What is my product?
While it might seem irrational to some of you, there are companies out there which struggle to clearly define the product/s. There is nothing more important for a starting Product Owner, than knowing your product.
Without a clear definition of the product you will struggle with all the fundamental things such as vision, strategy, customers, stakeholders, value delivery and a backlog.
Once you know your product you can:
- create a vision for it and strategy centered around creating value for your customers
- identify key stakeholders and cooperate with them closely to ensure inflow of stories to the Product Backlog
- get feedback from your stakeholders for every product increment
- create metrics to measure delivered value
- have Sprint Goals which contribute to the product vision
If you find yourself in a position when you lack the clarity of what is your actual product, you should discuss it with your superior or any other position in the company which is responsible for the company and business vision. Based on that, you can continue with the product vision and strategy.
Extensive story writing
In the beginning, you might spend quite a lot of time on user stories and filling acceptance criteria before you bring it to refinement. It might seem the proper way to go, as the stories should meet the Definition of Ready, but there is something you may miss – balance.
The story does not have to be perfect. It is enough that it has the basics so WHO, WHAT, GOAL and that you can represent the stakeholders needs by answering more detailed questions.
Having ‘imperfect’ stories can actually have very positive outcome which can be as follows:
- Team’s engagement and participation in the refinements can increase as the story does not feel like to-do list
- by bringing a problem or just an idea you create a good environment for all members of the team to come up with something together
- in the end, if you update the user story together, the team has a better understanding of Product Backlog Item (PBI)
- learning User Stories format can be used later by team members when adding their own items into the Product Backlog. It can even be helpful for expressing goals of highly technical stories.
- writing too detailed user stories may lead to you becoming a Scribe Product Owner type, so you will have less time for real interactions with stakeholders and team
No matter what framework you are using, whether it is e.g. Scrum, Kanban – Product Owners need to have clear priorities which are represented in the Product Backlog.
If a Product Owner is constantly interrupting developers during a Sprint or the Product Backlog is only sorted last minute before the Sprint Planning - you can be sure that something is wrong.
It may be caused by different factors such as:
- vision and strategy are missing which often leads to shift of focus
- lack or ineffective communication between the stakeholders and a Product Owner
- too many urgent issues
Here you can find a few tips on how to solve it.
Product vision and strategy needs to be transparent and understood by everyone. Make sure that it is visible, update it accordingly in case of unexpected, rapid market changes which might affect priorities either long or short-term.
Good communication between Product Owner and stakeholders is crucial to reduce urgent issues. Make sure that you balance the time between your PO activities to establish effective cooperation.
- you take time to be in direct contact with your stakeholders and align on “what’s next” so there is enough ready PBI items for next iterations
- you know first about issues upcoming so it can be handled as “Important” rather than “Urgent”
We all make mistakes as it’s only human to do so. What is important though is to remember to take your time and inspect yourself by proactively looking for feedback. You can use Retrospective to ask your team how you are doing as a Product Owner. Remember also to ask your stakeholders every now and then.
By using empiricism at its best, you can continuously improve and grow as a Product Owner. Planting the ‘feedback seeds’ might result in feedback becoming a part of the company culture.
Any other mistakes you can think of to help other starting Product Owners? Share your thoughts.