Scrum Master vs. Project Manager: Differences & Similarities

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20th Feb, 2023
Scrum Master vs. Project Manager: Differences & Similarities

For an entrant in the IT industry, the roles of Project Manager and Scrum Master look like two similar ones. But this is not an absolute fact. Both roles are very separate and distinct from each other. Both can be molded into different approaches to a project.

While talking about the Scrum Master, don't forget to check out the article on Agile vs Scrum and Scrum Master tutorial.

While noting down the differences between the Project Manager and the Scrum Master, you will find out that the Project Manager plays the leadership role by leading the planning for the execution of the project. Scrum Master plays a support role for the team members, by working closely with the team and ensuring that they are following Agile principles properly.To get a deeper understanding of the roles and responsibilities, check out CSM certification.

Relationship between the Scrum Master and the Project Manager

Relationship between the Scrum Master and the Project Manager

Next, you might be wondering, what is the role of a Project Manager in Scrum? If you know the transition from Waterfall to Agile, you might think that the title ‘Project Manager’ is just shifted to the title ‘Scrum Master’. However, the Project Manager’s responsibilities cannot be directly converted to a Scrum Master role.

role of a Project Manager in Scrum

When you transit from traditional approach (Waterfall model) to Agile, the responsibilities of a Project Manager are distributed among the variety of team members. Some responsibilities go to the Program Manager, some to the Product Owner, some to the Scrum Master and some to the remaining team. On the other hand, switching from Waterfall to Agile is not an easy process.

Unlike Scrum Master, we can say a Product Owner’s role is closely aligned to the Project Manager’s role. The highly responsible entity in a project can be identified as Product Owner. They have to maintain the product backlog and ensure that the product fits with the business requirements. In case of any changes in the product, the Product Owner has to adjust and re-prioritize the current product backlog to fit these changes and maneuver the project. This is a tedious task for the Product Owner.

So, the Scrum Master is there to play a consultant role and take care of the project from all perspectives. The Scrum Master guides the Product Owner on how to manage the teamwork with the use of product backlog, sprint planning and meetings.

The Scrum Master supports the Product Owner in managing the teamwork, coaches the team and ensures that the team is properly aligned to the Scrum process. The Scrum Master manages the Scrum process, ensures its correct implementation and increasing the scope of its benefits throughout the project.

The differences between Scrum Master and Project Manager

It is important to know the differences between the Scrum Master and the Project Manager, to find how they complement each other in large-scale projects.

The Scrum Master is a coach and facilitator. The Project Manager is a leader, decision-maker and is responsible for managing the project, resources, and scope of business requirements. Sometimes, the Project Manager has to make sure whether the project is lined up with the necessary business requirements or not, whereas the Scrum Master has to look after one project team. Also, Scrum Master has to be a mediator between the project and the customer.

Let’s look at how the Project Manager and the Scrum Master roles differ from each other in discrete terms.

Project Manager
Scrum Master
GoalsHas defined goals like completing the project on time, planned budget, and scopeMakes sure that the team members are well trained to follow Agile practices appropriately. Also, SM coaches the Scrum teams and mentions the timeline to finish the project
Quality AssurancePM also knows the importance of quality, but doesn’t know how to achieve this. Usually, a consultant is hired to fix the errorsScrum Master assures the quality and very well knows the importance of it.
Team SizeProject Managers like to make things large. Project Manager works with more people and a huge budget. In this way, they improve to Program Manager.Scrum Master always tries to keep things smaller. They like to work in small teams irrespective of budget.
Average salary in the United States (2019)$77,000 per year$97,500 per year
Job Description
  • Planning, creating budget and the related documents
  • PM has to work with upper management to ensure a scope and direction of a project
  • PM has to work with another department also, in case of emergency
  • sometimes have to work themselves or instruct the team to finish a goal.


  • Resolves barriers and controls the Scrum processes.

  • Making a team aware of Agile and Scrum to deliver successfully

  • Facilitates the Scrum ceremonies

  • Ensures that a project is running smoothly with the help of the tools

  • Executes the Product Backlog as per the Product Owner prioritization

  • Solves team conflicts with good communication skills

  • Motivates the team

  • Monitors the Scrum processes to increase efficiency

                                                                    Differences: Scrum Master vs. Project Manager.

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Organizations that are new to Agile and Scrum commit some deadly blunders. The most common and overlooked one is the lack of clarity of the roles of the Scrum Master and the Project Manager. This is more often seen in smaller Scrum teams, where these two discrete roles overlap.

There are of course similarities between Scrum Master and Project Manager roles. But that does not give way to ignoring the distinct differences between an Agile Project Manager and Scrum Master.

Similarities between the Scrum Master and the Project Manager:

  • Project Manager and Scrum Master both are humans and they both make mistakes. But they both debug and learn from the mistakes. They both can communicate, receive feedback, mitigate the risks, and enable a great bonding within a team.
  • Actually, neither the Project Manager nor the Scrum Master is the supreme authority. The Project Manager has to report to the client and the stakeholders, whereas the Scrum Master has to report to the Product Owner alongside the stakeholders and clients.
  • Both Project Manager and the Scrum Master fail when they ignore the basic principles that are supposed to be adhered to. They fail when they not only neglect being professionals, but also when they are any less than skilled professionals. Sometimes, they may also fail when they disrespect the team members’ opinions.

Let’s find out the roles and responsibilities of a Scrum Master and Project Manager.

The roles and responsibilities of a Scrum Master

Scrum Master is referred as a facilitator, who manages the teams that are implementing the Agile methodology. Scrum framework is the best framework for smaller teams of developers, who can break their work into a Sprint in order to get your project done at the end of every sprint.

Great teams rely on the Scrum Masters to get their work done within a time limit. You might as well say that being a Scrum Master is a kind of art. All depends on the sprint planning and release planning processes which give scientific clarity to SM in ensuring that the team is able to execute the amount of assigned work in the right way.

  • Sprint planning
  • Scheduling the daily Scrum meeting
  • Managing Scrum process responsibly
  • Helping the Scrum teams to follow Scrum practices
  • Removing barriers so the team can focus on their work
  • Assisting with the Product Backlog
  • Co-operating with Product Owner in designing Product Backlog items for the next Sprint
  • Protecting the team from external distractions
  • Recording and assisting to improve team dynamics

  • Guides the Product Owner on the project
  • Helps teams to speed up the processes
  • Monitors the sprint progress
  • Promotes team discussions
  • Motivates the team
  • Scrum Master acts as a cement to bind the team together

The roles and responsibilities of a Project Manager

Project Manager’s role is to manage the projects and ensure that the project meets the requirements. There is a time or place for a Project Manager in the large projects. The Project Manager can cover multiple teams and can work with other dependent teams as well. PM can coordinate with multiple teams, help them to meet project timelines and collaborate when resources are required. The roles and responsibilities of the Project Manager are as follows.

  • Defining project scope to the team
  • Planning project target
  • Preparing the work schedule for the team members
  • Gathering requirements
  • Defining the resource requirements for the project
  • Preparing the budget for a project
  • Assuring quality
  • Mitigating the risks
  • Monitoring the plans
  • Getting user feedback
  • Managing relationships with the client and the stakeholders
  • Ending the project

  • Managing the finance related issues budget
  • Reporting to business leaders on the project progress
  • Task allocation
  • Risk management
  • Focusing on processes
  • Prioritizing the project related features
  • Coordinating with other teams if required


The Project Manager and the Scrum Master both have varied roles. Deciding between the Scrum Master certification and Project Management certification is indeed a tough choice and entails a careful consideration of the prospects of each. It is important for you to pursue a Project Management Professional certification as a project manager. Eventually, the role of a Scrum Master is proved as a ‘deciding factor’ of the successful projects. The Scrum Master and the Project Manager both have distinct roles. Both need particular skill-sets and a right person to make the work happen.



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