I remember the first time I heard the term used in a meeting. ‘I must have zoned out,’ I thought. ‘When did the conversation turn to rugby?’
After the meeting wrapped up, it turns out other bewildered colleagues drew the same sports-related conclusion. I quickly discovered that confusion over this role isn’t uncommon—particularly for those who are new to the world of agile project management.
Here’s the good news: Scrum and the roles within it aren’t nearly as complex as you might first believe. To understand what a scrum master does, it’s helpful to know a bit about the methodology first.
In this article, we’ll bring you up to speed on everything you need to know about an agile scrum master.
What is scrum?
Scrum is an agile method of working that originated in software development. Today, it is a way for teams—technical or non-technical—to work on complex projects collaboratively and efficiently. The aim is to deliver the highest possible value without stifling creativity and productivity.
At the heart of the framework is the Sprint events. A sprint is a time-boxed (rigid) period of one month or less where the team is dedicated to completing a single task, such as product developments. Once one Sprint concludes, the next Sprint starts immediately.
The team setup maximises flexibility, creativity and productivity. Here’s a quick breakdown of the roles:
- Product owner is responsible for the product that results from the development work.
- Development team consists of professionals who carry out the work.
- Scrum master serves the Product Owner and Development Team.
The team is self-organised and choose how to tackle the Sprints themselves.
What is a scrum master?
The Scrum Guide defines the role as a ‘servant-leader for the Scrum Team.’ The scrum master, or facilitator, helps the team understand the theory of the agile framework and adhere to its practices, rules and values.
They also help employees that are outside the team to understand which of their interactions with the project team are helpful (and which aren’t!)
What does a scrum master do?
The core task of the role is to remove obstacles for the team, so they can work productively. For this, they must:
- Removes obstacles, such as a conflict between team members
- Identify optimisation potentials
- Trains the scrum team on the agile framework
- Mediate between product owners, stakeholders, and the team.
The problem with the role is that it all sounds a bit abstract. So let’s look at a concrete example: Part of the agile method is the daily scrum, an obligatory fifteen-minute meeting that takes place in the morning. People within the project discuss their responsibilities for the day and highlight any possible roadblocks.
The Daily Scrum is an essential part of the method—but only if it stays within the allocated fifteen minutes. If it is not possible to use the meeting for a quick exchange of information, it is up to the facilitator to recognise this, discuss it and find a solution. They also have to keep people on-topic.
In some extreme cases, companies bring a rubber chicken to the meeting. If the conversation drifts off, the rubber chicken is squawked to indicate the topic does not belong in the meeting—even if it may feel important!
What are the tools used in scrum?
There is a range of collaboration tools for teams that use the methodology within their business. Here are a few suggestions, based on the software having at least 100 user reviews with 4+ stars and a high search volume in Australia.
Listed in alphabetical order:
- Accelo combines project planning, tracking, and collaboration.
- Bitrix24 has a free open-source version for up to 12 users.
- ClickUp describes itself as a Productivity Platform intended for agile projects.
- JIRA is a software development tool used by agile teams.
- Trello is a visual collaboration tool designed to create a shared perspective for project teams.
How to become a scrum master?
While there isn’t a national or international body, the Scrum Alliance has become the de facto organisation for certification. If you want to become a Certified Scrum Master (CSM), you should first tick off the prerequisites for a CSM course.
Here are the Scrum aspects you’ll need to have familiarised yourself with before enrolment:
- Theory and values
- Teams and roles
You should also download and read The Scrum Guide.
These steps are essential because you’ll be required to sit a short quiz at the beginning of your course. Once you pass, you’re ready to begin the training process.
Before you enrol onto a CSM course, first check that it’s been accredited.
What is Scrum Master Certification (CSM)
The certification enables its students to learn the framework and gain knowledge of scrum’s team roles, events and artefacts. The course lasts several days and at the end of the program, students sit a short exam (around 60 minutes.)
Students will also need to accept the Licence Agreement and complete their Scrum Alliance membership profile, should they pass the test.
Scrum Alliance recommends that certified members renew their accreditation every two years.
What is the average salary of a CSM?
Based on data provided by PayScale, the average salary of a CSM in Australia is AUD$103K per annum. The total pay with a bonus ranges AUD$76K – AUD$150K annually.
The most desired skills to boost salary includes:
- Agile software development
- Experience with Scrum
- Project Management
- Business Analysis.
Employees who work in Queensland’s capital city, and who have ‘CSM’ in their job title, earn an average of 10.5% more than the national average. Other locations in Australia that have a higher than average salary include Sydney (6% higher) and Melbourne (1% higher).
Learn more about agile frameworks
Co-creators, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, released The Scrum Guide to explain the agile framework in more depth. You can also learn about the difference between the two most popular agile methods: Kanban vs scrum in this article.