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What Are the SAFe Agile Principles

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle The Scaled Agile Framework has since its inception provided huge business benefits to organizations implementing it. This has driven the need for SAFe professionals who can successfully lead Agile transformations in organizations by implementing this framework.  According to Scaled Agile, Inc. more than 800,000 practitioners have been trained in SAFe, which further proves the credibility and demand of this certification. In this blog we attempt to understand the SAFe principles and how they help businesses to maximise value, drive innovation and create high performing teams.  SAFe Agile Framework Core Values:  “It's not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” – Roy E Disney.SAFe lays out 4 core values that enterprises need to imbibe before they start their scaled agile journey. These values represent the fundamental beliefs that are going to be critical in determining the effectiveness of the SAFe implementation. It does help dictate behaviour and action for everyone who participates in a SAFe portfolio. SAFe Lean-Agile Principles: SAFe leans heavily on the application Lean and Agile at scale. In this particular article, we are going to deep dive and tap into the nooks and crannies of what is really the foundation of any successful SAFe implementation – The 10 underlying Lean-Agile principles of SAFe. Before, we look at these (depicted in Fig 1 below), I would like to highlight that Scaled Agile, Inc. has listed these principles as ‘immutable’ – meaning these principles are not expected to change over time.Detailed explanation about the SAFe Agile Principles: Now that we know what the ten SAFe Lean agile principles are, let's try and understand what each principle brings to the table, in terms of enhancing agility and imbibing lean concepts at the core of your organization’s work culture.  Take an economic view: Understanding key value streams within the business delivery framework is going to be of utmost importance to enable decision making that will have the least impact and deliver the most value to the customer. By doing so, we ensure that each value stream opens a broader economic framework.  Apply systems thinking: The idea here is to gather a factual holistic view of the system being developed or enhanced, in order to ensure principle #1 is met, in terms of maximizing its economic outcome. SAFe also recommends that to get this right, systems thinking should be applied not only to the systems being developed but also to the organization that is building the system.  Assume variability; preserve options:  In a true agile fashion, keeping the enterprise design lightweight and evolving over various stages of product development will result in quicker adaptability or course correction with respect to a volatile market situation.  Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles:  Keep your iterations short to allow time for improvements and customer feedback. Time to market is always a key aspect and it doesn’t hurt pondering regularly over the improvement actions with respect to cycle times of individual work packets. This enables faster integrated learning cycles and the teams need to be coached on leveraging various tools that help with this.  Base milestones on objective evaluation of working systems:  The mindset to measure success correctly and quantitatively is achieved by adoption of early and continuous integration processes that can be applied iteration after iteration in a near production-like environment.  Visualize and limit WIP, reduce batch sizes, and manage queue lengths: This is a pretty straightforward Kanban-ish practice right out of the Lean approach. Mentioned below are the 3 continuous flow enablers, as given in Scaled Agile.  Visualize and limit the amount of work in progress (WIP). This increases throughput and limits demand to actual capacity.  Reduce the batch sizes of work to facilitate fast and more reliable flow.  Manage queue lengths to reduce the wait times for new functionality. Apply cadence, synchronize with cross-domain planning: This principle lays importance to the means and methods of cadenced synchronization that is needed to ensure multiple challenges are resolved amicably. A perfect combination of synchronising in a cadenced manner is like an orchestra, which helps with the cross-domain planning orchestrated by an RTE, thus playing beautiful music to the ears of the stakeholders.  Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers:  Development of more contextual knowledge and applying them across various domains will help with removing SME dependency and also cross skilling teams widely. It also syncs up with today’s hyper competitive world where it’s all about effective employee engagement.  Decentralize decision-making: While some decisions that have long-lasting implications are best kept centralised (like providing a steer at an enterprise level of the tech stack adoption)  the vast majority of the decisions below these need to be decentralised and left to the teams. This ensures one doesn’t fall into the pit of a command-and-control hierarchy.   Organize around value:  Measuring business outcomes will help gain a competitive advantage which is what business agility demands. Lean principles focus on delivering the maximum customer value in the shortest sustainable lead time, whilst providing the highest possible quality to the customer. Getting the right product out into the right market at the right time, is absolutely critical.Why the Focus on Principles? A question that may arise in your mind now is “Why should I have or remember another 10 principles, when I already have the 12 guiding principles from the Agile Manifesto?”. Fair enough, but let me explain.  The creators of SAFe acknowledge and re-iterate on the fact that SAFe was built on top of the existing lean agile principles and many other knowledge bodies that various thought leaders have left behind in their journey of Agile.  However, it's important to highlight that almost 20 years ago when the lean agile principles were laid down, there wasn’t much distributed (offshore/onshore) development happening, at least not to the extent it is happening now. Enterprises today have gotten bigger and more sophisticated, hence SAFe really had to synthesize this existing foundational body of knowledge, along with the lessons learned from hundreds of deployments. Not all challenges that enterprises face during their scaled agile journey can be fixed by the practices taught by SAFe. Every challenge may be unique in its own way and hence the necessity of the 10 underlying principles, which can be referred to as a guide, which the teams can fall back on, and make sure that they are moving continuously on the path to the goal of the House of Lean: “shortest sustainable lead time, with best quality and value to people and society.”One of the most imminent challenges that organizations will face with SAFe adoption, is lack of effective leadership. The top two challenges listed in the most recent State of Agile report by VersionOne also reflects the same.  Adequate management support is key before embarking on any large-scale transformation and that is exactly why we need the SAFe principles to help emphasise the role of Lean Agile leaders in the transformation. True SAFe leaders understand and embrace the Lean-Agile Mindset, apply systems thinking, induce business thinking and operation, and impart these to others.  “It’s not enough that management commit themselves to quality and productivity, they must know what it is they must do. Such a responsibility cannot be delegated.” —W. Edwards Deming Why and when to use a Scaled Agile Framework?  SAFe adoption has naturally increased over the years. The latest annual State of Agile report mentions anywhere between 5-6 % in the last 12 months alone, something that organizations should take notice of. Something is clearly working for organizations that have adopted SAFe as their scaling framework.  Numbers don’t lie, and SAFe is clearly the leading framework when it comes to organizational agility scaling. While there are multiple other scaling frameworks like DAD (Disciplined Agile Delivery), LeSS (Large Scale Scrum), Nexus, SoS (Scrum of Scrums) etc, which are also pretty effective, SAFe continues to be the leading framework for a reason. While I would like to dedicate a separate blog for that, let me give a quick preview as to WHY!  SAFe dwells deeply into defining heterogeneous software delivery pipelines that govern business value flow with the right combination of people, process and technology. Any disruptions in the flow of business value need to be monitored through appropriate metrics whilst keeping traceability back to business requirements at each step of product development.  SAFe is a framework. It’s called a framework since there is a huge difference between a framework and a methodology and clearly SAFe is not to be understood as a methodology. It's not a set of rules or items in a checklist that you can cross off and then say that you have mastered the path of achieving business agility. NO! It's not as simple.  While working with and organising a series of largely independent cross-functional Agile teams, new impediments will begin to emerge and each one will be different. SAFe will not have a readymade solution for this and hence it's important to know that SAFe cannot be applied the same way in every context!  Differences Between SAFe and Other Agile Practices Unlike other scaling approaches, SAFe is very prescriptive. It provides organizations with a step-by-step approach of how to go about their SAFe adoption. It also provides different levels of scaling with roles and events that support the execution and alignment at various levels. The exact differences and comparisons of SAFe with other scaling approaches is a separate topic in itself but in principle, the primary thing that stands out with respect to SAFe is that it encourages the practice of flow-based roadmaps. This requires making changes one at a time, identifying gaps and addressing them by training teams at both a skill and cultural level.  SAFe helps get traction of the broader vision/goals and hence makes teams work together to deliver value — not only for each other, but the end customer as well.  Key take-aways: SAFE is a Framework – not a methodology: It is essential that you believe that SAFe will put you on a path that is truly agile. You need to re-think why you considered SAFe in the first place. It may bring in some clarity.  Configure SAFe as per your organizational needs: SAFe as a framework is very much configurable. Use it to your advantage. Use our own deep contextual knowledge to create new approaches which will be favourable as a step towards business agility. Develop Lean Agile leaders: Only effective leaders can change the system. Train and educate the leadership who can then actively drive the change. Adopting a lean agile mindset helps create effective leaders that empower every individual in their teams and that is when innovation and creativity will flourish. Remember SAFe is not applicable for every given context: Only implement SAFe in those parts of the organisation where it makes sense. It's not a one-stop solution for all your problems. Fight complexity with SAFe and not vice versa:  SAFe can get crazy with terms and terminologies and its quite natural to get overwhelmed, as you are scaling up the process at various levels. Hence it’s important that the right set of change agents (SPCs) are employed to carry out SAFe adoption. This can ensure that complexity is addressed at the very beginning.  Conclusion: SAFe suggests implementation steps along with its core values and immutable principles. All these should be closely examined and tweaked (where necessary) to the needs that are specific to your organization. Only then will you achieve the true benefits of this most widely used scaling framework. 

What Are the SAFe Agile Principles

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What Are the SAFe Agile Principles

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle 

The Scaled Agile Framework has since its inception provided huge business benefits to organizations implementing it. This has driven the need for SAFe professionals who can successfully lead Agile transformations in organizations by implementing this framework 

According to Scaled Agile, Inc. more than 800,000 practitioners have been trained in SAFewhich further proves the credibility and demand of this certification. In this blog we attempt to understand the SAFe principles and how they help businesses to maximise value, drive innovation and create high performing teams.  

SAFe Agile Framework Core Values:  

It's not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” – Roy E Disney.

SAFe lays out 4 core values that enterprises need to imbibe before they start their scaled agile journey. These values represent the fundamental beliefs that are going to be critical in determining the effectiveness of the SAFe implementation. It does help dictate behaviour and action for everyone who participates in a SAFe portfolio. 
Safe Core Values

SAFe Lean-Agile Principles: 

SAFe leans heavily on the application Lean and Agile at scale. In this particular article, we are going to deep dive and tap into the nooks and crannies of what is really the foundation of any successful SAFe implementation – The 10 underlying Lean-Agile principles of SAFe. Before, we look at these (depicted in Fig 1 below), would like to highlight that Scaled Agile, Inc. has listed these principles as ‘immutable’ – meaning these principles are not expected to change over time.

Ten SAFe principles as defined by Scaled Agile.com


Detailed explanation about the SAFe Agile Principles: 

Now that we know what the ten SAFe Lean agile principles are, let's try and understand what each principle brings to the table, in terms of enhancing agility and imbibing lean concepts at the core of your organizations work culture.  

  1. Take an economic view: Understanding key value streams within the business delivery framework is going to be of utmost importance to enable decision making that will have the least impact and deliver the most value to the customer. By doing so, we ensure that each value stream opens a broader economic framework.  
  2. Apply systems thinking: The idea here is to gather a factual holistic view of the system being developed or enhanced, in order to ensure principle #1 is met, in terms of maximizing its economic outcome. SAFe also recommends that to get this right, systems thinking should be applied not only to the systems being developed but also to the organization that is building the system.  
  3. Assume variability; preserve options:  In a true agile fashion, keeping the enterprise design lightweight and evolving over various stages of product development will result in quicker adaptability or course correction with respect to a volatile market situation.  
  4. Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles:  Keep your iterations short to allow time for improvements and customer feedback. Time to market is always a key aspect and it doesn’t hurt pondering regularly over the improvement actions with respect to cycle times of individual work packets. This enables faster integrated learning cycles and the teams need to be coached on leveraging various tools that help with this.  
  5. Base milestones on objective evaluation of working systems:  The mindset to measure success correctly and quantitatively is achieved by adoption of early and continuous integration processes that can be applied iteration after iteration in a near production-like environment.  
  6. Visualize and limit WIP, reduce batch sizes, and manage queue lengths: This is a pretty straightforward Kanban-ish practice right out of the Lean approach. Mentioned below are the 3 continuous flow enablers, as given in Scaled Agile.  
    1. Visualize and limit the amount of work in progress (WIP). This increases throughput and limits demand to actual capacity.  
    2. Reduce the batch sizes of work to facilitate fast and more reliable flow.  
    3. Manage queue lengths to reduce the wait times for new functionality. 
  7. Apply cadence, synchronize with cross-domain planning: This principle lays importance to the means and methods of cadenced synchronization that is needed to ensure multiple challenges are resolved amicably. A perfect combination of synchronising in a cadenced manner is like an orchestra, which helps with the cross-domain planning orchestrated by an RTE, thus playing beautiful music to the ears of the stakeholders.  
  8. Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers:  Development of more contextual knowledge and applying them across various domains will help with removing SME dependency and also cross skilling teams widely. It also syncs up with today’s hyper competitive world where it’s all about effective employee engagement 
  9. Decentralize decision-making: While some decisions that have long-lasting implications are best kept centralised (like providing a steer at an enterprise level of the tech stack adoption)  the vast majority of the decisions below these need to be decentralised and left to the teams. This ensures one doesn’t fall into the pit of a command-and-control hierarchy.   
  10. Organize around value:  Measuring business outcomes will help gain a competitive advantage which is what business agility demands. Lean principles focus on delivering the maximum customer value in the shortest sustainable lead time, whilst providing the highest possible quality to the customerGetting the right product out into the right market at the right time, is absolutely critical.

Why the Focus on Principles? 

A question that may arise in your mind now is “Why should I have or remember another 10 principles, when I already have the 12 guiding principles from the Agile Manifesto?”. Fair enough, but let me explain.  

The creators of SAFe acknowledge and re-iterate on the fact that SAFe was built on top of the existing lean agile principles and many other knowledge bodies that various thought leaders have left behind in their journey of Agile.  

However, it's important to highlight that almost 20 years ago when the lean agile principles were laid down, there wasn’t much distributed (offshore/onshore) development happening, at least not to the extent it is happening now. Enterprises today have gotten bigger and more sophisticated, hence SAFe really had to synthesize this existing foundational body of knowledge, along with the lessons learned from hundreds of deployments. 

Not all challenges that enterprises face during their scaled agile journey can be fixed by the practices taught by SAFe. Every challenge may be unique in its own way and hence the necessity of the 10 underlying principles, which can be referred to as a guide, which the teams can fall back on, and make sure that they are moving continuously on the path to the goal of the House of Lean: “shortest sustainable lead time, with best quality and value to people and society.”

SAFe adoption challenges – 14th Annual State of Agile report by VersionOne

One of the most imminent challenges that organizations will face with SAFe adoption, is lack of effective leadership. The top two challenges listed in the most recent State of Agile report by VersionOne also reflects the same.  

Adequate management support is key before embarking on any large-scale transformation and that is exactly why we need the SAFe principles to help emphasise the role of Lean Agile leaders in the transformation. True SAFe leaders understand and embrace the Lean-Agile Mindset, apply systems thinking, induce business thinking and operation, and impart these to others 

It’s not enough that management commit themselves to quality and productivity, they must know what it is they must do. Such a responsibility cannot be delegated. —W. Edwards Deming 

Why and when to use a Scaled Agile Framework?  

SAFe adoption has naturally increased over the years. The latest annual State of Agile report mentions anywhere between 5-6 % in the last 12 months alone, something that organizations should take notice of. Something is clearly working for organizations that have adopted SAFe as their scaling framework.  

 A superheo meme depicting the popularity of SAFe in the current industry.

Numbers don’t lie, and SAFe is clearly the leading framework when it comes to organizational agility scaling. While there are multiple other scaling frameworks like DAD (Disciplined Agile Delivery), LeSS (Large Scale Scrum), NexusSoS (Scrum of Scrums) etc, which are also pretty effectiveSAFe continues to be the leading framework for a reason. While I would like to dedicate a separate blog for that, let me give a quick preview as to WHY!  

SAFe dwells deeply into defining heterogeneous software delivery pipelines that govern business value flow with the right combination of peopleprocess and technology. Any disruptions in the flow of business value need to be monitored through appropriate metrics whilst keeping traceability back to business requirements at each step of product development.  

SAFe adoption has increased by 5% over the last 12 months – 14th Annual State of Agile report by VersionOne

SAFe is a framework. It’s called a framework since there is a huge difference between a framework and a methodology and clearly SAFe is not to be understood as a methodology. It's not a set of rules or items in a checklist that you can cross off and then say that you have mastered the path of achieving business agility. NO! It's not as simple.  

While working with and organising a series of largely independent cross-functional Agile teamsnew impediments will begin to emerge and each one will be different. SAFe will not have a readymade solution for this and hence it's important to know that SAFe cannot be applied the same way in every context!  

Differences Between SAFe and Other Agile Practices 

Unlike other scaling approaches, SAFe is very prescriptive. It provides organizations with a step-by-step approach of how to go about their SAFe adoption. It also provides different levels of scaling with roles and events that support the execution and alignment at various levels. 

The exact differences and comparisons of SAFe with other scaling approaches is a separate topic in itself but in principle, the primary thing that stands out with respect to SAFe is that it encourages the practice of flow-based roadmaps. This requires making changes one at a time, identifying gaps and addressing them by training teams at both a skill and cultural level.  

SAFe helps get traction of the broader vision/goals and hence makes teams work together to deliver value  not only for each other, but the end customer as well.  

Key take-aways: 

  • SAFE is a Framework – not a methodology: It is essential that you believe that SAFe will put you on a path that is truly agile. You need to re-think why you considered SAFe in the first place. It may bring in some clarity.  
  • Configure SAFe as per your organizational needs: SAFe as a framework is very much configurable. Use it to your advantage. Use our own deep contextual knowledge to create new approaches which will be favourable as a step towards business agility. 
  • Develop Lean Agile leaders: Only effective leaders can change the system. Train and educate the leadership who can then actively drive the change. Adopting a lean agile mindset helps create effective leaders that empower every individual in their teams and that is when innovation and creativity will flourish. 
  • Remember SAFe is not applicable for every given context: Only implement SAFe in those parts of the organisation where it makes senseIt's not a one-stop solution for all your problems. 
  • Fight complexity with SAFe and not vice versa SAFe can get crazy with terms and terminologies and its quite natural to get overwhelmed, as you are scaling up the process at various levels. Hence its important that the right set of change agents (SPCs) are employed to carry out SAFe adoption. This can ensure that complexity is addressed at the very beginning.  

Conclusion: 

SAFe suggests implementation steps along with its core values and immutable principles. All these should be closely examined and tweaked (where necessary) to the needs that are specific to your organization. Only then will you achieve the true benefits of this most widely used scaling framework. 

Dileep

Dileep Rajkumar

Author

Dileep Rajkumar , a seasoned software and agile delivery expert, who specialises in quantitative product development for large digital transformations. A self motivated individual, always committed to helping various teams and individuals, realise their potential and deliver quality (incremental) software!!

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Is able to say “No” and has the reasons for it.Is not a task master who dictates to the team but a great Influencer who has the answers to “what has to be done” and “why it has to be done”.   Trusts the team to know best on “How” things will be implemented. Negotiates well with the team for the Business but is fair in all interactions with the team winning the team’s trust. Is always curious in terms of the product implementation but does not interfere in the team’s approach of building the product.To really excel at the job, the PO has to constantly upskill and sharpen the tools he/she has to offer. The PO is required to have keen knowledge of the various practices and techniques that are being used by his/her peers in the industry, in order to stay ahead of the competition. The PO needs to be part of a “Community of Practice”, grow his/her network outside the organization and be clued into all the relevant trends in the industry.CSPO CertificationWith the growing demand for the PO role in the market, the Industry naturally creates ways to benchmark standards, uphold quality and nourish promising talent. The CSPO Certification is one such mark of standard and quality. It equips the Product Owner to become better at the job and helps certified individuals to stand out in the crowd. The CSPO course and the CSPO community offers the right environment for the Product Owner to excel in his/her job. The curriculum of the CSPO course is outlined below for your reference.ContentsScrum Basics Understand the Scrum Framework and workflow so that the PO   Agile Principles and Scrum Values Roles and Responsibilities Product Owner role in detail Scrum Master role at high level Team role at high level Product Vision Importance of Product Vision Creating the Product Vision Just enough preparations before creating the Product Vision Qualities of Product Vision Relationship between Product Vision and Product Road Map Estimation Estimation Levels and Techniques Accuracy is more desirable than Precision in Agile Estimation What can go wrong with Estimation   Difference between Estimating and Committing Product Backlog   Understand what Product Backlog is and is not Product Backlog Grooming Prioritization Importance and Benefits of Prioritizing Product Backlog Why everything cannot be Mandatory or Highest Priority Who should Prioritize Prioritization based on Multiple Factors Applying formal approaches to Prioritization   Giving leeway to teams to sequence work after prioritization Release Management Goal Iterative and collaborative Release Planning Quality and Technical Debt Releasing Software early and frequently Measuring velocity and Release Burndown chart Forecasting future releases Sprints Product Owner’s role in Scrum Meetings Collaboration between PO and Scrum Team, between PO and Scrum Master Team Commitment Understand why Sprints are Timeboxed and Protected from other distractions Concept of sustainable paceCareer Prospects and GrowthExisting POsFor people who are already wearing the Product Owner’s hat, the CSPO certification is like one more feather in their resume. Going through this course and certification will fine-tune their skills and help add multiple tools in their toolbox.Aspiring POsIn certain organizations, there might be team members exhibiting and playing the roles and responsibilities of a Product Owner without the role title. They would have acquired all the necessary skill-sets but not the formal official title yet. By attending the CSPO course and earning the CSPO certification they convey their readiness to play the role; and this gives the thrust necessary for their formal recognition into a Product owner’s role.Salary AspectsThe CSPO certification has global recognition and so will result in an increase in the pay package for a certified professional PO.What next for an accomplished CSPO?An accomplished CSPO can further his/her career prospects by taking up the Advanced CSPO course and certification. It will set the stage for the product owner to progress in their career path and play the role in a wider scope. Depending on the Organization type and structure it could be the role of a Product Manager, Product Portfolio Owner/Manager— and for the more adventurous, even the CEO of a startup! Some Product owners might choose to diversify into a Business Analyst role as well.In conclusion, the CSPO has become a benchmark certification for Product Owners in the Software Industry. It will definitely help existing and aspiring POs to sharpen and upgrade their skillsets. It is also a badge of accomplishment and achievement for a Product Owner, not only to set them as a class apart in their own organization, but also in their wider Product Management community.
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Why CSPO Certification Is Important For Your Caree...

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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. 
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Roles And Responsibilities Of A Product Owner You ...

A question I’m asked in many of my training sess... Read More