Product Ownership Is a Team Sport

Product Ownership Is a Team Sport

Shane Hastie (Software Education, New Zealand)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9858-1.ch001
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A number of agile brands downplay the need for business analysis and requirements management on agile projects, putting large store in the role of the Product Owner. This paper tackles some of the problems this misconception can result in and shows how effective product ownership almost always requires a team with a variety of skills and backgrounds to be effective. Product Ownership requires clarity of vision, alignment with organizational strategy, understanding of the development process and the ability to communicate with a wide variety of stakeholders across all levels both inside and outside the organization. The complexity of the role is most often more than a single person can (or should) cope with – effective product ownership requires a teamwork approach covering a variety of skills and knowledge.
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Product Ownership In Context

The Product Owner Role

The Product Owner is one of the three roles defined in Scrum, and is referenced in many of the agile brands. The term Product Owner has become almost ubiquitous yet there is a lot of confusion and lots of misinformation about what the role is and what it actually entails.

The Scrum Guide defines the Product Owner role as follows:

The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product and the work of the Development Team. How this is done may vary widely across organizations, Scrum Teams, and individuals. (Education, 2014)

The Product Owner is the sole person responsible for managing the Product Backlog. Product Backlog management includes:

  • Clearly expressing Product Backlog items;

  • Ordering the items in the Product Backlog to best achieve goals and missions;

  • Optimizing the value of the work the Development Team performs;

  • Ensuring that the Product Backlog is visible, transparent, and clear to all, and shows what the Scrum Team will work on next; and,

  • Ensuring the Development Team understands items in the Product Backlog to the level needed. (Schwaber, 2013)

Extreme Programming talks about needing the Customer onsite all the time:

One of the few requirements of extreme programming (XP) is to have the customer available. Not only to help the development team, but to be a part of it as well. All phases of an XP project require communication with the customer, preferably face to face, on site. It's best to simply assign one or more customers to the development team. (Programming, 2014)

This puts a huge demand on the individual taking the Product Owner or Onsite Customer role, one which for the vast majority of real-world projects is beyond the skills and capabilities of any one individual.

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