Product Owners not proxies

All too often, product managers opt out of being a Product Owner. They conspire for a business or product analyst being a “proxy” product owner. Of course, since most of the books and courses regarding the Product Owner have him/her as an appendage to the Scrum Team. All he/she has to do is write user stories and play planning poker, with INVEST. These manifestations of Product Owner come from developers defining what a Product Owner is.

Scrum does not define how to use the Product Backlog, or what the Product Owner should do. Yet, I do know that someone who is writing perfect user stories is not using Scrum to optimize the job of product management. They have become a business analyst, a requirements engineer.

Delegation of product owner responsibilities continues the deep divide between development and its customers. My concept of the Scrum Master was that they were going to bridge the divide. The Scrum Master would to teach the business how to be agile by fulfilling the role of the Product Owner. The Scrum Master was going to help the PO understand how to take advantage of opportunities, to optimize value, and how to collaborate with the team. In no way did I envision the Product Owner becoming a business analyst that was responsible for requirements engineering.

Scrum has been driven from the (software) development community. I think this causes us to see the Product Owner in our eyes. What can they do to help us do better. We haven’t seen them through their eyes, responsible for a product,  thinking about how we in development can collaborate with the PO to help her do her job better.

The people in Product Management and customers have caught on. They have realized that we want them for ourselves, to help us do our work. They have fled, leaving behind a largely eviscerated Product Owner position, the Product Owner/Business Analyst. Of course, this simply reinforces waterfall, where someone is between the developers and the person in charge of the product and its use.

The Product Owner cannot be the Scrum Master. They both have clear interests and habits. Changing their individual habits is hard. Changing them so they can see both points of view is impossible. They first have to learn the new way of doing their job with agility.

I’m going to try to remedy this problem with a new product owner course that purely focuses on a Product Manager being agile. He/she can be using Scrum or any iterative incremental techniques, but the point is to be agile, value driven, and opportunistic – not to sit around and write user stories.

Ken

48 thoughts on “Product Owners not proxies

    • There is no CSPO course. There are many courses, each created by its provider (or taken from Mike and my course and changed). They all focus on user stories, poker, invest, kano analysis. So CSPO is an umbrella set of courses that provides a certification for attending. Useless.

      • That was way too harsh. Mike and I created the initial CSPO courses to address a need – we needed someone to make the Product Backlog work. That was good. However, with the law of unintended consequences, it undercut the connection we needed with the product manager, the real customer. Working a product backlog was requirements gathering to him/her, so we started losing the person that wants agility.
        Ken

      • Ken, It is reality from which this evolution has started taking roots in the practice. Your post and observations are great, but you did not mention the root cause for the problem. With my limited experience, my observation leads to this root cause which is “lack of real PO in the organization”. In any large organization the ratio of the real PO(someone who actually has a view of the market/customer and who has a vision for the product) vs engineers is some thing around ~3 to ~200. So if you form 22-24 teams, these ~3 POs can not scale to the demands of the team. Hence the community has started falling back onto business analyst or architect to fill in the void.
        I look forward to hearing your comment

  1. I share your concerns, Ken.

    I’m curious. What makes you think that a course about how to be a better PO(more agile, value driven, etc) is going to convince those in ‘the business’ to allocate budget for a full time, truly empowered, Product Management PO(PM-PO)?

    What if the software teams just send Business Analyst PO’s(BA-PO) to your course? Does that really help the situation substantially?

    I think what might also help are case studies demonstrating the ROI for a PM-PO over a BA-PO. That might actually inspire ‘the business’ to invest in a truly empowered PM-PO.

    Anyway, just some thoughts.

    • Excellent thought. That might rally them.
      I’m concerned that we don’t turn off more product managers that want to be agile and instead learn user stories.
      Also, as I’m doing engagements with organizations that want to be agile, I want something that directs their product managers and customers toward agility, not requirements engineering.

  2. Great initiative. Having consistent courses on all Scrum roles is important. One gap was already filled with the PSD. Welcome to a good introduction on the role of the Product Owner that is so crucial and probable the least implemented one. Leading to the deficiencies that you touch in your article.
    And, as you rightfully remind us of, Business Involvement is crucial to build the software that they will use, sell, that real users will pay for, and that management expects return from!

  3. One classification of experts is 1) routine experts and 2) adaptive experts. The US army is starting an adaptable leader program, and is trying to adopt design thinking in its leadership. It would be interesting to see bits recognising routine/adaptable/design in a PO program.

  4. hi,
    i’m simple scrum master for 4years. i’m working in great avionic french company to put in place agile organization to create new information system.
    i propose to put in place a product owner proxy in place of product owner and users become product owner in place of stakeholder : the goal is to involve the users in the new model organization
    do you think i corrupt Scrum when i plan to do that ?
    thanks for your help
    best regards
    Frederic

  5. I completely agree that it is dangerous for the PO to become a glorified requirements manager or a proxy to ‘product management’. All too often I see POs who have no actual product responsibility at all: they just prioritise the backlog and write user stories based on the product definition handed to them by a product manager sitting somewhere else in the marketing department, strategy department or wherever.

    To me, this completely defeats the purpose:
    1) the guy with the actual product vision is often aloof and sits away from the team, and
    2) the full benefits of agile come when the whole product team work and think iteratively. Agile is half-implemented when the product team continues to think in terms of SR/big bang/feature releases.

    The PO of the scrum team should be both the voice of the product and an agile thinker.

  6. 1. Thing is that product managers/product owner need the training to be a good PO. Or they have to understand the WHY.
    2. Stop being lazy and giving responsibility to the team (especially to the Scrum Master, so he/she becomes the proxy)
    3. Start being open to Scrum and try to understand it and do not ask endless questions which does not make sense.

    This are my experience after 1 year scrum practice.

    A good PO:
    1.) Knows the product
    2.) Decides quickly
    3.) Has a good relation to the team

    Greeting from Vietnam!

  7. Pingback: Produktmanagement Lesetipps: Überblick agiler und schlanker Methoden, die Rolle des Product Owners, 10 Tipps zur Backlogpflege, Sprint-Retrospektiven, Usertests « Produktmanagement und Vermarktung von Internet-Anwendungen

  8. Pingback: It’s the Goal, Not the Role: The Value of Business Analysis

  9. Pingback: Claves para implantar el rol de Product Owner, uno de los roles clave en un desarrollo ágil (2/2) - Javier Garzás, sobre calidad software y otros temas relacionados

  10. What i don’t understood is in fact how you are no longer really a lot more neatly-appreciated than you might be now. You’re very intelligent.
    You already know thus considerably relating to this subject, made me for my part
    imagine it from a lot of varied angles. Its like women and men aren’t involved until it’s something to accomplish with Girl gaga!
    Your own stuffs nice. At all times care for it up!
    somanabolic muscle maximizer torrent

  11. Hey there! Someone in my Facebook group shared this
    site with us so I came to look it over. I’m definitely enjoying the information. I’m book-marking and will be tweeting this
    to my followers! Exceptional blog and brilliant design.

    visual impact muscle building

  12. What i do not understood is in reality how you are no longer actually much more neatly-favored than
    you might be right now. You are very intelligent.
    You realize thus considerably in relation to this subject, produced me personally imagine it from a lot of
    various angles. Its like women and men don’t seem to be fascinated unless it’s one thing to accomplish
    with Girl gaga! Your individual stuffs excellent.
    All the time maintain it up!

  13. I do believe all the ideas you have presented to your post.
    They’re really convincing and will definitely work. Still, the posts are too quick for beginners. Could you please extend them a little from next time? Thank you for the post.

  14. Pingback: Escalando o papel do Product Owner | Kudoos

  15. Pingback: A Product Owner read up. | Clemens Reijnen

  16. Hi my name is David, I want to show you how you can generate thousands of visitors to your website or video is automatically.YouTube Comments Poster is the first and only solution for people who have no marketing experience; the software helps them to quickly transform 20 world’s largest video hosting sites into sources of virtually unlimited revenues in their spare time with minimum efforts. Automatic YouTube commenter comes with a real-time search module, three different posting engines, and a submissions scanner, so no user input is required. VISIT THIS LINK http://bit.ly/1qsh4cd

  17. Have you ever considered about adding a little bit more than just your articles?
    I mean, what you say is important and all. Nevertheless think of if you
    added some great photos or videos to give your posts
    more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with pics and videos, this site could undeniably
    be one of the greatest in its niche. Very good blog!

  18. I really enjoy this post. I spend great time, reading it. It’s interesting topic and it’s great, that author decided to write about it. It seems like he’s broad minded person. I would like to read another posts with great pleasure. It can be my inspiration.

  19. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to mention that I have truly enjoyed surfing around your weblog posts.
    After all I will be subscribing on your feed and I’m hoping you write again soon!

  20. Hey, I think your site might be having browser compatibility issues.
    When I look at your blog site in Safari, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.
    I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, excellent
    blog!

  21. Hi! I could have sworn I’ve been to this website before but after reading
    through some of the post I realized it’s new to me.
    Anyhow, I’m definitely glad I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back
    often!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s