5 tips to become a great Product Owner!

The sprint is almost finished. Just two days before the demo. All stakeholders will be attending. Exciting! You know there is still a lot to be done and the budget is running low. Stressed out you ask the team: ‘Is it possible to add an extra currency?’  Too bad, not possible. Time ran out as a result of poor choices at the beginning of the project. And then you realize: Product Owning is a job.

If you know what Scrum is you’re probably familiar with the term "Product Owner". These days there are more and more Product Owner vacancies and there are a lot of retraining courses. Becoming a good Product Owner takes effort and is of great importance for the success of your project. To be successful in your job as Product Owner, there are some important and crucial things you’ll have to keep in mind.

At VI Company we started giving clients the possibility to provide their own Product Owner. Because of my role and expertise, I have the honor to guide and coach the external Product Owners. Let me share some tips I always tell the new Product Owners:

1. Be prepared

An unprepared Product Owner, or a Product Owner who doesn’t take enough time to prepare, can easily become a bottle neck. Make sure User Stories are written clearly so that the team knows what they need to develop. Is this not the case? This can lead to misinterpreted User Stories, e.g. wrong-built functionalities. The Product Backlog not prioritized? It’s likely that the team develops features that don’t have the highest priority and you can’t deliver on time.

Sprint Backlog not prepared before the Sprint Planning? This will result in a long meeting in which a lot of time goes into clarifying User Stories. A waste of actual development time!

Tip: Create a clearly prioritized Backlog and understandable User Stories, on time. Be sure the Sprint Backlog is ready before the Sprint Start. This will ensure that all disciplines can work efficiently and effectively = more time for development = more finished User Stories!

2. Separating the sense from nonsense

Often I see very enthusiastic Product Owners. They see the development process as a candy store full of shiny features and want to implement everything, preferably before a set deadline. But unfortunately, an unrealistic Product Owner, without a clear vision, will result in an overworked and frustrated team. Enthusiasm is good, but you should be realistic.

It’s important to have a clear product vision and the features that go with it. Make sure you hold the release deadlines in mind. The Product Owner is responsible for the business value and scope, the team indicates whether this can be achieved within the stipulated time.

Tip: Create a clear vision and a roadmap. Separate the sense from nonsense. Listen to the development team to test whether your wishes are realistic so you’re sure you can deliver on time.

3. Have mandate

A Product Owner who doesn’t have mandate will cause delay in the project. A team needs quick answers to questions and a Product Owner must be able to take immediate decisions. If the team has to wait two days for a response, because the Product Owner first has to check with all stakeholders, than the team sits still for two days.

Tip: Make sure you’re mandated to make decision so the process won’t delay.

4. Product Owner ≠ Manager

You're not the boss! You’re part of the Scrum Team and everyone within the Scrum Team is equal. Sometimes it’s tempting to swing the scepter and insist to cut quality so the deadline will be met. This seems tempting but it will lead to an unstable end-product and a frustrated team. Each discipline has its specialty and with all these specialties combined you can launch a successful product.

Tip: Respect the input and expertise of all members within the Scrum Team for a good collaboration and a robust and successful end product.

5. Be available

This is the most important point! Be available. Being a Product Owner is a profession, a full time job. The development team works on your project the whole day, and they’ll have questions they want to address. If you aren’t available, chances are that the team gets stuck or makes false assumptions. Is the backlog not ready on time, or are you too busy to wright clear User Stories? See point 1.

Tip: Are you going to be a (external) Product Owner? Free your schedule!

Conclusion

Product Owning is a profession that shouldn’t be underestimated. It can make or break a project. Make sure you have mandate, a good preparation, a clear vision and a blank calendar. If all the boxed are checked: congratulations, you’ve just taken the first steps towards a successful project!

Curious about more Tips & Tricks to become a great Product Owner? Feel free to get in touch!