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Monday, March 6, 2017

Can the Product Owner also be the Scrum Master?

In one of our earlier articles about the key scrum participants, we had talked about both the Scrum Master Role and the Product Owner Role. In organisations that want to adopt Scrum, one of the common mistakes they do is to club the role of Scrum Master and Product Owner. We multi-task all the time and it shouldn't be a big deal for a guy to take up both of those roles, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, its not as easy as it sounds. If there are two roles in a Scrum Project that cannot be combined or assigned to the same individual, its these two roles. in this article you will learn why….

Different Purpose

The role or purpose of a Scrum Master and that of a Product Owner couldn't be more different. The Product Owner thinks about what features product should have and is always going to be pushing for more to be done or delivered by the team. The Scrum Master on the other hand is going to try to protect the team from external distractions and make sure the team performs to the best of their abilities to deliver a good quality product.

This means that, the roles of the Scrum Master and Product Owner are going to be butting heads constantly. Like I just mentioned, the job of the Product Owner is to keep pushing for more and more features to be added to the Iteration Backlog whereas the Scrum Master is going to keep pushing back to make sure the team isn’t overloaded.

Even though the product owner does not want the project to fail, their natural tendency is to want more and more features. Without a Scrum Master shielding the team from this pressure, the scrum team is going to have a real tough time handling the product owners ever increasing needs.

If you are still not convinced these roles should be assigned to two different people, think about this – every software project team has both Developers and Testers. Yes, a good developer can test and a good tester can probably do coding but, it always makes sense to split these 2 roles.


Because the Developer aims at building more features and may overlook some aspects of his code that may have bugs. Having a different person do the testing means that more bugs are identified and a better quality product is delivered. Similar rationale can be applied here. If the role of the Scrum Master is played by the Product Owner, the Scrum Team will suffer and eventually the deliverables & their quality will suffer too.

So, it's a good idea to keep these 2 roles separated…

Some Last Words:

In real life, even though everyone agrees that these two roles should not be combined, very small organizations may not have the money to hire a separate product owner and scrum master. They may Improvise by clubbing this role but believe me, this is not a good idea.

It would be better to actually hire a part term scrum master or hire a scrum master to be shared by two small scrum teams instead of combining these roles.

Do you think that an individual playing both these roles can do justice to either role without compromising the team? Have you seen projects succeed or fail because the same person played both roles? Do sound off in the comments section.

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