How Do You Know You're Really The Scrum Product Owner?
The reason why I want to talk about this topic is that recently I received so many questions from people who have the title Product Owner in the company but quite unsure whether they really are the Product Owner. It's quite ironic to see so many people in our industry to have the title Product Owner but not really the Product Owner. So let's see the indicators to identify whether someone is really the Product Owner; If you are interested in this topic, stay tuned, don't go anywhere folks. The first indicator to use to identify whether someone is really the Product Owner is by looking at how the individual spends his or her time within one Sprint. If the individual spent up to 80 percent of his or her time within one Sprint doing tactical aspects for the product such as fine-tuning the Product Backlog items, ensuring that the acceptance criteria are well written, well-formatted, analyzing the requirements, fiddling around or overly optimizing tools like JIRA, ensuring that every Product Backlog items are well linked to one another on JIRA, this individual may not really be the Product Owner. To avoid confusing others in the company, I personally prefer to call this person the Product Scribe or the Requirements Engineer, because that is what they do most of their time within one Sprint. As the Product Owner is accountable for the value of the product, the Product Owner will spend the majority of their time at the strategic level.
Development teams usually like the Product Scribe because the Product Backlog items prepared by the Product Scribe are well written and well-formatted but the Product Owner is not the development team's personal secretary, and tactical work should be delegated rather than done by the Product Owner him or herself. If you've ever seen a job like this on the internet, you can now be confident that this is actually a job description for a Product Scribe. This is basically just a re-labeling of business analysts. But many companies in our industry like to masquerade it and label it as Product Owner to make their company look fancy and following the latest trends. But now you know you're not gonna fall into the trap anymore because you know that this is not the job description for a Product Owner. So don't be deceived. The second indicator to use to identify whether someone is the Product Owner is by looking at whether that person is able to make critical decisions on the spot that is well respected by everyone in the company without getting those decisions overridden by those from the higher authority. According to the Scrum Guide for the product owner to succeed the entire organization must respect his or her decisions. If the individual is not allowed to make critical decisions on the spot and always has to ask for approval from those with higher authority or the decision made by the individual is most likely going to be overridden by those from the higher authority, to avoid confusing everyone in the company I personally prefer to call this individual as the Product Proxy rather than the Product Owner because the fact is they don't really own the product because they are not empowered to make critical decisions for the product on the spot that is well respected by everyone in the company. The fact is someone else with a higher authority has ownership over the product. Awesome Product Owners know when to say NO because they own the product. This is how Product Owners gain trust from the development team when the Product Owner knows when to say NO. But the product proxy will just say yes especially to those from the higher authority because they do not have the political power, they're not empowered by the management, and because they don't really own the product. Product Proxy is just the messenger or the middle person.
The third indicator to use to identify whether someone is the Product Owner is by looking at how visionary the person is in ensuring the product is valuable and sustainable for the long term. As I have explained in my previous video on project management versus product management, success in product management is about ensuring the product is valuable for customers and sustainable in the market for the long term, therefore the Product Owner must have a long-term vision for the product rather than just concentrating on short-term project success. I've already made a video on the differences between project management and product management, if you haven't watched that video click the link up here to watch the video. It is possible someone has the title Product Owner but only focused on short-term project success, I would call this person the project manager and would not call this person the Product Owner as it will confuse everyone in the company. It is quite common though to see a project manager with a label product owner in a client-supplier relationship. The Product Owner in this case is actually someone from the client side who holds the budget for the development of the product. The fourth indicator to use to identify whether someone is the Product Owner is by looking at whether the person has a holistic and helicopter view of the product. If the individual is only interested in a specific aspect of the product to solve his or her own problem because the individual is also the end-user of the product, to avoid confusion inside the company I prefer calling this individual the Product User. The Product User should just be the stakeholder rather than the product owner. But unlike scribe, proxy, and project manager, the product user uses the product daily and knows more about the pain in using the product. But just because the user uses the product it doesn't mean he or she owns the product, just like how my son may use my car, but he does not really own the car because I'm the one who pays for the car registration every year.
Product Owners should have a holistic and helicopter view of the product rather than just a narrow and partial view of the product. The fifth indicator to use to identify whether someone is the Product Owner is by looking at whether the individual owns the budget and also responsible for the profit and loss and also the return on investment of the product. So from these five indicators, we can say someone is really the Product Owner if: Firstly, the individual is entrepreneurial, which also means the individual is accountable for the profit and loss of the product. Secondly, the individual has a helicopter and holistic view of the product to be able to initiate ideas for the product rather than just receiving the ideas from someone else. Thirdly, the individual holds the long-term vision for the product, the individual knows how to make the product successful for the long term and the individual is not only focused on short-term success for the product. Fourthly, the individual is empowered by everyone in the company including the management to be able to make critical decisions that will optimize the value of the product on the spot. And lastly, this individual operates more on the strategic level rather than the tactical level and the individual is able to delegate the tactical work either to the development team or others in the company. Looking at the five criteria for Product Owner that has just been mentioned therefore we can also call the Product Owner the Chief of Product. And it is not uncommon in a high-trust company to see the Product Owner report directly to the CEO of the company.
This semantics about owner and ownership is really important to be emphasized so that we do not confuse everyone in our company because we are messing around with English. I would also like to point out to all of you that sometimes those who are really the Product Owner have other titles in the company such as Vice President (VP) of Product, or Head of Product, or Chief Product Officer. And also those who have the title Product Owner may not necessarily be the Product Owner. So don't be deceived. Well, that is all from me today folks. I hope from today's video you can identify whether you or your colleagues in the company is really the Product Owner.