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Scrum Master vs. Project Manager: The Similarities & the Differences

Published on Thu 14, 2020
Scrum Master vs. Project Manager: The Similarities & the Differences


We are often asked about the difference between a scrum master and project manager in our scrum and project management training. While this might not be a difficult question for professionals who have spent considerable time in the domain, it sure looks confusing for young professionals. The question also troubles freshers, who are planning to build their career in project management.

In this article, we clear these doubts and will discuss questions like:

  • * Who is a Scrum Master?
  • * What are the Scrum Master’s roles and responsibilities?
  • * What Scrum Master’s do not do?
  • * Who are Project Managers?
  • * What are the roles of Project Managers?

Along with this, we will also discuss the similarities and differences between the two roles.


Let’s start by understanding the two roles in detail.


The Scrum Master

Who is a Scrum Master?

A scrum master is a person who is responsible for ensuring that the Scrum framework is being implemented properly by the scrum team. He does so by promoting and supporting the team, as defined in the Scrum guide. Scrum is a framework, and scrum masters make sure the team understands what scrum is. It is the job of Scrum master to make sure that the team enacts the scrum principles, rules, and values.


Roles & Responsibilities of Scrum Master

Scrum Master is a servant/leader who offers his/her support to the product manager. The duties of Scrum Master generally includes:

  • * Helping the product manager to manage the product backlog effectively
  • * Helping in communicating product needs to the development team
  • * Ensuring that the product manager knows how to manage the product backlog
  • * Facilitating Scrum events
  • * Coaching the development team to understand and follow scrum rules
  • * Helping in removing roadblocks to the team’s progress
  • * Assisting in maintaining team dynamics and delivering high –value results
  • * Contributing to the implementation of the scrum on an organizational level


What do Scrum Masters not do?

A scrum master’s roles can be more aligned to that of a coach, and he/she does not pay a lot of attention to the day-to-day activities. Scrum Masters do not perform tasks like:

  • * Creating and maintaining business cases
  • * Addressing changes and change requests
  • * Solely designing the project plans
  • * Gauging team progress and quality


The Project Manager

Who is a Project Manager?

A project manager is responsible for managing the day-to-day focus of the project. A project manager addresses the planning, procurement, and execution needs of the project. Along with this, project managers are often responsible for project support and team management.


Roles & Responsibilities of the Project Manager

The role spectrum of a project manager is much broader than that of a Scrum Master. Some of the tasks associated with the role of the project manager include:

  • * Defining project scope and identifying available resources
  • * Organizing and motivating the project team
  • * Define the project activities, sequence activities, identifying the timestamps to develop schedules and maintain the schedule
  • * Cost estimating and preparing the budget
  • * Ensuring customer satisfaction
  • * Identifying and managing project risks
  • * Monitoring and gauging the progress of the project
  • * Managing the essential reports and creating related documentations

These are just the most common tasks of the project manager, and the role may include several other administrative tasks as well.


Similarities between Scrum Masters and Project Managers

Although project managers and Scrum Masters are aligned to different frameworks and have different roles, there is some level of overlap between the two. While the overall approach of both Scrum master and project manager is different, there are certain characters, traits, and tasks that are common for both:

  • * Both are concerned about the performance of the team and find ways to improve the overall efficiency
  • * Both face limitations in terms of decision making. While scrum master assists product owners, a project manager has to seek inputs from clients and other stakeholders.
  • * Both the roles require a person to hold extensive experience in the respective frameworks


Differences between Scrum Master and Project Manager

While there is some similarity between the two roles, the differences outweigh the similarities. Because of entirely different frameworks, there is a lot of difference in roles, responsibilities, industry, and commitments. Some of these differences are:

  • * Scrum Masters often have to rigidly follow the scrum framework, whereas project managers have higher flexibility in the approach they select.
  • * On the front of knowledge areas, scrum manager majorly focuses on resource management, quality management, and knowledge management. Project managers, on the other hand, focuses on all the knowledge areas of project management.
  • * As scrum is best implemented in small teams, Scrum masters generally deals with smaller units. Project managers manage a bigger team.
  • * While the Scrum Master coaches the team on the Scrum framework and helps them in realizing it, the project manager takes a more direct approach by preparing the work schedule for the team members. Project managers also are responsible for managing work packages, people, and resources, while the Scrum master does not indulge in these tasks.
  • * A project manager has to create and update several documentations like project brief, budget, risk log, etc. A Scrum Master does not have to create or maintain such documentation.


It is essential to understand that the two roles are very different from each other. While the project manager is more of a leadership role, the part of a scrum master is more aligned towards coaching and mentoring. One thing is sure, both these roles are crucial in the respective frameworks and require a professional to hold both extensive experience and knowledge.

If you are working to build a career in project management, you can opt for:

CAPM: If you are in the beginning stage of your career

PMP: If you already have extensive project management experience

PMI-ACP: If you have experience in agile project management and want to explore the project management type or validate your experience in it.

If you want to build a career as a Scrum Master, you can consider taking CSM certification. If you are a scrum product owner, CSPO can significantly benefit you.  

Certification Planner, LLC, is a global training provider that offers training courses designed by industry experts for these certifications. You can explore the certification options at or directly drop your query at

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