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.