The Product Owner needs to be highly available to the Scrum Team. If the Scrum Team has a question about a Product Backlog Item, then the Product Owner should be able to respond within minutes to that question.
Responding this quickly ensures that the Team is building the Product in a way that best satisfies the Product Owner. In particular, it helps to avoid surprises about basic aspects of the Product during the Sprint Review Meeting that then lead to wasteful changes or re-work. If the Product Owner does not have this level of availability, it may not cause any immediate problems, particularly if there are other team members who know the business and the product well. However, since Scrum holds the Product Owner accountable for what is built, it is often better for the Team to check its assumptions with the Product Owner.
Becoming effective at this rule of Scrum requires both techniques and a particular attitude on the part of the Product Owner. The simplest approach to this is that the Product Owner has his or her physical workstation co-located with the rest of the team. Of course, some Product Owners must spend significant amounts of time away from the team as they work with customers, users, and other stakeholders to understand the needs of the business. Even during this time away, the Product Owner should be easily reachable. The team should have the Product Owner’s cell phone number or some other way of reaching the Product Owner in “emergencies”. The Product Owner must also then agree to be interrupted by the team and to recognize the importance of responding quickly to clarifying questions. Although some questions will be “obvious” or “trivial” in the view of the Product Owner, he or she must be of the attitude that it is better for the team to ask than for them to make an incorrect assumption.
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