The Scrum Guide says that the Product Owner and Scrum Master roles should not be played by the same person. Given below are some reasons why this is not recommended in Scrum and the possible consequences of not following this recommendation.
– Conflict of interest – The two roles may have conflict of interest in certain situations. Product Owner is concerned about maximizing the RoI and Scrum Master protects the team from external distractions and helps remove impediments. Scrum Master works closely with the team in doing this, and the product owner provides the customer perspective to the team.
– Bad mix – If the same person plays both the roles, the scrum master role can take a back seat. The person playing both the roles may find it very difficult to balance the needs of the customer and the commitment that the team can make. It is highly probable that s/he may burden the team with ever-so-frequent over-commitment of results and intra-sprint scope changes. This in turn can impact the team results and morale.
– Bandwidth constraints – It may not be possible for one person to play both the roles due to lack of time. Product Owner role requires understanding the needs of the business. Depending on the project landscape this can become a very time consuming activity leaving little or now time with the person to help resolve team impediments.
– What if team size is small: For Scrum the ideal team size in 5 to 9. But for any reason, even if the team is smaller than 5, it would still be better to have different people playing the two roles than letting one person play both the roles. In this situation, the role conflict becomes even more apparent.
– What if organizational structure does not provision for a Product Owner role: Different situations warrant different solutions. For example, the Product owner could come from IT or Business. There could be a proxy Product Owner within the team who interacts closely with the Business or Customer. Since the Product owner takes the ownershiop of the priorities (and thereby the project direction), it is important that s/he has the ability and the authority to say “No” when required.