Homebreadcumb forward arrow iconBlogbreadcumb forward arrow iconSoftware Developmentbreadcumb forward arrow iconScrum Master vs Product Owner: Differences & Similarities

Scrum Master vs Product Owner: Differences & Similarities

Last updated:
22nd Sep, 2023
Read Time
9 Mins
share image icon
In this article
Chevron in toc
View All
Scrum Master vs Product Owner: Differences & Similarities

In Agile project management, two pivotal roles, the Product Owner and Scrum Master, play distinct yet equally vital parts within Scrum methodology. 

The Product Owner (PO) assumes the mantle of overseeing the product’s vision and content, meticulously managing the product backlog and prioritising tasks in collaboration with the development team. On the other hand, the Scrum Master (SM) orchestrates the Scrum process, maintaining team organisation, resolving conflicts, and nurturing a culture of continuous improvement. 

Understanding the distinction between the role of Scrum Master vs. Product Owner is crucial for the effective functioning of a Scrum team and the success of Agile projects. 

This blog will delve deeper into the differences between these two pivotal roles in Scrum, shedding light on their unique responsibilities and how they collaborate for project success. 

Ads of upGrad blog

Who is Scrum Master?

A Scrum Master plays a crucial role in Agile project management and is responsible for implementing the Scrum methodology within development and engineering teams. They possess comprehensive knowledge of the Agile Methodology and excel in communicating its best practices to their teams. 

As skilled mentors and communicators, Scrum Masters ensure that team members understand the significance of their tasks and how they align with the product’s vision. 

Who is a Product Owner?

A Product Owner is a multifaceted role central to Agile project management, primarily responsible for orchestrating and prioritising the work of Scrum teams to ensure the successful delivery of a product. They work diligently behind the scenes, engaging with internal and external stakeholders to craft a comprehensive product roadmap. 

This entails customer interviews, feedback analysis, market trend evaluation, and collaboration with upper management to define a clear product vision. They are versatile professionals who wear many hats, serving as marketers, engineers, and support representatives in one role. 

Scrum Master and Product Owner Difference: A Tabular Guide

A Product Owner and Scrum Master is integral to a Scrum team. They possess distinct skill sets and responsibilities. The table below illustrates the difference between Scrum Master and Product Owner within the Scrum framework:

Skill/RoleScrum MasterProduct Owner
Scrum ExpertiseProfound knowledge and experience in Scrum practices, guiding the team’s adherence to Scrum principles.Must know the essentials of Scrum to fulfil their role effectively, with a stronger focus on other competencies.
Team InteractionFacilitates team collaboration, conducts Scrum ceremonies, and ensures adherence to the Scrum framework.Collaborates closely with the development team, stakeholders, and customers, acting as the bridge between them.
Process ImprovementDrives continuous process improvement, identifies bottlenecks, and removes impediments to enhance team productivity.Concentrates on refining the product backlog, making strategic decisions, and adapting to evolving product requirements.
Conflict ResolutionMediates conflicts within the team, fosters a harmonious work environment and ensures smooth team operations.Resolves conflicts arising from diverse stakeholder interests, aligning them with the product vision and goals.
Servant LeadershipEmbraces servant leadership, prioritising the team’s needs, growth, and well-being over traditional hierarchical authority.Demonstrates leadership through defining the product strategy, setting priorities, and aligning the team with the product vision.
Coaching and MentoringCoaches team members on Agile principles and practices, nurturing their self-organisation and continuous improvement.Guides the team by providing a clear product vision, objectives, and feedback to ensure the product’s success.
Backlog ManagementLimited involvement in backlog management, mainly assisting the Product Owner with prioritisation questions.Primary responsibility for creating, prioritising, and maintaining the product backlog to align with customer needs and market trends.
Stakeholder EngagementLess direct interaction with external stakeholders, focusing on internal team dynamics and impediments.Actively engages with customers, stakeholders, and upper management to gather feedback and ensure the product meets market demands.

Difference between Scrum Master and Product Owner: A Detailed Explanation

Scrum Masters and Product Owners play distinct yet equally crucial roles in the Agile framework, each contributing unique skills and responsibilities to ensure project success. 

Here is a detailed explanation of the difference between Product Owner vs. Scrum Master elucidated based on parameters relevant to the Agile framework of operations:

Role of Scrum Master vs. Product Owner 

  • Scrum Master: Facilitates the Scrum process, ensuring team adherence to Agile principles. They act as process champions, helping teams overcome obstacles.
  • Product Owner: Defines the product vision, maintains the backlog, and serves as the bridge between stakeholders and the development team, aligning the product with customer needs.

Check out our free technology courses to get an edge over the competition.

Product Owner vs. Scrum Master Responsibilities

  • Scrum Master: Focuses on team facilitation, process improvement, and continuous coaching. They remove impediments and encourage self-organisation.
  • Product Owner: Concentrates on product strategy, backlog management, and stakeholder engagement, prioritising features and aligning the product with market demands.

Product Owner vs. Scrum Master Skills

  • Scrum Master: Requires strong coaching, conflict resolution, and transformation skills. In-depth knowledge of Scrum and servant leadership are essential.
  • Product Owner: Needs effective communication, strategic leadership, prioritisation expertise, and empathy to understand user and stakeholder needs.

Product Owner vs. Scrum Master Authority

  • Scrum Master: Lacks formal authority; operates through influence and support, not hierarchy.
  • Product Owner: Holds decision-making authority over the product backlog, determining its priorities.

Product Owner vs. Scrum Master Interaction

  • Scrum Master: Primarily interacts with the development team, facilitating collaboration and addressing impediments.
  • Product Owner: Engages extensively with stakeholders, customers, and upper management, ensuring alignment with market demands and gathering feedback.

Product Owner vs. Scrum Master Communication

  • Scrum Master: Employs empathetic and patient communication, coaching the team and resolving conflicts.
  • Product Owner: Relies on clear communication to convey the product vision, manage stakeholder expectations, and resolve conflicts among diverse interests.

Check Out upGrad’s Software Development Courses to upskill yourself.

Product Owner vs. Scrum Master Time Commitment

  • Scrum Master: Dedicates time to coaching, facilitating meetings, and continuous process improvement.
  • Product Owner: Focuses on defining product requirements, gathering feedback, and managing the backlog to ensure it aligns with market demands.

Read our Popular Articles related to Software Development

Scrum Master vs. Product Owner Salary

  • Scrum Master: A certified Scrum Master typically earns an average annual salary of around INR 14.1 LPA.
  • Product Owner: A certified Product Owner generally receives an average annual salary of about INR 18.6 LPA.

Similarities Between Product Owner and Scrum Master

Aside from the differences between the role of Scrum Master vs. Product Owner, they also share certain points of similarity. A Product Owner and Scrum Master plays pivotal roles in Agile project management, collaborating closely to ensure project success. 

Their shared responsibilities underscore the collaborative nature of their roles by fostering effective project communication, efficient progress, and alignment with stakeholder needs and organisational objectives. 

These key similarities have been elucidated below:

  • Stakeholder communication: POs and SMs ensure transparent communication of project goals and objectives to all stakeholders, ensuring a common understanding of the project’s direction and purpose.
  • Facilitation: They act as facilitators, ensuring the project progresses effectively and efficiently. POs facilitate product development by maintaining the backlog, while SMs facilitate the Scrum process, helping teams overcome impediments.
  • Team collaboration: Both work closely with the development team to ensure a comprehensive understanding of project requirements, enabling the team to deliver results that align with desired outcomes and customer needs.
  • Progress updates: POs and SMs must inform all stakeholders about the project’s progress, providing regular updates on milestones, challenges, and accomplishments.
  • Buffering role: They serve as buffers between the development team and other stakeholders, shielding the team from external disruptions and ensuring that project objectives are met without unnecessary interference.
  • Quality assurance: POs and SMs ensure that the project meets desired quality standards and any additional goals set by stakeholders or sponsors, emphasising the importance of delivering a high-quality product.
  • Alignment with organisational goals: They collaborate to ensure that the project aligns with the broader objectives and values of the organisation, maintaining coherence between project goals and the organisation’s strategic vision.

Explore Our Software Development Free Courses

Scrum Master or Product Owner: Which Is Better?

The choice between a Product Owner and Scrum Master ultimately depends on the individual’s skills, experience, and preferences, and it’s not a matter of one being inherently better than the other. Both roles are integral to Agile project management, and their effectiveness relies on the specific strengths and competencies of the person in the role.

  • Scrum Master: A Scrum Master is well-suited for individuals with a strong understanding of the Scrum process and excellent communication skills. 

They excel at facilitating the team, removing obstacles, and ensuring adherence to the Scrum framework.  Their focus is on process improvement and team dynamics.

  • Product Owner: On the other hand, individuals with a deep understanding of product goals and objectives, along with experience in product management and customer relations, are better suited for the role of a Product Owner. 

Their responsibilities involve translating customer needs into product requirements, prioritising the backlog, and maximising the value of the team’s work.

Hence, the choice between a certified Scrum Product Owner vs. certified Scrum Master depends on the individual’s background, strengths, and passion for Agile project management. A Product Owner and Scrum Master certification can further guide individuals in making an informed decision based on their areas of interest and expertise.

Can A Product Owner Be A Scrum Master As Well?

In the context of Agile and Scrum principles, it is generally recommended to keep the roles of a Product Owner and Scrum Master separate for several compelling reasons. 

When a Scrum Master takes on the responsibilities of a Product Owner, there is a risk of losing direct access to vital customer feedback, potentially resulting in products that do not fully meet customer needs. Additionally, combining both roles can dilute their respective focuses, causing a decline in the quality of work in both areas. 

The Product Owner’s primary role is to maximise the product’s value, and diverting their attention to Scrum Master duties can hinder innovation and effective backlog management. Ultimately, maintaining separate roles ensures that the product remains customer-centric and retains its overall value.

In-Demand Software Development Skills


Ads of upGrad blog

The Product Owner and Scrum Master are two indispensable pillars of Agile project management, each with distinct roles, responsibilities, and skill sets. Scrum Masters excel in facilitating the Scrum process, ensuring teams embrace Agile principles and effectively collaborate. 

They act as coaches, mentors, and conflict resolvers, fostering a culture of continuous improvement. On the other hand, Product Owners are pivotal in defining and prioritising product vision, working closely with stakeholders, and translating customer needs into actionable requirements. 

Ultimately, the success of Agile projects hinges on the synergy between these roles, allowing organisations to deliver value-driven products that meet customer expectations and align with strategic goals.


Pavan Vadapalli

Blog Author
Director of Engineering @ upGrad. Motivated to leverage technology to solve problems. Seasoned leader for startups and fast moving orgs. Working on solving problems of scale and long term technology strategy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1Who is a better choice between a certified Scrum Product Owner vs. certified Scrum Master?

The choice between a certified Scrum Product Owner vs. certified Scrum Master depends on the individual's skills, strengths, and preferences within Agile project management.

2What are the key points of difference when it comes to the Scrum Master vs. Product Owner certification?

The key points of difference in Scrum Master vs. Product Owner certification primarily revolve around their respective roles, responsibilities, and skill sets within the Agile framework.

3Scrum Master vs. Scrum Product Owner: Who is more powerful?

Neither the Scrum Master nor the Scrum Product Owner is inherently more powerful; they have different roles and responsibilities but are equally crucial to Agile project success.

4Is the rank of a Scrum Master higher than that of a Product Owner?

The rank of a Scrum Master is not necessarily higher than that of a Product Owner; they hold different roles with distinct focus areas.

5Who earns more, a Scrum Master or a Product Owner?

Comparisons between Scrum Master vs. Product Owner salary may vary, but generally, a Scrum Master tends to earn a slightly higher average salary.