The Role of Product Owner in Software Development

in Culture, Business by Lidia on June 11th, 2018

Working in the software house we focus not only on coding, but on delivering the best solutions for our client’s business. Our dedication demands an Agile approach where we work in partnership with our clients, ensure open communication, and frequent inspection and adaptation of our work.

To meet these demands, we choose to develop products using an approach inspired by Scrum framework. Working together with the Product Owner or the Product Development Manager is an integral part of our approach. 

The purpose of this text is to explicite why Product Owner is the centre of the Scrum universe.

What is the Agile Mindset all about?

“Agile is a style of working not a methodology or process” - Ken Coolier, Agile guru

By saying we possess an agile mindset, we mean that all the work we do is primarily done to satisfy user’s needs. Our work is done with a focus on early and continuous delivery of business value throughout the development process. To us, adding value to your business means that we focus on delivering working software that is somewhat usable even in the early stages of development. 

The main advantage of the agile approach is that throughout all the stages of product development we have opportunities to learn and improve both the product and the development process. We are inspired to improve our process after every sprint. By focusing on this philosophy, our strategy and tactic are continuously assessed and improved. 

A few words about Scrum process

“Agile is a journey where you learn and improve continuously” - Ben Linders

To us, using Scrum means that every single sprint of our work gives a business value. A product created could be used on the market from early stages of development.

Our commitment to our client’s vision and goals requires that we consult about the priorities of the project weekly to assess the efficiency of our strategy and make sure we are still on track. This approach is especially crucial when there is a need to quickly test a hypothesis about a product. 

Team members work according to a T-shape approach, meaning that we all have our own specialization within the process, but are also able to perform each other’s roles if necessary. In some ways we work like a sports team, where we are always there to back each other up if needed to complete the job. 

There is also great importance placed on the cycle of our work, dividing it into 1-2-week sections called sprints. Each sprint is focused on tasks where we deliver a finished piece of work. We also use self-assessment techniques to encourage our growth both as individuals and as a team. After every sprint, there is a retrospective meeting held where we conduct these assessments. 

 Scrum process Source: Product Owner’s Guide Book. How to launch a successful digital product. E-book by Desmart.

The Product Owner’s role in software development

The  Product Owner sits at the centre of the Scrum process as their decisions influence the work done at every stage of development. Their decisions can increase or decrease time consumption and the overall effectiveness of the product. Their main responsibilities are listed below.

Product Owner Duties: 

As the Product Owner, you maximize the value of the work done by the development team, helping to create a high-quality product. This is achieved through managing the Product Backlog. These duties are described below. 

  • Create and constantly maintain the Product Backlog
  • Prioritize and sequence the Backlog according to business value or return of investment (ROI)
  • Assist with the elaboration of epics, themes and features into user stories that can be achieved in a single sprint
  • Convey the vision and goals at the beginning of every release and sprint.
  • Represent the customer, interfaces and engage the customer
  • Participate in the Backlog Refinement, Sprint Planning Meetings, Sprint Reviews and Retrospectives
  • Inspect the product progress at the end of every sprint and have complete authority to accept or reject any work done
  • Make any necessary changes to the course of the project at the end of every Sprint
  • Communicate the status of the product externally to other stakeholders
  • At each sprint, assess the time invested, scope, and quality of the product

For us, it means that our work with Product Owner does not finish after the initial stage of the product. We want they to create the vision for the product and work with this vision constantly.

Rights of the Product Owner:

  • As a Product Owner, you have the right to:
  • Accept or reject any work done
  • Expect work to be completed according to what is planned during our meetings
  • Determine the priorities of the work needed to be done
  • Request that a sprint is terminated at any point if a drastic change in direction is necessary
  • Expect an involved team and excellent product quality
  • Decide on any changes to be implemented after every single sprint

What makes Product Owner’s role so important?

 The  Product Owner can choose to take on these duties themselves or select someone else to represent their business for them. However, the Product Owner remains accountable. We ask that one person step forward to be responsible for these duties who can represent the desires of their group and express their product goals with the Product Backlog. All information within the Product Backlog is to be prioritized and managed by the PO. It is important that whoever takes on these duties can speak for the business’ vision. 

The Product Owner - top 3 advantages

Business stakeholders need to carefully select the Product Owner for this venture as they will become the key stakeholder in the development of the product. They need to be able to voice the business’ vision of the product and easily convey that to the Scrum team. This is essential not only for the success of the agile software development process but for the success of their company.

Here’s some benefits of being a Product Owner.

Influence on the product’s development process

In practice, this means that, as the Product Owner, you can influence the decisions regarding the product every single week. The transparency of the work done allows you to keep informed at every step and respond to any mishaps along the way. This ensures that, after completion, the final product is suited exactly to your needs. Frequent and open communication between the Scrum Team and the Product Owner is crucial to making the best decisions on behalf of your company.

Risk decreases with time 

At the beginning of the process, a basic, usable product is created, and its features are gradually built on over time. This lowers the risk of something not working at the end of the development process.

You can decide when the work is complete

The agile process gives you the opportunity to decide at any point if you feel the product has reached the point of completion and you are ready to release it to the world. You can also determine precisely what it meant the work is done by establishig Definition of Done. In order to specific issues, you have also an influence on it by setting acceptance criteria of issues. 

Other opportunities

The role of PO in software development is a complicated. It takes a very special personality to do it really well. You have to have a technically capable mind. If you are the Business/ Product Owner Owner/ Owner of the product, but don’t feel like you could take on the role of the Scrum Product Owner- feel free to contact us

Together we can find a solution that works best for you and your product development goals.

 

 

 

 


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