We had seen the role of the Scrum Master in a previous article; here is the role of the Product Owner, who is often much better understood in the business world.
As the name suggests, the Product Owner (PO) is the owner of the product; he is responsible for the delivered product and the schedules associated with it. This is one of the 3 key roles in the Scrum.
It is synthetic but we will detail in this article, all the roles of this Product Owner; what does his day look like during a Sprint?
Sprint of an Agile Product Owner
The role may be slightly different depending on the context, but here’s what a Sprint of a Product Owner looks like.
Sprint Planning Meeting
The Product Owner (PO) is scheduled to host this Sprint Opening Meeting. He begins by presenting the objectives of the sprint in order to align the entire team around the same objective.
The PO then purpose all the user-stories that will be develop in the course of the Sprint and that have already been estimated by the development team. It presents only the user-stories that he will have prioritized himself by respecting the ability to do.
In the modern Scrum, item estimation (user-story for example) is done during the Product Backlog Refinement; in the old scrum guide, this estimate was done during the sprint planning.
The Product Owner (PO) is the only one to choose the user-stories to develop.
It must remain available throughout the sprint because sometimes the development teams still ask questions about certain user-stories; however he can do other things like his daily tasks.
The presence of the Product Owner at the Daily Meeting is not mandatory and I don’t necessarily recommend it. If the team has a visual management of high quality, he doesn’t need to be to the Daily.
Only the Product Owner can add a request to the sprint. As a reminder, the request need to respect the sprint goal announced or correct an urgent bug.
If the new request doesn’t match with the sprint goals, I strongly recommend to add on it a label “impediment”. Moreover in case of Burndown Chart, this ticket is not taken into account in the count.
The Product Owner, during the rest of the days
In some companies the Product Owner is not present on the Scrum team; I really recommend that he works with the team so that he is really part of the team.
The Product Owner will meet regularly with the customers (trades) of the team in order to write their different requests in the form of User-Story. In advanced scrum teams, product owners even write the acceptance tests for each user story.
In some contexts, the Product Owner may set up a small prioritization meeting with stakeholders and sponsors with the help of the Scrum Master. This makes it possible to involve these important actors in the good progress of the project and to share even more on the guideline of the project.
In general, the Product Owner animates the Sprint Review; the Scrum Master will assist him to facilitate the smooth running of the ceremony. Me personally, I really like the duo presentation that shows that the Scrum Master and Product Owner are related and accomplices.
A Sprint Review is preparing to be clean with possibly slides. The Product Owner will instead manage the presentation of the product while the Scrum Master will often provide indicators. He will take advantage of this meeting to see the feelings of his customers and to try to answer all their questions
In some teams, there is a limited presence of the PO; this often leads to a difficulty of integration of this PO within the scrum team. However, this should not jeopardize its presence in the Sprint Retrospective because it’s an essential element to the smooth running of the project.
For my part, I am a partisan of the POs totally inserted in the team and they are members of the team; in this case the presence of the Product Owner is essential. Moreover, the absence of the PO can have in this case rather negative effects on the whole team.
As I said above, for me this meeting that I advise once a session per week of one hour maximum can significantly reduce the Sprint Planning Meeting but also significantly improve the organizational work of the Product Owner (PO ).
The PO will purpose the user-stories to the development team who will ask questions if the developer don’t understand, who will reject them if the user-story is not complete and who will estimate the complete user-story. The Product Owner will have to explain or even modify the user-stories live so that they are well understood by the entire development team.
The PO will have to rework the rejected user-stories with the concerned customers in order to come again with a complete and comprehensible version of the user-story.
Why a fully integrated Agile Product Owner?
When the Product Owner is physically with the rest of the team and is a full member of the team, he create real connection with all members of team. This will have the consequence of considerably reducing the possible conflicts and having in case of disagreement with the development team a real constructive discussion.
It is not uncommon to see the interests of the PO and the development team diverge on certain points.
What are the qualities of the Agile Product Owner?
Here is the list of expected qualities of a Product Owner:
- good communicating
- participates in the product strategy
- to know how to say “No”
The PO will have to be a very good communicator and a person rather appreciated by the majority of customers. It will be difficult for him to perform his role properly if he is not a good communicator.
You have to understand that this role is strategic in Scrum; he is the point of entry with the development team.
In some companies, he have to know the costs of new applications. He can use indicators generally managed by the Scrum Master to successfully put a cost to each project.
To know how to say “No”
A PO must be able to say “No” because otherwise its backlog will eventually be unfeasible. It’s quite rare to see as many requests as ability to do. This word is not so easy to say in some contexts but he will have to know to say it.
The big backlogs are not easy to manage for the Product Owner. This will imply that he knows how to organize it himself; he will also have to have a good vision of the product to know exactly where the product goes.
Conclusion Agile Product Owner
The role of PO that I described briefly in this article is not the easiest role to hold but it is really very interesting.
Do your Product Owners also do other tasks related to the context of your business?
Useful link: scrum in french