Product Owner role is a key point in Agile teams. Sometimes many companies who adopt Agile
want to move some professional in the organization as a way to promote them. Frequently I find
that choose the correct person for the Product Owner role and coach them is a significant obstacle
to the implementation of good Scrum. For example, one company chose managers as Product Owner and
after a few iterations they failed to follow the role and the company was forced to replace them
for others. Indeed, they have to hire Product Owners who initially don’t know the business of the
company but they know the duties of the role.
The Product Owner’s main focus of communication should be with customers (who support the budget)
and other stakeholders who may have an interest in the product. Ensuring that their voices are needed in the development of the product is vital to ensure the successful outcome.
Lyssa Adkins in her recent book “Coaching Agile Teams” states “all the real benefits of agile are
realized through collaboration”. The Product Owner’s collaboration with customers, stakeholders and
the team are the key to unlocking this value.
Working with the team
If self-organization is the secret sauce of agile, collaboration is how we create value.
Collaboration between the Product Owner and team is the vital intersection between what Tobias Meyer
calls the “voice of the WHAT” and the “tribe of the HOW”. This critical division of responsibility
allows a tension to create the right environment for the best solutions to emerge.
In the day-to-day sprint activities, it is vital that the Product Owner is available to answer the team’s
questions and requests for clarification. In particular, as teams mature this demand on the Product Owner’s
time will accelerate.
Many times I have to recommend to change the Product Owner because this person is too busy to attend
the team and answer their questions.
Serge Beaumont, an Agile Coach for Xebia states: “Implementing Agile is like Pac-Man eating a power
dot: the tables are turned, and they consume the backlog faster than a Product Owner can fill it up. I’ve
seen on all my assignments: it is almost a law of nature for this to happen…”
It is too bad to have an empty or a huge backlog because of that Product Owner has to be very aware of it and Scrum Master has to have the eye on the ball!!!