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Product Ownership

Why do you absolutely need a Product Owner?

04 Jun 2019


Thierry Burrig

"What is harder than making things simple in a complex world?"

Agilist even in its soul, the Product Owner (PO) is a crucial element in the implementation of quality products, targeting its audience in the right way and providing it full satisfaction.

Your products are not always used? They generate a lot of complaints or require a significant budget extension to be finalized? Or they do not exist yet because you are unable to formalize and to make the operational problems of your teams emerge and find a quick, adaptive solution that will satisfy all parties?

So read on, we bet you will be interested!

Why do I need a Product Owner?

The PO is able to answer all the "Why?". Why is this product made? Why do we need to do this? Why should we do this before that?

In short, all the questions that you must encounter frequently and for which we don't always have the answer.

As the one in charge of the vision of the product, the PO will make sense and will look for anything that deals with the product.

Whether expert on the business or not, technical expert or not (we will come back to this in another article), he is the one who will ensure that the constraints and issues of all parties are not only taken into account but also understood and shared by all. This is called alignment. All in the same line, looking towards the future, in the same direction.

To be able to carry out this important mission, however, certain factors are strongly recommended. The efficiency of the PO is proportional to the degree of agile maturity of the environment in which he evolves. He can also perfectly evolve in a non-agile setting and actively participate in the transformation but the benefit of his presence will be increased as the environment becomes more agile.

Perfect, but how will it affect my organization?

If we were to summarize the responsibilities of the PO in one word, it would be: "Value".

What is beautiful with value is that it is highly dependent on the environment and the context in which it is defined in. Ultimately, it is almost always the satisfaction of users, customers or beneficiaries of the product, but it has many nuances more or less important.

Budget, social relations, speed, adaptability, impact, technology, and more can be criteria to take into account to value all or part of the product.

Each product, in its context, must find its KVIs (Key Value Indicators). They evolve with the product and help ensure that we are going in the right direction.

"In a situation where you can't count what is important, you make important what you can count"

The PO must very often find a balance between "internal" value - technical innovation, excellence, sustainability - and "external" value - number of monthly users, frequency of use, customer satisfaction.

For this, he relies, at least, on the feedback that he has and his personal experience, the measurable impact on users (benefits to the provision and risk to continue without), the effort and complexity of accomplishment, and the risks.

The PO is quickly able to have a systemic approach to prioritize what needs to be done according to the value specific for the environment. He is thus able to listen to the production team as much as to the stakeholders of the product (sponsor, users, ambassadors, transverse teams ...) and adapt the product so that it always sticks to the changes that always occur in the life of an organization.

Excellent, but everyone has a different way to do it, no?

The PO necessarily builds on agile values ​​and principles, and has many methodologies that allow it to set an ideal framework for its product.

Kanban and Scrum are the most commonly used methods, but anything else can not be excluded, quite the contrary.

Through his experience on the different products that he has has been able to orchestrate, as well as his own proven consumer experience, the PO has a very strong appetite for UX (user experience). Depending on his profile, he may be comfortable with the implementation of prototypes, wireframes, and / or will easily understand and be understood by a UX Designer to detail this exploration of user / customers needs.

The PO is then the person in charge of the Backlog of the product (s) and is able to say no to any request, whatever the source of it, arguing the reasons for his decision if necessary.

He creates and maintains roadmaps, both in the long term to allow everyone to project and in the short term, so that the delivery team has all the elements necessary to advance in the best conditions, daily.

The PO must be available for the team at any time (or almost) and he is the preferred point of entry (ideally unique) to the delivery team. It is important, even essential, that all the people who participate to the product have full confidence in him.

So, how can I recognize who is a good Product Owner?

Product Owners often have "schizophrenic tendencies", namely:

  • Sure of themselves, but perfectly able to question themselves
  • Excellent communicators, but can play with the organizational tensions and understand the real needs of each person
  • Courageous and resistant, but do not hesitate to share their problems and find solutions quickly
  • Firm, but a diplomat
  • Leader, but listens to everyone
  • Organized, but loves change
  • Passionate, curious but able to focus on the essentials

Recruitment, Training, Coaching or Consultant?

A Product Owner from outside will have a bigger impact on the organization and the "why" of the product. It will be easier to get out of the constraints of someone who has been in the organization for a long time, and who can be influenced by the real relationships of the company.

The intervention can be done in several ways, as a consultant, in full possession of the role, or as a coach trainer, accompanying a person who wishes (or who is proposed to) build competence on this agile product management capacity .

All these solutions are good and each one will be preferable according to the product, your organization and your needs.

I am convinced, I need a PO! A summary to be aligned?

A Product Owner whose functions you have understood, to which you will offer the right conditions, can make a diamond of a few grains of sand scattered throughout the organization. He is able to perform many functions but is not there to do everything. True federator, he will embark teams with him to conquer the ideal product, maximizing the value they will produce on what is most important.

Offer him your trust, it will make your users / customers and your teams proud and satisfied of everything that can be created together.

Do not look for the experience, look for the personality.

Look no further for excellence, you have found the way to achieve it.