As a Project Manager moving into Agile should I attend the Certified ScrumMaster or the Certified Scrum Product Owner course?

by Mindi Clews on 12/04/2016 10:00

We are regularly approached by Project Managers who are moving into Agile projects who ask whether the Certified ScrumMaster or the Certified Scrum Product Owner course is more suitable for their needs. So Brendon Livingstone and I recorded a quick 10 minute Blab to answer this question which you can watch below. A transcription of the Blab is also included. If you have an IT question that you would like to ask, please submit these in our Ask us your IT questions and we’ll respond page.

Transcript of conversation

Brendon: Okay, so the next question is, "As a project manager moving into HR, should I attend the Certified Scrum Master or the Certified Scrum Product Owner course?" And Mindi, this is a question that we get on quite a regular basis, and so we feel it was worth recording some thoughts given that there's a number of people interested in that particular question, is that right?

Mindi: That's right, yeah, I probably get an enquiry every week from people in various roles, Project Managers, people who'd been business analysts, people who want to move into IT from other areas of the business, who are looking to credential themselves to participate in Agile projects in their organisation. So the simple answer is it depends, and the choice that you're making is a choice between whether you want your role to be as want to be part of an Agile team or part of a Scrum team, or you want to be a customer of that team.

So if you want to be part of the team, then the Certified Scrum Master course is that course that would best suit you. If you want to be, or you are, working in a role where you are the customer Scrum team, then the Certified Scrum Product Owner course is the course that I'd recommend. So, there's a fairly clearcut choice to be made there.

The Certified Scrum Master course, however, is a good grounding for anyone who is new to Scrum. It covers the artefacts, the ceremonies, the roles, and the practices that a successful and effective Scrum team adopts. And sets you up to work in any role as part of a Scrum team. So in a Scrum team, there are only three roles. There is the Scrum Master, the Product Owner, and a Team Member. And team members can come from a variety of technical backgrounds, so there will be analysts, there will be architects, there will be developers, there will be people for whom technology is not their first discipline participating in a scrum team.

Certified Scrum Product Owner really is about what your responsibilities are as the client of a Scrum team. So, your role is to make sure the right product is built, the Scrum teams are honest and make sure they've built the product right. So, the Certified Scrum Product Owner course is more about stakeholder management, about communicating with the Scrum team in a way that gives them what they need to build the product that you're after. It's about defining what 'done' looks like for the team. So how do they know they've done what you've asked them to.

So as a Certified Scrum Product Owner you really are the decider. You determine what product's going to be built. As a Certified Scrum Master, you're facilitating the building of a product. So they're two quite different roles.

Brendon: Yeah. What I'm thinking I was just going to add in Equinox IT delivers both these courses through our Scrum training partners. So we have Rowan Bunning through Scrum WithStyle who's based in Australia, who comes out regularly to New Zealand to deliver both those courses, and will also work with Simon Bennett from...

Mindi: LASTing Benefits.

Brendon: So the points I was going to add to what you've said Mindi, is I guess understanding that you talked a little bit about the roles that are in Scrum. So there's no official project manager role in Scrum. Having said that, it depends how pure your organisation is at applying Scrum, but for the official approach, in terms of Scrum, there's no official project manager role. And the style nature of Agile projects and Scrum means that old style project manager approach of, potentially, at times, doing a bit of command and control is not so strong in projects that follow these approaches. There's more of a focus on self-managing cross-functional teams, and there's, you know, terms such as servant-leader and that type of thing. And I'm not the best person to talk about that, and there'll be other content on the Equinox site and future Blabs where some of our practitioners will talk about that more.

But what it means as a project manager is as you move into Agile or move onto a Scrum project, there's kind of potentially just reshaping how you contribute to the success of that project. It might be different than the way you've done it in the past. So when, and I just grabbed from Mike Cohen, who in the States runs a company, Mountain Goat Software, and he defines a Scrum Master as responsible for making sure the scrum team lives by the values and practices of Scrum. So they are more of a coach, they help the team do the best work that they can. They are the process owner, if you like, of the Scrum process and assuring that is followed to, as Mindi said, how did you describe it Mindi? To do the work right? No, yes.

Mindi: Yes:To do the work right.

Brendon: Yeah, and then the product owner, again, and I'm paraphrasing a bit here from what Mike Cohen had, the Scrum Product owner is typically the project's key stakeholder. They hold the vision for the product. They make the product decisions on behalf of the company, and they make decisions around their product backlog and the prioritisation of features in each sprint.

So kind of yeah, which is pretty much what Mindi said, and they are quite, sort of, separate roles. And so as a project manager moving into a Scrum or Agile project, then my gut feeling is that the areas that you may initially be involved in would be helping that project team deliver, which is more of the Scrum Master type of thing. And quite often, the Scrum Product Owner role may be someone who's a business representative. At times, we see a kind of a business analyst who's given that role, or fills in that role at times, because the business can't commit that level of involvement on the project team. But it could be the project manager if they were asked to help make the prioritisation decisions for the product and take on a Product Manager role.

So I guess where I got to, and I'd be interested in your thoughts, Mindi, is that if you are choosing between one or two, then maybe the Certified Scrum Master role is the best first step. We have a number of people at Equinox IT who have actually attended both courses, because at times they fulfil elements of both roles, and so that maybe as a second step at some point worth actually considering, you know, attending both at some point as well.

Mindi: I agree with you, and I think there's another reason that supports attending both. As a Scrum Master, you will need to work with a Scrum Product Owner, and it will help you work with a Product Owner better if you understand how to coach and support them on delivering on the responsibilities of their role. And likewise, as a Product Owner, you could be a more effective Product Owner if you understand what's driving and what the Scrum team are driving to. So it always pays to know what your delivery partners, what the people that you're working with and for, are responsible for in how they going to deliver on that.

Brendon: All right. Very good. I guess if anyone has interest in either of those courses, and both courses are available on the Equinox IT website, and we have regular scheduled public courses where you can book yourself a place on those courses, and they also...either course can be run as an in-house course if the organisation is looking at delivering that training to a team

Mindi: Yep, and those courses are next available in New Zealand in May.

Brendon: Great. And just to give context if this video's looked at in the future, so that's May 2016, and we're currently recording this in March 2016, and if you're watching this at any point after those dates, then yeah, once again go to the Equinox website, you can look at the courses, you can see the upcoming dates. Right, any other comments on that, Mindi, or shall we end that question here?

Mindi: That's the end for me.

Need to learn Scrum as a PM, developer, tester or systems analyst - attend our Certified ScrumMaster

Need to learn Scrum as a Business Analyst or business representative? Attend our Certified Scrum Product Owner


Get blog posts by email

New call-to-action
New call-to-action