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Rugby fans will tell you that a scrum is an ordered formation of the players at the start of play. But if your forte includes software development, you know that a scrum is also a set of practices used in agile product development and project management.
Jeff Sutherland, the co-creator of Scrum, borrowed the term "scrum" from an analogy used in a 1986 article in the Harvard Business Review by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka. The authors compared high-performing, cross-functional product development groups to rugby teams that use the scrum formation when they restart play.
Complex projects require skilled managers that can harness the power of people and processes to develop and maintain products. One of the most popular tools for project management, particularly among tech companies, is Scrum – an agile framework for team collaboration on complex problems.
Agile development, as InfoWorld notes, is a process for developing software. It has become the gold standard for tech companies, stressing collaboration, flexibility, and self-organization -- rather than formal documentation and strict management guidelines.
Demand for Scrum experts, known as SrumMasters, is steadily increasing. SrumMasters are often hired by software development companies to work on or lead agile development teams. According to Study.com, job growth for certified ScrumMasters will climb by 24 percent between 2016 and 2026. What's more, the median salary for ScrumMasters in 2018 was $87,876. For more experienced Scrum experts, the median salary was $122,426 last year.
As The Scrum Guide points out, Scrum is lightweight and easy to understand, but difficult to master. That helps explain why Scrum experts are in high demand and command high salaries. In addition to software development, Scrum also can be used to manage computer hardware development and networking projects.
The ScrumMaster is usually part of a product development team, and is responsible for the implementation and management of projects that are being developed using Scrum theory. This requires both project management expertise and specific knowledge of the best practices, rules, and values for using Scrum.
The Scrum Guide defines a ScrumMaster as a servant-leader for the project development team. The ScrumMaster manages the Scrum process, and helps other project stakeholders interact with the Scrum team.
The ScrumMaster is responsible for a wide range of project management tasks. According to The Scrum Guide, key responsibilities include:
While a ScrumMaster is similar to a project manager, the ScrumMaster has a more limited universe of responsibility. The ScrumMaster, explains Whiz Labs, is the leader and the coach for the Scrum team. That means having primary responsibility for increasing the efficiency and productivity of the team.
The responsibilities of a ScrumMaster include:
In many organizations, a SrumMaster will report to a project manager. The project manager often acts as a liaison between the ScrumMaster and the wider universe of internal and external stakeholders. According to the Project Management Institute(PMI), a project manager is responsible for defining and managing the scope and resources for a temporary project that has a defined beginning and end.
As the PMI notes, a project team often includes stakeholders who don't usually work together. The project manager is responsible for managing internal and external stakeholders -- sometimes from different organizations and multiple off-site locations. Project managers are also responsible for ensuring that projects are delivered on-time and on-budget, and for coordinating all the resources and communication needed to make that happen.
Although ScrumMasters have a narrower focus than project managers, they do need a special skill-set. One of the cool things about becoming a ScrumMaster is that it does not necessarily require a college degree. Adept and skilled computer programmers can become certified ScrumMasters by completing online and/or brick and mortar courses. Obtaining certification from a third party can enhance your career prospects, and your earning power. Costs for coursework and certification exams vary depending on the organization you work with.
As Study.com notes, certified ScrumMasters receive specialized training in leading product development teams, following agile development best practices, and ensuring team collaboration. Becoming a certified ScrumMaster requires completing a certification program, hands-on practical experience using Scrum, and management experience. Certification demonstrates to an employer that you have extensive training and skills in Scrum.
The Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) designation is one of many credentials available for Scrum professionals. The Scrum Alliance offers a rigorous certification program. The CSM program includes five core competency objectives:
1. Scrum Theory
2. The Scrum Roles
3. Scrum Events
4. Scrum Artifacts
5. Artifact Transparency
The Scrum Alliance program consists of a two-year program that starts with CSM designation, and progresses to include elevated certifications, including Certified Agile Leadership. Training and certification costs vary, but one program is currently offering a two-day training course, including the CSM exam fee, for $1299.
Higher level CSM designations require more training, along with work experience. For example, to become a Certified Scrum Professional ScrumMaster (CSP-SM) or Product Owner (CSP-PO), you must:
Maintaining your certification requires ongoing professional development. The Scrum Alliance provides ongoing training to help Certified ScrumMasters maintain their proficiency in the fundamental principles and practices of Scrum. To maintain your certification, you must earn the required number of Scrum Education Units (SEUs) every two years.
The Scrum Institute is another organization that offers a wide range of accreditation options, including:
- Costs range from $69 for basic level certification to $149 for higher level certificate programs -
Another certification option is the Professional Scrum Master (PSM) designation from Scrum.org. The PSM I assessment is available to anyone seeking in-depth knowledge of the PictureScrum framework and its application. The PSM I course is a two-day program in which students learn how to use Scrum to optimize the value and productivity of software products. The cost for the PSM I program is $150. The PSM II training is more in-depth, and explores how ScrumMasters can use Scrum to address various product development challenges.
Certification tests and costs vary by organization, but most provide detailed pricing and even sample test questions online. Here, for example, are three sample certification test questions from The Scrum Institute:
What kind of software development projects can be executed by Scrum Project Management Framework?
Correct Answer: Choice-4 / All kinds of software development projects
What is defined by the Scrum framework? A) Rules & Roles B) Document guidelines C) Artifacts and events
Correct Answer: Choice-5 / A, C What are the advantages of the Scrum Framework?
Correct Answer: Choice-4 / All of the given answers
Two important elements of a resume for a ScrumMaster include a basic list of essential skills, and an overview of relevant experiences. How you present yourself on a resume does not necessarily need to follow a conventional format. A sample resume on The Scrum Alliance website, for instance, is based on Leonardo da Vinci's resume.
Of course, you can use a more modern format, too. The key is to include your technical skills, relevant experience, educational background, and professional certifications.
If you want to prepare for a job interview as a ScrumMaster, the team at Whiz Labs has put together a helpful list of basic interview questions – and the answers, too.
Here are 10 questions that are likely to be part of a basic interview:
As Payscale.com notes, certified SrumMasters earn higher salaries than uncertified ones. The average salary for a certified expert is $88,138, but that varies by organization and geographic region. One recent job offer for a certified SrumMaster was for $83,727, while another was for $133,014. Entry level job candidates can expect, on average, a 13 percent lower salary, while more experienced professionals could command a premium of 32 percent.
Certification can pay big dividends. A recent search for ScrumMaster job openings on Modis yielded 162 results. Certification will likely mean a higher salary. The median SrumMaster salary on Payscale.com was $86,246, about $2,000 less than the starting salary for job seekers with certification.
There are plenty of resources available to help you prepare yourself for certification tests and job interviews. For starters, check out some of our other blog posts, including this one on agile terminology and this one on becoming a business analyst.
In addition to the organizations that offer certification, these resources offer a wealth of information:
Tech job growth is expected to outpace all other industry sectors over the next five years, with 12 percent growth in tech employment compared to 6.5 percent for other industries. Nearly half a million new tech jobs are projected to be available by 2024, and Web development job growth is expected to grow by 27 percent. That translates into big opportunities if you're an experienced and certified SrumMaster.
Start your job search on Modis to see what opportunities are available for ScrumMasters right now.