What is a Scrum Master? Why They're Vital to Project Success - LiquidPlanner

What is a Scrum Master? Why They’re Vital to Project Success

Team LiquidPlanner | September 29, 2020

What is a scrum master? Find out about what Scrum is to begin with and how a master can help you grow your team’s effectiveness.
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Businesses are constantly working to refine their workflows and improve profitability. Unfortunately, business practices throughout the whole of a company are rarely transparent. It’s common for delays and mistakes to occur, and with today’s fast-moving markets, it’s also possible for products to be outdated before they even ship. 

In order to streamline workflows and create a more dynamic system that can improve upon itself, Scrum is used to help organize project management. In this piece, we’ll cover what Scrum is and how Scrum masters can use their skills to drive up productivity.

What is a Scrum Master?

To understand the role of a Scrum master and what they do, we first have to cover what scrum is in the first place. Like many big buzzwords, it’s easy to attribute Scrum to better business practice, but difficult to explain exactly what it is and how it works. 

At its core, Scrum is a framework that’s built to handle complex problems. Rather than being a rigid methodology for business practice, it’s a dynamic framework that incorporates productive, creative ideas to develop quality projects. It can be adapted to suit just about any kind of team to help it manage goals and workflow in increasingly better ways.

Ideally, a Scrum framework looks something like this:

  • Backlog: A project backlog is created. This backlog contains everything a project needs in order to be completed, including tasks, resources, and other important details.
  • Sprint Planning: A sprint plan is a weekly plan created to meet specific goals that will contribute to the project’s overall completion.
  • Sprint Backlog: Much like the project backlog, this includes every task and item that needs to be completed to successfully meet project goals.
  • Daily Meetings: The Scrum team, essentially the team set on completing the project, engages in brief daily meetings to make sure each member has everything they need and that any prospective problems are immediately addressed.
  • Sprint Review: At the end of the week, an assessment is conducted to evaluate how goals were met and how improvements may be implemented.
  • Sprint Retrospective: Potential problems and solutions found in the sprint review are addressed and incorporated into the new sprint plan for the next week.

Much like the name implies, a Scrum Master is the person responsible for managing this framework within a company. They work directly with the Scrum team to keep goals on track but don’t actually involve themselves with the decision-making processes for the company. Because analysis and review are implemented week by week, the framework has the flexibility to make needed changes that meet project goals or possibly even surpass them.

When do You Need a Scrum Master?

A Scrum master benefits multiple people, including clients, upper management, developers, and really anyone who stands to gain from better-managed projects as a whole. This can be broken down simply by the individual parties affected by a Scrum master’s work:

The Development Team: Scrum masters are defined as servant-leaders, meaning they have a unique place between the teams working on a project and the other parts of a company that relies on the team’s work. Rather than being upper management with all the pressure associated with that, Scrum masters work as approachable equals to the team who can mediate the needs of developers with the managers and other departments within a company. Their sole goal is to understand and improve upon the framework moving the project forward, and therefore they can offer a unique, helpful perspective to everyone involved with it.

Project Owners: One of the most common errors that projects can come across is miscommunicated standards and expectations. A Scrum master helps communicate the needs and goals of project owners to the development team so that goals and realistic deadlines can be met.

The Organization: Improving the productivity of a team can affect the organization at large. Scrum masters are great at improving cross-functionality and productivity, which in turn boosts the performance of other teams within a business.

What Should You Look for in a Scrum Master?

Besides understanding what a Scrum Master is, it’s also important to understand what qualities they should bring to a company. At the very least, Scrum masters are expected to be experts of Scrum itself, which includes a variety of terminology, strategy, and project management that falls under a variety of different certifications. You should also look for these basic skills that are incorporated into Scrum management:

Organizational Savvy: Scrum masters have to implement entire systems to manage teams, and therefore should display competence in organizing workflows and project backlogs.

Technical Skill: Scrum masters are responsible for handling software built for Scrum users, so it only makes sense that you should look for those who have the technical familiarity to implement Scrum into digital frameworks.

Coaching Proficiency: Scrum masters lead teams to improve the quality and speed of projects, so they need to have a personality and the skills that can inspire and manage teams.

At the end of the day, a Scrum Master is a person who can resolve conflicts, improve workflows, and create frameworks that help teams reach their maximum potential. If your company is hurting in one or more areas when it comes to effectively managing projects, a Scrum master is a great investment to improve upon your business practices.

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