|By Michael Nir||
|February 26, 2014 09:00 AM EST||
In a Scrum-Agile project management environment, the product owner acts as a catalyst of change in the organization, enabling value creation through projects and products. Product owners create the required link between how the business would look like in the future and the current state. The product owner is a key facilitator within the organization in bridging the client and the business community with the Agile development team.
Most of what a product owner performs can be defined in the broader sense as: 1) Creating and increasing value for the business, and 2) Eliminating and reducing costs for the business.
The product owner is required to identify business needs and determine solutions to business challenges. We can characterize the role description of the product owner as related to the above tasks into several key responsibilities. The product owner needs to:
- Mine for and create epics that guide the business towards value creation and cost savings;
- Plan and maintain epics, themes and user stories;
- Elicit epics, themes and user stories;
- Reach consensus and understanding of epics themes and user stories between the business and the Agile development team;
- Focus on user stories according to specific guidelines such as INVEST (Independent, Negotiable, Valuable, Estimable, Small, Testable);
- Communicate and collaborate continuously.
As the product owner is the focal point for strategic and tactical product management, he or she collaborates with many stakeholders and must communicate with all of them. Specifically the product owner interacts with the business community and the Agile development teams on a regular basis. He or she should also communicate with management in making sure that business objectives are indeed captured in themes and epics.
On any single Agile development effort the product owner:
- Elicits user stories, making them INVESTabile;
- Analyzes them with the team;
- Provides feedback to the business community;
- Communicates continuously while prioritizing user stories;
- Monitors user stories to their respective epics and themes;
- Supports the Agile development teams throughout the Sprint - providing clarifications where needed;
- Approves and accepts the developed features at the end of the Sprint;
- Maintains a rudimentary or full-fledged traceability of user stories to business, to epics and themes, and to any other relevant criteria that he has defined.
Communication is a key differentiator in the product owner's effectiveness and most often an aspect in which product owners are lacking the necessary know how. This, in turn, impacts negatively the product owner's performance. Emphasis is given to the elicitation of user stories since product owners are usually gathering the stories instead of eliciting them.
The main difference between gathering and eliciting is: Elicitation is an analytical, free-flowing communication and collaboration effort which fits well with Agile development as described in the Agile Manifesto. Gathering is a passive activity with little invested analysis. When a product owner is a gatherer he is actually no more than an administrator.
To summarize the points above: it is vital that the product owner understands the context in which he is working, the tools that she can use while performing the work, and the essence of what it means to be a product owner in an effective Agile product development environment.
Improved Insight into Customer Needs
The product owner constantly communicates and collaborates both with the business community and with Agile development teams. Communicating is the basis for collaborating. Communicating has several goals:
- Letting others know of something;
- Asking for feedback from others;
- Convincing others;
- Proactively building relationships.
In the process of communication, personal, cultural, intercultural, and language barriers exist. The product owner should be cognizant of these barriers and understand that the same message can be perceived differently than anticipated as well as differently by various groups and teams of stakeholders. An effective product owner understands that messages are received, deciphered and perceived differently by others since they have individual and distinct perception filters. Examples of filter categories can be:
- Values-personal - values impact the way a message is perceived;
- Interests - a specific team member interest in a certain user story can impact the way he estimates that story;
- Expectations - different expectations result in different levels of collaboration;
- Past experience - past experience can alter how people accept a certain message and respond to it. This for example can result in different understanding of the same user story to be developed.
When communicating we are subjective, moving away from messages that conflict with our ideas and beliefs. We tend to hear just what we want to hear, and we usually pay more attention to things that interest us. Our past experience impact and biases us, emotions and psychological states impact how we perceive a message and how we communicate. Taking into account these obstacles to mutually effective communication, it is vital that the product owner spend time both when eliciting the user stories and also in conveying them to the team. During the Sprint planning meeting or for that matter any other Agile process which includes detailing the user stories to the development team, care should be given to feedback loops and the clear understanding of what is required to be developed.
When discussing the user story with the Agile development team, for example, it is not sufficient to read out loud the user story cards. The product owner should actively ask for feedback to assure understanding concerning the specific story.It is useful to add graphics, diagrams, illustrations and mind maps to emphasize the understanding.
I probably cannot emphasize enough how important this is in an Agile environments. Since Agile is scarce in formal documentation the clear and concise understanding of what is required to be developed during the collaborative process between product owner and the Agile development team, is key to the Agile development process. Without the clear understanding of what needs to be developed, the team might be investing efforts in the wrong direction. Thus, it can be a very efficient Sprint - speedy and producing the stated results; however it will also be an ineffective Sprint - the results received are not the ones that were required.
This constant feedback and communication loop between the product owner and the business community, and between the product owner and the development team, is key to successful product development in Agile environment. It is also a key element in any product development environment; however, as mentioned before, the typical lack of formal documents in Agile necessitates the constant communication and collaboration, clarifying expectations and interests during Agile development.
I suggest that all product owners participate in communication skills training, learn strategies in developing their skills and enhance their facilitation techniques. A practical approach to handle the communication barriers is to make sure that:
- One knows the communication objective ahead of time;
- Remains cognizant during a communication interaction and analyze the specific situation from both the communicator and the receiver perspectives.
- Remains aware of the restrictions imposed by the environment.
- Establishes and promotes a multi-way feedback loop;
- Is able to communicate in more than one method: i.e. pictures, drawing, diagrams and prototypes. These are great tools to enhance communication.
The product owner's core competencies are facilitation, communication and leadership skills. Effective product owners are able to:
- Facilitate meetings
- Handle tough communication and conflict management situations
- Be effective presenters
- Lead product related business decisions and openly discuss them with the Agile development team
- Negotiate, mediate and influence between the Agile development teams and the business community.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 add...
Mar. 27, 2017 08:30 AM EDT Reads: 1,217
Building custom add-ons does not need to be limited to the ideas you see on a marketplace. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Sukhbir Dhillon, CEO and founder of Addteq, will go over some adventures they faced in developing integrations using Atlassian SDK and other technologies/platforms and how it has enabled development teams to experiment with newer paradigms like Serverless and newer features of Atlassian SDKs. In this presentation, you will be taken on a journey of Add-On and Integration ...
Mar. 27, 2017 08:15 AM EDT Reads: 3,064
There are 66 million network cameras capturing terabytes of data. How did factories in Japan improve physical security at the facilities and improve employee productivity? Edge Computing reduces possible kilobytes of data collected per second to only a few kilobytes of data transmitted to the public cloud every day. Data is aggregated and analyzed close to sensors so only intelligent results need to be transmitted to the cloud. Non-essential data is recycled to optimize storage.
Mar. 27, 2017 08:15 AM EDT Reads: 3,031
"I think that everyone recognizes that for IoT to really realize its full potential and value that it is about creating ecosystems and marketplaces and that no single vendor is able to support what is required," explained Esmeralda Swartz, VP, Marketing Enterprise and Cloud at Ericsson, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Mar. 27, 2017 08:00 AM EDT Reads: 4,253
Interoute has announced the integration of its Global Cloud Infrastructure platform with Rancher Labs’ container management platform, Rancher. This approach enables enterprises to accelerate their digital transformation and infrastructure investments. Matthew Finnie, Interoute CTO commented “Enterprises developing and building apps in the cloud and those on a path to Digital Transformation need Digital ICT Infrastructure that allows them to build, test and deploy faster than ever before. The int...
Mar. 27, 2017 07:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,061
Culture is the most important ingredient of DevOps. The challenge for most organizations is defining and communicating a vision of beneficial DevOps culture for their organizations, and then facilitating the changes needed to achieve that. Often this comes down to an ability to provide true leadership. As a CIO, are your direct reports IT managers or are they IT leaders? The hard truth is that many IT managers have risen through the ranks based on their technical skills, not their leadership abi...
Mar. 27, 2017 05:00 AM EDT Reads: 11,062
The essence of cloud computing is that all consumable IT resources are delivered as services. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Yung Chou, Technology Evangelist at Microsoft, demonstrated the concepts and implementations of two important cloud computing deliveries: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). He discussed from business and technical viewpoints what exactly they are, why we care, how they are different and in what ways, and the strategies for IT to transi...
Mar. 27, 2017 05:00 AM EDT Reads: 6,185
Without a clear strategy for cost control and an architecture designed with cloud services in mind, costs and operational performance can quickly get out of control. To avoid multiple architectural redesigns requires extensive thought and planning. Boundary (now part of BMC) launched a new public-facing multi-tenant high resolution monitoring service on Amazon AWS two years ago, facing challenges and learning best practices in the early days of the new service.
Mar. 27, 2017 03:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,993
Niagara Networks exhibited at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which took place at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, in November 2016. Niagara Networks offers the highest port-density systems, and the most complete Next-Generation Network Visibility systems including Network Packet Brokers, Bypass Switches, and Network TAPs.
Mar. 27, 2017 03:15 AM EDT Reads: 3,171
All organizations that did not originate this moment have a pre-existing culture as well as legacy technology and processes that can be more or less amenable to DevOps implementation. That organizational culture is influenced by the personalities and management styles of Executive Management, the wider culture in which the organization is situated, and the personalities of key team members at all levels of the organization. This culture and entrenched interests usually throw a wrench in the work...
Mar. 27, 2017 03:00 AM EDT Reads: 3,012
SYS-CON Events announced today that Outlyer, a monitoring service for DevOps and operations teams, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Outlyer is a monitoring service for DevOps and Operations teams running Cloud, SaaS, Microservices and IoT deployments. Designed for today's dynamic environments that need beyond cloud-scale monitoring, we make monitoring effortless so you ...
Mar. 27, 2017 02:15 AM EDT Reads: 4,197
My team embarked on building a data lake for our sales and marketing data to better understand customer journeys. This required building a hybrid data pipeline to connect our cloud CRM with the new Hadoop Data Lake. One challenge is that IT was not in a position to provide support until we proved value and marketing did not have the experience, so we embarked on the journey ourselves within the product marketing team for our line of business within Progress. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Sum...
Mar. 27, 2017 01:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,948
Virtualization over the past years has become a key strategy for IT to acquire multi-tenancy, increase utilization, develop elasticity and improve security. And virtual machines (VMs) are quickly becoming a main vehicle for developing and deploying applications. The introduction of containers seems to be bringing another and perhaps overlapped solution for achieving the same above-mentioned benefits. Are a container and a virtual machine fundamentally the same or different? And how? Is one techn...
Mar. 27, 2017 01:45 AM EDT Reads: 3,004
Keeping pace with advancements in software delivery processes and tooling is taxing even for the most proficient organizations. Point tools, platforms, open source and the increasing adoption of private and public cloud services requires strong engineering rigor - all in the face of developer demands to use the tools of choice. As Agile has settled in as a mainstream practice, now DevOps has emerged as the next wave to improve software delivery speed and output. To make DevOps work, organization...
Mar. 27, 2017 01:15 AM EDT Reads: 1,890
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.
Mar. 27, 2017 12:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,147