agile scrum setup, communications can begin to suffer. There can be a certain amount of awkwardness among members to be upfront and concise.

In addition, they also need to be collaborative enough and be able to express opinions clearly.

The role of the project manager is not only to make their staff comfortable but to also seek their help to deliver tangible outcomes. With newer formats of working, feedback and discussions can help create a new way of working, rather than adhering to stereotypical norms.

These functions, which were non-existent in old, silo-based work cultures, would become one of the major responsibilities of the project manager. They would have to become the facilitator and the primary point of contact, helping different parties evaluate each others’ points of view.

4. Facilitating agreement on the product roadmap

The fact that agility – of which Scrum is a subtype- is gaining the momentum it is, can be attributed to the changing nature of product roadmaps and business priorities.

The project manager, here, takes the role of a decision-maker and liaise between the product owner and the team.

Major decisions on the product are taken, including important meetings, revenue generation, relevance or innovation. The product manager will need to stand with the product owner and help him/her root for features that really add value.

Often, this requires an analytical bent of mind and a strong sense of confidence in the product roadmap as well as stakeholder management skills.

5. Sound financial and change management

Within the agile methodology, a project manager’s role expands and becomes the centre of a change management process in the organisation. This would include taking care of financial and other emergencies, along with a newer approach towards completing tasks. This can range from status updates, revenue analysis, periodic budget reviews to the overall management of the process.

When the project is relatively traditional and involves different departments, this can either dilute and branch into further relationship management responsibilities spread across divisions.

On the other hand, for a relatively small team, the project manager will often be the go-to person to oversee such responsibilities.

The Different Possibilities Within A Scrum Setup

1. Roles of both Scrum Master and Project Manager

The roles are similar, and yet different. While the project manager has responsibilities ranging from project planning, execution and monitoring, the Scrum master is concerned with the overall adoption of the Scrum methodology and compliance. With a scrum master certification, they would also be able to facilitate small periods of activities, or sprints. He, or she would also ensure that everyone concerned is participating in the sprint cycle and the meeting.

Often, the scrum master coaches while project managers instinctively direct. The roles are both driven by processes and hence will see individuals in complementing roles, as long as the lines are clear enough. If the responsibilities are not defined, there can be unnecessary complications and tension among teams in how duties are performed and the team’s way of handling multiple managers.

2. The Product Owner as the Project Manager

This is quite a rare scenario since the product owner is often chosen from within the business so that his/her wealth of domain expertise and experience can help the company. Critical decision-making, clearing product backlogs, and strategies which surround the product are only some of the activities that they would handle.

On the other hand, the role of the project manager would involve being highly data-driven and organized. Product owners don’t necessarily come equipped with these qualities. So when a manager has to take care of both spectrums, it is important that he/she get acquainted with the aspects that are do not come naturally to him/her. This could only take place in a Scrum setup, which has the possibility of diversifying the traditional roles in an organisation.

3. Project Manager as the Scrum Master

With low-key projects, it is not uncommon to find the project manager and the scrum master roles fuse into one comprehensive role which defines the whole product roadmap. This would include both the business side of responsibilities as well as process-driven ones, which is the mark of a project manager.

Such projects though are categorized by minimal requirements, low risks and a small team wherein stakeholders are fairly comfortable with one another. When the project is relatively risk-prone or large-scale, the need for a resource management process becomes important in the long run.

It is acceptable to have a dedicated Scrum master, and have a project manager step-in as well so that there is enough attention paid to details.

Assess your project’s various requirements before you decide which one of the combinations you’ll need in order to manage the risk appetite described. This way, the journey is both smooth and significantly engaging.

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Emon Dastidar

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