Agile marketers are often forgoing the Scrum Master role, but is this wise?

Companies try to convert existing roles into a Scrum Master but they miss the vital skill needed – a deep understanding of Scrum.

A trend among agile marketing implementations is to forgo the Scrum Master role and to absorb this into a single role that combines Scrum Master and product owner responsibilities into one “marketing owner” role. While this is what’s happening in the marketplace, let’s explore the pros and cons of this practice. 

Let’s start with three reasons for not having a dedicated Scrum Master.

A Scrum Master is expensive

Many marketing departments aren’t able to justify the cost of hiring a Scrum Master. This role is not comparable to anything companies have ever hired before, so securing funding for a Scrum Master is particularly difficult because it is often misunderstood.

A Scrum Master is in high demand, and since the majority of the experienced ones come from the software industry, salaries are typically higher than most marketers are earning. According to salary.com, a Scrum Master earns a median salary of $90k. More experienced ones are earning well into the six figures. This is a big expense to justify for a role that doesn’t typically contribute to actual “output” of marketing campaigns. 

In order to justify the high cost of a Scrum Master, it’s important that companies take the time to really understand what the role does and evaluate the cost-benefit analysis to the company. If you’re confused about what value the role will add to your company, check out the ScrumMaster Checklist.

Team dependency

Some teams become too reliant on a Scrum Master. Without one, oftentimes teams will take on the “self-organizing team” role a little faster. A self-organizing team is what we strive for in agile marketing – it means that the team owns how they will accomplish the work, how they will work together and strives for continuous improvement.

In companies where there is a group of motivated self-starters with shared trust and a culture that encourages risk-taking and innovation, the self-organization may already be inherently there. However, a good Scrum Master can help the team become more self-organizing. There are times when relying on the team to do it themselves can backfire, especially if the company’s culture has been very traditional and top-down.

An already agile company culture

For small, nimble companies, the Scrum Master role may simply not be needed. The Scrum Master spends a lot of time teaching the organization how to run with agility, how to adhere to the principles and values of agile and helps to bring culture change to the organization. If the organization’s culture is already agile, a Scrum Master may not be worth it. 

Many companies still think the role of a Scrum Master is a replacement for a project manager but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The Scrum Master is there to empower the team and bring culture change to the organization. If you’re hiring a Scrum Master just to manage the team’s work, it’s time to change gears.

Now that we’ve explored three reasons why a dedicated Scrum Master may not be needed, here are three reasons why hiring a Scrum Master may be a good idea.

Company lacks Scrum knowledge

If your company is newly embarking on Scrum, you likely don’t have the experience and expertise in-house. Many companies try to convert existing roles to be the Scrum Master but they miss one very vital skill that a Scrum Master possesses – a deep understanding of Scrum. The role serves as an expert teacher of the Scrum framework and the agile principles and values.

Scrum Master evangelizes Scrum in the organization

When Scrum is new to the organization, a key role that a Scrum Master plays is evangelizing a new way to work throughout the company. This can be especially helpful if you’re a larger organization that is doing a major cultural overhaul. 

Companies that are new to agile marketing often think that the transformation is isolated to just marketing. In reality, it becomes a new way to work for everyone in the company. It’s called “business agility.”

Scrum Master keeps the team focused and removes blockers

Another benefit of hiring a dedicated Scrum Master is to keep the team focused and remove blockers. So what exactly does that mean? Here are a few examples:

  1. A manager swoops in and asks a team member to just squeeze in a small campaign for him. The Scrum Master would be there as a shield to the team saying that the team is already committed to work in the sprint and explains the Scrum way of working and how it goes into a prioritized backlog. This allows the team to just work and there is someone there to explain to the manager how a team works in Scrum.
  2. The team can’t get their campaign live because they are waiting on approval from a manager in the legal department. This is seriously inhibiting the team from getting their campaign to market. The Scrum Master would go to the manager in legal, explain the impact on the team and work towards a better process.

So, now it’s up to you to decide whether hiring a dedicated Scrum Master is the right thing for your organization. If you’re already small, nimble with an agile culture, it may not be necessary. However, if you work for a traditional company with a lot of hierarchy, a Scrum Master may be invaluable to your team and organization.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Stacey knows what it’s like to be a marketer, after all, she’s one of the few agile coaches and trainers that got her start there. After graduating from journalism school, she worked as a content writer, strategist, director and adjunct marketing professor. She became passionate about agile as a better way to work in 2012 when she experimented with it for an ad agency client. Since then she has been a scrum master, agile coach and has helped with numerous agile transformations with teams across the globe. Stacey speaks at several agile conferences, has more certs to her name than she can remember and loves to practice agile at home with her family. As a lifelong Minnesotan, she recently relocated to North Carolina where she’s busy learning how to cook grits and say “y’all.”

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