How Scrum Increases Productivity: The Product Owner

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Part 2

during the transformation period, it dramatically reduces the project's likelihood of success. Related anti-patterns that are commonly observed during the transformation process include:

(a) Product Owner by proxy. When an organization first implements Scrum, it is extremely common for team members to lack an understanding of how the Scrum framework facilitates efficiency. As such, a Product Owner might perform his or her role by proxy. However, because the Product Owner is the single individual responsible for the success of the project, "outsourcing" such responsibility can be disastrous. Quite simply, this is interrupts Scrum's attention to communication and transparency by introducing another channel of communication-who likely has less of an understanding of what the customer wants than the true Product Owner.

(b) Part-time Product Owners. The team depends upon the Product Owner to clarify requirements and provide direction. When a Product Owner is only available to provide input part of the time, the team is, likewise, only productive part of the time.

(c) Off-site Product Owners. While an offsite Product Owner might fully committed to the team (unlike the above example), there is no substitution for face-to-face communication. When a Product Owner attempts to perform his or her duties remotely, the chance of a communication breakdown increases significantly.

(d) Product Owner/Team members. Another common anti-pattern is actually a variation of the part-time Product Owner. When a Product Owner is also a team member, he or she effectively splits their time between considerably different job functions. When this occurs, the team's performance tends to worsen. Not only does the team suffer from the fact that it includes a distracted member, but the overall health of the project suffers from a negligent Product Owner.

Conclusion

As the single responsible party for the vision of a project, the Product Owner is the Scrum framework's most demanding role. But because Scrum distributes authority and responsibility among the three primary roles, the Product Owner is supported through the team's self-organization and the ScrumMaster's efforts to ensure that all parties are connected and informed. As the team self-organizes around task management, the Product Owner can focus on big picture strategies, or macro-measurement, while remaining on-call to answer the team's questions. The ScrumMaster's role as a liaison between the Product Owner and the team helps ensure that requirements are actionably articulated while impediments are clearly visible. When all of these activities converge, the result is a team organized around a clear project roadmap that's ready to move forward.


About the Author

In August 2000, Laszlo Szalvay founded Danube Technologies, Inc. with his brother Victor in Seattle, Wash. to provide software and training exclusively focused on the Scrum method of agile software development. The company's ScrumWorks® Pro and ScrumWorks Basic products are licensed to more than 105,000 software professionals worldwide, making it the most widely used software in the industry for managing Scrum projects. ScrumWorks Pro recently received a Jolt Productivity Award at the 19th annual Jolt Product Excellence Awards. Danube complements its software offering with a comprehensive schedule of ScrumCORE TM training courses, which are taught globally by Danube's five Certified Scrum Trainers.


1. For an advanced discussion of acceptance criteria, see Michael James’s blog, “ User Story Examples and Counter-examples

2. This section incorporates ideas originally published in Certified Scrum Trainer Angela Druckman’s blog post titled “ Product Owner Foundation Skills.

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