No Scrum Master? No Problem

How should Enterprises fill the Scrum Master Role?

I field this question very often and especially from members of technology organizations where agile and scrum in particular is being introduced top down from Management. I've blogged a bit on Product Owners in the Enterprise and Why Project Managers are still needed, but what about Scrum Masters?

Some Thoughts

Here's how this question surfaced over the last week:
  • I met a colleague the other day who's been successful with Agile Development but was hitting a snag. He had a couple of contractors acting as scrum masters and hadn't found a person on his team to fill this critical role.
  • Then, in a subsequent session on Redefining Application Development with Offshore Agile, Greg Reiser presented several organizational models for offshore agile development. Guess what! No scrum masters - they've replaced them with Iteration Managers that have some of the responsibilities of the Scrum Master but also mixed in with other traditional project manager questions.
This role, rather than focusing on just the mechanics of project management, planning and execution, is geared to being the ultimate team advocate, protector of team productivity, facilitator and communicator.

My Thoughts On Scrum Masters and other Roles in the SDLC

When staffing a department or a team, you often have to make some tough choices on the type of people and skills needed. Do you need a business analyst and a project manager? Will a team become more productive if there is a build engineer? Do you need QA Analysts, Engineers, or Testers and in what proportion to developers?

So when it comes to the Scrum Master, here is what I recommend:

1) Understanding the role and responsibilities really well because it includes responsibilities we usually ascribe to either a project manager or a team lead.

2) Decide what responsibilities are clearly needed across your development teams.

3) Think through how best to assign these responsibilities based on the talents of your team members and the structure by which you implement the SDLC.

4) Recognize if you need some training.

5) Review your process and metrics and make adjustments.

So for example, if you have a small number of co-located teams, you might be able to get away with a shared scrum master across them. If you have a larger number of teams, you'll probably need the team leads to fulfill the responsibilities of the scrum master and then have a separate project manager coordinate activities across teams. (Note: Scrum of scrums really works for this scenario!). We've had success at times having a rotating scrum master with a passing of the baton every 1-2 iterations.

Bottom line, I agree with Martin Fowler and do not think agile or scrum is a fixed process and set of responsibilities. It's a framework that needs to be adapted to the situation. Same is true for fulfilling the scrum master responsibilities.


  1. Your post is helpful and informative.
    Web Development

  2. A project manager is often a client representative and has to determine and implement the exact needs of the client, based on knowledge of the firm they are representing. The ability to adapt to the various internal procedures of the contracting party, and to form close links with the nominated representatives, is essential in ensuring that the key issues of cost, time, quality and above all, client satisfaction, can be realized.

    Project Management Software

  3. The project team select the highest priority requirements (as specified by the product owner) they think they can build in 4 weeks. So time is fixed, cost is fixed, the highest priority business needs are defined, and how much is achieved (scope) is based on the team’s productivity level.

  4. In my experience as both an internal and external process improvement team member, it takes an external catalyst to reach a broad enough segment of the organization to attain critical mass and create a self-sustaining effort.

  5. In my experience as both an internal and external process improvement team member, it takes an external catalyst to reach a broad enough segment of the organization to attain critical mass and create a self-sustaining effort.

  6. Makes sense i believe,Basically right now there is a section who is being appreciated for the sort of outcome they have been getting from this thing and this is how it is i feel, benefits of agile methodology can actually help us with learning a lot more.


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About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO, a technology leadership company that guides organizations on building digital transformation core competencies. He is the author of Digital Trailblazer and the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital and speaks about agile planning, devops, data science, product management, and other digital transformation best practices. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a digital transformation influencer, and has over 900 articles published at InfoWorld,, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites. You can find him sharing new insights @NYIke on Twitter, his Driving Digital Standup YouTube channel, or during the Coffee with Digital Trailblazers.