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5 Hints for the New Product Owner

demotivational-posters-tell-tale-hintsWhen I was project manager at Typemock, did I learn anything about becoming the product owner in an agile company?  Let me give you five hints I learned.

  • Get yourself a good coach. That may be true for every profession, but especially for the newly initiated, it’s a blessing if you can get a good one. It made a world of a difference for me. A good coach not just teaches you. With the right questions, and actually making you answer them, you have to confront reality. And that’s a good position to be in.

  • Don’t miss out on the stand-ups. No brainer, right? That’s an agile to-do. But you may get sidetracked by work. It’s easy to think: “I can miss one meeting, nothing dangerous will happen.” And it’s true – nothing major happens, since when the developers need you, they’ll find you. However, the real value for me (and I’ve been known to miss a few meetings) these are the little things – what people are working on, what problems they have solved, and what’s bugging them. Apart from the fact that these tidbits of data are interesting, I get reminded that the dev team problems are our customers’ problems  - since they are developers as well!

  • Being agile is not just for developers. There are many facets in product management. One of the things I focused on initially is building roadmaps for the different products. This encompassed a year long vision of the different products. However, I’ve frequently changed my view – short term for specifying current feature, near term features, and long term vision. Sometimes, on the same day. And much like any agile practitioner, you need to modify your path as you go along – the business around you changes, the needs change, new requirement are re-prioritized from different clients (and I have different clients within the company). You need to have the agile mindset.

  • Work closely with the developers. Sure, you can do just the stand-ups and planning. Sometimes it even makes sense. But I found great value with working directly with the developers on estimation, throwing ideas around on different ways to solve a problem, and how to deal with support cases. The final decision is yours, but you get a better solution working together.

  • Connect the dots. This is the one I’m still feeling my way with. It may not be a regular part of the job for the product manager, but it is for me. It’s about connecting parts of the business together – development and product, obviously, but also sales and marketing. As a regular translator, I make sure that the support cases once completed, go back to sales for further treatment (great support leads to happy customers), and in general, that the communictaiton lines between the two departments are open. And of course, product and marketing need to talk the same language (sort of).

So far it’s been an awesome experience. Which, of course, I’ll write more about.

Is this you’re idea of a product owner? How is it different to what you know or imagined?

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