Monday, September 28, 2009

Organizational Challenges: Product Ownership

Who's in Charge Here?

Identifying the Correct Product Owner

In Scrum, the Product Owner is essentially the person 'in charge'. They are accountable for guiding the construction and delivery of a product. A valuable product with high quality, desirable features.

The Product Owner is an important job, definitely the most important in a Scrum project. The Product Owner should be

  • Engaged - Driving the product with enthusiasm

  • Involved - Part of the Team and available for questions

  • Empowered - Able to make decisions about the product on the spot

  • Supported - Backed by stakeholders and management

  • Accountable - Comfortable with defending product decisions

The Business Analyst

The first thought, was to assign the Business Analyst the job of 'Product Owner'. We tried this and ran into some issues

  • Invalid Feature Prioritization - features were initially prioritized in 'build' order

  • No Cutting - All features had to be delivered (Essentially all high priority)

  • No immediate answers - all questions had to wait for stakeholder approval

On this project we were lucky, and it so happened that the B.A. involved the supervisor of our user base in order to show her what was involved in building a software system. After 5 sprints, the supervisor began assuming the role of Product Owner. Cutting features and deciding on priorities. The Product Owner required a high degree of coaching and support from the BA and the Scrum Master, but it was still clear that the accountability was with the Product Owner alone.

Getting the right Product Owner was critical to the success of Scrum on this Project.

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