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Agile 2012: The Product Owner and Product Ownership

September 16, 2012

By Brad Barton, Mark Ferraro, and Si Alhir

Every Organization involves Business and Technology to deliver value to Customers. The heart of Business is Product Management, which involves planning and marketing products/services. The heart of Product Management is the Product Manager. The heart of Technology is Product Development or Engineering, which involves realizing products/services.

To foster interdependence and a focus on Value, Scrum integrates Business via the Product Owner role and Technology via the Team role (cross-functional and self-organizing with Define-Detail & Build & Test perspectives).

Scrum emphasizes that the Product Owner focuses on value:

The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product and the work of the Development Team. How this is done may vary widely across organizations, Scrum Teams, and individuals.

Scrum also emphasizes that the Product Owner is “one person”:

The Product Owner is one person, not a committee. The Product Owner may represent the desires of a committee in the Product Backlog, but those wanting to change a backlog item’s priority must convince the Product Owner.

Given the many facets of the Product Owner role, one of the emerging sentiments expressed at Agile 2012 emphasized Product Ownership over the Product Owner role; that is, the Product Owner role’s responsibilities ought to be shared with the Team — even to the extreme that these responsibilities be taken on by different Team members at different times based on what is needed to deliver the product.

Rather than simply champion Product Ownership — different Team members taking on different Product Owner role responsibilities at different times — we can have a collection of people other than the Team take on the Product Owner role where “one person” ultimately “represents the desires of the committee.” This approach preserves the separation of powers and the checks & balances inherent in the elegance of Scrum.

Additionally, Scrum emphasizes the importance of focusing on results, the product, versus focusing on the, the project! Our recent blog elaborates on why Customers love Great Products, not Well-executed Projects!

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