Product Owner and Scrum Master Differences 

 September 6, 2022

By  Dave Litten

Product Owner and Scrum Master Differences

The Product Owner

The product owner is the empowered central point of product leadership and forms one of the three roles that constitute every scrum team, that is the product owner, scrum master and the development team.

The product owner needs to have a dual focus. They need to understand the needs of priorities of the organization, stakeholders, the customers, and users well enough to act as their voice. So, the product owner acts as a product manager, ensuring that the right solution is developed.

The other focus is the product owner must communicate to the development team what they must build and the order in which to build it. The product owner must ensure that the criteria for accepting features are specified and tests that verify those criteria are run to determine whether or not the features are of a complete product

You can see that the product owner is part business analyst and part tester.

The product owner is a full-time role with significant responsibilities. In some cases, you may not find a single person who can fill the product owner role, in which case as a compromise, you may need two individuals.

Let me cover the main responsibilities of the product owner:

Product Owner And Scrum Master Differences

Manage economics

The product owner is responsible for ensuring that good economic decisions are continuously made at the release, Sprint, and product backlog levels.

The product owner must make trade-offs in scope, date, budget, and quality as a stream of economically important information arrives during product development.

At the end of every Sprint, the product owner oversees a decision as to whether or not to fund the next Sprint.

A satisfied product owner may decide to stop funding further development at the end of a Sprint if the product is ready to ship and additional expenditures are not justified.

The product owner manages Sprint-level economics to ensure a good return on investment (ROI) Is delivered from each Sprint.

The product owner is responsible for prioritizing the product backlog, and if economic conditions change, the priorities in the product backlog will likely change as well.

Participate in planning

The product owner participates in portfolio, product, release, and Sprint planning activities.

The product owner will need to work with internal stakeholders such as an approval committee or governance board to make sure the product is positioned correctly in the portfolio backlog and to determine when to start and end product development.

The product owner works with stakeholders to envision the product during product planning, and with stakeholders and the team to define the content of the next release when release planning.

The product owner will work with the development team to define a Sprint goal.

Groom the Product Backlog

Product Owner And Scrum Master Differences

The product owner overseas grooming of the product backlog including creating, refining, estimating, and prioritizing the product backlog items. The product owner may not write all of the product backlog items others may contribute. The product owner does not estimate the items as the development team does this.

The product owner is responsible for ensuring that the grooming activities promote the smooth flow of delivered value.

Define acceptance criteria and verify they are met

The product owner is responsible for defining the acceptance criteria for each product backlog item and to ensure that the functional and non-functional requirements have been met.

The product owner may also right acceptance tests corresponding to the acceptance criteria or he should use the assistance of subject matter experts or development team members.

Collaborate with the development team

The product owner should do this on a frequent basis since this is an engaged, committed, and everyday role.

In scrum, all activities to create a particular feature (design, code, integrate, test) are carried out during each Sprint, meaning the product owner must provide a constant high level of engagement.

The product owner is the single voice of the entire stakeholder community, internal and external. Internal stakeholders can include business systems owners, executive management, programme management, marketing, and sales.

External stakeholders can include customers, users, partners, regulatory bodies, and others.

The Scrum Master

Product owner focus is on building the right product, and the development team is focused on building the product right. The scrum master Is focused on helping understand and embrace the scrum values, principles, and practices.

Product Owner And Scrum Master Differences

The scrum master acts as a coach to the development team and the product owner while providing process leadership, helping the scrum team and the rest of the organization develop their own high-performance, organization-specific scrum approach


The scrum master is the agile coach for the scrum team, both the development team and the product owner. By coaching both roles the scrum master can remove barriers between the roles and enable the product owner to directly drive development.

The scrum master is there to help everyone solve their own problems not to solve the problems themselves.

The scrum master coaches new product owners by helping them understand and perform their responsibilities. The scrum master ensures the product owner is providing the team with what it needs. The product owner listens to the owner’s complaints and requests for change going on to translate those into actionable improvements for the team.

Servant Leader

Although acting as the team’s coach, the scrum master is a servant to the scrum team, ensuring that its highest priority needs are being met.

Process Authority

Scrum master ensures the scrum adheres to the scrum values, principles, and practices. They continuously help the scrum team improve the process to maximize delivered business value.

Interference Shield

The scrum master protects the development team from outside interference so it can remain focused on delivering business value during every Sprint. No matter what the source of the interference, the scrum master acts as an interceptor by fielding inquiries, addressing management, and arbitrating disputes so that the team can focus on delivering value

Impediment Remover

The scrum master is responsible for removing impediments that inhibit the team’s productivity – for when the team members themselves cannot reasonably remove them.

Change Agent

The scrum master helps others understand the need for change, the impacts of scrum outside of the scrum team, and the broad-reaching benefits scrum can help achieve.


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David spent 25 years as a senior project manager for USA multinationals, and has deep experience in project management. He now develops a wide range of Project Management Masterclasses, under the Projex Academy brand name. In addition, David runs project management training seminars across the world, and is a prolific writer on the many topics of project management.

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