Similar to the 1992 US presidential race where Bill Clinton successfully defeated George H.W. Bush by creating the catchy slogan (“It’s the economy, stupid!”) to focus back on the economy, one could hold a similar sentiment with Scrum in that the majority of the focus is on the ScrumMaster, wherein at least from my perspective, all evidence seems to indicate that it’s the Product Owner who should be the focus.
In other words, it’s the Product Owner, stupid!
The reason for such a sentiment is the fact that the Product Owner is a key stakeholder of the project who’s vision of what’s to be developed and built correspond directly to what the Scrum team actually implements. This is the main person that drives the prioritization of the product backlog list.
But more important, this individual needs to have extremely strong business savvy skills and be able to communicate that in a manner that can be built to preciseness so as to reach a state of “done” at the end of a Sprint. Sure the ScrumMaster facilitates this and that role is important, but if the vision doesn’t match the end product, it’s really the Product Owner who’s accountable for this.
In my own experience and in discussion with Agile PM’s, the lack of having a true Product Owner is what usually causes Scrum projects to go south. Often times they will throw some business analyst type person into this role who has no real understanding of the product scope and is the person who is supposed to act as an intermediary to get requirements from a Product Owner type person in the first place!
So don’t be stupid. Make sure you get a real Product Owner, though I know it can be pretty darn difficult.