Mapping the role of traditional project manager to Scrum project management roles

January 3, 2014

As more and more companies are adopting Scrum as preferred project management method over traditional waterfall method, the subject of mapping of the roles is becoming more critical. Probably one of the biggest challenges organizations face when they move to Scrum is where does a Project Manager fit in Scrum?

We are so used to the role of Project Manager that we often forget that it is merely a role which does not specify a position in an organizational hierarchy. The term ‘project manager’ has become so obvious that in organizational set up also people are permanently designated as Project Manager in many organizations. We have to understand the fact that project manager is not a permanent designation in an organization but a role of person in a particular project when he manages that project. A person may have necessary skillsets to manage a project but is not a project manager in that project until he plays the role of the same. The role of a project manager is defined by the responsibilities performed in that project and a named individual (Project Manager) just plays the role. While transitioning to Scrum from Waterfall, we often do the mistake of trying to fit in a named individual (the Project Manager) into different Scrum Roles. Do not try fit in a Project Manager in Scrum project management setup; rather you should map the roles and responsibilities of a traditional project manager with Scrum roles and responsibilities and accordingly a named individual will play the role as per his skillset.

People often try to find synergy between the roles of a traditional Project Manager with that of a Scrum Master. In practice, both are very different. A traditional Waterfall Project Manager works as a manager or leader for the project. He plans, makes decisions and manages the project and is accountable for accomplishing the project objectives. On the other hand, the Scrum Master only works as a facilitator and he or she is at the same hierarchical level as anyone else in the Scrum team. Any person who learns to facilitate Scrum projects can become the Scrum Master for a project or for a sprint.

The duties and responsibilities of a traditional Project Manager have been divided among all the three core roles in a Scrum project. The Guide to the Scrum Body of Knowledge (SBOKTM) has captured the differences of traditional project management roles and Scrum roles very nicely.


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