Scrum Roles for Beginners: A Quick-Start Guide to Scrum Roles and Responsibilities for New Teams

Scrum Roles for Beginners: A Quick-Start Guide to Scrum Roles and Responsibilities for New Teams

Sprints, Artifacts, Scrum Master, Daily Scrums – the glossary of Scrum terms alone can be daunting. And that’s not to mention all the required Scrum Events. You might think: doesn’t it defeat the whole point of Agile development to have a bunch of extra roles and meetings?

Don’t be scared off by the new words or meeting routine. Scrum done right doesn’t clutter your schedule – it actually consolidates current meetings into a more productive cadence. Think of Scrum less as a set of rules and more as a container. It’s a basic structure that facilitates your team to be more Agile. 

Master the Scrum essentials, and then use Whiteboards to hold your Scrum Events as you keep learning. Gather your Scrum team around a virtual canvas with templates for Sprint Planning, Sprint Retrospectives, and Daily Scrums. Video chat with team members as you review and optimize your Sprint management.

The Whiteboards app features robust Jira integration so your Scrum team can manage Jira work items during any meeting or event. Import, create, and modify Jira issues as you refine your Product Backlog and estimate user stories during Sprint Planning. New items and updates all sync instantly in Jira for seamless development work.

Try Whiteboards Pro for free with your aspiring Scrum team. Keep reading to learn about Scrum team roles and find helpful resources to continue exploring all things Scrum.

Scrum 101

What is Scrum?

Scrum, first introduced publicly in the 1990s, is the number one project management framework used by Agile software teams today. Scrum’s founders call it a “lightweight framework,” meaning Scrum doesn’t tell developers how to do their work. Instead, it establishes efficient, repeatable processes that facilitate Scrum teams to collaborate effectively and continuously adapt their practices in response to their own empirical evidence.

Who uses Scrum?

Scrum still claims its largest user base in software development, so you’ll generally encounter it in that context. However, marketing, sales, and other departments may benefit from forming their own Scrum teams. You can easily adapt the Scrum framework to many Agile business applications.

What is a Scrum team? 

A Scrum team is a group of internal stakeholders collectively responsible for delivering value to the product’s end user. This team plans, executes, and manages product development across the entire product life cycle. In keeping with Agile methodology, the Scrum team is deeply collaborative and self-managing.

What is the ideal Scrum team size?

To remain nimble and adapt to change effectively, the Scrum team needs to stay small. If the team exceeds 10 people, consider splitting it into two or more teams. The Product Owner (discussed in the next section) coordinates and aligns the work of the separate Scrum teams to ensure development continuity.

What are the Scrum team roles?

In Scrum, there are three established team roles. Two of these are single-person roles: Scrum Master and Product Owner. The third role, Developers, is a cross-functional collection of development professionals. Find details of these roles and their specific responsibilities below.

What are Scrum events?

To understand Scrum roles and responsibilities, you need to understand the Scrum schedule. The backbone of Scrum is the Sprint, a repeating time increment of 2-4 weeks. Each Sprint has its own Sprint Goal, which the team sets during a once-per-Sprint planning meeting.

Each Sprint Goal supports the larger Product Goal and defines the value that Sprint will add to the end user’s product experience. The Sprint Goal includes delivering new features, bug fixes, or other tangible product enhancements.

To set and accomplish reasonable Sprint Goals, every Sprint includes three longer Events as well as brief daily check-ins. Importantly, these Scrum Events shouldn’t add meeting time to your work schedule. Their purpose is to consolidate and streamline meetings into a productive rhythm.

Notice how the Scrum Events build an Agile feedback loop that drives observation, inspection, reflection, and adaptation:

  • Sprint Planning (4-8 hours). To kick off each Sprint, the Scrum team creates a Sprint Backlog. The Backlog includes the Sprint Goal, a list of work items to be completed, and a plan for accomplishing them. The Sprint plan reflects adjustments to the team process according to decisions made in the recent Sprint Retrospective.
  • Sprint Review (2-4 hours). In this workshop-style meeting, the Scrum team explains to key product stakeholders how the last Sprint contributed to the Product Goal. Attendees discuss achievements, challenges, shifting requirements, and ideas for improving the upcoming Sprint.
  • Sprint Retrospective (1-3 hours). In this event, the Scrum team inspects their team strategies, tools, processes, and interactions during the recent Sprint in preparation for an informed and effective Sprint Planning session. They address what went well and what needs to change, then establish concrete plans to effect that change.
  • Daily Scrum (15 minutes). Each morning Scrum teams hold a brief Daily Scrum to check in and coordinate the day’s work. They examine their progress toward the Sprint Goal and adjust the immediate work agenda as needed to stay on track to the Goal.

A new Sprint begins when the previous Sprint ends. Sprints are always the same length, and that length is up to the Scrum team. Two weeks is the most common Sprint duration. To ensure the team stays connected and responds quickly to evolving development needs, your Sprints should not be longer than a month.

For a deeper dive, check out our Step-By-Step Beginner’s Guide to Scrum Events.

What are the different Scrum roles and responsibilities?

A Scrum team consists of Developers, a Product Owner, and a Scrum Master. Per Agile methodology, Scrum teams are self-managing, nonhierarchical, and consensus-driven. The Product Owner and Scrum Master have distinct management responsibilities, but are expected to execute these in service to the team. Rather than being Scrum team directors, the Product Owner and Scrum Master are fellow collaborators.

Venn Diagram template on
Venn Diagram template on

The Product Owner and Scrum Master are generally also development professionals doing active development work in addition to their specialized roles. In other words, it’s common to have a 100% Venn Diagram overlap of the Scrum team and Developers. 


Like any Agile team, a Scrum team is cross-functional. The Developer role includes engineers, designers, testers, QA: everyone directly involved in product development. The Developers participate in all Scrum Events and are collectively accountable to the Product Goal, Sprint Goal, and each other.

Here are the Developers’ primary responsibilities, broken down by Scrum Events:

Sprint Planning

The Developers establish a Sprint Backlog during each Sprint Planning session. The Sprint Backlog includes three things:

  1. the Sprint Goal 
  2. a list of user stories to complete to reach the Goal
  3. a plan for completing these items, including a Definition of Done

The Sprint Goal briefly describes how the upcoming Sprint will enhance the end user’s experience. The Developers are jointly responsible for achieving the Sprint Goal. 

Sprint Planning template on
Sprint Planning template on

The Developers assemble work items for the Sprint Backlog by examining the highest priority user stories in the Product Backlog. They break these into smaller work items, estimate completion time, and establish a list of items that is reasonable to complete in one Sprint.

The Developers then prioritize and assign these Sprint Backlog items to reflect team capacity and work dependencies. To ensure the Sprint Plan is clear to everyone, they create and abide by a common Definition of Done.

Explore essential aspects of Sprint Planning with our in-depth user guides to Agile estimation techniques and the Definition of Done.

Daily Scrum

Each morning, the Developers check in briefly to confirm their work for the day. They examine Sprint Goal progress, discuss any impediments or requirement changes, and adjust their work priorities accordingly.

Daily Standup Meeting template on
Daily Standup Meeting template on

The Daily Scrum is strictly limited to 15 minutes. It’s a check-in, not a full-scale meeting. Daily Scrums exist mainly to ensure that everyone’s on the same page, and to make small clarifications and rearrangements. Issues outside the scope of the Daily Scrum should be handled in a separate troubleshooting session.

Daily Scrums help reduce the need for ad hoc meetings throughout the workday. However, Scrum Developers communicate during the day as necessary to respond to rising issues. If one Developer hits a roadblock, or another impediment arises, this affects the entire Scrum team, the Sprint Goal, and the Product Goal. Everyone is ready to pitch in and pivot to keep the team’s work on track.

For instance, if a serious bug surfaces midday, the team might convene briefly to decide who will pause their assigned work to fix the bug. Then they reorganize the work agenda as needed to continue supporting the Sprint Goal.

Sprint Review

During the Sprint Review, the Developers present their recent work to people outside the team. They update other departments and possibly external stakeholders about achievements and challenges of the last Sprint. They also seek feedback from these stakeholders to aid their next Sprint Planning session.

Pro tip: Hold Sprint Reviews on the digital whiteboard and use the Frames tool to deliver professional presentations to your assembled stakeholders.

Sprint Retrospective

The Developers are responsible for communicating proactively and transparently with the team at all times. The Sprint Retrospective is an important time to practice this communication.

Sailboat Retrospective template on
Sailboat Retrospective template on

Retrospectives build transparency by creating a space to share feedback openly with consideration for creating accommodations and improving team processes. Consistent Sprint Retrospectives bring the Developers together to celebrate achievements, address impediments, examine their work honestly, and adapt their practices as a team.

Product Owner

The Product Owner is the keeper of the Product Backlog and ambassador of the Product Goal. Their overall objective is to steer the Scrum team in ways that maximize product value in the long term.

The Product Owner’s primary responsibilities involve the Product Goal, Product Backlog, and Product stakeholders:

Product Goal 

The Product Goal is a concrete vision of the product’s front-end functionality in the relatively long-term future – several months or even a year. The Product Owner creates this Goal in close collaboration with relevant stakeholders, using research-informed knowledge of end user needs. The Product Owner communicates the Product Goal clearly and consistently to the Developers. 

Product Vision Board template on
Product Vision Board template on

During Sprint Planning, the Product Owner advises the team on aligning their Sprint Goal with the Product Goal. However, they do not micromanage Sprint Planning or daily development work. In Scrum, the Product Owner “owns” the Product Goal, while the Developers “own” the Sprint Goal. This balance keeps larger objectives in focus for the whole team while freeing the Developers up to self-organize effectively.

Product Backlog 

The Product Backlog includes the Product Goal and the work items necessary to fulfill that Goal. These items are broad, large-scale user stories that the Developers will eventually refine into smaller, detailed stories when creating a Sprint Backlog.

Product Backlog template on
Product Backlog template on

The Product Owner is accountable for the following Product Backlog oversight:

  • developing Backlog items that fulfill the Product Goal
  • finalizing the list of Backlog items
  • explaining these items effectively to the entire Scrum team
  • maintaining the Backlog in alignment with the Product Goal
  • prioritizing the Backlog ahead of Sprint Planning

The Product Owner creates the Product Backlog alone or in collaboration with the Scrum team. Either way, the Product Owner has the final say on the composition of the Backlog. They ensure the Developers thoroughly understand the Backlog items and how they contribute to the Product Goal.

The Product Owner actively maintains the Product Backlog, updating it to reflect shifting business realities and stakeholder feedback. This might include deleting, updating, or otherwise rearranging Backlog stories to continue serving the Product Goal. 

The Product Owner also regularly prioritizes the Backlog items to keep the most pressing issues at the top. Expert Backlog management and clear communication set the Developers up to create a solid Sprint Backlog during Sprint Planning.

Product stakeholders

The Product Owner clearly communicates the Product Goal to all product stakeholders. They also deeply understand various stakeholder priorities. They see the product from the perspectives of the Developers, marketing, finance, end users, and so forth. This allows them to liaison among stakeholders to balance priorities and align everyone to the overarching Goal.

In order to do all this, the Product Owner maintains proactive communication with other stakeholders – for instance, regularly attending marketing team meetings to learn the latest research on end user needs. 

Scrum Master 

The Scrum Master is the Scrum team facilitator, teacher, and coach. As the title implies, it’s their job to master all things Scrum. The Scrum Master steers the organization towards better practices in line with the three pillars of Scrum:

  • Transparency: maximum process visibility for the entire team
  • Inspection: empirically-driven examination of these processes
  • Adaptability: fluid and productive recalibration in response to inspection findings

In doing this, the Scrum Master serves the Scrum team, Product Owner, and other stakeholders in multiple ways:

Scrum team 

The Scrum Master coaches the Scrum team regularly on Scrum principles and methods – for instance, assisting the Developers to organize their work in line with a clear Definition of Done. The Scrum Master may or may not lead the Scrum Events, as decided by the Scrum team. Regardless, their role is to ensure all events take place and stay time-boxed, productive, and positive.

The Scrum Master knows the team and its dynamics well and suggests tools to meet the team’s evolving needs. For instance, a Scrum team with excellent rapport and solid collaboration can lean heavily on quick, action-focused Sprint Retrospectives. For a team facing more challenges, the Scrum Master might recommend retros addressing feelings and personal experiences in order to pave a path towards healthier team dynamics.

The Scrum Master focuses continually on removing impediments to the Developers’ success. This includes coaching the team towards better self-organization while eliminating blockers outside the team’s control. This might include seeking a budget for more effective work tools or reaching out to another department to address processes that are hampering development work.

Product Owner 

The Scrum Master helps the Product Owner develop the Product Goal and Product Backlog in line with Scrum. This includes researching tools and techniques that support Scrum planning priorities.

For instance, Whiteboards’ Product Backlog Refinement template makes it easier to work with a large Backlog. Jira integration lets the Product Owner visually organize Jira items directly on the whiteboard. The Scrum Master knows that better tools and techniques drive team success, and they experiment to find approaches that work.

Product Backlog Refinement template on
Product Backlog Refinement template on

The Scrum Master also helps the Product Owner communicate effectively with the Scrum team – for instance, explaining the Product Backlog and soliciting and integrating Developer feedback.

Other product stakeholders

The Scrum Master is the organization’s Scrum ambassador to all product stakeholders. They organize and lead Scrum trainings, including guiding the organization as it adopts Scrum. They field stakeholders who have questions about the Scrum team’s practices and explain how Scrum supports the Product Goal.

The Scrum Master communicates the importance of following the Scrum framework, helping skeptical internal stakeholders see the value in Scrum Events and practices. They also facilitate collaboration between the Scrum team and other stakeholders as needed.

See our guide What Makes a Good Scrum Master? to learn how to perform this role effectively, including essential Scrum Master skills, tools, and common mistakes to avoid.

Whiteboards and Scrum

Those are the basics of Scrum! Uphold the Scrum pillars, maintain a consistent events schedule, and choose tools that enhance collaboration and self-organization. Learn more and make adjustments as you go.

A virtual whiteboard is the perfect meeting tool for remote and hybrid Scrum teams. Developers video chat on Whiteboards each morning with the Daily Scrum Meeting template. Product Owners sort and prioritize large work items using the Product Backlog template. Scrum Masters guide the team using the Sprint Planning template and accompanying templates for Backlog Refinement and Story Point Estimation.

Hold your Sprint Review on the virtual whiteboard and present your Sprint story with the Frames tool. Run an efficient, action-oriented Sprint Retrospective with the Start, Stop, Continue template. Or, dig in deeper with a Facts and Feelings Retrospective.

To facilitate efficient Scrum Events, Whiteboards’ tools integrate deeply with Jira. Easily import your Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, or individual Jira work items to the virtual whiteboard. Create new issues from virtual sticky notes and manage issue details as you plan. Move Jira items around on the canvas to prioritize, estimate, and categorize them visually. All your work syncs in Jira, eliminating the hassle of post-event Jira updates.

As Scrum and Jira users ourselves, the Whiteboards team is continuously creating tools that help you (and us) integrate Scrum practices and Jira work to drive success. Try Whiteboards for free as you adopt Scrum. Experience how Jira integration and targeted Scrum management tools can help your Scrum team be more Agile.