Why You Should Hire a Dedicated Scrum Master

By Ido Schacham, Senior software developerOct 7, 2022Read time 5 min

There are plenty of debates about whether Scrum Master should be a full-time role. Have you met any dedicated Scrum Master out in the wild? Or have you encountered more double agents, e.g., product owners that are also Scrum Masters? Or organizations that are, in fact, practicing ScrumBut?

These double agents may send out calendar invites and facilitate retros and dailies just fine. But is that all Scrum Masters are supposed to do? Or is there something missing by not having dedicated Scrum Masters?

The Scrum Masters' responsibilities

From a practical perspective, Scrum Masters have various responsibilities, including but not limited to:

  • Educating the team and organization about Scrum—both theory and practice—so that everyone is on the same page.

  • Helping the team become self-managed, be more effective, and solve any problems that impede them.

  • Supporting the product owner to create clear backlog items, practice refinements, or coordinate with stakeholders.

  • Facilitating Scrum events, at least in the beginning, and making sure that they are helping the team to improve and produce value.

What Do Scrum Masters Actually Do?

However, from a higher perspective, Scrum Masters do much more than that:

  • Scrum Masters are servants to the Scrum process, the team, and essentially the whole organization, stakeholders, and clients.

  • Scrum Masters are attentive observers who can spot problems, figure out their impact, and find the right solutions for the right people at the right time.

  • Scrum Masters are teachers who educate about Scrum and various practices to aid the team and organization.

  • Scrum Masters are coaches who help people to learn and enable growth.

Ultimately, the Scrum Masters’ true purpose is to self-destruct, to get the team to be completely self-managed and the process to run so smoothly that the Scrum Masters aren’t needed at all. Of course, in the real world of ever-changing environments, this rarely happens, but that’s the ideal.

A dedicated Scrum Master can help increase an entire team’s productivity, bring up morale, and produce a product that has more value to your clients.

Can Scrum Masters Have Other Roles?

Theoretically, a Scrum Master can also be a developer on the team, a project manager, or even your local barista. Yet, this presents quite a few challenges.

1. Multiple Identity Disorder

Having multiple roles comes with a risk. Let’s say the Scrum Master is also the product owner. What happens when they get swamped with product owner tasks and an impending deadline? Obviously, they will focus on being the product owner, possibly neglecting their Scrum Master duties. Even if they somehow manage to multitask, too much context-switching requires lots of energy and could eventually lead to exhaustion. Not a good idea.

2. Conflict of Interest

Everyone has interests. The special thing about Scrum Masters is their focus on others, and making sure that everyone is prospering. However, what about Scrum Masters that have to do other roles? They will probably have personal interests that may leak into their role as a Scrum Master. The result is a conflict of interest, which could hurt their trust in the rest of the team and impede the development process.

3. Lack of Neutrality

Part of the power of being a Scrum Master is being the objective third party that’s uninvolved in company politics and personal conflicts, though aware of them, a kind of Switzerland if you may. Nonetheless, if your Scrum Master also has another role, then you can kiss The Swiss Alps goodbye. They will most certainly be involved in politics and interpersonal conflicts, thus resulting in biases and a lack of neutrality.

Hiring a Dedicated Scrum Master

It’s understandable why companies are reluctant to hire dedicated Scrum Masters. Recruiting another role can be a burden and increasing the headcount means increased personnel costs. One may well ask: why hire one when the product owner can do it 'for free'? Or why hire a product owner when one of the developers can do it 'for free'?

Beyond that, the real question is not how much Scrum Masters cost, but how cost-effective they are. A dedicated Scrum Master can help increase an entire team’s productivity, bring up morale, and produce a product that has more value to your clients. Thus, the value generated may go well beyond the cost of their salary.

Of course, you won’t know until you try. The good news is that you can try it before you buy it! Instead of making a big commitment to hiring a full-time Scrum Master, you can hire one part-time, whether it’s a freelancer or a consultant. Rome wasn’t built in one sprint. In the spirit of Scrum, be empirical, take some measurements, and check whether a dedicated Scrum Master can bring value to your team, organization, and clients. One thing’s for sure: there’s much more to it than mastering the art of Google Calendar.

Do you need a dedicated Scrum Master to do things right? Our Scrum Masters are here to help.