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SM / PO Cheatsheet

Simple guide to the difference between a Scrum Master and a Product Owner

16 December 2010

Edward Scotcher
Agility in Mind

This is a simple one page aide memoire that can be used to help explain the responsibilities of the role of Product Owner and Scrum Master. It's great to print off and hand out to people when you are explaining what the roles are and what the differences are between them. So next time you need to talk about these roles, you can use this as a basis for a simple discussion or presentation.


Scrum Master's Responsibilities

  • Responsible for helping the team deliver work to the Product Owner
  • Makes sure the team can meet its commitments by removing any impediments they face, including Managing dependencies, escalating blockers that they cannot remove themselves
  • Facilitates process & meetings (eg Reviews, Stand Ups, Planning, Estimation, Scheduling, Prioritization)
  • Makes sure the team is fully functional, productive and improving quality
  • Shields the team from distractions and interferences (including the Product Owner)
  • Enables close co-operation across all roles and functions, removes barriers
  • Responsible for reporting progress, including producing standard outward-facing artefacts
  • Manages Product Owners expectations of the team
  • Responsible for keeping time and quality requirements


Product Owner's Responsibilities

  • Voice of the Stakeholders, represents the business
  • Manages stakeholder relationships, comms & expectations
  • Accountable for the vision, scope and scale of the product
  • Defines key features of the product & success criteria
  • Continuously refines requirements
  • Sets delivery schedule by managing the backlog – creates and updates the release plan, including prioritization
  • Accountable for the project success
  • Decides on release date, content and budget
  • Accepts and rejects work in the sprint reviews
  • Takes advice from the team on Backlog Dependencies
  • Single point of contact for the product (including New requirements Prioritizing backlog items)

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

Article Rating

Current rating: 3 (9 ratings)


Alan Dayley, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 12/17/2010 11:21:07 AM
This is a good thing to help people in and out of these roles to get familiar with them. Nice!

I wonder about the first bullet where-in the Scrum Master delivers work to the Product Owner. I don't understand what that means. Could you elaborate your meaning and intention on that point?
Arran Hartgroves, CSP,CSM, 12/18/2010 5:04:26 AM
Love usefull summaries like this to check what i thought I knew! I would have had the team for the first point of ScrumMaster, as they are committed to delivering the sprints work? Also I would have had the PO ideally responsible for keeping quality requirements (or a specialist supporting the PO in the team) as part of backlog grooming activities; in practise though this often falls to the ScrumMaster...
Bas Vodde, CST,CSP,CSM,CSPO,REP, 12/23/2010 4:33:34 AM

A couple of the responsibilities of the ScrumMaster don't make too much sense. Especially the "bringing the work to the PO" doesn't make any sense to me. Could you clarify what that means.

Also, usually the team is responsible for meeting the quality criteria and not the ScrumMaster. I'm unclear what meeting the time criteria means as sprints are timeboxed...
Dinesh Sharma, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 12/30/2010 4:01:38 AM
Useful article but I don't agree with statement that SM is "Responsible for delivering work to the Product Owner". SM is only a facilitator and actual TEAM is responsibile for delivering work to the PO. On the same note SM is NOT "Responsible for keeping time and quality requirements" it's team who is responsibile for keeping time (i.e. commitment) and quality requirements.

Also, what do you mean by "Manages Product Owners expectations of the team"? It should be "Correct Product Owners expectations of the team" to make sure PO is being reasonable to team when s/he is too demanding.
Catia Oliveira, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 1/11/2011 12:29:09 PM
Looks IMO you focused only in Scrum Pratices. I mean, it's still missing all the "work" SM must do in order to coach the principles. From my daily work, this is the "heaviest" workload :) or at least where I feel I need to invest more and more! Cheers, Catia
Michael Swansegar, CSPO, 5/26/2016 9:22:35 PM
Some of this is incorrect. The scrum guide indicates the Scrum Master facilitates osme meetings as requested but it is run by the team or by the Product Owner. Also "Responsible for keeping time and quality requirements "...keeping time is a Project Manager role. The Scrum Master coaches the team, it doesn't ask for time status. Also quality requirements are in the user stories controlled by the product owner or part of the definition of done controlled by the entire Scrum team.

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