Common Roles Outside Scrum - dummies

By Mark C. Layton, David Morrow

Product owner and scrum master are scrum roles created by the founders of scrum and these roles integral to any scrum project. Another role is development team member. But like all good things, project management is evolving and growing. Scrum remains a solid framework and foundation. Some common and proven practices can add value.

The following two roles aren’t scrum, but we’ve found that they add enormous value and clarity when approached properly. Consider adding these roles to your project; they may add value to your scrum endeavor.


Stakeholders are people who affect or are affected by your project. Internal stakeholders are within your company or organization; they could be from the legal, sales, marketing, management, procurement, or any other division of your company. External stakeholders could be investors or users.

Although scrum prescribes only scrum team members, the role of stakeholder explicitly interfaces with scrum teams, and it’s a good idea to acknowledge this role explicitly so that you can manage it explicitly. The product owner is the business interface for the scrum team, so stakeholders should work with the development team through the product owner. Stakeholders may communicate directly with the development team during sprint reviews or when a development team member contacts them directly for clarification, but stakeholders generally work through the product owner.

Two roles deal with stakeholders:

  • If the stakeholders are on the business side (such as customers, sales teams, or marketing), the product owner is responsible.
  • If the stakeholders are on the nonbusiness side (such as vendors or contractors), the scrum master is responsible.

The key to interacting successfully with stakeholders is to recognize and leverage stakeholders’ influence while shielding the development team from any interference.

Scrum mentors

Scrum is a simple framework in concept but complex in practice. The same can be said of golf. Theoretically, you use a stick to whack a motionless white ball into a hole, using the fewest strokes possible. Yet in practice, golf isn’t easy. Like scrum, it’s a game of nuance. Small factors make an enormous difference in performance.

The mentor, sometimes called a scrum coach, will work alongside the team to help them develop maturity in practicing scrum. The benefit of using a mentor is that mentors are outside of the normal politics and focus on getting the product out the door. They can step back and see objectively watch how the team works. They can not only identify old habits, but also put the brakes on homemade modifications to scrum that are simply ways to let an old dog do its old tricks.

You’ll have the greatest ease and success with scrum if you stick to it in its truest form. A scrum mentor’s job is to help team members keep good form. Like athletic coaches, they stand aside; see old, unproductive habits; and help you form new habits that make you successful.