Business Analyst vs. Scrum Master: Can I Be Both?

On the most successful teams in any field, the individuals who constitute high achieving teams will often share common skills, but with a key difference among them: focus. Where their focus lies is what helps them specialize and excel in their role, and drives success for their team.

Take sports teams, for example. In a hockey team, all must be exceptional skaters, have excellent puck handling skills, and be able to pass the puck accurately. But some specialize in goalkeeping, some in defense, others in offense. For the team to succeed, it needs its individual components to be laser-focused on their role. 

This is not unlike a project team. 

But many assume that, because they possess the same skills, a Business Analyst can also handle the duties of a  Scrum Master, and vice versa, in an Agile team. I’m not here to dash your dreams, but I am here to share the reality that a Business Analyst cannot be a Scrum Master within the same team on the same project. 

And let me tell you why. 

It’s All About Focus

While everyone on the project team is working toward the same goal, a key difference between the Business Analyst role and the Scrum Master role is the focus. Let’s dive into each of these roles to better understand their main focus.

Business Analyst Role

As part of the Development Team, the Business Analyst is focused on the success of the project. BA’s ensure that everyone is aware of the needs and requirements of the business and the solution, fostering collaboration and communication between the teams/parties involved in the project and, overall, ensuring the project is progressing on track. 

Scrum Master Role

Often referred to as “the servant leader”, the Scrum Master’s main purpose is to ensure that the team has everything they need to succeed. You can learn more about Scrum in my Agile Fundamentals course here (complete with limited time discount!). They are the ones that help the Development Team and the Product Owner overcome roadblocks and make sure they have the resources and tools they need to make the vision a reality. 

The Scrum Master is also an expert of the Scrum framework, and can help educate others on the team about Scrum. The Scrum Master will also encourage successful and skillful use of Scrum throughout the Project Team. 

In short, the Business Analyst is focused on the needs, progress, and success of the project, whereas the Scrum Master is focused on the needs, progress, and success of the team(s). 

Together, the Business Analyst and the Scrum Master provide a balance that is equally important and needed for success of the solution. 

Why They Cannot Be One In The Same

Despite sharing similar skills and even pushing the team to succeed in a common goal, the Business Analyst on the project team cannot also be the Scrum Master. This is true for a number of reasons:

The Attention That is Needed

Their separate and specific focus points ensure that the success of the solution and the success of the team executing it are given equal weight and attention. It ensures that the team has all of the resources and tools they need to succeed and that the project – and all of its intricate details and requirements – are managed and fulfilled.

Time and Energy

Time and capacity constraints are a very real thing when it comes to executing projects. When it comes to working in bigger teams and on bigger projects, there are more moving parts and stakeholders for the BA to wrangle and communicate with, and there are very often more people on the project team for the Scrum Master to tend to. When it comes to working on a smaller team, it’s all hands on deck and there are very often different tasks and areas for the BA and the Scrum Master to fill in and help with.

So, we’ve now explored both the Business Analyst role and the Scrum Master role, and why they must be fulfilled by two different individuals on a project team. I hope that’s offered you some clarity and helped you understand, more deeply, the value that each of the roles brings to the team, the project, and the organization. 

– Written by Jeremy Aschenbrenner, The BA Guide

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4 Responses

  1. Jeremy, thank you for the article.
    Could you please consider writing an article talking about the best roles to combine with the BA role?
    I have often heard that the the best combination is PO and BA. What is your opinion?

    1. It is my pleasure, Yulia, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the article.

      The Business Analyst (BA) and Product Owner (PO) are close in roles. The key to remember from Agile Scrum, there is no official "Business Analyst" role. This means those duties need to apply to another role, in this case, the Product Owner. This is why you see so much overlap.

      Now how each organization uses POs and BAs in their Agile teams will vary drastically, but most often the BA is a right-hand person to the PO in helping them understand and document the needs of the business. The BA is often the specialist in requirements, so it makes sense for most instances.

      However, with that being said, some organizations have BA’s less involved with the PO and more assisting the team in completing and testing the various Sprint Backlog items. It really depends on the project, the industry, and the culture of the organization.

  2. Don’t know if it is true but sometimes in place where I’m currently working SM (Scrum masters) are so worried about story points in backlog, especially when team couldn’t complete the sprint and burn all points. I think this should be concern of BA rather than SM-s, am I right?
    Also, nowadays, the roles of Product Owner and Business analyst, become similar. Considering the fact that PO is a dev team member but BA officially according to Agile methodology does not exist anywhere in the team, BA and PO duties overlap in the project. Can you make a clear difference between them?

    1. To me, the Product Owner (PO) and the Development Team are the only ones that need to be involved with the estimations and hitting commitments. The Scrum Master’s responsibility is to ensure everyone understands and follows the best practices of Scrum, so this could be helping teach the team how to estimate or how to use a different technique – but no, I do not believe the SM needs to be (or should be) involved.

      The BA and PO are close in roles. In Agile Scrum, there is no official "Business Analyst" role. This means those duties need to apply to another role, in this case, the Product Owner. This is why you see so much overlap. Now how each organization uses POs and BAs in their Agile teams will vary drastically, but most often the BA is a right-hand person to the PO in helping them understand and document the needs of the business. The BA is often the specialist in requirements, so it makes sense for most instances. However, some organizations have BA’s less involved with the PO and more assisting the team in completing and testing the various Sprint Backlog items. It really depends on the project, the industry, and the culture of the organization.

      With that being said, great BAs do often make excellent POs.

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