Thuật ngữ Scrum Product Owner trong Agile là gì? Luyện thi PMI-ACP
The Scrum Product Owner is a central role within the Scrum Framework. Most of the responsibilities of the classical product manager and the project manager are combined within this single role.
In some cases, the Product Owner and the customer may be the same person. In most of the cases, the customer is someone different from the Product Owner.
He represents the end customer and/or other stakeholders and is responsible for maximizing the value of the product by ensuring that the right work is done at the right time.
As a consequence this means of course that the Scrum Product Owner has to work very closely with the Scrum Team and coordinates their activities over the whole lifetime of the project. No one else is allowed to tell the development team to work from a different set of priorities.
The Scrum Product Owner has a number of responsibilities:
- Managing the Scrum Product Backlog
- Release Management
- Stakeholder Management
- Work closely with the Scrum Team
Of course the Scrum Product Owner can delegate certain activities (like physically maintaining the Scrum Product Backlog), but in the end he remains responsible.
Managing the Scrum Product Backlog
The Scrum Product Owner is the only person allowed to manage the contents of the Scrum Product Backlog. This means he has to:
- Create, maintain and clearly describe the Scrum Product Backlog items
- Prioritize the items to best achieve goals and mission
- Ensuring that the Scrum Team understands the items in the Scrum Product Backlog
The Scrum Product Owner is responsible for reaching the project goals. He creates and maintains the release plan and decides about deliveries, functionalities and therefore about the costs of a project.
He manages the Scrum Team by creation and prioritization of appropriate Scrum Backlog items.
External stakeholder should not communicate directly with the Scrum Team. Instead the Scrum Product Owner should collect and discuss required functionalities with the different Stakeholders (e.g. customer, marketing, service etc). These requirements are then combined and filtered before giving it to the team in the form of prioritized Scrum Product Backlog Items.
Work closely with the Scrum Team
For a successful project it is important that the Scrum Product Owner and the Scrum Team work together very closely. He is responsible that everyone in the Scrum Team understands what is required.
The Scrum Product Owner is also responsible for checking and accepting the Sprint results during the Sprint review session.
LEAD PRODUCT OWNER??? WHY AND WHEN
The title sounds a bit weird isn’t it? Scrum does not advocate on titles like lead and considers the entire team as a group of equals who will do anything it takes to successfully build and deliver a product. There are roles in a scrum team like scrum master, product owner etc. but there is no Lead as such. Then, why have I asked such a question?
Read on and you will know soon enough…
Is One Product Owner Enough for a Product/Scrum Project?
The Product Owner is one of the most challenging roles to be filled for any Scrum Project. Of all the roles, the PO (Short for Product Owner) is the one with majority of the prioritization and decision making authority. The PO is always reviewing competing requirements/requests from external parties (like clients) and internal stakeholders (The Scrum Team). He/she has to attend planning meetings, sprint reviews, retrospectives and even the daily scrum. On top of this, the PO also needs to manage the product backlog, answer queries raised by the team and more importantly manage external stakeholder expectations with regards to the product at hand. This includes, traveling to customer site, attending/conducting product roadshows, developing short/long term product strategy, prioritizing the product feature backlog, watching out for industry/market trends and the list goes on.
Quite a complex role isn’t it?
If the product is quite small and the team isn’t too big (single digit number) then most likely a single PO may be able to handle the project. Now, if we are talking about an enterprise product/system with a multitude of features, a single PO cannot possibly take ownership of the entire system and all its nuances. The product would most likely get split into different modules (small scrum teams) and unless each module has a dedicated product owner, the teams are going to be constantly complaining about lack of attention/intervention from their PO and this would result in unwanted delays.
At some point, as the overall size of the product/project grows, it makes sense to introduce a hierarchy of collaborating product owners. Each product owner is given responsibility for one part of the overall system and they are work together towards the overall product roadmap or goals. At any given time, we have more than one product owner, it also makes sense to introduce a Lead Product Owner who would take ownership of the product as a whole and not just the individual modules.
So, the Lead Product Owner is just the Manager for all Product Owners?
In crude terms, Yes. Every product owner is given the task of prioritizing their individual module level product/feature backlog. When there are competing or conflicting demands, we need someone to intervene and choose the outcome that is most suitable for the product. When there is a conflict, every PO is going to think only about what is most beneficial for his/her individual module and hence reaching a compromise may be a long and sometimes even a futile exercise. Having a Lead (or Manager) helps diffuse the tension because the Lead Product Owner owns the entire product and not just the subset and hence has the authority to decide.
The Lead Product Owner has the responsibility of having an overall vision for the entire product. He conveys this vision to his team of Product Owners and coach/guide them toward building a robust product. The Lead Product Owner should have regular meetings with his team of POs and provide constant support & feedback.
In fact, a complex product could have more than one layer of management/supervision among the PO’s. Look at the picture below – There are product owners, product line owners and a Lead product owner with increasing levels of ownership on the product.
Some Last Words
In large agile projects with multiple teams, the product owner role is just too big for one person and hence it is recommended to have a team of PO’s with one person taking the lead role. The term I have used like Lead Product Owner & Product Line Owner are just one of the many you can hear in the agile world. Some people even use terms like Super Product Owner, Feature Owner, Area Owner and so on. It’s up to you how you want to name this role but at the end of the day, the job description would pretty much be the same.
CAN THE PRODUCT OWNER ALSO BE THE SCRUM MASTER?
One of the most common points of stress in a scrum project is when the same individual gets assigned more than one role in a scrum team. As you may have seen in the article titled “Participants in Scrum” each role has its own responsibilities and often times the roles clash with one another. In this section am gonna highlight why I think the roles of a scrum master and product owner should not be held by the same individual.
Reason 1: Different Purpose
The two roles couldn’t be any more different than they are now. They are both focused on different aspects of the project. The product owner spends his time thinking about what the next product increment should be and how to liaise with key business stakeholders to understand their needs. The scrum master on the other hand is thinking about how to motivate & help the team to deliver the last increment that the product owner requested and how he can remove the impediments in the teams way.
If you are from a software/IT background, I could add an analogy here between a developer and a tester. Even though a developer can do testing and a tester can do coding, there is a reason these two roles were separated. When we test our own code, a sense of confidence creeps in which hinders the testing effectiveness. Whereas, when we are testing someone else’s code, our instinctive sense of doubt prevails and we are able to find much more bugs on the code.
Get the picture?
Reason 2: There is always conflict between the two roles
As scrum master, one of my regular activities was negotiating with the product owner whenever he/she feels the team is just not taking the new story they created mid-sprint or one of the good to have stories for the upcoming sprint. The role of the product owner is to ask for more and more stories to be included in the sprint while the scrum master tries to protect the team and make sure that they don’t overcommit themselves while they continue to deliver good quality software sprint after sprint.
This means, these two roles are going to be at cross-hairs frequently and keeping the two roles separate means either party can do justice to their respective roles.
Reason 3: They are probably busy with their individual roles already and adding another role will overburden them
Even though the roles of a scrum master and product owner may sound simple on paper, trust me, it is a lot of work and both of those parties (in a typical scrum project) are probably quite busy doing their respective tasks and adding another role would overburden them. Even if they manage to burn the midnight oil and try to do multi-tasking, it will definitely affect their productivity & efficiency
Reason 4: Team and/or Product suffers
The scrum master is the guardian or protector for the team and is always protecting them from unwanted noise & distractions. A scrum master who is also the product owner might be biased toward adding more & more scope items to the product/sprint backlog and in the absence of a dedicated guardian the team will be exposed to a massive backlog which they will be constantly overloaded with. This will result in reduced velocity (with multiple WIP stories that get spill-over to the next sprint), reduced quality and more importantly reduced team morale.
On the other hand if the individual is more scrum master and pushes back on all new requirements, the product backlog and the organizations product as a whole will suffer while the team will be quite happy and satisfied.
A good scrum project is one where we are able to balance between keeping either demands at appropriate levels and not let one side overpower the other.
Note: It is practically impossible for the same individual to do 100% justice to both roles simultaneously. Bias and impact on the team or product is inevitable.
What are your thoughts on the same individual being both scrum master and product owner? Sound off in the comments section…