What is a Scrum Manager, and How Are They Different From a Scrum Master?

Published on
August 11, 2023

In software development, agile is our compass. It's not simply about moving quickly, but about maintaining flexibility and adaptability. One of agile's top frameworks is Scrum, which encourages team collaboration and allows for quick, high-quality output.

A key player in agile processes is the Scrum Manager. Unlike a Scrum Master, who serves as a facilitator, Scrum Managers are focused on driving projects forward. They align team efforts with business objectives and manage resources to ensure those objectives are met.

A Scrum Manager's role is more than just a job title—it's pivotal in making sure our agile teams are productive and aligned with essential priorities. Because Spinach.io is your AI Scrum Master, it’s specifically designed to make a Scrum Manager's role easier and more effective. We’ll come back to how a Scrum Manager can use Spinach, but first let’s take a closer look at the role and how it fits into Agile teams.

What is a Scrum Manager?

As part of a Scrum team, Scrum Managers oversee the progress of projects, ensuring all team members are aligned and on-track to meet their goals. They're the ones who connect individual tasks with broader business objectives and take the reins when it comes to managing resources. They're not just overseeing day-to-day tasks, but creating a strategic game plan for project completion.

Scrum Managers are also the bridge between the team and stakeholders. They communicate the team's progress, negotiate scopes and deadlines, and are the first line of defense when it comes to managing risks and eliminating project roadblocks.

Qualifications and skills of Scrum managers

When it comes to the skillset of a Scrum Manager, they need to have a mix of technical knowledge, leadership capabilities, and problem-solving prowess. Here’s a detailed look at the qualifications and essential skills for Scrum Managers:

Leadership and team management capabilities: In the world of Scrum, leadership skills are crucial. Scrum Managers must be able to steer the team towards the goals, ensure tasks are completed on time, and manage the dynamics between team members. They need to cultivate an environment of trust, collaboration, and open communication to keep everyone motivated and productive.

Agile expertise and experience in Scrum practices: A deep understanding of agile principles and Scrum practices is non-negotiable for a Scrum Manager. They should have a firm grip on agile values, principles, and tools, along with the ability to implement Scrum methods effectively.

Adaptability and problem-solving skills in dynamic environments: Software development is an ever-changing landscape. Scrum Managers need to be adaptable, ready to navigate unexpected challenges in project requirements or team dynamics. Their problem-solving skills should be top-notch, allowing them to identify and resolve issues quickly.

What does a Scrum Manager do? Key responsibilities to know

Scrum Managers wear many hats, juggling responsibilities and pivoting roles as the project demands. They have to be able to align team objectives with business goals, oversee deadlines and resource allocation, while staying focused on driving results. Let's take a closer look at these key responsibilities:

Team management and coaching

One of the key roles of a Scrum Manager is guiding and managing the team. They are the go-to person for support, motivation, and direction. They collaborate with other leaders like your Technical Project Manager, while keeping everyone focused on the task at hand and provide guidance when obstacles arise. Additionally, they foster an environment of growth, constantly coaching team members to enhance their skills and meet their full potential. But this isn't a one-off event. Instead, it's a continuous process of feedback and improvement, shaping a team that's both efficient and unified.

Product backlog ownership and refinement

Scrum Managers take ownership of the product backlog. This means they're responsible for defining, refining, and prioritizing backlog items based on the project's goals and stakeholders' requirements. They ensure that the backlog is always up-to-date and clearly defined, so the development team knows exactly what needs to be done. It's a dynamic and ongoing process, requiring the Scrum Manager to balance priorities, foresee potential challenges, and make quick decisions.

Communication with stakeholders and other teams

Clear and effective communication is crucial for any agile project, and this is where the Scrum Manager shines. They bridge the gap between the development team, stakeholders, and other teams within the organization. They're responsible for conveying the project's progress, managing expectations, and aligning everyone's understanding. It's not just about delivering information, it's about fostering relationships and building trust among all involved parties.

Aligning Scrum practices with organizational goals

Finally, Scrum Managers ensure that the Scrum practices are in line with the broader organizational goals. They help integrate agile principles within the overall business strategy, ensuring the team's efforts contribute directly to the company's objectives. This alignment is critical; it creates a purpose-driven work environment where every sprint, every task, every line of code, serves a larger vision.

Scrum manager vs. scrum master: What’s the difference?

In the dynamic world of software development, no two roles in an agile project are identical. To understand this better, let's explore the key differences between Scrum Managers and Scrum Masters, two roles that are critical yet distinct in the agile environment. They both aim to optimize the team's performance, but they have different roles and responsibilities.

Focus and role

A Scrum Master’s main focus is on facilitating communication, resolving impediments, and making sure the team adheres to Scrum practices. They're all about the process.

On the other hand, a Scrum Manager focuses on strategy and execution. They take charge of the product backlog, define priorities, and manage resources. Their role revolves around aligning the team's efforts with business objectives, bridging the gap between the development process and the broader company goals.

Scope of authority

When it comes to authority, a Scrum Master is not typically involved in decision-making related to the project’s scope, timeline, or resources. Their authority lies in ensuring that the team is following Scrum principles and practices effectively.

In contrast, a Scrum Manager has the authority to make decisions regarding the project scope, schedule adjustments, and resource allocation. They are often the primary point of contact for stakeholders, translating their requirements into actionable tasks for the team.


In terms of responsibilities, Scrum Masters are tasked with protecting the team from distractions and impediments, guiding them through Scrum practices, and facilitating Scrum ceremonies like sprint planning, daily stand-ups, and sprint retrospectives. They're also responsible for promoting a positive team culture that values collaboration, transparency, and adaptability.

Scrum Managers, meanwhile, carry the weight of the product backlog, including its creation, maintenance, and refinement. They're responsible for coordinating with stakeholders, gathering their requirements, and transforming them into actionable tasks for the team. On top of this, they're tasked with managing the team, balancing workloads, and ensuring that each sprint aligns with the project's overall objectives.

Level of involvement and collaboration

When it comes to team involvement and collaboration, Scrum Masters are deeply immersed in the daily operations of the team. They work alongside team members, fostering an environment that encourages self-organization and continuous improvement. They're seen as servant-leaders who provide guidance, not commands.

Scrum Managers, in contrast, straddle the line between the team and the broader organization. While they certainly work closely with the team, they're also regularly liaising with stakeholders and other departments. They ensure that the work being done by the team aligns with the expectations of stakeholders and the broader business objectives.

How Scrum Managers and Scrum Masters collaborate for agile success

At the heart of a well-coordinated Scrum team are the Scrum Manager and Scrum Master. Their collaboration is what drives agile success, making sure everyone knows their part, deadlines are met, and handoffs are seamless. 

1. Ensuring clear communication

A winning team communicates effectively, and our Scrum duo are no exception. Scrum Managers and Scrum Masters keep each other in the loop with regular updates about project progress, team performance, and any roadblocks encountered. This way, both roles can align their efforts effectively to keep the project on track.

2. Role clarity 

Each role understands and respects the other's responsibilities and boundaries. Scrum Masters focus on mentoring the team and facilitating agile processes. In contrast, Scrum Managers are more immersed in project management, ensuring that project goals align with the organization's objectives.

3. Supporting the Scrum team

Both roles collaborate to cater to the Scrum team's needs. The Scrum Master excels at clearing roadblocks, orchestrating Scrum events, and ensuring adherence to agile principles. On the other hand, the Scrum Manager is the pillar of support, providing resources, guidance, and nurturing a conducive environment for the team.

4. Coordinating agile practices

Scrum Managers and Scrum Masters align to integrate and enhance agile practices within the organization. They join forces in refining processes, implementing new agile tools, and conducting training sessions to upskill the team's agile competencies.

5. Managing stakeholders 

The Scrum duo collaborates to manage stakeholders effectively. The Scrum Master ensures stakeholders stay engaged throughout the project and receive timely progress updates. In the meantime, the Scrum Manager addresses higher-level stakeholder concerns and aligns project outcomes with strategic goals.

6. Continuous improvement 

The symbiotic relationship between Scrum Managers and Masters fosters a culture of continuous improvement. They share insights and feedback from their respective areas, unveiling opportunities to boost the team's agile practices and project management processes.

7. Adapting to change

Agile is synonymous with change, and our Scrum pair collaborates to handle this aspect effectively. The Scrum Master aids the team in embracing project-level changes, while the Scrum Manager ensures that such changes align with the organizational objectives and are communicated effectively to stakeholders.

8. Empowering self-organization

Together, the Scrum Master and the Scrum Manager encourage and empower the Scrum team to self-organize and make decisions collaboratively. The Scrum Master supports the team in bolstering their self-organization capabilities, and the Scrum Manager provides the necessary resources and environment for the team to flourish.

Accelerate your Scrum team with Spinach

Understanding the dynamics between Scrum Managers and Scrum Masters is key to building high-performing agile teams. But even the best teams and leaders can struggle with maintaining clear communication, tracking progress, or simply managing the day-to-day nuances of running Scrum teams. That's where Spinach comes in.

Spinach is a purpose-built AI Scrum Master designed to supercharge your team's productivity. It captures the essence of your agile meetings, documents action items, and even suggests ticket updates based on your discussions. With Spinach on your team, you’ll never lose track of important details, or waste time with meeting recordings, transcripts or play-by-plays. Having an AI powered Scrum Master at your standups means you get decisions, actions, and blockers to accelerate your dev team.

Spinach blends seamlessly with your existing meeting and messaging tools, letting you engage fully in team discussions without worrying about losing vital information. It streamlines your process, letting you focus more on leading your team and less on managing the paperwork.

Ready to see how Spinach can energize your team's productivity? Dive in and set up your AI-powered Scrum Master today. 🚀

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