Charlêne Dickson

Collaboration between Scrum Masters & Product Owners

According to many authorities on Scrum, the roles of a Product Owner vs. the role of a Scrum Master are fairly safely described as ‘worlds apart’.  How much does that resonate with most people actively involved in the product though and do most Product Owners and Scrum Masters agree.

Firstly let’s quote some definitions.

According to the Scrum Alliance:

“The Product Owner decides what will be built and in which order.”

“The Scrum Master is a facilitative team leader who ensures that the team adheres to its chosen process and removes blocking issues.”

According to Jeff Sutherland, Ph.D. and Ken Schwaber (Co-Creators of Scrum) written in ‘The Scrum Papers: Nuts, Bolts, and Origins of an Agile Process’:

“The Product Owner is responsible for taking all the inputs into what the product should be from the customer or end-user of the product, as well as from Team Members and stakeholders and translating them into a product vision. In some cases, the Product Owner and the customer are one and the same; in other cases, the customer might actually be millions of different people with a variety of needs. The Product Owner role maps to the Product Manager or Product Marketing Manager position in many organizations.”

“The Scrum Master is tasked with doing whatever is necessary to help the team be successful.  The Scrum Master is not the manager of the team; he or she serves the team, by helping remove blocks to the team’s success, facilitating meetings, and supporting the practice of Scrum.”

According to Collabnet:

“The Product Owner is responsible for communicating the vision of the product to the development team. He or she must also represent the customer’s interests through requirements and prioritization.

“The Scrum Master acts as a liaison between the Product Owner and the team. The Scrum Master does not manage the team. Instead, he or she works to remove any impediments that are obstructing the team from achieving its sprint goals. In short, this role helps the team remain creative and productive, while making sure its successes are visible to the Product Owner. The Scrum Master also works to advise the Product Owner about how to maximize ROI for the team.”

These definitions indicate quite clearly to the fact that the role of the Scrum Master spans beyond simple facilitation, impediment removal and gate-keeping.  The Scrum Master in fact extends his/her hand far over the fence to the business side, to collaborate with the Product Owner to a very large degree.  They extract and define not only processes related to the development work but long before that and long after that.

True to my usual form, I would encourage you to break your current mindset about what you think Product Owners and Scrum Masters should be doing.  Consider instead that the ‘roles’ can be thought of as two specific main ‘scopes of action’ and within those two sets exist activities, responsibilities, areas of passion and interest.  These areas are both interdependent and interrelated.  Have a look at an example below of such ‘sets’:

Already you can begin to see there are clear relations between the two.  For example, below are some interrelated and interdependent actions or areas of responsibility:

…to mention but a few.

There are many, many things that a Product Owner and Scrum Master must see eye to eye about and more importantly must collaborate on.  In addition to this both need to be cognisant of collaboration needed between one another, their Development Team, other teams, other departments and customers.  For the scope of this article I will focus on the collaboration between the Scrum Master and Product Owner.  Below are some very obvious and important areas of collaboration and focus is definitely important in these areas.





Whereas it is wise to remain within the confines of a process, the human element should be factored in.



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