Scrum Rules: Your Product Owner Is Knowledgeable About the Product and the Business

September 10, 2020
4 minute read

The Product Owner’s job is to be the customer or the customer proxy. He needs to know the most current information about the product and the business that the team is working in. If this is the case, then the Product Owner is able to make relevant choices about the product and will be able to answer the questions of the team.

A knowledgeable Product Owner will be able to create and refine a Product Backlog effectively. If the Product Owner is not knowledgeable about the product and the business, then he will have to find someone else for the answers (which will cause waste), make up the answers (which will likely guide the team in the wrong direction), or fail to give the team what they need.

Gaining knowledge about the product and the business is the sole responsibility of the Product Owner. This knowledge comes from many sources, depending on the nature of the work of the Scrum Team. Every Product Owner should consider the following list of sources for information and decide if each source is important for the work:

  1. Customers. The Product Owner needs to establish a direct relationship with at least one potential customer of the product being built by the Scrum Team. To be clear: a \”customer\” is a person who decides to spend money to purchase the product, who has choice about competing products, and who is outside of the financial control of the company building the product. The customer is not the same as someone who funds the product development work.
  2. Users. The Product Owner also needs to establish a direct relationship with at least one potential user of the product. The users of a product aren’t necessarily purchasers. Users give feedback about fitness for purpose.
  3. Sponsors/Investors. The Product Owner may actually be the sponsor/investor, but if not, is often a direct representative of the sponsors/investors chosen by them specifically for the product development effort. The Product Owner must work to represent the business return-on-investment expectations of the sponsors/investors. Business strategy and product vision will be informed by these people.
  4. Marketing and Sales. In many cases, the Product Owner must be actively collaborating with the marketing and sales people in the organization to get the latest information about the positioning and success of the product. The market research and sales process results provide essential information to the Product Owner.
  5. Other Stakeholders. Managers, customer service, team members, finance and many others may have innovative ideas or critical feedback about the product. The Product Owner needs to consider all these other groups as well.

In general, the Product Owner should be making an active effort to solicit ideas and feedback from all of these audiences. At a minimum, that would mean including appropriate people from each group in the team’s Sprint Review meetings.

The Product Owner discusses the objective that the Sprint should achieve and the Product Backlog items that, if completed in the Sprint, would achieve the Sprint Goal. The entire Scrum Team collaborates on understanding the work of the Sprint…. — The Scrum Guide

The Product Owner can help to clarify the selected Product Backlog items and make trade-offs. If the Development Team determines it has too much or too little work, it may renegotiate the selected Product Backlog items with the Product Owner. — The Scrum Guide

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Capital One
Equitable Life of Canada
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