product owner basics

Product Owner Basics In Agile

What are the the Agile Product Owner Basics?  What are the main things the agile software Product Owner has to do?  There are certain key habits the Product Owner needs to do.  These help drive solid fundamentals for the entire agile team. 

My agile team has been discussing agile fundamentals in our process.  Questions posed included ideas on what are Product Owner Basics. There are a lot of flavors of process available, but I am talking specifically about the Product Owner role in agile software development. Lots of teams do things different ways, and call it the same.  Some even do it the same and call it differently. I wanted to get down to the basics and write what the minimum things are the Product Owner should be doing. Again, this will vary from team to team, but to be successful as a PO, I feel the following is the minimum that must be done.  Improving  the following 4 items will go a long ways to helping with Agile Product Owner Basics.

Product Owners translate the strategy and vision of the company into work for the agile team.

In this role, you need to understand where the company wants to go, even if the company doesn’t. Then creating a product road map that will align with that strategy. This is not set in stone, but you have to know where you want the product to go, and discern that into work for the team. An often made mistake is having work that ultimately doesn’t align with the larger strategy with the company. Work being done is influenced by so many voices, and its easy to let those voices dictate some of the work.

Agile Product Owner Basics – organize and provide an ordered backlog for the team. A backlog that delivers value to the organization.

Product Owners understand that not all work delivers value, and some work is too costly for the value delivered. Those are actually the easy questions to answer when having work ready in a backlog. Other considerations are arranging work to help with the efficiency of completion of the work. This is how work is split so you can both grow the product incrementally and show delivery of value consistently to your stakeholders.

Agile Product Owner Basics – make decisions to help the agile team move forward

This is the day to day involvement with the team. Product Owners have to keep work in alignment with vision of the product. You answer questions for the team. You negotiate with the team and with stakeholders on what will deliver value. Also, Product Owners make the tough choices to cut or reduce scope, in order to deliver the important items.

Product Owners are the last stop gap for work on the agile team.

This is my last item, and is a tough one as it feels more art than science. Product Owners need to sense and seek out the product issues that will slow the team down, and make decisions to eliminate those issues. This is different from the above as it is pro-active and not reactive. Product Owners Keep a finger on the pulse of the team. The Product Owner understands when things are slowed down by unnecessary features. Then, as a PO, you make simple changes to save time and effort. 

Some Tips To Help With Agile Product Owner Basics:

  • Focus on the what and why. Those are more important than how and when.
  • Teams should create the solution, meaning the PO shouldn’t dictate the how.
  • Remember to focus on who will use and pay for the product

To improve as a software Product Owner, focus on these items. The Product Owner Basics will help you to make improvement. Practice an agile mindset, and don’t stop improving.

Lastly, I wanted to share a quote on staying positive and keeping at the work at hand. Agile is all about continuous improvement, and this quote goes along with that very well. You can see more product management quotes in an article I really like, here

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

– Winston Churchill


Further Reading

Here is the first part of my diving into the concepts in the Agile Manifesto. Exploring the Agile Manifesto – Part 1

Here I continue with the second concepts of the Agile Manifesto. Exploring Agile Further – Part 2

Next is some concepts from waterfall development that I feel carry over into Agile process. Timelines and Due Dates

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