- Participate in product backlog grooming (e.g., work ahead, make ready, planning, agile analysis, and pruning workshops) to prepare backlog items for estimating and planning.
- Specify acceptance criteria for each backlog item.
- Review and approve user stories.
- Attend daily stand-ups and the end-of-iteration and end-of-release demonstrations and retrospectives.
That’s a lot of responsibility—and it’s time-consuming, to boot. In addition, most product owners wear many other hats. In commercial software organizations, they may be product managers. Or, in organizations that develop software to support their internal IT operations, product owners may be mid- or senior-level business managers. No wonder the product owner needs help!
Balancing Strategic and Tactical Work
In our experience, many product owners don’t have time to balance the strategic responsibilities with the tactical work needed to sustain a healthy flow of delivery. A time-pressed product owner has the following options:
- Do it all (sometimes not very well, causing bottlenecks and delays).
- Establish a product owner council headed by an über-product owner, with strategic responsibilities distributed among the members.
- Get help with the tactical analysis work. Rely on the folks on the delivery team to do much of the business analysis, and retain strategic and tactical decision-making authority.
- Retain strategic responsibilities and delegate the tactical work to someone else (e.g., a domain-savvy business analyst). This delegation should be explicitly and transparently communicated to all stakeholders.
- Some combination of the above.
Beyond Roles to Goals
After exploring and evaluating requirements options, the goal of analysis is to allocate the highest-value requirements for delivery. No matter how roles are classified on your agile team, that business analysis work is vital. It is best done collaboratively, leveraging everyone’s skills to build and maintain a shared understanding of product needs.
Above all, it’s the goal, and not the role, that matters.
Product Owner Role
- Pichler, Roman. Agile Product Management with Scrum: Creating Products That Customers Love. Addison-Wesley, 2010.
- Schwaber, Ken, “Product Owners Not Proxies.”
- Gottesdiener, Ellen and Mary Gorman, “Agile Planning and Analysis: Synergizing to Deliver Value,” Better Software, May/June 2011.
- Gottesdiener, Ellen and Mary Gorman, "Slicing Requirements for Agile Success," Better Software, July/August 2010.
- Gottesdiener, Ellen, "Agile Business Analysis in Flow: The Work of the Agile Analyst (Part 1and Part 2)," Modern Analyst, May 2009.
This article was originally published on TechWell and Agile Journal, August 2011
Copyright © SQE, 2011
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Ellen Gottesdiener helps business and technical teams collaborate to define and deliver products customers value and need. Ellen is an internationally recognized facilitator, trainer, speaker, and expert on requirements development and management, Agile business analysis, product chartering and roadmapping, retrospectives, and collaborative workshops. Author of two acclaimed books Requirements by Collaboration and The Software Requirements Memory Jogger, Ellen works with global clients and speaks at industry conferences. She is co-authoring a book with