Mastering Scrum: An IT Professional's Guide to Agile Success

Amit Arora
May 3, 2024


As an IT professional with over 16 years of experience, I have worked at Accenture, IBM, Cognizant, and Appirio/Wipro, leading to my current position as Project Manager at Sierra Cloud in Melbourne, Australia. 

This breadth of experience has equipped me with a profound understanding of agile methodologies, particularly in the role of a Scrum Master.

If you're considering a career as a Scrum Master or seeking to expand your knowledge in this fast-growing domain, you've come to the right place. This article is my dedicated effort to share the insights and expertise I've garnered through years of practice and hard work, aiming to enlighten and support those on a similar professional path.

My project management journey

A significant turning point in my career occurred at Appirio/Wipro in 2017 when my mentors and managers led me into project management and scrum-mastering roles. Their insightful introduction ignited my passion for these roles, setting me on a path toward excellence in all of these capacities.

Over the last six years, I have spearheaded numerous projects across various sectors, serving in both Project Management and Scrum Master capacities. Currently, I am leading a challenging digital transformation programme in the higher education sector, acting as the Program Scrum Master and leading multiple agile delivery teams.

Project Manager Vs Scrum Master

Before delving into the intricacies of the Scrum Master role, it is crucial to address and clarify a widespread misconception around the roles of Project Manager and Scrum Master, which are sometimes referred interchangeably. Let's begin by distinguishing between these two positions to understand their unique contributions.

According to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), a project manager's core responsibilities encompass the ten knowledge areas: Cost Management, Schedule Management , Time Management, Quality Management, Resource Management, Communication Management, Risk Management, Procurement Management, Stakeholder Management, and Integration Management.

In contrast, a Scrum Master focuses on ensuring iterative timely delivery from the overall product backlog defined by a product owner, utilizing a sprint mindset and collaborating with the delivery teams within an agile framework.

Scrum Master is a professional who leads and mentors the team within an agile framework to deliver successful outcomes in a timely manner(sprints) through facilitating communication & collaboration between leadership & team members. A scrum master works closely with the Product owner who owns/defines the overall product backlog.

Sometimes, a scrum master role is confused with an Iteration Manager role who is also primarily responsible for delivering the product backlog within an agile framework but not mandatory to be applying scrum delivery mindset.

Dispelling myths about a scrum master’s role & responsibilities:




A scrum master can be the same person as a project manager while working in the project

A scrum master and project manager should be a different person

Both roles own different responsibilities and deliverables and hence should be dedicated to the person handling each role.

A scrum master reports to a project manager

Neither of them have authority over the other 

Both scrum master and a project manager report directly to the project stakeholders and clients.

A scrum master can provide a project plan

Project plan is not a scrum master deliverable

Project plan is a project manager’s deliverable that covers overall project life cycle including discovery / build / test / integration / migration / process / change / thrive and service transition

A scrum master can provide any metrics related to cost, schedule, resourcing, financials (invoicing,margin) of the project

A scrum master can share metrics like sprint report, burndown, burnup, velocity etc. from the tools agreed to be used by program/project 

Project manager generally; maintains financial information about the project in addition to the delivery plan.

Each scrum ceremony has to be chaired by a scrum master

Scrum master is just a facilitator for each scrum ceremony and brings all team members together on the assigned task

Any scrum team member can also lead scrum ceremonies

A scrum master is; accountable in Project initiation / discovery & planning phase

A scrum master is accountable from the build phase of the project till closure for delivery items(build/test)

Scrum master can contribute in different phases of the project, if required, but before build phase it's mainly with PM for overall deliverables / scope finalization


Roles and responsibilities of a scrum master 

Stakeholder management 

Scrum Guide/Mentor 

Coordination & Collaboration 

Below are some best practices that I recommend for successful delivery of responsibilities as Scrum Master


Frequency (Suggestion/Proposal)


Team Stand up 

Daily(15 min) 

To coordinate and plan the work for the day and raise/resolve impediments(if any) referencing the agreed tool in stand up

Optional: Reserve additional 10-15 min for huddle items(if any team member needs to discuss anything)

Sprint Elaboration / Product Backlog Refinement

Weekly (30 min)

Product owner prioritizes the work from overall product backlog for the upcoming sprint/release and work with business analyst to start refining the agreed work in form of stories/tasks on weekly basis and BA then provides the functional walkthrough to Dev/QA each week according to DoD agreed as team, Team agrees on the combined efforts needed for each ticket and move them to next status

P.S: This could be conducted as one dedicated workshop as well before next sprint starts if team wants to operate in that fashion vs weekly elaboration

Sprint Planning 

First Day of the next sprint (~1-1.5 hr)

Evaluate current sprint items(whether anything becomes flip over to next sprint otherwise close the current sprint), Product owner defines sprint goal for next sprint, start with a review of elaborated product backlog items(with estimates already called out by team as per DoD),as IM understand your team’s available capacity for the sprint and then start adding items into next sprint from already elaborated list and when you hit the available capacity, have a final review again with team for the work committed and start the sprint in the tool

Sprint Review 

Any day agreed in the last week of the sprint by the scrum team

Dev Lead/BAs to review functionality developed in the sprint so far with product owner and ask for review comments (if anything needs to be changed/updated within current sprint i.e. reasonable recommended changes from PO) 

P.S : If effort requires are more than put the ticket in backlog and bring that for prioritization discussion with PO for the next sprint

Sprint Showcase 

Last day of the sprint

Business Analyst to showcase functionality completed in the current sprint

PS: Feedback items (if any) to be accommodated in the overall product backlog as new ticket and get prioritized with PO for upcoming sprints accordingly

Sprint Retrospective 

Either on last day of the sprint or 1st day of the next sprint before we get into next sprint (~30-45 min) 

Bring the whole team together and try to find out what all has worked good/bad. Work out with the team where we can improve as a scrum team and ensure suggestions get implemented within the team in upcoming sprints. 

Team Health Check

Quarterly (~ 30-45 min)

To get overall feedback from the team for the quarter and seek inputs for any improvements needed in the next quarter as a team

How to grow in this role and beyond …

Some qualities that are desirable for someone looking to transition into this role

You can explore scrum master course track through various available portals for e.g. - 

Some certifications and trainings that I would recommend to explore, if you decide to go down this path, are :

Bringing it all together

The journey to mastering Scrum as an IT professional is not merely about adopting a methodology, but about embracing a mindset of continuous improvement and team collaboration. From my experiences at leading companies such as Accenture, IBM, and Sierra Cloud, I've learned that the role of a Scrum Master is pivotal in bridging gaps between teams, guiding the agile processes, and ensuring the delivery of high-quality solutions within the constraints of time and scope.

As we have seen, distinguishing the roles of a Scrum Master from a Project Manager is crucial for the effective implementation of agile practices. Each role has distinct responsibilities and requires a unique skill set to ensure that both the project's goals and the team's dynamics are optimally managed. 

For those aspiring to excel in this role, it is essential to continually seek knowledge, remembering that the path of a Scrum Master is one of leadership, mentorship, and perpetual learning. By fostering an environment of transparency, flexibility, and continuous feedback, you can lead your projects to successful outcomes while contributing significantly to your professional growth and the strategic goals of your organization.

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