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We have a software company and our team is ten people and the number of projects we have is two.

Can one person be the Scrum Master inside two projects at the same time?

  • What does the Scrum Guide say? Take a look...Obviously we have the Scrum Guide and we have real life. In real life you can do anything you want and it might even work. It does not mean it is Scrum anymore though. – Venture2099 Jul 14 '18 at 8:11
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It depends a bit on the situation, but from experience I've seen that a full-time, experienced Scrum Master is usually capable of handling two teams. Maybe three if the teams themselves are also highly experienced with Scrum.

Note though that a Scrum Master is in no way attached to a project, but is always attached to a team. If your 10 people are in a single team, then they have a single Scrum Master and they'd be able to handle a dozen projects with their team if that's how many projects the team is working on.

There are no "projects" in Scrum as such, so the guide is pretty much silent on them; it's all about the team. If your Scrum Master has project-based responsibilities instead of team-based responsibilities, your "Scrum Master" doesn't have Scrum Master responsibilities.

  • Hi Erik, that is untrue. One of the central aspects of Scrum is one Scrum team per delivery and all members of that delivery are ringfenced to that delivery only and not split across projects. You can have more than one team working on the backlog but you cannot have a team working on two backlogs. How would it even work? – Venture2099 Jul 14 '18 at 8:09
  • @Venture2099 as long as you work on one backlog per sprint, it should work out okay. I wouldn't recommend it because of the losses in overhead, but you can have a team work on multiple projects, but you should indeed not have multiple projects in a sprint. That never works out. – Erik Jul 14 '18 at 10:03
  • @Venture2099 the team should deal with only one product owner, who could oversee more than one product backlog if the business requires it. The team at my company frequently works on more than one backlog, but they need to be given clear priorities and not forced to decide on their own what they should and should not be working on. – Pedro Jul 14 '18 at 23:16
  • Gents - that is just simply untrue. Here is the verbatim. "The Product Backlog is an ordered list of everything that is known to be needed in the product. It is the single source of requirements for any changes to be made to the product." The Scrum Guide is very clear; a team works on THE product backlog not multiple product backlogs. That is absolute nonsense. It might work for your company but that is not Scrum. It is an adaptation and not recommended. – Venture2099 Jul 15 '18 at 10:59
  • @Venture2099 that's why I said in my comment that I wouldn't recommend it. It works, but it's not ideal. The guide says "one product", it doesn't mention projects at all. – Erik Jul 15 '18 at 12:16
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Probably, but my experience being the Scrum Master of two teams with greatly different context for nearly half a year was overwhelming. While having two teams on the same context wasn't.

Constantly switching systems and context is not something everyone can handle. So I would recommend it to be sub-optimal and not something for the long-term. Trying to help two different organisational needs and understanding different domain knowledge for two projects can be quite challenging. Certainly if you don't just want to be the Scrum event facilitator.

Having two relative similar projects might work out just fine, but still coaching two teams to become hyper-productive at the same time might not result in the effect that would be possible if you would focus on a single team. Although serving two teams struggling in the same organisation might speed up removing organisational-debt quicker.

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It depends also on following factors:

  1. Which functions you have? Actual functions of scrum master are very different in organizations.
  2. Is it a new team - new one requires much more time to be built effective
  3. Is it a new project - every project needs its own process, so you need some time to find and configure appropriate one.
  4. Does environment change quickly - you will need to adapt.
  5. How much trust you have within your team and customer - lack of trust makes improvements requiring much more efforts.
  6. How difficult communication is with your customer and team - remote work is much more difficult.

It's not complete list, but gives you some clues.

Here is also similar question with good answers.

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It really depends on the context. If everything's going for you, then one scrum master can handle multiple teams (3 or more). The key things that would make this possible are:

  • All teams working on one product (i.e. one backlog)
  • Working to a common set of practices/norms (e.g. the same DoD)
  • Working with the same technology space
  • No scheduling conflicts for the ceremonies
  • An experienced Scrum development team
  • An experienced Product owner - meaning a well managed backlog
  • An organisation that is 'bought in' to scrum

You're unlikely to have all of these, but the further away you are from all the items on this list, the more work the scrum master will have to do to support the scrum team making it harder to support multiple teams.

It's worth mentioning (riffing on a comment above - but something of an aside) that according to the guide, scrum doesn't have projects, it has products (and each product has one backlog but may be worked on by multiple teams). Depending on how the business operates, products and projects can be the same or different. For scrum to work, one way or another, the things you need to do for a project will need to make their way into a product backlog. Again, the way this actually happens can vary widely depending on the business. The first point refers to the product.

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