From good to great product ownership

By Bonnie Slater in Agile on February 07, 2017

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The Product Owner has arguably the most challenging of the roles in the Scrum process and is often referred to as the ‘single wringable neck’. To learn more about this role and how better to support it as a Scrum Master, I attended the Passionate Product Ownership Workshop with Jeff Patton late last year.

For anyone who is not familiar with Jeff’s work, he is the author of renowned Agile book User Story Mapping. This book takes you on the user’s journey through a product to give you insights into how to build something of value to a user and a client – a process we use here at Boost in kick-off meetings.

One highlight was the importance of learning velocity and making specific goals that speak to learning more about how your users/customers use your product rather than making assumptions. This involves using metrics and data to understand how your customers currently interact with your product, and creating a hypothesis on why this is and how you could improve their experience.

This is an approach we’ve been exploring at Boost, and Jeff gave me a deeper understanding of how to implement it.

Another thing that resonated with me was the use of an opportunity canvas to explore potential opportunities with a product.

An opportunity canvas begins with identifying problems or solutions, looking at the types of customers you have and the challenges they currently experience with the product (different customers may have different issues so it is best to identify these customers/issues separately) and then exploring how your customers currently deal with the problems you have identified or any work-arounds they may be using to meet their needs.

From here, you can work to identify how to solve the problems so that you can move your business forward (as well as fulfill the needs of your customers).

I found this process particularly interesting, and I’d be keen to hear from product owners who’ve tried it.

Contemplating the insights I’ve gleaned from the course, as well as from my experience working alongside Product Owners, I’ve three top tips for transforming a good Product Owner into a great one:

  1. Look at the opportunity canvas as a way to determine both the needs of your customer and the business value in the work.
  2. Involve the team in discovery work. Allow them to experiment and learn alongside you.
  3. Be prepared to minimise the output of work but maximise the outcome. The point is not volume, but the quality and impact of your product.

Further reading

Want to know more about the product owner role? Check out these posts: