I Can't Pay for a Scrum Master or Product Owner


Paying for the right people on your project is an important factor for success. You wouldn’t hire a UX designer to build your database, or a software developer to do your mechanical engineering. You hire the right person for the job.

In Agile it’s the same thing. I’ve posted articles on having the right Scrum Master and Product Owners on your team. I want to highlight the point in a slightly different way. Many projects we help at Chunk Munk say they “don’t have the money” to hire a proper Scrum Master or Product Owner. This is the number one reason they make people within the existing team the Scrum Master and/or Product Owner.

My message to them is, let’s not kid ourselves, you’re already paying for the roles, you just don’t realize it. Most don’t realize the time commitment it takes to do these roles. Sure, there are some people that can be more efficient at them, but that’s not the norm. In many cases these roles are full time. I tell organizations to plan them that way. If they have extra time, then they use that to help the team in any way they can; development, testing, designing, meeting with customers, demos, etc.

Like I mentioned in my previous articles, a Scrum Master needs to know Scrum. Not just know it based on a single training session, but REALLY know it inside and out. If they do not, this is where you see inefficiencies. As you unearth problems, and you will. They won’t know how to handle them within. They will try to follow the book. But, by not understanding WHY Scrum does it certain ways they won’t fully understand how to fix the problems. So, they will do a combination of anything they can think of to make it better. Let’s face it everyone on your team wants to be successful. That doesn’t mean what they do makes you successful.

This brings you down a path of a half Waterfall, half Scrum project. Not really getting the benefit of either. You don’t meet your Sprints or Program Increments or Releases. You spend a lot of money managing meetings, large stories, heavy reporting, strict documentation guidelines, etc. as that’s the only way you know to try and fix it.

Wasted Time = Wasted Money

A Product Owner who doesn’t know the subject matter, or is too technical, will incorrectly prioritize the backlog. They will prioritize technical features, refactoring, and frameworks above business value. Not necessary a bad thing on its own, and again, it’s not because your Product Owner doesn’t care about the business value, but they don’t understand it. They will prioritize what they think is best to move forward; “I need these frameworks in order to deliver any value”.

One of my clients asked for help, in 4 months they invested approximately a quarter of a million dollars into a custom product. Before I got their they were prioritizing full framework and fundamental architecture changes. In that 4 months, they received about $50,000 of true deliverables. Notice I didn’t say business value. Deliverables in that if I outsourced only the deliverables that provided value, I could of got that done for about $50,000. The Business Value related to that $50,000 was unknown to them at that time.

The framework didn’t provide the value they expected, it didn’t affect the cost of features being implemented into it afterwards. Not that parts didn’t need to be done, but it could have been differently, to provide both refactoring of key areas, AND business value. A proper Product Owner working with a proper Scrum Master and Development team would of made this negotiation.

The point; you are today, taking two members from your existing team, two members that you have counted as delivery headcount and you have assigned them to Scrum roles. You have compensated for a percentage of their time, but it’s not enough. These positions are taking them away from what you put them on that team for; delivering. Those people, not because they don’t want to be successful, are creating inefficiencies in your project, in your methodology, and what you deliver and your return on investment. You’re missing Sprints, your missing Releases, and your stuck in meeting hell.

You are paying for these roles. Unfortunately, our analysis shows you are paying more for these roles then simply staffing them with the right people. 2 properly staffed roles, and well organized and cohesive team, will cost to staff, but will drive efficiencies in everything you do.

Your team doesn’t have to be all seniors, just key people in the couple key roles. Give your team what they need to be successful, and you will be amazed what they will do for you.


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