Typically on most Agile projects, the success (or failure) of a project can heavily depend on how good (or bad) the product owner is and how committed they are. Good Agile teams that consistently deliver the right thing at the right time, and with quality in mind, will always have a product owner that is focused on the overall bigger picture and able to articulate this into the smaller pieces that are needed to deliver their vision/goal – i.e. the individual user stories.
Anyone can take on the role of the product owner, but to be a great one is hard! Let’s take a look at some characteristics that great product owner’s have:
Relating the vision/goal to backlog items
A lot of product owners are good at making the business case for a project to go ahead, but very quickly end up with a backlog that is disjointed and seems disconnected from the original vision/goal that they started with. After a couple of sprints, it’s likely that most of the team (perhaps they too) have forgotten what the original goal was and why they’re doing the project. The phrase ‘can’t see the forest for the trees’ comes to mind.
A great product owner will
- ensure the business case is encompassed into a short vision statement,
- makes this visible to everybody.
- But more importantly, can always refer back to this when explaining every user story on the backlog.
One of the best ways to convey your vision/goal is with an elevator pitch. The product owner should
- come up with their elevator pitch,
- make it clearly visible to the team,
- and constantly refer back to this to explain why the team is working on the prioritised backlog and the individual user stories.