Development Managers vs. Scrum Masters

Development Managers vs. Scrum Masters

Published on: 01 Nov 2016

By Vinod Subbaiah

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The word Project Management came into limelight only after the IT revolution in the early 90’s. Since then it has been commonly used in the world of Software Development. The two most common project management methodologies are agile and waterfall. Waterfall is the traditional methodology where feedback is received upon completion of the entire project. On the other hand, agile development is implemented through Scrum. The whole project is divided into short sprints and the dev team gets feedback after each sprint. This reduces the to and fro post project completion and ensures on-time completion.

Each software development methodology has its own advantages and disadvantages. However, the key difference lies in the way these methodologies are handled and the people who handle them, namely the development manager and scrum master. To a novice, the responsibilities of a dev Manager and a Scrum Master may seem overlapping; he may not see a huge difference. However, the two are quite different. Let us understand these differences in detail.

Budget Management

When it comes to managing the budget of a project, the responsibilities of the development Manager is higher than that of a Scrum Master. The Scrum Master is considered more of a techie, so managing the project within the allocated budget becomes the sole responsibility of the Development manager.

Reporting Structure

In most organizations, the Development manager reports to the Management directly. This is the case even in Agile organizations. Here the Scrum Master reports to the Development manager and not directly to the Company Management.

Process Control

The Development manager focuses on the set processes and their performance at every step of project development. The Scrum Master has very little or no say in this. While this may be purely due to the answerability of the Development managers to the Company Management, Scrum Masters remain away from process control activities most of the time.

Task allocation

This is another area where the involvement of the Development manager is more than that of a Scrum Master. The Development manager assigns tasks to individuals, even in most of the Agile Development Companies. Again, this may be attributed to the Development managers’ reporting structure.

Prioritizing tasks and features

Like Task Allocation, task prioritization is also a Development manager’s responsibility and not that of the Scrum Master. Since this is more of a managerial activity it is added to the roles and responsibilities of the Development manager by default

Risk Management

There are many risks involved at every stage of Project Management and by default, the Development manager is held responsible when such risks arise. The Scrum Master’s role, when considered from this angle, remains purely technical.

Communication and Coordination

The Development manager is responsible for all inter-office communication pertaining to all projects. He is responsible for coordinating between departments for the various requirements that may arise during the development of a Project. The role of a Scrum Master remains zero in this area.

The overall responsibility of initiating, planning, designing, monitoring, controlling, and bringing the project to closure lies in the hands of a development manager. He is the decision-making authority, who chooses between the right and the wrong.

Does this mean the Scrum Master’s role is not as important as that of a Development manager? No.

The team of developers who work on an agile project usually called an Agile Team, adheres to the best practices specified in the methodology. The Scrum Master can be viewed as the head of the team. He acts as the key person who executes an agile project. Let’s understand his role in detail.

The Unique Role of a Scrum Master

Scrum Master is the team himself

It might be surprising to note that the deliverable aspect of Project Management is not mapped to the Scrum Master’s role at any point in the project development process. This is because the Scrum Master’s role changes on a day to day basis depending on the Agile Team’s requirements. This is the major difference between the Scrum Master’s and the Development manager’s role.

Scrum Master acts as the windshield

The Scrum Master gets involved in the ground level work done by the Agile Team, unlike the Development managers who get involved in the planning aspect of Project Management. Scrum Masters enable the team members to perform in a balanced manner, protecting them from all the external disturbances that may pull down their efforts and slow their pace.

Scrum Master is present more in real time than in planning phase

The Scrum Master is physically and mentally involved with the team playing a dual servant-master role to ensure what is planned is delivered on time. This is opposite to the role of the Development manager whose presence is felt more during the planning stage than during the real-time execution stage.

Scrum Master Helps his Team Reach the Finish Line on Time

This is one of the crucial roles of the Scrum Master when compared to a Development manager, whose role is limited to inquiring about the status of the project from time to time. A good Scrum Master adds value at each and every step of the project and supports the team physically, mentally and emotionally. All his actions are targeted towards ensuring that the team successfully reaches the finish line within the stipulated time frame.

Scrum Master’s Role is Specific and Focused

Scrum Masters play a focused role when it comes to motivating a team and taking the project to completion in a smooth manner. However, a Development manager’s role tends to be outside the team, doing the necessary coordination for resources and managing dependencies required to complete a project.

All said and done, every role in an organization is crucial. In fact, in reality, the roles of the Development manager and Scrum Master may intersect occasionally. However, a clear-cut understanding of the uniqueness of each role can help ward away any serious repercussions. The ultimate goal of both the roles is to complete the Project on time to meet the customers’ expectation and earn a decent top line and bottom line for the organization. If things are approached with this mindset, the roles will complement each other’s contribution, benefitting all concerned stakeholders.

Vinod Subbaiah Vinod Subbaiah