We often hear about companies transitioning to Agile and specifically into Scrum. They set the Development team and assign to an Agile coach to be the Scrum master and –to a large extent- to be also responsible for introducing Scrum to the company and facilitating events. However, more often these companies tend to forget the third –and equally crucial- component of the Scrum Team: the Product Owner (PO), who is basically responsible for the What –building the right product and the Why -conveying the product vision to the Team and the company.
According to Roman Pichler, a leading Agile Product Management and Scrum expert who we had the opportunity to watch his presentation on the 12th Agile Greece meetup, here is a short description of the PO role:
a. Responsible for the Product Success.
b. Has a vision on where to take the product.
c. Understands user needs and the biz goals.
d. Owns the Product on behalf of company, and
e. is a Team player, both to Dev team and to the stakeholders.
In small companies and startups this role is played by the founders, sometimes with great success. Nevertheless, when it comes to implement Scrum, a dedicated PO is required as a substantial part of a successful Scrum Team that will develop and ship the right product to the market. Why? Basically for two reasons:
1. One of the most important traits of a great PO is availability and commitment; the PO must be available all the times to the Team and needs to show commitment and engagement with his or her team.
Unfortunately, this is hardly the case when a CEO or a founder is much engaged with million other tasks and responsibilities (those of you who are out there seeking for startup funding you can understand that just this “task” is a full-time job by itself.)
2. Another reason that this practice can lead to failure and pure results, is the fact that many founders/owners in the same company have different “agenda”. That is, each one of them prioritizes different features, which will certainly lead to a Product Backlog that seems like my son’s wishlist for Santa: a “product soup” and a Development team unable to perform its best. This is neither Scrum nor Agile.
Fortunately, the last couple of years in Europe, we are starting to see a drift towards the right direction, i.e companies start to hire PO, and, by extension, more talented people are trained and entered to this exciting –thus highly demanding- role of the Product Owner.
As for the question “does it worth to hire a dedicated Product Owner”? my answer would be “No, if you going to hire the wrong one”; instead ask for one single person (probably the founder with a biz mindset) to devote his or her time to dive into this challenge, and become totally dedicated to his/her team and to customers’ needs.
As you may have seen –in practice or in theory- the advantages of having a great PO to the Scrum team are more than obvious.
But, above everything else, you are not doing Scrum by not having a dedicated PO, are you?