What Happens to the Project Manager When Doing Agile Development with Scrum?

When doing agile development with Scrum is there a project manager role? Formally, Scrum defines three roles: product owner, ScrumMaster, and development team. So, there is no specific role called project manager when using Scrum.

A common misperception is that the ScrumMaster is really just the “agile project manager” or a project manager with a different title. On the surface there are some similarities between a ScrumMaster and a project manager—for example, both do impediment removal. However, being a servant leader significantly differentiates this role from a more command-and-control-focused project manager.

To answer the question “What happens to the project manager?” I have taken the core project management responsibilities as defined by the Project Management Institute (PMI) and illustrated how these responsibilities are distributed among the various Scrum roles and other managers. In other words, the project manager role no longer exists in a Scrum environment, but the core responsibilities of a project manager do exist (e.g., someone has to have responsibility for date, scope, budget, etc.).

project manager responsibilities mapped to scrum agile roles

How project manager responsibilities map to scrum roles

Based on the above table we can see that a person who was a project manager might assume any of the three Scrum roles, depending on that person’s skills and desire. Many project managers make excellent ScrumMasters, if they can forgo command-and-control management tendencies.

However, as you can see from the table, the product owner assumes at least as many project management responsibilities as the ScrumMaster. So, project managers can also make a transition into the role of product owner, if they have the proper domain knowledge and other skills to execute the product owner role. Or, less frequently, a project manager with a technical background might choose to become a member of the development team.

In summary the core responsibilities of the role project manager remain important and need to be addressed. However, when applying Scrum, these responsibilities are not vested in a single individual called project manager. Instead, the traditional project manager responsibilities are distributed among the various Scrum team roles and possibly other managers.