3 Reasons the Product Owner Is the Most Important Scrum Role
If you’re familiar with Scrum, then you know that Product Owners have one of the toughest and most crucial roles in the process. Not only do they define User Stories and prioritize them in the Sprint Backlog, they also funnel the concerns of the stakeholders and make budgetary and business value decisions. When it comes to Scrum, the Product Owner is the linchpin that holds the project together, and, if armed with the right skills, she can become the fearless leader that guides the entire team to victory! (I’m not being sarcastic. This really is an important job.)
I’ll admit, though, that the role of the Product Owner can be hard to grasp. At Praxent, most of our Product Owners (POs) are new to the role and to Scrum in general, and it takes a while for new POs (as well as the other stakeholders) to get acclimated. I have seen so many times that look of frustrated confusion on stakeholders’ faces when we say, “One of you will be the Product Owner for this project, and all of the rest of you have to go through her (or him.)” I have also seen many new POs fumble when they realize the time commitment and energy that is required. On the other hand, I have watched projects sail smoothly to completion under the guidance of a proud and engaged PO. Because this last scenario is best for everyone, I wanted to take the time to explain why we work this way at Praxent and why it benefits the project as a whole.
- Clear Communication for Productivity in the Right DirectionIt goes without saying that the more people who are involved in a project, the more opportunities there are for miscommunication, misaligned goals, and general shrugging off responsibility. By delegating a single point person on the client side for a project — the Product Owner — we eliminate a lot of this confusion and clear the way for efficient production. The PO makes possible an open channel of communication between the stakeholders and the developers so that our team can focus on building the product you need, rather than on trying to untangle exactly what the product is supposed to be. (See my posts on Multitasking and Self-Organization to learn how Scrum works by supporting the development team.)
- Transparency in Both DirectionsHaving a Scrum-style Product Owner also guarantees that you, the client, have an advocate on the inside to guide and influence the direction that the project goes. Transparency is a key value in the Scrum workflow, and the PO is the link that ensures visibility between the stakeholders and the dev team. Because the PO has access to all the stakeholders, he has his hands on all the motivating factors and intelligent opinions about the goals of the software being developed. Because the Scrum team has access to the PO, no time is wasted in a Sprint when a question arises for the client. And because the PO has access to the inner workings of the Scrum team, he can ensure that billable time is focused on the most important tasks and that any hiccups in production are solved quickly.
- The Final Call: Efficient, Informed Decision-MakingMost importantly, the Product Owner also makes the final decision on every details of the project after weighing the concerns of the stakeholders and developers. When it comes to custom software development, this means deciding which features ultimately get developed when money gets tight — not a decision to take lightly. By streamlining these decisions down to a single engaged individual, no time (read: money) is wasted on your end or on ours by trying to triangulate a perfect solution that makes everyone happy. Though this responsibility sounds daunting, a successful Product Owner will have collected all the input from stakeholders on business value and all the data from the Scrum team on productivity and projected results with the remaining budget. This is all the information a Product Owner needs to optimally prioritize the remaining User Stories and lead the project to completion.
At Praxent, we are invested in making your custom software the best that it can be, and that commitment isn’t limited to hiring talented developers (though, we do that, too). By continually educating and supporting our clients in their Scrum roles, we are facilitating the clear communication, transparency, and empowered decision-making that guarantee the high caliber of all our projects. As a new Product Owner, you will have us by your side every step of the way, guiding you to achieve your leadership potential so that you can lead your software to the next level!