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Roles And Responsibilities Of A Product Owner You Should Be Aware Of

A question I’m asked in many of my training sessions is about the difference between a Product Owner and a Business Analyst. Are they different names for the same role in different project management styles? Is a Business Analyst the person accountable for the project requirements when the software is developed using waterfall methodology; and is a Product Owner the person accountable for project requirements when the project is carried out using the Agile methodology?  This article attempts to help you understand about the warrior in Agile projects called the Product Owner. Is he / she the person in charge of software requirements? Or is he / she from the business side who will coordinate with the Business Analyst who in fact is a member of the development team? There is also an added confusion if this role belongs to the Product Management area.Who is a Product Owner?A Product Owner is an integral part of a product development or Scrum team. They are responsible for supervising the product backlog by making sure that it is up to date in terms of priorities and aligned with the vision of the product. The Product Owner represents the business or user, and is accountable for collaborating with the consumer to define what features will be present in the product release  Scrum Framework was developed in the early 2000s and since then there have been many different definitions floating around in the industry on who is a Product Owner. So, one day I decided to do some good old internet surfing on the topic “who is a Product Owner”.  I got the following answers from the Internet.Definition 1: A product owner is similar to a Business Analyst. He / she gathers software requirements from the various stakeholders and gives it to the development team. The development team goes to the Product Owner in case of any queries.Definition 2: The Product Owner is a part of the product management or development team. He / she creates the product backlog and prioritizes it. He / she will ensure that the development team is doing their job properly and are working on items that the Product Owner has prioritized.Now which of the above definitions is correct? What I have realized over the last few years as a Scrum trainer is that there is no globally accepted standard definition of a Product Owner role. The Scrum Guide does chalk out a few responsibilities of the Product Owner role, but different companies have different interpretations of this.  In some companies this role is a strategic role that involves collaborating with various stakeholders on the project and coming up with the software vision. The Product Owner then makes sure that the product vision is percolated down to the development team. And the development team develops the product exactly as per the Product Owner’s vision of the Product.In some companies this role is a very tactical or a hands-on role. The Product Owner is a very task-oriented person. He / she will write down software requirements, test the product developed by the development team, participate in the sprint review and make sure user stories are completed one after the other.What do Product Owners do?Ever since I embraced agile, I got to work with several Product Owners and mind you, this role is really critical as it collaborates with both the development team and the stakeholders. On the one hand, the Product Owner works with the stakeholders to get the right requirements or devise the requirements which they might not see or comprehend at that point. This not only improves the relationship with our customers but also helps to build trust. And on the other hand, the Product Owner helps the delivery team/development team understand the vision and the requirements. Hence, this role is similar to a bridge between the two ends that effectively paves the way for smooth communication.Deep dive into the Product Owner’s role:According to Roman Pichler, a leading Agile expert and the author of “How to Lead in Product Management”, the ultimate responsibility of a product owner is to ensure that the product creates value for its customers and users, as well as for the company. Think of the product owner as the person who champions the product, who facilitates the product decisions, and who has the final say about the product.” Pichler also says. “This includes if and how feedback is actioned, and which features are released.”The roles and responsibilities of a Product Owner include making sure that they understand the core of the product as well as how to facilitate collaboration at a 360-degree level, being both a liaison and the face of the user.At the most rudimentary level, as defined by the Scrum Guide, the Product Owner is responsible for maximising the value of work done by the development team. Let’s chalk out a few of the Product Owner’s responsibilities.1. Defining the vision: The purpose of the product is defined in the product vision. It is the Product Owner who creates this vision, manages it for the entire life of the product and owns the same. The Product Owner has the responsibility of creating a vision so that the development team clearly visualizes the expected outcome by the user. It is the Product Owner who interacts and collaborates with the users to understand their requirements, so that it can be effectively communicated with the team. Also, it is equally significant to communicate to the stakeholders the vision and goals so that they have a clear-cut understanding of the outcome.  The Product Owner has to be very passionate about this product vision. The product vision is not developed at one go but rather over many iterations, and improves over a period of time. The Product Owner makes sure that this product vision is in line with the vision of the company. He / she also creates a product roadmap for this product vision. Roadmap is a visual summary of the vision spread across a period of time. The vision will define the future state of the product and the motivations that the product tries to fulfil.2.  Managing the product backlogThe primary responsibility of the role of a Product Owner is managing the product backlog. Today’s market is really dynamic and every customer wants to stay on the top of the latest trends in the industry. This product backlog is derived from the roadmap created by the Product Owner. Even the items in the product backlog might require some movement due to changing priorities. It is the Product Owner’s responsibility to build up a stack of items in the backlog and prioritize them as per the business goals and the global approach. The product backlog is a dynamic list of items and as we call it in agile, it is a ‘live document’ that should be frequently updated, based on changing project requirements, all the way through to development. The Product Backlog exists as long as there is a Scrum team that works on the product.3. Prioritizing and Ordering Items in the Product Backlog: Another area where the product owner focusses on is to prioritize the needs of the stakeholders. A product owner should be able to determine the priority of product backlog items in order to deliver the maximum outcome. The Product Owners are constantly in touch with the stakeholders and understand the environment in which the product operates. When the needs and market conditions for the product change, the Product Owner will change the priorities in the Product backlog. He / she may add new items in the Product Backlog and remove the ones which are now obsolete due to new stakeholder needs. This means that the Product Owner must order the items in the Product Backlog to best achieve goals and missions. There are many tools to help Product Owners do this. The Product Owner is required to have the Backlog sequenced prior to the Sprint Planning Meeting. This means that each user story must be ordered by relative importance. The Product Owner will determine what needs to be developed in each iteration and how the product element will be developed over the life of the product.4. Overseeing development stagesOnce we have the basic entities in place – vision, product backlog, and the prioritization, the product owner has to make sure that he/she is participating in the overall development stages of the product. The team might need their Product Owner to get the clarity on a few queries or they might need to demo the committed item. The Product Owner will participate in the ceremonies with the team. In some ceremonies, this role can be active such as planning or backlog grooming but can also be passive or inactive such as in the daily Scrum.5. Anticipating client needs  In today's competitive environment, it is really important for someone in the role of a Product Owner, to understand the client/customer’s needs. The product owner should understand the market, the competition, and the users’ pain points. With those valuable pieces of information, the product owner can determine what features should be implemented, and in what order, with respect to time and importance. Sometimes the Product Owner can help the customers in configuring and penning down the items which they want but are not able to comprehend. And here communication plays a big role.6. Acting as primary liaison  As we have talked about at the start of our discussion, a product owner role involves acting as a primary liaison between the teams and the customers. The person in this role has to make sure the information flow is quick and clear so that there is no misinterpretation. The Product Owner has to make sure that the goal and the vision are correctly aligned with the work items on the product backlog. The Product Owner also acts as a liaison for business stakeholders and end-users, determining whether each story meets their shared expectations. When we say stakeholders, we mean the end users, or their representatives; they could be sponsors (who are paying for the product) or stakeholders who are also a part of the company's management. A stakeholder could be anyone with an interest in or an influence on the product. A Product Owner understands these stakeholders' needs and builds a vision that will drive the development team to develop the vision. Good product owners ensure that development teams can communicate directly with stakeholders, as long as they work on the priorities as chosen by the product owner.7. Evaluating product progress at each iteration   In every iteration, a product increment is created by the development team. The product owner inspects this product increment and decides if this is developed as per the vision created for the product. If it not as per the vision he / she may direct the development team to revise it in later sprints. Work that is either not complete or un-done needs to be re-prioritized or sequenced. The Product Owner makes sure that the development delivers the expected outcomes from the stories they worked upon and accepts it.  Thus, a Product Owner wears multiple hats throughout the product development effort.8. Participating in daily Scrum, Sprint Planning Meetings, and Sprint Reviews and RetrospectivesScrum ceremonies give a chance for the Product Owner to inspect and adapt. And as a result, being present at these ceremonies is identical to success. It is important for the product owner to join the Scrum meetings as it not only keeps the development team up to date with the priorities, but also helps the product owner understand the perspective of the team if there are any impediments.9. Terminating a Sprint if it is determined that a drastic change in direction is requiredIf the Sprint goal has no meaning (will not deliver business value) because of the extreme change, the product owner can terminate the sprint. The termination is most frequently the outcome of an intense change in business priorities; something previously considered important is no longer needed, or something even more significant is learned.How to become a Product Owner?Becoming a product owner requires a thorough understanding of the product as well as analytical and strategic skills. The person who wants to deep dive and become a good product owner needs to understand the market and the stakeholders. He/she should be able to create a vision and know when to juggle with the items in the product backlog so that the bucket is always prioritized.You can opt for some good certification programs provided by different authorities and gain a confidence in this area. As per my experience, I would recommend you to select a domain and master it!How to be a Good Product Owner | Product Owner Best PracticesWhat is A Certified Product Owner?As defined by the Scrum Alliance, a Certified Scrum Product Owner® (CSPO®) is someone who has been trained by a Certified Scrum Trainer in Scrum terminology, practices, and principles that will enable them to fulfill the role of Scrum Product Owner.Is the Product Owner the Project Manager?Both a project manager and a product owner watch over teams who work to carry developments across the finish line together. But the path to that finish line deviates entirely from the start. The Product Owners are product driven and customer focused. They need to be actively engaged with the team because they are the ones responsible for deciding what features will go into the final product.Also, there is a confusion between a Product Owner and Product Manager. Let us understand the difference between the two.A Product Manager is a high-level role that has responsibilities for the entire product lifecycle. The role starts by focusing on customer discovery to product delivery. The product manager will drive the overall product strategy. This is a multidisciplinary role and is very strategic in nature.  The product owner works primarily with the production team to ensure that the development team develops a product that is aligned with the product roadmap.To summarize, the product manager decides on what products to build next, and the product owner coordinates with the development team to build these products.What are the challenges a Product Owner comes across?Below are the major challenges a Product Owner is more likely to come across:1. Missing product road map2. High-level acceptance criteria3. Spending too much time dealing with product support instead of grooming the backlog4. Changing priority while sprint is in progressProduct Owners can escape these usual snares by working around the product road map, centering on high-value backlog items, defining crisp acceptance criteria, concentrating on grooming quality backlog item, and avoiding disturbing sprints.What is the learning path for a Product Owner role?Are you a business analyst who is now unable to figure out his / her new duties as Product Owner? Are you looking to venture into a Product Owner role? Or are you looking to clear your understanding of Scrum Framework and understand the Product Owner role? Then embark on this journey with us in becoming a great Product Owner.Why should you go for a CSPO certification?  Every high-functioning Agile team has a well-trained Product Owner making critical product decisions. A Certified Scrum Product Owner® (CSPO®) is one such certification that helps holders become successful product owners by training them on aspects of on-time delivery of high-value releases and maximizing the ROI. The globally recognized CSPO certification, therefore, is a career-defining credential for anybody willing to take up the challenging role of a Product Owner on a Scrum team in an organization.Increasing Demand for CSPO® Certified Professionals The industry today is ripe with endless opportunities for Product Owners. With 90% of modern teams using Scrum, the demand for Certified Scrum Product Owners has seen a steep rise. Their presence on an Agile team is guaranteed to ensure early ROI while maximizing business value.Scrum Alliance underlines the importance of Product Owners as follows:38% of the Product Owners act as an intermediary and are responsible for maintaining relationships with the Stakeholders.24% of the Product Owners set project business priorities and work directly with the customers.15% of the Product Owner work directly with the Scrum team.The Future of a Product OwnerA Product Owner is indispensable for the Scrum teams. This role can be compared to that of a deeply rooted tree which has a firm foundation on the product side and provides vision, approach, and planned execution on the outer side. The product owners carry the ownership of the product in terms of quality and delivery as per the expectations set with the stakeholder.A Product Owner needs to have an all-inclusive view of the product along with all the other factors like business understanding, go to Market, organizational readiness, and product capabilities. All of these should be collectively managed, coordinated and aligned to drive product success.Product Owner Training:  Be an efficient Product Owner to raise product value & manage product backlog effectively!  Get trained by Scrum Alliance approved Certified Scrum Trainers® (CSTs)  Get certified from the globally acclaimed accreditation body, Scrum Alliance  Earn 16 PDUs and SEUs in just 2 days  Excel in addressing challenges through Scrum as an effective Product Owner  Advance your knowledge with an experiential learning format  Get Free E-learning Access to 100+ courses  The Scrum Product Owner Certification from the globally renowned Scrum Alliance endorses and validates your Scrum expertise while enabling you to take on the Product Owner role and responsibilities with dexterity, as you lead successful projects and ensure high-velocity releases of marketable products. 

Roles And Responsibilities Of A Product Owner You Should Be Aware Of

12912
  • by Deepti Sinha
  • 12th Dec, 2018
  • Last updated on 11th Jun, 2021
  • 14 mins read
Roles And Responsibilities Of A Product Owner You Should Be Aware Of

A question I’m asked in many of my training sessions is about the difference between a Product Owner and a Business Analyst. Are they different names for the same role in different project management styles? Is a Business Analyst the person accountable for the project requirements when the software is developed using waterfall methodology; and is a Product Owner the person accountable for project requirements when the project is carried out using the Agile methodology?  This article attempts to help you understand about the warrior in Agile projects called the Product Owner. Is he / she the person in charge of software requirements? Or is he / she from the business side who will coordinate with the Business Analyst who in fact is a member of the development team? There is also an added confusion if this role belongs to the Product Management area.

Who is a Product Owner?

A Product Owner is an integral part of a product development or Scrum team. They are responsible for supervising the product backlog by making sure that it is up to date in terms of priorities and aligned with the vision of the product. The Product Owner represents the business or user, and is accountable for collaborating with the consumer to define what features will be present in the product release  

Scrum Framework was developed in the early 2000s and since then there have been many different definitions floating around in the industry on who is a Product Owner. So, one day I decided to do some good old internet surfing on the topic “who is a Product Owner”.  I got the following answers from the Internet.

  • Definition 1: A product owner is similar to a Business Analyst. He / she gathers software requirements from the various stakeholders and gives it to the development team. The development team goes to the Product Owner in case of any queries.
  • Definition 2: The Product Owner is a part of the product management or development team. He / she creates the product backlog and prioritizes it. He / she will ensure that the development team is doing their job properly and are working on items that the Product Owner has prioritized.

Now which of the above definitions is correct? What I have realized over the last few years as a Scrum trainer is that there is no globally accepted standard definition of a Product Owner role. The Scrum Guide does chalk out a few responsibilities of the Product Owner role, but different companies have different interpretations of this.  

In some companies this role is a strategic role that involves collaborating with various stakeholders on the project and coming up with the software vision. The Product Owner then makes sure that the product vision is percolated down to the development team. And the development team develops the product exactly as per the Product Owner’s vision of the Product.

In some companies this role is a very tactical or a hands-on role. The Product Owner is a very task-oriented person. He / she will write down software requirements, test the product developed by the development team, participate in the sprint review and make sure user stories are completed one after the other.

What do Product Owners do?

Ever since I embraced agile, I got to work with several Product Owners and mind you, this role is really critical as it collaborates with both the development team and the stakeholders. On the one hand, the Product Owner works with the stakeholders to get the right requirements or devise the requirements which they might not see or comprehend at that point. This not only improves the relationship with our customers but also helps to build trust. And on the other hand, the Product Owner helps the delivery team/development team understand the vision and the requirements. Hence, this role is similar to a bridge between the two ends that effectively paves the way for smooth communication.

Deep dive into the Product Owner’s role:

According to Roman Pichler, a leading Agile expert and the author of “How to Lead in Product Management”, the ultimate responsibility of a product owner is to ensure that the product creates value for its customers and users, as well as for the company. Think of the product owner as the person who champions the product, who facilitates the product decisions, and who has the final say about the product.” Pichler also says. “This includes if and how feedback is actioned, and which features are released.”

The roles and responsibilities of a Product Owner include making sure that they understand the core of the product as well as how to facilitate collaboration at a 360-degree level, being both a liaison and the face of the user.

At the most rudimentary level, as defined by the Scrum Guide, the Product Owner is responsible for maximising the value of work done by the development team. Let’s chalk out a few of the Product Owner’s responsibilities.

Deep dive into the Product Owner’s role

1. Defining the vision: 

The purpose of the product is defined in the product vision. It is the Product Owner who creates this vision, manages it for the entire life of the product and owns the same. The Product Owner has the responsibility of creating a vision so that the development team clearly visualizes the expected outcome by the user. It is the Product Owner who interacts and collaborates with the users to understand their requirements, so that it can be effectively communicated with the team. Also, it is equally significant to communicate to the stakeholders the vision and goals so that they have a clear-cut understanding of the outcome.  

The Product Owner has to be very passionate about this product vision. The product vision is not developed at one go but rather over many iterations, and improves over a period of time. The Product Owner makes sure that this product vision is in line with the vision of the company. He / she also creates a product roadmap for this product vision. Roadmap is a visual summary of the vision spread across a period of time. The vision will define the future state of the product and the motivations that the product tries to fulfil.

2.  Managing the product backlog

The primary responsibility of the role of a Product Owner is managing the product backlog. Today’s market is really dynamic and every customer wants to stay on the top of the latest trends in the industry. This product backlog is derived from the roadmap created by the Product Owner. Even the items in the product backlog might require some movement due to changing priorities. It is the Product Owner’s responsibility to build up a stack of items in the backlog and prioritize them as per the business goals and the global approach. The product backlog is a dynamic list of items and as we call it in agile, it is a ‘live document’ that should be frequently updated, based on changing project requirements, all the way through to development. The Product Backlog exists as long as there is a Scrum team that works on the product.

Product Backlog

3. Prioritizing and Ordering Items in the Product Backlog: 

Another area where the product owner focusses on is to prioritize the needs of the stakeholders. A product owner should be able to determine the priority of product backlog items in order to deliver the maximum outcome. The Product Owners are constantly in touch with the stakeholders and understand the environment in which the product operates. When the needs and market conditions for the product change, the Product Owner will change the priorities in the Product backlog. He / she may add new items in the Product Backlog and remove the ones which are now obsolete due to new stakeholder needs. This means that the Product Owner must order the items in the Product Backlog to best achieve goals and missions. There are many tools to help Product Owners do this. The Product Owner is required to have the Backlog sequenced prior to the Sprint Planning Meeting. This means that each user story must be ordered by relative importance. The Product Owner will determine what needs to be developed in each iteration and how the product element will be developed over the life of the product.

4. Overseeing development stages

Once we have the basic entities in place – vision, product backlog, and the prioritization, the product owner has to make sure that he/she is participating in the overall development stages of the product. The team might need their Product Owner to get the clarity on a few queries or they might need to demo the committed item. The Product Owner will participate in the ceremonies with the team. In some ceremonies, this role can be active such as planning or backlog grooming but can also be passive or inactive such as in the daily Scrum.

5. Anticipating client needs  

In today's competitive environment, it is really important for someone in the role of a Product Owner, to understand the client/customer’s needs. The product owner should understand the market, the competition, and the users’ pain points. With those valuable pieces of information, the product owner can determine what features should be implemented, and in what order, with respect to time and importance. Sometimes the Product Owner can help the customers in configuring and penning down the items which they want but are not able to comprehend. And here communication plays a big role.

6. Acting as primary liaison  

As we have talked about at the start of our discussion, a product owner role involves acting as a primary liaison between the teams and the customers. The person in this role has to make sure the information flow is quick and clear so that there is no misinterpretation. The Product Owner has to make sure that the goal and the vision are correctly aligned with the work items on the product backlog. The Product Owner also acts as a liaison for business stakeholders and end-users, determining whether each story meets their shared expectations. When we say stakeholders, we mean the end users, or their representatives; they could be sponsors (who are paying for the product) or stakeholders who are also a part of the company's management. A stakeholder could be anyone with an interest in or an influence on the product. A Product Owner understands these stakeholders' needs and builds a vision that will drive the development team to develop the vision. Good product owners ensure that development teams can communicate directly with stakeholders, as long as they work on the priorities as chosen by the product owner.

7. Evaluating product progress at each iteration   

In every iteration, a product increment is created by the development team. The product owner inspects this product increment and decides if this is developed as per the vision created for the product. If it not as per the vision he / she may direct the development team to revise it in later sprints. Work that is either not complete or un-done needs to be re-prioritized or sequenced. The Product Owner makes sure that the development delivers the expected outcomes from the stories they worked upon and accepts it.  

Thus, a Product Owner wears multiple hats throughout the product development effort.

8. Participating in daily Scrum, Sprint Planning Meetings, and Sprint Reviews and Retrospectives

Scrum ceremonies give a chance for the Product Owner to inspect and adapt. And as a result, being present at these ceremonies is identical to success. It is important for the product owner to join the Scrum meetings as it not only keeps the development team up to date with the priorities, but also helps the product owner understand the perspective of the team if there are any impediments.

9. Terminating a Sprint if it is determined that a drastic change in direction is required

If the Sprint goal has no meaning (will not deliver business value) because of the extreme change, the product owner can terminate the sprint. The termination is most frequently the outcome of an intense change in business priorities; something previously considered important is no longer needed, or something even more significant is learned.

How to become a Product Owner?

Becoming a product owner requires a thorough understanding of the product as well as analytical and strategic skills. The person who wants to deep dive and become a good product owner needs to understand the market and the stakeholders. He/she should be able to create a vision and know when to juggle with the items in the product backlog so that the bucket is always prioritized.

You can opt for some good certification programs provided by different authorities and gain a confidence in this area. As per my experience, I would recommend you to select a domain and master it!

How to be a Good Product Owner | Product Owner Best Practices


What is A Certified Product Owner?

As defined by the Scrum Alliance, a Certified Scrum Product Owner® (CSPO®) is someone who has been trained by a Certified Scrum Trainer in Scrum terminology, practices, and principles that will enable them to fulfill the role of Scrum Product Owner.

Is the Product Owner the Project Manager?

Both a project manager and a product owner watch over teams who work to carry developments across the finish line together. But the path to that finish line deviates entirely from the start. The Product Owners are product driven and customer focused. They need to be actively engaged with the team because they are the ones responsible for deciding what features will go into the final product.

Also, there is a confusion between a Product Owner and Product Manager. Let us understand the difference between the two.

A Product Manager is a high-level role that has responsibilities for the entire product lifecycle. The role starts by focusing on customer discovery to product delivery. The product manager will drive the overall product strategy. This is a multidisciplinary role and is very strategic in nature.  

The product owner works primarily with the production team to ensure that the development team develops a product that is aligned with the product roadmap.

To summarize, the product manager decides on what products to build next, and the product owner coordinates with the development team to build these products.

What are the challenges a Product Owner comes across?

Below are the major challenges a Product Owner is more likely to come across:

What are the challenges a Product Owner comes across1. Missing product road map
2. High-level acceptance criteria
3. Spending too much time dealing with product support instead of grooming the backlog
4. Changing priority while sprint is in progress

Product Owners can escape these usual snares by working around the product road map, centering on high-value backlog items, defining crisp acceptance criteria, concentrating on grooming quality backlog item, and avoiding disturbing sprints.

What is the learning path for a Product Owner role?

Are you a business analyst who is now unable to figure out his / her new duties as Product Owner? Are you looking to venture into a Product Owner role? Or are you looking to clear your understanding of Scrum Framework and understand the Product Owner role? Then embark on this journey with us in becoming a great Product Owner.

Why should you go for a CSPO certification?  

Every high-functioning Agile team has a well-trained Product Owner making critical product decisions. A Certified Scrum Product Owner® (CSPO®) is one such certification that helps holders become successful product owners by training them on aspects of on-time delivery of high-value releases and maximizing the ROI. The globally recognized CSPO certification, therefore, is a career-defining credential for anybody willing to take up the challenging role of a Product Owner on a Scrum team in an organization.

Increasing Demand for CSPO® Certified Professionals 

The industry today is ripe with endless opportunities for Product Owners. With 90% of modern teams using Scrum, the demand for Certified Scrum Product Owners has seen a steep rise. Their presence on an Agile team is guaranteed to ensure early ROI while maximizing business value.
Scrum Alliance  underlines the importance of Product Owners as follows:

  • 38% of the Product Owners act as an intermediary and are responsible for maintaining relationships with the Stakeholders.
  • 24% of the Product Owners set project business priorities and work directly with the customers.
  • 15% of the Product Owner work directly with the Scrum team.

The Future of a Product Owner

A Product Owner is indispensable for the Scrum teams. This role can be compared to that of a deeply rooted tree which has a firm foundation on the product side and provides vision, approach, and planned execution on the outer side. The product owners carry the ownership of the product in terms of quality and delivery as per the expectations set with the stakeholder.

A Product Owner needs to have an all-inclusive view of the product along with all the other factors like business understanding, go to Market, organizational readiness, and product capabilities. All of these should be collectively managed, coordinated and aligned to drive product success.

CSPO certification

Product Owner Training:  

Be an efficient Product Owner to raise product value & manage product backlog effectively!  

  • Get trained by Scrum Alliance approved Certified Scrum Trainers® (CSTs)  
  • Get certified from the globally acclaimed accreditation body, Scrum Alliance  
  • Earn 16 PDUs and SEUs in just 2 days  
  • Excel in addressing challenges through Scrum as an effective Product Owner  
  • Advance your knowledge with an experiential learning format  
  • Get Free E-learning Access to 100+ courses  

The ScrumProduct Owner Certification from the globally renowned Scrum Alliance endorses and validates your Scrum expertise while enabling you to take on the Product Owner role and responsibilities with dexterity, as you lead successful projects and ensure high-velocity releases of marketable products. 

Deepti

Deepti Sinha

Blog Author

Deepti is an Agile Coach by profession and Freelance Trainer with over 11 years of industry experience working primarily with healthcare & finance clients in delivering business. She has played a wide variety of roles in the graph of her career, whether it be, management, operations or quality. She likes reading fiction, management and loves to write her experiences. Her colleagues mostly describe her as very detail oriented person with a knack of creativity and imagination. And yes, she loves feedback more than her coffee!!

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In this blog we attempt to decipher this statement and understand how Scrum Masters can help make Scrum projects or implementations successful.Where to start?So, what makes Scrum so popular? That it is better suited to the changing market conditions of the present times is well known, but how is it able to do it?  Scrum is an adaptable, iterative framework that helps Scrum teams break down large projects into small chunks called epics and sprints. Goals are defined and timeboxed. Teams are small, self-organized and with a high degree of cross-function. A goal or functionality has to be delivered at the end of each sprint. This helps for quick feedback and gives teams the ability to adapt to changing requirements—a must in times when products have to adapt quickly to please changing user preferences.  The advantages of Scrum include:  More satisfied customers Better managed processes and happier teams Better visibility into projects Better quality products  Projects completed withing time and budget constraints Better adaptability  Motivated teams Lightweight Management ProcessScrum is a lightweight framework because it provides adaptable solutions to complex problems and helps teams and organizations generate value.Why Scrum is considered to be lightweight, easy to understand but difficult to master?Lightweight: Scrum, based on Agile values, has few elements and maximizes responsiveness to customer needs. This makes it lightweight and apt for software development in the modern world.  Easy to Understand: With just three roles, three artifacts, four ceremonies and 12 Agile values, Scrum is pretty easy to understand. Scrum is a collection of practices and concepts that teams use to build processes around. The Scrum Guide which is the Scrum bible is also easy to read and understand. The three scrum roles are: Team, Scrum Master, Product Owner The ceremonies are:  Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Retrospective and Sprint Review The three artifacts are: Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, Burndown chart  Difficult to Master: So, if Scrum is so easy to learn about and understand then why is that it’s difficult to actually implement and master? Let us look at this from the perspective of a Scrum Master. A Scrum Master is a critical part of the Scrum team and is in effect a microcosm of Scrum upholding the Agile values and focusing on creating a self-organizing, highly motivated and collaborative team. Scrum is a not a one-size-fits- all framework. Perhaps that is what makes it difficult to master. It has to be tailored to suit the needs of each project, team and organization. There are several factors that need to be considered before adopting Scrum. The Scrum Master’s role, similarly, needs to be learnt and there are several skills a professional must have or needs to cultivate in order to be a successful Scrum Master. The Scrum Master’s Role in a Successful Scrum Adoption:There are many Scrum teams that have started out in the right way, but soon fall by the wayside as they do not follow Scrum in principle. This is where the Scrum Master plays a very critical role in the success of the team. Despite Scrum being ‘simple to understand and difficult to master’ the Scrum Master is considered to be the expert on all things Scrum.As a coach, guide and mentor, the Scrum Master should facilitate the successful adoption of Scrum, and help others to gain mastery over Scrum principles and values.A Scrum Master must mandatorily follow certain core values and inspire the team to follow them as well. These core values that include openness, commitment, focus, courage and respect bring the team together and promote better work ethics and practices.Besides inculcating Scrum principles and values and guiding a successful adoption, a Scrum Master should also have these attributes:  An Unbiased and Open Mind:  An unbiased and open mind is key to being a good Scrum Master. As part of their portfolio, Scrum Masters have to work with different teams and team members having different personalities. Having an open mind will help the Scrum Master to not look at every team with the same lens and treat each team differently. Solutions that work for one team may not work for other teams or situations. Having an open mind will help you realise this and tweak your decisions based on teams and situations.   Transparency:  Transparency and open communication are the pillars of Scrum. As a Scrum Master your intentions should be open and transparent to everyone including your team and the product owner. The team must at all times know your reasons for doing certain things or taking certain decisions. Being upfront with the team members will help in trust building and lead to better work ethics.   Metrics to Map Progress:There are several tools available to track a team’s progress and the Scrum Master must ensure that these metrics showing the team’s progress be made available to the entire team. This will help the team better plan sprints, work collaboratively and improve working practices in order to ensure better output and value.   Motivation for Team Members: Keeping your team members happy and motivated is a Scrum Master’s main job. This includes removing obstacles that may impede the team from performing and helping them work according to Scrum values and techniques. The development team develops the product, and a happy team means a well-built product and satisfied customers. Assistance to the Product Owner:  As a Scrum Master, aiding the Product Owner is a major part of your responsibility. The Product Owner is a major stakeholder in the Scrum team and the Scrum Master aids the product owner in backlog management and by facilitating Scrum events, product planning and by helping the team to identify backlog items. Aiding the Product Owner in issues that they may face with regards to the project, stakeholders or the team will create a positive environment and will make things between the team and the product owner smoother.   Focus on the Challenges: Every Scrum project comes with its set of issues. But an effective Scrum Master will be aware of every challenge or impediment that comes in the way of the development team and takes these problems head on. Focusing on these challenges early on and resolving them is paramount to the success and progress of the team and the project. Appreciation for Achievements:  The focus of daily sprints and retrospectives is often to celebrate achievements and give the development team proper appreciation. A Scrum Master encourages and motivates and this they also do by respective current achievements. While giving advise on how things should be done is necessary, appreciating the team on its achievements is equally important.   Respect for Others: Your team members all have different personalities and each brings their own uniqueness and expertise to the team. No one team member is less or more important than the other. An effective and efficient Scrum Master will recognise this early on and treat every team member with the same amount of respect.  Understanding of Situations in the Right Context:  Not all things are as what they appear. The sooner a scrum master understands this, the better. Situations in context to teams, individuals and even the organization are not always black and white and the Scrum Master must consider the baggage of organizational culture, current systems, internal politics, etc before coming to a conclusion about a team or a team members. Instead, one must attempt to form close relationships with the team and understand the workings of the team and the organizations before passing judgement. Ability to Have Tough Conversations :  You as a Scrum Master are often seen as a problem solver, friend and mentor. But don’t let this image of yours come in the way of making tough decisions or having tough conversations. As a Scrum Master you must have the courage to do the right thing and if this means having difficult but necessary conversations with either the team members, the product owner or the stakeholders, then you must do it.    Courage to Protect the Team:  More often than not, there are unreasonable demands made on the development team. The Scrum Master should have the courage to protect the team and say an emphatic ‘no’ to the Product Owner or the stakeholders.  Accountability: You are accountable for your team’s success as you are for its failures. If as a Scrum Master you want your team to be accountable then the best way to get them to do that is to be accountable yourself. You can do this by being more invested in the day-to-day activities of the team and considering yourself to be a part of the team as well.  Support for Team Members: As a Scrum Master you are not just invested in the project but also in the growth of individual team members. You should motivate, encourage and support your team members to grow and reach heights in their careers.   Deep Commitment: If the team feels that the Scrum Master is committed to the project, committed to the team and committed to the team members, then they are more likely to be open and transparent with the Scrum Master. This trust with the team has to be built so that team members can be open about the challenges they face. The Scrum Master is the voice of the team and must support them at all stages.   Focus on Improvement:  Scrum is all about continuous improvement and the success of the Scrum Master is also tied to the continuous improvement of the Scrum team. If your team is getting better with time then you are doing well as a Scrum Master. From daily sprints to retrospectives, the Scrum Master provides avenues for the team to improve itself, identify problems and suggest solutions to work better.  Conclusion Scrum is the most used Agile framework, yet there are several lessons that organizations need to learn about Scrum before they embark on a transformation journey. This lightweight and easy to use framework can turn around the fortunes of companies if implemented in the right way. It’s important for an organization’s culture to be ready to accept and implement Scrum for project and organizational success.  
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Why Scrum Is Lightweight; Simple To Understand; Di...

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Scrum Master – The Scrum Team’s Servant-Leader!

The term servant leader is synonymous with a Scrum Master. But what does it mean? The Scrum Master is a servant leader in Agile projects, but servant leadership goes far beyond Agile, and Scrum Masters serve more than just the team.In this blog we attempt to look at the Scrum Master’s role as a servant leader, what the role entails and the responsibilities of the Scrum Master beyond the team, in context to the organization. What is servant-leadership?The term servant leadership was first coined by Robert Greenleaf in his article “The Servant as Leader”, in which he defined a servant leader as: The Servant-Leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That leader significantly differs from one who is leader first, may be due to the need to acquire power, material belonging, control and authority within the organization. Servant leadership is something very different from traditional leadership, which places the leader at the top of the hierarchy and the employees in the lower rung. Servant leadership, in a sense, is the opposite of traditional leadership, as it places the leader at the bottom of the hierarchy while employees are on the higher rungs. The leaders, in this case, are serving the people above them. Servant leadership refers to leaders who believe in serving people and the community that they are a part of, rather than accumulating power for themselves. This style of leadership emphasizes on helping subordinates better themselves, empowering employees and helping others perform to the best of their abilities.Servant leadership does not prescribe telling employees what to do, instead it helps the workforce find their sense of ownership and unlock their potential to reach their goals. Servant leadership is all about empowering others, which when consistently done can raise morale, enhance productivity and reduce employee attrition.Servant Leadership and ScrumScrum, in a way, is the very essence of servant leadership. Unlike traditional project management methodologies, it does not follow a top-down, hierarchical approach. Instead, decisions are lateral and happen with the involvement of the whole team. Scrum is the perfect approach in which to practice the concept of servant leadership. The 5 Scrum values of Openness, Respect, Commitment, Courage, and Focus, adhere to the philosophy of Servant Leadership. The Scrum Master plays a key role in the development of the product, the team and the organization. The Scrum Guide defines the servant leadership a Scrum Master’s role has to perform in context to the roles mentioned above. The Scrum Values that a Scrum Master practices have a ripple effect throughout the organization. The Scrum Master is seen as an evangelist for practicing and promoting Scrum in the enterprise.The Agile Manifesto and servant-leadershipThe Agile Manifesto states that one must value: Individuals and interactions over Process and tools Working software over Comprehensive documentation Customer collaboration over Contract negotiation Responding to change over Following a plan These again align with the values of servant leadership, which is all about putting people or employees first. The Agile Manifesto describes focusing on building projects around motivated individuals and giving them an environment of support, trust and collaboration—all characteristics of servant leadership.Who Are These Servant Leaders?The Scrum Guide defines the service provided by the Scrum Master as servant leadership. The Scrum Master selflessly provides servant leadership to the development team, product owner and the whole organization. By serving these entities, the Scrum Master can create a high performing team, a valuable product and an efficient organization that is able to meet business objectives and keep customers happy.  Though the term Scrum Master may be deceptive, the Scrum Master is not a master of the team but in fact serves the team in order to ensure smooth functioning and productivity.Servant Leadership and Scrum Master Roles of Servant LeadershipServant leadership:The day-to-day activity of a Scrum Master involves servant leadership. Servant leadership in a scrum team involves performance planning, coaching, helping the team self- organize, resolving conflicts through conflict management, removing obstacles that hinder progress and serving the team. The Scrum Master, while practicing servant leadership, helps the team grow and mature and become independent enough to make their own decisions. Servant leadership in Scrum is all about making the team self-reliant, so they can cope with the pressures of the role. As a servant leader the Scrum Master creates a high performing team, helps them become collaborative and high performing in order to achieve goals and meet the requirements of the customer.  Service to the Scrum Team: As a servant leader, the primary responsibility of the Scrum Master is to help the development team perform. They help the team perform to the best of their abilities by giving them an environment that is conducive to work in, encouraging them, guiding them and removing obstacles that may hinder progress. As a coach, the Scrum Master will guide the team on scrum processes and help them adhere to Agile values during the development of the product. The Scrum Master is responsible for the scrum team’s effectiveness, and they work tirelessly to ensure that the team is motivated, encouraged, creative and innovative. The Scrum Master through servant leadership helps the team improve Scrum practices which helps them become more productive and generate value. The Scrum Team’s role in motivating and helping the team comes through in the daily stand-up meetings that are arranged as part of the sprint. The Scrum Master encourages team members to share their grievances and progress made through the sprint. Team members can talk about obstacles that may be hindering their work and due cognizance will be taken up by the Scrum master to ensure that these obstacles are removed.  According to the Scrum Guide, the Scrum Master helps the Development Team by: Coaching the team in becoming self-organized and cross-functional Helping the Scrum Team focus on creating high-value increments by removing impediments Helping the team deliver within the timeframe of the sprint Service to the Product Owner: The Scrum Master is a servant leader not just for the development team but also the Product Owner. While the Product Owner is primarily responsible for the product backlog, they cannot do this alone. The Scrum Master aids the development team and the Product Owner with effective product backlog management.The Scrum Master is involved at every stage of the product backlog grooming, helping the product owner with Scrum events, product planning and to identify backlog items along with the development team. The Scrum Master helps the Product Owner define the product vision to the team.   According to the Scrum Guide, the Scrum Master helps the Product Owner by: Helping in Product Goal definition and Product Backlog management Helping the Scrum Team understand manage the Product Backlog items Setting up empirical product planning in complex environments and, Managing and facilitating stakeholder collaboration.Service to the Organization: The Scrum Master is a coach and motivator not just for the development team but goes beyond the team to spread the awareness of Scrum in the entire organization. Scrum Masters coach and help teams and departments understand Scrum and develop an Agile mind-set. Besides servant leadership to the team a Scrum Master is also involved in promoting the ideas and values of Scrum. An organization can get an agile mind-set only if the entire organization adopts Scrum and not just a few teams. This is where the Scrum Master comes in, helping other teams not involved with Scum to gain the Agile mind-set, through training and coaching. The Scrum Master is an Agile evangelist and promotes Scrum enterprise-wide.According to Scrum.org the Scrum Master serves the organization by: Leading, training, and coaching the organization in adopting Scrum Planning and advising Scrum implementations within the organization Coaching employees and stakeholders in the way Scrum works Helping stakeholders work with Scrum TeamsSome Servant-Leader Behaviours for every Scrum MasterBeing empathetic: This is the foremost personality trait required for anyone wanting to become a Scrum Master. Your empathy will shine through in your interactions with the team members and your dealings with the stakeholders. You should be able to see problems from the point of view of each party and work towards solving these problems. Caring: As a caring and empathetic Scrum Master, your team will feel free to approach you and share their concerns. Providing a listening ear will make you more approachable. You will be able to more clearly understand the impediments that are stopping project progress and work towards providing a solution.  Managing Conflicts: Not all team members will get along with each other and this can cause disruptions and problems within the team, lowering their productivity. As a Scrum Master you need to be great at conflict management, help others solve their problems, work with each other and create a high performing and harmonious team. Building relationships: You need to build a rapport with your team, the product owner and the stakeholders. This will help you communicate freely and help others approach you with their problems and issues. You need to build that relationship of trust and take everyone along on the journey of success.  Being ethical: Ethics play an important role in software development, especially since software now controls every aspect of our lives. The product created should be free of malice and fraud. The Scrum Master should guide the team in delivering the product at a value and standard that is expected and agreed upon with the stakeholder. There should not be any shortcuts or concessions made on the quality of the product delivered as this will affect not just the Scrum Master and the team’s reputation but will cause a dent in the reputation of the organization.   Conclusion  Servant leadership and the Scrum Master’s role is the backbone of Scrum. The Scrum Master as a servant leader re-emphasizes the values of Scrum and helps to enhance teamwork, collaboration, motivation and value. Under the able servant leadership of the Scrum Master, individual members and the team will grow, become more confident and help in delivering value.  
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Scrum Master – The Scrum Team’s Servan...

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A Guide to Scaling Scrum

Scrum has been proven to work well for small teams. But the true benefits of Agile can only be reaped if Agile and Scrum are scaled at the enterprise level. However, this is easier said than done. According to statistics, 47% of Agile transformations are not successful. While this is a worrying trend, there are still hundreds of organizations who have got it right and are able to survive the competition by innovating faster, delivering value and adapting to changing markets. How are they doing it? By using scaled Scrum.There are several tools and frameworks available for scaling Scrum at the enterprise level. In this blog, we attempt to look at a few of these.  Scaling Scrum with NexusNexus is among the most popular frameworks for scaling Scrum. According to the Nexus Guide, “Nexus is a framework for developing and sustaining scaled product delivery initiatives. It builds upon Scrum, extending it only where absolutely necessary to minimize and manage dependencies between multiple Scrum Teams while promoting empiricism and the Scrum Values.” How is Nexus different from Scrum? Scrum defines three primary roles: The Product Owner, the Scrum Master and the development team. These three roles work together in one team.The Nexus framework consists of several Scrum teams that work together toward a common product goal and defines the Nexus Integration Team as an additional accountability.  Nexus helps to build on the values of Scrum and also solves the collaboration and dependency challenges that tend to occur between teams in Scrum.Benefits of using Nexus Nexus extends Scrum in the following ways:  Accountabilities: Nexus introduces the Nexus Integration Team, which consists of the Scrum Master, Product Owner, and members. This team is accountable for delivering a workable product at the end of each sprint.  Events: Nexus events aim to add to or supplement Scrum events and serve not just individual teams but also the Nexus Integration Team. The objective of a sprint is to achieve the Nexus sprint goal. Artifacts: Although the teams are different, within the Nexus framework they all work towards a single goal and follow a single product backlog. There’s a high amount of transparency and work is allocated to each team. The Nexus Integration TeamAccording to the Nexus Guide, “the Nexus Integration Team exists to coordinate, coach, and supervise the application of Nexus and the operation of Scrum so the best outcomes are derived.” The Nexus Integration Team or NIT comprises of the Scrum Master, the Product Owner and Nexus integration team members. There are generally three to nine Scrum teams working together in Nexus. All of them follow a single product backlog and work towards delivering a single product. The Nexus Integration Team forms an essential role within Nexus and is tasked with providing transparent accountability among the teams in Nexus.Product OwnerThe Product Owner is accountable for maximizing the product value and the work carried out in Nexus. Their primary task is to order and refine the product backlog. Being a member of the Nexus Integration Team, the product owner will work with all the Scrum teams in the Nexus Integration team. The product owner and the teams work towards better defining and refining the product backlog.Scrum MasterJust like in regular Scrum, the Scrum Master in the Nexus Integration Team is also responsible for ensuring that the Nexus framework is understood by everyone on the team as prescribed by the Nexus Guide.   MembersThe members of the Nexus Integration Team are the Scrum team members who aid the Scrum teams in adoption of tools and practices that will help the team and members deliver value at the end of each sprint that meets the definition of done. Nexus Integration Team membership should be considered more important than the individual Scrum Team membership and members should work towards first fulfilling their Nexus team responsibilities.What are the Events in Nexus?Nexus adds or augments the events as defined by Scrum. The Nexus event durations are like Scrum event durations and are guided by the Scrum Guide.  Nexus events consist of: Sprint- A Nexus sprint is the same as in Scrum, at the end of which a single increment is delivered.  Cross team refinement- The aim of Nexus is to enhance collaboration and reduce cross team dependencies. Cross team refinement helps to make dependencies and responsibilities more transparent. This makes it easier for Scrum teams within the Nexus to clearly identify and deliver their allocated tasks.  Nexus Sprint Planning- Nexus sprint planning will involve the participation of the Product Owner and concerned teams' members from each team. The purpose of the Nexus Sprint Planning is to assign and co-ordinate activities for a single sprint.  Nexus Daily Scrum- This is like the daily stand up in Scrum. Nexus daily scrum is used to identify any issues and track progress. Any issues are immediately prioritized and solved so that they do not hinder the work of the developers.  Nexus Sprint Review- This event is held at the end of sprints to provide feedback on the increment that has been built and on any future updates that have to be made. Nexus Sprint Retrospective- Like in Scrum, Nexus retrospectives are an important part of the project and are used to reflect on how quality and consistency can be improved.  Some Nexus ArtifactsNexus artifacts are the same as Scrum artifacts and when implemented correctly ensure transparency and value maximization. Every artifact is designed to give a commitment. For example, the product backlog is the artifact and its commitment is the product goal. Other artifacts and their commitments include: Nexus Sprint Backlog-Nexus Sprint Goal Integrated Increment-Definition of Done Along with Nexus, LeSS is another popular framework for scaling agile.  Scaling Scrum with LeSS The Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS) framework is an offering from Atlassian and is a framework for scaling Scrum to multiple teams that are working on the same product. The idea behind LeSS is to start with a single Scrum team as defined in the Scrum Guide and then replicate it to multiple teams who are working on a single product. LeSS has earned the label of being “barely sufficient” as it is a simple framework to apply and uses the basic concepts of Scrum to scale.  How do Sprint Planning meetings in LeSS work?  LeSS generally carries out sprint planning in two stages. Sprint Planning One focuses on selecting items that are of topmost priority, solving unanswered issues and defining the sprint goal. The Sprint Planning Two is like the sprint plan of regular Scrum and focuses on creating a plan of action for getting things done.  Daily meeting  The daily Scrum meeting in LeSS is similar to how it is done in normal single Scrum teams and involves team members discussing the work accomplished and the work to be done during the day. It is a time-boxed meeting and helps teams address any issues that may be hindering work.   Sprint Delivery Meeting (Review) The sprint review meeting is an essential part of LeSS and helps teams and stakeholders review the product built during the sprint and suggest changes and new ideas.   Retrospective The retrospective for LeSS is similar to one team Scrum. These retrospectives held at the end of the sprint will help teams to reflect on the progress of tasks, and identify the obstacles that may hinder or impede the overall project.  Let’s take a look at some of the other frameworks that are used for scaling agile. Scaling Scrum with SAFe®The Scaled Agile Framework, SAFe in short, follows the principles of lean and agile and helps in scaling Scrum to the enterprise. It helps to manage alignment, collaboration, and delivery from multiple agile teams to ensure enterprise success. It systematically focuses on applying Scrum at each level of the enterprise, to maximize value and ensure a successful agile transformation.A successful SAFe adoption ensures end-to-end business agility with significant improvements in strategy, delivery, execution and business competencies. It helps organizations overcome competition and ensure innovative business solutions to gain customer trust and partnership. The SAFe framework is continuously improvised in order to help organizations cope with the digital age and ensure that business outcomes are delivered.Scaling Scrum with the Scrum@Scale frameworkAnother framework that allows organizations to implement Scrum at scale is the Scrum@Scale framework. This framework expands on the core principles of Scrum and helps to scale Scrum over a wide range of industries and sectors, ensuring customer satisfaction and creation of successful products. It promotes communication across all teams and departments, and optimizes resources, removes roadblocks and ensures creation of innovative products.A Final Word By driving Agile at the organizational level, companies can gain all the benefits of team-level Scrum at scale. More often than not the principles of team level Scrum are not sustainable at the enterprise level and the transformation fails. Tested and proven Agile scaling frameworks are now able to turn this around, and help organizations scale up the principles and practices of Scrum to become more adaptable, flexible and responsive. Professionals can master these frameworks and help their organization adopt the culture, mind-set and principles of Scrum and agile.  
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A Guide to Scaling Scrum

Scrum has been proven to work well for small tea... Read More

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