Pattern of the Month: Product Ownership
Think of the Product Owner as a human single source of truth.
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The Product Ownership pattern is used in an environment where frequent releases are used to learn about product value. For any given increment, there can be a variety of outcomes for product stakeholders, and these varied interests must be reconciled and represented to a Development Team. It will then be possible to inspect and adapt the innovation process.
Product ownership has to be authoritative, and it cannot be effectively represented by a stakeholder "committee." A clear Product Owner should represent an asset to development teams and be accountable for value to all.
Just as a Scrum Master can be thought of as a "Servant Leader," so a Product Owner can be seen as a "Value Maximizer." Responsibilities include:
Stewardship of the Product Backlog
Prioritization of requirements for Sprint-based, iterative-incremental delivery
Participation in Sprint planning, reviews, and retrospectives with Development Team members
Elicitation of business requirements, and explaining their value to Agile team members
The ability to explain the acceptance criteria for each piece of work
Customer-facing skills, including the balancing of competing demands from multiple stakeholders
A "Proxy" PO is a stand-in for a real Product Owner who may not have sufficient interest to attend. A strong argument can be made against this arrangement. Unless a simple, direct, and effective model of Product Ownership is negotiated, then the risks are perhaps too high for development to go ahead.
Product Ownership is Pattern of the Month at agilepatterns.org
Intent: Provide a single business liaison who is able to represent customer needs in an accountable manner, provide effective pull on a team backlog, and who is empowered to make business decisions
"Too many cooks spoil the broth."
"A single wringable neck."
Also Known As:
Motivation: Explaining customer requirements to technical teams, and liaising with them on the delivery of value, is a skilled job. Customers cannot be expected to have these skills and technical teams cannot be expected to make business decisions regarding product value. A single voice is needed who, as an empowered liaison, can fulfill this role and perform duties to both client and team.
Structure: A Product Owner will wholly own an ordered backlog of product requirements. Each backlog item will represent value to the customer and the Product Owner will be in a position to explain each one to the team, and to rewrite it if necessary in order to improve clarity. The team will then size each item and the Product Owner will order the backlog in the customer’s best interests. The Product Owner and the Team will negotiate which items should be brought into the Sprint Backlog for the next iteration in accordance with a suitable Sprint Goal.
Applicability: Product Ownership is key to a collaborative way of working, and as such, it is applicable to all Agile methods.
Consequences: Product Ownership encourages teamwork. It gives the customer and technical teams a common goal and provides both with an incrementally emergent schedule in the form of a Product Backlog. This requires the availability of someone with appropriate skills, availability, and authority. Such people can be difficult to resource and Product Ownership by proxy has become common. Failure to resource a suitable Product Owner or proxy implies that product value cannot be represented and that the Business Case should be reconsidered.
Implementation: Scrum expressly supports and requires a Product Owner role. In XP, Product Ownership is represented by the Onsite Customer role. In DSDM the operational duties of a Product Owner to a Development Team are fulfilled by a Business Ambassador. A DSDM Business Ambassador may proxy for other business roles; these can include a Business Visionary and one or more Business Advisors.
Product Owner, by Mike Cohn
Being an Effective Product Owner, by Roman Pichler
Product Ownership in Practice, The Agile Zone
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