Seeding the Agile Product Owner in the Enterprise

[article]
The Product Owner in the Agile Enterprise: Part III
Summary:
In this final installment of a three-part series on product owners in the agile enterprise, Dean Leffingwell provides several case study "vignettes", which illustrate how specific agile enterprises found the right people necessary to fill this role, along with some of the unique challenges they faced and the solutions they applied.

Note: This is the final installment of a three part series on the critical Product Owner's role within the agile software enterprise. Indeed, the role, originally defined by Scrum, is now so comprehensive in agile implementations that the role is hard to separate from the practice of agility itself.

In Part I,  Agile Product Owners: A Scalable, Nuanced Approach , I described why enterprises need to adopt a dual approach to this role; one which empowers both agile Product Managers AND agile Product Owners to drive the enterprise to its objectives. In Part II, I described the  Responsibilities of the Agile Product Owner in the Enterprise  in the enterprise setting. I also described the larger challenge of scale, noting that it is no trivial task to identify and train 10, 20 or even 100+ individuals to effectively implement this role in the largest software enterprises.

In this final installment, I'll provide some case study "vignettes", which illustrate how some specific agile enterprises found the right people necessary to fill this role, along with some of the unique challenges they faced, as well as the solutions they applied. dl0409-1

Roles, Titles, and  Responsibilities Vary by Software Business Type

Since the business mission, organization, operating methods, roles, titles and responsibilities differ dramatically across industry segments, it follows that the patterns of agile adoption vary across these segments as well. In this post, I'll provide real world examples of how this challenge was addressed in three primary software business types:

Information Systems/Information Technology (IS/IT) -teams of teams who develop software to operate the business; accounting, CRM, internal networks, sales force automation and the like. Customers are primarily internal to the enterprise.

Embedded Systems (embedded) - teams of teams who develop software that runs on computers embedded in other devices - cell phones, electronic braking systems, industrial controls and the like. Customers may be either internal or external to the enterprise.

Independent Software Vendors (ISV) -teams of teams who develop software for sale, including products like network management, supply chain management, mobile applications, etc. This segment now also includes the rapidly emerging Software as a Service (SaaS) vendors. Customers are external to the enterprise.

When it comes to agile adoption, each of these business types has a unique set of challenges, none more critical than the successful implementation of the agile Product Owner role. In the examples that follow, we'll look at some specific case studies that may serve to guide others who head down the agile enterprise adoption path.

ISV Example 1 - TradeStation Technologies

TradeStation is the premier brokerage trading platform for rule-based trading. They note: "whether you trade stocks, options, futures or forex, TradeStation offers uniquely powerful strategy creation and testing tools, customizable analytics and fully automated trading technology in a single trading platform."

At TradeStation, Keith Black, VP of Product Development, and John Bartleman, VP of Product Management, have been driving a comprehensive, all-in agile transformation that affects 100+ practitioners. John described their approach to filling the Product Owner role as follows:

"Before transitioning to Agile, our Product Management team was made up of ten product managers who reported into Development. In general, we have always had an internal/technical focus as opposed to the traditional external/marketing focus. When we transitioned to Agile, seven of the ten Product Managers became full time Product Owners; the other three now focus on the market-facing Product Manager role. This separation of labor and concerns has helped us bring additional focus to both the market and technical aspects of our solution."

John then comments on the staffing challenge:

"When staffing the Product Owner role, I would

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